And how the wind does blow..

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..the adventures begin…

Once upon a time.. when I was a young girl.. a very young girl.. a tree fell in our woods.  Ha.. it doesn’t sound very interesting at first.. but that tree is burned in my memory with great detail.

I grew up in the woods.  Our yard was full of trees.  There were trees across our dirt road.  There were trees behind our house.  Our neighbors owned the acreage behind us.. YUP.. also trees.  I basically grew up in the trees.  As you may guess.. a lot of trees fell in those woods.

But this tree was special.  It fell with ALL of its leaves still on its branches.

Now I don’t know why it fell.. That is the funny thing about memories.. It filters out the insignificant facts.  And the fact was.. A tree fell.  A beautiful tree full of branches and branches of leaves.  When my sister and I inspected it with our friends?  We saw that it would make the perfect fort.  When this tree fell, it fell against another tree.  Its branches catching as it fell, so that there was plenty of head room.  Plenty of space to move around.  The leaves were so thick that we couldn’t see through them once inside.  My sister and I thought it was PERFECT!

So perfect that we decided to run away!

Now I don’t remember if we had a reason that we wanted to run away.  If we had one, I certainly don’t remember it.  I remember pulling a little red wagon half way around the lake to help our friends pack their 2 brown paper bags full of clothes.  I remember finding rugs and blankets.. and even pretty pictures to hang on the walls.  I remember planning out our life of independence.  But I don’t remember a reason for wanting to run away.

When our Mom heard of our plans to run away.. our plans to strike out on our own?  (After all.. I think I was 8 years old.. which made my sister 11?  High time we were on our own.. right?!?)  Well you can probably guess.. when my Mom heard the words “running” and “away” in the same sentence? YUP she freaked.. sent us to our room to unpack .. and sit on our beds.   My sister remembers our Mom’s reaction being to the distance we walked that day .. with the little red wagon.  But either way.. our friends were sent home.. and our plans were off.

Now that I am a Mother myself, I understand my Mom’s reaction a little better.  But I have thought about this memory a lot in my life.. and as a teenager I thought.. Why didn’t she just let us spend the night out there?

Imagine this…

This beautiful tree fell in FULL view of our house.  (Which was one of the reasons we were so bold in the first place.)  We could see the house through a small opening in the limbs from inside the fort… But it was also in a small clearing.. easily spotted from our house.  You will remember that this tree is also surrounded by other trees.  Trees that creak and leaves that blow in the wind.  We would have been sleeping on the ground.. which is hard.. and even in the summer would have been cool.

If my Mom had given us a hug and wished us well?

We would have been back inside within an hour of darkness.

Why?

The first time we heard an owl above us.. the first time the leaves of our fort rustled in the wind.. the first time a tree creaked and groaned around us.. the first time a bug crawled out from the darkness onto our blanket.. the first time something fell on us from the wind blowing?  We would have been screaming.

And how the wind does blow in Michigan.

Not to mention that my sister and I had 3 brothers who would have LOVED to try to scare us.

You may be thinking.. OH but the wild animals.. raccoons, deer, skunks, rabbits… bears..?   And I will say this.. Have you ever heard 4 girls scream?  I have.. it’s enough to make ME want to run away.. those animals wouldn’t have come within a mile.

Whenever I tell this story to a friend or to a group of kids?  I always say that my Mom should have just wished us luck and enjoyed 2 hours of peace and quiet.  And when we snuck back inside after dark.. quietly so that we didn’t have to let anyone know we had failed?  My mom could have smiled softly and went back to sleep.

I think God has a sense of humor.  You see every time I expressed a strong opinion about something as a teenager?  YUP.. I had to go through that as a parent.. “My kids will NEVER act like THAT in a store!” I said.. I was the Mom with the 3 year old screaming for sardines..in aisle 7.  “I will NEVER raise my voice to MY child..” said I…. Ha.. I had to train myself to whisper when I was frustrated with my strong willed child.  “My daughter will never go in public with hair that messy..” I would mutter.. Bahahaha.. My daughter’s hair was blond, curly and thick.. oh so thick.. and she wouldn’t let me style it.  We would never have gone into public.. And my most fervent, “If my child wants to run away, I will let them.. they will come back..”

YES.. you should be careful what you declare as a teenager.. God has a great sense of humor.

My daughter first uttered the words “run away” at the ripe old age of 3.  I was so floored that NOT ONLY did she know those words.. but she knew what they meant.. at THREE!  I was so surprised in fact.. I sent her to her room.  When she was 4?  She was still using them.  I would try to explain why she had to follow our rules.. but to no avail.. she still yelled on about the injustices in the world.  So I would send her to her room.

And then..

Then just after my daughter turned 5, I heard a panicked cry from the room down the hall.  I rushed down the hall, to find my little child hanging outside from her window sill.. hanging over a 10 foot drop to the pavement below.  She had decided to run away by going out the window.. however she had panicked when the screen dropped and reached for it.. reached and fallen out.  As I hugged my daughter to me.. so happy she was safe.. because I knew exactly what would have happened had she NOT been able to grab the window sill.. I made a decision..

I decided that the next time my daughter threatened to leave.. I needed to let her go.  In fact.. I would help her pack.  (I borrowed the idea from Dr. James Dobson and his book the Strong-Willed Child.)  When my daughter was in bed.. I explained my plan to my husband.  He agreed to help.. but I knew that he doubted its wisdom at first.

And threaten she did..

“I don’t want to live here, I want to go live with someone nicer.”

Taking a deep breath, I prepared for battle.  “Where will you go?” I asked sadly and patiently.

Her surprise at my calm question only lasted a second, before it hardened back into defiance.  “To Grandma Pauline’s!”

I nodded and stood up, “I will help you pack then.”

Her look was shocked then, “Pack?”

“Yes.. you will need to pack.  Daddy would you get her suitcase please?” I asked quietly.. continuing in my sad and resigned tone.

As Daddy retrieved the suitcase, we went to her room and started folding the clothes she would need to take.  A sweater because the night was cool.. and who knew when she would get to Grandma’s.  A few outfits.. her fancy shoes (her choice).. 7 pairs of undies because who knew when she would be able to wash her clothes again.. A blanket and pillow… Her toothbrush.. a hairbrush.. and her stuffed dog.

As her Dad and I carefully put everything in her suitcase, we took turns suggesting things.  “Maybe you should sleep on Jill’s swing tonight.. You could travel during the daylight tomorrow that way.. remember to only cross at crosswalks.. make sure cars see you..”  On and on we went.. sadly.. quietly… and resigned.

Just before we zipped her suitcase .. the tears started.  Turns out.. she never wanted to leave.. She blurted out that she just gets so mad.. “I’m sorry,” she blubbers through her sobs, “please let me stay.”

And I smiled, (through my tears of course).. and I explained that her Dad and I loved her.  We always would.  And because we love her, we want her to be happy.  When her sobs had quieted.. and my throat wasn’t choked up.. I explained to her that if she CHOOSES to live with us, then she chooses to follow our rules.  The rules that will help her grow into an amazing young lady.  I told her that if she is unhappy with those rules, she can tell us she is unhappy… (And then the bomb..)  “If you choose to stay?  Then this is it.. No more running away. Ok?”  With a tear filled nod, she hugs me again.. and we unpack.

We have had many discontented arguments in my daughter’s life.. about many things.. I almost expected it whenever the wind changed direction.. or just blew.. and how the wind did blow in Missouri.  But with all those arguments.. Not ONCE did my daughter again threatened to run away.

Shortly after this, I heard (again) the story of the Prodigal son in a Sunday school class.  I remember thinking to myself…  Why would he be so excited and rejoice to have his son back?  Doesn’t the father know that he is just rewarding the wayward behavior?  And KILL a fatted calf?  I helped the children learn the story.. but I couldn’t really understand the excitement the father felt.

Now I don’t just have one child.. I have two.

My strong willed, very verbal daughter and then my silent, observant son.

After my daughter stopped threatening to run away.. we were at my parent’s house for a visit.  I took my son outside to play.  My cousin was also visiting that day .. he was discussing some decisions he had to make.. and while I was listening I was watching my son play.

Now my son may be silent.. and he may have special needs.. but he is also smart… and has an amazing memory for directions.

With a smile, my son ran behind the house, so I walked the other way.. kind of a peek a boo game .. When he saw me, he smiled.. and ran back the other way.. So I walked the opposite way around the house.. and again when he saw me he smiled.. Back and forth we went.. and all the while?  I was talking to my cousin..

And then he was gone…

Thinking he was hiding at the end of the house, I casually walked in that direction.. but he was not there.. he was just gone…

My son had disappeared before my very eyes..

I called and called.. My cousin checked in the house.. and I went around the block.. the wooded block.. the wooded dirt road that divides our trees from the woods behind… I followed the path that I knew my brothers took him on.. My cousin caught up and we searched the woods.. all the while calling…

But he was gone..

As quickly as we could.. and still being efficient.. we followed the road and circled back around to my parents’ house .. and found my son hadn’t returned.  My neighbor was there then.. my childhood friend… asking to help.. among others…

And I was starting to get scared.

The rational part of me knew my son had followed the path my little brothers took him on.  The rational part of me knew my brothers would know if something had caught his interest.  They would know if there was a side track that I didn’t know about.  So while others searched the woods again.. calling for my son.. calling for a boy who could not answer…

While they were calling?  I waited for the bus.. waited for my brothers to get home.

But the non-rational part of me?  YUP.. it was starting to panic..

Minutes later.. as my brothers got off the bus.. I explained to them my theory.. That my son had followed the route they had walked with him.. and that he had perhaps stopped at something along the way.  Both of my little brothers looked at each other and dropped their bags.. “I’ll take the long way,” said one.. “I’ll check the puddle,” said the other.. and they ran.

It was all I could do just to breathe. Breathe and stay on my feet.  There were people there .. but I have no idea who they were.  I have no idea what they were doing.. All I could see was my brothers running.. and all I could do was breathe.  Because it felt like my heart was being ripped from my chest.. my throat burned with the emotions I could not release.. my chest felt like a great weight pressed against it.. keeping my breath from coming without a great struggle..  And my normally rational brain.. it was mush…

And then there was a horn.. a car.. or truck was laying on their horn… and my heart stopped.  Someone pointed to the side road in the distance where an SUV was stopping in the middle of the road.  Someone pointed out that my brother was almost to the same spot..

And my world stopped..

I couldn’t even breathe..

I couldn’t see..

I couldn’t hear anything..

Except that horn…

And then my brother was there in front of me.. He was there with my son.. My brother was handing over my young wet son.. and I was holding him.. Holding my son so tight that it was probably hard for him to breathe…

In that moment… all of the emotions I had held inside released.. and I cried.. cried like I have never cried before.. I know people hugged me.. I know people tried to comfort me.. I heard my brother explain about the giant puddle they had found the day before.  I heard him explain that the SUV had barely seen my submerged son playing in the puddle.. I heard someone joke “thank the Good Lord for that dark hair!”  I heard everything go on around me.. And the whole time, I held my young son tightly for fear he would disappear again.  Held him and cried.. great big sobs of relief and thankfulness.  Thankfulness that my brothers had known where to go.. Thankful that it was God’s plan for us to find him in time.

It was that moment.. the moment the joy crept into my tears.. that I understood the father in the story of the Prodigal son..

“But the father said to his servants, “Bring out the best robe and put it on him and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.  And bring the fatted calf here and kill it and let us eat and be merry.”  Luke 15:22-23

In that moment, I understood the joy at receiving the disobedient child back safely.  At holding the son in your arms.. the one you worried about endlessly.. The joy that fills your whole body at their being safe..

Now.. I do realize that the Parable Jesus told isn’t about an earthly family… That parable actually refers to God as the father.. and the sons are us.. All of us!  Some of us are the son who stays loyal.. stay and work tirelessly in the fields of God’s work.  We are the ones who receive love and safe keeping from God everyday.  But the son who leaves God’s protection? The son who takes his inheritance and spends it on worldly sins and then returns to God later.. humbled by his disobedience.  I understand why God would want to celebrate.. Why heaven would ring with music and dancing..

Because in those moments.. the moments that air returned to my lungs.. that hope returned to my heart.. Those moments when I crushed my son’s small body against mine?  I think I heard heaven rejoicing with me..

So now when I tell the story of my sister and I running away from home.. When I tell my daughter of my bold convictions of how my Mother SHOULD have handled it?  I also tell her of her adventures and my son’s.. and I tell her of God’s sense of humor…

My daughter?  She laughs … and says she will never disagree with me..

Even though she probably will…

And me?  When I hear something shocking.. a kid walked off while his mother napped.. an overwhelmed mom yelling at her 3 year old.. in aisle 7..?? I try not to judge the parents.. I try not to think what I would have done differently.. I just pray…

It gets me in a lot less trouble…

The morning after…

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Laughter in the air…

Yesterday my house was full of family.  It was full of adults laughing and talking.  It was full of kids running and chasing.. and laughing.  In fact, my house was so busy and full.. that at times I couldn’t hear the person standing next to me .. at all.  But the noise didn’t bother me.  Because even though my house was crowded and loud?  It was also full of happiness and love.  Everywhere you look?  You can see that happiness and love shining…  Shining from the eyes of the birthday kids.  Shining from the eyes of the adults as they are visiting.  Shining from the little toddler throwing a balloon to his dad.

Laughter… Happiness… Food… Cake.. Party games… Treasure Hunts… Sledding.. Babies being passed all around…

Heavenly!!!

When the party ended, we all were so content.. and exhausted.. that we crashed on the couch as soon as the food was taken care of.   Leaving the cleaning for later…

This morning, I took my kids to school.  When I returned home, I stepped over the baby toys and headed to the kitchen to do my morning clean up.  I smiled to myself as I pulled baby spoons and bowls from my dishwasher.  I laughed as I threw cups away.  Amused to see the silly names and designs written on the sides.  (We use Solo cups and sharpies at family parties to keep track of our cups… We tend to use silly made up names instead of our own.)  When I sweep the floors, I find lost treat bag treasures and noisy blow outs.  And… I usually find a sticky spot on the floor.. where someone spilled something and did a quick clean up job.

When I was satisfied my kitchen was clean, I headed to start my Monday laundry.  I filled the washer and then grab the clothes from the dryer.. As I fold the baby burp clothes, I find myself smile again.

But I don’t take care of the burp clothes.. I leave them folded on the dryer.. I will put them away tomorrow.  I will put them away right AFTER I pick up the baby toys.  Right after, I organize the toy corner in the living room.  But I will probably put them away before I take down the crib in my bedroom.

Why?

Because it’s the morning after.

The morning after a fun family party is always a little depressing for me.  Or the morning after someone comes to visit.  The morning after your vacation is over.  The morning after a wedding.  The morning after a holiday.  It’s always the same for me.. The morning after is always sad.  My house feels lonely.. and quiet.  There is all this evidence left behind of the lively activities we had.  Toys and chaos left everywhere.  But the only sound is silence.

So that morning after??  I do something that doesn’t involve cleaning up that evidence.  I play music to fill the silence.. and do something else.  Anything that will keep me busy.

Today?

Today I cleaned the chicken coop.

As I chipped away at the frozen … (for polite purposes) “muck”.. I talked to my chickens.  They squawked at me as I worked.  They followed me through the melting snow drifts as I dumped the muck in the compost pile.   And then followed me back again.  When I had burned enough calories that I lost a little of the gloom .. the gloom of that morning after feeling… I took a good look at my chickens.  They were a little skinnier than last fall… Kind of dirty.. and most of them were missing feathers (thanks to the duck with cabin fever).  They have definitely looked better.. and they have definitely looked happier.

Then I realized..

They were having a Morning After too..

You see.. my chickens and ducks have spent the last 8-ish weeks caged up in the sub zero weather.  This morning is the first time the doors and gates have been opened wide for their freedom.  It is the first morning of 40 and sunshine.  For them?  For them.. it is the morning after a very bad winter.  And even though a couple of them were telling me how bad the winter was.. Yes my chickens talk.. Actually they drawl.. in a very southern accent…  While a couple of them were drawling their misery.. the rest were running around enjoying their freedom or basking in that warm (40 degree) sunshine.

I know how they feel.. That morning after a traumatic event.  The morning after a bad winter.  The morning after an illness.  The morning after your special needs child has a bad day (or week).   The morning after your daughter has her tonsils out.. or your son has emergency surgery to put screws in his hips.. or you break your arm.  The morning after you crash your car. Or the morning after a funeral.  I have felt this feeling more than a few times in my life… and I imagine I will be feeling it again in June.. when I put my adopted daughter (my exchange student) on a plane home to Egypt.  That next morning.. Yup.. it will be a hard morning after.

Everyone deals with these Morning After emotions differently.  Some people are like my chickens.  They need to talk through their feelings to anyone who will listen.  Knowing that no one can fix their emotions.. but just needing to be heard.  Others need to be still.. Be still and bask in the sunlight.  Bask in the sunlight of God’s love.. God’s promise that spring will come.. and with it Hope.

I am like that 3rd chicken.  I need to move.  I need to do anything that will keep my hands busy and my mind busy.  Because that morning after?? That morning after my emotions are too strong for me to deal with.  Too strong to breathe through.. And I am missing WAY too many feathers.   So that morning after?  I just breathe.. Breathe and move.  Knowing that as soon as I focus on my Yesterday?  As soon as I do.. I will cry.

Sometimes.. sometimes I can’t move fast enough and I am forced to deal with my emotions when they are still strong.  That’s when I crash..

Then I started thinking..

The morning after Jesus was crucified.. the Bible does not tell us how Mary Magdalene dealt with her trauma.. It does not tell us how she dealt with all the emotions she felt at watching her teacher.. her friend.. hung on a cross.  It does not tell us how she dealt with her sorrow at watching a close friend die.  It does not tell us how she spent that morning after.  But it does tell us what she didn’t do.  She did not go to the tomb where Jesus was laid.

Now I understand that the morning after Jesus died for us on the cross .. it was a Sabbath.  The Jewish custom was to rest on the Sabbath.. So Mary was not allowed to do any work.. she was not allowed to go to the tomb with her oils and spices.  But still I wonder… How would Mary have spent that morning after if it hadn’t been the Sabbath Day? What would she have done?  Would she have gone to the tomb that next morning?  Would she have stayed with her sister?  Stayed and talked through her hurt?  Or would she have been Still?  Would she have been Still and basked in God’s Love for comfort?

We will never know really.

But what we do know?  We know that when Mary Magdalene went to that tomb .. she found the stone rolled away.  She found that tomb empty.  Jesus was alive again.. JUST as God had promised.

So in truth.. Mary went to the tomb and found Hope.  Hope for her future.

When I go to my tomb?  When I deal with the source of my emotions?  I do not expect to find a resurrection of my guests returning.  I do not expect to find a resurrection of my sorrows.  When I go to my tomb and deal with my emotions.. I always find hope.

That same hope that Mary found?

Not exactly.  The hope of seeing my family again soon does not compare to seeing one of God’s promises.  The hope of laughing  with friends again does NOT compare with seeing the Holy Jesus coming back to life after a gruesome death.  The hope of holding a baby again soon .. it doesn’t compare with the promise of going to Heaven.

What about the morning after sadness?  How do I find Hope there?  When hope seems to disappear.. like a cloud blocking out the sun?

Hope is still there.. It is on the other side of your emotions.

  “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”  Ecclesiastes 3:4

So those screws in my son’s hips?  They will be beautiful in their time.. God let those screws be needed in my son’s bone FOR a reason.  So my son’s bad week?  It will be beautiful in its time.  Saying good-bye to my Egyptian daughter?  Yes.. that too will be beautiful in its time.  God has a reason He lets all of these things happen…  And when we see those reasons?  I think it WILL be beautiful.  When we see the Beauty behind the reason these “hard” things happen?  That’s when we see the Promise that God gives us.

For me?  For me I see the Hope.  When I have let the waves of emotions wash through me? When I have let go of the sadness of missing family.. when I recover from the let-down after a fun time.. when I have cried enough tears to dull the pain of missing a loved one who has gone to Heaven?  Then I look for the Hope.

If Every thing is beautiful in its time… then that means that something good will come from every hard time.. (and every good time).  There is a reason for everything… so everything carries the God’s promise of Hope..

And once I feel that Hope?

Then I can take care of those burp rags.  Then I can put away the toys and the crib.  And just like those chickens.. Yup.. I can start to grow back my missing feathers.

Have a Chai…

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No man’s land..

I always joke around about things changing my life. I say this phrase at least a few times a week. “Chai changed my life.” or “Jane Austen changed my life.” or “Pond scum”.. anything that seems funny and creates a smile on someone’s face. But in truth only a few things actually changed me. Don’t get me wrong there are quite a few things or people that have enhanced me.. helped me to be a better person. My faith in God, some wonderful friends, my family, etc. But in 1986, I changed. My little brother Dave was born that year. The year after that my littlest brother Mark.  Now, it’s true that I have one other little brother, a couple older ones and a sister. All wonderful siblings, who were the best companions growing up. But these 2 young boys changed my life almost completely.

You see before Dave was born, I knew what I wanted from my life. I wanted to be a writer. Not wanted like a wish, but more like I KNEW that was what I was going to be. I daydreamed stories, I wrote stories, I created characters. It consumed all my spare time. Consumed every idle thought.  I poured my soul into the written word.

With the birth of my little brothers, the burning desire to write slowly died out. In its place was born this fascination with watching children grow and develop into young people. My ability to tell stories didn’t die, I would create stories for them all the time.  Rather,  My desire to write stories.. it didn’t seem to be as important. In fact nothing else seemed as important. I can’t remember a single Christmas present I got after they were born, but I remember what they got each year. Especially remember the joy on their faces the year they opened their gigantic Teenage mutant ninja turtles. Now don’t get me wrong. I know that I had fun getting presents and I know that I was still a selfish creature at times, as all children are in their time. But my sole purpose in life changed from writing and thinking on my works of fiction TO watching young souls develop and grow. A career as a “Best Seller” was swapped for a career of Early Childhood teacher. But most of all, I changed from only wanting to satisfy my self-centered needs into someone who would gladly spend my last dollar on someone else. All my joy now coming from others.

I am thankful for these two blessings in my life. I have watched them both grow into wonderful young men. (Wonderful and TALL young men.)  They have married amazing women and have started families of their own. And I still find myself learning from them.

Then in 1997, shortly after I married my dear romantic husband, my life changed again.

First, I gave life to the most beautiful spirited, out-going, strong willed child.. in existence… Ok.. maybe not in ALL of God’s kingdom.. but in my tiny corner she was.  All the children in my family had been born with a primal fear of strangers ..ALREADY downloaded into their brain.  My beautiful daughter.. didn’t get that download.  In fact, she didn’t seem to have a single fear.  Now.. I didn’t want my daughter to be fearful like I was.. but SOME fears were beneficial.. weren’t they?

So here I was changing again… I had to learn to decide what fears were MINE.. and which fears my daughter needed… often ON THE FLY.. And I learned to control my quivering heart to calmly and patiently explain to my daughter WHY she couldn’t walk off with anyone who looked like her Grandma.. (often explaining IN FRONT of the look-a-like grandma).. I had to explain WHY she couldn’t drive my van across the parking lot.. (she tried to listen to me through the haze of pride shining out of her 2 year old eyes)..

I also learned not to leave my van running… even to jump start the air conditioning .. NO matter HOW hot it was.. because 2000 Dodge Caravans did NOT have the safety feature of having to apply the brake to shift… deep breath…  I learned a lot of random facts from parenting my daughter..

With my daughter, I learned that it wasn’t always about being right all the time.  Some days I stood my ground, for her own good.. sigh.. And some days I gave up and bought 10 more dresses online.. So again.. I was changing…

Then 15 years ago.. My son joined us.. He joined us 19 days earlier than we had planned … and in the last 15 years he has continued to NOT follow ANY of the plans I have had for him… He crawled earlier than I expected, talked later, drew better, computed better, talked less, climbed more, cleaned more.. Always different than what I had planned…

So Yes.. I was learning to adapt my parenting skills.  This second child so .. opposite.. of my first child.. I often felt like I had multiple personalities with the different parenting techniques I needed with each.

When you look at my son?  You see a beautiful (Ok.. handsome..) souled boy.. a boy that towers above you.  He has a calmness about him that is soothing to watch.  He is helpful and eager to please.  And Joyful.. so joyful.  But when he starts to talk, you’ll see a difference then.  You see my son has Autism.. with a splash of Bipolar.. and a healthy dose of language delay.  So even though my son would LOVE to talk to you.. he doesn’t know how.. or what to say… so he tells you a story.. OK.. it will actually be from his favorite shows.. but hey.. it is still a story.  When he was younger, he could literally recite an entire episode of Dora the Explorer.. Theme song, exact words, sound effects, choices.. voice changes.. etc.  It was amazing in itself..

But it is NOT what I wanted for my son.

I wanted my son to do sports.. I wanted my son to climb trees with the neighbors.. I wanted him to beg to eat at his friend’s house.. I wanted to bandage knees.. I wanted him to have camp outs with his friends in the backyard.. and I wanted to look forward to all his accomplishments.

As I started to realize that hardly ANY of MY plans were going to happen.. I got sadder and sadder..

Until one day..

One day.. through a fresh bout of tears… I heard the Still Small Voice of God whisper.. “As for God.. His way is perfect,” (2 Samuel 22:31a).. Ha.. actually it was my sweet boy’s voice reciting the verse he learned on Veggie tales.  But I believe that God speaks his Still Small voice into the wind.. or the radio.. or my amazing son.

So for those months .. when I was the most sad about the things my son would probably never do.. my son would repeatedly tell me that “As for God.. His way is Perfect!”  It would make me laugh tearfully most days.

Then one day?  One day.. when I sent my daughter off to do an activity.. I felt that familiar ache fill my heart.  That familiar wish that my son would be able to do the same activity.. As that sadness filled my chest, making it so hard to breathe.. My son looked at me and smiled.  Smiled so beautifully.. so fully… and so contently.  Joy filling his eyes and a giggle on his lips… I realized something.. I realized that those wishes?  They were mine.. not his.  He was not sad to stay home with me.  He was not sad that he didn’t go for sleepovers.  He was not sad that he wasn’t at a friend’s house everyday.. He wasn’t sad that he didn’t believe in the tooth fairy or Santa.. He wasn’t sad at all… He was happy with his life.

And in that moment I realized something else.  My son didn’t miss out on the those experiences because he had special needs.  He missed out on those experiences because they just were NOT important to him.  In other words.. he wasn’t missing them at all.  You see?? My son is an amazing person… I have always seen that.. but what I couldn’t see was that he enjoyed a slower life than what I wanted for him.

So the way I saw it.. I had 2 choices..  1.  I could force my busy life style on him.. or 2.  I could let his enthusiasm for life be my guide for his goals.

So I changed again.. and I think for the better.

In those next few months, I learned to look at life through my children’s eyes.  I learned to see what was helpful to them .. and was simply my hopes for them.  Did I want them to learn something new? Or was I asking them to learn something I wanted them to?

I often learn the most through the quiet times .. In the quiet you can hear your children’s thoughts and dreams whisper through their conversations.  You can hear their hopes and fears through their stories.  You can hear their love in their laughter.. and if you listen carefully.. God’s still small voice is there too.. whispering his plans for your children.

There are days when I still struggle to keep my “plans” from interfering with that of my children’s (and often time God’s plans as well).. Days when I realize that I need to step back and take a deep breath.  Days when I need to ask a friend whether something is what my kids “need” or simply what I “want” for them..

And THAT is where Chai comes in..

When I need to step back.. or evaluate my kids’ best interest.. I simply make myself a chai .. or sometimes two.. depending on the decision..   When I realized my daughter had NO INTEREST in writing to the international penpal I had found for her?  I had a chai.   When I realized my daughter was NEVER going to let me braid her hair, so I had to cut it short? (Actually that was before I discovered chai.. but I could have used one..)  When I realized my son had NO interest in History?  YUP… I drink a lot of chai..

While I drink my chai?  I sip it and let stillness fill my soul.. Stillness and serenity… And God helps me see the truth in myself.. truth in my children.. and He gives me soothing comfort when I realize.. again.. that I am not perfect.  He comforts me when I realize that another of my “plans” are unrealistic.. and about to be unrealized..

So I guess I use chai as a portal to spending time with God.  Ha.. my daughter would say it’s like a Tardis..

Today?? Today.. while I sip my chai.. I am thinking of all the dreams my son has for his own life.  He has a checklist, you know.  Those dreams?  I may never have heard them if I hadn’t let go of “my” dreams for him.  He may not have known them himself.. if I hadn’t accepted him for who he is.  So Today I am thankful.. thankful God whispered in my ear that His way is still Perfect.  That my son is perfect the way he is .. Perfect the way he was created… Thankful God whispered that His plan for my son was perfect..

Can’t you just hear Him..

“Julie.. Wait until you see your son all grown up!! You are going to be SO proud.  He won’t be the way you expect or plan.. Your son will be the way I have planned him to be.  Won’t you help Me guide him?  Won’t you help Me support him?  I can’t wait until you see him!! He is going to be Perfect!! Perfect!! Just the way I have planned him to be!  But it will be a long road.. and sometimes it will be hard.. I will be there for you though.. right by your side.. I promise!  Oh.. and Julie?  Have another chai…”

Can you hear Him?

I did…