Defender of the Defenseless

We are overwhelmed by everyone’s kindness regarding Sarah’s ‘Night to Shine’ event! What a dramatic difference than what we received when Sarah went shopping for her dress!

Back in January a flyer came home from Sarah’s school inviting her to ‘Night to Shine’. I read the flyer to the family and asked Sarah if she wanted to go to Prom. She looked at the flyer and then went to grab her coat. I guess that meant she was in! I had to tell her it wasn’t that night but it was coming soon.

Sarah needed a dress for this event. We have a Salvation Army store by our house that has prom dresses and I thought we would try there first. We might be pleasantly surprised! Kendall wanted to come with us and so the three of us ventured out around 7pm on a Saturday night to the Salvation Army store. A Gregory Girls’ Night Out!

I told Sarah what we were doing and she was so excited. In the parking lot Sarah made a dash for the store. Thankfully, Kendall caught her by her hand.  As we walked in I did a quick scan of the store and saw that it wasn’t too busy.

“Good.” I thought. While Sarah is getting better in public and not crying as much, I still am very hesitant about taking her out. We never know if she will start to cry loudly.

We made our way to the prom dresses section and there were so many to choose from! There were short and long ones, sparkly sequins to smooth satin in all sizes and colors. We picked a few we thought might fit and Kendall wanted to help Sarah get changed in the dressing room. I stood outside the dressing room door and would return dresses that didn’t fit and went back to the racks looking for other options for her to try on.

We found the red velvet dress that Sarah did eventually choose for ‘Night to Shine’. Only $10.99! Gotta love the price! Yet, we were not quite sure if this was ‘THE’ one. Sarah still had several more dresses to try on. There was one that I thought might also be a winner. It had hot pink sequins that covered the entire bodice. It screamed Sarah! When Sarah went to try it on, it turned out to be a pant suit. Sarah thought this was hilarious.

“Funky! I look funky!” Sarah squealed.

Not sure where she heard that word before. I opened the door to see Sarah spreading her legs apart and she bent down to show that it was a pant suit.

“Funky!”

Kendall and I laughed and I told her to be quiet. That did it. She began to yell,

‘FUNKY!!’

Kendall put her hand over Sarah’s mouth, but again, that just fueled her more.

‘FUNKY! I LOOK FUNKY!’ she yelled louder.

I told Kendall to get her changed and told Sarah once more to be quiet.

Kendall turned to me and asked what shoes Sarah would wear to Prom. Good question! She doesn’t have any nice dress shoes. I decided to look at the shoe section that was right next to the changing rooms.

‘Wouldn’t it be great if I could find sparkly shoes for Sarah?’ I thought as I looked on the shelves.

“Funky!” was continued to be yelled with a hysterical laugh as Sarah couldn’t contain her excitement. The dressing rooms had no ceilings and her yell and giggle echoed throughout the store.

It continued to get louder and I went back once again to tell her to be quiet.

Then it happened.

“WILL YOU SHUT HER UP? MY WORD! SHE IS RUINING MY SHOPPING EXPERIENCE!”

I looked over to see a woman hissing at me in disgust. I just barely saw her head and it seemed to be that she was hiding behind the rack of clothes.

“I am so sorry! She has severe autism.”  I apologized.

“WELL I DIDN’T KNOW! GOOD GRIEF! SHE IS SO LOUD!” Her tone was sarcastic and unkind.

I said it again apologetically, “I’m so sorry! She has severe autism.” My face became red as I felt horrible. I felt the stares of people shopping around me.

Then the woman went at me again in her accusing voice, “I SAID I DIDN’T KNOW! AND WHAT KIND OF MOTHER LEAVES HER CHILD UNATTENDED? SHAME ON YOU FOR LEAVING HER ALONE! HERE YOU ARE LOOKING AT SHOES WHEN YOU SHOULD BE TAKING CARE OF YOUR KID!”

Then I heard her speaking to whomever she was with about how terrible I am and how I can’t control my child.

I didn’t say a word back to the woman. It was pointless. I knocked on the door and told Kendall to please hurry. Tears flooded my eyes and I put my head down as I stood outside the dressing room door.

“Lord, I can’t even take her to the Salvation Army store.” Tears came down my face and I did my best to stay composed.

The door slowly opened and Kendall’s eyes met mine. My eyes were filled with tears and hers were white with anger!

“Where is she?” Kendall looked out the door to get a view of the store. She opened the door more and Sarah stood there head down and quiet.

“Mom, how could she say that?”

I turned around to see that the woman was now close enough to see that Kendall was in the room with Sarah and with that she walked away.

“Kendall, do you think this is the first time someone has yelled at me about Sarah? It’s not the first, nor will it be the last.”

Kendall’s hands were shaking.

“I am so MAD!!! This is a special day for Sarah and how could she say something like that? Where is she?!”

“Kendall, no, let’s just go. It won’t solve anything. Are you almost done? I just want to go home.” I just wanted this night to end. I could not leave the store fast enough.

“We need to try on two more dresses.”

“Please hurry. I want to go home.”  I couldn’t stop the tears and the stares from the few people in the store were falling heavily on me.

We decided on the red velvet dress and Kendall insisted that Sarah carry it out.

“This is her day and she is carrying her dress!”

As we walked to the cashier, the stares followed us. Kendall held her head up high and confidently marched to the cashier. I walked quietly trying not to make eye contact.

I am proud of Kendall for being so protective of Sarah. I could not ask for a better sister for her! God has given me a girl with such spunk and I love how she is ready to defend the defenseless.

To be honest, I have struggled with this situation and poured my heart out to God about it. I asked the Lord if I should have said something, but I truly think confronting this woman would not have changed anything. There are times I have said something, but I could tell this woman’s heart was hard as stone and it would have been pointless. This woman had no clue what our lives are like and how important this day was to us. If she lived my life for one day, she would be laughing at Sarah saying ‘Funky’, too, and joining us in her joy. Instead, I find myself chuckling that Sarah single handedly ‘ruined her shopping experience’ at the local Salvation Army store on a Saturday night. Wow.

This morning in my quiet time, I read about King Hezekiah who was being threatened by the King of Assyria (2 Kings 19). This king was ruthless and was conquering kingdoms left and right and now found himself on King Hezekiah’s door. Judah was outnumbered by a massive war machine. The Assyrian king taunted Hezekiah and mocked him for trusting in God. Hezekiah did not reply back. Instead, he went to the temple and spread the letter that the king of Assyria sent before the Lord and he prayed. The prophet Isaiah came to Hezekiah and told him the Lord will fight the battle. And He did! An angel went out and wiped out 185,000 of the army. The army fled back home without Judah even lifting a sword.

What a great example of how God truly is the Defender of the defenseless! Now there are times in the Bible the Lord tells Israel to fight, but no matter what, He was with them. I know, too, He is with me no matter what battles I face.

No, this was not the first time I have had someone make comments to me about Sarah, telling me to make her be quiet or behave, and it certainly won’t be the last. (Trust me, if I could make her, I would.) There are times it is best to be quiet and there are times the Lord tells me to speak up. And when those times to speak up come….I know I will not be alone for not only is God with me, but also He gave me a feisty daughter who is ready to stand in Sarah’s defense!

Night to Shine 2018

We just got back from Night to Shine 2018 and my heart is BURSTING! To think that these people put so much time and effort (in the middle of the biggest snow storm of the year) so my girl could have a prom, is amazing! This was such a well organized event and everyone was so kind to Sarah. She truly was the Queen of the Prom!

Sarah has been so excited for this day. All week we have been talking about it. She has seen her dress hung up in the closet and more than once she has tried to put it on. This morning I asked Sarah what was happening today and she yelled, “I’m going to PROM!!!!”

Sarah spent the day getting ready with me trimming her hair, painting her nails and doing other girly things.  She loved every moment of it. Some of Kendall’s school friends braved the 9” of snow to come to our house for pictures and Sarah posed and strutted across the house for them.

When we arrived at the church we were overwhelmed by the excitement in the air. These people were thrilled to be hosting this event! The church building was actually a renovated bowling alley. They even had few bowling lanes still there if Sarah wanted to play. After we checked in, Sarah received a corsage (we bought her one, too, but she liked the pink one they gave her) and then she had her makeup professionally done. When the makeup artist asked me if she should put mascara on Sarah, Sarah yelled, “YES!” She is a woman who knows her mind!

Sarah had her picture professionally taken and then she walked down the red carpet. She waved to people as she walked down. She was ADORABLE!! I was choked up seeing everyone cheer her on. They cheered, they clapped, and they shouted her name. They made her feel like she was the most important person there. Her face was PRICELESS!

Mrs. Emily was assigned to be Sarah’s aid tonight. She was the most tenderhearted woman! We could not have asked for a better aid! She and Sarah hit it off and Sarah had so much fun with her. Mrs. Emily said Sarah had 3 bags of chips, 2 cupcakes, 3 cans of Sprite and a plate full of Chick-Fil-A and mac and cheese.

For us parents, we also received the royal treatment. We had Jet’s pizza and a chocolate fountain dessert table. We had raffles of gift cards to restaurants and movies. (We didn’t win.) We also had gift bags of lotion and $5 Tim Horton gift cards. (How do these people know me?!?!)

Sarah danced with her aid and loved every moment of her night. Mrs. Emily, Sarah and I also took a limo ride around the parking lot a few times. Sarah felt like a movie star!

At the end of Prom, Tim Tebow spoke via video about how they were all kings and queens of the prom and much more than that, how much our Heavenly Father loves them. They are royalty in His eyes. Sarah received her crown and the look of pure joy filled her face. She beamed with pride!

There were so many things for Sarah to do. She went to the photo booth for candid photos and she loved to hang out at the Karaoke station. Sarah got up on stage, but didn’t want to sing any song in particular. She just kept saying, “Everybody stand up! Everybody stand up!” When I looked behind me, everyone stood up and cheered for Sarah. Once again, I got choked up that these people made her day by doing what she said. Sarah smiled and her eyes danced as she came down from the stage.

With that, she grabbed one more cupcake, but was too full to eat it. When we left they gave Sarah a grab bag. Inside was the professional photo, a Night to Shine picture frame and a Night to Shine cup.

What a magical night! I am in such awe of Life Bridge Church and Northline Church for putting on this amazing night for Sarah! Instead of Autism not allowing her to experience Prom, she was the star! They showed Christ’s love to our special needs children and gave us a glimpse of how He sees them…loved beyond measure.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” I John 4:11

Scariest Moments of Life….

I woke up in a state of panic. It was my body gasping for air that woke me up. I sat up as I tried to catch my breath with my heart pounding hard inside my chest. I realized where I was and I looked at the clock. It read 3:37 am. With that, I laid my head back down on my pillow. My heartbeat was still booming in my ears. I took deep breaths as I reassured myself, “It was just a dream…It was just a dream.”

Unfortunately, it was just a dream of one of the scariest moments of my life!

Sarah has done several things that have made me wake up in a state of panic as I recall them in my sleep. Once when she was a little girl I came into her room to wake her up from her nap. She wasn’t napping, instead I found her standing on the window sill of her second story bedroom window. She had opened the window and was holding onto the curtain rod as she wiggled and danced. I knew if I screamed it might startle her and she might fall out the window, so I very calmly came up to her and grabbed her from the window. I held her tight and thanked the Lord for protecting her. Needless to say, David and I put a wooden bar in the track of her window to prevent her from doing that again.

It still makes me ill just thinking of it, but that is not the scary moment that woke me up recently.

That moment was when Sarah and I were driving home from her ABA therapy appointment.  The center was about 25 minutes away from our house via expressway. We had to change expressways to get there. As I approached the overpass bridge that connected the two expressways, Sarah unbuckled from her car booster seat and proceeded to get out of it. I saw what she had done in my rearview mirror and yelled for her to stop. She was mad. She screamed and came up to me and hit me. She then did something that years later causes me to wake me up in a state of panic.

She unlocked the van door and opened it while we were going over the bridge on the expressway. (This was an older van. Newer van doors do not open when the car is in drive.)

I screamed and grabbed onto her with my one hand.

I pulled her close to me and tried to pull over. Sadly, the connection from the bridge put us in the second left lane. I moved across the lanes holding onto her all the while with the van side door wide open.  The sound of the expressway was deafening. I cried out to the Lord for protection. It was one of the scariest moments of my life!

When I pulled over I broke down in tears thinking what could have happened. I held her tightly as I wept. She was still angry and didn’t want to be held and pushed me away. Her actions made me cry all the more. I had a child who refused to let me love her even though I would do anything for her. I prayed thanking the Lord for His protection but I also told Him how weary I was with this life of Autism. I got her back into her booster seat, but it took me a while before I could drive again. I sat in my seat shaking. When I was ready to drive again I took side roads all the way home.

I told David we needed to do something to stop her from getting out of her car booster seat. Thankfully, we found a product called Angel Guard (angelguardbuynow.com). It is just a simple piece of plastic that goes over the seat belt buckle, but it prevented her from unbuckling.

Angel Guard. I love the name! I know our loving Heavenly Father has been guarding Sarah all along! While I still may wake up from time to time in a panic, I need to take this memory and give it to the Lord. He protected us and I need to find rest in Him. Psalm 62:5-8 has been a great comfort to me, especially during these times. I underlined this passage in my Bible and if that wasn’t enough, I put stars by verse 8. Psalm 62:5-8 reads, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

I am thankful that when the memories of the scariest moments of life wake me up at night, I can pour out my heart to Him! I love the imagery of these verses: ‘rock ’, ‘fortress’, ‘not be shaken’, and ‘refuge’. I can find rest because I know I am ultimately secure in Him!

Christmas Surprise

It is kind of ironic that she squealed like a pig when she saw it.

Sarah wanted a Tea Cup Piggy toy for Christmas. She really wanted it. It was a little pig toy that said over 20 phrases when you pressed the button on its back. It was housed in a cute little plastic tea cup and came with accessories to dress up your piggy. I bought one for Sarah and hid it with the other Christmas presents in my closet, but soon I found evidence that she had discovered it. The Christmas paper was unwrapped, box open and the toy was on the closet floor. I put it in another hiding spot, but she found it again. This time I hid all the presents in the basement storage room. When I came downstairs there she was jumping up and down squealing in delight, clapping her hands in glee with the piggy toy at her feet. (She also opened other presents as well.)  I told her that Tea Cup Piggy and the other gifts were for Christmas and to leave them alone.

I thought of one more place….

There is a space behind my bedroom door. When you open the door it stops at the corner of my dresser. With the door open, there is a pocket of space behind it. I put all our Christmas gifts in this spot and draped it with a bed sheet. It seemed to have worked. Each day I checked and the sheet remained unmoved.

Then one day, I found the plastic sunglasses accessory that went with the Tea Cup Piggy on the floor. I pulled back the sheet and found that Sarah once again found the toy, plus ripped open and destroyed boxes that contained gifts to siblings, nieces and nephews. I sighed. I had to once again find another spot.

Sarah did not know that I discovered her secret and I saw her walk upstairs. She carefully opened my door thinking she was going to find her secret stash.  I stood in the foyer looking up at my bedroom door and waited.

In less than two seconds later, the loudest shriek came from my room. Not a squeal, but a shriek! I raced upstairs to find Sarah frantically looking behind my door for the presents. Her eyes were wild and she was beside herself. She was not prepared for this Christmas surprise!

“Sarah, I told you the presents are for Christmas and not all of them are for you. You will get your toys at Christmas. Now go!” I pointed for her to leave my bedroom.

Sarah gave me the most exasperated looked. She screamed a high pitch scream at me and with clenched fists stomped off.

*********

The older I get the more I am humbled that Jesus, out of His great love for us, left His throne in Heaven and came down to earth. The perfection of Heaven was forgone to come to an imperfect world. An infinite God took on a form of finite man.  This great love, this salvation, this gift was for us. While it was prophesied the Messiah was coming, no one 2,000 years ago expected Jesus to come as a baby and be found in a stable in Bethlehem.  Unlike Sarah’s Tea Cup Piggy gift, He was not meant to be hidden, but for the whole world to discover. He is Emmanuel (God with us)!

Our Savior’s birth truly was the biggest and best Christmas surprise!

Merry Christmas!

I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:1b-11

What Lies Beneath

The kids were playing basketball outside and I went out onto the driveway to watch them. After a few minutes, I found myself pushed from the driveway unto the front yard. (Don’t mess with the kids when they are playing against each other!)

Under my feet the yard was filled with holes. Everywhere I looked there were these tiny holes in our grass.

“Did you aerate the yard, David?”  I asked David as he came walking outside to see the kids play.

“No, I didn’t. I think the squirrels are burying their nuts.”

I have never seen anything like it. If this is the case:

  1. Word must have gotten out in the squirrel community that the Gregory yard is the place to be seen this winter.
  2. If this is any indication of our winter this year, be prepared. It is going to be a very harsh winter!

Soon, though, our grass began to die. Each morning as I left for work, it seemed like the patch was getting bigger. What are those squirrels doing?

David did more investigation and found out we have grubs; HUGE grubs in our yard. You can peel our grass back up like a carpet and there they are! So gross! He spoke to a specialist and he said that the holes were from skunks and raccoons digging in our yard for a late night snack. He said the holes are the first sign we would see of what lied beneath.

What lied beneath….

Right now it is fall and I love seeing all the leaves change color. What I find interesting is that they don’t truly change. Those colors in the leaves were always there, they were just covered up by the chlorophyll. Once the chlorophyll breaks down, the colors that were underneath break forth.

Interesting thought…. Things that lie beneath are bound to break forth. Luke 6:45b says, “Whatever is in the heart overflows into speech.”  (TLB)

It can be gross like the grubs or beautiful like autumn leaves.  What a challenging thought!

It makes me think of dear Sarah. What lies in Sarah’s heart overflows into her speech. I love it when we get glimpses of a girl that loves her family, all things pink, believes Disney princesses are real, and loves to dance and sing with her whole heart. While her speech and singing are incoherent phrases at times, I know it is something that brings her joy. It is written all over her face!

While Autism affects so much of her life and her abilities, not even Autism is powerful enough to cover what lies beneath. ❤

 

The Summer of Sarah

This morning Sarah raced to the bus arms flapping like she was a bird. She reached the bus doors before the bus driver had an opportunity to open it and Sarah clapped her hands in glee. When the doors open, she bounded up the stairs and took a diving leap into her bus bench seat.

This is a happy Sarah!

This summer we have some “Happy Sarah” moments that I want to share with you. We know it is because people are praying! While we did struggle with increased OCD behaviors this summer, enough that we needed to increase her OCD meds, it is these “Happy Sarah” moments that are like a breath of fresh air.  It is these little pieces that make you laugh, gain perspective and encourage you.

I have shared with you how the car would make Sarah cry (Sarah blog “Hands Free Calling“). She would start her high pitch whine and she would not stop until we were out of the car. Thank you for praying for her on this issue. This is Sarah now:

This is Sarah with her head out the window enjoying the summer sun! What a difference! Sarah also enjoys waving at herself in the side view mirror.

She also enjoys dancing to music in the car:

She has got some moves!!!  The song we are listening to is called “The Point” by ‘The Lasting Hope’ –(A Christian band I heard at Big Ticket Festival) When you get to the chorus, that is when Sarah started dancing. 🙂

In Sarah’s prayer blog “She a Babe”, I shared how Kendall has been taking Sarah out to stores. A few weeks ago she took Sarah to the Salvation Army to look for some clothes. Sarah picked out a few things and they went to try them on. At one point, Kendall left her in the dressing room to find more clothes. She was further away in the store, but she heard Sarah from the dressing room saying loudly, “You look like a PRINCESS!!” Kendall raced back to find Sarah checking herself out in pink skirt.  She didn’t get a photo of it, but she did get this of Sarah trying on a pair of pants that she was quite pleased with:

Needless to say, Kendall bought the pink skirt and these pants. They were each a $1. If you can feel like a princess for only $2, BUY THEM!

Thank you for your continued love and prayers for our girl! Like marathon runners looking forward to the people on the side lines holding cups of water out for them as they run, these moments are our cups of refreshing water on this marathon with Autism.  They are sweet reminders of our Lord of this precious gift He has given to us with Sarah. She comes with challenges, but the benefits are worth it. It reminds me of Psalm 4:7a:

“You have filled my heart with greater joy…”

It is as if these moments the Lord pours these ‘greater joy’ times into our hearts to sustain us.

The Summer of Sarah has been just that. Greater joy! 🙂

Giver of Good Things

“Here you go!” Another dandelion was thrust into my face.

“Oh how pretty, thank you!”, as I held my growing dandelion bouquet in my hand.

Our backyard was a carpet of yellow dandelions and the kids were on the hunt to collect them all.

I would ‘ooo and ahh’ over each one. I rubbed a few flowers under their chins ‘to see if they liked butter’ (I am not sure why we do that with dandelions, but we do.) The kids would be so happy that their chins turned yellow because they wanted me to know that, in fact, they did like butter.

Then they would race back out to the yard to find more yellow flowers.

Sarah, around 4 years old at the time, was in the backyard with the kids and I thought she was also picking flowers. When the kids came up to me with their flowers, Sarah came as well. Each kid dropped their flower in my hand. Sarah was the last one.

I held out my hand. Sarah looked at me, looked at her hand and dropped the contents into my hand.

I was expecting a flower but it turned out to be the biggest bug I have EVER seen!

I screamed, not just a shriek, but a blood curdling scream. I chucked the flowers straight into the air as I got up and ran. I did a dance of wiping my arms and legs just in case the insect was still on me.

(When I was growing up I was playing in a neighbor’s abandoned car and it had a wasp nest in the back seat. I was only stung twice, but now have a HUGE fear of insects.)

Sarah looked at me like I was so strange….she gives me that look a lot! To her, she gave me her gift and she was proud of it.

The kids still tease me about my reaction to her gift that day.

Recently I was speaking to my co-worker who is an Associate Pastor at the church I work at and we were discussing Psalm 51.  Psalm 51:10 is one of my favorite verses, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

He mentioned, though, the struggle of Psalm 51:8b. “…let the bones you have crushed rejoice.”

His comment stayed with me. For days I wrestled over this verse. Crushed bones is pain, crushed bones is anguish. It is place of excruciating pain in your life.

I think we have all been there; that place where you struggle to catch your breath.

What is my reaction, though? In that space do I truly rejoice? Do I thank Him for the ‘crushed bones’ in my life? Or do I complain to Him, telling Him it’s not fair and I ‘deserve’ better?

I come back to the truth that I know He is a good Father and gives me all that I need.

I am reminded of Matthew 7:9, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or, if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!”

As much as I try to give good gifts to my kids, just like Sarah gave me what she thought was a good gift; I could never out give my Heavenly Father.  He continues to give me good things, and as challenging as this is, this includes a life with autism.

Autism has been a bone crushing experience, but I have seen a faithful Father be ever so tender with me. He has provided and taken care of us. I have witnessed daily the power of prayer of people faithfully praying for our girl. I have seen my faith deepen when the path before me was dark and I was at a loss of what to do for her. I’ve clung to the One who is Faithful and True as I desperately needed Him for strength and guidance. It has been bone crushing, but I rejoice because I know my Father. He is the giver of good things!

She a Babe

My phone flashed that I received a video.

It was from my daughter Kendall.

I chuckled as I saw it was a video of Sarah with the caption “She a babe.”  (Yes, you read that correctly.)

I opened up the video to see Sarah trying on sunglasses at a drug store. She was quite pleased at herself as she posed in the mirror that was on top of the sunglasses carrousel. She was making a peace sign with her two fingers and saying “cheese” into the mirror.

Kendall was supposed to pick Sarah up from my sister’s house and take her home. David and I went to Jim’s university to see Jim play lacrosse and we were juggling who was watching Sarah.

Why was Kendall not home with her?

I called from the game “Hey, what’s up? You took Sarah out???” I try to avoid taking Sarah out as she usually cries and can make a scene.

“I picked her up from Aunt Leanne’s but then I thought Sarah might enjoy going out. I took her to Subway for lunch. She danced in the store! The employees thought she was so funny! We walked around the city’s downtown park and Sarah was strutting and posing on the sidewalk. It was hilarious!! I then took her to RiteAid and she was trying on sunglasses. I LOVE HER!!”

When I got home from Jim’s game Kendall showed me the video of Sarah walking in the park. She walked fast with her head down and then she stopped, looked up and posed with her hand on her hip as if she was a model walking the catwalk. Where did she learn that?!?! It was funny and adorable!

I laughed but a wave of conviction came over me. I’m an adult and her mother and I’m reluctant to take Sarah out, but here is her twin sister giving her a girls’ day out!

It comes down to the fact it takes work to take Sarah out and sometimes I am too tired, too lazy or too willing to take the path of least resistance. It is humbling to be challenged by your teenage daughter, but sometimes a humbled spirit gives you that push you need to break out of your comfort zone.

Currently I am studying the book of Ruth. Ruth could have taken the path of least resistance and done what her sister-in-law had done and stayed with her people. But Ruth didn’t. Ruth stepped out in faith and went with her mother-in-law to Israel. Ruth humbled herself by gleaning the leftovers in Boaz’s fields to feed them both. She humbled herself by following her mother-in-law’s instructions and approaching Boaz to ask him to marry her.

Personally, I would struggle with what her mother-in-law, Naomi, suggested. And while her heart might have been pounding as she made her way to Boaz’s field, Ruth’s response to Naomi was, “I will do whatever you say.”(Ruth 3:5)

Her response is refreshing. Instead of refusing and giving Naomi all the reasons of why she couldn’t, Ruth’s heart was one of openness and humble obedience. Over and over again Ruth did the uncomfortable and stepped out of her comfort zone. Her story inspires me; her story challenges me.

So I am making a conscious effort to take Sarah out more. I realize that in less than 5 years all the kids will be in college and this will be my new normal with her. So far we have gone to lacrosse and softball games and she is doing very well! She sometimes yells out phrases that only make sense to her, but she isn’t crying!

My favorite thing she has done so far is at her younger brother’s high school lacrosse game when she stood up and started clapping to a song played over the loud speaker. The song talks about clapping your hands. Sarah heard it, stood up and started to clap. She looked around puzzled wondering who was asking her to clap.

I smiled at my sweet girl and thought Kendall is right, “She a babe.”

God opposes the proud but give grace to the humble.” I Peter 5:5

Strengths

There are times when I laugh so hard, I snort. I try to hold it in, because it certainly isn’t ladylike, but I just can’t help it.

Yesterday was one of those days.

We had some plumbing issues. To fix it we needed to cut open our bedroom’s closet wall to gain access to the pipes in our shower, which meant that we had to clear out everything on my side of the closet. This exposed a weakness of mine, I keep anything and everything that our kids did or made. If a project at school or at church had my child’s handprints on it, I saved it.

David nicely, sweetly, gently encouraged me to purge some things from my four drawer cart that I keep all the kids keepsakes; one drawer for each kid. But, as I went through the drawers it brought back a flood of memories.

One of the keepsakes I found was from Kendall sharing her strengths when she was in elementary school. It listed out 28 things she thought she was good at. It started out fine: “I’m good at baking, school, making people laugh…” But, then she said things that really did make me laugh: “I’m good at watching TV, thinking, eating food.”

Then I read the next one on the list and the snort laugh came out…

“I’m good at breathing.”

She sure is! She doesn’t even have to think about it! (Though, ‘thinking’ is a strength of hers!) She is that good at it!!

At my work we have been going through our strengths to see how God made us and how we can be more effective as a team. I have found this fascinating as I see how God has made me. While I have done personality tests before, this test, I feel, was spot on about how I am wired. It was a confirmation to me about my college degree, why I like to work with certain personalities and why I love and feel called to work at a church.

Yet, on this Autism journey, I feel like in my humanness I am weak. People have said to me, “God gave you Sarah because He knows you can handle a special needs child; I know I couldn’t.”

While I know that is compliment, I don’t feel like I am strong. There are days that I feel like in my own power, I am very, very weak.

It reminds me of a very low point on this journey. I had had it. The weariness and weight of life, the constant screaming of Sarah, her poop smearing on walls, the financial burden of the cost of her care all became too much. I was walking into the living room and heard a crash in the kitchen. I knew Sarah had gotten into something. (It turned out she swiped plastic cups and plates off the counter unto the floor.)

“Really?” My heart sank, tears welled up in my eyes as I sighed and started to drag myself into the kitchen to see what she had done.

Just then my knee buckled from my weariness and I thought I was going to fall. I felt someone behind me, catching me, picking me up from under my arms and putting me back on my feet. I quickly turned around to see who was behind me, but I was by myself. I will never forget that moment. It truly was,

fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26

For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10

That day will ever be on my heart as a reminder that Christ is my best strength over anything I face! I don’t need a personality test to know that. He continues to infuse me with His strength and remind me He is always there!

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” Philippians 4:13

To Be a Katherine

I did a double take as I dropped Kendall off at her friend’s house for a birthday party/sleepover when she was in 7th grade. Her friend Katie, the birthday girl, took me by surprise. I caught my breath when I saw this young girl’s face and I recognized who she was.

“Katherine?” I hesitantly asked.

“Yes.”

“You’re Katherine?” as I put my hand to my heart.

“Yes”, she looked at me with such a puzzled look. Her mom, who was in the living room helping all the girls unload their sleeping bags and tote bags, came to the door with the same puzzled look.

I couldn’t help it. Tears started to well in my eyes as I looked at Katie’s mom and said, “Your daughter has a very special place in my heart.”  I confused her even more because we had never met before and she and Kendall became friends during this current school year.

I explained to them why. When Sarah was in 3rd grade and she had the most amazing experience!  Her autism impaired class was integrated with Katie’s 3rd grade class.  These general education kids learned side by side kids with special needs and learned to accept them.  I told them how one parent in the class told us that her son who always struggled in school gained confidence as he saw and helped children with tougher issues than he had.

Sarah found a friend in Katie (Katherine). Katherine loved to read and Sarah’s teacher said Katherine would sit down in the reading nook in the classroom and Sarah would join her. Sarah loved to be around Katherine and Katherine accepted her for who she was. Sometimes Katherine read to Sarah and sometimes they just sat together while Katherine read to herself. Sarah’s teacher said that she caught Sarah picking up a book trying to imitate Katherine reading. She said it was so sweet to watch. Sarah adored her and Katherine was the first non-related friend Sarah had ever had.

Then the most amazing thing happened. Katherine began to help Sarah learn to read. Sarah would copy what she was saying and soon Sarah was reading ‘ICanRead’ books! Her teacher said that Sarah would listen and do whatever Katherine taught her. She said the look of pride on Sarah’s face was priceless!

I loved how Katherine was not afraid of Sarah or Autism. She wasn’t afraid that she was going to “catch” Autism, but saw Sarah as a friend and wanted to help her.  Sarah learned how to read because a girl named Katherine took the time to work with her.

By the time I finished my story, Katie’s mom and I were both crying and we hugged.

I told her, “You will never know how much your daughter’s kindness has made a difference in our lives.”

Her act of kindness has stayed with me. I shared her story when I spoke for several years to 3rd grade students at a local public school about Autism Awareness.  The school wide program was called “Everybody Counts” and each grade at the school learned about a disability. (It was a great program! I wish my kids’ elementary school had it!)

I would talk to these students about Autism and its common characteristics, and then I would share Katherine’s story.  Afterwards, I would look directly at the students and asked them, “Will you be a Katherine?  Will you be kind and be friends to a child with special needs just like Katherine did?”  As I stared into these little eyes, their heads would nod in agreement with such heartfelt emotion.  It was so sweet!  I shared with them that autistic children, while different from them, are kids too, and just want to be friends and accepted.

To be a Katherine! One girl’s actions inspiring others on how showing kindness can make such a difference in others’ lives! I wonder if any of those kids remember her story and showed kindness to others. What an amazing ripple effect that would be! No matter what, Katie’s actions are still felt today in our lives! I don’t know if she has forgotten this, but we never will! She opened up Sarah’s world just by being kind and being a friend. She might have thought what she did was small, but it meant the world to us!  Like your prayers!  Your prayers for Sarah truly mean so much to us! It is the lifeblood and encouragement to us to keep going on this Autism journey. We can never thank you enough; we are seeing such a difference in her!

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:24