Romance is not my beloved’s strong suit. This is not me speaking out of turn either…he’d tell you the same thing. But yesterday he was preaching on husbands and he wore the same tie that he wore on the day we got married almost fourteen years ago. Pretty sweet, huh?
During his sermon he talked about the two Adams we find in Scripture. The first Adam, so happy in Genesis chapter two over the helpmeet God had created for him that he sang, abandoning her in chapter three. We see how he failed to protect her, how he stood by as she was deceived by the serpent. We then read his words as he shifts the blame to her when confronted by God.
The second Adam however, speaks of a different groomsman. This Adam resisted the sin of His bride but laid His life down to pay for those sins. This Adam died to redeem her.
I heard every word of my husband’s challenge to the men of our church to evaluate what sort of husband they are. I listened to him tell them all the things they needed to pursue in order to be like the second Adam.
And here is a simple truth. I know all the ways he falls short of being that husband. Better than anyone else sitting in that room, other than himself, I know when he acts more like the first Adam than the last. I know his sin just as well as I know my own.
Just like you know all the times and ways your husband has failed you.
But my husband doesn’t need me to tell him when he fails. Neither does yours. They know just as surely as we know when we’ve sinned. What they need is Grace.
Not cheap grace either. Not the kind of grace that we may be willing to extend someone because we know we’re bound to screw it up and this way no one can hold anyone accountable kind of grace. Not the kind of grace that is self righteous in it’s long suffering; that lords it over his head forever that he sinned against you and fails to be all that God has called him to be. Not the pseudo grace that looks like you’re willing to forgive only you’re not…the one all wrapped up and disguised by bitterness.
It’s the kind of Grace that accepts the wound of his sin. The kind of Grace that will cause you to let your guard down and risk being hurt again. It’s the Grace that washes white as snow and gives him his eleventy hundredth second chance.
It’s the kind of Grace that is hospitable. Think about that moment. Grace that is hospitable? Yes, this Grace that our husbands need is hospitable, welcoming and generous. It’s open and full of promise. It’s the Grace that leaves you trembling and vulnerable. It’s Grace that is tender and fierce, offering forgiveness and sanctuary when all you want to do is run and hide.
It’s the same kind of Grace that hung on a tree. It’s the kind of Grace that was rejected and despised and spit upon. The kind of Grace that has it’s roots in death but yields life.
Why should we extend this Grace to them? Because it is the Grace that was given to us…because there was death that we might have life. Because we walk worthy of the calling to which we have been called no matter what kind of husband he is.
We are the wives we are called to be not because he deserves that kind of wife but because He is the Bridegroom that we don’t deserve.
Because it’s the kind of Grace that we need our husbands to extend toward us. See, last week Rob preached on husbands. This coming Sunday he’ll be preaching on wives.
I know I need that kind of Grace.
Our church eats together every Wednesday evening. Actually we eat together every Sunday too, but that’s more of a potluck kind of thing. Wednesday nights meals usually have a theme. One of my favorite themes, believe it or not, is salads. It’s a versatile and broad theme and there are usually some delightful dishes offered.
This past Wednesday the rotation had rolled around to salads again and I decided to try something new. I turned to pinterest of course, because out of sixty boards and over three thousand pins I knew I’d find something. I actually have a board just for salads…there’s only 22 pins on it but I still have the board 🙂 I’d love to add some more so let me know if you have any favorite salad recipes.
First up is a cold corn salad. I can’t wait for summer because this is the perfect side for grilling season. It’s a Paula Deen recipe but surprisingly enough it has no butter…just a cup of mayonnaise. Don’t worry, I didn’t take a picture of a cup of mayo because honestly, who wants to see that? I didn’t take a picture of the corn chips either for some reason but they add a nice satisfying crunch to the salad. It really is a colorful and pretty salad too.
Pretty simple, huh? Got to love recipes like that. I also made the oh so yummy snickers salad. Crisp green apples and chopped up snickers all swirled together by a froth of cool whip and vanilla pudding. Delicious!
There is almost as much mystery surrounding treatments for autism as there are about it’s causes. People tend to have very strong feelings about their chosen methods and lines get drawn in the sand pretty fast on this topic.
There are a gazillion different options out there and we learned a few things in the beginning that helped settle our questions and what to do and I am happy to share them with you. But please keep in mind that I am sharing our experience and by no means am I saying this is how everyone should treat autism. It’s what worked for us and I think what we did/do may be helpful for others to consider but I also know that we rejected some things through out the process over the years and that was a good thing. Each case of autism is unique to the child so there is no one size fits all program. However, there are a couple of things that I believe every autistic child can benefit from and I will strongly recommend those treatments. I’ll share several different things in no particular order that we’ve found to be very helpful and even life changing for Sam.
One of the best things Sam has going for him is his four sisters. He’s had no choice but to be part of a group and they’ve made him interact and be a part of life. So, my first piece of advice…go have more babies 🙂 Just kidding. Sort of. But seriously, I cannot stress how vital it is for an autistic child to be around people. I met a woman once that shared how her two boys shared a room but when they moved to a bigger house and they each had their own room the autism became more pronounced for her son. With his own room it was easy for him to slip away inside his head; he wasn’t forced to interact with his brother anymore. Community is vital, not just for the autistic child but the family as well. Now, this certainly has to be done with wisdom since it can also be used to their detriment. Groups can be overwhelming and it’s easy to be overstimulated. However, it can also be a huge help when used wisely and with prudence. There is no greater place than a safe and loving community for a child with autism to learn and practice social graces. It also can relieve a lot of the burden for the family to know that there is a safe and loving place for their autistic child to be that enables him to do this. I’ve no idea where we’d be without our church family or school community. Sam is well loved and accepted in these places and it’s not just that his awkwardness is tolerated. Surely grace and understanding are needed but that does not mean ignored. He is encouraged to be a part of these groups of people and that means his behavior is corrected when needed and directed to what is appropriate. These communities help us shape and form him. I will also point out that our extended families take much delight in our son and eagerly look for ways to engage him.
It can be extremely difficult as a parent to put yourself, your family, and that precious quirky kid out there. It’s sometimes easier to shield and protect your family from judgement and well meaning but completely unhelpful advice by carving out a nice safe place to hide. In the long run though it’s not very helpful. Your child misses out on opportunities to grow and develop, other siblings may resent the limits placed upon them or they simply separate themselves from the autistic child, and you end up exhausted and overwhelmed from trying to be all of it by yourself. Again, be wise but find a community and don’t be afraid to be part of it. One last word on this…while it may be tempting to find and connect only with others in the same special needs boat, don’t. There’s more to life than autism so live like it.
The second thing that I believe is very helpful to have in place is your medical help. If your pediatrician doesn’t listen to you, your thoughts and opinions and insight, find another one. The same goes for any therapist or teacher or anyone who is part of developing treatment plans for your child. These people can be a treasure trove of information but they are an expert on a subject. You are an expert on your child. No matter how much knowledge they have, no matter how much training in the newest treatments they have, they do not know your child the way that you do. We had an occupational therapist tell us that we should not even worry about trying to teach Sam to write (small motor control is an issue for kids on the spectrum) but the thing was he wanted to learn how to write his name. So we totally ignored her advice and started working with him at home. We also didn’t continue his sessions with her because it was clear she knew therapies but she wasn’t to interested in knowing him. We are very blessed to have a pediatrician that has a son older than Sam who also has autism. She is knowledgeable in ways that a regular pediatrician is not. And she listens to us. She doesn’t put much stock in the whole gluten connection but she has never tried to discourage us or sway our minds on the matter. She offers her knowledge and counsel but she allows us to be Sam’s chief advocates.
While we’re speaking of Dr. Mahaffey let’s talk about medicine. She became his pediatrician when Sam was three or four I think. When we first went to her office we told her we had no interest in putting him on medication and she was quite agreeable to our decision. If your doctor immediately jumps to putting your child on medication proceed with caution. We are absolutely not anti-medication but we feel that it should be a last resort after other options have been explored and exploited. Too many times drugs become a quick easy fix. Remember that you are your child’s best champion so take whatever time you need to research other methods. You may end up going the route of medication but it needs to be because you made an informed decision. Two years ago we felt that we had exhausted the options for what we could do for Sam. We haven’t stopped those things, such as following a gluten free diet, but as he was reaching puberty we realized there was more that he needed that we couldn’t provide with our modes and means. So we started him on medication. It was the right decision made at the right time. My point is that medication is and can be a viable option. Just be aware that there are other options just as viable out there.
As I mentioned we do have Sam on a gluten free diet. This is one of those treatments that can be a little divisive. Some experts nay say the whole idea…others completely support it. Some parents swear by it and think everyone on the spectrum should be gf and then there are those of us who recognize that it is helpful for us but may not make a difference for others. I would encourage parents to be willing to at least try it before dismissing the idea though. Next week, even though technically we’ll be out of April and autism awareness month, I’ll share more about being gluten free.
One last thing on treatments. Speech therapy was invaluable and probably the most helpful thing we did for Sam. It is also incredibly expensive and insurance doesn’t cover nearly what is needed. But if you have to choose one thing that comes from an outside source this is where I would start, especially in the very beginning. Educate yourself and learn all you can from what they do so that it isn’t just a few hours here and there but something you can continue at home. No matter what you’re doing know that beyond anything else, consistency is vital for success. Keep pushing forward no matter how slowly it may seem you’re moving. Progress is progress.
Now on to this week’s Sam story. There is a misconception that autistic kids are not affectionate or empathetic. I would argue that how they process these things and how they express it is a more accurate description. He’s close to all of his sisters and the dynamics are unique to each of his relationships with them. When Sam and Abby were little they shared a room for several years and he viewed her as his best friend. One time she had been disciplined for something and Sam was really upset on her behalf and was consoling her afterwards.
“Abby, when Mommy spanked you it just broke my heart.”
If there ever was a comfort food in my mind it is mashed potatoes. I love them. And not the instant come in a box kind either.
But real red potatoes with the skin left on, boiled with garlic, and mashed with lots of butter. And at the very least half and half instead of milk.
I realize that mashed potatoes aren’t something that one normally feels a need to follow a recipe to make but I do have to say that there are some secret ingredients that can make good potatoes (because really are there any bad mashed potatoes?) and turn them into great potatoes.
If I have any left overs the girls like to take them for lunch the next day. I’ll add in bacon bits, sour cream, and green onion just like you would for a baked potato.
I don’t know what to say except that everyone’s response to the previous posts about Sam and autism has been amazing! From comments shared face to face or left on facebook or email, everyone has been so kind and encouraging. It has truly blessed me.
Many of you shared that you know of someone with an autistic child but how difficult it is to be around them. The parents do little, if anything, to control or at the very least contain the child’s behavior. In my opinion and experience, parents with children on the spectrum tend to underestimate their child. I know we did. Rob was terrified at the idea that Sam couldn’t connect the punishment with the action and would only view him as this big hairy guy that caused him pain. So for a long time we were in disaster containment and damage control mode. And then one day we realized that even if he only associates pain with running toward the street then so be it. Better the sting of a swat to his backside then being hit by a car.
A notable amount of behavior in autistic kids can be due more to poor expectations and a lack of discipline. There is more to discipline than spankings and that is what I have in view here. Discipline is also defined as “the checking of one’s feelings and impulses…” and that’s what I am talking about. What makes this so very hard, especially with young children, is that you are kind of walking around in the dark with a blindfold on.
With an autistic child there can be some serious melt down hissy fit throwing episodes. They can happen in the blink of an eye and for no apparent reason and with no easy fix. Sam was a big Barney fan and he had a favorite video that he watched literally over and over again. He had probably seen it about elevenity thousand times when all of a sudden, out of the blue one day it came to a certain part and he totally freaked out. And I don’t mean he got a little upset and cried either. He was hysterical, crying uncontrollably and seemed completely terrified. With Sam there was no simple way of just picking him up and offering comfort to soothe him. Remember the lack of response to the banging pots? A child can be so locked into whatever is in their head that they literally cannot even know you’re there. You can’t love them out of it, nor can you spank them out of it. Why didn’t you just turn the video off you ask? Because if anything that made it escalate. Whatever was going through his head in that moment had to be finished…it could not just be cut off.
I know that doesn’t make any sense and certainly doesn’t seem rational but a lot of things about autism don’t make sense and are for sure not rational. Whatever that part was in the video for Sam lasted about three and a half minutes and then he would be as calm as he could be. Odder still is that it lasted for about a month and then as suddenly as it showed up, it stopped being an issue. The same thing happened with Madagascar and the song “I Like to Move It, Move It”. At first he loved it but then one day if he heard it he would run screaming from the room.
Walmart could completely freak him out. I had a small window of time that I could get in and get out before he just lost it. Over stimulation has a razor sharp edge that is paper thin when it comes to kids with autism. It’s still an issue we face with him even now, large groups and places with lots of noise and activity can tip him over the edge rather quickly. It looks a little different these days than it used to but the fall out is still as frustrating and emotionally draining for him and for us.
I mention this because if you’ve seen an autistic child having an episode please know that there is no simple answer. Sometimes you cope as best you can. Sometimes you are so utterly overwhelmed and exhausted that you can’t even muster up the energy to try to do more than just survive it without bursting into tears because of the nasty looks and rude comments from complete strangers or suggestions from well meaning family and friends.
That being said, I will reiterate that discipline can and should be the goal. We work hard with Sam and it is constant. Everything with Sam is extreme. If it’s was time for him to get off the computer he’d ask, “For the day? A week? A month? A Year?!” That one doesn’t happen as often as it used to but still slips out occasionally. When it’s time for school, “That’s it! Play time is over. I have to work all day. Mom hates play time.” Invariably in the mornings when I wake him up he mutters something about me being a dream killer. If there are vegetables on his plate, “Am I a vegetarian now?” It seems like no big deal but after hearing it for the thousandth time your patience can wear a little thin and really you just want him to take his plate and eat his dinner for crying out loud!
So, really this is how we deal with the autism in our life. With persistence. We’ve determined what behaviors are acceptable and what expectations we want put on him. We want them to be reasonable but at the same time not allow autism to be a shield to hide behind. Children, all children, need an expectation and standard to live up to. Failing to give them that is a pretty big deal. Basically our approach to parenting a child with autism is the same as parenting our other children…just on steroids.
Next week I’ll share about different treatments and therapies and what worked for us and what didn’t. At the root of it all though is a desire to raise this child God has given us in a way that honors and glorifies Him. It’s not just to control or beat the autism into submission but to raise up a godly man that thinks a little differently, that views the world from a slightly different perspective, but still loves the Lord with all his heart and all his mind, and with all his strength.
I’ll share a Sam story with you now. Rob is a pastor. Sam sits very quietly in church and we’re never really share exactly what he is hearing and how much he is paying attention but we know that he is and he does. Several years ago during his sermon Rob mentioned something like, “I’m a sinner. You’re a sinner. We’re all sinners.” Sam’s head popped up and he looked right at his Daddy and pointing to his chest asked, “Even me?!” Rob, who is ever so patient with this son of his, responded, “Yes, buddy even you.” Sam responds with, “Yikes I am in big trouble!” and then waved his hand to Rob as if there was nothing to see here, move along and told him, “Keep speeching.”