‘What If’ and ‘If Only’

“Kids, get to bed!”

I gave an exasperated look to David showing my frustration of why our then elementary school aged kids were not going to sleep upstairs. It was well past their bedtime.

Their voices became louder.

That was it. I got up and was ready to march upstairs and give them a piece of “Don’t mess with Momma Jill” until I heard…

“She is going to live with Jack and me in an RV, got it?!?!”

Jim pounded the ground in his frustration and said, “No! She is living with me and my wife!”

“What is this all about?” I looked bewildered as my kids were outside their bedroom doors having a pow-wow.

Kendall with tears in her eyes said, “When you and Dad die, Jack and I are going to take care of Sarah. We are going to buy an RV and travel around the country.”

Jim piped in, “I’m the oldest and I say she will live with me and my wife. I’m going to build a house for her in my backyard.”

Bless their hearts!

I thanked them for loving their sister so much, but this was something we don’t need to decide now. After I got them all in bed, tears filled my eyes as I thought this was heavy on their minds, too.

Linda Dillow in her book “Calm My Anxious Heart” speaks about the spiritual diseases, ‘What if’ and ‘If Only’.

Do you know there are spiritual diseases?  Two of the deadliest are the “if” diseases, What If and If Only.  These illnesses are fraternal twins, alike but not alike.  Both lack the eyes of faith.  What If looks to the future and worries about what God might allow.  If Only looks into the past and grumbles about what God has given.  The first leads to anxiety, the second to anger.” (page 150)

I have to admit that I have invited both of these twins over to my heart and mind and let them stay longer than they should!

The ‘What If’ likes to prey on my thoughts of when I might not be able to care for Sarah. Who will take care of her? Is it fair, that while my kids are willing to care for her, that they should have to take on that burden? Will she be safe if placed in a facility?

The ‘If Only’ entertains my thoughts of what life would have been like if Sarah did not have Autism. There is an isolation that comes from this journey. Limitations, sacrifices made. You can let your mind dream of how you think life should be.

Both are dangerous and as Linda Dillow points out, deadly.

Do I believe God is sovereign? Do I believe God is good? Do I believe He loves me and Sarah? YES!! With my whole heart, yes! Then my answer to these questions ends the conversation, my little get together, with ‘What If’ and ‘If Only’, and I show them the door.  While they can knock on the door of my heart, I do not have to answer it or let them in. I have the choice.

They cannot change my circumstances only my attitude. They steal my joy and peace and give me anxiety and discontent in return. No thank you! They are certainly no friends of mine!

Isaiah 52:13b, “for the Lord will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.”

He guards me from my past, the ‘If Only’ disease, and protects me from the ‘What If’ disease as I walk ahead.

He is the immunization to both! Praise Him!


Little Cheater

Sarah just had her eye exam and it is always difficult to know how this will go. The doctor has used prisms to check Sarah’s eyes (How the Light Made a Difference, 16 Feb 2014) or Sarah has read from the screen that is across the room. Reading from the screen can be difficult because we don’t know if she is just saying letters or if she really is trying to tell you what she is seeing.

This year was no different. The doctor had to use both prisms and the screen to find the prescription Sarah needed. Yet, we ran into some issues. Sometimes Sarah called out 8 letters when there were only 5 letters on the screen. Or, saying letters that were nowhere close to the letters displayed, for example saying “Y” for the letter “N”. I looked at her and back at the screen wondering what she was looking at! Other times she read the line perfectly. That was until Sarah’s little secret was discovered.

The doctor put smaller and smaller font sized letters up on the screen. Sarah began to struggle. She put her head down and made a moaning/cry noise. This is a coping mechanism of hers if she wants to disengage from the situation. It is quite common for people with Autism to do this. Basically, I think for Sarah it is ‘if I don’t look at it, then it doesn’t exist’ and ‘if I cry you might let me get out of doing this’.  She would then looked out the corner of her eye put her head up and say the letters perfectly. The doctor changed the screen and Sarah did the same thing.

Was Sarah taking a moment to process things? Was it a sensory overload and she needed to look away to cope? I was proud of her for working through this and saying what was on the screen. I thought we were going to get an accurate diagnosis for sure. Then the doctor started to laugh.

“Sarah, are you looking at my screen?” The doctor had a small monitor that faced her that she used to take notes. On the bottom of the screen was an image of what was projected on the screen across the room.

Sarah looked down. She put her fingers to her throat so she could feel the vibration as she moaned once more.

“Sarah, are you cheating?” teased the doctor.

That was it. Sarah looked at me and sheepishly whispered, “Yes.” She then burst out in her hyena type laugh.

The doctor and I roared in laughter!

The doctor turned her monitor so it faced her more and we started the exam over again. This time we got the right prescription for Sarah.

There are times I am like Sarah. I come up to a roadblock or a challenge and I want to disengage, complain or moan to the Lord about it or find ways to get around it. Sometimes I don’t want to exert the energy or time that is needed to invest in it. Have you felt this way? We need to give ourselves a mental pep talk and spend a lot of time in prayer before we face what lies before us. And we need coffee. And we need chocolate and caramel, preferably together. (Okay, maybe those last few ones are just me.)

Last week, I was watching a devotional video from First5.org. The speaker, Whitney Capps, spoke about when the 12 tribes of Israel made it to the Promise Land, a few of the tribes decided not to cross the Jordan River and wanted to stay on the side they were currently on. The land around them looked good and even though God had given them the land on the other side, they didn’t want it. (Numbers 32) They settled for the easy. They settled for the “good enough” and years later they were the first to be attacked and taken off to captivity (I Chronicles 5:26). Could it be that they were an easier target because they did not have the Jordan River as a natural defense? (23 Jul 2016 ‘Don’t Stop Short of God’s Best’ www.first5.org)

I have a feeling that you are with me that we don’t want to settle for the “good enough” instead of what God has planned for us. While difficult at times, I would rather struggle through it and come out in the end with what He has planned verses me looking for shortcuts. Cheating doesn’t help and like Sarah will give us the wrong thing we need. If we went by what Sarah said when she was cheating, we would have left with a prescription too weak to be any benefit to her. She also would have found herself later on frustrated that she couldn’t see and possibly physically bothered with strained eyes and headaches. How true in my own life! Taking the easier way leads to frustration later down the road. No, the temporary discomfort of a roadblock is worth the exhilaration of making it to the other side and all that we learn through the process of it.

Thank you, Sarah, my “Little Cheater”, for reminding me it serves me no good to look for the easy way out when life gets tough. With a deep breath and a lot of prayer, I move forward on this journey.

Hebrews 12:11, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

*My basketball coach in high school made us memorize this verse while we ran laps. We ran a lot….. 🙂