Extra Measure of Grace

Wow! Almost a week since I last posted something on this fine blog! I feel a little starved…like an addict looking for a fix. I have been reading blogs, just not writing anything. So, now I’ll probably spew out more than one post to make up for it.

That’s because…it’s been stimulation overload around here. Way too busy around here planning and prepping for Christmas, all the while trying to maintain order and control in a house ruled by disorder. Problem is, one of our children demands a constant, predictable routine and if he doesn’t get that…well…hell….

It started last week with Christmas anticipation. Everyone’s excited. Colin has no idea why he’s excited except that Christmas is coming (which means presents and “secrets”) and all the lights in people’s yards are really fascinating. There is not much structure to the Kindergarten day lately. Coupled with the fact that his teacher was off for two days and he had a substitute, well, that mean that the tailspin began last week on Monday!  If ONE, LITtle thing is out of sync, there is a literal Tailspin. Butt in the air…spinning in circles. Yep.

Here’s the order of things during the week:
1. Wake up at 7:00 a.m.
2. Eat breakfast.
3. Brush teeth.
4. Get dressed (and if you do it all by yourself, you get to mark your chart).
5. NOW you can watch cartoons.
6. 7:55 walk to the bus (but at least five minutes before that, you’ll have to struggle with your coat, hat, gloves, backpack and turning OFF the TV.)

Here’s the order of things on the weekend.
1. Wake up (but don’t get out of bed until someone comes to tell you it’s okay. If you’re awake before ‘someone’ then just kick your legs against the wall long enough and loud enough that they’ll hear you and come get you up.)
2. Whatever. Really. Whatever. If it’s Saturday or Sunday, you can do “whatever” until ‘someone’ is awake enough to feed you breakfast and then the weekday rules start.

Here’s the thing. We got some snow. About 13″ of snow on Saturday. Hence, we were stuck in the house Saturday and most of Sunday doing ‘nothing’. Well, we made cookies, decorated the tree, listened to Christmas music, played in the snow…whatever the mood dictated. So Colin had a very, very unstructured weekend. RED FLAG number ONE.

This morning…”Two Hour Delay with Modified Kindergarten!” Meaning, he won’t go to school at all. If he did, he’d get there about 15 minutes before I’d have to pick him up for a doctor appointment and he’d miss the rest. Easier to keep him home…maybe.

One hour of kicking, screaming, sobbing, rolling around and generally tantruming (is that a word?) because “It’s Monday! It’s Cycle Day 3! It’s school!!!”  He does this thing with any transition that doesn’t go his way. Then he ‘shakes it off’ by literally shaking his whole head around and announcing “I’m done now.”

We went on to the doctor’s appointment and on with our day, but what a morning!

When Colin was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, Andy and I had about an hour’s time to talk to the Neuropsychologist who worked with him. More than anything he said or recommended, I remember this part.

He said that Colin will always struggle. It’s our job to teach him how to cope. He will always behave differently, it’s our job to help him know what’s okay and what’s not.  It’s our job to discipline his misbehavior, but….BUT…he will always need “an extra measure of grace”.

That hit me hard. No professional psycho anyone had ever suggested that my child was human before now. But this man understood that Colin needed a little leeway…a little grace sometimes. Today was one of those times.

Yep. Yep. Yep.

Peace

Netflix is sending me Farenheit 9/11 today in the mail. I may be the last person alive who hasn’t seen it. Andy (my dear hubby) had one simple statement to make when he heard it was coming. “It’ll probably really piss me off.” And it probably will. My peaceful, Mennonite thinking, “war is wrong” attitude lives juxtaposed with his veteran status and patriotic pride as an American. He doesn’t agree with the state of our current war in Iraq nor does he see the killing of innocent people as acceptable. He does, however, agree that war is an option and that America must defend itself. On this point, we may never agree, and we have decided that it’s best not to broach the subject very often. It causes quite a bit of dissention in an otherwise amazingly peaceful marriage.

Andy doesn’t understand that I am not proud of being an American. Living overseas all my life and looking back at my country of birth through the eyes of another nation probably contributed greatly to my overall view of the great USA. I do feel lucky to have been born here and to carry the privileges that brings. But, patriotic I am not. To me it seems there is a lot of anger wrapped up in patriotism.

We as a nation have not conducted ourselves very maturely for a few years now and what’s there to be proud of? We have more than anyone yet can’t be satisfied. We are slaves to fear. We possess the land as though it is ours to rape and wonder where the farmland went. We often declare ourselves a Christian nation and politicize God as though we are the chosen people and the rest of the world can go to hell.

So, when Farenheit 9/11 hits my DVD player, I’ll try to keep my mouth shut. I want to respect my husband’s feelings; I don’t have to agree. I just wonder what it takes to convince someone that other people’s children hurt just as easily as mine.

The Love of the Father

In early October, 2006, a man walked into an Amish school armed with rifles, pistols and deep pain. No one will ever understand why he chose to execute a group of young Amish girls; we don’t need to. It is the aftermath of that day that will live forever in the lives of so many people all over the world and the consequences of his deeds are far reaching in ways that no one expected.

Three nights ago, Andy and I witnessed God’s healing and grace in action. We were invited to visit with a little 8 year old girl who bears the scars of that day in October. I will call her Miss S. Andy was one of the people who treated her that day. I remember the evening after the shooting, he was telling me how feisty she was. With the extent of her injuries, he tried to intubate her to help her to breathe and she kept pushing him away. He desperately hoped that meant she would make it through. She did. And when we walked into her kitchen she ran up to him and laughingly said, “I look better than I did the last time you saw me!”

As we sat in their living room, we heard her father’s stories of how brave she was, how miraculous her healing and what an impact she had on the staff at the hospital who worked with her. He told of daily visits to the hospital, relying on others to drive them. Only on Sundays were they unable to be with her. Aunts, grandfather and parents; someone was always with her. As he spoke, tears threatened to fall, but he had a never ending smile on his face as he watched his daughter. Their family also lost a daughter to a bullet, but they do not dwell on her pain or death. They focus on the miracle walking around their house.

While we were there, two other families stopped by to visit. They didn’t know we would be there, it was just their normal visiting night. God planned it though, I am sure. One couple lost their daughter that day. Another man was a first responder and a member of their church and knew the girls. He had been the first to aid the little one Andy took care of.

The living room was crowded with chairs for the 8 adults and we counted nearly 12 children from age 12 to 4 weeks running in and out of the room. Listening to the Amish men speak of their experiences that day and reliving their roles was so healing for us. They asked questions of each other. “Where were you?”  “What happened next?” and “When did you find out who passed away?”.  They discussed helicopters, the speed of the police cars responding and the dynamics of the whole event in very factual terms. I felt as though I was sitting in a group therapy session. Nearly six months later, and these parents still pour out their memories and questions to eachother in order to unload their grief.

The most incredible moment for me was a conversation between the first responder and a mother whose daughter had died. He said he had been struggling with the fact that he could have identified each of the girls and let their parents know which hospital their child was sent to or what their physical condition was. But he didn’t, and it wasn’t until much later that night that parents knew the fate of their children.  The mother of the slain girl looked at him and said, “If I had known what had happend to (her), that she had passed away, I would have left the school and gone home. Instead, I stayed with my friends and waited. I am glad you didn’t tell me or I would have been alone all day.”

In our Sunday School class we are studying what Mennonites believe. Woven into all that discussion is the idea of community as a place to study scripture, learn and work together. These Amish families that night embodied that perfectly. They relied on each other to hold them up each day and listening to them talk together for hours about thier experiences was healing for them and for Andy and I.

Miss S never stopped smiling or kissing me after she opened the gift we brought her. Her father noted that the hospital wasn’t able to take the “silly” out of her when they removed part of her brain! His obvious love for her was palpable.

Both of her parents repeatedly stated that without God carrying them through they would have cracked up. They have received hundreds of letters and cards from around the world from people who want to live their lives differently and with less anger now that they have witnessed forgiveness and grace from the Amish parents. To them, that makes it all worthwhile. They even received word of a country closed to the Bible that was allowed to view footage of the event and send their condolences through their government controlled mail system. The idea that the murder of little Amish girls in rural Lancaster county touched the lives of people behind a communist curtain was amazing to their parents and made God so much more evident in the aftermath.

Miss S’s father asked me if I thought the effect of this would continue or if it was just a short lived “one day” ripple of grace. I told him that I think that his children and the children in his community will be testament to Christ for the rest of their lives. I believe that.

The love of a father for his children so close to the love of The Father for us. Amazing grace and peace where there could be so much anger and fear.

The new school building is nearly ready and the kids are excited to use it. That building itself is a testament to faith and trust.

We healed that night a little, I know Andy did. So did the parents we met with and the children playing around us. Miss S has a brand new baby sister to love and 6 brothers to take care of her. She is a little bit of a celebrity and a very happy little girl. Her scars are hidden with a new head of hair and her vision is returning to normal. She bears little outward scars of the fearful events of that day in October and inwardly, I think she’s just fine.

Deepening Roots…Growing Up….Growing Older

Last year at this time we found ourselves on the edge of so much change. When we entered 2006, Andy and I knew that the year was going to bring profound changes in our lives. I could almost taste it and it was exciting in an apprehensive sort of way. Nothing could have prepared us for all that happened, and certainly none of it was expected. Much of it was hard and painful; nothing was simple. And right up to the last minute of the last day of December, we were feeling things shift.

Kayleigh’s decision to move to Michigan was the first change. At the time it felt like the biggest one; but it wasn’t. The fact that she left impacted everyone in very different ways. Liam seems to have taken it more easily than anyone. He’s angry sometimes, but the kid is amazingly forgiving and, although he doesn’t understand what she did, he has decided to learn from it. He states over and over that he doesn’t want to do some of the things Kayleigh was doing because he felt the fallout and wouldn’t want his brother and younger sister to feel that way. He saw how hurt we were as parents and doesn’t want to make us cry. He remembers how rejected he felt when she wouldn’t spend time with him and knows someday Colin will look to him for attention like that. All very idealistic for a ten-year-old kid; let’s hope he sticks to it! Erin just sits in her anger sometimes. For weeks at a time she’s been moody, pouty and violent. She doesn’t understand that she didn’t do anything to make Kayleigh leave, nor does she understand that no matter what she does, Kayleigh will never be back the way she wants her to be. I can’t imagine the heartache of having a big sister who embodies everything you want to be and then she rips your heart out. Erin deserves to be angry. But she is learning to deal with anger (not just with Kayleigh) and developed some new coping strategies. That’s a good thing. Colin has stopped standing outside her door calling her name; she is now someone that comes and goes for holiday meals. He’ll certainly have questions someday and we’ll leave them to her to answer. Andy seems to easily tuck his hurt somewhere far away and to be honest I don’t know how much hurt there really is. I know I’m no longer hurt. I think we’re both just a little numb. After decades of verbal violence and psychological head games with K’s mother, we got so used to tuning out the madness. It’s been almost a year and we’re just happy not to worry so much. We love her now from a distance and I think that’s the better way for us to be. We will learn again how to be in a relationship with her, but as adults in the future, not as traditional parents in the present. Peace came to reign in our house and that was sorely needed. From this big change in our family make up, we all learned how important we are to each other and how desperately we want to stay together through everything. Kayleigh always had another parent to run to; the other kids won’t. They are stuck with us and they know that! And we will all be in it together.

The career changes for both of us were huge as well. Andy left what should have been the job to retire from to come “home” to Lancaster EMS. Less travel, less headache (and less money) were the tradeoff. But he’s so happy he did it and now has settled into his role there. Just in time to be present for the slaughter of baby girls in an Amish school. For such a time as this he was placed. Through that, Andy has been able to share his faith with his co-workers and with the press. He has learned about forgiveness (as we all have) and soon will get to meet Sara Ann and see how what he does really matters. I can’t wait for that!

My career change from nursing to sales was just wierd and unexpected but has brought rewards on many levels and it is becoming clear to me that God knows exactly what He’s doing and I should just shut up and deal. The schooling I’m starting is just another step in the road and one day ministry will be my “other job” while sales will provide the bread on the table. One has to fund the other, I think. God has a plan and His is much more long term than I could ever imagine.

Then, surgery came and went and now I wait to heal. I put that off for 13 years fearing the changes that would bring. By summer, I hope to be nearly pain free or as close to that as I can get. That just may be the most welcome change of all!

So, now we settle down in our new roles in our jobs, our new positions in our family and our new physical conditions. We wait on God to show us clearly where to go next. This year we sense His guiding hand very clearly and we know that if we trust Him, we’ll be exactly where He wants us to be.