The last two weeks have been hell at my house. Our usually quiet, peaceful and loving home transformed into a place where raised voices, tantrums, not listening and acting like a stubborn butt became the norm and I am not just talking about the children! There were time outs for children and time outs for mommy. The anxiety level at our home crushed my chest and broke my heart and all because it’s back to school time!
But this is no ordinary year. This year, Peyton, our brave boy who has autism, moves up into junior high. The difference between elementary school and junior high is like the difference between vegetables and doughnuts. Both technically are food that will give your body energy but we want the pretty doughnut with sprinkles on top! In the end, the doughnut will not satisfy us longterm and leads to a major sugar crash! In elementary school, Peyton’s teachers gave him some level of independence but took care of him by doing a lot of hand holding. We loved every minute of it but just like with the doughnut, we are facing a sugar crash with the reality of the level of independence it takes to make it in junior high.
In preparation for this change, we made 3 different trips up to the school to practice because mommy is the queen of suggesting that practice relieves anxiety and leads to greater opportunities for success both for me and for him. Now, it is up to him. So this morning, we drove through the dropoff line, met some of his friends and sent him off into the school to work the steps that we practiced. 1-find his way to his locker, 2-unlock his locker, 3-get out his binder, 4-put his backpack in the locker, 5-make sure the locker is locked, 6-remember to carry his schedule and then 7-find his way to his first class. To most of us, this would not be too big of a stretch but when you have sensory issues like light and sound and touch (900 junior high kids crammed into 1 building!!) AND your hands don’t always work together to work a lock or you can’t focus long enough to get the key in the hole successfully AND when your memory challenges your ability to think of the next step, then the whole first 15 min of school seem impossible and fill your entire being with anxiety. Let’s not even talk about changing clothes for PE!! Thus the reason for all the craziness the past two weeks at home because we both want to go back to the doughnut days of elementary school.
But no one forced this schedule on us. In fact, his teachers suggested that he be placed in a self-contained classroom, but Chad and I both felt strongly that now was the time to call Peyton forward into greater levels of independence. We believed that God’s plan for Peyton included taking a huge leap of faith into creating a schedule that would allow him to participate in the full junior high experience. His elementary school principal agreed that he should be given this opportunity because they are required to place him in the least restricted environment. This was not the safe choice but if we want greater independence for him in the future, we know we have to push harder than our hearts can sometimes handle. I remember leaving this meeting at the school and rejoicing that God provided for us exactly what we had prayed for and that the team worked so hard to make accommodations for Peyton. For several months, I basked in God’s love and provision.
Walking in the reality of it is not as fun though. I am not basking in God’s love and provision. Instead, I am pulling my hair out, wanting to run away and second guessing our decision to put Peyton through this level of stress. I am second guessing the resolve I felt several months ago that God was present in this thing at all. Second guessing.
At times like this, I treasure the scriptures and all of the flawed, imperfect, disobedient, disbelieving heroes that are our ancestors of the faith. I am thankful that when I experience the harsh reality of living out my faith, then I can turn to the scriptures and find stories that still speak to me today. Stories that give me insight into how God is active in our world. Stories that show me how humanity relates to God in time of great success and in times of great failure. Without these stories, I would find it hard to find deeper meaning and greater complexity in my own story. Right now, I am studying Moses for an adult Sunday school class that I will begin facilitating next week. I love Moses because God called him to partner with God in setting God’s people free. What an amazing calling! I can’t think of anything more stretching, more impossible, more frightening and more exhilarating than to walk before the Pharaohs of our world and say, “Let my people go!” But, right alongside all of this thrilling adventure is Moses second guessing. Thank you, God, that this hero of our faith tradition is also very human. Here are the highlights: God calls Moses to go to Egypt where he grew up and ask the Pharoah to free the Israelites from slavery. Moses second guessed God saying, “But what if they don’t believe me or listen to me?” Then God gave Moses 2 signs to show the people God’s power. Moses second guessed God’s call because Moses felt like he could not speak, so God provided Aaron to speak for him. Later, Moses second guessed God’s call to move into the promised land so God promised that God would go with them.
Second guessing. The Good News is that God continued to work in Moses life through the second guessing AND Moses dug deep and found the strength and courage to trust AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN the call of God on his life.
This is what I am attempting to do today. As I lie awake for hours last night second guessing and praying over my children, I finally fell asleep. In my dreams, I was filled with peace as I watched my son with his unique head bobbing, double arm swinging walk travel down the hallway of school. But he was not alone. On either side of him were angels with watchful eyes protecting him. Then, I was transported on top of the giant water slide that my daughter fought off her fear to experience this summer. I watched her face and saw her dig deep, really deep, and find the courage to let go and off she went down that slide. Thank you God for these visions of my children! I am thankful that God is still at work in me through my second guessing and I choose to trust AGAIN.