When I was a kid, trick or treating had some crazy traditions.
One neighbor made caramel apples for us.. but we had to come in for a visit. (Yes.. our mom was with us..)
Another stop gave full candy bars… but we had to tell a joke.
And yet another stop we had to tell a Bible verse.
Now after years of Sunday school and Vacation Bible school.. I knew a lot of verses.. but one that I loved to recite?
“Jesus wept.” John 11:35
I know it doesn’t sound amusing.. but for a kid? Finding the shortest Bible verse seemed like a challenge…
I got the same big treat as my siblings who recites longer verses…
But as I grew up?
That verse came to mean a lot to my heart.
My superpower is feeling other people’s emotions…
…I cry a lot…
For most of my childhood and teenage years? This embarrassed me … and I fought to control those tears.
But this verse? Jesus wept. It echoed through my mind every time I teared up. I mean? If it was ok for Jesus… a grown man.. to cry in public because He was sad? If it was acceptable for the Son of God to weep openly… even though he knew that God had everything under control? Even though He KNEW that everything would work together and be beautiful … in its time?
If it was ok for Jesus to weep … even though He hadn’t lost faith in God?
Then maybe.. just maybe…?
It was OK for me to cry when I was overwhelmed.
A few weeks ago, a friend asked me to speak at her church on Mother’s Day (..ha.. I know.. it was more than a few weeks…) about my experience in parenting. How parenting a strong willed, independent sassy daughter and a son with autism (and a side of mood disorders) changed my life.
My first response was… I can’t do that… I’ll cry… in front of a whole congregation of people…
… just like Jesus did…
Then my second response… what would I talk about? How do you take 21 years of trials… errors… tears… laughter… and love… and condense it into 20 minutes?
The day I was to speak at the church was the day before my son was scheduled to start “college”. The day before we were to move my son into a dorm and he was to begin his road to independence.
Sooo… it seemed fitting to talk about how we had moved on from each disappointment… toward hope and a future. How we had taken each path we were on and looked for some good that we could do while we were there.
So I based my message on my other favorite verse…
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
In front of this church congregation… I talked about how I had great plans for my life… plans to change the world… and how those plans did not turn out the way I had thought they would.
My life was nothing how I planned.
I love my life… but it is not the life I had planned for myself.
Parenting is always a challenge.. whether it is a sassy, independent, strong willed daughter…. or a son with anxiety, autism and a mood disorder.
I had both.
Every time that my life’s path took a wide turn and took me away from the plans I had made for me and my small family? I would remind myself of this verse.. that God has a plan for me..
.. promising me hope and a future…
So I had accepted each set of changes…
First… I had cried.
Tears to grieve for the death of the plans I had made. I cried out all the frustrations from knowing that I had to change yet again…
Then I had wiped my tears and looked around… and I’d say to myself.. “While we are here, what good can we do?”
While we are in this new place.. with new plans… what good can we do..?
And yes… I cried…
The day after Mother’s Day?
The day after I spoke about hope and a future?
We took our son to his college. We followed the plans he had made for himself.
The first day of his bright new future…
He didn’t make it.
Four years of planning, and in the matter of 24 hours?
All of our plans for the next year changed.
My son and I…. ?
… we wept….
We wept for our broke dreams… his dreams of going to college and staying in a dorm…. my dreams of seeing him independent … and my dreams of being free to start a career.
Not knowing which way to go… and having to explore different paths…? We both felt a little lost…
…but we wiped our tears… and said… while we are here what good can we do?
Over and over this summer? Our paths have changed…
Over and over this summer? We have cried…
Today… as I feel the sunshine on my face? Today as I see some confidence seep back into my son’s face?
I am reminded once again that God has promised my son a hope and a future…
I am reminded that God has promised ME a hope and a future…
He didn’t promise me the future that I dreamed up for myself… but He promised me it would prosper and not harm me…
.. this Christmas Eve I had the pleasure of playing the game of Life with my nieces and nephews…
Most of these nieces and nephews were well below the suggested age bracket of “8 and up” that was printed on the box…
But they all wanted to play… so we opened the box… and put the board together.
… when I pointed out the starting place on the board.. one of my nephews looked at it with doubt.. and said that it looked more like the end of the game…
I think more than one person would say that starting a career or starting college would be the end of their life.. or at least the end of all things “fun”…
.. as I tried to get them all focused on setting up the game to play… they were FAR more interested in filling their cars full of kids … or visiting their uncle Tim in Jail.. or picking out their houses.. and definitely running over their little people…
.. finally I gave up trying to show them the rules and just watched them play.. I watched them drive their cars backwards on the roads.. ha .. that is IF they stayed on the roads at all..
As I watched them play?
I couldn’t help but think how they represented the world around us.
Not everyone wants to follow the rules of Life..
.. and some people don’t get the option of starting at the beginning.. OR following the road exactly..
Some of us start OUT doing things according to the rules.. traveling the roads in the directions we are supposed to.. ONLY to find a detour (or two) that takes us off the main stream road..
… job changes
… house fire
The point is?
The point is.. that there is no “perfect” road through life. No rules that apply to every person..
Who was I to tell them that my game “rules” were more fun than the “rules” they were playing by… ??
…so I laughed.. and pointed out to my nephew that it didn’t matter if he was driving backwards on the road.. but that Jesus wouldn’t want him to run over his kids…
… He looked down at the game pieces and scowled..
“Those aren’t my kids.. that’s my wife.”
I silently vowed to never loan him my keys as I helped his poor wife back in his car.
Ok .. ok.. I promise I won’t do my whole post in rhyme..
…but as I sit here this morning.. I feel much like Mary as I “store up these memories and ponder them in my heart”.
As with everyone this season, I think we spent a little too much.. ate a little too much..
But this season I also slowed down a little..
For the first time in who knows how long..? I didn’t send out Christmas cards.
We made Christmas cookies.. but not enough to share with the whole community around us..
And my house is clean .. but not immaculate…
As we spent time all over the state with family this weekend, I thought about the talks I had with my mom-in-law.. the laughter that I shared with my nieces and nephews.. the memories I cherished with my daughter.. and all the moments in between..
…and just like Jesus’s mom?
I am hoarding all the memories in my heart to think about later..
What memories are you saving in your heart ??
“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
With all the rain in the south, it seemed trivial for us to worry that a sprinkle of a rain would ruin our hike yesterday… so hiking we went.
Up a VERY steep hill to see the Dead River Falls..
For me .. I was going up that steep rocky hill in flip flops..
You see? I had not anticipated that we would have time to go hiking .. so I did not come prepared with hiking shoes.
But I would never miss a chance to see a piece of wilderness.
And a beautiful piece of wilderness it was. Rugged and untamed… At one point, I left my shoes behind and continued bare footed. Not as comfortable as I would have liked (and I wouldn’t recommend it). But I was able to experience laughs with my kids, see them marvel at the beauty of it and I took so many pictures..
So prepared or not? It was worth it…
As I walked back to the rickety log bridge… I saw the most beautiful sight. A tree that stood strong and healthy.. even though half of the soil was washed away from its roots ..
The soil was washed away.. Big rocks pushed up from underneath.. it looks like gravity and a little wind would push that tree right over..
.. yet there it stands.. strong and sturdy…
And it brought tears to my eyes..
As a parent of a child with special needs?
I feel just like that tree..
.. 18 years of Autism.. 18 years of tears.. 18 years of letting go of how “things were supposed to be”.. 18 years of learning new autism research.. 18 years of medical issues.. 18 years of having life wash away at the roots I had dug into the Earth…
I should have fallen over long ago..
… but I have also had 18 years of laughter, 18 years of watching this boy grow with joy in his heart, 18 years of discovering the beautiful soul buried beneath the surface…
The laughter and joy have kept me strong and sturdy… despite the feeling of being worn down..
As I pushed back my tears.. I walked back across the log bridge .. ..my son ran towards me with a smile.. and his hand outstretched to me.. and said with confidence, “Here Mom, take my hand.”
Ok Buddy… I will take your hand. And no matter how prepared we are? …we will make it strong and sturdy…
We went to church yesterday for the first time in awhile. I love attending services.. but churches aren't always the safest places for kids with special needs.
I know.. I know.. I was surprised by this too..
You see? My son has Autism with a side order of Bipolar.. add in the fact that he is also still a kid? It can kind of be a mess at times …
When my son is distressed he quotes movies.. Blue's clues, Dora, Alone in the wilderness, Peter Pan.. you name it.. he quotes it..
…but talking in church is typically frowned on.. even if it's in the back corner of the back row by a cute boy with lots of freckles.
We have gotten a lot of dirty looks.. a lot of stares.. and shushed more than a few times… throughout the years…
The problem is?
The more shushes.. the more glares?? …the more anxious he would get… the more he would quote.. AND the more often we would end up in the lobby listening over the speakers.
So we stopped going to church for a while… choosing to worship at home.. where he was safe..
When we lived in Missouri we found a church that smiled at my son when he quotes randomly in the middle of service. They high fived him in the lobby.. and we went to church regularly…
It was amazing..
But when we moved back to Michigan .. finding a new church was a little daunting and my son was very unstable.. so we kept our services at home again.
Yesterday we attended church with some friends at their invitation. We have attended this church a couple times with these family friends and another family as well. But my son was unstable and it was still uncomfortable for us.
But this year has been a good year for us, and my son is making great strides. So? So we made plans.. marked it on the calendar like it was an appointment.. and we went to church.
We arrived at church .. my daughter in jeans.. my son in his favorite 3 piece suit.. and we were greeted by a handful of people.
ALL of us were greeted.. especially my son.. who was obviously overdressed.
The extra effort that the congregation put into making him feel welcome.. and the extra effort our friends went through ??
It meant that my son sat through the 2 hour service holding my hand … mostly quietly.
To someone who goes to church every week it might not seem like much..
But to a mom who thought church was an impossible task?
A little over a week ago, I took my exchange daughter to the airport. It’s always hard to say “see you later” to these girls. They truly become a part of my heart during the time that they stay with me.
But this last daughter was something that I didn’t expect. She was something I didn’t even know I needed.
She helped me grow.
Yes .. yes.. I know.. I should be done growing.
But I’m not.. and honestly I doubt I ever will be.
And today? Today I am so glad that she was a part of my year. I’m glad she taught me to live in the moment.. and to love myself.. and to remember what is truly important..
I can’t wait to hug her again.. but she is a part of my heart everyday from now until I do!!!
I love you Başak.. today and always… and I am EVER so thankful that God led you to my door.
Growing up, I was really close to my Dad. (I still am.) We talked about everything.. but I only remember him yelling at me once.
Now don’t get me wrong.. I wasn’t a perfect kid.. so there were many times that he was disappointed in me.. and many times that he corrected me.
But he only yelled at me once.
It was my senior year, and I changed my college plans at least 5 times .. and my majors even more. And when I changed to a completely different field of study, my dad told me I was going to have to make a decision. And then he said something I will never forget.. “You have so many interests that you divide your energy too many ways.. and you will NEVER succeed at any of them.”
Wow did that hurt…
At the time? Yeah.. at the time I was mad .. and hurt. I mean why would he say something so hurtful. “..NEVER succeed..?”
Well?? I see what my dad was talking about …now…
I have always had a lot of interests. And I mean.. A LOT!! I volunteer for everything… and I never ask anyone to do something I could do myself..
I get really tired.
These days, I call these interests my “hats”..
There is my Mom Hat.. the one I wear whenever my kids are my biggest priority.. Chaperoning, rides to school, panicked calls from college kids, help with homework.. baking cookies…
I have 2 kids of my own.. and I have had 4 exchange students call me “Mom”… the most amazing of all my interests! These kids amaze me.
My Wife Hat.. (kinda self explanatory)
The Aunt Hat.. closely related to the Mom Hat.. the Aunt Hat is a nurturing Hat but in a fun way. These 17 nieces and nephews are blessings to my life .. and I love to put my Aunt Hat on and invite them all over for Cousin weekends. Hide and seek in the dark, swimming at midnight, shaving cream paintings, watching movies until dawn.. I wouldn’t miss this..
House Elf Hat.. All things having to do with the house.. There is the typical cleaning.. then canning veggies… making jams.. baking bread… caring for the birds.. gathering the eggs .. haircuts.. pool cleaning.. it seems like the House Elf Hat is always on..
Then there is my Author Hat, my Director Hat, my Exchange Student Coordinator Hat, my International Club Hat, and my Substitute teacher Hat.. my Research Hat.. OH .. and My Creative Hat..
I could go on and on..
And I realized my dad was right..
I am not really a success at any of them. I do not focus ALL my energy in any ONE direction.. and as a result everything is mediocre.
So this LAST year?
I tried to put some Hats away.. I put my Author Hat away during Musical season… I put my Director Hat away during off seasons.. I don’t take the Substitute teacher Hat home with me. I don’t even think about my Creative Hat .. most of the time..
But still I find myself not giving my “all” to the things that are important.. because my interests are still divided ..
So I am going to take this next year to put away Hats I can’t wear anymore.. and it will be hard (because I love ALL the jobs I do)..
…but if I want to make a difference in the world?? (And I know I do..)
As I tried to find the perfect 500 word excerpt from Shadows this morning, I consulted my daughters… They quickly listed off a couple samples.. but I still couldn’t decide…
So I thought I would ask you..
Which section would make YOU more likely to download a copy of Shadows?
!The first Sample!
“I can’t believe my luck. Sure was happy to see ya walk past my horse. I was jest leavin’ town myself. Now I can escort ya home,” the stranger continued happily.
“You’ll hafta excuse me, sir, I must be hurryin’. My Da will be expectin’ me ta have dinner ready soon,” Emma stated.
“Well then, we musn’t keep him waitin’,” he replied. There was a chuckle behind her. The fair haired gentleman smiled in response to his friend’s laughter. “I’ll come along with ya. Ya can introduce me, so I can git permission ta call on ya. Official like. We can git our courtin’ started today.”
“I believe ya misunderstood me, sir,” Emma replied appalled.
“Misunderstood? Na, I think not. I see that ya waited fer me outside of town, so that we could walk together without all those busybodies watchin’ us and interuptin’.” Smiling, the man reached for her arm. Emma stepped back and bumped into the horse behind her. Feeling panic well up within her, she looked around for help and was amazed to see a pair of stormy eyes walking towards her.
From behind, Emma heard the man on the horse cleared his throat in warning. The fair haired gentleman stiffened in irritation as he turned towards the approaching man, demanding, “What do ya want now?”
Emma could not take her eyes off the approaching help, even though she knew it was rude to stare. The gray eyed man did not look away from her as he answered, “When this young lady fergot ta bring me my coffee before she left town, I started in ta worryin’.”
Looking down into her basket, Emma realized that she had indeed purchased the tin of coffee the man had intended only as a distraction. “I fergot,” she said weakly, trying to figure out why he would want the coffee she accidentally purchased.
Coming to stop a few steps from Emma, the gray eyed man smiled at her. “Ya steal a man’s heart and then ya steal his coffee, darlin’?” He winked at her. “Ya go too far.” The smile that touched his mouth, did not reach his stormy eyes. They tried to convey a meaning to her. A meaning that Emma could not quite grasp. “Ya shoulda waited fer me ta walk with ya. I’ve been wantin’ ta speak with yer Pa,” he paused briefly before continuing, “before the weddin’.”
Gasping as his plan dawned on her, Emma ducked around the fair haired gentleman and reached for her rescuer’s arm. He weaved her hand around his tense elbow and held it there. Wanting to look convincing in her new role, she desperately tried to remember how Abigail had looked at her David all those months while they were courting. Opening her eyes wide, she batted her eyelashes. “Oh do forgive me darling,” she said, attempting to mimic Abigail’s sugary tone. She hoped no one would notice how her voice quivered.
!!The second Sample!!
By the time she walked back from the field and made it to the hill by the creek, she had convinced herself that Thane would have left by now. When she arrived, it was indeed vacant. Emma sat down in disappointment, but intent on looking carefree. “Well Mama, it looks as if I brought ya a sandwich.”
“Ya’ve already given my sandwich away?” asked a voice that made her jump guiltily.
“Ah—No, of course not,” Emma replied, willing her heart to slow down. “But I almost dropped it in the water, ya scared me so,” she scolded. Thane sat down a couple paces from Emma. She handed him a sandwich, wrapped in a towel.
Thane took a bite of the sandwich. Looking thoughtful, he asked, “Ya gonna introduce me ta yer Mama?”
Emma looked up at him. She couldn’t decide if he was making fun of her. Finding no hint of teasing in his face, she replied, “Mr. Hawkins meet my Mama, Lilliana Wells. Lily, to those that loved her. Mama, this is Mr. Hawkins.. He’s taken ta savin’ me lately. Even promised ta marry me ta protect me from an ugly mess,” she ended with a smile.
“Pleasure ta meet ya ma’am. Please call me Thane.”
“Mama wants ta know where ya come from that we shouldna know ya already? We thought we knew everyone here in the valley,” Emma asked innocently.
“Well ma’am, I live in those hills,” nodding his head across the creek, “tucked in a valley. I come this way a couple times a year but spend most my time on the trail huntin’ and trappin’.”
“So yer a trapper?” Emma asked between bites.
“Call me Emma –,” she reminded him.
“Beggin yer pardon, ma’am, I thought I was talkin’ ta yer Mama,” he said with a lopsided smile.
She chose to ignore his teasing and looked toward the hills.
“Yer mama seems ta belong in this spot,” Thane observed.
“She does,” she stated simply. “A fever took her and my baby sister ta heaven a few years back.” Her final words were barely above a whisper.
“I’m sorry,” Thane said softly.
Emma blinked back a tear before she looked at him.
“Where is yer sister’s stone?” he asked.
“Isn’t one. She was so small, I couldna bear fer her ta be put by herself. Mama had wanted her so. And Da– well he couldna bear ta name her. So she sleeps in Mama’s arms, here in Mama’s favorite spot.” She waved her arm to indicate the hill top overlooking the little creek. “Da brought this rock here. When he dug it up outta the cornfield – he decided ta roll it here so Mama wouldna have grass stains on all her skirts. She always was sittin’ in the grass. She tried ta make them stop before they hurt themselves. But Da had jest teased how “embarrassed” he was ta have a wife with green dresses. She finally relented then …but wouldna come down here fer weeks,” Emma laughed sadly. “But when she did, she sat on the rock.” She paused, remembering. “She kept one skirt with an especially bad grass mark though. She hung it right in their room. It’s hangin’ there still. Da won’t even let me wash it.” She didn’t notice the tears on her cheeks until Thane handed her his towel.
“What about yer Ma?” Emma asked, trying to lighten the mood as she dried her cheeks. “Will I know her if she’s in town? Or will I have ta wait `til the weddin’?”
Thane looked back towards the hills. “Awhile beyond that, I expect,” he answered softly. “My Ma died when I was young. We went out trappin’ and when we returned.. she was gone.”
“Oh,” Emma replied, not knowing what to say. “How old were ya?”
“Not sure really. Probably 9 winters ago.”
“Ya don’t know how old ya are?” Emma asked incredulously.
Thane shrugged his shoulders. “Pa doesn’t keep track of such things-says they’re nonsense. I stopped askin’.”
Wiping her eyes again, she cleared her throat. “Maybe we should jest start plannin’ our weddin’ before I start cryin’ again.”
**Please Vote in the comments below**
… if you haven’t downloaded Shadows yet.. you should… It’s a bargain at 99 cents..
Sometimes I make plans… Oh can I make some detailed plans... Plans to be productive.. plans to be helpful… Plans to organize my plans…
And then God shows me that it is not MY will … But HIS that I should follow…
When I don't listen to what God's Will is.. things tend to go wrong. Just little things.. but there are enough "little" things that I have to deal with? That I start to feel like a salmon … fighting against the current to swim upstream. When I continue to fight against the current… YUP… I feel stressed and exasperated! You probably know the feeling…
When I tried working at the preschool my kids attended? I was good at my job.. and I enjoyed it! I REALLY enjoyed it. But I fought my kids to go to school every day.. with a child on the Autism Spectrum.. with a side of Bipolar? Fighting them to do something that stresses them? It doesn't really work out very well. I kept having to go pick him up from school because he was overwhelmed. He was stressed.. I was stressed.. my neighbor who was putting him on the bus was stressed…
Then one November? My kids were sick… the whole month. I missed a WHOLE month of work.. A runny nose here.. a sore throat there.. a cough… a wheeze… a fever… some bronchitis…
sigh…. and then I sat still and listened…
You see .. MY plan was not what God had in store for me. It took me 3 years to figure that out.. yes I said 3 YEARS.. I am stubborn and persistent. Once I decided to listen to the Still small voice of God.. I realized what He was telling me. HIS plan for me was not at that preschool that I loved… and I wasn't listening…
So at the end of the year I resigned… and I stayed home for the next 6 years. And God? God sent me family after family who needed in home care for their kiddos. I never had a shortage of work.. and I never felt like I was swimming upstream… Now it was challenging and was hard work.. don't get me wrong… but I never felt like I was fighting against every element to make it work…
With that slight change in will-power? I had turned it around, swimming in the direction God was trying to lead me… and BAM.. I was back in control..
Except control is an illusion… I never really had control in the first place….
Everything sounds better with the echo of a still small voice.