Seeing Ourselves

For some reason April and May are busy season around our house. For the family in general and specifically for Rob. I think it has something to do with the end of the school year and the wrapping up of other things that follow a similar calendar.

Whatever the reason I know that there are times when what my husband needs from me is to not need anything from him. The way I can be his helpmeet is to not add much more demands on his time or room in his brain. And this is ok and not a bad thing at all because honestly it is just for a season. I don’t mind doing it for him because I know he needs it. Occasionally however, it happens that the season extends itself a little bit further and we fall into a pattern where I get lost in the tyranny of the urgent.

When I say occasionally what I am really saying is not often at all but it has happened this way a few times over the course of our marriage and recently we found ourselves in that place and my feelings got hurt. At no point did I feel as if my husband no longer loved me or wanted to be with me but I felt like it had become too easy for him to put me aside to deal with all the other stuff because he knew I would be there. It wasn’t malicious on his part rather it was presumptuous love. He realized it had crossed a line, gave me some room to share what I was thinking and feeling, and asked forgiveness so we’re good and all is well.

Later that evening I sat down to work on my Bible study and started reading over the questions.

What do your attitude and approach to your personal Bible study reveal about you and what you expect of Jesus?

I realized I was a few days behind in the reading and questions. Life has been busy and with one thing and another I had let that time slip knowing that it would be there when I got to it.

Can you see where this is going?

It was as if the Holy Spirit put a mirror in front of me. I had let the busy-ness of life take away the time I had been spending in prayer and study knowing that He would be faithful to be there when I got to it.

I was guilty of a presumptuous love all my own without even realizing it.  God isn’t standing around with a calendar and a stop watching recording the moments we do or don’t come to Him in prayer and Bible study but He does call us to pursue wisdom, to seek Him, every day. Not for His sake but our own because He knows we need that time with Him to function well and to do all the other things of life in a way that is pleasing to Him. It’s not just so we can check it off a list anymore than Rob needs to mark me off his list of responsibilities…prepare sermon, visit this parishioner, spend time with wife. A marriage is supposed to be a place where the husband and wife can take refuge from the world, to rest and restore each other. So is our time in prayer and study.

I had a moment where I could have just shrugged off what I was being convicted over. I could have looked past my reflection in that mirror and focused on the pile of laundry that needed folding or the drooping flowers in the vase on the mantle that needed watering. I could have looked past my own sin and continued to focus on what had been consuming my time in the first place. Or, like my husband, I could hear what was being said and seek forgiveness.

I am grateful that God is kind to speak to us in our sin with gentleness. I am blessed with a husband who is willing to humbly show me how to respond.

Rarely do these things pop out at us unexpectedly from no where. God is gracious in drawing our attention to things early on if we will just listen and hear. Slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love He calls to us before we can wander too far.

May we stand ready, eager to hear from our King.


The Orchestra of Grace

There are a lot of things you learn to cope with when dealing with autism. When Sam was little we figured out some of his triggers and learned to avoid them if possible. I say some triggers because the thing with autism is that you don’t always know what the triggers are and some days it would be something completely normal and common to our life that had never gotten a reaction before that moment. I also said ‘avoid when possible’ because sometimes you couldn’t always avoid the situations. Sometimes you just had to go the grocery store.

In our experience the triggers are less frequent now that he is older. Not sure if it is just normal (for an autistic kid) maturing or the years of working with and dealing with stuff that makes the difference but I have a feeling it is a combination of both.

But there are still things to deal with. Mostly social things. Sam is no respecter of personal space. A common conversation in our house happens around the hugging of his sisters. First it should be noted that when Samuel wakes up…he is awake. His sisters? Not so much. And Sam is also tall. Really tall. He has a tendency to squish his sisters. Consequently, they are somewhat resistant to his brand of affection. “I just want to love them, Mama!”

So we talked. About how if he wants to hug his sisters because he loves them then he needs to show that love to them in a way that is pleasing and pleasant to them. He needs to be gentle and considerate. He can’t just grab them around the neck and squeeze.

He’s working on it. It’s probably a conversation we will have to have in different forms many more times but he is working on it.

We’re working on a lot of things along those lines.

Sam loves to ride his bike. He also likes to visit. There are two families in our neighborhood that we also go to church with. We’ve had to talk with Sam about limiting his visits because he was stopping to visit every single time he went for a bike ride. Which is probably about four or five times a day.

Visits from Sam can be awkward because, and I say this with much love and joy in my son, Sam is awkward. He tends to enter a room like Cosmo Kramer. And he just wants to poke around and check things out. His conversational skills are less than smooth unless he is talking about his cartoons and comics and he’s loud.

Both families have accepted his inelegant visits with much kindness and grace. Sometimes they give him tasks to do or just enter into the clumsy cadence of his conversation. One of our friends shared about one of his visits where he just hung out in the grand kids play room, rummaging around and then she heard him on her elliptical exercise machine.

Both families have made room in their lives for our son. I like to think that, in some ways, Sam is contributing something to their lives that is pleasant and pleasing but the truth of the matter is that Sam requires a lot. A lot of grace, a lot of tolerance, and a lot of room to just be Sam.

I guess the take away from this post, if there is one, is this. If you have an autistic person in your life somewhere don’t be afraid to let them into your life. Don’t let their awkwardness put you off. Trust me – you may sense the awkward but they don’t. They’re learning grace from you. They’re learning life and family and friendship from you. I’m not saying let them have free reign. Our friends do a good job of welcoming Sam in but also of putting boundaries in place for him. They add their string melody to the percussion rhythm of life we’re pounding out for him everyday.

There are plenty of places for us to sound out our solos but our boy needs to hear the sounds of the full orchestra. We all do. And when your community steps in and joins your song right where you are it is the most beautiful sound you will ever hear. It’s the sound of grace.

If you’re serious about stepping into the song of a family with autism be prepared for some crazy riffs. They don’t always know when to let it rest. Case in point, one of the sweet families mentioned above paid Sam to take care of returning trash cans and check the mail while they were on a trip. He did a great job. About a week and a half after they got back though I received a call from Terri asking me to chat with Sam about checking their mail. It seems that he was still checking it and setting it on their front porch. The concern was that it would blow away before they got to it. The other big concern was the fact that he was removing the outgoing mail 🙂

The other of the sweet families above went for a walk around the neighborhood the other day, and returned the favor of a pop-in visit. It was a joyful moment, and everybody (even Sam) got the joke.

Hidden In Christ

Recently I was challenged to consider where my mind is when I am in the midst of suffering. The question came in the middle of our study in John dealing with the crucifixion of Jesus.

I can honestly say that I have only faced true suffering two times in my life. Obviously there have been hard times, difficult times, but only two seasons of what I would call true suffering. In the grand scheme of things not much and after really considering those passages of  John, surely nothing that compares to the suffering of  Christ. 
His suffering covered every  realm of humanity. 
Physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. No part of Him and no part of mankind was left untouched by suffering. The beatings, the betrayal of friends, the weight of sin and the wrath of God, that perfect fellowship with the Father and the Spirit being broken. While we may suffer in some of these realms at some point in our lives, He suffered in them all at one time in a magnitude that we aren’t capable of experiencing.
But when we read of that time in His life it is completely clear where His mind was. 
When Judas was preparing to betray Him, Jesus was washing His feet.
When the disciples could not even stay awake to pray with Him, He was crying out before God the Father on their behalf for protection from the world and the evil one.
As the soldiers pinned His arms down to pound nails into His flesh, He literally asked God to forgive them.
Stripped naked and laid bare before all, with soldiers casting lots for His clothes and the crowd hurling insults, He granted forgiveness to the thief next to Him.
In the midst of such physical agony He looks down and sees His mother and makes provision for her care.
In the midst of His suffering He wasn’t thinking of Himself, His pain, the unjustness of His situation but of those around Him, family, friend, and foe.
Remember when Jesus came upon the blind man and His disciples asked if the blindness was the result of the man’s sin or that of his parents? Jesus’ reply was that it was not a result of sin but rather “…so that the works of God might be displayed in him…”
There are horrible things that happen in this life. There is pain and suffering that for many of us is unimaginable yet it takes place in the lives of others every day. But no matter how great or how small our suffering may be we are called to take on the mind of Christ and suffer as He suffered. 
What He shows us is that even in the midst of suffering we are to look outward, to those around us, and minister to them so that the work of God may be displayed in us just as it was displayed in not only the blind man but perfectly and completely in Christ, in whose life our lives are hidden. 

Test Kitchen #93 ~ The I Threw It All Together And It Turned Out Good Edition

I know I’ve been neglecting the blog but geeze, I didn’t realize it had been since sometime in December since I shared a recipe. But Imma fix that right now. And it’s a super easy but oh, so yummy one too.

While I didn’t follow a recipe for this I am positive that there are a bunch of really great ones out there for the same thing. Probably better ones. Probably with handmade ingredients and I imagine it would be really great if you were so inclined. But the great thing about this dish, I think, is it’s ability to adapt to either option. This is the quick and easy throw it all together and get on with life version.

What you’ll need:
One package of your favorite stuffed ravioli, prepared according to package directions
(I’ve used the Rana and the Buitoni brands. Plus one from Sam’s Club that I can’t remember the name of but it was stuffed with a smoked cheese…so good!)
2 jars Alfredo sauce
1 8oz fresh mushrooms, sauteed
1 large or 2 medium size boneless chicken breast, boiled and shredded
green onions or scallions, chopped
Shaved Parmesan cheese
What you’ll do:
Mix all ingredients except the ravioli together in a large sauce pan. 
Cook until heated through.
Gently stir in pasta until ravioli is completely coated.
Pour into a 9×13 pan.
Top with the cheese.
Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 25 minutes

Serve with either a salad or steamed green beans or asparagus.

Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews

“Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” John 19:19

When a person was sentenced to death by crucifixion it was customary for a sign of some sort to be made and posted detailing the crime of the condemned.  Pilate went a few extra steps and had those words inscribed three times,

 “…and it  was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek…” John 19:20
Needless to say the religious leaders were less than thrilled with Pilate’s diligence and demanded repeatedly, to no avail, that the sign be changed to say that Jesus claimed to be the King of the Jews. Pilate stubbornly declared, “What I have written I have written.” His proclamation of the Kingship of Christ was declared before all of mankind and recorded for all time. 
It’s been noted that Aramaic was the language of the Jews and as such represented the covenant and God’s law. 
Latin was the official language of the Romans, denoting human government, power and conquest. 
Greek was the language of wisdom, art, and commerce.
The inscription in these three languages insured that absolutely any person who happened by at the time of His death would know what crime Jesus had committed and for which He had been sentenced.
It also left no aspect of humanity untouched by the declaration that Jesus was indeed the King of the Jews.
Three days later an empty tomb would also bear witness and attest to His Kingship over everything, even death.

Tonight we’ll gather for Maundy Thursday. Simply put it means we will be exhorted to love one another, and we take part in the Lord’s Supper.

Tomorrow evening we will join with a sister church for a Good Friday service and we’ll sing psalms and hymns and read Scripture. At the end the lights will symbolically go off and we will leave the room without speaking, a way of marking the darkness that fell as Christ, the Light of the world, took on the wrath of God.

But on Sunday…

On Sunday we will rejoice in the risen Savior! We will feast and celebrate that which should govern everyday of how we live.

Christ the Lord is risen! Indeed He is the King of Kings.

April and Autism Awareness

It’s been some years since I started blogging during the month of April about autism. In the beginning it was really easy sharing about the early years of our journey but as Sam has gotten older it has been more difficult for a variety of reasons.

The first being a desire to protect Sam’s dignity. He may have autism but he is still a typical teenage boy and he doesn’t enjoy having his business out on the street so to speak. When he was little he was unaware of the telling of the amusing stories and when he was aware he was unaware of any need to be embarrassed. That unawareness has given way to a more mature self awareness that in the long run is a good thing and a milestone of growth. (One that thankfully has not shown up in his dancing I am happy to say. He is still blissfully unaware that he dances like a six foot skinny all elbows and knees white boy and that makes me happy. Not because I relish him looking like a fool, because somehow he doesn’t, instead his pure enjoyment in music and movement and the freedom to enjoy both fully is just plain fun to see and somewhat contagious and almost a dare to let go and enjoy something so completely as to forget ones self.)
The second reason it is harder to blog about it now is because he is older and that means that autism itself is older and different. The challenges we faced when he was little seemed so big and difficult then and yet, just as in parenting in general, those now seem to be small and lacking in the complexity we face with a teenage boy smack in the middle of puberty.
I used to wonder why I couldn’t find much out  there about autism and teenagers/adulthood. But now I get it. Or at least I think I do.
It’s not pretty or romantic.
I realize those are the last two words that you hear in conjunction with autism but bear with me a second.

The best way I can explain what I mean is to point to something else and say “That’s what I’m talking about” knowing full well that those kinds of statements usually fall apart rather quickly if looked at too closely. So don’t try to look too far into this but take it at face value, ok?

The beginning of  a marriage carries a certain essence to it…the honeymoon phase if you will. But after a while things settle into a more natural frequency. It should still be beautiful and romantic but the definition of those things changes to include the reality of life with another person. The reality of dirty socks, chores, bills, and day to day sin.

Life with autism is the same in the sense that what we lived with and experienced with Sam when he was little is different than what we live with and experience with him now. The reality of autism, of having a son with autism, is broader and heavier.

But that doesn’t mean it is without beauty. Just as the depth of love experienced by the couple who has been married for twenty five years is far richer and more rewarding than the couple who has been married for twenty-five days so is life with a sixteen year old autistic young man as opposed to that sweet chubby faced toddler.

Harder to describe and share about but it is definitely more mature, more robust. The struggles and battles are at times heavier but I still wouldn’t have him any other way. Autism is still a gift. He is still a gift.

In case you missed it on Facebook here is a video of Sam dancing in all of his white boy glory.