Tag Archives: letting go

Get Over it! My Special Education, Lesson #10

car-seat-belt-injury-orlando-flI drove halfway up the driveway before noticing Jon didn’t have his seat belt on, so I stopped the car and put it in park.

“Please put your seat belt on, Jon.”

He glared at the floor and snarled, “Leave me alone!”

“You want to be left alone? Ok then.”

I put the car in reverse and backed it up to the garage, where we’d just come from.

“You want to be left alone? Then get out of the car right now and go back in the house.”

I stared at him. He stared at the floor. We sat in silence for a minute.

“You either get your seat belt on and loose the attitude or get out of this car. I’m going out to have a nice time and I don’t need any grumpys coming along to wreck it.” I said firmly.

The scowl on my son’s face relaxed and he reached for the seat belt and slowly clicked it in place. I thanked him and off we went.

On the way to our destination, I decided to remind him why seat belts are not an option. I began to explain in simple language I knew he understood, that wearing one is the law and how they save lives in case of an accident.

As I was talking he reached out and turned the radio volume up.

“So you don’t want to hear what you need to know, is that it, Jon?” I reached over and turned the radio down. “You don’t want me to talk? Well, I won’t quit talking ‘till I’m dead. So you might as well get used to it.”

He reached over to turn the radio back up but not before I heard him mutter, “Hope that hurries up.”

I desperately tried not to laugh. Something so hurtful can be hilarious coming from Jon. He doesn’t talk much but he sure doesn’t pussy foot around about how he feels. At thirty five, when confronted with his inappropriate behavior, he’s often like a moody, bad attitude teenager who forgot to grow up.

I glanced at him as I drove and answered lightly, “Because you just said that, God is now going to make sure I live forever.”

A barely-there smile crossed his lips and he turned to look out the window so I wouldn’t see it.

This is what I know.

Sometimes, people I care about say words that are less than loving.

Get over it!

Sometimes, people I love are hurtful.

Get over it!

Sometimes those I try to help, lash back.

Get over it!

Sometimes those I most want love, acceptance and approval from, disappoint.

Get over it!

If Jesus, who was nailed to a tree, and in the excruciating pain and suffering of his final breath could declare, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing,” for those who hung Him there, I have no right to hold an offense against those who do less to me.

I’m learning from my Savior and my son how to get over it!

Getting over offense is a choice we constantly make. Everyday and in all situations.

Will I hold on to the hurt and add it to my growing list of offenses?

Will I choose bitterness and bondage or forgiveness and freedom?

Will I choose to stop taking every word, action and reaction personally?

Will I choose to stop being overly sensitive.

Will I choose to let go?

When I pray for strength I don’t have, God’s grace meets me at the point of my choice. I then see others through His eyes and with His heart.

Broken.

Bruised.

Damaged.

Valuable.

Forgiven.

Deserving of love.

Worthy of redemption.

Just like me.

So. Get. Over. It!

“The first to apologize is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest. The first to forget is the happiest.” ~Unknown~

Matthew 18:21 Peter came up to the Lord and asked, “How many times should I forgive someone who does something wrong to me? Is seven times enough?”22 Jesus answered: Not just seven times, but seventy-seven times!

Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Ephesians 4:31-32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staying Home Instead

fourth-of-july-fireworks-It’s July 4th. Independence Day. The great American holiday.

People are celebrating the founding of our nation by going to the park, the lake, the beach, to a cookout with friends, a get together with family, or to a fireworks display.

Before or after a holiday the common question is, “What are you doing/did you do for the holiday?”

My answer is always the same. “Depends on Jon.” or, “Stayed home with Jon.”

We’re often invited to something, somewhere by someone on these special occasions. It’s not that friends purposely leave us out. “Oh just bring Jon with you,” they say.

And it’s not that we don’t want to go, we just never make it. Jon doesn’t care about being on time or if it’s July 4th.  He doesn’t like crowds or fireworks. Last night, as the neighbors set fireworks off all around us, he stayed in his room yelling, “Shut Up!” over and over again at the outdoors.

So others go and we stay home, learning how to celebrate without joining the masses of those ‘going’ and ‘doing’.

Because of this, I appreciate the true meaning of holidays in ways I never use to. Limits force what is taken for granted, to a place of greater meaning.

Today has been a day of simplicity. I’ve looked up some ‘reminding myself’ history on the founding of our nation and listened to several renditions of “The Star Spangled Banner” on YouTube.

We fertilized and watered all our plants then, surrounded by their colorful beauty, cooled off by floating in the pool for a while,

We broke away from our mostly plant food eating plan to celebrate in proper, God Bless the USA, style. Mike went to the store to look for no nitrate, no msg, no hormone, all beef hot dogs (hot dogs and rolls taste so much better when you hardly ever eat them!) and devoured them with corn on the cob and watermelon.

Americans are often bored and dissatisfied unless something monumental is going on. I know. I was one of those. Once.

Going. Always going. Doing. Always doing. Restless. Wanting. Miserable.

Be careful of a mindset that says we must constantly do huge, exciting things to enjoy life.

It’s not true. Don’t fall for the lie.

Most of us have a lot of what we want and everything we need, so be thankful in the still and overlooked moments and, in spite of our troubles and problems, the blessing of living in the greatest nation on planet Earth.

If you’re out somewhere celebrating our American Independence today, enjoy. But don’t forget to take time to remember what you’re celebrating. And don’t forget to explain it to your children so they can develop a sense of significance and appreciation for the day. If the meaning behind this day is important to you it will be important to them as well.

The gift of freedom should never be undervalued nor should learning the art of contentment in going or staying, being or doing, having or wanting.

Don’t live out of the constant dissatisfaction of What Is Not. Instead discover the joy and fulfillment of living in What Is.

Right here.

And right now.

 

 

 

 

 

React or Respond – My Special Education, Lesson # 9

react-respondJon desperately needed a shower and shave. When I went in his room to vacuum and change his sheets, I took his iPad and told him he could have it back after he cleaned himself up.

“Why don’t you do that while I clean in here,” I said with a smile, “then everything about you will be clean and shiny today.”

He scowled at me and left the room.

I busied myself for the next hour picking up a variety of things from the floor: sticks, strings, marbles, batteries, dice and pens, throwing away piles of old paper he’d collected and organizing his DVD and VHS collection back on shelves.

When I went to check on him he was in our bathroom. I’m never thrilled about Jon in the master bath. He gets into all our stuff when he’s in there, but it’s the only bathroom in the house with a tub so we allow it from time to time.

Later that evening I noticed Mike’s electric shaver was missing along with my pearl necklace. I knew Jon had used the shaver since he emerged from our room with his caveman beard missing.

We looked in all the places he might have laid it down and didn’t find it so I knocked on his door.

“Jon, Dad’s shaver is missing and so is my pearl necklace. If you have them would you please set them outside your door? Dad needs his shaver before he leaves for work in the morning. I was going to give back your iPad but we need those things returned first”

He frowned, glared at the floor and when I left the room, threw a small object at the back of the door to emphasize his disapproval of my decision.

In the morning the shaver and the necklace were lying on the hall carpet in front of his door. I thanked him and returned his iPad.

Negotiating with Jon has become a survival skill I have learned over the years. He is slow and often resistant to respond to everything, including directives. The more he’s pushed, the further he retreats, so I need to remain firm, calm and wait him out.

When caring for someone long term, who needs help making good choices but doesn’t want it, choosing which battles to engage is important for sanity’s sake. Some aren’t worth fighting and others are tough to resolve no matter what. Then there are those days I know I won’t have the patience needed, so it’s best to avoid conflict, if possible.

Dealing with difficult people requires a good amount of tongue taming, self control and wisdom and all of us have plenty of opportunity to practice because we all have difficult people in our lives.

How we respond to them is usually more about us then them.

Because we are naturally selfish, anger is often the normal response. Our reaction is usually based, not on what will solve the problem, but how the other person is making us ‘feel’ at the moment.

What we say at such times and just as important, how we say it, reveals who we really are. A response of great character is described in Proverbs 15:1-2 & 4, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly..a gentle tongue is a tree of life..”

Jesus was a master at responding to others instead of reacting. He knew exactly what to say in every situation and confrontation. He also knew when to be quiet and slip away. (John 12:49 “For I have not spoken on My own, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a command as to what I should say and what I should speak.”)

Can we begin to see the difficult folks in our lives as teachers instead of problems, opportunity for personal growth instead of someone to conquer, and a challenge to build strength of character instead of an irritation to curse? It’s certainly not easy to maintain this idea!

As we set our heart on the intentional practice of responding to others with grace, gentle words and quiet confidence, we find God gives us what we need to be changed from the inside out.

And as we pray for help to become less reactive to difficult situations and people, it becomes natural to keep a calmness and peace about us that others notice and desire.

Then we will “Be ready at any time to give a quiet and reverent answer to any man who wants a reason for the hope that you have within you..with gentleness and respect” (I Peter 3:15).

Jon and the Cutting Dilemma

Jon is into cutting. But not in the same way or for the same reasons as other people.

He cuts sleeves off shirts, toes off socks, slits in the center of our bath and dish towels, legs off his father’s pants and hem strips off sheets and bed skirts.

towelsYesterday I took him to Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins. He dressed in his finest: a sawed off sleeves, blue T-shirt with two belts tied around his waist, one made from a strip of a nice, fluffy over sized beach towel he repurposed and the other, a bright orange and white flowered cloth tie belt he took from my closet.

When I’m tempted to be annoyed about this mysterious (and money wasting) behavior, I stop and remind myself to be thankful Jon’s not harming himself. He has his own brand of creative fun going on in his very unusual and imaginative brain.

And it’s just stuff. I can always go to Walmart and buy more cheap, made-in-China towels and T-shirts for him to cut up. It’s all replaceable. He isn’t.

Hanging out with Jon gives me an entirely different way to look at life and teaches me how to relax about little things that don’t really matter. While Jon is cutting up stuff in our house, God is cutting away the Me that wants to rise up and demand life always go My way.

God uses the people in our lives, yes; even those with annoying habits, to instruct us, change us and expose areas where we need to improve. There is nothing more liberating than letting go of the unrealistic expectations we have for others.

Ask God to help you look at those frustrating, annoying folks around you through His eyes, with His heart. Then look inside yourself and let Him transform you so you can love freely, unconditionally and without barriers.

The same way Jesus loves me and you.

 Philippians 2:3(ERV) “In whatever you do, don’t let selfishness or pride be your guide. Be humble, and honor others more than yourselves”

Proverbs 27:17(NIV) “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

 

 

Approval Addiction Rehab – My Special Education, Lesson #3

Jon doesn’t care what you or I think. 226ASP6179944780

He is not out to impress anyone. He doesn’t yearn for accolades or glory.

The latest fashion trend does not factor into his wardrobe selection. If it’s too tight, too stiff or too much collar he won’t wear it. Give him his favorite well worn, slightly over-sized T shirts and shorts and he’s satisfied.

Yet he doesn’t give a second thought to leaving the house with a beach towel wrapped around his shoulders as a cape, or wearing his karate jacket combined with a cowboy hat and fingerless gloves, or walking around with a piece of bark mulch sticking out of his hat (read about that here).

Jon misses almost every cue for tact and poise and goes with how the moment moves him. Social graces and nuances are not on his resume.

Every now and then he might surprise you with acknowledgement, a smile or even a handshake just to let you know you’re still on his radar screen. But if he’s not in the mood to be bothered with you, he will freeze in place. If he doesn’t like something you say to him, he will scowl.

Jon can take thirty minutes or more to order at a restaurant, with the server returning to the table, nervously banging her pencil against her order pad and asking for the thirteenth time, “Is he ready now?”

Are you kidding? He hasn’t even opened the menu yet and he’s not troubled in the least by her impatience.

He can be so slow in a store checkout line people pile up behind us like kids in a school lunch line. You can hear them at your back, shuffling and sighing. It might embarrass you or give you an anxiety attack. But Jon has no concern for you or them.

You can’t hang out with Jon all the time and fret over what people think. You just have to get over it.

Approval from others is a prison Jon doesn’t visit or live in.

The truth is, when you’re with Jon, you have to get over what YOU think. Your opinion ceases to exist. It becomes a mute point.

Being with Jon means you’ve just signed up for approval addiction rehabilitation!

Obviously, my son is on the extreme end of people skills deficiency, but he has taught me much about freedom from the grip of other’s thoughts and opinions. Most of the time they don’t matter.

Jesus had his hands full with the approval addicts of his day. The religious leaders and lawyers, the Pharisees and Sadducees, were obsessed with approval. They nominated themselves as the politically correct thought police of their culture and took it very seriously. Everything they said and did was for appearance sake and everyone who didn’t walk, talk and think like them we’re viewed with contempt.

Matthew 21:26 and Matthew 21:45 (see below) reveal how much they feared public opinion and worried about what others said. The Pharisees major concern was for everyone to see their self imposed importance (Matthew 23:5) and was one of the reasons Jesus told his followers to stay away from them.

Ultimately our approval comes from God and we should pass every opinion through the filter of His standard for our life. He doesn’t see us as others do; for “man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

When we’re tossed around by every idea, remark, criticism, viewpoint, trend or bit of advice we encounter, we become what everyone else thinks we should be instead of what God made us to be.

Of course we need to be careful of an attitude that says, “I don’t care what you think, therefore, I don’t care about you,” but living life based solely on the praise and admiration of others is not living at all.

I’ve come a long way from where I use to be, thanks to Jon, but I pray I can master the fine art of caring about others compassionately without caring what others think of me.

There’s something incredibly liberating in that.

Galatians 6:14 “I am going to boast about nothing but the Cross of our Master, Jesus Christ. Because of that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate.” (The Message)

Ephesians 4:12-13 God’s goal is for us to become mature adults—to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ. As a result, we aren’t supposed to be infants any longer who can be tossed and blown around by every wind that comes from teaching with deceitful scheming and the tricks people play to deliberately mislead others.” (Common English Bible)

*Matthew 26:23 Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin? ”They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”27 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

*Matthew 26:45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. 46 They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.”

 

 

Hold or Fold? My Special Education, Lesson #2

A few years ago I realized that I was obsessing over Jon’s obsessions. decision

Take his room for example. At first glance it looks like a yard sale or maybe a cleaner version of a landfill. I’ve noticed a pattern to his clutter; he puts the same items back on the floor in the same piles and in the same place. You can read about that here.

Any time we go out, he first fills a bag (or bags) with little items: strings, sticks, old papers, napkins and small toys. Eventually, there are so many bags in the car I can’t find the back seat.

I prefer my car looking clean and spacious instead of  like a Sanford and Son road show. But I’ve decided that Jon feels better when his stuff is around him. So I let it slide, for a while. When I can’t stand it anymore, I carry everything back into the landfill – his room. Then we start all over again.

 When he showers, he lines all his supplies up very methodically, things he needs for bathing and things he doesn’t and you better not touch any of it.

Eating is a repeat. Food is placed strategically around him and after all the fussing he can wait up to an hour before taking a bite, while he draws or writes on napkins.

Some of his actions seem illogical and I don’t pretend to understand.  I’ve had to learn to overlook and accept much of his behavior for what it is. If I allowed his fixations to constantly frustrate and aggravate me, I’d be twitching in a corner by now.

Time has proved that Jon’s not going to change, so I have to. There’s no point or value in my locking horns with his obsessiveness. It only escalates, adding stress, misery and tension to an already unconventional situation.

Face it, some of the things we hang on to, whether they are opinions, beliefs, material goods, expectations of others or ourselves are not useful and in the long run don’t matter much, if at all. “Don’t sweat the small stuff” really applies here.

It’s the trivial, the little pebbles in the shoe, that can hinder. How much better is it to move around the petty obstacles and keep going?

Not everything is urgent and some things aren’t even important. Others are non-negotiable and so critical I need the grip and tenacity of a pit bull to hold them.

When I’m tired, frustrated or discouraged it’s easy to let slip those things that should remain.

Knowing when to hold on and when to let go requires wisdom, discernment, consistency and prayer.

It also requires change. I must be willing to adjust in areas where I’m too rigid or passive, or at least examine these and determine their validity.

Is this a battle I need to win? Is this an issue I should stand firm on? Sometimes the answer is yes. Very often it is no.

In all areas of life, prioritizing and simplifying, helps me live effectively and peacefully with myself and others.

And in doing so I discover, as time goes by that people, circumstances and inconvenience irritate me less. I’m certain I have my son to thank for some of that.

Philippians 4:6-7 “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

Revelation 3:2 “Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.”

It’s Not My Job To Fix Anyone – My Special Education, Lesson #1

Once I processed and accepted the surprise and disappointment of Jon’s initial diagnosis, I determined to help him be the most amazing person who ever had Down syndrome.

 

I knew if I worked hard enough, fought long enough, my son would be The One to WOW the world. He would be almost ‘normal’ if not one hundred percent. He would have the life I imagined for him – acceptance, friends, a girlfriend (or maybe a wife!), his own apartment, a career and a car to drive to work.

 

He might not become a neurosurgeon or The President, but most ‘normal’ people weren’t, so I could live with that.

 

Working tirelessly from birth through high school and beyond, I fought for services in every available arena of mainstreaming and special education and was even instrumental in spearheading a few improvements.

We accessed infant early intervention, integrated preschool, behavior assessments, speech and occupational therapy, reading programs, Special Olympics and work training programs.

 

I never missed an IEP (Individual Education Plan) school meeting and even home schooled for several years, burning long hours into the night, researching new ways to help Jon excel at learning.

 

Helping my son hit a high level of ability became my project and I was obsessed.

My attempts to ‘fix him’ and fit him into the life my imagination had designed for him, often hindered my enjoying him as my child, especially in those early years. When my friend’s toddlers said their first word, sat up, walked and potty trained on schedule and Jon didn’t, I was defeated and miserable.

Obviously I wasn’t doing enough and the mommy guilt was all encompassing.

 

Now he’s an adult and none of my imagined scenarios for Jon’s life have come to pass, even after all my years of worry and hard work. Of course, we never figured autism would be added to the equation, yet, there’s no apartment, car, career, girlfriend and few friends.

 

There’s mostly just me and Jon.

 

Somewhere in the mix of my many years of ‘Jon education’ and church ministry, dealing with all types of people, I figured something out – it’s not my job to fix people – especially if my “fixing” is more about what I want than what they want or actually need.

 

balloonThis has been a hard lesson to learn.

 

Only God knows what comprises the heart of a person. It’s His job to correct. Mine is to surrender to His work both in myself and others. While God is lovingly trying to align me,  I’m so busy with my attempts to straighten everyone else out that I can’t begin to see my own need.

 

My responsibility is simply to love. If that love requires helping another improve in some way then so be it, but never should it be about someone fitting my perception of what that should look like or what I think they should become.

 

It’s not about my attempts to line everyone up around me to my liking. Enjoying people simply for who they are sets me free from seeing them as a project or burdening relationships with my selfish agenda.

 

Though I’m certain I have more to discover here, learning to love my son for exactly who he is, not who I hoped he’d be, and letting go of my foolish attempts to change and control others has been one of the most liberating experiences of my life.

 

I’ve been surprised by the realization that freedom can come in unforeseen and unexpected ways and letting go has brought more internal peace and joy than I ever thought possible.

 

Jon, what a wonderful teacher you are!

  

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” ~ Leo Tolstoy

 

“How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” Matthew 7:4

 

“So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” Romans 14:12 NIV

Potter’s Assistant

I wrote this in the Fall of 2007 after our son, David, packed up and left for college. For all parents soon facing graduation and a child leaving home, this one’s for you. Six years later, I guess I can say, you sort of get used to them being gone, but you never stop missing them if they don’t return close to home.

There is an empty place in our home today and also in my heart.  David packed up his belongings and we took him six hundred and forty miles away from us to begin a new life at college.  

After years of loving, holding, comforting, teaching, playing, training, giving, worrying and caring we took our child, who is one no longer, to a strange place full of strange people then drove away and left him there, watching him wave good-bye in the rear view mirror as we pointed our car towards home.   

It is a very hard thing to do, this letting go, so bitter-sweet.  But the bird has left the nest and the butterfly has emerged from the chrysalis.  Time can not be reversed but can only go forward from here.

How am I supposed to feel?  I’m really not sure. I am so conflicted with happiness for David and this new opportunity for growth and adventure, then sadness for how much I already miss him.  

We drive home immersed in empty silence in a car that just a few hours ago was packed full of our son.  I walk into my house and his bedroom door is closed, the room dark and quiet.  No clothes piled on the floor, no rumpled blankets on the bed, no email and cell phone competing for attention, no music blaring from the stereo speakers or from one of the several guitars that once lined the walls, no crazy auburn curls emerging from all that chaos with a random joke, smile or hug.  

It is eerily silent here and I feel immensely sad and lonely for this one who has brought so much joy to my days.  There are others here in my home that I love just as much but they can not take his place.  Not the easy, happy place that he always resides in.  They can not fill the vacant space that his leaving has made inside of me because they each have a different spot in my heart. 

If I truly believe that everything I have comes from God then I understand that this son was only loaned to us for a time.  God entrusts us with a child and we are allowed to call him or her our own.  We are expected to be good stewards of this life and assist God in making something useful of it. 

So the formation begins with a parent’s persistent love and training, shaping and influencing through the years, spinning by as swiftly as the potter’s wheel. We give our imperfect best to mold goodness, character, and purpose until the time when we finally take our hands off, when we must let go and see what becomes of this life we were once immersed in.

The clay is formed now and our child is responsible to make wise choices and become all that God has purposed for him.   My job is finished.  My eyes are no longer close by to see, nor my words instantly available to warn him of the trouble one poor decision can produce.  My ears are no longer attentively tuned to the lure of the world that surrounds him.  My hands are no longer the main influence shaping him. Now, in his own heart and mind, he must see, hear and understand the decisions that create an ongoing success of a life fit for The Potter’s use. 

I pray we did something right in teaching him what he needs to know.  I think we did, but only time will tell the end of the story.  I can only hope that all of the treasure tucked away in this wonderful earthen vessel of our son will display the excellency of the power of God, and not so much of us and our human limitations and frailty.  

As time marches forward and the story continues to be written, I trust that the wonder of seeing David’s life and purpose unfold will fill my very being with a greater joy, replacing all the emptiness my heart feels today. And even in this conflicting sadness, I thank God for the privilege of being His willing and humble assistant through these fleeting years.  

 I wouldn’t trade one moment of it for anything at all.

“But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you our potter; and we all are the work of your hand.”  Isaiah 64:8
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” 2Corinthians 4:7