Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I Can't Wait

     I'm having a moment.  I've been having quite a few "moments" lately, actually.  My guess is that the culprit(s) are these female hormones I am so very blessed to carry around with me.  Apparently hormones sharpen my already stellar sarcasm skills, as well.  Good to know.
     Now back to this moment...
     I'm thinking that I hate autism.  I'm thinking that if autism were a person, I would spend the rest of my life doing prison ministry because I would violently murder it.  I'm just being honest.  It's straight out of the pit of hell and I make no apologies for saying so.  There are some people who have suggested that it is possibly a 'gift', some blessing in disguise.  And while I can see God working things out in myself and my family in the midst of this trial, I would have to wholeheartedly disagree.
     It sounds spiritual and makes us want to pat ourselves on the back for being so positive, but it's just plain not scriptural.  There is this anger that has risen in me over the lack of true belief in the professing church these days.  Not anger at people, but anger at the lie they've believed.  Somewhere along the way the church bought into the secular version of hope instead of God's version.  Unfortunately, I've even seen non-believers demonstrate more faith than so-called believers.  I will concede that God has done some amazing things in the lives of some people with disabilities and diseases.  That in spite of all odds, some are able to accomplish great things and I really do love seeing stories like that because it demonstrates our sheer will as humans to live life to the fullest we can manage.  But, as a believer in Jesus, I think it is our responsibility to believe for and expect more than that.
     I rarely see the people of God daring to believe for a complete and total miracle any more.  I've had people (with good intentions) try to comfort me with all the awesome things people with autism have done.  And in my mind I'm thinking, "That's great.  But he will not have autism for the rest of his life."  The church has such a reputation of hypocrisy and I think this subject might be the worst example of it.  Even though no one looks at it that way.  It's robbed the body of Christ and I'm sick of it.  Stop being led by fear and have the courage to trust God's word!  Have the boldness to stand on the covenant promises that the blood of Jesus bought and say, "I will not settle for anything less than abundant life."  You know what isn't included in abundant life?  Sickness, disease, disorder, lack, fear, addiction, depression...none of it gets to stay.  That is, if you can recognize it all as defeat instead of accepting them as a part of life.  The Bible says we have not, because we ask not.  What have we not been asking for?  I've had it put to me this way as well...What are we not contending for?  If we are satisfied with less then that's what we get.
     I cannot be satisfied with God doing things in Joshua's life despite his autism.  I will only be satisfied with him being totally healed from it.  Period.  End of story.  Sometimes my heart feels like it's being put through the ringer because I'm choosing this path of belief.  Doubt tries to creep in and paralyze me with fear that it won't ever happen.  But every day I choose to stand and contend, I feel more secured by my faith instead of exposed by it.  Instead of vulnerable, I feel hedged in, covered by the shadow of the Almighty.
     The thing that makes me hate autism most is that it has stolen Joshua's voice (for now).  I've never heard my four year old tell me he loves me.  I've never heard him yell, "Momma!" and run to me when I walk through the door.  I can't talk to him about how his day at school went or get him to understand how I love him so much that I will never be the same person because of it.
     BUT.  There are times when, out of nowhere, he will make eye contact with me and hold it for what seems like an eternity.  He stares into my eyes so deeply that I know he wants to tell me something and just can't manage it yet.  I never feel the bond with him stronger than I do in those moments because it's like he knows just when I need it.  These are the times that my faith is reinforced.  It's like he's saying, "Hang in there, Momma.  I'm stuck in here right now, but I won't be for long.  We'll be able to talk soon."
     And I think, "I can't wait, baby."

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Love and Real Life

"I remember trying not to stare the night that I first met you, you had me mesmerized. And three weeks later in the front porch light taking 45 minutes to kiss goodnight, I hadn't told you yet...but I thought I loved you then."

     It was April 30, 2006 and I was joining a group of people for Joy's birthday at Buffalo Wild Wings.  Penni told me her brother would be there and she was excited about introducing us but, not really wanting to get excited prematurely, I blew it off.  Besides, he probably wouldn't even be cute and if he was he probably wouldn't even like me or think I was cute...that's the really mature, non-high school gist of the millisecond of a thought I had about meeting this "Bobby" character.
     In the midst of normal table conversation and laughter, I catch a glimpse of this guy coming through the front door and what do ya know...he is cute after all.  Gorgeous.  Dead sexy.  Something along those lines.  And something really strange happens that I've never mentioned to him before writing this post.  Probably because I thought it would sound sappy and silly and like it came straight out of a romantic comedy, but it is the complete and honest truth.  I felt something almost physically shift and click into place inside me.  I didn't completely recognize it for what it was at the moment because I fought the mere idea of he and I for about a week after that, but eventually I knew it was my "when you know, you know" moment.  It's just that my head had to catch up.
     Later that day I found out that, what do ya know, he thought I was cute too.  Or hot.  Something along those lines.  Either way, we had managed to make a connection through the quick glances and two word sentences we exchanged that day at lunch with ten other people.  In the weeks that followed we figured out pretty quickly that we were gonna get married, it was just a matter of when.  When it was all said and done, we got married less than seven months from the day we met.
     I love our story of how we ended up together because I can look at all the details (most not mentioned here) and see how strategically God placed us in each other's paths.  But the story I love the most is the one that's still being told.  The one that started five years ago and has since taken on an entirely different shape than what we planned.  The one that is still being written every day in our home and through our journey as parents. These days the dreams of young girls have changed from being married to having a fabulous wedding.  Years of planning go into the wedding, but very little thought goes into the marriage itself.  When we first got married I would get really frustrated with people who had been married a long time and wanted to put their cynical two cents in on what marriage really was.  And, really, I still do.  I'm not a fan of bitterness, resentment and overall negativity especially when there's an attempt to infect others with it.  That being said...marriage is really hard.
     Maybe I should say it this way.  If your aim is to stay married for the rest of your lives and not run away when things get rough, then marriage is really hard.  Forever is a long time.  You're bound to hit some bumps along the way.  Babies come along.  Money gets tighter.  Patience wears thin.  Time gets shorter.  Life happens.  Don't misunderstand...I'm not saying any of this with the attitude of, "Well, enjoy being single while you can..."  I'm just saying that I've realized that when you love someone that much, then you'd better be prepared to fight for them.  And when you have someone who is willing to stick with you through the worst kind of crap, then thank God for them every day and don't take them for granted.  Choose to grow as a person.  Compromise.  And extend mercy the way God extends it to us.
     Bobby has been one of the greatest gifts God has ever given me and on this anniversary I am thinking about how I would like to live every day in a way that shows him that.  Five years ago two flawed, imperfect people promised to love each other through every stage of life, even the ones they didn't plan on encountering.  I am so blessed to have been one of them and I can't wait to see how the next five years turn out.  I love you, Bobby, you're the best.

"And we bear the light of the Son of Man, so there's nothing left to fear.  So I'll walk with you in the shadow lands, til the shadows disappear.  'Cuz He promised not to leave us and His promises are true, so in the face of all this chaos, baby I can dance with you."

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Everyday Stuff

      There is a little elf  in my house that keeps checking the dresser drawers for stray edges of clothing that are preventing the drawers from closing.  He then pushes on the clothes until they're out of the way and out of sight and closes the drawer properly.  He gets visibly irritated when the clothes don't want to cooperate right away.  His name is Joshua Allen.  It's hilarious because I have no idea how he decided that wasn't acceptable and also because he is constantly emptying his own bottom drawer until all of his clothes are on the floor.  Regardless, he's beginning to learn more and more where things belong and he's also beginning to put them there on his own.  I know I have the ABA to thank for this.  It's only been a few weeks, but I can already see changes in him.  And although it's difficult to explain those changes to someone who isn't around him on a daily basis, I have noticed them and my faith has grabbed hold as tight as it can.

         These pictures are one example of those changes.  Eye contact.  Focus.  Smiling.  All things I would have been hard pressed to get together in one photograph a couple months ago.  It's something else I've learned:  To take every positive thing and milk it for all it's worth.  Don't let cynicism come in and diminish the little things because they aren't the biggest thing.  We take every bit of progress we get around here and celebrate it to the fullest.  Things I would have taken for granted him learning to do if he had always been typical, I get excited over.  I have this feeling like at the end of everything, I will have been given the greatest lesson in gratefulness ever.  Which even kinda makes me grateful.

     Yes, that IS the same duck in both pictures.  Or "Guck" as he has been fondly named by Caleb.  He's only learned a couple words so far so he hasn't quite gotten all of his sounds down yet.  Guck is Caleb's favorite toy because he has a silky ribbon around his neck that he can rub while he sucks his thumb.  There is something about the children in this family and "silkies".  Joshua and my niece, Ryleigh are both the same way, only they prefer blankets and Caleb prefers Guck.  We almost lost the little guy in the mall the other day and I just knew if we didn't find him I was going to have to go on a hunt for a new one.  Thankfully someone had picked him up and set him on the counter in the store we were in, so crisis averted.  Of course, your 18 month old dropping his stuffed duck in a store is a lot cuter than your 18 month old causing you to accidentally steal something from a store, which happened the previous trip to the mall.  All of this brings me to my point about Caleb...he keeps you on your toes.  I think it has something to do with him being close to the ground and having cheetah-like speed.  He's also hilarious and keeps me laughing all day.  I can only imagine how much more entertaining he'll be once he starts really talking.
     Kids have a way of making you take note of where your priorities lie.  Just like Joshua is learning where things belong (and don't), I think I am too.  Don't misunderstand...My kids have always been at the top of my list, but there are other things that I've let fall to the back burner that I maybe shouldn't have.  I'm sure it's understandable...life is full of things that put a demand on our energy and cause us to shift our focus accordingly.  But we can't get to where we let everything else go forever.  I've had a vision for my children, but I've lost a little bit of the vision for me.  Thinking of it spiritually it brings me back to Song of Solomon where it says, "...they made me the keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept."  Sometimes we get so busy doing 'stuff', that we don't take care of our own stuff.  I take my responsibility as a mom very seriously, so I don't want to minimize what is required of me for my children, but if I'm not moving forward on the path God has specifically for me also, then I'm not going to be doing the best I can for them either.
     Anyway, enough rambling.  Just a little bit of the everyday to get the blog going again :)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"I Love..." Mondays: Friends

     It's still Monday.  I could swear I'm sitting here on Tuesday night but it just isn't true.  Today was Joshua's first FULL day at Autism House and he did great.  The kid is just a natural school-goer.  Apparently the routine of it all sits very well with him because he has even been in a better mood once he's home.  The first thing they have been working with him on is sitting at the table and doing his 'work'.  He started off only sitting for seven minutes at a time and now they already have him worked up to thirty.  He isn't a huge fan of the arts and crafts but he's gotten better and more compliant with that too.  I am just thrilled and so excited he's adjusting so well. It is absolutely answered prayer.
     Monday is becoming a real Monday to me now that I have to get up and get Joshua to school.  It's turned back into that day I dread because it means I have to set an alarm clock.  But it is also now a day that has one specific task connected to it and that's an "I Love..." post.  Today I asked myself what do I really, really love?  If there's one thing you should know about me, it's that I love my friends.  Well, I mean after knowing that I love my husband and my babies but I'm pretty sure y'all know that by now.  So, friends it is.  Here are some things I love about my friends.

  • Laughing.  I LOVE to laugh and could probably write a post about that too but no one makes me laugh like my girls so it's hard to separate the two.  I think I am friends with some of the funniest people ever and each of them have their own specific brand of hilarity.  If you can make me laugh, you've got me.
  • Inside jokes.  Yes, I know it goes along with laughing and yes, I know they can be very annoying when you aren't 'in' on them...BUT.  There's something to be said for laughing so hard about something that you continue to laugh about it for months or years to come, even when it's a little out of context or no one else around you has any clue what is so funny.  
  • Memories.  Which is really all inside jokes are.  It's a connector, reminding you that you've shared your life with someone else.  The good parts and bad parts.  
  • Girl talk.  I grew up being more of a tomboy, which is a trait I've somewhat retained, but I've always loved some good girl talk.  IF I knew I could trust all involved to not let it leave that room.  You've got something good if you have someone you can talk to about anything, everything, and nothing.  
  • Food.  To go along with the girl talk.
  • Reliability.  It's so important in a good, long-lasting friendship, but a little hard to come by.  People you know you can call if you need something, no matter what.
  • Getting to be real.  My favorite part in a friendship is when you pass the super polite/nice stage and start picking on each other.  If I can make fun of you without offending you, then we're friends.  If I can tell you the pair of shoes you just picked up in the store are hideous, then we're friends.  If I feel comfortable enough at your house to rummage through the fridge and pantry, then we're friends.
  • Nicknames.  I'm realizing that most of my friends right now have one.  And the ones that don't are probably about to get one.  
  • Honesty.  "Am I being a jerk?"  "Yes, you are." 
  • Secrets.  And not the "mean kind", Joy says.  I love having people who know me.  The past, the present, the deep stuff, and the...not so deep stuff that's just fun to giggle about.
  • The distance-doesn't-matter friends.  When you can keep in touch on the internet and phone or even maybe not talk for months and then pick up right where you left off, you've got something special.
  • No-reciprocation-needed Favors.  I can buy your lunch and you don't have to pay me back.  You babysit my kids and I don't have to pay you.  Doing things for each other just because you care about each other and that's what family does.  Because really...
  • They're like family.  A hand-picked, dysfunctional, unconditional-loving, loud, hungry, hilarious family.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

It's happening.

     I've been listening to myself a little closer lately and I'm beginning to realize how much like a mom I sound.  Not just because of typical sayings, but perceptions too.  When I hear a story, when someone wants to make plans, when I consider politics...everything has a mom undercurrent in my brain.  I'm only bringing this up because it's so unlike me.  Well...it's so unlike the pre-children me and the basest form of me.  But I'll get back to that part later.
     The thing I've heard myself saying the most lately is, "It's happening."  Let me use a hypothetical/probably-already-happened-before situation to illustrate.
     I am attempting to get the boys ready to leave the house.  It's finally time for me to put Joshua's shoes on him.  He resists.  I continue to chase his foot around with a sock.  He whines and continues to refuse.  I say something like, "Joshua, we are going to put your shoes on before we leave the house.  It's happening.  You can throw a fit all you want, but the shoes are happening."  Occasionally this is followed by another saying, "Those are the rules."  It also works for Caleb trying to squirm away every single time I change his diaper.  I've tried explaining to him that until he learns how to use the potty this is just going to be a fact of life he has to get used to, but he's not swayed by my logic.  Either that or he's 17 months old and has no clue what I'm saying to him.  It's one or the other.
     I would like to point out though, that I'm not as strict as that scenario might have led you to believe.  There have been plenty of times I've decided to let him win the shoe battle and concede to just putting the shoes on before we get out of the car to go into whatever the destination may be.  Many of you may be thinking that I should be consistent with my discipline.  And you're right.  But if there is one thing I have learned so far in having a special needs child, it's that parenthood doesn't always go the way you envisioned it before you actually had children.  Before I had kids, I was in the, "I'll never let my kids..." group.  Before Joshua's delays set in I was also in the highly populated, "If he was mine, I would..." group.  But that was before the immaturity and arrogance got slapped out of me by reality.  I don't have the luxury of teaching typical discipline, and yes, it IS a luxury.  All the things I thought I would solve with a butt whippin', can't be solved that way anymore.  I could spank Joshua until someone called CPS on me (which, for the record I would not do), he still isn't going to sit still in a chair (without entertainment) in a waiting room.  I've also figured out that while he does understand the word 'no' to an extent, he doesn't always obey right away or without prompting and it almost never sticks in his mind that he isn't allowed to do it anymore.  All he knows is you don't want him to do it right now, ten minutes from now is a whole new situation.
     What I use mostly in my child-rearing now is patience.  Not always and not to perfection, but more than I ever imagined was possible in my "my-life-is-just-about-me" days.  I also rely pretty heavily on my easy-going nature.  You might want to take everything that's not a toy away from your toddler and tell him 'no' all day long, but I don't have the energy for that.  If it's not going to cause him bodily harm or bring harm to the actual object, I say let him have it.  If Caleb is fussy and all he wants is to carry my hairbrush around the house, I'm giving the kid the hairbrush.  If he wants to dig silverware out of the dishwasher while I'm trying to load it, I'm going to hand him a clean plastic spoon so he can run off with it like he stole it from Bed, Bath and Beyond.  I've figured out that the more they think they're not supposed to have it, the happier they are that they do.  Sounds like most adults I know, as well.
     Back to this not being me.  I mean, I know none of us think we will ever say the things our parents said to us and then we all eventually do.  But I guess I'm just thinking about things like the patience and how before I had kids, I had none.  For anyone or anything.  Joshua came along and all of a sudden the patience was never-ending.  Like I brought it home from the hospital with him.  It's stretched a little thin since then, but any time I make myself take a breath and a step back, I find it again.  I think it's powered by gratefulness, which is another thing I didn't possess as much of before kids (and Bobby).  I struggled for so long with finding any worth in myself that it was difficult being grateful for life in it's simplest form.  Air in my lungs, a roof over my head, etc.  But I was always grateful for the people in my life.  So when the people I love more than anything else came along, thankfulness began to spill out everywhere.  I think I was shocked at what I'd been given compared to what I thought I deserved.
     It's like with Joshua.  When he was born and wasn't breathing, those few minutes of silence were gut-wrenching.  All I wanted for the rest of my life was to hear that baby cry.  So when he did, I promised myself I would never be angry or impatient with his crying because it meant he was breathing.  And it still works every time.  Now that he is four and non-verbal, I've had people tell me, "Well when he finally starts to talk you'll be wishing he would stop."  And, yeah, I get the joke...but all I can think is, No...I won't.  I am going to let that little boy talk and talk and talk some more.  And when he's asked me twenty questions in twenty minutes I will still be thanking God that I can have a conversation with my baby.
     And with Caleb.  I think I get extra excited over every little 'first' because he's starting to do things that Joshua hasn't yet, which takes weight off of me with every milestone.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that all of this has made me more appreciative, more patient...more willing to hope and believe.  Being a mom has made me a better person.  If I'm being honest I would have to say that I never liked the idea of me being a mom becoming my identifier.  I didn't want that to be all my life was.  But now I'm realizing how it's impossible for it to not be.  It's so in me.  It literally IS what I am.  I know this must sound strange, but I just didn't expect to ever be Ok with feeling like a real mom.  I wanted to have children, and stay at home with them, and be a really awesome mom...I just didn't want to be a MOM-mom.  I don't even know how to explain that but there it is.  And guess what??  I'm a MOM-mom, now.  My life is my kids and I couldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"I Love..." Mondays: Southern Charm

     Well, I missed a few weeks of "I love..." posts so I wanted to make sure I got this one done.  Even if it's Tuesday.  Today it's all about the south.  I was born and raised right here in Southeast Texas and I love everything it's contributed to who I am now.  I decided to make this about the south and not just Texas since I've learned that some people consider us TexasProud folks obnoxious, but I'm pretty sure that's just because they are jealous.  Half the time other parts of the south don't even want to include Texas as part of the south.  Nevertheless, I'm including all of the south in the awesomeness.  To start off let me just say that as fiercely proud of being from the south as I am, that never includes the confederacy.  Sorry, I don't get down with slavery.  And I might have a little redneck in me, but you won't see any confederate flag tattoos, bumper stickers, t-shirts, etc. coming from this girl.  And you might want to consider what you're representing if you have any of these things in your possession.  Just a thought.
     Ok, on with the awesomeness.
  • My first love has to be the simple fact that the south is so proud.  I don't mean proud as in arrogant like you might find some other places, but proud as in a pure appreciation.  I feel privileged like I'm part of a culture that is steeped in community, joy and love.
  • Sweet.  Iced.  Tea.  'Nuff said.
  • Football.  Without getting into specific teams, I just want to point out that we produce the best football players, with Texas leading the way.  Football is an essential part of southern culture.  I can't imagine my childhood without memories of adults in the living room screaming at the television at basically every family function.
  • Southern food and all that it brings with it.  It's more than cholesterol and calories, it's community and family as well.
  • Friendliness and manners.  We have the nicest drivers (Houston and Dallas notwithstanding) and strangers still wave "Hello" to each other.  People say, 'please', 'thank you', 'yes ma'am', 'no sir' and smile when they make eye contact.  I pray we aren't a dying breed.
  • Whataburger, Sonic and Dairy Queen.  The Trifecta of southern fast food.
  • You can basically wear flip-flops year round.  And that's because of...
  • The weather.  I can't say I'm a fan all the time, but it's one of those things that makes home, home.  Horrible heat and humidity.  "In the south we mature quicker...I think it's the heat."--Blanche Devereaux
  • Camouflage.  To specify...men in camouflage coveralls that just got done hunting or doing something extra manly.  Which brings me to...
  • Manly men.  We have to have the largest population of truly resourceful men.  Car broke down?  Fallen tree across the road?  Need someone to take the fish you just caught off your line?  Have a slab of beef that looks like it belonged to Fred Flintstone you need cooked?  They can do it.  "We can skin a buck, we can run a trot line..." comes to mind.
  • Blue Bell ice cream.  And the fact that southerners are so loyal to it.
  • Rodeos conjoined with fairs.
  • Cicadas.  Which, by the way, are NOT locusts.  Just so we're clear.
  • Our drawl.  But not the way the rest of the country tries to stereotype anyone with that accent as a moron.  That's like saying everyone from England is a genius.
  • In addition to the accent, we speak figuratively more than literally.  There's a saying for everything and  it doesn't matter if it doesn't make any literal sense.  Not only that, but we have whole words and phrases that just don't exist in the rest of the country.  "Y'all" is the obvious and my favorite.  But we also have "fixin'".  Not a shortened form of 'fixing' like someone would use to say they were repairing something, but 'fixin' as in, "I'm fixin' to run to the store for some boudain and roux, y'all want anything?"  We've been known to catch a whole 'mess' of fish and pass 'smooth' out.  One of the first times Bobby and I went to the mall together he asked me where he could find some "pajama britches" and I almost fell on the floor.
  • We really appreciate a true raconteur.  I think my husband is one of the best I've ever met.
  • All soft drinks are a "coke".  "What do you want to drink?"  "A coke."  "What kind?"  "Dr. Pepper."
  • Big trucks.  Ridiculous...and also dead sexy.
  • Bonfires.
  • Back roads.
  • Four-wheeling.     
  • The countryside at dusk.
     Ok, that's all I got for now.  Anything else any of y'all southerners want to add to the list?