Faith in the Storm

The anxiety and stress of being a parent is something we all face. We are given this beautiful gift of a child and we pray we can help them along this journey of life without messing up. We love them more than we could ever imagine loving someone. It becomes a journey filled with both laughter and tears.

When you add autism to the equation, the highs of parenthood feel higher and the lows feel lower. Add one very prone-to-worry, very emotional momma and you have a recipe for chaos, or at least high blood pressure.

This is where my journey has taken me these last few silent months. The stress of every choice and the second guessing of every decision has kept me up at night. The questions replay over and over in my mind: Am I doing enough? Am I advocating for his needs enough? Is there more I can do? What if I fail?

Because of his autism, there are a great deal of unknowns left in Eli’s life, and it’s difficult to predict what he may or may not be able to do. But having so many unknowns can be daunting and scary, and only brings with it more questions: What effect will autism have on him as he grows older? Will he learn to cope and be able to be an independent adult? Will communication always be a struggle for him? While I can’t pretend these issues do not exist, I know it is not healthy to constantly dwell on them, and we have repeatedly seen Eli surpass expectations; we thought he might never speak, but he proved us and the doctors wrong.

Even as Jason and I work hard to meet his needs and formulate a plan to conquer these challenges, life continues to throw us a curve, and our plans continue to be pushed backward, how many opportunities for therapy have we lost, for how many different reasons? And as time passes, we feel the ever increasing pressure to start intervention immediately, when it will be most effective. Here we are, Eli is five, and no consistent intervention is yet in place.

The challenges grow. Drastic choices plague our mind. Should we relocate to another state with more services available for children with autism? Could we move to a new place like upstate New York or Pennsylvania? We could abandon everything because Eli is worth it, his future is worth it but what about Adam and Joseph? Is it fair to rip them away from family and friends?

This is where I have lived these last few months. I have dwelled in the worry and what ifs. The burden has been a load almost too heavy to bear.

I am reminded today of Peter in the bible. You can read this account in Matthew 14:22-33. The disciples are in a boat and the waves are tossing them around. Jesus walks on the water to their boat and they are terrified He is a ghost. Jesus tells them not to be afraid; Peter asks to come to Jesus.

First, let’s give Peter some credit for having the faith to even get out of the boat and walk to Jesus in that tumultuous sea. I think I would have been happy simply waiting for Jesus in the safety of the boat.  Not Peter; he gets out and walks out to Jesus. But as he is walking he notices the wind and the waves and becomes afraid. He begins to sink and cries out for Jesus to save him. Jesus pulls him out and says to him, “You of little faith why, did you doubt?”

I feel a little like Peter. I am being tossed around in the stress of life and somewhere along the way I have lost my focus. I am drowning in the sea of life.  Although I have never left God and still pray about every situation, I have had little faith in His ability. I may talk about faith but I am still trying to handle all the stress of the situation myself. “You of little faith” stings a bit.

But not anymore. I am letting go of the stress, the worry, the anxiety. I will place Eli and his future in the hands of God.

In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Psalms 55:22 says “Cast your burdens on the Lord, and he will sustain you.”

While I am doing everything I can do, and will continue to do to the best of my ability, I need to remember my strength comes from God. My hope is in Him, the author and finisher of my faith. I believe God is in control and I will give my stress to Him.  In doing so I am praying for the peace of God and the rest I so desperately need. I pray that if you also find yourself drowning in the difficulties of life, you will seek God and find rest – don’t try to do it all on your own. I have, believe me, it doesn’t work.

I think it is a process to let go of worry and replace it with trust. I need to remind myself that God has been faithful in this journey already and I can place my hope in Him. Jason and I can’t do this on our own.

So this is where I have been and this is where I am now. I am not sure of the future but I am trusting in the one who holds our future in His hand.

Christmas Miracle

Christmas is my favorite time of the year and I always feel a bit sad to see it go. This year, however, I am finding it a bit more difficult to let go of the season. This Christmas offered a lot of wonderful firsts for our family. Joseph saw his first Disney Christmas this year; I love seeing his eyes light up at each and every twinkling light he sees! Adam was very involved in making cookies and crafts, which is something I have dreamed of doing with my children since before they were born. But one of the more extraordinary blessings this year came to us from little Eli.

Last year, at the age of three, Eli showed no interest in any lights or decorations as Adam had at that age. We would take trips around the neighborhood to look at lights and, while Adam pointed excitedly at every display he saw, Eli was only very involved in inspecting the toy he had in his car seat. When we decorated the tree that year Eli preferred to play with toys in the room and he had to be coaxed into placing just one ornament on the tree for the sake of a photo. As I relished every Christmas tradition and moment with Adam, a small piece of my heart cried for what I would never experience with Eli. That year Christmas happened around him.

This year, as the Christmas season began to come upon us, I embraced what was sure to be the wonder and joy of Adam and Joseph and resigned myself to including Eli as much as he would allow. Was I in for a big surprise!

It came one night during our weekly search for Christmas lights. Our neighborhood begins to decorate in late November, so I decided to swing by a few houses after Thanksgiving that are usually decorated early in the season, As I approached the first house I pointed and yelled, ”Look! Christmas lights!” Adam squealed from the back, Joseph strained to see from his car seat, and I was surprised to see Eli actually looking out the window. We passed a few houses that night and Eli seemed very interested.

Then it happened: one night as we were driving home, I saw a nicely decorated house and pointed it out to the boys. Adam called back excitedly, “Christmas lights!”, and rather unexpectedly Eli literally screamed out the words “Christmas lights!” I looked to see him smiling and pointing at the display.

From that moment on, no display would escape Eli’s sight, and no ear was safe from the screaming pronouncement “Christmas lights!”  if that were not enough, at Walmart he became obsessed with the Christmas department, though, unfortunately, his favorite item was an inflatable Santa in an outhouse. He loved that display so much I honestly considered purchasing it. Thankfully, my husband was there to talk some sense into me by reminding me that we did not need Santa’s outhouse on our lawn..

One day, Eli came running into the living room and hollered, “Christmas tree right there!”, and pointed at an empty space by the wall. The next day we bought a tree and Eli helped Adam decorate it until the last ornament was hung.

Even more so than pointing out Christmas lights, were Eli’s obsession with Charlie Brown Christmas, both the book and the movie. One day in the car, out of nowhere, he began to sing ‘Hark the Harold Angels’.one of many Christmas songs he learned this year.

Last year I had cried over the fact he could not participate in the church Christmas program, but this year he was a shepherd.

Christmas is about the love and hope that came down from heaven in the form of a tiny baby that would save all mankind. I could not help think that this was God once again, sending me his hope and his love in the form of a little child. A child who last year could not say more than ten words, but this year sang along with several Christmas songs. A child whose future at times seems so unsure, but who was teaching me to have faith, faith in not what I see, not what doctors tell me, but faith in a God who is so much bigger than my small understanding of things. Faith and trust!

This was my Christmas miracle. It was more precious than any gift I could receive. It came in the sound of my little Eli wishing everyone he met “Merry Christmas!”.