Tag Archives: faith

Cat Lady

Over ten years ago, our black cat Lucky showed up hungry and homeless. I thought we were a blessing to him but in fact he was a blessing to us, especially for my youngest son Lan. Lucky really pulled him out of his shell and made Lan more in touch with his surroundings. This all occurred during a crucial time when we weren’t exactly too sure how much talking Lan would ever do.

Fast forward ten plus years and here we are again. It’s Lan’s first year in high school and we’ve had a few bumps along the way, the latest of which was an upperclassman trying to bully my child. From what I can tell, it seems the cat or rather cats showed up at another pivotal time for him.

Several weeks ago, a family of stray cats took up residence at our house. At first we believed it was just a mama cat “Grey” as we call her and two kittens. I’d seen four kittens across the street weeks earlier but suspected something had eaten two of them.

Lan would continuously keep an eye out for them, making sure they were provided for as best we could.  We would put out food and water. Lan never gave up hope that all the kittens survived. As usual, he can see the best in any given situation. His faith is at times is stronger than mine.  I can learn a lot from my child.

Today Lan was proven correct!

All four kittens have survived, I found them sitting in rocking chairs on my porch. Lan’s hope was not ill-founded. His fascination with the cats and protecting them has been an escape I believe from the problems he was having at school. I suspect if not for the cats, the issue at school could have caused my child to “shut down.”  As usual, God finds a solution when I don’t even realize I have a problem!

He is not a child of many words and we certainly don’t want to lose any ground that we’ve gained. I’m now grateful that mama cat and kittens have taken up residence.

How I’m going to round them all up and get them to a vet I don’t know. We have had four-footed angels before (even if our resident house cat has been more of a devil as of late). I will entertain our kitties for as long as I can and hopefully find them the best of homes. It’s the least I can do. And if that’s not possible, I’ll be content to be the cat lady on the corner.

My experiences thus far make it awfully hard to remember that I don’t like cats.

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!

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!

Autism in the Headlines: part two

My last post on this subject revolved around the attempted murder and suicide in one Michigan family. Weeks before that story hit the headlines another family attempted to do the same.  However, that child did not survive.

Again, there are elements to that story that I’m sure will come to light later. Regardless, a life was lost. What is most unnerving is the unanswered question; could this tragedy have been prevented?

Parade Magazine ran a story in April about one particular family and how the costs associated with treatment for their child was an enormous hardship on that family. As a parent I also investigated the costs of schools in my area that offer the kind of teaching and support beneficial to children on the spectrum. The costs for specialized schools in addition to therapist visits and other treatments are mind-boggling. They are way out of reach for the average middle class family, even those that do have health care coverage.

Some states do not require insurers to cover the services our kids need. I find that appalling since these same companies have no qualms collecting increasingly expensive premiums. Most health insurance companies in America are extremely profitable.  Insurance companies increase their profits by minimizing services. Most companies claim they can’t afford to cover crucial services for autism patients. I argue they can’t afford not to.

Pay now or pay much more later.

Preventable health care services and screenings have proven to save money when compared to the cost of not providing such preventive care. I suggest Autism is no different.

Study after study indicates that early intervention does wonders if not miracles. Even small increases in communication and cognitive skills can make a world of difference in the quality of life for not just the patient but the parent as well. Access to services and therapies may offer the support some families need wherein the absence of these same resources only ignites a smoldering environment that is quick to burn.

I certainly don’t have all the answers but I do have a few questions.  How is it that insurance companies can choose to exclude coverage for certain diagnosis, especially when it was not a pre-existing condition? Many families have paid thousands of dollars in premiums only to have their insurer close the doors they need opened the most.

One commenter on a blog suggested that parents of autistic children are screened periodically as well as their children. I don’t know if the comment was intended to be sarcastic or not but in the wake of recent events, if it can save some lives, it may not be a bad idea.

Autism can be financially devastating and psychologically grueling for both parent and child. We have children losing their lives and not being allowed the opportunity to live up to their potential. Society is failing them. I would think heightened awareness would push people in a positive direction. Unfortunately increased awareness cannot erase ignorance.

Again from the headlines, one Canadian family had to endure hate mail from a neighbor.  Is this family not dealing with enough? At this point authorities still have not found the perpetrator. The family is forced to live knowing an unseen threat lurks nearby. Thankfully, other neighbors rallied around the family. But can the damage of the offender really be undone?

There are also unscrupulous scoundrels in healthcare who would take advantage of the uptick in ASD diagnoses to sell their treatments to devastated and desperate parents. Many families have paid thousands of dollars to receive only broken promises. These are not disposable dollars. Some parents are losing their homes, sacrificing the needs of other family members and clinging desperately to sanity all while trying to do all they can with what they have.

Autism is crushing families and now people are taking sides. It pains me to see such decisiveness when it requires all of us working together if we are going to overcome the challenges posed by autism.

Our kids are not disposable. We must be their voice. Yet, others will not listen if we are turning on ourselves.

Some would say autism is not their problem. I argue, oh yes it is. The numbers are increasing, alarmingly so. The upcoming change in how autism is defined within the medical community will surely have an effect on just who qualifies for what available benefits.

Treated or not, these kids are not going anywhere and will become integrated members of society. Our society benefits most when our kids get the care they need early so they can become adults living to their highest potential.

These recent stories in the news have had me in tears and I don’t cry easily. I have prayed and cried and prayed some more. I am grateful I have not had to endure the circumstances of others but I don’t delude myself into thinking that I am in no way unaffected.

This financial, emotional and mental toil is not isolated to autism. I have read several articles about children with other developmental issues and even elder abuse due to Alzheimer’s and dementia having a similar impact on families.

Where does the madness stop? How can we make a difference? I don’t have all the answers but I am willing to listen. I am willing to try.

Are you?

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.