Tag Archives: grace

Changing

The sky shone a brilliant blue, showcasing the scarlet leaves of a few red maples in our neighborhood.  The persistent breeze blew huskily in bursts chasing the great wisps of clouds across the sky.  Four-year-old G was riding his scooter as fast as his left leg could propel him down the street.  He would periodically zigzag across the sidewalk, never decreasing his speed, fueled by a genuine enthusiasm for the autumn gusts and the piles of crunchy, dried leaves collecting in random patches.  Another rush of wind would shake the branches, tear leaves from their stems, fling my hair upward and cause dozens of individual leaves to dance across the street toward us.   They crossed our path in an ecstatic state, frantically attempting to reach a spot to rest in safety.  And G was off again with a laugh.  He would only stop as a particular leaf caught his attention.  Leaving his scooter for mere seconds, he would remove the leaf from the swirling masses.  “For my nature journal,” and off again he zipped way ahead of me.  Knowing his conscientious nature, I was assured he would soon pause and wait for me to catch up with him.

This time his leaf discovery elicited a larger reaction.  “Mama, this leaf is two different colors!”

“Yes, it is.  It must have been blown off the tree in the process of changing.”

“It’s BEAUTIFUL!” he breathed and returned to his autumn dash.

We are in the process of changing our colors, too.  Grace is what holds us together, even after we are tossed through the air by gusty winds.  Once we have made that decision to follow Jesus, we are being transformed.  Even now we “are being transformed into the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18.  The trees in autumn reflect God’s glorious planning.  They do not change their hues instantaneously, but the leaves closest to Him begin their gradual transformation.  From the tips of the trees to the center, and finally the lower branches reveal their inner, earthy glow.  They beam yellow, gold, orange, red, scarlet, even flicker in browns.

God has even created the trees to be transformed in a graduated fashion, in their proper time.  His grace extends even to us.  Our acceptance into the love of God is immediate, change commences instantaneously, but is a slow, painful, even tedious process.  We glow half in greens and browns, yellows and oranges, some of us struggling to find our reds, desperate we may never fully transform.  Grace is in the autumn.  I just pray that we may find the aching process as beautiful as G does.

Now, we grow imperceptibly.  One day, however, it will be all at once, and we will not know of any other beauty.  We will be complete, all aglow with the brilliance of Christ.

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of any eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

I Corinthians 15:51-52

G's leaf collection
G’s leaf collection

Grace, Theology and Autism

Inaccurate theology.  Sometimes it is a conscious choice.  There were times when intellectually I knew my feelings didn’t make sense nor were they based on my understanding of God through Scripture, but something in me felt I had been jinxed with a child on the autism spectrum as a direct result of my past experience with it.  If someone had asked me if this were true, or even if I had asked myself, I might have laughed and said, “Of course not.”   And intellectually I never really believed this, but some latent fear lay brooding, feigning a dormant state, some primordial superstition hid behind a stronger faith that perhaps it was true.  Perhaps if my mother-in-law had never been a special needs preschool teacher with the Department of Defense….Perhaps if I had not known so many people with autism…Perhaps if I had not read so many articles….

My husband and I saw the signs.  We knew what to look for, and we had diagnosed our son ourselves years before we felt the necessity to seek a formal, medical diagnosis.  It was as if all these people and situations were highly contagious and I had now become infected.  If I had not been so well informed on autism, then I never would have given birth to someone on the spectrum.  There.  Fleshed out in a sentence – cause and effect –  in all its explicitness, it looks utterly ridiculous.  And yet…there are times when we operate this way, aren’t there?  If I pray a certain prayer, use special words, God will answer me….If I fall asleep praying, tomorrow will be ok… If I ignore a pain in my chest, it will go away… If I stop thinking about something bad, it will just disappear…. If I think about happy things, I won’t have problems… Have you ever felt yourself reverting back to humanity’s ancient cultural myths?  Out of desperation, helplessness?  The visceral takes over not because we are not intelligent enough, or faithful enough, but simply out of fear.  It is the knee-jerk reaction of humanity to hedge our bets.

Praise be to God for his grace and understanding.  I thank God that he does not always take my every random thought and fear too seriously.  I am thankful that he allows me from time to time to try something on for size, even at my most ridiculous, and gently helps me disrobe and discard the illogical and theologically unsound thoughts.  He provides grace to dress my thinking with something finer, something more beautiful and clearly from him.  An accurate vision, a heavenly help.  Grace in the providential stream of our lives.

Because, of course, the fact is that God did not bless me with a son with Asperger’s because I had accumulated enough autism run-ins, but rather he blessed me with the gift of preparation.  Slowly, over time I was afforded opportunities to learn about people with differences.  My mother-in-law was a huge asset particularly when my son was smaller and guided me through tips on occupational therapy and sensory sensitivities.  As an undergraduate, years before children, my husband and I were employed by Group Living in the tiny college town of Arkadelphia, Arkansas.  (Laugh if you want; the towns exists.)  It is an amazing organization which allows developmentally or physically diabled people to be a vital part of their community.  Group homes are offered for those needing more attentive care.  Regular visits and life-skills training are provided for  those who are able to live independently.  Group Living also runs and operates a very popular breakfast and lunch place called The Honeycomb, serving quiches, sandwiches, salads and American fare.  The Beehive also employs Group Living clients in the second-hand shop similar to  the nation-wide Goodwill stores.  Many of the clients we worked with had autism.  I remember attending as an undergrad a training session on autism.  There, in the mid-90s, I first heard of Temple Grandin and her squeeze box.  I am so thankful for these moments.  And for the wonderful people I worked with there.

One of these people was also my neighbor.  Sammy Landers and his caretaker lived in the apartment below my husband and me.  He was moody, enjoyed being alone, and spoke very little.  Yet he was one of my first encounters with autism.  Sammy is an artist and is featured in this wonderful blog post from last year.  I have one of his pieces which was presented to us as we left Arkadelphia.  It currently hangs above my four-year-old son’s bookcase in his bedroom closet.  Another touch of grace- this one in purple marker.

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Honestly, the issues my son struggles with are not severe, just daily.  He is easily frustrated, gets caught up in rigid thinking, becomes easily obsessed with a topic, but also has phenomenal memory, is exceptionally perceptive about others’ feelings, and has a deep longing to be helpful.  Grace has not only given me a greater appreciation for the preparation I have received over the years, but also for my son himself.  What would I change about him if I could?  What would you change about anyone whom you love?  And here is another theological inaccuracy – by God’s grace, my son will be fine.  Perhaps all these careful lessons are not to help shape him, but me.

Eyes for the Unseen

In my day-to-day driving, my car could almost steer itself.   I tend to go to the same places on a regular basis.  At times, it feels like the family car nearly travels repeatedly on the same tracks.  However, there is an occasional day when I venture out with the kids further down the highway, not really sure of which lane to exit from.  In this case, I look for signs.  The only problem is my distance vision seems to be deteriorating.  Frequently, I squint and lean forward in the driver’s seat, simultaneously shouting to those in the back, “Is this the lane for north or south?”  When no one answers, I repeat, “North or South?  NORTH or SOUTH?!?!”  It’s not really a good way to navigate.

So I had my eyes checked last week.  It turns out my vision is 20/15.  Great.  But my eyes do have problems focusing.  It’s not only highway signs I need help with.  My spiritual vision is often out of focus.  The truth gets blurry.

Nature trails are easier to navigate.  My boys,  with their indefatigable energy and boundless curiosity, run paces ahead of me, eager to find something new around the next corner.  Or maybe they are just slowly pulling away, growing up, wanting to feel what it is like to possess even this tiny bit of independence.  Walking ahead.

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I watch them making their way further and further down trails until sometimes they are nothing more than bobbing shapes.  Their distance leaves me space to ruminate on what A’s awkwardness will one day transform itself into,  how S’s excessive frustrations may one day melt with the warmth of a sigh.  What future passions will carry G through his life?  I think about the aggravation I feel when they display a lack of empathy, responsibility or integrity.  It is so hard at times not to worry or panic when they don’t seem to be getting it right.  Have I neglected their character development?  Is there yet another deficit in their education?  G still hasn’t learned to speak calmly when he is disappointed.  Why does S seem so apathetic today?  And will A ever learn to take pride in his work, or to complete a task?

When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Matthew 9:36

Yet if I watch them from behind making progress down a tree-lined path, involved in casual conversation with one another, I just see how precious they are, what good friends they really are, and how wonderful brotherhood actually is.   I am able to focus.  Seeing with the eyes of God is clearer, less blurry.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we  fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18

They will not always be so impetuous, irresponsible, impatient.  I am reminded that I have, indeed, been given the eyes of God.  His eyes are the ones that see me as perfect, though he sees through me perfectly.  The eyes of grace see not what is there, but what may be, what will be there.  Grace sharpens our vision.

[Grace] calls things that are not as though they were.

Romans 4:17b

Grace will be the only thing to navigate us home.

 

Grace Even for the Aspie Mom

Is it erratic, pre-teen hormones, or perhaps just my son’s particular brand of Asperger’s that has brought on an overwhelming load of negativity into our home the last few years?  He astounds me by what he can find to whine about.  And whine he does.  This is draining, to say the least.  I know many of his outbursts stem not from behavioral issues, but from a real sense of frustration and overstimulation.  Many still believe that people on the spectrum do not experience a variety of emotions, or that they cannot sense what another is feeling (theory of mind).  This is just not accurate.  I see with my son that he feels too much, at times.  His feelings are bumping into one another, and he has no method of categorizing them..  So, frustration ensues.  Unfortunately, he has also allowed himself to develop the habit of lashing out with no real filter on his speech.  And much to our chagrin, he does this almost exclusively at home. 

How do I teach him to handle anger or frustration?  What do I do to model a calm spirit even when I don’t like what is going on around me?  Well, apparently, this past Monday, I yell back.  I threaten.  I lose my patience and exacerbate the problem until he no longer understands what he was upset about to begin with.  How is it possible to exhibit patience and peace when you are being sorely tested on a regular basis by a pre-teen about to explode?

We both need peace of mind. 

Continue reading Grace Even for the Aspie Mom