"The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things,
and the God of peace will be with you."
-Philippians 4:9

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Rude Awakening

5:20am. It's a full 25 minutes before that annoying alarm is set to jolt me into a new day. My husband saves it the trouble by shaking the whole bed as he startles awake, panic-stricken that he's missed the alarm, and demanding to know what time it is. Um, it's 5:20. *sigh* He dozes right back off, and I'm left, heart pounding, restless, and unable to relax until about 30 seconds before...the stupid alarm does it's job.

As he was showering and I was preparing his work clothes for the day, my attitude stunk. Why is it MY responsibility to keep up with what time it is? (um, because I took it over. Dan's more than happy to have the clock on his side of the bed, but he will let that alarm buzz until he's darn good and ready to shut it off. I smack it after the first buzz so it won't wake all the kids, too!) HE can drift right back off; while he sleeps and tells me to snooze the alarm, I lie there desperately trying to still my mind and body to get that missed rest. Why am I here ironing his stinkin' costume? Why didn't he get it set out and ready last night? Because he, like the kids, knows that if they don't, I'll step in and make it happen. I'll get everyone to practice on time, I'll make sure the pantry is stocked, I'll serve meals and wash clothes, I'll chase runaways and administer discipline, I'll think for everyone so they have what they need when they need it and know where to find it. I don't think anyone really wants me in the family for who I am, but for what I can do for them so they don't have to. Gripe, complain, martyr, poor me. And I just *know* the kids are going to be up early again. (they were)

The more I complained to myself, the more sour my outlook for the rest of the day became. And it hasn't been helped by the previous few days. It's been a bit of a ride around here lately. But, in the back of my mind, something - or Someone - started niggling. Really? You don't like to be taken for granted? You don't like to be just expected to be there at everyone's beck and call?You'd like your service to be a freely offered gift rather than a demanded duty? You'd like to be known for who you are rather than what you can do? You don't want to be ignored until somebody needs something? And you'd like to be appreciated whether you lifted a finger in service or not? Just because you're a person of worth?

I absolutely stopped short. My last post was full of praise for a Lord who answers panicked, crying-out prayer. And He does. But what if His answer had been "lean on Me to survive the tragic death of your baby boy who ran out into traffic." What if it had been "I am still a good and loving Daddy even as your family goes through the storm of a court trial and foster care placement." What if He had said, "I am Sovereign, Almighty God and will watch over MY CHILD even though you have never been able to find him." What if? Would I still praise Him? Would I lift my hands in worship if my worst fears had been realized? Would I love Him for WHO HE IS rather than what He did for me?

The Scripture says that man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. I've often heard that used to emphasize looking past racial boundaries, cultural differences, dress, hygeine, class or education differences. But it's also about looking past what people do to who they are; past what God does to Who He is. There's a line in the movie Batman Begins that says "It's not who you are underneath, but what you do that defines you." And it is true that who you are is often manifest in what you do. But man looks on what God does (in our weak and incomplete perception of what He does) and seeks to define Him by what we see Him do rather then by Who He really is. If we don't catch what He's doing, if we don't see the whole plan unfold, if we miss the details and only define Him by our perceptions of His distance, His deafness to our pleas, then we define Him incorrectly. We miss "who He is underneath;" not because He seeks to hide from us, but because our vision is incomplete, imperfect, focused on our own expectations. And we fail to praise Him; sometimes we go so far as reviling and rejecting Him. All because we define Him by what He does rather than Who He is.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

His Eye is on the Sparrow

Ever have one of those things happen that reinforce how little you have control over anything? That emphasize the loving hands of an Almighty God who really is looking out for you? And that you would *never* live through again if given any choice in the matter?

Today, one of those things happened at our house. I'm alternating between shaking and praising. It was terrifying. Michael ran off.

No big deal, you say. Michael runs off a lot. It's his coping mechanism of choice. And you always know where he's going: the bathhouse. Except for this time. This time it happened while I was in the laundry room, so he specifically avoided the bathhouse because that's where I was. This time, not one of the other kids hollered at him to stop, thereby alerting me that all was not well 30 yards away on our little lot. This time I had no idea where to start looking.

I returned from the laundry room, opened the door, and saw 3 of my 4 kids. "Where's Michael?" ...silence... "We thought he was going to you. He got mad and..." "Which direction did he go?"...silence... "STAY HERE AND LOCK THE DOOR!!!" Off I ran, shouting for him, knowing that he never responds to his name being called but unable to stop the reflex. Barefoot, in my pajamas because my clothes were in the wash, hair unkempt...not caring at all. WHERE ARE YOU, MICHAEL???

Michael was not in the bathhouse. He was not on our lot or the neighbor's. Not on the roof of the rv. Not at the pool or the clubhouse. Not on any of the streets in the complex that I cruised, making a nuisance of myself by shouting out the window for him. Nowhere. Surely he wouldn't...No, it's too scary to think...Did he *leave the rv park?*

I turned the car out onto the main road, shaking at the possibilities. We live a couple of blocks from HWY192, the main drag for tourists, hotels, and the main entrance to Walt Disney World. It's busy. People don't know where they're going. And not everybody is very nice. Surely my baby isn't out here. Except that he was.

I saw the landscaper truck for our complex and our office manager standing by the side of the road. They know Michael; maybe they've seen him. I pull over. "We hoped you'd be here soon. We have Michael." Don't collapse...hold it together..."Thank you so much!"..."We've called the police. They'll be here soon. Michael did good. He knew his name, where he lived, your name. He's very smart."...don't scream at them and demand to know why they didn't just bring him home but involved the police..."Yeah, he's smart. Just doesn't understand that running off isn't an appropriate response to being upset."...O, Lord, what do I do? The cops?? Three parents in the area have had their kids removed and been sent to jail for this exact thing. Kids take off sometimes. He's been gone for all of 10 minutes. LORD????..."Well, we knew it was yours the minute he said his name. You have to keep a better eye on him. He was going to cross 192 because he wanted to go to the store." ...silence. just be thankful he's okay. tears, tears, tears. FEAR! LORD?????

The police arrived after what seemed an eternity. Michael was in my car, the landscapers waited patiently. Officer Campbell walked up and asked what happened. I gave him the short version: laundry room, sibling fight, autistic response, search, found. He walked over and spoke with the landscapers. I couldn't hear their story. He came back and tried to get Michael to look him in the eye. He wouldn't. He sat balled up, rocking and smiling. Finally, the officer asked Michael why he ran. *grin* "'Cause my brother, Ben, made me mad," spoken in his baby voice that he uses when he's having trouble relating. He uses it a lot. Officer Campbell tried to communicate that he scared his mommy and everybody when he ran off, that he can't do that, do you understand? No eye contact, but a brief nod of the head. Is he getting that this is the level of communication with Michael all the time?? That he just has no grasp of the danger?? Please, Lord, give him insight. Please don't let our family be the one featured on the news tonight as being the unfit, unsupervisory homeschooling proof that parents shouldn't have the right to care for their own kids.

After a couple of futile attempts to drive home the seriousness of the situation, Officer Campbell asked for my identification. He ran my license, came back and verified with Michael that I was indeed his mother, handed me my license with a parting, "Michael, remember. Don't leave your house without your mommy," and went his way. No report written or filed. No reprimands to me for not watching out for my child. Thank you, Lord. He didn't ask where the offending sibling was or why he wasn't in school. He apparently understood. Thank you, Lord. You do care and involve Yourself in the daily lives of your children. Just, please, can we not do this ever again? Thanks.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

How Do You Respond to That?

This telephone conversation took place last week but it just keeps running around in my head. So I decided to get it out. Hopefully it will have fun running around in your head, too.

Thrift Store Proprietor: "Hello?"

Customer (Me): "Hi. I was wondering if you have any of those pop-up canopies that are used for sporting events, etc.? " (Yes, I *do* call ahead rather than rummaging through thrift stores while herding cats, er, kids.)

Proprietor: "Yes, I do have one of those."

Me (excited to have finally found one): "Great! How much are you asking for it?"

Proprietor: "Oh. It isn't for sale. I use it for cover when I set up displays out in front of my store. Those things are really handy!"

So...how in the world do you respond to that?? I chose stunned silence followed by a stammered "Thanks." Click.