Tag Archives: special needs

Treading water….

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Here let me carry you..

When I was younger, I decided to swim across a lake.  I had been swimming with my brother and having a good time, but we were bored (as kids often are).  We were bored.. and the other side of the lake just beckoned to us.  Since we were young.. and we were used to swimming.. we went for it.

You may be thinking that we never made it.  Oh.. we made it..  The great thing about swimming is that when your legs are tired you can just use your arms… When your arms are tired? You simply use your legs.  When your whole body is tired?  You can roll over and just float.  Float and let the peaceful sky above you soak into your muscles, strengthening you for the next leg of your journey.  When you see a rough patch ahead of you.. a strong current.. or a tall weedy patch (shudder)…??  You simply rest for a moment.. and then swim harder than usual to get through.  And if you aren’t sure what to do next.. simple.. just tread water while you figure it out.

My brother and I made it all the way across.  Well… technically we never touched the shore.. because it would have meant wading through muck and weeds.. But we made it close enough that we felt we had accomplished our goals.  As I lay there.. floating on my back… staring up at the sky… letting my tired muscles rest momentarily? I admit it.  I wished for a boat.  I wished that a boat would come by and tow us back across.  Now.. I would NEVER have admitted that to my brother.  Nope!  I wanted to appear tough and in control.  In FACT.. I wanted to appear so tough and in control that I asked my brother if he was ready to swim back .. BEFORE he could ask me.  Lucky for me, my brother was wiser than me.

“Give me a minute,” he said calmly.

“K,” I replied equally as calmly.. but inside I could hear the Halleluiah chorus being sung by all of Heaven’s choir…!!

As I gave my brother his minute, I remember wondering.. WHY did we think this was such a great plan?  Really when were we really going to tell people that we swam across a lake.. ALL BY OURSELVES!  Would it make us proud? Yes.  But really when would we be able to use it?.. was there a place for that on a college application?  .. was there a section of a job resume it would fit under?  The answer is no where.  It is simply a matter of accomplishment.. a matter of pride.  I had made it across the lake.. all by myself.. No one helped me… I was self-reliant and NOW I had proof.

I swam across a lake as a child.. Knowing this?  It used to annoy me to watch movies about shipwrecks.  I mean honestly?? How hard is it to swim .. or float on your back.. or simply tread water until help came?  If I could do it?  A wimpy book worm!  Anyone could right?  Ok, I’ll admit the thought of sharks under my feet might make me panic a little … and the fact that no land was in sight might make you feel hopeless.. AND that I have never TRIED to sleep while floating on my back.. but in my teenage mind? YUP! My teenage mind was confident that I could do it if I had to.

This matter of pride and self-reliance followed me from Childhood into adulthood.  In fact, I frequently have to check my Pride at the door.  When I get angry, I usually have to ask God to help me take pride out of the situation.  When pride isn’t in the way?  I don’t feel like I should be able to do everything myself.  I don’t HOLD onto the ideal.. that this SHOULD have worked.  Those moments where Pride gets in my way?? All I am doing is treading water.  It doesn’t matter that I had the best intentions.  It doesn’t matter that I am a strong person.  It doesn’t matter how intelligent I am.  If my desire to say I did it ALONE is what drives me?  That means no help is in sight.  Once I am tired?  There is no shore of hope to aim for.  If I continue to tread water? ALONE?  Yup.. eventually I will be too tired to survive .. on my own.

Lucky for me.. I usually abandon my pride as soon as I feel like I am treading water.  You know that feeling you get.. when you clean all day.. then cook.. then clean the dinner dishes .. then clean the kitchen.. and when you want to rest on the couch?? Your daughter wants you to pitch to her .. so SHE can have practice hitting.. (or homework.. or favorite tv show.. or.. or.. )  That feeling that your work will never end?

That is treading water..

That is when your Pride kept you from asking for help.  The pride of saying, “I keep my house clean ALL by myself.”  Asking for help?  Or (in the case of teenagers) assigning help?  It’s like asking for a life line.

Recently, my family and I moved back to Michigan.  We love being closer to home.  At first, we were gone every weekend.  But as our lives (and our visits) slowed down, I began to miss having a church.

Now missing church IS NOT the same as missing God.  I visit with God everyday.  I talk to Him throughout the day.  I try to read the Bible every day.  I sing hymns and praise songs.. every day.  And I thank God for His blessings everyday.

But Church?  I began to really miss church.

Finding a church for us isn’t that simple.  With a child having special needs, you need to find a group of accepting people.. People strong enough in their own Faith.. that a small outburst of laughter won’t offend them.  People who can forgive tiny disruptions.  When you have a 6 foot tall child with special needs?  Yeah.. you need a group of VERY accepting strong faith-ed people.

It is a very daunting journey sometimes. A journey so scary to me that.. I sit here.. just treading water.  If I have Faith in my heart?  And God in my everyday life?  YUP.. maybe I can do it on my own.  I can tread water!!

But you know what?  My legs are getting tired.

Moving 500 miles, cost my family a lot of money.  Living in a hotel for 3 weeks?  That cost my family a lot of money.  Setting up a new home?  That cost a lot of money.  But we did it.  On our own.  (Okay, not on our own.  Our families helped us whenever they could, with what they could.)  And.. we pay the money on our credit card every month.  We are making it financially .. on our own.

Then with life… and Faith.. we found answers through medical tests.  Tests that cost money.  More money than we wanted to spend, but money we knew would be well worth it in the end.. So we spent it…

But then.. my kids had to start this new diet.  I never realized how much of our food actually had Gluten in it.  So I headed off to the store.

And then.. my kids couldn’t have dairy either.. more label reading.. more surprises… So again I headed off to the store…

THEN .. my daughter’s tests came back.. No more corn.. or dextrose or maltodextrin.. (ps.. corn is in EVERYTHING).. so I headed to the store.. and found nothing.. I headed to another store.. and found one kind of chip.  So I headed to the health food store.. You know that expensive little store that is only found in a big city?  I headed to THAT health food store.  And paid premium prices..

AND THEN?? My kids became healthy and lost a ton of weight.  So I bought them new clothes.. When they lost more weight?  I bought them more clothes.. and when they lost more?  YUP.. you start to wish they weren’t quite so healthy.  All in all, we had so many blessings because I had FAITH that God could help me heal my kids.

But financially?  We have had no such blessings.  Why you ask?  Because we show God no Faith in Him providing for us.  We know that this is something we can do.. on our own.. BY OURSELVES!!  You guessed it.. we don’t tithe.

Now I know “tithing” is like a bad word to some people.  I know when you see it on the schedule for the sermon?  Most of us groan.  It’s not that interesting.. OK.. it’s really boring to hear someone preach about it.  And I don’t always agree.

God would like us to Tithe.. Yes.. But God wants it to be voluntary.. God wants it to come from the heart.  God wants us to be the widow who gives Him the last 2 coins.. the 2 coins that stand between us and Poverty.  He wants us to demonstrate that we have FAITH that He will provide for us.  Otherwise? Otherwise it means that we would like to Financially .. do it ALONE.  And God lets us try.

Now we (my husband & I) have tithed… in the Past.  When we had a church.. we remembered to tithe.. And we have caught a ton of financial breaks.. in the Past.  We have experienced moments of humble prosperity.. in the Past.

These days?  The bills pile up.  We can’t pay extra on the credit card, if we have extra vet bills and doctor bills.  We can’t pay extra on our payments, when our utility bills are outrageous.  We don’t seem to getting promotions or bonuses like we thought we would.. And the interest on our credit card?  It’s like a car payment.

Are we surviving? Yes.. But we are literally treading water… and my legs are getting mighty tired.

Now you may be thinking.. If you send money to the church, hoping God will Bless you financially?? Isn’t that like trying to buy your way into Heaven??  If you THINK of it as “buying” favor with God then.. yes…

BUT.. if you say.. God I am treading water here.. I can no longer do this on my own.  I am going to be the widow.  I am going to give my last 2 coins to You.. To show that I have Faith that You can do a far better job providing for me.. then I can do on my own??  Then I truly believe that God will send you a boat.. It may be a row boat.. it may be a kayak.. That “boat”?… it depends on your show of faith.

How do I know?

“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple.  If you do,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will open the windows of heaven for you.  I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in!  Try it!  Let me prove it to you!  Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease.  Your grapes will not shrivel before they are ripe,” says the Lord Almighty.  Malachi 3:10-11

So today?  I am trying to decide.. Do we send off a check (to a random church)?  Do we send a small portion of my tithe?  Do we wait to see how big of a Faithboat God sends to help us with our financial burden?  Or Do we send off a check.. with the whole 10%?  10% of our meager salary is a huge step of Faith.  Do we take that HUGE step of Faith and shout, “We give You our last coin Lord”? … not waiting for a small sign that it is the right thing to do? .. not waiting for a small feeling of financial peace to ease us INTO a stronger show of Faith?

Well honestly.. my answer depends on my Faith in God.. The Faith that my husband and I have together..

..and right now?  Well right now.. We are really tired of treading water.

It’s raining now…

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Rain is in the air…

Yesterday, I was all set to walk out the door.  I was showered.  My hair was pretty (i.e. NOT in a ponytail).  I had discarded my jeans for dress clothes.  I crawled into the closet and found both of my black shoes.  And my face was devoid of any and all makeup.  I was ready.  Ready to go to the funeral for the father of a dear sister in law.  I didn’t know her father very well… but I wanted my sister to know that I love her .. and that I am here for her.  And to hug my nieces.. and possibly my brother if he needed one.  With my hand on the door, I called out last minute instructions to my snowbound kiddos.

AND THEN?  Yup.. then my plans changed.  (It happens a lot with kids in High School.)  In the blink of an eye my plans changed from having plenty of time… to NOT going.  Usually I roll with the changes with a deep breath.. But this made me sad.  When I made my poor sounding excuse to my sister in law .. being the great person she is.. totally forgave me without another thought.

I have an amazing family.

But you aren’t thinking about my amazing family.. are you?  You are probably still wondering WHY I would go to a funeral without any makeup.  A function where everyone tries to look their best?  And I was going so informal?  On purpose?  Well.. the answer is simple.

I am a cry-er.

I cry at everything.  I cry when I am overwhelmed.  I cry when I am sad.. when I am angry..  and when I am happy too.  When I watched someone COMPLETELY embarrass themselves for no good reason?  After I can breathe again.. I cry again.  I even cry at Folger’s commercials.  I cry a lot.  I always have.  Ha.. I remember my older brothers rolling their eyes at my tears more than once.  When someone was truly angry, my eyes would tear up.  When my siblings were truly disappointed by someone or something.. tears.  When I was scared for my brother.. when he would try a MacGyver TV stunt .. you know.. to see if MacGyver would really survive?  Yup.. tears again.

After being asked why I cried so much .. by more than one person?  I tried to control it.  I learned that if I bite the corner of my tongue (JUST enough to hurt) and concentrate on the pain?  I could control the non-stop emotional roller coaster.  And I have gotten good at it ..in certain circumstances.  But when I am busy concentrating on NOT crying?  I tune out.. Then I can’t listen to what someone is saying.  I can’t empathize with their situation.  I basically don’t feel anything.

There are times when this doesn’t work.  Funerals are one of them.  Two hundred years ago, when they would hire people to mourn at funerals? Yup.. I would have had a steady income.  I can not go to a funeral and NOT cry.  Not feel the hole left behind.  Father, mother, sibling, relative, friend.. and especially children.  Even when I know that everything happens according to God’s plan?  When I know His plan is perfect?  I still cry. I still feel that hole as if it were my own.  An overwhelming sadness fills me.. and I can’t control it no matter how hard I bite my tongue.  So I learned.. I learned to not wear makeup.

You see?  I am not a pretty cry-er.  My eyes burn.  My throat burns.  I can not talk without great effort.  It gets hard to breathe.  As the tears course gently down my cheeks…. my eyes turn bright red .. and my face turns extremely blotchy.. Yup… I am an ugly cry-er.  The more overwhelming the emotion?  The uglier my red blotchy face gets… and then?  Then my nose starts to run..

So you can see why I would want to learn to control it.

You may think I inherited my ability to feel emotions from my mother.. but you would be wrong.  My mother is a very empathetic person.  She is kindhearted.  She would drop anything to help you out.  But she is very practical with her emotions.  She stays pretty calm.  I’m not saying she doesn’t cry.  She does.  When our house burned?  She was crying.  When her Dad died?  She cried.  When I crashed a car and made it look like a matchbox car that was stepped on?  She cried again.  And you bet.. I was crying too.  That is not to say she didn’t cry more often.. when she was alone.  Being practical with emotions.. that just means you can control when those emotions overwhelm you …to a certain extent.

Nope!  My ability to feel everyone’s emotions.. to become teary eyed at a moment’s notice?  It actually comes from my Dad.  He will probably cringe when he knows I have let his secret out.  Sorry Dad!  But when we would watch sad movies?  It was my Dad and I passing the kleenex box back and forth.  When my Dad was disappointed with me.. we were both crying again.. At the end of the movie.. when the old dog that NO ONE thought would survive the long trip home.. actually makes it back home?  Yup.. I actually need a tissue now just thinking about it.  Now in our defense, movie tears are MUCH more dignified.  We get choked up and our eyes start flooding.. but at least my face doesn’t look like I’ve been in the sun too long.

I was ashamed of my tears for years.  But knowing that my father cried too.  Knowing that he cried at the same things I do?  That the amazing man who I looked up to more than anyone else in the world.. teared up when he felt the emotions of other people.  I started to feel like it was okay.  It made me accept it as part of who I was.  Who I AM!

But still, I tried to control it in public.  Sometimes it left a bad feeling in my heart.  When my friend told me about her troubled heart.. in public?  I would concentrate on getting my emotions back under control.. and then when I felt I had?  I would focus again on my friend.  But I would often miss something important.  So instead of being able to help my friend.. I let my embarrassment over my emotions take over.  When I missed what they were telling me?  When I couldn’t even give an appropriate response to what they needed?  I felt selfish in those moments.. and I felt like crying again.

Then one day, my daughter was telling me she had to recite a verse for a prize at Vacation Bible school that day.  I laughed softly.  I told her the story of the shortest verse in the Bible.  “Jesus wept.” John 11:35.  You see whenever my siblings or I would be required to tell a Bible verse for some reason?  One of us kids would recite that verse.  Not because we couldn’t remember any other verse.  Not because we didn’t know at least a handful of verses off the top of our head.  We told it simply because it was the shortest.  My daughter raised her eyebrow then.. which told me she had NO IDEA why we would have thought that was funny.  But being a curious child, she asked, “Why did Jesus weep?”  I explained to her how Jesus had arrived to his friend’s town after he had died.  In fact, that he had been in a tomb for 4 days.  When He saw that His friend Lazarus had been laid out in death… That Lazarus had been put in a tomb and a rock rolled to cover the entrance… Jesus wept.  Even though He KNEW before He arrived in Bethany, that Lazarus had died so that a miracle could happen.  He knew that this was all part of God’s perfect plan.  Jesus knew that Lazarus would rise again. … and still He cried.  Jesus was so overwhelmed that He cried to release ALL of the emotions crushing his heart.  I explained to my daughter that the Bible goes on to say that the people could all see from His tears that Jesus truly cared about His loved ones.  That the Son of God truly cares what happens to us.. and weeps with us.

But in that moment, I saw something beyond the words in the Bible.  Jesus trusted God.  He followed the Path God set out for Him.  He never questioned God’s perfect Plan.  Jesus knew without the shadow of a doubt that ALL things work together to Glorify God.. but still.. still the sadness of his friends.. the sadness of the hole that had been left behind.. it overwhelmed Jesus and He cried… but it doesn’t say He cried.. The Bible says that Jesus Wept… Weeping makes me picture enough tears to stain His eyes and cheeks red.. Weeping makes me think His chest burned with the emotion that possibly made it hard for Him to breathe.  Weeping doesn’t sound like “pretty” crying.

In that moment, I saw something else.  My emotions didn’t mean that I didn’t have Faith in God’s Plans.  My crying didn’t say to God that I didn’t Trust that His ways were perfect.  My tears weren’t a sign that my heart was weak.  If Jesus can weep … not because He lacked Faith ..but BECAUSE His heart overflowed with love for His friend?  Then my ability to feel the emotions of others.. it meant that my heart overflows with love.. right?  It means that my heart is.. in fact… strong.

What I had seen as my weakness?  It was actually my Super Power.

A Super Power that I had inherited from my Heavenly Father.  A Super Power that I share with my earthly Father.  I have always believed that God gives everyone a super power and a weakness.  The super power that they are supposed to use to make the world a better place.. and to Glorify God’s name.  The weakness is to keep us humble.. Humble and understanding of our fellow man.  I had always thought crying was MY weakness.. but I was wrong.

So now when I feel the sadness of a friend?  I let the tears fall.  When I hear the disappointment in my daughter’s voice?  I hug her and cry with her.  And when I go to a Funeral .. or even a Wedding?  I don’t wear makeup.  There is really no point.. I know the tears will just ruin it.  I would rather look blotchy.. then look like a blotchy raccoon (..when all my mascara runs).

And it feels good to let the tears fall.

But there are days when my emotions are raw.  Days.. or weeks.. when I am so overwhelmed with worries in my own life that my emotions surface too often.  Times when it feels like my heart is bruised.  Times when even tears can’t cleanse the burning in my chest.  On these days?  I wear earplugs.  Well .. headphones actually.. headphones with soothing.. distracting.. much loved music.  On the day I went to the grocery store.. to find my daughter a snack that fit into her Gluten free/Dairy free/Corn free diet?  I was too raw.  I was overcome with guilt that it was the food I was feeding my kids that was causing all their troubles.  All their health issues, their mood disorders… That guilt still burned in my heart.  So I wore my headphones.

Why would I wear headphones to the store?  What could be overwhelming?

Have you ever seen the mother in aisle 7 whose 3 year old is throwing ANOTHER temper tantrum?  The one who looks like she wants to cry?  I do.  Have you ever seen the beautiful grandma in the card aisle?  The one who can barely walk but wants to pick out the perfect card for her daughter? The one who openly admits it may be her last year to do so?  I have.  Have you ever seen the young couple .. just back from their honeymoon.. who came to pick out towels together?  The one’s with love and hope shining from their eyes? I have.  Have you ever seen the person standing in the garden section?  The one picking out the perfect plant to take to a funeral?  The person who would rather be anywhere else.. but wants to be strong for the people left behind?  I have.  I see all of them.  There are days that I leave the grocery store and cry in my car… from all the emotions I saw.. All the emotions I felt for these people.  I flash smiles… send up quiet prayers… and reach frostings that are on the top shelf.

If I am already raw?  These extra emotions almost cripple me… and then I weep.

But I AM becoming more comfortable with my Super Power.  I stay in tune more.. Which means I listen better, I laugh more… I cry more… AND I feel less selfish.  I help more people because I can hear what they need.  I get much more from the world around me.. because I am proud of who I am.. of who I take after.

Just recently, someone asked me if I get my “tears” from my mother… I shook my head and smiled.  No, I get them from my Father.

It Takes a Village TOO…

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Beating the odds….

When we moved to Missouri in 2002, my kids were little.  So our only requirement for a house?  A BIG backyard.  Growing up in the woods, I needed trees and I needed space in our suburban yard.  My husband found it for me.  A huge backyard on a cul-de-sac.  Five mature trees made the backyard somewhat secluded.  He knew I would love it and put a contract on it within minutes.  He was right.. it was perfect for us.

Well God was looking out for us that day.  We were looking at our children’s immediate need.. but God?  He was planning for their future.  So while I was looking for trees for tree swings, a wide open space to play baseball and a shaded place for a playset… God found us a perfect village.  He put us right by the perfect friends for my family.  Close to my husband’s Missouri family.  And he chose the perfect school for my children.

My son is a sweet, lovable boy with a face full of freckles, beautiful blue eyes and the most contagious smile.  When you take your first glance at this tall attractive boy?  You do NOT see Special Needs.  You see a teenage boy.  You do not see that he didn’t talk until he was 3.  You cannot see that he was diagnosed with Autism at 4.  And you cannot see that he was diagnosed with Bipolar at 6.  When we bought a house with a backyard full of trees?  I didn’t see it either.  But God knew our future.. and He planned for us.  He provided the perfect place for my boy to grow.

Why was a school so important a part of my kid’s future?

I wholeheartedly believe that the whole village impacts a child as they grow up and mature.  The village is a child’s family, their church, their friends .. AND their school.  When a child has Special Needs?  That school makes up the large part of their future.

You see.. No mother can do everything on her own.  But a mother with a special needs child.. she HAS to trust the school to provide the things she cannot.  I had to trust the school to take care of my child and provide him a safe environment.  I had to trust the Special Education director to get him the therapies my son needed.  I had to trust the IEP team to develop the best plan for my son’s school year.  And I had to TRUST the teachers to push my son toward success.  Yup, I said PUSH.  I don’t want my son to SURVIVE school… I really want him to excel at school.  You may think that is a lofty set of goals for Special Needs.. It MAY be.. I may aim too high.. But I would rather aim too high and settle slightly.. then to not aim high enough.  My son is amazing.  He is artistic.  He is smart.  He is a hard worker.. and my son wants to go to college.  But he is a child.. children will choose the easier path if you let them.  So I refuse to let him.

This school that God picked for my family?  They wanted everything that I wanted for my son.  The “village” we found at Henderson Elementary?  Principals, Assistant Principals, Special Education Director, Paraprofessionals, Teachers, Language Therapists, Occupational Therapists, and even the Librarian.  THAT village of amazing people?  They became our family for those 6 years.. and beyond.  When my son had successes, no matter how small.. they celebrated with me.  When I had fun stories to tell.. they were the ones who laughed with me.  When my son was being stubborn, they were the ones who planned WITH me on how to turn it around.  When my son was unstable, they helped develop a plan to keep himself and others safe.  When I had to cry?  They were the ones crying with me.  But the most amazing thing for me?  When the days were long.. and rough.. and there was NO hope shining from those beautiful blue eyes.. These amazing ladies were STILL there rooting for my son to succeed.  No matter how bad the days were..they were the ones who met my son each morning with a smile and forgiveness in their hearts.

Some of those days were really bad.

Bipolar doesn’t sound that terrible.  But it is a terrible disease.  It is also known as Manic Depression.  Basically with this mood disorder?  Your body doesn’t make the right amount of the hormones you use to control your emotions.  Not enough serotonin and you feel depressed.  Too much serotonin and you feel euphoric.  Too much adrenaline and you feel scared/aggressive.  I could go on.. but I think you can see the trend.  With Autism there are triggers.. too hot.. too cold.. too loud.. too frustrated.. too .. anything.  With Bipolar?  Other than the seasons, we can find no pattern.

When my amazing son starts to cry those big crocodile tears because his brain is telling him he is overwhelmingly sad?  My motherly instinct is to hold him and protect him.  When my son wants to laugh at the world because his brain is telling him he is elated?  My instinct is to laugh along.  When my son wants to hurt himself?  Stab himself with a pencil? Pull out his hair?  Punch his head because his brain is too confused for him to think clearly?  I want to step in and protect him… and then cry.  But Bipolar is there for Life.. So Life must go on.

This “village” that God provided for me? For us all?  They were there will us every step of the way.  Cheering for us.. handing out smiles.. encouraging… (keeping straight faces)..  Why did they?  I have no idea!! But I am so grateful.  Because without them?  We wouldn’t be where we are.  Because of their help and their determination?  My son has learned that Life has to go on no matter WHAT your brain is telling you.  They helped him with coping strategies.. and they never made my son feel like there was anything wrong with him.

Because of the acceptance of this amazing group of professionals?  My son was accepted as a valuable part of the “village” by everyone.  (I could write a book on how we all took part in this awesome feat.. and I probably will…)

This amazing accepting “village” was great for more than just the children with Special Needs.  My daughter who absolutely loves to learn and loves school.. this school that God picked for us, provided something for her as well.  Because the school valued her brother as a part of its village.. No matter what… She learned to accept her brother without question.  But more than that.. I think it gave all kids a strong feeling of security.  If a child with an obvious disability can be accepted for who he is .. and loved because of it?  How can a child with a small insecurity NOT feel safer?  The students at this school turned into a wonderful group of kids.

So imagine my distress, when God sent us home to Michigan?

I love Michigan.  It’s beautiful!  It has trees … and lakes.. and rivers.. and trees… did I mention trees?  I didn’t realize how much I loved this home state of mine until we moved away.  And Michigan also holds the majority of my family.  Oh.. we wanted to move home with a passion.

But I was worried.

If we moved schools.. how would my kids live without this amazing village that God had given us all?  How would we survive without it?  So I dove into research.  Websites, school review sites, anecdotal review sites, phone calls to school, joining online support groups to get advice… and yet nothing.  I finally knew the area we wanted to end up in.. but there were still 10 school to choose from.  So more phone calls and house tours.  We narrowed our search finally to 5 houses.. Each in a different school district.  I set up tours.. and I prepared for the whisper of the Still Small Voice of God to lead my way.

What I got was a roar.  I almost cried.. (okay I cry a lot).. This school that God led us to?  From the moment the Special Education director called me ahead of time.. to the secretary asking how she could help me.. to the amazing tour I received from the principal.. and every person I met along the way… Every thing was a roar from God that this was it!! This was the new village He had planned for us… And who was I to argue?

This week I dropped off my son to school.  He walked independently through the front doors and headed to the locker he independently opens.  He independently headed to a meeting he had with his teachers.

You see?  My son still hits sometimes.  This week he hit one of his BIGGEST fans.  His brain told him he was scared or frustrated or angry or something.. and it was so overwhelming he punched one of our favorite people in this new village.  Then he cried.  And so did I.. I am crying again as I type this.  This amazing person doesn’t just want my son to exist.. she wants him to be amazing.. she wants him to be the BEST he can be… so she pushes him to excel.  Unfortunately that puts her on the front lines of the battle.  She has encouraged him to be independent, successful.. and most importantly.. My son is so proud of who he has become.  Then when he snapped?  Since she was on the front lines, she got hurt.  That hurts my heart every time I think about it. But what makes me stop in absolute AWE.  This amazing lady who was hit by my adult sized boy?  She forgave him immediately. “Seven times seventy,” she says is their motto.  That is absolutely amazing .. and it is hard to do.  Even though she forgave him immediately, she is still hurt.

I would like to point out that forgiving is a lot different than accepting.  I do not accept that my son HAS to hit.. and neither do any of his teachers.  Forgiveness means you try harder next time to do it differently.  That is what I teach my son.  We always try again.  And the next time we try ..we WILL do it better.

Through her pain (both physically and mentally), the teacher my son hit is standing with the rest of the team to make a plan, so that we can try to prevent it from happening again.  This plan isn’t to not push him as hard to succeed.  It is a plan to help him deal with the confusing messages his disease sends him.  To help him move toward a successful (and non aggressive) high school career.. To help him move toward being an independent hard working adult.

So today?  Today I am thankful that God has brought this amazing lady into our lives.  Yet this amazing lady is only ONE of the amazing professionals at this small school in the country.  Every person my son has come into contact with has made a huge impact on his life.  So today I am ALSO extremely thankful God has provided another amazing village for my kids to grow up in.

When I watched my son walk through those doors, to head to that meeting on his own.  A meeting to talk about how to turn the next bad day around to make it better.. on his own?  YUP.. I was crying again.  Because he couldn’t be that independent, confident or determined young man without the “villages” that God has given us.  I could never have done it on my own… and to tell you the truth.. I wouldn’t want to try.

At the end of the school year, I always look for the perfect thank you gifts.  How do you tell someone thank you for going to the front lines of battle everyday .. just so your son can be the best that he can possibly be..  A gift card?  A coffee mug?  What I really wish was to give them a trip to Egypt .. or a day at the spa.  But I can’t afford that AND stay home to be available for those bad days.  So I settle for a heartfelt card and home made cookies.  Is it enough? NOPE.. But while I am praying that my son grows in control every day.. I also pray that God will Bless each and every person that has come to care for my children.  That He will keep each and everyone of them in His Glorious hands and protect them.

So in the End?  In the End all I can do is pray for a whole village.

Cracks in the wall…

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If these walls could speak..

We moved back home to Michigan a little over a year ago.  But it feels like it just happened.  For weeks, my husband and I looked at house pictures online and took tours.  My FAVORITE houses were always the old farmhouses.  So much character.. I would wander from room to room almost “hearing” the stories the walls were telling me.  The layers of wallpaper telling the tales through the generations that lived there.  Each layer was probably picked with love and highly treasured.  I could have sat in each house for hours and let the tales spin around in my mind.

But, alas.. my husband is a builder.  While we often agreed that a house had (probably) been beautiful once, he does not always see the charm I still recognize.  He walked each house appalled at the amateur renovations we would find.  Holes cut through walls.. stairways cut through a solid oak stair rail.. Homemade cabinets.  The hours of work involved in pulling wallpaper down, re-drywall-ing, or refinishing wood floors.. honestly exhausted him just thinking about it.  And plumbing.. shudder.. we don’t even want to talk about that.  But the deciding factor for my husband has always been the basement.  The foundation NEEDS to be solid for him.  He would look for cracked or crumbling basement walls.  Looked for evidence of moisture or water damage.  Then he examined the floor joists for cracks or rot.  When my husband started to go through the mechanical room?  YUP.. I tune out.  I go back to imagining all the events that have happened among those walls in the last 100 years.  The wisdom it had seen.

Why is my husband so concerned with the basement?  He said that no matter how much time and money you put into the rooms that everyone sees.. If the basement is damaged? .. Then the house will NOT last.  Honestly, I have gotten teary-eyed on more than one occasion, insisting that we could fix the basement.. make it stable.  He always lovingly (and most patiently) explains that it is possible.  At a huge cost and huge time commitment.. but it could be done.  The upper floors could be jacked up and supported while the walls of the basement are reconstructed… and then re-poured.   To ME this cost would have been worth it.. I mean think of all the memories and stories the house holds.

Marriage is a lot like a house.  If the foundation the marriage is built on is sturdy and intact, then your marriage will last.  If you and your spouse discuss every decision and love each other.. then the floor joists will be solid.  After that, each room is built .. one memory or joyful life event at a time.  When sad or tragic life events happen?  Sometimes you have to patch a hole or add a layer of wall paper to cover it up.

At one time my marriage was like that old farmhouse.

You see.. I was raised with firm Faith in God.  I was very confident that I knew who I was.  And I had (and have) confidence in my love for my husband… We had a solid foundation for our marriage.  We talked about everything and laughed with each other.  So our floor joists were sturdy… We were ready to start building rooms…

So we started a family… We have 2 children.  Our firstborn daughter was very strong willed. (Ok.. she still is.)  She tested every level of patience… and then some.  A wonderful beautiful soul… but very independent.  Our second born is a son who has Special Needs.  Luckily my son, decided to wait until my daughter started to grow out of the daily fights for independence before he started asking for “help”.  Now at first glance, you can see my Blessing in this.  I only had one child at a time, that needed my patience, persistence.. and research.  But it was an exhausting existence for years.

The first crack that showed up in my basement wall was pride.  I knew I could raise my kids by MYSELF.. I didn’t need anyone’s help.  My husband and I could do it all alone.  My pride in not asking for help caused me to be over tired and irritable at times.  But all mothers are tired and irritable at times, right?!?  I would simply research how to improve myself because I knew I could do a good job. But this first crack?  My pride crack weakened our foundation..

My second crack was irritation.  I research everything.. why strong willed children argue.. what causes Autism.. what causes bipolar.. why anxiety is genetic.. I wanted to talk through with it all with my husband when he got home from work.  Sounds reasonable right?  I could read a 300 page book and then try to explain it to my exhausted husband.  And then get irritated because he didn’t understand it enough to discuss it with me.  It seemed that he didn’t care.  What I didn’t see was that he DIDN’T understand all of it.  But he knew that I did ..so he trusted me.   I also didn’t see that my husband was often still in that “mechanical room”.  What is the mechanical room of a marriage, you may wonder?  It’s the job that provides for us.. keeping a roof over his family.. insurance to keep us healthy.. working cars to take us where we need to go.. and also the financial stability that allowed me to stay home with my kids while they grew.  He worried.  He worried a lot more than I ever realized.  Why?  How could I not know?  Well.. when he was in the mechanical room.. YUP.. I tuned out.  How boring.. I have Faith in God.  I have faith that He will provide for us.. End of story for the mechanical room.  I would rather talk about the challenges God was giving us.. the set backs my son was having.. the new interventions that the special education staff was putting into place.. God’s plan for our family and the best way to follow the path He has set before us.  As you can imagine.. I was irritated a lot.

Which is why the 3rd crack, rudeness, was so wide.  I was tired and stressed.. and too prideful to ask for help.  I prayed for strength.  I prayed for peace.  I prayed for my kids.  I prayed for my husband.  But I never prayed for help.  I started to demand it from my husband though.  Not everyday but on occasion.  But often enough that it started to make him hesitate to want to come home at night. Come home he did though.  Every night.

My 4th crack is pretty common with stay at home moms.  I wonder how much more true it is for Moms of children with special needs.  Moms of kids with strong wills, with disabilities, language delays, diagnoses, anxiety, attention disorders .. or any label at all.  Jealousy.  Such an ugly word.  Envy sounds a little better.. but it still sounds like a disease.  I began to envy the fact that my husband got to leave the house by himself.  Envy that he was able to have full intelligent conversations with other adults.  Envy the fact that my husband was a successful and respected part of his company.  Small children do not show respect to their mothers.  Moms at play groups are tired and worn out.  Intelligent conversations aren’t even hoped for.. all we hoped for was to be not interrupted.  That and to hope our kid didn’t bite/hit/kick/pinch anyone else’s child.  And I just wished my son would play along side all the other children.  I never begrudged another child’s successes.  I always rejoiced in each one.  But I would wish that my son could have easy successes too.  Those wishes started to look a lot like envy for awhile.

One day, my husband came home.  He helped me with out asking what I needed help with.  Then he told me that he knew my job was a hard one and told me how proud he was of me.  My heart soared for a full 10 seconds… and then.. I snapped.  Why couldn’t he see that everyday.. not just once every 6 months.  And SURE he helped out tonight.. but what about the week I couldn’t do laundry because it was upstairs and my toddler couldn’t be trusted downstairs.. did he help then? NO .. and what about the day he needed to work late.. and what about.. what about..  What I didn’t see was that my husband was trying .. he was trying to come out of the mechanical room.. he was trying to see the character in the rooms upstairs.. and he was trying to help me patch some holes in our home.

I didn’t see this for quite awhile actually.  I simply added things to my “list”..  The list that my pride was constructing.

Then one day, I came across the “Love is patient..” verse in my devotions.  I skipped it because I knew it by heart, right?!? The next day, a friend of mine complimented me on how my Love shines through to everyone around me.. how patient and kind I was. She couldn’t see my discontent because my pride kept it buried.. in the basement.  But her comment made me pause.  I thanked her .. and then shook it off.  Then the next day, I found another reference to this verse in the Bible.  I laughed.. because I believe that God uses our surrounding to whisper to us. Listening to that Still Small Voice whisper to me.. I pulled out my Bible… and read…

“Love is patient and kind.  Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.  Love does not demand its own way.  Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged.”  1 Corinthians 13: 4-5

The whole world could have walked through my house.. and by all appearances it would have thought my family (and marriage) looked stable.. happy even.  But in that moment, I knew… I knew that the Basement of my house.. the foundation to my marriage had some pretty huge cracks in it.

You may say that the cracks weren’t really my fault.  That I had a lot of stresses.. a lot of storms that rocked that foundation. Parenting, health concerns, special needs, IEP’s, surgeries, mood disorders, medications… The storms we lived through were extensive.  But I could see that I didn’t have as much true Faith as I could have.  That all my tears of frustration with my husband, all the tears of heartache at watching my kids suffer and struggle, all the tears of resentment at changing all my life plans to accommodate my family’s needs (EVEN though those accommodations were what I wanted).. All those tears?  Without true blind Faith in God’s plan for us?  I was causing those cracks to grow bigger everyday.  And soon a wall was going to collapse.

As I walked through the rooms of my Marriage.. I saw all the memories.. all the good times.. and even some bad times.. But just like that old Farmhouse that I wanted to fix up so bad.. I wanted to save my marriage.  Sure it would take a lot of time and hard work.. and a lot prayer.  But I knew it would be worth it.

You might imagine that I called my husband right away and told him of my discovery?  You’d imagine wrong.  I had apologized to him time and time again for snapping at him in frustration.  I had apologized over and over through the years.  What I needed was to prove to him that I had Faith.

Now I would like to say that I was an overnight sensation.  I was not.  There was more than one day, that constant prayer and faith was needed to keep me going.  There were days that I took my good friend’s advice that sometimes we “Fake it to make it.”  And there were days I crashed… and cried at my weakness.  Why do it then?  If I had to fake my happiness why not simply get divorced?  Well I know that divorce is anything but simple…  and..  I didn’t have to fake happiness.  I had to fake patience on irritable days.  I didn’t have to fake love.  I had to fake kindness on a rude day.  NOW.. I do know that sometimes divorce is the only option.  So please don’t think me critical or that I am judging anyone who has chosen to divorce.  But my marriage.. it had a STRONG foundation.  We just needed to fix the cracks before they broke our marriage beyond repair.

Fix them we did.  It took a lot of work.  And I still apologize for my irritable days.  But when I pray for forgiveness.. I pray that I also forgive myself for my weakness.  When I forgive my husband for his bad day, I pray that God wipes it from my heart and my mind.. so I no longer have a list to fall back on.  The result?  The love and faith that painted the rooms in our marriage? It also paints our foundation now.  All that work was so worth it.

We did not buy that old farmhouse.  I saw my husband’s wisdom that we needed to have a home with a sound foundation.  And the character?  Well we are adding our own charm to our home one day at a time.  And these days my husband and I.. well we do a better job “listening” to our marriage.  I explain how I think the hole in the hallway (that we are patching) adds character to our lives, I expand on how the struggles our children go through, in the long run.. well it may be a good story to tell.  And my husband listens to me.. laughs a lot.. but he listens.  And when my husband wants to show me something in our mechanical room.. job, insurance, or car worries.. I follow him all the way to the basement and try to give him my full attention.

How did I know it was going to work you ask?  1 Corinthians 13:13.. There are three things that will ENDURE — faith, hope, and love — and the greatest of these is love.  I knew that the marriage we built on love would endure if I had faith and hope.  And I had plenty of both.

Stay on the Path…

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I’m right behind you….

There is a path from my back door to my chicken coop.  It is snow covered this morning, and if I didn’t KNOW for sure that it was there.. I would doubt its existence.  This path was formed over the last 2 months and is made up of packed down snow and ice.  Today, I was very frustrated with slipping and sliding along this narrow path.  And when my foot caught the 3rd chunk of ice, causing me to trip .. yet again?? I stepped off the path..

My leg sunk down into the snow.. up to my knee.  After a couple steps (lugging a bucket of water and one of food)?  I realized that the path was the much better option.. even with its icy patches.  So with a little effort, I climbed back up onto the path and carried on.

In my chicken coop, I have 11 chickens and 2 ducks. When we bought our birds, we researched the best kinds for our area.  We wanted birds that would be comfortable and survive our harsh cold winters.  We picked Isa Browns.  It is said that Isa Brown chickens are hearty down to temps of -20.  But to be honest?  I haven’t tested that theory.  I have a heat lamp that comes on when the temperatures get down to 0.  When the windchill was -40, I closed their doors and shoved towels into every crack.  My husband laughed and said that I was babying them.  That chickens and ducks are tougher than I am giving them credit for.  But to me?  If I can make them a LITTLE more comfortable in this extreme cold.. with very little effort?  Why shouldn’t I?

But it makes me think of a time 11 years ago.

When I was pregnant for my daughter, I bought a book.  What to Expect when you are expecting!  And I read it! And then I followed it. I followed it for both my pregnancies.  I stayed away from foods that were bad for my baby.  When I was so sick and I didn’t want to eat anything? I forced myself to eat protein.  I drank so much water ..that I should have floated away.  And I didn’t take any prescription medicine without double checking with 2 doctors.  I did everything “right”..

And yet, 11 years ago,  my son was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 4.

After the initial shock?  My first thought was.. “Why ME?”  I mean .. I didn’t smoke, I didn’t drink, I didn’t even eat chocolate and definitely didn’t drink coffee… So what did I do wrong?  Why did something have to happen to MY baby?  Even though I tried to hide my tears.. my very in-tuned son.. the one who is labelled by the world as “Special Needs”?  He crawled into my lap, wiped my tears with his little fingers and gave me a beautiful smile.  And I knew.  God gave me this Blessed little soul on purpose.  His Blessed personality is not a punishment to my son or to me.  God gave him especially to me to safe guard and protect.  Why Me?  I like to think that God researched me and observed me.. and He knew I was hearty enough to weather the storms.  He knew that with a little extra love and protection, I could get up each morning and smile at the new day.  God thought I would be perfect for this job.

SO.. God hand picked me to be the mother of my beautiful souled son.. (and daughters)…  It wasn’t an accident.  He picked me.  Makes me feel a little like Mary…

So because God thought I was the perfect choice for my son.. does that make me perfect?  No!!  In fact, last night I stepped off the path God set before me, yet again.  “Why me?” I asked.  Sometimes the events of my life aren’t pretty.. and they can get a little slippery.  But honestly, I would choose to stay on this path God has given me..then to head out on my own.  As I struggled to climb back up onto my chosen path… God rewarded me .. with a smile from a beautiful face.  That’s all I needed.  That is all I needed to know that God trusts me with his most precious gifts.  And I know that not only CAN I do this.. but with God’s help?.. I can do this REALLY WELL.

When I opened the chicken coop to feed my birds this morning, the ducks were being very vocal.  No doubt explaining that the heat lamps didn’t come on in their coop last night.. and that it was really cold.  And I laughed.  I explained to them both that I had hand picked them to live here.. because I know that together we can handle the storms.  Then I gave them some sunflower seeds.. just to make it easier…

Please Leave a Message..

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Family fun….

There was a time when you could have eaten off my floors.  They were THAT clean!  Now.. they HAD to be that clean for awhile because my son.. well… he would eat anything he found .  So what started out as necessity became an obsession for me.  For an hour after every meal, I would clean my kitchen area.  Wash the table, wash the chairs, wash the dishes, wash the sinks, sweep the floors, and then mop them.  Where were my kids you ask?  I would put in an educational VHS and speed clean.

What began in the kitchen, quickly spread to the rest of the rooms.  It got to the point where we couldn’t leave the house unless all the toys were put away.   Every game had to be put away with ALL the pieces listed on the box.  Every toy had a place on a shelf.  Every item in the doll house was accounted for.  Our walk might have been postponed for an hour while we cleaned up, because I needed it to be meticulous.  And cleaning with young children is not an easy task.  While one of my children would be helping me pick up, the other child would be pulling things off the shelves.  It was sometimes exhausting.. but I was determined.

Then every night after my family went to bed?  I would organize what small hands hastily put away.  I would straighten, dust and sweep.  Then reorganize and move things around.  In my mind, if your house was perfect than the rest of the world would see it.. and well?  They would think you were the perfect family.

Yup.. you guessed it.. I was very insecure.  Why was I so insecure you ask?  Well to be honest, being a parent to toddlers and infants is stressful.  And I was stressed.  I didn’t show my stress to the rest of the world but it was there.  I was a mother to a very strong willed daughter and a cranky infant son.  I was the mother with the crying infant in her arms and the screaming, kicking toddler in aisle 7 at the grocery store.  I was the mother of the independent minded 4 year old that got kicked out of your child’s preschool ballet class.  I was the mother who pulled into the rest area (10 miles from home) to calm down her infant.  I was the mother who took the nursery teacher job at church because her son wouldn’t stay with anyone else.  We WERE the family that asked for To-Go boxes.. before our food arrived at our table.  Always I tried to smile.  Always I looked for the good in every situation.. And then I cleaned and polished my house until it would shine.

Now I don’t want you to think that we never made messes.  I have always believed that kids learn the best and the most completely when a mess is involved.  We would do large scale painting projects.  Sheets of paper spread on the floor, painting feet for footprints, mixing colors and constant laughter.  My daughter loved to do experiments.  One day I went to put a bottle of conditioner back in its place only to realize it was empty.  A brand new bottle of expensive curly hair conditioner .. empty.. after one bath.  When I questioned my daughter, she explained that she was pretending she was a mad scientist and had to test the perfect combination of shampoo, conditioner and bath paint .. to save the world (naturally).  So, after I mentally remind myself to check the contents of the shampoo bottle (which had found its way home), I explained that her curly hair products were expensive and that I would have to buy special (and cheap) mad scientist supplies for her experiments.  I ALWAYS wanted my kids to be creative.  Through creativity comes problem solving skills.. and I have always wanted the best for my kids.  But when they had lost interest in their messes? They would help me clean up.. and I would polish it clean when they went to bed.

Then.. (there always seems to be a “then”).. Then the daycare I had, went full time.  Instead of a couple days a week, I had extra kids in my house 5 days a week, often 12 hours a day.  At the end of a 12 hour work day, followed by 5 hours of parenting and errands? You guessed it.  I was too tired to do after hours organizing and polishing.  So those chores got moved to the weekend.  Yet, I would still spend energy during the day to make sure every piece of every toy was returned to its place before we went on to the next activity.  Until one crazy day.. On this particular crazy day (perhaps a full moon), when the kids were climbing the walls, I realized that we had been trying to clean up for 45 minutes.  Frustrated, I shooed the kids out the door.  We left behind a few stray toys on the floor (GASP) and went outside to run off our extra energy.  The rest of the day was the same way, we hurried through cleaning to get to the next activity.. ALWAYS leaving behind a few things.  When every child had been picked up that night, I realized something.  The kids had all been pretty successful in their day.. considering the high energy level.  AND.. at the end of the day.. I still picked up the same number of stray toys that I would have if I had enforced immaculate cleaning all day.

Slowly over the next year, I learned to let go of the need to keep my house highly organized.  It was still clean.. but if you looked under my sofa you would definitely find stray blocks.  I replaced the baby to the dollhouse family a number of times, over the years, because they “ran away”. And.. it’s true.. the Hungry Hungry Hippo game is down to 20 marbles.. shocking isn’t it?

Slowly over those same years, I also discovered something else.  When I sat WITH my kids, while they watched their educational television .. instead of using that time to sterilize my kitchen.. they learned so much more.  We would laugh at bad jokes, come up with plans for good experiments, sing catchy (and sometimes annoying) songs together and then laugh some more.  Most importantly, I got to know my children so much better when I relaxed into my surroundings.. and accepted the chaos that comes with raising my kids.

A couple times a year, I still do deep cleaning.  When my kids spill juice on the floor, I decide its a good time to thoroughly scrub the floor.  Once a week, I sweep every surface in my house.  And every night I make sure the sink is free of dirty dishes.  In fact everything in my house is cleaned weekly, even bed sheets.  But rarely will you walk into my house and see it completely clean… unless you are there for a party.  Because it no longer matters to me.  Years ago, I would greet people at the door with, “Excuse my mess.. kids you know,” when I had secretly madly scrambled to make sure nothing was out of place.   Now, I tell people.. “My house was spotless last week.. sorry you missed it.”

If you stop by my house today, you will see cups on my counter and art supplies on my table.  There are freshly scrubbed eggs drying on a towel by the sink.  The shoes are not neatly lined up on the rug.  And PLEASE do not eat anything you drop on the floor.  But my house is always filled with laughter, good food, confident children.. and if you like to paint, we may do that later.  Or we may leave our house exactly like this, and run off on an adventure today.  Sledding or walks in the snow are always fun.  Trying to freeze bubbles and throw boiling water into the freezing wind.  In the warmer months, our family is always off outdoors, perhaps camping or kayaking.  And anyone is welcome at one of our son’s super campfires.  Hours of staring at the flickering flames, doing nothing but roasting good food, talking, and laughing.  If you are lucky, we will start recounting all the crazy things our kids put us through.  To me knowing my kids, and spending time with them, is more important than the arsenal of empty cups you can find on my counter.

So… if you would like to complain about my house.. or EVEN just give me advice on how to keep it clean? Be my guest and call my house phone.  You will probably get the answering machine though.  Because my family and I?  We will most likely be off on an adventure. But PLEASE.. just leave us a message.

Two hour delay…

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A face worth fighting for…

When I was a young girl, I was prone to the most ridiculous and often selfish prayers.  My Dad’s favorite actor has always been John Wayne.  Watching those movies year after year? YUP you guessed it.. I wished with all my heart that I had been born in the Wild West.  Of course I KNEW that was a ridiculous thing to pray for, so I prayed for something much more “practical”.  “Dear Father in Heaven, please send someone to give me a horse.  It can be ANY horse.. old, young, fast or slow.  Any horse will do,” and I always added, “Your will be done,” at the end just like my Dad always did.

Now in a family with 7 children and 2 adults? YUP.. not really all that practical.  In fact, it was a really selfish prayer.  Children’s prayers often are.  I never intended to be selfish.  I simply wanted to hold out hope that for some reason it WOULD be part of God’s Will for us.  Over the years, I prayed many such prayers.  “Lord, please let there be a Cabbage Patch Kid under the tree tomorrow morning.” OR “Please let this teacher move to New Mexico.” OR “PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE… Can I have a horse?”  Many years passed before I realized that God is much smarter than we are.  A horse would have strapped our family in a way to make our simple life style miserable.  So God said, “No”.  A Cabbage Patch Kid was an overpriced doll.  So God said, “No, but your Mom and Grandma made you a similar doll with love and care.. accept this instead.”  And as for the teacher?  Well God knew that sometimes having unpleasant people in my life was the best way to keep me from ever becoming unpleasant myself.. So instead God said, “I want you to have this unpleasant teacher, but next year I will send an especially wonderful one.”

As I grew older, I sometimes slipped back into ridiculous prayers.  “Lord, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let my awesome friend ask me to the school dance.”  Now that I am a happily married adult, I realize that God was so loving by telling me “NO”.  You see God knew that He had someone special in mind for me all along.  By not giving into my requests (ok.. begging), God steered me in the direction He intended me to go.

Some of my prayers, God did grant.  Some were practical.  I prayed for a WHOLE day (that’s pretty long for a teenager) before I went to the principal and asked if we could keep the yearbook committee if we held it after school.  It was granted immediately.  I always had enough babysitting jobs to afford dresses for dances.  I always had enough strength to do the hard things in life.  Every presentation, every performance, every apology.. I could feel God’s presence just as I had asked for.

Throughout my life, I became more and more aware that God doesn’t just answer “Yes” or “No”.  Quite often God answered me with a “Not Yet”.   “Dear Father in Heaven, I would really like a new car, if it’s in Your Will..”, Not Yet … “Dear Father in Heaven, I would really like to move closer home to family.. if it’s in Your Will..,” Not Yet.. be patient.  “Dear Father in Heaven, I would LOVE to have my daughter grow out of this phase.. quickly.. OH, if it’s in Your Will, of course??”  (I think I heard Him chuckle on that one) Not yet.. your daughter needs to learn something first.

I have come to think of these “Not Yet” answers as a kind of Two Hour Delay.  When schools have a Two Hour Delay, they aren’t saying they aren’t going to take your kids.  They are simply saying “Not Yet!  We want to make sure it is the perfect time.”  In the same way, God wasn’t telling me No.. just that the timing was not quite right.. not just yet.

Recently, I felt the full impact of one such Two Hour Delays.. or in this case it was a 14 Year Delay.  Almost from birth, my son has had tummy and digestive issues.. He would scream in pain, he would projectile vomit.. and he was never comfortable.  I would rock him, sing to him… my husband even tried his miracle football hold (that had saved us with our daughter).  Nothing helped.  I started praying that God would show me what was wrong and how to help.  We did test after test.. Nothing.  Still we prayed for a solution.  We found home remedies and over the counter meds that helped some.  Still we prayed.  Eventually, the doctors gave us medicine for him.  But for every solution that medicine seemed to give our son, more symptoms would pop up.  So STILL we prayed for wisdom on what was wrong.  Eventually we received a diagnoses of Autism.  With a diagnosis, my son received therapies.  But we noticed his behavior kept slipping.  I was told by other mothers of children with Autism that I needed to accept his limitations.  The doctors said I needed to accept his medical issues and just make him comfortable.  After MANY tears, I prayed, “Lord, if THIS is your answer.  If this is the life you intended for my son, please give me the peace to accept this answer.  But IF it is in Your Will, I would like to keep fighting for a solution.  I would like to find a way for my son to do ALL of the things that he WANTS to do.  So IF it’s in Your Will.. please help me find a way.”

I did have peace for years.. He was growing and seemed less uncomfortable.  His behavior equalized and he seemed to be maturing.  And then one day all that progress.. it stopped.  He seemed to grow “worse” by the day.  He would focus less, quote more, listen less, yell more.  Our peace was gone.  So once again, I prayed for answers.  I researched for hours for solutions.  And Still I prayed for guidance.

Then one day, God decided it was the perfect time.  He sent someone to tell me about food sensitivities and related behaviors.  I immediately went home and researched.. and it was all there.  EVERY answer to EVERY issue.  I found links between digestive health and vitamin deficiencies.  I found links between vitamin deficiencies and learning disorders.  I found links between learning disorders and diagnoses.. And I found links that showed me the link between Autism and digestive health.. and that digestive health can lead to the worsening of Autism.  And I cried… I cried because it was all there!  I cried because God hadn’t said “Accept this!”.. He had actually said, “Not just Yet.. Our timing needs to be perfect.”

I do not know why God thought THIS time was the perfect time.  But I do know that after I scheduled an appointment with a Diet and Nutrition doctor, it was a short time until we had a few simple tests done.  And a short time until all the results gave us the rest of the answers we needed.  I don’t really need to know why this is God’s perfect time.  But you can bet that I am Accepting that THIS is God’s plan.  I am accepting that my son is improving everyday.  He smiles more, yells less, he works more, quotes less, draws more and cries less.

So as I battled the roads this morning to take my kids to school after a Two Hour Delay,  I couldn’t find it in my heart to be frustrated with the school.  Because some of the most Glorious things happen when it is on God’s schedule and who am I to question that schedule?

Instruction Manual…

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Curves ahead… 2006

On a particularly taxing summer day, I remember laughing with a family member about how I have often wished God had sent an instruction manual along with my youngest child.  Almost from his first day, I had encountered dilemmas I had never heard of.  He never slept, never stopped crying, never let me put him down, NEVER slept, hated the car, was always hungry, hated the swing, hated sunshine, .. and did I mention that he NEVER slept?  I knew that there were stories of people having fussy babies, but that happened to OTHER people.. not my family.  We KNEW how to care for babies.  So I will admit that after the 47th night of no sleep, I decided that God was giving me a dose of humility.  So I humbly prayed, “Lord, please forgive me for always assuming that harassed and tired looking mothers just weren’t used to caring for children.  Please Bless ALL of the sleepless mothers in the world with a good nights sleep.  Including me.. if it’s in Your will.  Amen.”  I don’t know about all the other sleepless mothers in the world, but God woke my husband… who took my crying baby from me .. so I could sleep.

As I journeyed down the road of Special needs, I have prayed many midnight prayers like this one.  But the prayer I have prayed the most often could actually be classified as a PLEA.  My heartfelt begging of God for the Wisdom to choose the correct path.  I have always felt that there were ways to solve every dilemma.. an answer to every issue.. a happiness at the end of every teary-eyed day.  Unfortunately, I am a very slow learner.  I would trudge along on the path I chose.. knowing I would find the answer.  Then on the 47th day.. I would put my son on the bus with a smile forced past my quivering lip.. and as soon as the bus disappeared from site, I would sink (in surrender) down on the steps in front of my house and pray.  I can’t even count how many times I cried out to God that I couldn’t do it on my own anymore.  (Like He didn’t already know that..?)  And I would pray that familiar prayer.. “Lord.. forgive me for assuming that every harassed and tired looking Mother.. didn’t know what she was doing.  Please Bless every Mother of a Special Needs child with the knowledge she needs, the strength to carry it out.. and a good night’s sleep.  Including me.. if it is in Your Will.. Amen.”  I don’t know about all the other Mothers of children with Special Needs.. but at that moment I was filled to the brim with Peace. Then God would send someone with a sign for which path I needed to follow.  Whether it was a call from a teacher with a new intervention, a dear “sister” stopping by for a cup of tea reminding me that my child WAS IN FACT just a child, or a call reminding me I needed to set up an appointment.. or my favorite, a phone call from a friend telling me she was taking my kids for the night.  After way too many years of trying it on my own?  I finally learned to start my day with, “Lord please lend me the wisdom, the strength, and the love I will need for this day.  If it is in Your Will. Amen.”

I have spent the majority of my life caring for children.  My own children, plus the ones that people have shared with me.  My preschool classes, my nursery class at church, and my daycare kiddos.  There really is no way to count the number of children that have touched my heart and effected my life.  But during those years of care, I have come to realize that every child has Special Needs.  I had students with high IQ’s, who would melt down with every transition.  I had highly organized and efficient students, who had speech delays.  Artist students who don’t like to be touched.  Students with the best personalities, who could not learn personal space boundaries.  I began to see that every student had a special ability or “super power”, and that every one of them struggled with something.  Some of those struggles are huge neon signs, but some of them aren’t.  Some of the struggles are actually a small “handle with care” tag tucked in their shirt collar.  God Blessed me with one of each of these children.  My son carries his Special Needs around with a blinking Neon sign.. My daughter tucks hers in her collar on a tiny tag, hidden from the rest of the world.  On a particular taxing day, watching my daughter struggle with her “special needs” hidden from the world, I prayed a new prayer.  “Lord, I can see that every child struggles with their own needs.  Forgive me for assuming that us Mothers of children with Diagnoses deserve more of your time and understanding than any other Mother.  Please Bless EVERY Mother in the world with the wisdom of how to help her children, the strength to follow through with that wisdom and a good night’s sleep… including me, if it is in Your Will, Lord. Amen.”  I can’t speak for all the Mothers in the world, but I was filled with a peace in that moment.

I still have days that I try things my own way.  When I have beat my head against the wall for the 47th time, I remember to take a step back and look for what God is trying to show me.  There are days that I yell down the hall for my daughter to come see me immediately.  There are days that I can’t handle my son’s behavior and send him to his room.  And there are days that I drop my kids off at school, forcing a smile past my quivering lips, then cry all the way home.  But for as many sad, stressful moments I have had in my life as a mother of children with Special Needs, I have had so many more filled with joy.  That moment when your child laughs with real joy.  The smile that is filled with contentment.  The pride you feel in their EVERY success.  Those moments out weigh the moments of stress.  And I have realized that if you LOOK for them.. the moments of joy greatly outnumber the moments of tears.

But the moment I most felt like a good mother?  It was the moment that my daughter burst into tears while slamming soapy dirty dishes around, yelling of injustice.. and in that moment I recognized it NOT as a moment of insolence or rebellion.. but as a moment of need.  Laughing, as my eyes filled with tears, I wrapped that beautiful, struggling child in my arms (dirty soap suds and all) and gave her a hug until she laughed with me.  That is my best Mom moment.