Tag Archives: Christian

Progress Report!

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things [are] noble, whatever things [are] just, whatever things [are] pure, whatever things [are] love, whatever things [are] of good report, if [there is] any virtue and if [there is] anything praiseworthymediate on these things,” Philippians 4:8 NKJV

Last week both boys brought home their mid-term progress reports from school. Lan called me while I was at work with a slight tremor in his voice. His report wasn’t awful but it wasn’t great either. His grade in two major classes dropped and he was well aware I would not be pleased.

He rattled off his grades tentatively and I succinctly told him I knew he could do better and would do better. He wasn’t grounded. I reminded him that as long as he did his very best I would always be pleased with his work.

Now, that is a huge change from the “old me” of just a couple of years ago. Both boys could definitely put a little more effort into their schoolwork but it isn’t a matter of life and death. Having received a bad report in matters of life and death has definitely put things in perspective.

It is two years ago now that my oldest son, the one without an ASD diagnosis, went to the doctor. He had a funky skin rash that began in October. It gradually spread. Nothing would cure it.

In November, my husband took him to the dermatologist, the earliest appointment he could get. The doctor very matter of fact admitted she didn’t know what it was. I appreciated her honesty, but I thought that was rather odd. I got a funny feeling in my gut, the kind you want to dismiss, but just won’t quite go away.

I was expecting them to leave the appointment with prescriptions for antibiotics and a topical cream. Instead, my oldest left with a small plug of skin taken out of his arm. The biopsy was sent off for analysis.

It wasn’t until two days after Christmas I found myself on the phone with the physician who sat with my son and husband in her office as she explained the diagnosis, a diagnosis that affects one in five million people. My husband was wise enough to have her call me as his head was reeling. After the dermatologist ran through the possible scenarios (including chemotherapy) I vividly remember standing dumbfounded in my kitchen trying to decipher the boatload of information that had been dumped on me. I remember crying and walking around in circles but I also remember very vividly screaming as loud as I could “I will not receive a bad report!”

I heard the dermatologist. I respected her opinion. But I wasn’t going to receive that finality in my spirit in regard to my son. And God heard me.

I prayed. I solicited the prayers of family and friends who had their entire churches and Sunday school classes praying for my child. I knew that whatever we had to endure, we would get through it.

Thankfully, we had only to endure a battery of tests. His skin was affected but not his internal organs. His brain was fine. We didn’t get the final “all clear” until February. It was a harrowing ordeal for any parent. I was forced to examine if I’d put so much energy into one child to the neglect and detriment of the other.

So many questions, but God is faithful. We learned some things through our experience. We endured. Matured.

That experience allows me to put my “bad reports” whatever they are in perspective. Two years later and that time is still so fresh in my mind. I don’t want to ever forget it. I learned things aren’t always as they seem. God doesn’t want us to have faith in what we see or hear but instead in His power.

During that trying time I thought about all the miracles God had done for my family. I thought about the positives, the joys and undeserved blessings. I meditated on God’s grace toward us every time a negative thought would try to break me. It wasn’t easy, but a very deliberate decision on my part. God is pleased when we look at Him instead of our obstacles.

Numbers 13-14 teaches of how eight of the ten spies Moses sent out brought back a “bad report.” They could not see the potential in the land promised to them by God, only the enemies who possessed it. Furthermore, they gave a bad report to the other Israelites causing them to long for Egypt, the very place they had been in bondage.

How often do we look back to the familiar, even when it is to our detriment, because our present obstacles look insurmountable?

Only Caleb and Joshua, the spies who gave the “good report,” made it into the Promised Land with the descendants of those who died. God was so displeased with the Israelites’ lack of faith; He caused them to die in the wilderness. These are the same people who witnessed miracles that freed them and walked through the Red Sea! These were the same people who ate manna from Heaven! These same people would not allow the miracles of their past to fuel the faith for their future.

I don’t want to make that same mistake.

So, we may have hit a bump in the road with grades but I’m by no means accepting it as the “end all” for either child. I have faith in what God can do with them and in them. I have witnessed miracles with both my children. I may not have all the answers but I am confident that I don’t have to.

I look at the neatly typed papers from the county office and see them for what they are…merely progress reports. Not a definition of my parenting skills or a proclamation of my children’s future. I once would have been infuriated with less than the best. I am now… patiently waiting. We are all progressing toward God’s plans for us.

I am not going to analyze, criticize, and run all of us ragged as I used to.  Instead, I think about the great gains Lan has made thus far this year, successes I didn’t anticipate so soon. I’m proud of how Cam has been able to handle his classes along with the rigors of marching band. I focus on the good.

God’s got it, whatever my “it” is at any given moment.  Only His report truly matters!

Focus!

As the mom of a son with an ASD diagnosis I am constantly telling him to focus. At times when he is running around all loosey goosey and flying free as a bird I have to remind him to concentrate on the task at hand. Sometimes when we are so fixated on getting our kids on their proper path, we as parents fail to do that very thing.

I have at times been so frazzled with all the different scenarios and possibilities that are years in the future I have failed to focus. When I allow room for half a dozen priorities and possibilities to simultaneously rattle around in my head I don’t accomplish that much. The time I could have spent being productive leaves me instead with half a dozen half done things. I have since learned that my key to sanity is to focus.

We have been programmed by modern society to think that we should be able to do all things all the time. I’m a good multi-tasker but there comes a time when I need to cut away the extraneous things that engulf my attention and concentrate on the task at hand. The misguided notion that I should be the ideal spouse, mother, friend, employee and whatever else all at the same time is now ludicrous to me. I could do a dozen things all at once but not nearly with the precision or accuracy that I would have them done.

When I finally learned to focus on what the Spirit was prompting me to do instead of what I thought I needed to do, I found a peace and productivity that had alluded me before. Focusing on what God would have me to do in that moment instead of worrying about what could be or what should be gave me the grace to actually accomplish some things.

My God/gut instinct has never failed me. It is only when I’ve been headstrong trying to do too many things all at once that I have regretted my choices.

When I’m not flustered I can concentrate on keeping my child organized and orderly. Our kids take their cues from us. If I’m a mental wreck he picks up on it, more so than most, because he is a sensitive child. Lan tunes into emotions and sensitivities with a tenderness not seen in most people.

I have learned I need to keep it together if we are to both progress. I haven’t always been successful in doing this but I’m much more so than years ago! I’m no longer having those mental meltdowns that trigger his tears! And yes it did take years, prayer and maturity on both our parts but we are definitely in a better place now as we journey along.

I have learned to focus on the present. It has been said that half the things people worry about never come to pass. That amounts to a lot of wasted energy. I’ve decided that I don’t have a lot to spare so I’m keeping what I have for when it’s really needed!

I determined my inability to focus was often founded in fear. Fear of what the future could hold for my child. Fear of failure as a parent. When I decided to rely on God instead of feeding my fears I gained peace that allowed me to abide instead of strive in vain.

“And the LORD He [is] the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed,” Deuteronomy 31:8 NKJV.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind,”
2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV

When my kids were young and got into trouble I would ask them, “have you lost your mind?” One day a very repentant Lan surprised me, “Mom, I found my mind,” when he determined what should be his proper behavior. I guess I can say I found mine too.

When you focus on your blessings your problems don’t loom as large. Focus on God and your test become testimonies. Focus on His faithfulness, not on your own shortcomings.

I’m always prodding my child to focus, stay on task and stay the course. I’m so blessed that our Father does the same for me.

Overwhelmed? Stressed? Depressed? Ask God to allow you to focus on what really matters. Take it (whatever it is) one step at a time. Don’t stress. Remember you are blessed. And then focus!

The Reason I Jump

A couple of days ago, I came across a book, The Reason I Jump. I’m pretty confident I had seen or heard the title before, yet I had no idea of its subject matter. This book is an autobiography of sorts written by a thirteen old boy with autism.

I found the book as I was searching for something else on Amazon. I don’t believe my finding this book was an “accident.” I believe God provided an answer to a prayer uttered so long ago I had honestly forgotten about it until I began to read.

The young author’s direct question and answer approach to what is going inside his mind is quite enlightening. I certainly don’t think this one person’s opinions and experiences is a one size fits all explanation, yet this book does provide me with a glimpse of what may be going on inside my child’s mind.

As parents, we are often concerned with changing a behavior instead of contemplating the cause for the behavior, especially when it is something relatively minor. This book actually explains some of those behaviors associated with ASD and entertainingly so at that!

This book is short and to the point, but it is by far the most insightful hour I’ve spent reading in a while. The author shows more wisdom than most adults through his writings. He expresses those things that are both annoying and helpful to him. He uses his “voice” as a platform for those who cannot express their own feelings so that we caregivers can better relate and not just accommodate. The author does a wonderful job of bridging what appears on the surface to what is actually occurring inside his mind.

Hearing about the autism experience from a viewpoint so close in age to my own child left me profoundly grateful. It also showed me my shortcomings as a parent.

I have done a fair job with Lan as we have plodded along this journey, but I now see I have at times treated our experiences as a “job” having to meet a certain end, goals or output. I have not focused enough on what my child feels, thinks or cares about in certain matters. In my diligence to “correct” behavior I didn’t consider that those quirky habits might actually be comforting. Sometimes caregivers are so focused on giving care and getting necessities “done” that we fail to really see the people we are caring for in their entirety.

Our loved one’s hopes, ideas and feelings can get swallowed up by our practical demands and daily routines. Reading this book has allowed me to see my son in a different light and ask Lan more pointed questions which have delivered broader and more detailed responses.

The Reason I Jump is surely only one person’s view yet I suspect a lot of truths in it that apply to so many others. It wasn’t at all what I expected. It’s simple but powerful stories give the reader empathy and a different viewpoint that is not only insightful but inspiring.

If you haven’t read this book I urge you to do so. If you’re reading this blog, odds are high
The Reason I Jump, will be very helpful to you. If you have already read the book I encourage you to share your thoughts.

Now, I may finally know why MY child jumps.

Be Blessed!

 

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida published by Random House 2013

Improvisation

This weekend Lan had to do a school project on two musicians. Part of the project required listening to their music. The particular musicians he chose to study were jazz musicians.

Lan enjoyed the music far longer than was necessary to complete his project. I watched him nod along to the changes in tempo and flow all the more aware of how much we have learned to improvise along our journey.

God, through this experience, has taught me to work with what I have. I’ve learned to be flexible. I admit that for much of my life I could be rather unbending. I would not tolerate a lot of gray areas. Things were either black or white, right or wrong, my way or no way.

Jazz musicians can take one song and play it a dozen different ways, with all of them sounding great. Lan and I have learned to be just as  inventive, spontaneous and a flexible with our own “song of life.”

God has taught me  I don’t have to play my notes exactly as they are written on the page. I can speed up the rhythm when necessary or slow it down when the mood dictates. I can add other instruments or enjoy going solo. I am now content to watch and wait confident that God will provide whatever we need. He has continually done so far better than my own orchestrations.

I have learned it is okay to deviate from the professional song book and flow with God instead of the experts. No longer obsessed with playing “my song” perfectly, I have relaxed a little and allowed room for variation and creativity as well.

My life hasn’t exactly turned out the way I envisioned, but thanks to Lan I now see my vision was rather limited. Out of necessity Lan and I work around a few things, and if necessary go under instead of over. This child’s overwhelming optimism and “why not?” attitude have spilled over to the rest of the family, granting us a vision I don’t think we would have otherwise.

Webster’s defines improvise as “to make or create (something) by using whatever is available. We are learning through God’s insight (and sense of humor) to make the most of our blessings where we are and with what we have.

The hubby and I are constantly working with Lan on his maturity and social skills but I am no longer allowing the negatives to overshadow his positives. Lan is humorous, artistic and very creative. We fuel his passions with the same determination once reserved for trying to force squares into round openings.  Instead, we are now learning to soften the sharp edges of our squares with a file. Or better yet, we now stack our blocks instead of pushing them through holes as dictated by other people!

Jesus was great at improvisation. He used a small boy’s lunch, the only food available, to feed thousands. Christ took the small meal, held it up before the Father in thanks and did the miraculous.

give thanks for this child I have, look up to our Father and also expect the miraculous.

God never fails. He is ever faithful even when “my song” sounds a bit off key to me.  I am then forced to remember that my part is only one part of God’s complete melody.

Is God prodding you to do something different with a situation you have?

A change to your routine or situation might not hurt. You may just find a suggestion or a brilliant idea that actually works!

Anticipation

Fear is defined by Webster’s as “to expect or worry about” especially something bad or unpleasant. In contrast, faith is defined as a strong belief or trust in someone or something. Both definitions rely on the anticipation of a particular outcome.

The plant pictured above appears prickly and spiked, yet it is actually soft to the touch.  I had a prickly looking situation just like that plant.  On the surface things looked hard and intimidating.  I believe God was once again asking me, when will I completely release my fears and trust God when He has shown Himself so faithful time and time again?”  I can’t control everything and God keeps demonstrating that I don’t have to.

Lan received his progress report from school last week. He anticipated it for days but because of a computer glitch, notices were issued late.  Lan is well aware he can always work good grades to his advantage.

Unlike middle school, high school thus far does not return lots of graded papers to students. At least I haven’t seen them.  I had no inclination outside of Lan’s confidence that this progress report would be a good one. We have been down this road before anticipating one thing only for the result to be something else. So, for days I also waited, not with hope, but an anxious dread for the outcome.

It appears Lan is settling into high school okay but I am well aware that appearances can be deceiving. He appears less anxious about attending a new school and making new friends. However, I realize this can be daunting for any teenager. Daily, I ask Lan about his classes only to be rewarded with “good,” or “fine,” and no other details. He is not a child of many words.

Well, the day of issue finally arrived and Lan hopped into the car.  I’m waiting for him to hand me his report. He’s waiting for me to get the car moving. I reluctantly asked him for his progress report and he pulls a crumbled piece of paper from his book bag. I glance over the grades…and smile.

It was the best progress report he’s ever received at the beginning of a school year that I can remember! I’m raving on and on about what a great job he did and Lan’s waiting for me to move the car so he can get home to the X-BOX! I promised I would reinstate the privilege if he brought home good grades. He was more than ready to hold me to it!

God answered my prayer. I am well aware this was accomplished through awesome school staff that enabled my child to be successful. The good report was a great boost to his confidence and an incentive for him to work that much harder. Especially so, since for once, his report was better than his brother’s!

Don’t get me wrong. I have faith in God’s ability to get us along this path just fine. I have seen His miracles both grand and subtle throughout my life. I do believe I am able to receive the things I pray for. It’s just that God’s timing ahead of my expectations simply amazes me!

I expected a final good outcome that I prayed for but not without some major bumps and hurdles along the road. God has made Lan’s entry into high school far better than I ever imagined. I could not have hoped for such a great outcome so soon.

I think I finally get it. God is willing to do even more than I have faith for. He has shown me that He is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think,” as stated in Ephesians 3:20 NKJV. God teaches me once again not to depend on expert opinion but to rely on His power instead.

I have learned to anticipate the best. I can be faith filled and not fearful! God has shown me I can let my guard down and breathe. I should hand my cares over completely to Him.

Sometimes I think holding tightly to my “cares” has been an excuse that kept me from being obedient in other things. I suspect I’m not the only one who has done this. God is handling my “cares and burdens” as I have finally given them over while accepting my own limitations. I can now get working on other things. Other things I have prayed for….

I will have increased faith for my future and anticipate even better things for my child.

One lesson learned, so many more to go…

Late Bloomers!

I love my garden. The cooler days of fall have left me longing for fresh winter blooms as my summer selections faded.  However, last week I noticed fresh new blooms on one particular hydrangea plant.

My hydrangea have the potential to bloom through spring and into summer but usually give one large show in May and then swiftly fade away. Yet on one plant there are five fresh blooms in September!

I had not done anything in particular to this plant to facilitate such a thing and I wonder if that is why it bloomed. It may sound crazy to some but God talks to me in the strangest of ways and I believe my perfect powder blue blooms are there to ease my doubts and fears about those things so completely out of my control.

Sometimes parents try to manipulate and prod their children to perform based on outside expectations. In my own experiences with autism I am very guilty of this as well. However, God holds the perfect timing for everyone and everything right down to when flowers bloom.

Some flowers bloom early and are killed off by frost. Their timing isn’t just right and they fail to enjoy the full luster of their season. Others bloom later than expected and instead of becoming lost in the multitude of blossoms, they are showcased all by themselves, standing out that much more because they did not conform to an expected schedule.

My singular blooms wouldn’t have caught my attention if mixed in along dozens of others just months ago. Yet, in their solitude I can appreciate each and every one. I can appreciate them so much more because they were not expected.

I am now at peace that my many personal expectations will not be met on my time-table but on God’s instead. I have finally learned His timing is always perfect and it makes the miracle that much more. More amazing! More appreciated! More marvelous!

My new blooms remind me that timing is relative. I don’t have to get myself frantic and panicked when my kids (or other things for that matter) aren’t moving along when expected, especially on someone else’s schedule. Schedules can be arbitrary.  Growth charts, developmental analysis and mainstream medicine don’t have the Ultimate say in my eventual outcome.

Only God’s timing, which is always perfect timing, is all I really need.

Autism has taught me that, though I admit I can sometimes forget. God gave me my late bloomers to remind me that He is in control and that oftentimes the most pleasant surprises come when you aren’t expecting them at all.

I’ve seen my fair share of miracles and am yet hopeful for even more! At times when I’ve feared my kids were losing ground or were at a standstill, their eventual and accelerated growth was even more so celebrated!

We are all too some extent liken to plants in God’s great garden. Some people bloom quickly only to fade away just as fast. Some are slow to mature only to later bring sustained and dependable beauty. And now and again there are those few plants over to the side that don’t appear to have that much going on, but when you least expect it and out of their scheduled “season” will shine and stand out among the rest!

I have relinquished to God my expectations of time. Autism has tempered the “control freak” that once consumed me.  I cast my cares over to God and allow Him take them from there.

I can now pray, prepare and wait with expectation instead of frustration.

My faith has not failed me and God’s grace remains unending. I have a confidence and peace that I cling to as I travel this adventure in autism.

Just like my flowers, I am surprised at my miracles that “bloom” unexpectedly and out of season, yet their sweet reward makes me appreciate God’s grace that much more!

Right Words at the Right Time

This is the “good deed” I referred in Autism In The Headlines: part one. I really enjoy this blog and I enjoyed this story. Some people preach. Other’s teach by example. Enjoy!

Devotions by Chris Hendrix

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I believe in the power of words and in paying it forward. I was excited to see a news story out of North Carolina that combined the two. A family went to dinner at a pizza restaurant and their child with special needs started to get rowdy. People started looking and I’m sure it was embarrassing for the parents. A waitress walked over with tears in her eyes and said, “Another customer has paid for your dinner and wanted me to give you this note.” It read, “God only gives special children to special people.”

At a moment when these parents were upset themselves over the situation they couldn’t control, someone else saw through the temporary and gave them hope through words. Proverbs 25:11 in the Message says, “The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry.” The customer who sent over the note had…

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Autism In The Headlines: part one (impact)

Last night as I was skimming news stories on the web, I came across the article about a mother who attempted to kill her autistic child and herself. Furthermore, the article stated the mom indicated her distress on her blog, prior to the suicide attempt.

Having at least two things in common with the woman, I found the blog and took a look. There are over 500 comments on the blog.  Many people took the opportunity to post opinions and comments, some of which were cruel and others just plain ignorant at best.

I don’t condone this woman’s actions by any means, but I’m confident there is a lot more to her story than the snippets distributed through the AP news services.

Autism has an ever increasing presence in the news within the last year. I feared Adam Lanza’s widespread devastation would vilify Asperger’s after the Newtown tragedy in December.  It did heighten the awareness of Asperger’s and its related disorders to many in the public who had no clue or awareness of the increasing prevalence of ASD.

Presently, a family in Michigan is going through its own devastation. Thankfully, the daughter is making miraculous progress.  My prayer is that the mother now receives the medical attention she needs.

Some commenters on her blog spouted off that the mother deserves to die. My question is was she not already  to some extent “dead?” What degree of pain, helplessness and hopelessness existed that the mother couldn’t live in the present, let alone even imagine facing the future?

Mentally fit people do not attempt to kill themselves, let alone their children. We ask how could she?  This mother must have been so terribly broken to the point she wondered, how could she not?

The last post on the blog indicates she was attempting to get her daughter the help she needed. This mother, obviously, was very much in need of help as well.

I read a few of the posts on her blog. The frustration is evident. Her road in parenting is far harder than mine. I can’t even imagine her daily routine.

I readily admit I can’t comprehend how she could have attempted such a tragedy and I’m grateful that I can’t!

Yet, I have no doubt that there are people reading her story with empathy for her and an understanding of how she felt.

Autism and its related disorders are affecting more and more people; there is no doubt about that. Just how much so is a question waiting for a definitive answer.

Some parents of ASD children are at a loss and shut down, often oblivious or indifferent to the consequences of leaving the child without resources that not only benefit the child but also minimize certain behaviors, especially those behaviors that can potentially harm others.

Some parents shut down because they can’t face the diagnosis, and especially so when they are forced to do so alone.  Many kids are cast aside (and I’m not just talking about ASD kids here) left to the tether of video games or solitary behaviors that isolate them from people who don’t want to be bothered and that can sometimes incubate destructive behaviors.

Some parents shut down in denial, not wanting to accept a less than perfect child as their own, let alone admit a problem to anyone else. They may gloss over issues or ignore the “quirks” in their child. Yet, failure to recognize or address the situation certainly minimizes the probability for proper medical and cognitive care unless there is outside intervention.

In contrast, other parents and guardians are so overwhelmed with trying to provide everything possible for their kids, they break down. Their kids may be violent and require extensive services the parents don’t have the resources to offer. These parents are often drained from their daily duties there is little energy to fight for the scarcity of resources available from social services. These same people are often struggling with several “crisis” situations all at once, trying to provide for other children and God only knows what else.

I noticed on the mother’s blog how many commenters were confident they had all the answers. I wondered how these people could be so knowledgeable when there are seemingly many unspoken questions.

It appears this mother spent the last fourteen years caring diligently for her child. In addition, there are other family members in this picture to consider. Only that family will ever know the toll ASD took on them and is still taking…

Many commenters blasted how they would never do such a horrendous thing. I certainly hope they would not!

However, I ask would these same accusers offer encouragement, kindness or even prayer to a parent going through a difficult situation? A situation that can be brutal, never-ending, and overwhelming for everyone involved.

I am certainly not casting stones or providing justification.

I am asking painful questions and suggesting conversations that may possibly prevent this type of tragedy from occurring again.

I work in the health care sector and have the opportunity to see many parents of special needs children going along, taking it day by day with God every step of the way. They will eagerly and enthusiastically tell you He is the only way they make it.

I have also witnessed abusive parents who are aggravated and bitter about the condition of a child, doing little more than necessary to minimize their own inconvenience.

People come to me for advice, that’s part of my job. I try and take the opportunity to encourage those parents who are at a loss or distraught and point them in the direction for the best resources. I also emphasize that parents take care of themselves so they can properly take care of the child. I am willing to share my own experiences. Sometimes it is enough for a parent to know they are not alone on their journey and someone else really does understand.

I remember many years ago feeling alone and helpless. Autism was not a “hot topic” as it is these days. But I have one friend whose grown child isn’t on the spectrum but suffered a great physical disability. Her testimony of how she endures a far greater “hardship” than mine and how she continues to make it through with God, her great attitude encouraged me when I had no one to talk to or lean on.

She didn’t have to say a thing. We often talked about everything else besides our kids. But I looked toward her example. If she could do it and make a very hard role look easy, I could at least try; give it my best, and not give up hope.

Now, I want to be that encouragement for someone else.

It is so easy to say what you wouldn’t do, but what would you do?

Would you offer a hand, your heart, a listening ear or even your prayers?

A blogger I follow shared a great story about how one family paid for the meal of another at a restaurant. There was a family with a special needs child and apparently they were not having a good dinner. The frustration was very evident from the parents.

I have seen parents out to dinner with their kids and trying to make the best of it as other patrons give them the evil eye. Sure people want to get out and have a nice dinner, but guess what, these parents do too!

I’m at a point in my life where I can tune out a screaming child. It’s not going to ruin my meal. Some parents don’t get an “outing” on a regular basis. Often, the needs of a child prevent that from occurring. Sometimes dinner goes well. Sometimes not.

Anyway, the gist of the post is that the waitress brought the paid check to the family struggling through dinner and the benefactor had written on it something to the effect of saying that it takes special people to care for special needs children.

I’m sure that generous gesture on one person’s part was the ray of light, hope or support the family needed right at that time. We have no idea of the struggles others are going through. How often do we gloss over opportunities to do good to others because we are so caught up in our own little world?

Many people glibly say they would take a bullet and die for their child and mean it. But would these same people be willing to take a proverbial bullet daily, one that did not offer a quick and sudden death, but instead rendered such emotional and mental agony than ever imaginable that physical demise looks like a blessing in comparison?

I challenge those commentors to instead of easily saying what they would have done to instead, get out of their own piece of paradise and actually do something that would encourage, uplift, offer hope or inspire someone else. A kind gesture is often all it takes to reaffirm to someone that they are not alone. We can become vehicles that provide God’s blessings when we open ourselves up to give instead of condemn.

My experience with autism has allowed me discernment to recognize some needs of parents of kids with disabilities. I offer encouragement when I can. A lot of prayers have gone up oblivious to the people I’ve prayed for. I don’t always know what God is doing in my life but I have learned to be more aware of what is going on around me and to look outward instead of always looking in my own tiny world.

I was told when pregnant with my oldest son there was a chance he would have Downs Syndrome. I got a very callous call at work with that information and quickly fell apart. Well, the tests were wrong, that bullet was dodged and my oldest is quite a brilliant young man, very well acclimated to his strenuous academic workload, his brainiac friends and the occasional video game.

Having dodged a bullet that with the first child, it really didn’t dawn on me anything would ever be “wrong” with the second. I was going through a strenuous time in my life moving cross country, twice, with one baby and pregnant with another. I prayed for a happy and healthy second child. I had my answered prayer and then something changed…

Lan is still happy, almost deliriously so at times. I have to rein him in so he can “focus” on the mundane tasks in life such as chores, school work, responsibilities and maturity. All of which are highly overrated in his eyes. But he is happy and thankfully a very peaceful child.

Maybe his ASD diagnosis wasn’t about him, but rather me. I have learned from it, grown from it and grown with it. I don’t have all the answers and I’m no longer looking for them. I lost interest in asking God “why” many years ago.

I will say that I am grateful for what God has given me, even with ASD and all its implications never that far off. God is allowing me to manage. Some days better than others but He is with me, I am sure. I pray that He is with all the others, like me, who need Him.

Maybe that’s what this is all about for me. My experiences have taught me to not just pray for my needs, but recognize the needs of complete strangers and intercede on their behalf.

Who knows? I am just trying to do the best I can with what I have like most people. I am turning not to my own abilities but leaning on His stability, a lesson I’m not honestly sure I would have learned at this point in my life if not for my youngest son.

Autism is here to stay for the moment. I am hopeful and prayerful for new therapies, remedies and medical innovation. I’ve seen a lot of things in my twenty-one years in healthcare. I know with God anything is possible. My prayers for a healthy child were not in vain, maybe just not quite answered… yet. Then again, “healthy” is increasingly becoming a relative term.

Autism is in the headlines more and more but I pray for more positive stories and more positive outcomes. Many stories focus on the child. There is an ever increasing need to recognize and inform others of the toil these disorders take on the parents, family members and the community as well.

I can’t provide a cure but can provide a smile. I’m not a psychiatrist. But I can pray. Prayer may not sound like much to some people, but I’ve witnessed God answer some “out there” prayers and amazingly so at that!

Instead, of asking “what can one person do,”   I challenge those who criticize and judge from afar to actually do something positive and find out!

Dont Lose Yourself!

I remember a conversation with my boys not that long ago where I was trying to convince them that I really used to be a fun and interesting person, recalling a long gone pre-kids era. I didn’t see what was so incredibly hard to believe. Instead, both boys looked at me dumbfounded as if horns had grown out of my head.

It took a minute or two bu then it dawned on me. My kids couldn’t believe it because they had rarely seen it! 

My kids are accustomed to seeing me perform my usual maternal responsibilities of keeping them on track and as organized as possible. Or they easily view me from the perspective of my “day job” as mom’s alter ego away from home. These things are easy for them. Fun? Interesting? Not exactly two adjectives readily identified with mom.

Before I was immersed in motherhood, I had a social life, hung out with friends, went to concerts, read lots of books and did fun things that normal people do. Even after my kids were born, I managed to maintain a garden, collect comic books and still pursue my many varied interests.

But somewhere along the line slowly and insidiously more and more of my interests gave way and faded away as their extra-curricular activities swallowed up time. My interests deferred to theirs.

My household was running along just fine. My kids were okay. I could check my husband off my list as present and accounted for. Work? Check. Everything was in reasonable order…but I wasn’t myself. In fact, I no longer recognized myself.

I could only remember the things that gave me joy as faint memories because I had deprived myself of them for so long. Everyone else in my household was moving along just fine, but I was lost. I lost myself somewhere along the way of trying to be everything to everyone.

I’m not quite sure what prompted my revelation but I guess another birthday may have had something to do with it. When I realized that I have probably lived half of my life already, I had a new found determination to actually enjoy my life!

I concluded I was doing myself a disservice by robbing myself of precious “me” time (locked in the bathroom away from the rest of my family would no longer count) and that I was robbing my kids as well.

If my world always revolved around theirs, I would be lying to them. The real world doesn’t operate that way and there was no valid reason to set them up for such an unrealistic expectation. I also realized that instead of smothering my personal interests I could not only enjoy them but also share them with my kids.

My kids now have a vast knowledge of the Marvel Universe. This may not be the most useful information ever, yet it is oh so entertaining as we can discuss super-heroes until infinity.

My oldest son is now a most excellent baker of cookies and cake from scratch. My youngest is a self-proclaimed pizza connoisseur, his home-made pizza is far better than any take-out.  Both kids have absorbed my love of cooking and nearly fight each other in  their attempts to conquer the kitchen.

My kids absorbed my passion for writing as well. They now write their own comic books and graphic novels creating characters and sketching them out. I am now “interesting enough” to consult about plot ideas, themes and costumes!

When we as parents allow parts ourselves to die, no matter how insignificant it seems at the time, we actually kill opportunities to share with our kids.

This decision to not just cast aside my own personal hobbies for my kid’s casual interests gave them a newfound respect for me as a person and not just their mother.

I can’t provide a balanced example for them to aspire to if I lead an unbalanced life. Lingering or latent resentment because I made a choice to diminish myself for the benefit of my kids actually benefits no one.

They don’t need a martyr. The do need a mentally and emotionally fit mother!

God created me not one-dimensional but with layers. I am daughter, wife, and mother each persona with varied facets. We are all gems that when turned toward the sun (or more accurately, the Son) reflect various degrees of light depending on how much we’ve been cut, honed or polished.

Sometimes we need a few cuts to better absorb the light. Sometimes we need to polish ourselves so that our best selves shine. Pursuing those interests that speak to us allow us opportunities to reflect God’s light on others and share His love with those we love.

It is in fact our responsibility to “use it or lose it,” in regards to those talents He has given us (Matthew 25:15-29). For what God has given us is not to be buried but multiplied instead! We multiply our talents when we share with others what we know and have. To bury our gifts is displeasing to God.

Learning that I don’t have to obliterate my own talents under the obligations of motherhood but that I can nourish them and share them with my children, provides them opportunities to learn new things, engage in new adventures and stimulate their curiosity in ways no video game or DVD ever could.

God loves me; of this I had no doubt. I had to re-learn to love me enough to nurture my talents and interests as God intended.

My kids and I now have more things to enjoy together. I have relinquished my role as just their “taxi driver” and relish my role as contributor and participant.

If you have lost a bit of yourself, I challenge you to find yourself and those things once held dear to you. Unearth those gifts, share them and allow them to make room for you!

It still takes a bit of diligence to maintain a good balance between me, them and us but it is well worth the effort.

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see,” 

John Newton

Mind Control

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God,” Romans 12:2 NKJV

As I sat during last night’s football game, I had to continually reprogram my thinking. Yesterday was the first football game of the season. Unlike last year, my youngest son Lan had no interest at all in sitting by me. About ten minutes after our arrival the first words out of his mouth were, “Can I go sit by my friends?”

His request was not unexpected. He is growing up and now in high school. However, I have to constantly battle within my mind that he is not in elementary school or middle school. I have to constantly remember that he has shown increased maturity and responsibility.

He will never learn how to correctly behave in social situations if I am constantly whispering in his ear what he should and should not do.

So, I have absolutely no idea what happened in the first half of the game.

Aside from a few glances over at my older son who was in the stands with the band, my attention was keenly focused two sections over. Lan was talking with one of his school mates and hugging and speaking with his former teachers.

I watched him walk up and down the stairs, waving hesitantly to various people he knew. He was always in eyesight. My husband sat down beside me and sighed. “He’s fine,” he moaned. Lan may have been fine. I was not.

Last night was definitely an exercise but for me more so than Lan. I had to exercise faith that he would be all right, not just last night but in these next four years of high school. I had to exercise patience because watching him socialize while not under my direct supervision was nerve-wracking. I was surprised at my level of anxiety. I was also proud at Lan’s willingness to mingle.

I’ve prayed that Lan would find good friends. He has a few but none of them go to his school. He will have to make new friends. I will have to allow him the opportunity to do so.

I know it is God’s intention to answer my prayer. I just have to get out-of-the-way and allow Him to do so.  I have to trust God for this to happen. I prayed while sitting in the stands.

High school is often a time of angst under the best of circumstances. We all want to protect our kids when it pains us to see them branch out. But there is no way any of us can learn without failure. Lan will never reach his full potential if I don’t allow him to try and fail.

I have to remember he isn’t the same child who would wander in pre-k. He isn’t the same child who was terrified of crowds. He has grown and I must too, if I’m not to lose my mind.

Sometimes we can have our minds so programmed to one thought that we are reluctant to change. Always realistic, I must look at what he can become not how I’ve viewed him in the past. I must change my thinking if I am to “hand him over,” so God can do even more.

I wrote recently about letting go. Last night showed me I’ve still got a ways to go. Letting go means relinquishing more and more of my parental control and gaining more and more control over my thoughts.

This change is uncomfortable, nauseating and even painful. But it is necessary for all of our sakes. If Lan is to grow up, I can’t hold him in.

My husband saw one of his teachers last night who said Lan was doing just great in his class. I breathed a sigh of relief. I have to change my thinking so I am not surprised by the very things I pray for!

God has gotten us thus far and I’m confident He will see us through high school and beyond. I just have to remind myself of miracles past every time I get that gnawing knot in my stomach.

Lan came back to my seat at the end of the game just as my husband instructed, even before the timer was done. He maneuvered the crowd just fine. There was no major fiasco. No catastrophe. We survived.

It is indeed an effort not to view the teenager towering over me as the little kid I’ve sheltered for so long. Lan and I have moved on to a new season in life and ready or not it is here.

For once it is not Lan who needs to be mature and adapt. This time it’s me.