Monday, January 16, 2017

Full Circle

I had been wanting to join a ladies' Bible study for awhile. In the past, I had attended one that met in the morning during the week, but as I got busier with work, it just didn't make sense to continue. Last Monday evening was the first meeting and it was wonderful. Afterwards, chatting with a few of the ladies, I couldn't shake the feeling that I knew one of them from somewhere. The details began to fall into place: three children close together in age, had lived in the area for a long time. It was her. It was the woman who helped me at Sarah Bush eleven years ago.

Eleven years ago Brenna had strep, Sam and Emily were small and only sixteen months apart in age and I needed to take Brenna to the doctor. Greg had class and work, friends were busy and by necessity it was going to be a family outing for the siblings that day. After seeing the doctor, Brenna laid herself down in the middle of the foyer at Sarah Bush and refused to get up. If you've ever had a kindergartner go limp, you know exactly how hard it is to get them back up-- especially if you need to push a double stroller any distance while carrying the limp noodle.

It was then that this woman, who I had never met before, purposely approached me, pushed the stroller out to my car with me and then re-entered the hospital for her son's appointment. She doesn't remember this happening. I do.

This act of kindness reassured me that I was not on my own as a mother. Her reaching out assured me that people didn't simply stare at our family when autistic behavior was evident for all to see. It meant so much to me and made me love my community more. It made me want to have eyes to see and help others, if (and this was a big if) I ever reached a place with children walking upright that freed up my hands to walk alongside and help others.

God has such a sense of humor bringing this full circle.

"And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father."

Colossians 3:17

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Reflections on the beauty of failure and jagged edges

I had good intentions of blogging regularly while D was with us these past four weeks. It isn't that it has been four weeks without event, conversation or growth. It's just that the longer I host and the more I spend time with him, the more I realize how so much of our time together isn't necessarily mine to share. Here are a few thoughts and snippets that I feel are "mine" that I can let you take a peek at.

D is a wonderful and complex young man. We weathered a rough week during week 2-3, had a big conversation on Christmas Eve that put lots of his questions out in the open. Frank conversation can be hard for me-- I grew up in a home where you often ignored or danced around difficult conversations. This is new territory to simply ask, "Are you angry with me? Let's talk about it." It was also new to reassure him, "It's okay if you're mad at me." And the all time favorite D quote from our time together, "You failed me, mom." The first time I heard it, I felt like I had been kicked. I didn't even have a response because the shock and hurt were pretty consuming. It led to some time in reflection, prayer and digging into the core of why it ate me up when he said that.  The next time I heard it, I hugged him and said, "Then it's really like you're part of the family. Because I fail my husband and children spectacularly on a regular basis. Get in the "mom-failed-me" line and enjoy the view."

And at that point, all passive aggressive behavior stopped and we grew closer.

When friends ask, "How's it going?" I hesitate to share some of those little gems. I don't want to portray D in a negative light. And I don't want to insinuate that hosting was always difficult or without reward. On the contrary-- it's been an amazing time together. We had spiritual conversations that resulted in him sharing his honest views and questions, not just giving me Sunday School answers that will make me happy. I feel like we had the chance to know him better, and not just in the sense of the exotic: "Wow! A teen from Eastern Europe who has a completely different culture and language we can learn more about". No, this hosting was getting to know him better, and that was a lovely experience.

The more I reflect, the more I believe that the rough, jagged edges of our time together came from his comfort level and a careful "push" at us. Are we really safe? Do we really care about him-- even if he's challenging in the moment? Honestly, I came to see these difficult moments as a beautiful thing. Because my biological kids can be real stinkers sometime, but know that we'll always love them no matter what. I hope he came away with the same realization.