Monday, February 28, 2011

This crazy thing called love

This post was originally published on February 24, 2010. I'm republishing it as my response to the classmate who taunts Gates by telling him that someday he will be living on the streets. I know that this is not the last time Gates will be made fun of. I know that I cannot stop every hurtful word from reaching his ears. I cannot change the minds of a world full of people who won't 'get' him, who refuse to see the wonder in our differences. All I can do is love him, with the love of a mother who is crazy about him. And I can fight for him and let him know that I stand firmly in his corner. I can teach him to counter those lies with truth. This is the reality we live with. This is how I know what it is to love.


Photo by Adam Foster


Once there was a Virginia state delegate who made an incredibly thoughtless comment about disabled children being punishments to women who had aborted their first pregnancy. This left many of us wondering, "What sin, then, did I commit?" It left others thinking, "Then why do my adopted children, whose mothers chose life, have disabilities?" And it was, no doubt, a searing pain to the heart of those who have chosen abortion and are already bearing the emotional consequences. But this is not a post about that man. It is not a post about disabled children being a curse. I think that Jesus settled that question quite nicely when asked of the man born blind "Who sinned, this man or his parents?" His answer? Neither.

That question is settled in my mind. Instead, this post is about the flip side of the coin. This post is about all of the people who tell us we are blessed, we are strong, we are amazing because of some random trick of the genes, some accident, some collision of environmental factors that has given us the children we have. By this logic my sister-in-law with the autistic son is more blessed than I am with my Asperger's son. The parent of a child in a wheelchair is more blessed than the parent of the child who walks on legs of different lengths. All children are blessings. End of story. God didn't look at any of us and say "Wow, I really love them so I'm going to give them a child with special needs." Am I blessed by my son? Absolutely, but it is because he is my child, not because of anything he is or says or does.

Here's a secret for those who think we are so strong, so amazing, possessing some indefinable character trait that no one else has. We aren't. Sometimes we cry ourselves to sleep because we are exhausted from caring for our children, whether it is the endless round of caring for a child with severe physical needs or the emotional ups and downs of caring for a child whose brain just doesn't work like that of other children. Sometimes we wish for normalcy, and then feel guilty because we love our child and wonder if we have just wished away all that makes them most special, most lovable. We will always be just a little bit jealous of those who seem to sail through life with 'normal' children. The unknown of our child's future seems very big and very dark, how can we help our child navigate it when we don't know how ourselves?

No, we don't have any more strength than any other parent. We don't have a patience that appeared magically as a gift along with our child, it has been forged through trial and error just as the patience of every other parent is forged. What we have for our child is simply the thing that every parent is gifted with: Love. Crazy, wild, uninhibited love. Love that will keep on loving even when we want to cower in embarrassment because of something our child has said or done. Love that keeps on whispering "I love you" to our child long after other children are saying "Wuv oo" to their parents in the belief that someday they will repeat those beautiful words back to us. Love that forgives the tantrums, the meltdowns, the raging because we know in the end after all of the emotion is spent they will return to our arms.

Oh, to be loved with a crazy love like that! And you know what? We are! We are all God's special needs children, each with our own flaws, our own hangups. Sometimes we blurt out things that must surely embarrass him (I'm looking at you, aforementioned state delegate). Sometimes we rage and kick and scream. And yet he waits, patiently, lovingly for that moment when we come running back to his arms. Over and over he whispers to us "I love you." Day after day he waits for the moment we will turn to him and say without prompting "You know what, God? I love you too!" I know how I felt the day Gates first said "I love you" and I knew it wasn't just a parroting back of words. I know how it feels now when he says it nearly every day, when he spontaneously turns around and runs back to give me a hug. It's a crazy thing, this love that keeps on hoping, keeps on loving, keeps on forgiving.

That's all I have to offer, no special gifts, just crazy love. Love that is renewed every day because I know that I am also loved with the crazy, wild love of God.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Back when we didn't care

When most of us were children there was a time when we could do anything. We could indulge our passions and rest secure in the knowledge that of COURSE the world would love what we did. We were brilliant artists, writers, explorers, actors, scientists, dancers, bakers, magicians...and so on.

And then reality hit. We weren't always brilliant and the world wasn't always going to love us. I can remember the moment that first dawned on me.

It was third grade and I was an AUTHOR. I knew that my imagination was second to none; my words could sparkle on the paper and people would see what a genius I truly was. The Young Authors contest was MADE for me! Write a book and out of all of the schools in the county a certain number of students would be selected to be whisked away for a day of learning about writing with a Real Live Author. Swoon!

I wrote and illustrated my masterpiece, a story about a magical fallen tree in the middle of a pasture. Anything could happen when you found shelter in the hollow formed by the roots of the tree. It was a story of hope, of safety, of finding a home. It did not win and I was devastated. It seems I wasn't an author after all, especially since the winning stories were really quite dull.

That was the year I started to care about what others thought about me. Oh, not just because of a failed story, it was also the year I got glasses, the year I endured taunts of "Four Eyes!" The year that I learned to be afraid of failure, of not measuring up to what other people wanted me to be.

For years I stopped thinking of myself as a writer. I wrote the occasional poem for an assignment, blocking out the compliments of my teachers because I was NOT a writer. I cared too much to voluntarily share my work, to abandon myself to words when it wasn't required.

In college I tiptoed into the realm of writing again, entering a poem in our college paper's contest and winning first prize. But it was a fluke. What if I tried again and was rejected? I cared too much to try again. I filled notebook after notebook with the angst ridden poetry of youth, but never showed it to a soul (and in some cases that perhaps was for the best). In creative writing class I hid my true feelings and wrote what I thought I ought to be writing, and it stunk. It lacked the spark and the bite of a soul set free on paper. I settled for acceptable instead of what my heart wanted to say.

And now I am grown, and the fear of what others will think has grown with me. The fear of rejection, of not being good enough. Year after year I tell myself this secret, "If I could be ANYTHING, I would be a writer." I have been a dental office receptionist, a CPA, a bookkeeper, a mother. I have never been a writer. I care too much about rejection.

The other week Gates came to me with a picture he had drawn for National Geographic Kids magazine, a picture he wanted to send in to their kids' Art Zone. I balked and stalled and tried to think of ways to not send it in because how would he handle it if his masterpiece was rejected? If they didn't publish it? Still, he persisted. Why wouldn't they love what he had drawn?

Today I acknowledged to myself that this was MY issue. And as his mother it is my job to keep him from caring what others think about him as long as possible. It's my job to let him test his talents or lack thereof on the world, to let him rise or fall on his own.

So we prepared it for mailing. "You have to understand that they may not pick your picture," I said.

"Will you be proud of me if they do?" he asked.

"Of course I will."

"And will you be proud of me if they don't?"

"I will still be proud of you if they don't."

"Why?"

"Because you are braver than I am. Because I want so many times to have the courage to send something in to a magazine but don't because I am afraid they won't like it. But you are brave enough to try, and that is why I am proud of you."

"Even if they don't pick it?"

Even if they don't, my dear, even if they don't. And may you always keep that excitement to share yourself with the world. May you never let yourself be too burdened by what others might think.


The Giant Sahara Dessert by Gates

Friday, February 25, 2011

Beloved

photo by {Salt of the Earth}


"Those who were not my people I will call 'my people,' and her who was not beloved I will call 'my beloved.'  Romans 9:25 (from the Revised Standard Version)

"See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands..."  Isaiah 49:16 (RSV)

My mind cannot begin to comprehend the wonder that the God of the universe calls me beloved. Me. Ordinary, insignificant me, with all of my faults, all of my failings. In spite of the fact that I yelled at my kids today, in spite of the fact that my house is a mess, that I'm spending time blogging instead of working, that I blew it in a hundred different ways today, he still calls me beloved. Not only that, but I'm engraved on the palms of his hands. He can't forget me and he's not going to overlook me.

I'll admit, I struggle with understanding this. I struggle with believing that it really is true. There's such a huge gap between God and me, why would he bother with me? Because of love. Because of the longing of a lover's heart to have the object of his affection love him in return. Make no mistake about it, the love God wants from us in return is not the cold and passionless love of rules and regulations. He wants the fires of our heart to burn with a longing to know him. He wants us to rejoice in knowing him, to join him in the dance of life.

I can't comprehend it. But I am still his beloved.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Silent


I sit,
ready to talk to you again.
Looking for the art of practiced conversation,
give and take.
Speak and listen.
Words spill out so easily.
The thoughts that rattle in my mind,
hopes,
dreams,
a million questions
to answer.
Why?
Why not?
I don't understand?

Be silent,
they say,
be silent
and the answers will come.
But I can't, I can't.
My mind races on without me.
Shhhh.
What shall I cook for supper
and did I put the laundry in the dryer?
Peace.
I need to get payroll done today
and mail some forms.
Stillness.
Oh look, a cobweb.
And a dusty fan.
Focus.
My head hurts.

How do I practice silence
when my mind scampers down
a thousand rabbit trails?
How do I reign in me
long enough for you to speak?
Will I question forever
because I cannot learn to be
silent?




Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I am not famous

This morning I curled up on the couch with a cup of hot tea and leafed through the latest issue of my alma mater's alumni magazine. I'm not sure why I do this, because in the tradition of alumni magazines everywhere it is chock full of people who are Doing Something and at times that can wear on the self-esteem a little. I'm not a world renowned opera singer, I'm not part of a band. I'm not a well-known business person worth millions or a famous surgeon saving lives every day. I'm simply me. A mom, a wife. I'll never have articles written about me, because the only thing I'm using that $40,000 English degree for is to write this blog that is read by about ten of my friends. I am not famous.

I am not famous. I am not rich. In the currency of the world and even of Christian colleges what I do is of little significance.

But here is what I know. In about 2 1/2 hours I will walk into my son's classroom to volunteer for half an hour and the faces of 25 children will light up. And one teacher will be happy because for half an hour she has an extra pair of hands and eyes in the classroom.

I know that every Wednesday I will show up and spend most of my day helping to cook dinner for our small groups. And about 60 people will come back with empty plates saying "That was delicious!" (Well, except perhaps for my children...) And my friend will be happy because she doesn't have to prepare a meal for 60 by herself.

I know that my husband will come home every night to a warm dinner waiting (ok, MOST nights...well, MANY nights...). And he will have someone to listen to him talk about his day. Someone who thinks that social workers rock and deserve their own issue of alumni news because they give and give for so little financial gain.

But most of all I know this:

I make a difference to my children. Fame and wealth are fleeting. Mothers are forever.

I am not famous. But I matter.