“Mom, look!” Why I need to respond.

“Mom, look! It’s the metro!”

I was busy. I didn’t want to walk over and see what was on his iPad. Besides, he’d probably shown me the exact video ten times before.

But I did. I stopped what I was doing and looked, and I was wrong. Henry was pointing at a new-to-us train video, and sure enough, there was the Washington, DC, metro. Like Henry, I recognized the tunnel we had visited only weeks before.

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I smiled as I realized what I would have missed if I had blown off the request. A moment of authentic, meaningful connection. A moment that said, Look, Mom. We did that together. That was special to me. 

Too many times I have said, “Mm-hmm. Yeah, I see that, bud,” but didn’t really see.

“Just a minute, Henry.”

“Hold on, honey.”

And when I do, I am missing out. Definitely. I am missing out on precious encounters with my son. What’s worse, though, is that Henry is missing it too.

He wants me. He wants Keith. He desires connection with us just as we did with our parents. As much as he enjoys time alone, creating stories with his trains or hiding in the closet or nesting under his blanket, he also relishes our attention. Just like any other child, his self-worth, his happiness, and his relationships with other humans starts here, at home.

These moments are gone as fast as they come, and I must be better about capturing them. I must be more intentional, more present, and less involved with whatever it is I’m doing at any given moment. Nothing is really that important anyway, not in comparison to creating a life for this little boy.

When I think about what made my childhood so great, and when I think about what shaped my personality, my beliefs, my convictions, even my ideas of fun, it’s not Disney World. It’s not the expensive prom dresses. It’s not my first car. It’s not one thing. It’s the culmination of many moments, flowing one into another like a gentle stream. The individual water molecules are indistinguishable to the glancing eye, but each one is actually a treasure, and the overall effect is beauty.

I want to see every bit of that stream. I want Henry to know I think it’s beautiful.

New here? Glad you made it! I write about my unique joys and challenges as Mom to Henry, a smart, tender, quick­-witted, train-loving, autistic 8-­year­-old with an infectious smile. I long to encourage autism parents and empower all to see inclusivity doesn’t have to be difficult - it can be beautiful. Like what you see? Sign up here to receive news and occasional freebies just for insiders.

Running and resting

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Earlier this spring I was in a bit of a hurry to fit my daily walk into my schedule, so I tried to run a bit. I only made it past a couple of mailboxes. Each time I went a little further. Today I run intervals, maybe half a mile at a time, and I actually love it. I love the burst of speed (ok, maybe speed isn’t the right word), then the quick recovery.

I’ve been thinking. Life is like that too – at least, it should be. We cannot run at full speed all day, every day and expect excellent results every time. I know, I know. Some people think they can. Some people think they “thrive on pressure” or “produce best when they’re busy” or “only need 4 hours of sleep.” Maybe that’s true for a short season, but not for a month. Not for a year. Certainly not for a lifetime. It’s just not true. Our bodies weren’t made for it.

In recent years, what seems like a gazillion American writers have tackled this topic in both long and short formats, which tells me something important: we are a nation of too much. Everyone is commuting too much, talking too much, working too much, emailing too much, texting too much, and conferencing too much. We are moving, moving, moving and producing, producing, producing at a ridiculously breakneck pace.

And the few who have the means and opportunity to take vacations often do so in extravagant, indulgent ways, ranging from excess food and alcohol intake to slothful Netflix and Hulu binging.

Is this what we were made for?

I don’t think so. I think there’s a better way, and so does Jesus.

Whoa, Meredith, that’s pretty cavalier of you.

Is it?

Rest and work. Work and rest. It’s a rhythm we notice in the New Testament with Jesus and his disciples. Here are just two of the plentiful examples, emphasis mine:

“Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve – calling them apostles – that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.” Mark 3: 13-15

“When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves…” Luke 9: 10

We could learn something from their example. I really believe keeping Sabbath isn’t just a rule to follow. Each of God’s commandments to the Israelites was for their own good, and I know they are still for our good today. Why? Because I’ve lived both ways, and I know which way is better. When I take time to rest and to commune with my Savior, everybody wins. My family, my students, my friends, myself.

What about you? Do you take time to rest? If so, how? Feel free to tell us your tips and tricks in the comments or on Facebook.

 


These examples of resting and doing from the Gospels were noted here by Sheridan Voysey.

 

New here? Glad you made it! I write about my unique joys and challenges as Mom to Henry, a smart, tender, quick­-witted, train-loving, autistic 8-­year­-old with an infectious smile. I long to encourage autism parents and empower all to see inclusivity doesn’t have to be difficult - it can be beautiful. Like what you see? Sign up here to receive news and occasional freebies just for insiders.

Why asking to break dance is a big deal.

Recently, I wrote about why I want Henry to be fully, unapologetically himself – why I don’t want him to “pass” for typical.

I posted this on Facebook yesterday:

18 months ago, Henry participated in the 5s class Christmas performance the only way he could – facedown on the floor, singing into the carpet, raising his arm to ring his sleigh bells on cue. Oh, and where was I? In the hall, out of sight, taking pictures by sticking my phone around the corner. 

Today Henry asked his teacher if he could break dance for all the parents at the end-of-year celebration. 

Early intervention. It works. 

‪#‎delightinthedivine‬ ‪#‎miracles‬

It later occurred to me that these two posts might seem incongruous to some, as if I wanted him to perform like all the other children. Please allow me to explain why asking to break dance is such an important moment for Henry.

It never bothered us that Henry didn’t perform the way his peers did. What broke my heart was the fact that music, singing and dancing lay beneath the surface of the anxiety. Every time he raised his little arm to ring the sleigh bells, it was a reminder to me that he was not only present, but also engaged and eager to participate. He was doing his very best.

Henry has always adored moving to the beat, from bopping around in my womb during Jersey Boys to dancing in front of the computer screen while Katy Perry sang with Elmo. Though he rarely sang with the group in 2s and 3s Sunday School classes, his teachers reported he was always smiling, and when he started to speak in sentences, we heard the Sunday School songs in the privacy of our home. By the time he was 4, he was participating on most Sundays. By now, he can easily pull up his favorite tunes on the ipad. He still listens to his Vacation Bible School CD, dances to Michael Jackson and Pharrell in the living room, begs Keith to play “my jamz” in the car, and even makes up his own songs.

So, I knew as sure as I knew my name that it wasn’t the singing that bothered him. And maybe I’ll never know all the reasons performing was/is so painful, but I know this: he’s conquering the obstacle. He’s finding ways to make it easier – not to be like everyone else, but to be more fully himself. That is the reason I’m praising God.

New here? Glad you made it! I write about my unique joys and challenges as Mom to Henry, a smart, tender, quick­-witted, train-loving, autistic 8-­year­-old with an infectious smile. I long to encourage autism parents and empower all to see inclusivity doesn’t have to be difficult - it can be beautiful. Like what you see? Sign up here to receive news and occasional freebies just for insiders.

The Blessing of Tight Pants

Rerun alert: This was a recent favorite at my old site, so I’m sharing it today for those who are new around here!


The thing every woman hates happened to me one Sunday morning.

I slipped on slacks for church and discovered they wouldn’t button. What? These pants I just bought a few months ago? Wow, I really enjoyed the holidays.

What could I do? Give up carbs? Nope. Give up sweets? Nope. The next morning I went for a long walk in our hilly neighborhood. And again the next morning. And the next. That was about two months ago, and now I get grumpy if I can’t walk. (Also? I can button my pants.)

Keith enjoys walking with me too. After a few mornings in a row of walking together, I came home one day feeling agitated. The same thing happened the next morning. Agitated. Irritated. Twitchy.

The next morning after that, I walked alone. The sun warmed my face, my favorite white tree waved at me, the podcast uplifted me… Oh, I thought. My heart sank. I was grumpy because I wasn’t alone.

I had to sit with that for a bit. Enjoying a long walk-and-talk has been a staple in our relationship since the days of long-distance dating. We meandered the walking trails around his apartment on Sundays, trying to forget we would soon say good-bye.

What was up with me now?

The reality is, we were having some serious discussions on our walks. Talks about Henry’s future, our will, special needs trusts, attorneys… all the stuff no one wants to think about, but especially not special needs parents. We were being efficient, making use of the time alone. But I have begun to crave the opposite on my morning walks. I need inefficient. I need the opposite of facts.  I need the sun on my face and the wind in my hair.  I need openness, space to listen to God, space to listen to my soul.

When I create space for my soul to open, I also open myself up to the anticipation of possibilities, an attitude of gratitude, a posture of grace. My day is actually better. It’s not magic, but it surely feels like it.

As for Keith, we still walk together sometimes, but heavy discussions don’t come along, and he makes sure I have plenty of solitude as well.

My new habit was born of one necessity – ohmygosh, my pants don’t fit. It remains a habit for completely different necessities. Soul necessities. The white space is critical for a pensive introvert like me, but I imagine it is more important for everyone than most people realize.

Maybe you practice excellent self-care. Maybe you protect your alone time like a mama bear over her cubs. Or maybe you don’t know the last time you heard your own thoughts. Maybe, like me, you have your ups and downs, shifting somewhere between the two.  My wish for you, if you need more white space for your soul, is the blessing of an irritation to help you find it.

New here? Glad you made it! I write about my unique joys and challenges as Mom to Henry, a smart, tender, quick­-witted, train-loving, autistic 8-­year­-old with an infectious smile. I long to encourage autism parents and empower all to see inclusivity doesn’t have to be difficult - it can be beautiful. Like what you see? Sign up here to receive news and occasional freebies just for insiders.

How orphan empowerment applies to me

“We don’t even take their picture before they sign a consent form. Every child knows their rights.”

– Reegan Kaberia Mungi

I had the pleasure of hearing the Pan Africa Coordinator of ZOE speak at our church last week. In his gorgeous, melodic cadence, he explained how orphans in ZOE working groups are educated, empowered and liberated, never coerced or exploited. They make their own choices and always know their rights.

It’s not like I’ve never heard it before. Jess Wilson reminds us all the time; she never posts pictures of her daughter, “Brooke,” without permission. She fiercely guards Brooke’s privacy on puberty matters, despite being asked regularly about how she copes with those sticky preteen/teen issues. Everything Jess writes passes through her filter: Would I have wanted this written about me?

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Because of Jess, I’ve become more protective of Henry. I think more about what photos I post and stories I share. I’ve deleted old posts I wish I hadn’t published. (I’m sure I’ve missed some.) Yet, Reegan’s words pierced my heart with new clarity.

These orphans could easily be mistreated, and I don’t mean in an intentionally abusive way. The ZOE partners could easily take on a superior attitude. We might assume they are grateful just to have food, regardless of how it is provided. We might assume we know what’s best in their community. Often, this is exactly what well-meaning relief organizations do.  We assume our 1st world customs, our business strategies, our ways are always the best, and we force the impoverished to do X, Y, and Z, and ten years later we come back to see the same folks in poverty once again.

ZOE is different. And it occurred to me that I could learn a thing or two from them on how to conduct my own “business” of parenting and writing:

  1. Henry has rights. He has the right to say, “No, Mom. Don’t put that on the internet,” even at 6 years old. Further, I need to ask.
  2. Henry deserves dignity. Anything I wouldn’t post about me, I shouldn’t post about him.
  3. My ways are not always best. What seems best to me as his parent is, in fact, best a lot of the time. (Don’t touch the hot stove. Don’t cross the street when an 18-wheeler is coming at you. Brush your teeth.) Other times, I don’t know what’s best, and because I don’t…
  4. I need to learn the local customs. In this case, “local” is Henry and other autistic people. What works for them? What doesn’t?
  5. I need to listen. Maybe this one goes without saying, but since listen is my word for 2016, I’ll write it here again. I need to listen to every way Henry communicates to me and let that communication affect me before I think or speak.

What I know for sure is that moms and dads do the very best we can with what we know. Keith and I have certainly done all we know to do and then some. But when our eyes are opened to new perspectives, therapies, interventions, or ideas, we owe it to Henry to at least listen to those new ways. Sometimes they’re worthless, sure; sometimes they’re not. This time it’s not. Reegan is right. All children have rights. Impoverished or wealthy, healthy or sick, disabled or not. All children have rights. Period.

New here? Glad you made it! I write about my unique joys and challenges as Mom to Henry, a smart, tender, quick­-witted, train-loving, autistic 8-­year­-old with an infectious smile. I long to encourage autism parents and empower all to see inclusivity doesn’t have to be difficult - it can be beautiful. Like what you see? Sign up here to receive news and occasional freebies just for insiders.

Why I’m an advocate

Henry’s capacity to feel has always been evident to me. Maybe it’s one of the reasons I didn’t see his autism as soon as others did. They noticed his aloofness and occasional lack of eye contact (like when he was focused intently on trains or Sesame Street), but I paid more attention to his engaging smile, playfulness, and affection.

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Henry, age 2

Henry loved to be held by his mom and dad, loved to sleep on my chest, loved to have family hugs. There was no “coldness.” And he seemed to see, perceive, and feel things more deeply than the toddlers I’d spent time around.

In other words, Henry didn’t fit the only stereotypes I knew.  I didn’t see it because I had the same inadequate amount of knowledge that I am now doing my best to improve for others. I was the person I now want to help.

A friend of a friend once asked, “Does it go away? Is there medicine for that?” For the briefest of moments I wanted to shake her. My hands wanted to reach out and grab her and I wanted to shriek, “Are you freaking kidding me?” But the feeling ended as quickly as it came, and I was grateful she asked. (How many people never ask?) I explained calmly autism didn’t work that way – that his brain wouldn’t be changing – but that he has come so far in coping and adjusting to the world that is sometimes hard for him to handle.

I wasn’t really angry at her; I was angry because I was her. A little over 4 years ago, I knew next to nothing. In her shoes, I may have asked an equally ridiculous question. And that scares me. It scares me and angers me that so many people in the world are autistic and so many of us still don’t know what that means.

Why does it matter? First, when we don’t know how to interact with autistic people, we can do them serious harm. Second, we miss out on growth and beauty for ourselves as well.

It is not enough to know autism exists. I know string theory exists, but don’t ask me to explain it! Awareness is nothing without knowledge; knowledge is nothing without action. We must know what neurodiversity means, what autism does, and what we must do as a result.

I could take the easy way out. The easy way whispers, “Oh, if their children don’t have it, of course they can’t be expected to know.”  But I can’t let myself off the hook so easily. With knowledge comes great responsibility. I don’t deserve the privilege of raising this amazing young man, my precious Henry, if I can’t share what I’ve learned to make the world better for him.

New here? Glad you made it! I write about my unique joys and challenges as Mom to Henry, a smart, tender, quick­-witted, train-loving, autistic 8-­year­-old with an infectious smile. I long to encourage autism parents and empower all to see inclusivity doesn’t have to be difficult - it can be beautiful. Like what you see? Sign up here to receive news and occasional freebies just for insiders.

We have a winner!

Thank you to the many folks who supported me this week as I launched my new site. It was both heartwarming and exciting to receive so many new likes and comments!

I chose the winner by entering all the names (multiple times for those who entered in multiple ways) in a random name generator, and out popped…

Eva P. Scott!

I pray you’ll be blessed by these goodies! For those of you who didn’t win, I hope you’ll still check out Lindsay Letters and Emily P. Freeman. God is working through them in big ways!

New here? Glad you made it! I write about my unique joys and challenges as Mom to Henry, a smart, tender, quick­-witted, train-loving, autistic 8-­year­-old with an infectious smile. I long to encourage autism parents and empower all to see inclusivity doesn’t have to be difficult - it can be beautiful. Like what you see? Sign up here to receive news and occasional freebies just for insiders.

Grand Opening with a Golden Giveaway!

Do you hear that party horn?

Do you feel the confetti on your face?

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Welcome to my new online home! I’ve been dreaming of this day for, well, a long time. It’s my pleasure to have you here. I know you could be pretty much anywhere else at this exact moment, and instead, you’re with me. Thank you.

It’s a privilege and responsibility to have you as a reader, and I promise not to take that lightly. (If it ever seems I’ve forgotten, remind me, ok?)

For now, I want to say THANK YOU with a GOLDEN GIVEAWAY!

The Rules

If I make it to 200 likes on Facebook by Tuesday, May 3, at 11:59pm, I will give away two of my favorites: a letterpress art print from Lindsay Letters and a book from Emily P. Freeman. Eek! Want to enter?

You’ll receive one entry for each task below:

  1. Like my writer page on Facebook.
  2. If you feel inclined, share the giveaway announcement on Facebook.
  3. Comment here with your email address. Anyone can do this, but I want to offer a way to enter for those not on Facebook!

The Loot

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Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman

If you aren’t familiar with Emily, you are in for a treat. She is my #1, never-miss, most favorite contemporary Christian author. I’ve been reading her blog for what seems like forever, and in my best dreams I can write books as significant to others as her first book, Grace for the Good Girl, was to me. Let me put it this way: if I asked God to please float down from the skies a book to help me understand myself in ways no one and nothing else can, he would send Grace for the Good Girl.

Her latest, Simply Tuesday, is not just for recovering good girls. It’s for anyone who feels their “soul is being held hostage by hustle.” (So, you know, pretty much everyone.) I find myself returning to this lovely book again and again. Even if you don’t win, please check it out. Here’s a little message from Emily.

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Print from Lindsay Letters

Lindsay is my absolute favorite hand-letterer on the web today. This gorgeous 8×10 letterpress print is in rose gold foil on pearl paper, printed on an antique press. (Note that in person this is far less pink and much more gold.) Each and every item Lindsay creates speaks to my soul. Hold one in your hands and you can’t help but feel her passion for her work! Someone will receive this one, with a line from one of my favorite hymns:

Great is Thy faithfulness, morning by morning new mercies I see.


I hope you’ll agree this is truly a golden giveaway! These pieces of art represent my heart, and my prayer is that they will bless you as much as they bless me.

Remember, 200 likes by 11:59 pm on 5/3. I’ll announce Wednesday morning. See you then!

Please note: These gifts are from me to you; this giveaway is in no way associated with Emily or Lindsay. I’m just a gushing fan! 

New here? Glad you made it! I write about my unique joys and challenges as Mom to Henry, a smart, tender, quick­-witted, train-loving, autistic 8-­year­-old with an infectious smile. I long to encourage autism parents and empower all to see inclusivity doesn’t have to be difficult - it can be beautiful. Like what you see? Sign up here to receive news and occasional freebies just for insiders.