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?