Monthly Archives: October 2019

Stormy Season

I’ve recently figured out something about myself, which is this: I am really good at getting complacent about things. All things, everything–at least when life is going well.

I learned this in a big way the other day when I was PMS-ing hard core (yay for old reliable) and we saw some setbacks with Jack due to changes in his care. Things had been going so well that I blithely assumed they would continue going swimmingly into perpetuity. Slow claps for clueless me.

Things are great, thus they will never change, huzzah!

Why am I like this?

I feel I am exactly like the ancient people in the Book of Mormon who were 100% this way. Life is good, the blessings are flowing, and we (meaning me) are lulled into a zen state. Suspended in ease. Expecting it to continue. Perhaps failing to yearn, work, or plead the way we do when we’re flailing and overwhelmed.

And you guys, I have been OVERWHELMED these last few months. Not to complain, but this is what’s happening: I’m too busy. I have so many places to be and not enough time to get everything done. I’m emotionally weary from being spread so thin across so many avenues of responsibility. I’m also kind of just tired of the need to troubleshoot every aspect of raising my unique kids.

In this state of overwhelm, I’ve found myself being equal parts so busy that I struggle to meditate and be quiet in order to hear answers, and simultaneously reaching for direction with the desperation that only accompanies souls in our times of deep stress.

A couple of things happened.

First, I got some answers relating to Jack and his care. They came pretty instantaneously and clearly. So we followed those promptings and proceeded with his house change.

But the change wasn’t great. It was rocky. It still isn’t ideal. When we visited him recently, I drove away really upset at how the peace I felt when praying about his change in care didn’t match the chaos I saw at the moment. Why the peaceful prompting if it’s kind of a mess now? Did I mess up Jack’s pretty great life? Am I no longer able to reliably receive personal revelation?

As we drove, Jeff said, “You probably felt peace because it IS going to be okay.” God bless Jeff, seriously.

The second thing that happened was this insight: when I quieted my mind, the spirit showed me that while I was not okay, Jack WAS. He is. He’s okay. His life was pretty chaotic when we were there, but miraculously, Jack was peaceful. He was calm and happy in the midst of the mess.

I realized in a tangible way at that moment that Jesus knows what Jack needs and he’s always there with him. He’s always providing it for him, even when I’m not there and I don’t know what to do and when so many things are out of my control. Jack’s okay. He’s never alone.

I had to turn my son over to strangers full-time when he was just thirteen years old. It remains the most bizarre, unsettling, and difficult thing of my life, and you guys, I’m no novice when it comes to facing weird/extreme hardship. This isn’t some kind of humble brag. It’s just the true nature of my actual life.

I had to place Jack on the altar, figuratively, and plead for our Heavenly Parents to intervene. And they did. They have provided the right evolving care for him in a way that we can’t.

All of this has been amazing and faith-affirming and beautiful, but it is also still not intuitive for me. I don’t know that it will never NOT be weird having my nonverbal super special son living far away and in other people’s care.

What I’m getting at is that the strenuousness of the last few months on many fronts, has rattled me out of any state of complacency I unwittingly dwelt in these two and a half years since he entered care.

I had taken on too many things: three classes at school and an entirely new curriculum plus working at the temple. One son now needed to be home-schooled. My Jacky likewise needed me to advocate for improvements in his care. I have been swimming against a stiff current, and not keeping up.

All of this reminded me that life isn’t a smooth, gentle, upward and forward-facing trajectory. It’s more of a wacky, endless corn maze, planned by a sick sadist and employing mud pits, actual rabid bats, and a looming hailstorm overhead.

I had a dream last Easter that I was standing and looking over a steep, narrow canyon. I may have already written about this one, I forget. Forgive me if this is a repeat. There was a dirt path cut into switchbacks leading from the bottom of the canyon to where I stood at the top. Everything looked completely brown and void of any vegetation, until I looked closer. Then I saw that along the edge of the switchbacks, there was a border of bright, colorful tulips lining the dirty path. It struck me that someone had gone to great trouble to plant bulbs to beautify an otherwise brown, steep, grueling landscape.

At church on that morning during the sacrament, I had an impression that the canyon/tulip dream was a representation of Jack’s testimony. I understood in a moment of flashing insight which wasn’t my own, that mortality is the hike to the top of the canyon walls, and that Jesus Christ has both prepared the path home for us, and made it possible for us to experience great beauty and happiness even while we are laboring to just keep going.

I knew right then that Jack knows his Savior. He knows him intimately because Jesus his brother has never left him alone or bereft.

This instruction for my comfort and benefit remains one of the most beautiful and deeply comforting gifts I’ve been given as Jack’s mother.

I suppose my complacency this fall served in a purpose. It shook me awake and woke my dormant pleadings for power, wisdom, and understanding.

Jack’s spirit is close to mine. It’s hard for me to articulate this is a way that makes sense, but it’s true. I am closer to him when I sit and partake of the sacramental bread and water while thinking about Jesus, than I am when I am standing next to Jack in his house. He can’t speak to me in a meaningful way, but his spirit has clearly articulated profound truths to me.

I listened to a podcast during that recent visit to Jack’s house wherein the person being interviewed referenced a blog post they had read which quoted C.S. Lewis. Isn’t the internet a lovely thing?

Anyhoo, the podcast person described the bloggers interpretation of the C.S. Lewis quote, which was from The Chronicles of Narnia. It was when the little girl (Susan? Lucy? help!) talks to Aslan, the lion and the Christ figure of the story. She tells him he is much bigger than when she last saw him. He responds and says that he is bigger because she is bigger.

According to the blogger in this circuitous story, Aslan was always much bigger than the little girl and her troubles. He related to her exactly where she was at every season of her life, but his ability to absorb and neutralize and solve her problems was always infinite.

This was a huge, beautiful insight for me. My Heavenly Parents are vast and infinite. They sent Jesus, who is big enough to manage all the sorrow and suffering in the whole world. Nothing is too big or awful for them to handle.

Jack’s gentle, peaceful spirit isn’t far from mine. Jesus remains with us both. We are each treading on that dirt trail back to Heavenly Mother and Father to be made whole.

My personally stormy autumn allowed me to learn this.

God bless October and fall leaves and brisk winds that blow us back on track.

The Pearl

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you’ll know that I write less and less about disabilities parenting, which is weird since I’m still doing it all the time. My weird parenting life doesn’t look like it did before, though, when Jack lived here and everything was essentially a perpetual hurricane.

To wit, I’ve decided to discuss a change that we are in the midst of making for one of our boys. It’s a big change, at least for me, and it is directly related to the kinds of issues which are not as deeply encompassing as Jack’s disabilities, but are nevertheless real.

So, drum roll……

I am pulling my youngest boy out of school and beginning an online homeschool program.

This is officially me doing something I said I would never do.

School with its incumbent noise, chaos, and plethora of children and activity just isn’t working out for Truman. He is super smart and tests above average, but gets in trouble multiple times every day for being off-task, distractable, and having an excess of energy which channels into being silly or not listening.

I had a dream a few weeks ago where I was sitting with my Primary class in singing time. There was a little boy who couldn’t sit still. He was still happy and listening and participating, even though he was wiggly and kind of loud. A man in the room kept angrily telling the boy how irritating he was, and how he needed to get it together and stop wrecking the experience for everyone else.

In my dream, I was outraged at this. I tucked the little boy into my side, wrapped my arm around him, and quietly said to him, “You are doing such a good job today of being in Primary. I am so proud of you. I love how hard you are trying and I am so glad you are here.”

That was the dream. And as the days passed, I realized it wasn’t about my Primary class at church, but about my own little boy who is sweet, smart, kind, and creative, and who struggled every single day at school to even process all the sensory input coming his way.

He told me a few days ago on what turned out to be his last day ever at our neighborhood school, “I said lots of prayers, Mom, but it didn’t work and I still got in trouble.” Every day in a big, busy class of lots of kids with one teacher who is really trying to keep it all together was a formula for disaster. For him. For other kids, it works perfectly fine. For Truman, it is essentially exposing him to the worst learning environment for his particular needs and issues.

Even still, I didn’t want to homeschool. I’ve never wanted this.

But in addition to the dream, I had a series of micro-inspirations which told me that teaching Truman at home would not be painful drudgery, but would actually be freeing and really pretty terrific. I think at an earlier point in my life, I wouldn’t have been able to hear or interpret these spiritual messages teaching me how to proceed. I would have been resistant and slow to get on board, or at least slow to listen. But in this post-Jack’s caregiver life, which is also my post-spiritual-journey-times-two life, those subtle promptings and ideas went straight to my core, and I immediately paid attention.

The good news is, people have created quality curricula and the school district employs teachers to oversee this kind of parent-led online education for someone like me, who isn’t crunchy or fundamentalist or even remotely inclined toward coming up with creative second grade math methods. And they offer some great class options, like coding. Our second grader is now enrolled in coding, which is basically his dream come true.

I went through quite a process of personal acquiescence coming to terms with these changes. Specifically, I had a few really sad days thinking about how we are different, how we will always be different, and how different often equates to being hard.

I drove past the elementary school one morning and watched all the moms walking their broods to school, babies strapped onto their chests, pushing their toddlers and preschoolers in double strollers, supervising their little kids on bikes, and I felt this profound sense of otherness and loss.

We do things the hard way, not the normal way.

This is what ran through my head for the better part of of a week.

I think everyone in the world has felt this way at some point: I’m not like everyone else.

I don’t know why it’s such a heartbreaking, universal concept, but it is. We all just want to feel like we matter, we fit, we are valued, we are loved.

Which leads me to another recent dream. In this dreamscape, I was in a house with my parents and sisters, and an artist was giving each of us a painting he had done of Jesus. Each painting was different. Mine was almost a completely white canvas with Jesus in the distance, a stylized figure in robes reaching out to touch someone kneeling near him. It was beautiful.

Then (still dreaming, remember) I saw that someone, thinking they were being helpful, had taken my painting and stretched the canvas around a block of wood, gluing it in place. They had also taken red paint and painted big, sweeping brush strokes all over the painting. It was hideous.

I felt so annoyed that someone had taken something so lovely that was given just to me and altered it into this kindergarten craft project.

Jeff’s interpretation of this was that the paintings are spiritual gifts, given in individualized iterations to each of us. How we use them is something we rely on our Heavenly Parents to instruct us in. His take was that my own inward sense of how I should wield my spiritual gifts is different than how outside perspectives might see them.

One of my dear friends and spiritual mentors listened to me telling my dream and felt the paintings represent the personalized way Jesus reaches out and sustains each of us. We all need him in different ways and for vastly different reasons. But we all need him. His gospel’s economy, remarkably, is such that he KNOWS all of us and how to meet us in our pain and our inadequacy.

I don’t know the full meaning of the block of wood and the messy red brush strokes. I think they might be a reference to me thinking my gifts, my perspective, my life’s work might be contorted by a sense of pressure from outside sources.

What I want to remember, though, is the gift of the painting–its clarity and purity. It was such a simple and beautiful painting.

That’s the gift. That’s the pearl.

It’s Jesus, our Savior.

I don’t need to bend it or mold it into something else. I don’t need to cover it up with globs of paint.

I just need to see how Jesus holds me up and helps me move forward. My job is to appreciate it and to keep looking to him and at him, because he is my answer.