Embracing the Whole

Recently, during my times of meditation and reflection, I have  taken special note of the brokenness that God has chosen to illustrate divine beauty. Of course there is the obvious example of Christ: broken in crucifiction to bring the beauty that comes in the form of our eternal hope. This one incredible example of battered perfection stands as an icon in a world of  exquisite imperfections.

Sarai’s barren womb conceived the Israeli patriarch and one of the first prominent faces of the covenant of grace, Isaac.

Martha and Mary’s mourning over the loss of their brother was not only turned into rejoicing over his resurrection but it brought further solidarity to the earthly ministry of Christ and birthed faith and expectation that has lived in the hearts of millions of believers for over two thousand years.

Laban’s broken promise to Jacob could have been crushing but instead it served as proof of a man’s commitment and faithfulness to the woman his heart desired, Rachel.

God promises a crown of beauty to replace the ashes of mourning but I am convinced that there is beauty in the ashes themselves. The life cycle of a tree that has been sacrificed to fire has likely provided shade and shelter to the fatigued, it’s budding branches have symbolized the hope that dawns with each new season to those who have lost sight of a bright future,  and the flame that reduced it to a soft, downy gray powder has provided light and warmth to comfort the weary. The ashes of mourning may be a token of the beauty that God promises to his children but, to those willing to embrace the present, a more intimate understanding of grace can unfold and reveal layers upon layers of wisdom and depth of relationship with the Creator. There is a transformation of perspective so profound that it cannot be fully comprehended by the mortal mind.

In my limited understanding of the supernatural, I’ve become entirely more aware of the preciousness of my surroundings and the people God has placed in them to enrich my life. To the artist, the concept of broken beauty is both simple and intricate in a mosaic. To the “green” DIYer, an upcycled barn beam  turned into a mantle brings a spark to their eye and many warm memories shared around the hearth. To a bride, the lace from great-grandma’s stained and torn wedding gown that trims her something-old-something-new handkerchief is an heirloom she will cherish forever.

The circumstances that I have enjoyed or endured, overcome or barely survived… the have all wrought value in my life. Some have built me up, others have torn me down. Each one has contributed to my character. I have evolved from an optimist to a skeptic to someone who embraces peace in every situation and welcomes divine grace. This life comes with struggles and challenges but each day is a gift. A gift that I want to receive with open arms.

Shrinking?

Tomorrow I will take my oldest daughter to the psychologists’ office for her very first counseling appointment. I have very mixed feelings about the whole experience. And it hasn’t even happened yet.

With all new experiences there comes a certain level of apprehension and curiosity. I really haven’t the slightest idea what to expect. Will they greet each other and do a puzzle together? Is tomorrow really just a meet and greet? I mean… she’s nine. She’s not depressed, not violent. Not anxious or manic. I shouldn’t have the butterflies that are fluttering around and tickling my insides right now.

I suppose that I carry a certain stigma with me that may be quite old fashioned. The “if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it” stigma. The one that tells me that seeing a head doctor means that something is broken inside. That you’re mentally unstable. That you’re not strong enough to pull your crap together and hide the garbage that no one else needs to see. I may not have grown up in the 50’s but I remember hearing women whispering juicy exclamations of  “I heard that So-and-so is seeing a shrink!” in the same tones that they shared tidbits like, “Did you hear that they are getting a divorce?” and “I always knew that her son was GAY!” Excited whispers. Whispers that sounded forbidden and dirty and tantalizing all at the same time. The kind that you wanted to share with the first person you could lure into a private conversation.

Those conversations are long gone but the impression that they left me with is still the same. Just as much as the idea that pink is for little girls and blue is for little boys. Society has come a long way as medicine has adapted but I don’t know if my entire being has progressed. My brain says that this therapy will help her overcome some of the challenges that have come with her gift of being an exceptional child with Aspergers. But my heart tells me that she is such a vibrant child and she isn’t “broken”. I suppose that I haven’t fully connected the idea that seeing a therapist doesn’t have to be a healing process. That sometimes seeing a therapist is as simple learning new things.

Aspergers isn’t just something that affects my child. It has affected her for nine years. Learning about her diagnosis has not only taught me about her and helped me to understand her better but it has also taught me things about myself. This is a journey that I am happy to share with my daughter. A journey of exploration and discovery, understanding and healing. I wouldn’t trade our experience for anything else on earth.

 

Times of Transition

For years we have worked with our daughter as she has struggled at school. She flourished academically but interacting with other students was a sore spot for her. It has pained me to watch her interactions with her peers. She always seemed to be on the outside of the social arena, sometimes peeking in, more often though she wandered away to be by herself. I’ve often referred to her as my “loner” or “wanderer”, my “daydreamer” or my little “woodland nymph” because she seemed to feel more comfortable on her own in the woods behind our home than she was playing with the neighbors or her siblings.

I’ll never forget the day that I spoke to her about paying attention in class, “Your teacher says that you seem to have a hard time paying attention; that you’re daydreaming a lot lately.”

She hotly responded, “She’s lying! I’m not dreaming, Mom–I’m WIDE AWAKE!”

My sensitive little flower took things so literally, and often to heart. At school she went to the counselor to get some tips on “making better choices” by using the Kelso Wheel. Initially, we did see some progress and she seemed to gain confidence. After a few weeks she had regressed and was melting into puddles of tears daily from the verbal bullying of a bossy classmate.

As a parent I have often felt overwhelmed by a feeling most easily described as failure. Obviously, my little girl was struggling to make friends. She lacked what most would call common sense, even for her age. She was prone to fits of nearly inconsolable tears. Throughout her early school years something as simple as the flush of a toilet in a public restroom would terrify her to the point of near hysteria. A bit of a conspiracy theorist–she thought everyone sought to insult her. She could bore someone like no other; as Marilla Cuthbert once said of Anne Shirley, “She could talk the hind leg off a mule”, all while staring at her shuffling feet. I felt like I had done an incredible disservice to my child. Had I coddled her too much? Had I been too strict with her? Had I not taught her manners ?  Too many computer games? Not enough social interaction? Where had I gone wrong? Could I correct my actions, adjust her upbringing and salvage her frail feelings before the rigors of middle school and high school arrive?

After years of questions, last week we received one answer. One answer that opens the doors to many answers… to a whole new world of possibility for our little nymph. Our daughter was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. In the days since her diagnosis we’ve already heard from people who “knew it all along” (these are also the people that “have known for months!” when a woman announces she’s pregnant and in her first trimester). We’ve encountered people who were aghast and recommended a second opinion. People who have consoled us with well-meaning words of encouragement like, “She’ll outgrow it” or “It’s just a phase”. Some have looked at our daughter’s diagnosis like a death sentence. I look at it like a light at the end of the tunnel. A very long, very dark tunnel. This has given us hope. AS kids can respond rather positively with therapy. They can integrate into social circles with greater ease after learning how to decipher things like body language and other social cues. Something as simple as learning the meaning of common gestures can give someone with AS an incredible boost to their confidence.

We received a wonderful book in the mail yesterday, Can I Tell You About Asperger Syndrome? A Guide for Friends and Family by Jude Welton. After reading it I sat down with our daughter and explained a little bit about Asperger Syndrome and asked her to read the book. It’s a quick read and half an hour later she came downstairs, book in hand, with tears in her eyes. Frankly, I was worried. When I asked her why she was crying she replied, “I’m just so happy, Mom. I finally found someone else that thinks just like me. This is just a Really.Good.Book.” For the next twenty minutes she battled a lump in her throat and a quivering chin. The tears spilled out of her beautiful brown eyes several times and she asked to read the book again. She’s read it three times since and even tried to sneak it to school in her backpack this morning.

To the dear friend who purchased this book and had it mailed to us, thank you. From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU. Through everything, God has been faithful. I am looking forward to the wonderful things that the future holds for our shining star.