A Weird One

Giggles. “I just noticed how weird his….Bahaha his eyes look.” – Shelton.

Weird had most definitely been the word of our day. As this weird day had drawn to a close I was snuggled on the couch with Shelton and Maggie. We’d watched a special on the Terracotta Army buried in China and a documentary on William Shakespeare. We’d decided we would like to visit China and Stratford-on-Avon. The classically educated Shakespeare provoked the weird eye comment. Words like rhetoric and logic Latin and Greek recognized by my own classical learners. Shelton’s giggles and observations served to remind me of the bizarre and weirdness of that day.

As the dawn broke that morning and the earliest of Martin risers meandered to the kitchen it was apparent that today would be an “off” day for Maggie. Her choice of a paring knife to spread her homemade butter and jam onto her scrambled eggs evoked a foreshadowing of the “off” day. She “forgot it wasn’t toast.” Those days are ones where things are just off. Her struggles more apparent and obvious to those of us who spend everyday with her. It grieves my heart but kicks me into gear knowing she needs more in the way of help.

Scott Martin had finals that week. Finals mean the louder of the Martins vacate so as not to disturb the test taker. An off day, a plan to vacate, and a to do list a mile long. I should 2005_honda_odyssey_lx_-_nhtsahave deduced early on… weird was in my future. So as my tired old minivan wandered down the roads of Gardendale I shouldn’t have been surprised when the low flying bird collided with the front of my van, death instantaneous, the impact propelling the dead bird carcass onto my windshield wipers where it became lodged.

A little known fact, when I get nervous I laugh. I laugh a lot, an uncontrollable, awkward laugh. Birds are not my favorite. Birds make me nervous. The dead bird on my windshield thrust me into such a fit of laughter I could no longer drive my vehicle and was convinced I might be forced to abandon it on the side of Mt Olive Road. The Martins all having witnessed the event and now witnessing their Mama lose it all had various comments.

“Did that really just happen?”

“Oh it happened!”

“I can’t even!”

I fought hard to compose myself. The decision was made to pull over near a grassy area and propel the dearly departed via a wiper blade into the grass where he would return to earth from which he came. Still experiencing after shock fits of laughter, a short time spicy20chicken20cowlater we reached our destination, the local Chick-fil-A. Charlotte had been saving her gift card she earned early in the summer rocking babies and feeding toddlers during a babysitting gig. The time had come for her to relinquish it in exchange for a much desired spicy chicken sandwich.

As is customary, Shelton chooses a table, gathers condiments, and the girls and I obtain the food. As we sat down at the table I was seated directly across from Maggie. In the same position at the table behind us was another family. A common denominator was obvious to me as I looked around our dining table: three separate families, all with multiracial children, two of which were seated in the exact position. To my right an exasperated mom of said children and who, in the words of Maggie, was “talking mean to her kids.” Soon the mean talker mamma left and another weird thing happened. Maggie and her opposite table counterpart were clearly affected. Maggie watched intently as the woman gathered her children and looked at me with the question she asks often, “Why do people talk mean to their kids?” The counterpart at the opposite table shed tears. Soon he was wiping his eyes with the recycled paper made napkin. Within moments Maggie was doing the same.

54c6bfefb302dd3b87d157dae74c5981I offered all I could to Mag’s, the only balm that can truly ease a broken heart, prayer. We prayed for the mama and we prayed for her kids. We prayed for the weary and the broken. We asked for forgiveness if we’d acted in such a way that doesn’t honor our King. After our prayer we carried on with our meal. The crying counterpart continued to mourn.

The weirdness of the situation, the seating arrangements, even the unspoken thread that seemed to link them, a history of mean talking did not escape me. Wounds made long ago by mean talking and mean acting that still feel fresh when confronted with that mean talking mama. Soon our meal came to a close and we moved on with our day. We giggled as we talked about the bird incident and how Daddy would react when we told him. We laughed hysterically when I purchased “Jesus’s head stickers” that Charlotte promptly placed in the glove compartment for safe keeping. Everything about that was weird.

Soon we arrived home and the weird gave way to mundane, that was until the Shakespeare observation. Did Shakespeare have a lazy eye in need of correction? Maybe some not yet named ocular disorder. Perhaps the artist’s rendering was inaccurate or he spilled some ink in a most unfortunate place when depicting the famed playwright. As Shelton surveyed the likenesses on the television screen, he had drawn the conclusion that regardless the etiology, Shakespeare looked weird. As I made my way to bed that night I gave thanks for weird, for unique; most of all I am thankful for laughter and for a King who freely gives it as a balm to the weary and broken soul.

A bit more weirdness to brighten your day!

Pig photo credit

 

Spectrum of Faith

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Years ago, I made a conscious decision to see the world the best I could the way my son Shelton does. To understand how he thinks and what he feels, to do my best to understand the world from his perspective. Years ago, the word autism became an everyday part of my vocabulary. Years ago I was devastated, there is no cure, there is no explanation. It simply just is and I was angry that it was our is.

early-diagnosis-autism-neurosciencenews-publicI felt I was armed with little in the way of resources, so I made the decision to learn and understand, to read and to inquire, arm myself with information and pray. I would, I have, I do pray. A lot. In the beginning I asked my King to take it away. Upon reflection of my past behavior, that tends to be my go to with King, just take it away and then I do not have to deal with it. Clearly, I avoid conflict. Clearly He does not seek my counsel on what I think is best for me. When He does not honor said request, I then become angry, indignant, and attempt to give the King the silent treatment. This proves to be a futile effort, rudimentary in its effectiveness. Eventually faith and trust give way. I accept the is, and I make concerted efforts such as the ones laid out above.

Now, many years later, my efforts are not always as intentional. One such instance happened a couple of years ago. I was scanning the radio stations when I heard an interesting talk show debate of sorts. The voice of the host, the lack of inflection and excitement despite the passionate subject matter, seemed vaguely familiar to me and I continued to listen. Over time, I grew to like the show host and co-host. Their discussions were informative and varied, but I could take them, or leave them, all contingent upon the next song played. My opinion and understanding changed entirely the day I heard them discussing how the parent of an individual with an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) was told by a person of authority that this child was incapable of having a relationship with Jesus. In essence, the authoritarian told the parent to give up hope and not to expect from his or her child the impossible. I was stopped at an intersection, headed into Fultondale. That discussion marked me. It immediately gave me cause to listen. I turned the radio up and settled in.

I’ve also made a conscious decision to be honest, to be candid, if I’m gonna lay it all out there I ain’t even gonna try to lie. So here goes honesty, it marked me because if I am honest, I will admit the very thought has crossed my mind. It does not take a Rocket Scientist to figure out that a relationship with Jesus hits the top of my priority list for my children. It is often the answer to the rhetorical “Why I do what I do” or “What are we doing?” If I do nothing else in this life I want their relationship with the King to be better than my own. All of my children have professed a relationship with Jesus, each one fleshing that out as uniquely different as they are.

pexels-photo-207653Shelton, randomly just told me he loved Jesus and that was that. He isn’t such a big talker about it. He rarely gets emotional. Being the overly emotional and dramatic individual that I am, this is a concept I have difficulty with. As I listened to the radio that day the host divulged a fact about himself. He reported that he too was on the autism spectrum. He then debunked the entire theory that the individual in question could not have a relationship with Jesus. I ain’t even gonna lie here, I got out of my minivan elated, an extra pep in my step. Hope again prevailed and I carried on about my day a little lighter.

From that point on I was what they call “a dedicated listener.” Shelton most especially enjoys the show. To date my favorite was his reaction to the discussion that revolved around “Fiddy Cent” and his large donation to the Autism Society (fueled by his indiscretion at an airport involving an individual on the Autism Spectrum). Between Shelton and the host’s explanation on how it feels to be bullied when you are on the Autism Spectrum, I was enlightened. All I can say is, I had no idea. It was eye-opening.

It is now customary for us to listen to the show as we traverse the Alabama terrain going from place to place. On just such a day recently my wandering thoughts were focused on what my ears were actually hearing. It was a discussion on the emotional matters. The scenario being described, I’m familiar with. An emotionally driven and charged time of reflection, worship, prayer, a box (or twelve) of tissues scattered about the premises, crying and hugging and crying and more hugging. My emotionally dramatic self loves a time like that. I’ve been a puddle lots of times, but as my world has morphed into that of being the mom, and as my age has progressed and time has passed, those times are fewer and far between. It is not that I am no longer moved by the King, in fact I am more moved now than ever but those moments tend to occur more in private than in public. (There’s also the small logistical detail that my dry eyes do not as readily produce tears.) Over time though, I’ve come to realize, rarely was I weeping over that which should have grieved me. Rarely did I weep because I was overwhelmed by the goodness of God, or devastated by my own sin.

So as the host described such a scene and interjected his perspective of having not understood it. He made the following statements, “Statements of the Day”, maybe of the decade…”All that is emotion. There isn’t much in the Bible about emotions. There is a lot about faith. Faith is carried out dry-eyed serving day-to-day.” I wrestled with that one for the remainder of the afternoon. Those I saw may have even wondered where my mind was. It was here, camped out wrestling over that one, weighing what I know about faith and service against the stated argument. I even went to the recess of my memory and recalled a statement made by a friend of mine several years ago about how the King himself, hadn’t allowed himself to be dominated by emotion and feelings, how when He could’ve buckled beneath it He didn’t. In the midst of Lego sea creations, brain-builds of all sorts, hello’s and goodbyes, errand running and lunch I wrestled, and again the King said to me “What is your name?” He asks me that when He wants me to refocus, to gain a new perspective. Declaring my name gives me cause to pause and reflect. I’ve come to realize that emotion isn’t a bad thing; God made me to feel emotion, but it is not to dominate me. All that emotion doesn’t add up to faith. Emotion is not required for a relationship with Christ, faith alone is.

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Faith is carried out dry-eyed serving day-to-day.

Message to a Young Mom

Today my mind is on life, work, and purpose. As a semi-retired, stay-at-home wife right now, I wonder, Am I contributing to the world? What is my purpose? What do I have to offer? Am I where I need to be? Am I doing what the Lord wants me to do?

So today I write to you, the Me of 20-30 years ago, to encourage you. You are in a similar, yet totally different, situation right now, but you are having some of those same type5319000-pile-of-dirty-clothes-for-the-wash-stock-photo questions. The constant stream of laundry – Mt. Never-Rest, as my friend Susan calls it – is a major feat to be accomplished in any given week. Rocking babies, clearing the toys away, rushing to t-ball or gymnastics or whatever, cleaning house, and the constant cooking and dish-washing go hand in hand with the laundry to use up many of the hours in your day. Been there. Done that.

As a young mom with your hands full of babies and dirty diapers and a messy house, you may wonder How am I really contributing to the world right now? You know your husband and children need you, but that seems like such a small thing. Comparing that to working to save the lives of critically ill people or living in a mud hut in central Africa ministering to an unreached people group or keeping a huge corporation running as you click around in your high heals meeting pressing needs and brushing shoulders with other important people or teaching and training the next generation’s leaders, your life may seem simplistic and full of repetitive busy tasks that have to keep being done over and over with no apparent progress made. After all laundry and dishes and the house just get dirty again, and cooking and bathing and dressing have to be performed over and over each day.

baby-child-kid-girl-161593If you are at that stage of life where spit-up on your shirt, puffy eyes from little sleep, and day old ponytail hair seem to be the hallmark of motherhood, take heart! It won’t always be this way, In fact, these days pass much too quickly, taking their joys and wonder away with them. But what do you do in the meantime, in this phase of life where purpose and meaning can feel lost or we can feel insignificant?

Well, dearest Me, let me offer some thoughts for perspective – things I wish I had been told or was told, but didn’t allow myself to believe when my babies were young.

  1. Cleaning and scrubbing really CAN wait til tomorrow!

I had this little poem by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton posted in my children’s nursery, but I couldn’t allow myself to fully believe it:

“Cleaning and scrubbing can wait til tomorrow,
For babies grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow,
So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep,

I’m rocking my babies, and babies won’t keep!”

A former pastor’s wife used to say, “The days are long but the years are short.” And now that my “babies” are 30, 27, 24, and about to turn 20 years old, I realize how right she was. Where did the time go? When I call my grandson by his daddy’s name, it’s not because I’m old and senile, it’s because my mind can’t grasp that my baby is old enough to have his own baby. I remember the day that I realized I wasn’t a young mother any more. It shocked me! I thought, “How did I get to this point? I was so busy doing all my required duties as a young mom and suddenly I’m out of a job!”

So if I could go back in time, I’d tell Younger Me – Savor the moments! Welcome the distractions! Sit down and play. Hug and love on those little ones. One day you will wish you could again. Supper burns – oops! Laundry is piled high – who cares. You eat PB&J sandwiches again – so what! Your house isn’t a Southern Living showcase – there’s another season for that. In years to come, what your heart will rejoice over or regret is the hugs, kisses, moments of joy, and memories made with your family – or the lack of those.

2. Image doesn’t matter. Who you really ARE does.

But as a Mom of littles, society sends us a different message. We get this message from society at large as well as from well-meaning friends, parents, husbands, or from media, movies, and magazines full of pictures of perfect houses, gourmet meals, and beautiful people.  Satan shouts lies to us through posts on social media. Over and over we hear “You’re not enough, you don’t measure up.”

When we get caught up in how we appear to others, we lose sight of those little hearts being formed under our command. In other words, the more we look at things through the world’s glasses, the less we truly see our lives as they really are. We’re in a rush, so we don’t see with compassion those sad eyes full of tears; we see them with annoyance. We greedily look forward to those “free” moments where we can escape to TV or friends or Instagram or even alcohol, possessively guarding them because we tire of being self-sacrificing. And we waste our time trying to live up to some vague standards, rather than investing our time in the eternal work of loving, guiding, teaching and nurturing these tiny souls.

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

3. Take time to renew.

We moms are a paradox. For all our whining, wanting OUR time and being irritated that we are in constant demand, we will turn around and label ourself “selfish” for taking some alone time to renew and do what’s truly good for us. That’s crazy! Jesus, with all he had to do on earth, took time to be alone. So plan for those essential personal moments to exercise, nap, be with your husband, go on a date, read God’s word, think, grow, and refresh your spirits.

4. Time with the Lord in His Word and prayer are essential.

What we really need… is time alone with the Lord to bathe in His love, see ourselves clearly, get correction from His Word, have our worldview aligned with scripture, grow as Jesus did – “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52) and to “be transformed by the renewing of our mind.” (Romans 12:2) Second Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” And James 5:16 reminds us to “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” We see that scripture is useful and prayer is powerful and effective. instagram-cell-phone-tablet-device-163148Those are the worthwhile things to invest our time in that have eternal consequences. In the down moments you have between the demands of motherhood, do you reach for God’s Word or for the smart phone?

5. Being a mom is not a small thing! You ARE contributing to the world!

Raising kids is a thing of great importance. Just glancing around at the selfishness and lawlessness of our world a person can readily see the significance of raising kids full of godly wisdom and character. Training children can be tedious. It is repetitious. A mom doesn’t always see any fruit of her efforts. But you are doing a job that will bear fruit for generations to come and one that will bear far greater dividends than any Fortune 500 CEO could ever hope to achieve.

Will your child be an average responsible citizen, a rebel, or the next Billy Graham, who knows? Only God. But Sweet Mother, you DO have a purpose! To follow God faithfully and seek Him every minute of every day. You DO have something to offer! Little Mommy, you give every ounce of yourself every day for those you love. You are right where God wants you! Don’t let Satan cause you to doubt. You are doing EXACTLY what the Lord wants you to! He gave you those little charges to love and to teach and to cherish.

Now you’ve been told. Believe it!

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men. Colossians 3:23