Grow it? I can’t even spell it.

Taking care of a loved one with special needs means a steep learning curve.  You have to start picking up ideas and applications from medicine, social science, natural science, education, the supermarket… and plenty of them are rattled off in acronyms like IEP or ASD.  (I’m not providing handy links for those so if you don’t know what they are you can feel a bit o’ the bother that they create.)

HyacinthI found myself pondering this on Easter Sunday over dinner at a friend’s house.  Our hosts had this lovely centerpiece on the table.  Our first question was “Did you buy it or grow it yourselves?”  We were impressed that it was their own work.  Placing bulbs in water means “drown” in our planting experience.

Our next question (thanks, Captain Obvious) was, “What is it?”  I mean, we knew it was a plant.  We could even be so bold as to tell you it was a flowering plant.  But a name other than bulbs in water with lavenderish flowers seemed worth knowing.

“It’s a grape hyacinth” was the reply.  I won’t tell you how many times I had to type hia… hyas… hyacen… whatever to get away without a red mark under it.

Raising a kid with autism is filled with such experiences of ignorance, guessing, hearing about, trying, failing and starting over. There’s a good reflection at the Not Alone website , where the parents of a kid with special needs talk about behavior management:

“Then, there are the times something is happening in the very moment when we must make on the spot decisions that might help (or hinder) a current situation. We come to learn how to do this because of times we should have and didn’t!”

I’ll leave you with an inspirational, easy to remember, practical affirmation for your care giving pleasure.  Say it several times a day.

Here

You

Are

Crazed

Incompetent

Nonplussed

Totally

Helpless

But if you can’t spell that, try this instead.

Bath time

20160324_115523So this is the tub where we bathe our 22 year old son.  We all live with autism here.  Maybe you live with something else.  There are family caregivers of all sorts out there, bathing kids, spouses, parents, grandparents, even non-relatives who are in our care.

It isn’t pleasant or uplifting work.  Sometimes it stinks.  Sometimes it’s just a string of tasks to which we are numb.

This week, many Christians will be reminded that Jesus tried to teach a lesson by acting out a care giving chore:

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:1-5 ESV)

He did it knowing that one of the people in whom he’d invested himself was going to harm him.

He did it knowing that others in his care would not understand what he was doing.

He did it even though the culture of his time considered foot washing to be low level “burger flipper” work, expected in “good homes” but insignificant in society.

He stood – I mean, he knelt – right where care givers hit the floor.

Let me offer you a bath.  No, not with soap and water, but, I pray, with some words that encourage you:

  • Wash away any thought that your work is a punishment from on high, because what you’re doing can be the most holy example of all.
  •  Wash away any thought that your work is meaningless, because such work is written as an eternal example.

And please,

  • Soak in the knowledge that you might be among those chosen from the beginning to carry out work that reveals the heart of God to a lost and stumbling world,

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:12-17 ESV)

We wish you well at this time of the year.  A joyful Easter, if Jesus is your Lord and Teacher.  A gentle and refreshing springtime, whatever your understanding of life.  Comfort, strength and love to you and those in your care.

*$#(% Spring Has Sprung

20160317_153607So the trees are all bare and snow remains a possible forecast.  But there it is, green and growing in an otherwise dormant planter bed.  A weed.

This visitor makes a nice simile for care giving, dontcha think?  Especially where autism or other developmental disabilities are present.  Stuff doesn’t happen at the right time, unless it’s a wrong thing happening at just the right moment to create maximum exasperation.

 

But I gave up the best years of my life!

It’s the cry of a beleaguered spouse who just discovered a betrayal.  Or a parent dealing with a grown kid’s life blunders.  Or a care giver, lamenting what might have come of the years pinned down by another’s needs.

Most of us have a rational brain that knows to switch off the “What if?” thoughts of middle and later life.  But care giving grinds on rational thinking, and helps stupid take over.  So the useless pondering of past possibilities comes clanking into our heads.  We look back and lament, and the past gums up the present.

Traffic 2

Like I can do anything about what’s back there?

I was reading the thoughts of a 16th century Spanish nun (hey, what do you want me to do with some free time, think about “What if?”), who counseled her sisters against the allure of heroic thoughts based on what they “should” accomplish.  She was concerned that they might expect more of their lives than God asked, and give up on good things that didn’t fit their illusions of what might have been.  She wrote,

…sometimes the devil gives us great desires so that we will avoid setting ourselves to the task at hand, serving our Lord in possible things, and instead be content with having desired the impossible.  Apart from the fact that by prayer you will be helping greatly, you need not be desiring to benefit the whole world but must concentrate on those who are in your company, and thus your deed will be greater since you are more obliged toward them.  Do you think such deep humility, your mortification, service of all and great charity toward them, and love of the Lord is of little benefit?  This fire of love in you enkindles their souls, and with every other virtue you will be always awakening them.  Such service will not be small but very great and pleasing to the Lord.  By what you do in deed – that which you can – His Majesty [God] will understand that you would do much more.  (Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle VII:4.14)

Yeah, we can think of all the beautiful, heroic, meaningful, and/or pleasant things we might have pulled off in all of those “lost” years.

Or we can toss into our groaning minds the thought that those years, while not always pleasant, were in fact beautiful, heroic and meaningful for the people in our care, and in the eyes of God.