Boasting in My Infirmities (Like Paul)


My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and compete and lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.                                                               -James 1:2-5

It always amazes me what end up being trials that God uses to help perfect our patience. I signed up with a direct sales company. I just wanted to get makeup at a good price, really. I thought that if I got into putting on makeup and stuff, it would be a thing that my teenage daughter and I could bond over. And I was right about that. But then I started reading about network marketing and how it’s all about relationships and helping people and loving them and serving them. And I thought, “Relationships and helping people and loving them and serving them? Seems like I’ve heard that before.” And I wondered if this would be the thing that God would use to get me to connect with more people and show them how Jesus has changed me.

What God uses to grow us and change us can be really…anticlimactic sometimes. Take selfies, for example. When I first started reading about the online marketing makeup business, I kept reading that the best thing you can do is take selfies and talk about how much you love the makeup. And I do love the makeup so that wouldn’t be a lie. But I don’t take selfies (or, at least, I didn’t). I don’t really like taking pictures – of anything. I don’t like getting my picture taken – by anyone – and I like even less the knowledge that other people will be looking at those pictures. But, it’s not about how the pictures look at all. I don’t think I look bad in pictures. Not generally speaking anyway. We all have bad hair days. It’s something else. Let’s start at the beginning…

The first clue I had to my own autism was my issues with eye contact. I can not maintain eye contact. It’s not like it makes me anxious or I feel like the other person is going to see the ugliness in my soul or whatever. My eyes and my brain don’t like to make eye contact. If I don’t focus energy into keeping my eyes on someone’s face, they will just dart back and forth or gaze off into space. I’m still listening, my eyes are just moving. It happens like blinking or breathing. If I don’t think about it, it just happens. If I focus hard enough on keeping my gaze “natural” (i.e. neurotypical-seeming) for it to work, it actually physically drains me until I won’t be able to talk anymore. Or I’ll cry. Imagine you were having a conversation while doing this:

Woman balancing on her hand with a stack of bowls on her head. Original image from

It’s kind of like that, and it’s draining after a while, to say the least. That’s a part of my issue with eye contact.

The other part is that it reminds me that people are looking at me. Again, this is not about insecurity, this one is about anxiety. It’s the same feeling I get when I’m worried about something bad happening to my family or I am not sure if I checked the door or I try to drive without singing to the radio. Having people look at me gives me a tight-chested feeling that I can only liken to the feeling I had after my sedan got rear-ended by a 3/4 ton pickup truck. Or getting hit in the chest with a medicine ball. The after math of that bone-jarring shock is what runs through me when I think of talking on the phone or meeting new people or talking to unfamiliar people. And when people are looking at me. Any people. It doesn’t matter if I know them or not. If I’m comfortable with them or not. If I love them with every ounce of my being or hate them with all my soul. They have eyes that see me, they stress me out. Maybe I should just hang out with blind people. =)

Having a camera lens “looking” at me and knowing that people will look at the pictures evokes the same feeling. It’s getting better, but the idea of it, most of the time, is really nauseating. And then, I post the pictures and people comment and tell me they’re really good and I look good and my makeup is awesome or whatever. And they’re good pictures (I only post the good ones, LOL!) but it really makes it worse, in a way. Because it reminds me that they looked at “me.” Which is not their fault. I posted it so they would look at it. And I am glad they didn’t think it was terrible. And, emotionally and intellectually, I like getting the comments. So if you are one of the lovely people who comment on my selfies, please don’t stop. It’s just a physical reaction. I’m not unhappy, I’m just nauseated. If that makes sense.

But I am coming to understand that connection is worth the anxiety. If love is not just a warm feeling in my heart but things I do, that goes for love of Christ and love of his people. I can not claim to love God and then ignore his command to love his people because it makes me uncomfortable. Or anxious. Or spend the next day in bed. And I can not love them if I am not a part of them. Every week, I teach a lesson at BSF and the whole process makes me…ill, literally. By Friday, I end up spending at least four hours on the couch feeling like I have a fever or the flu, just from BSF using all my spoons. No matter how carefully I guard my spoons, no matter how carefully I mete out my energy, I will be wasted on Friday. Sometimes Tuesday, too. But I do it because I think that’s what God is calling me to, right now. They do God’s work and if I have to crash every week to do it, too, I will. And if being present on social media is what God is calling me to now, then that is what I do. I will be joyful in obedience, even if the body is nauseated and anxious and wasted by posting. Paul had this to say:

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.                                         -2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Now, I don’t think I’m in any danger of being “exalted above measure,” but I might be tempted to pray at least three times that God would take this thorn. But what would I be without it? So maybe, instead, I will boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Maybe, instead, I will pray that I would see His grace is sufficient for me. That His strength would be perfected in me. That I would be weak, so He would make me strong.

In Autism: I Crash Because I’m Spoonie

This is really what I look like crashed. Except, not a dog. (Source:

Sometimes my own spooniness (if you are unfamiliar with spoon theory, you can read about it here) is such a part of my experience that I forget about it. I plan my activities and think about how much I can do each day automatically. If one of my kids has a dentist appointment later today and I have to go to BSF tonight, I know that I better not plan anything for Tuesday. If I have to leave the house, I know I can’t do too much in the house or I will be dragging butt through whatever I have to do out of the house or, if that’s not an option, I will be on my back all day the next day. I think, after my aversion to people looking at me and my multiple anxieties and phobias, this is the thing that affects my day to day life the most.

Before I knew about autism, I didn’t handle it very well. I didn’t know what was going on, so I just beat myself up for being lazy. Nothing was ever good enough. I never did enough for my head but my body always felt like I was falling apart. And every few days to two weeks, I would fall apart emotionally. I would either just start yelling at everyone, give everyone the silent treatment or break down and cry for a day. Or check out completely for weeks at a time. Between a bit more maturity (for me and my life/kids) and some self-awareness on my part, I am usually conscious enough of my own state that I don’t run myself to the point where I just meltdown for days. I only get to the point of shutting down usually, which is hard for me and requires consideration on the part of my family but, generally, leaves no permanent casualties. But that has taken 40 years to get to.

For the most part, these days, I have a lot of things under control, I think. I still don’t do as much as I would like. I hate how much time I have to spend…resting. It’s like a bad word in my head. I don’t want to rest, I want to use every minute, but I don’t because I know what that gets me. Sick and crazy. So, it annoys me, but I go slow and I only do so much. My house isn’t as clean as I want, but my kids get more of my spoons that way. It’s a constant balancing act. If I know I have to cook dinner for friends coming over, I keep that in mind all day long. And I don’t cook the day before or the day after.

This week, I think I forgot how many spoons mental things take. I spent much of my time this week doing mental things: writing, reading, Bible study. I started my Ligonier class yesterday. And I felt pretty good. Then this morning, I was eating breakfast and I just couldn’t focus on my Bible reading. So I thought, “well, maybe I’m tired. We have stayed up a little late the last two nights. Maybe I just need a nap.” I never used to sleep during the day. I just hated it because I ended up groggy. I think I was actually crashing because now I can lay down, watch one episode of something, maybe sleep, maybe not and feel better when I get up. It’s like vegging out meets napping. Veg-napping.

That is not what happened today. That’s what I wanted to happen, but that is not what happened. Today I laid down to watch a couple episodes of The New Detectives and the next thing I know I’ve been asleep for two hours. And then I roll over and toss and turn my way through another two hours. And it’s so hot. And that, for me, is crashing. It’s almost like being sick, except I’m not. I just feel tired and a bit cold and unfocused and then I lay down and fever sleep all morning. (You know, fever sleep? Hot and sweaty no matter what the temperature it is, you want a blanket but then you’re too hot. You half wake up every twenty to thirty minutes. You have crazy dreams that don’t make any sense and, even though, you slept for hours you are more tired then when you laid down and now you are sore and sweaty.) Then I’m groggy all afternoon. And before I know it, I’ve lost a day.

That’s what happens when I run out of spoons. That’s why I didn’t get to the next lesson of my Ligonier class. That’s why I didn’t get any photos taken or any planning done or any housework besides washing my sheets done. I am pretty lucky I got my Bible reading done and got my kid out to the mall. That’s why I’m writing this at 7 pm and I couldn’t think of anything else to write about.

And I still feel bad about it sometimes. I think, I am just as capable as anyone else. I should be able to do just as much as other people do. There are women out there who do everything that I do and they have jobs. Could I have a job? Maybe. But I don’t think I could do anything else. I think 40 hours of effort is all I have and I can either spend it the way I do now or on a paying job. Which would be far more stressful for everyone. Would I like that more? Maybe. Would I prefer to not have to guard my energy like a precious commodity? Probably.

Then I wonder. If I could just be going and going and going 24/7, or even 16/7, like some people do (and if I could, I would), would I ever just sit around and talk to God? Would I have read the Bible straight through a dozen times in 7 years? Would I give most of my life to a volunteer organization and help kids study the Bible? Would I spend any time thinking about God or reading or studying his word? Or would I be so busy going and doing and cleaning and making and cooking that I never even thought about anything?

In Autism: Routine Conquers All

Well, maybe not all, but perhaps it can conquer my executive function disorder. Or executive dysfunction, as I like to call it, since that is what it feels like. I have always felt like I don’t really need a routine or anything. I don’t like schedules. I hate time. When I try to do anything at a specific time, I inevitably miss it. I am usually late for everything. (I have that Time Agnosia thing. I simply can’t deal with time. I don’t feel it passing. I don’t know how long it takes to do things unless I actually time it with a clock. When I am doing something, I don’t know if I’ve been doing it for five hours or five minutes without a clock.  I’ve been a mom for 18 years and a person for almost 41 and I still seem to be almost completely incapable of getting us anywhere on time, no matter how much I focus on it or how much effort I put into it. Anyway, that’s not really what this is about…)

5bec4e877ef949b9bbcd39c1e4cb932eI am coming to the conclusion that I need “routine” more than I ever thought. The days when I sleep in, it becomes a chore to do the smallest thing, even if I want to do it. The monkey wrench in our lives that our house guests entail continues to throw off any sense of familiarity and routine that I had. Last week, our basement leaked and wet much of the downstairs and between the extra stress of having to worry about whether it was drying out and so many extra smells (outside water plus candles burned to cover the smell of outside water), I was pretty low on spoons all week. By the time Friday came around, I made it through my early BSF meeting but I spent the rest of the day on the couch watching Numb3rs like I had the flu. Which is kind of what I felt like.

I’m starting to realize that this is not laziness on my part. If I’m overstimulated or stressed to what feels like the point of exhaustion, it’s not just me talking myself into exhaustion so that I can get out of doing things. I’m not lazy and I don’t hate housework. Truth be told, it’s a little embarrassing to admit, I rather like housework. I like to do mindless tasks that leave my mind free to think and ponder big ideas. I like to intersperse times of problem solving with times of menial labor that allows my mind to process everything that has gone into it. For those who have never tried it, this is a pretty good description of being a housewife. So why am I so bad at it? That’s not false humility, I really am. I mean, I keep everything functioning and we usually never have things growing anywhere (barring a leaky basement growing fungus or mold), but, that’s a pretty low bar. Basically, if I get the dishes done every day and all the necessary laundry done every week, that’s really all that I can reasonably expect from myself. Wanting anything beyond that is just going to result in me beating myself up and feeling like a totally useless waste. I don’t clean bathrooms unless they’re gross and the fancy takes me. I don’t vacuum unless someone is coming over even though I have pretty noticeable dust allergies. I just can’t get started. 973ff9da48c742f0bd5d9450d260eac2

But I think one of the things that I like about doing dishes and laundry is that I have a routine for those things. When I am doing them, I feel like I am where I am supposed to be and then my mind even likes to take it to all the generations of women who have done this very thing before me. It’s like the most beautiful cross-generational rut ever. So, maybe if I get a routine going for cleaning the bathrooms and the upholstery and other things that carry dust – which would probably really help my quality of life and not just be an aesthetic thing – maybe I could get that done. If I could get some kind of routine down for grocery shopping and menu planning and did it so that everyone would eat but our diet 3808f5ac9d4a47dd8ca17ee03f2998b3could still be mostly wheat-free – another thing that would really improve my quality of life by cutting out more allergens and reducing the strain on my system – maybe I could get that done. I think I just need to put my mind to it, get a system in place and then work the system till it becomes automatic. Alternating times of problem solving with times of menial labor. You know, like playing to my own strengths to give myself the best chance of succeeding? Hm. Novel idea.

I think rather than a schedule, I need to make a routine for each day and put each thing into that routine. The first thing I do every day after taking my husband to the bus and getting breakfast for Joseph, if necessary, is put in a load of laundry and do the dishes. Well, those are the first things I do every *good* day. =) It is ridiculous what an amazing sense of accomplishment I get just from doing what I plan to do. Then after I do the dishes and put in a second load of laundry, I do whatever BSF I have to do. Then after that…well, it kind of falls apart. I think I need to add more to the routine I already have. But I can’t make it time dependent, otherwise, I just fall apart if I get late or something keeps me from getting things done on time. And, apparently, I need visual reminders. At least, that’s what all the tips for overcoming executive dysfunction suggest. I have to admit, I do usually do better when things are right out in the open. Which is why it would probably be a good idea to have fewer things. =) But that’s a post for another day…

In Autism: Vacation=Stress

Here's how weird Arizona is. This is the view from my bedroom window. Yeah. that's a 14 ft stag.
This is the view from my bedroom window. Yeah. that’s a 14 ft stag.

So I am in Arizona with Eli. He is working and I am on a vacation, of sorts. It’s nice that I don’t have to take care of the kids or cook. I am pretty stressy because of the strange people in the house. There’s now, like 7 strangers in this giant house. But there are always 3 strangers in my regular house and these strangers are better behaved. =) The unusual surroundings are tripping me out big time.

I go on vacation periodically and it’s usually stressful from the activity and weird surroundings. But I usually have my favorite comfort object (That Weird Kid from the Gas Station) with me constantly which totally out weighs all that. Now he’s working most of the day and I really can’t sit out there with him. So I’m sitting in front of the tv in our room most of the day. It’s a very nice room and we do have cable, but it’s still different. And the food is different. So I’ve got all the usual stress symptoms that I always have daily from my in-laws being in our house, plus stressy new surroundings, plus probably lots of allergy responses taxing the system.

It’s kind of interesting to me as my life has gotten so much more stressful over the last year or so. When I first started reading about autism, for Joseph, I read Temple Grandin’s book. When I read about how she thinks in pictures, I thought, “Hey, that’s how I think, too.” That was kind of the first thing. Then I read about autistic selective mutism and I realized that was a much better description of what we all thought was a painful level of shyness I had when I was a kid. It kept going from there, as it does for lots of autism parents who realize they are also autistic parents. But I thought I really only had “shadowy traits” even after numerous online tests and much research, because most of my “symptoms” were not that bothersome. I thought a few times about how low-functioning I was when my first marriage was falling apart and I wondered if maybe I am not as high functioning as I think. Maybe I just had had the incredible luxury of being able to tailor my life to my own needs and had been doing it unconsciously for years. I know Joseph is functions far better than he might otherwise because he is so well-accommodated.

Turns out I was righter than I knew. (I also didn’t know that “righter” was a word, but my spell check is not reacting. Go figure.) I have spent the last year with the brain in some form of headache or fatigue almost every day because of our less than pleasant houseguests. I spend almost every night and some of many days with a tight chest and pounding heart. There are many days when I barely get done the things I absolutely must get done. I find myself needing to compensate in ways that I have never had to before (planned isolating, stimming, constant buffering with either the tv or my darling husband). The last couple days in Arizona are giving me more insight into what it feels like when my system is overwhelmed, overloaded, overtaxed.

I almost got physically ill in the airport from the bright lights and some lady’s perfume. That continued on the plane from all the scents being recirculated around the cabin and the cold air blowing on me from the circulation system. Then, today and yesterday, I seem to have lost the ability to maintain my own body temperature. I am usually comfortable at 65 to 68 degrees. At about 69 or 70, it starts to feel uncomfortable and at 72 I am too hot. Both today and yesterday, I have sat in a house with the air conditioner set at 72 and the outside temp somewhere around 75 and I was wanting to open the window to let in the warm and then get under the covers. I was almost shivering, I was so cold. I have basically felt like I have a fever or the flu, except without the actual fever. Headachey, weak, lightheaded at times. Like my hands are shaking but they’re not actually. My skin is crawling and tingly almost all the time. I’m having a hard time carrying on a conversation about anything but what is going on right in front of me and the only thing I can think of to write about are my own symptoms.

I think I used up all my brain function doing my Bible study homework today, which took twice as long as it should. I had a lot of ideas for posts today, but I can’t actually coagulate them into actual writing.

These last two years have really revealed to me that my idol is my own competence. I really feel like my autistic brain makes many things about following Jesus easier rather than harder. Lately, God has been using that autistic brain to tear down that idol of my own competence. If I am not that girl that can overcome any obstacle or deficiency just by thinking about it, who am I? How can I think my way out of the problem when the problem is that my brain is overwhelmed and can’t think? I don’t know, but I know that this week I still have to come up with a lesson plan based on Exodus 35-40. Then I have to go to a meeting at a church I’ve never been to and with people I’ve never met. I have never been in this situation, especially not at this level of dysfunctionality. I don’t know what will happen. People are counting on me, so I know I have to at least try.

So who am I if I can’t think my way out of any problem? I am a child of the  Risen King and the only way to get through this is by letting him lead me. Or carry me, if need be. I know that I am only here because of God’s calling and God’s empowering me for that calling. I know that God wants me to go there, so I know he will go there with me. And, whatever happens, that will all still be true.

In Autism: Some Days are Diamonds

There are a lot of things that autism means in our house. Things like this:

Joseph in his favorite place doing his favorite thing with his favorite toy.
Joseph in his favorite place doing his favorite thing with his favorite toy.

If you want to find Joseph, and he is in this house, day or night, there’s about a 70% chance you will find him like this.

Here’s another thing that it means:

The wall over my living room couch.
The wall over my living room couch.

I put this scripture on my wall a few years ago in an attempt to submerge us in God’s word. I still like putting scripture on the wall, but our graphic style has evolved since this first “piece” that we ordered from an online source that makes custom wall letters. It really doesn’t fit the rhyme scheme any more but I can’t bring myself to take it down and replace it.

See the lowercase t’s? That was Joseph’s idea of a joke back when he was about 10. He turned the t in “their” upside down and when Chelanne finally noticed it, he laughed his head off. I walked in a few days later to find him turning the last of the t’s upside down. I pretended not to see him and he spent the next 15 minutes sitting on the couch trying to stifle his giggles. He failed miserably when I and, later, his stepfather walked in and wondered “what on earth???” It’s one of my favorite memories. He cracked so few jokes back then, showed so little effort to affect the world around him, sometimes went days without interacting with anyone in a way that showed that he paid any attention to the world around him beyond his iPad.  Those are the memories you cling to when your boy doesn’t hold conversations or ask questions or understand time, and spends most of his time watching youtube videos.

And today, I got another one of those. I went to BSF this morning and got home about 720 a.m. Before I went to take my oldest to school, I had this conversation with Joseph:

“I’m going to the grocery store, would you like to go?”


“Would you like something from the store?”


“A soda?” Nod in agreement, finger in the corner of his mouth.

“Would you like anything else?”


“Candy bar?” Head shake, negative.

“Donuts?” Nod in agreement.

All par for the course. I go to the restroom, get my shoes on. As I stand up from putting my shoes on, Joseph starts to walk toward me, stops, puts his finger on his chin and says these words, magic words:

“Wait. I changed– Can I go?”

Can I go. This is the boy who has asked not millions, nor thousands, but mere hundreds of questions in his 12 years, though he has been able to speak in sentences since he was about 4 1/2 or 5. They are a mode of communication that he just doesn’t get, neither asking nor answering most of the time. I don’t really know why. I think that many questioning words are just abstract concepts and he can’t wrap his head around what they mean. When you really think about it, what does “when” actually mean? How can you explain that in absolutely concrete terms, terms that a person can see and touch, understanding that time is NOT a concrete concept. How about “how”? Or “what”? And to have him use, or attempt to use, a phrase like “I changed my mind” to preface it?

In this house, Joseph’s autism means that I have never heard this before and I don’t know when I will again though I will hold out hope that this is an indication of progress made.

My autism means that that hope has me so overwhelmed with emotion that this blog post has taken me 2 1/2 hours to write because I can’t stop crying for joy. I’m, literally, so happy it’s painful.

Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
-Psalm 30:4-5

Visual Thinkers, Visual Prayers

In my research on Asperger’s and reading about how the brains of many autistic people work and thinking about how my own brain works, I realized that I am actually a very visual thinker. I had always imagined that I was a verbal thinker because I was always very good with words. I was a voracious and early reader and I have always journalled. Sometimes voraciously. I am very good with text. I seem to be completely without the ability to imagine visual images that I have never seen before or remember things with motion, just still pictures. I thought that meant I was a verbal thinker. But I am coming to learn that I am kind of terrible with spoken words. I don’t come up with them easily and they don’t make it from my brain to my mouth very well. I absorb information as pictures and I can only really process a lecture if I take notes, either actually or in my head. What really shed a glaring light on this was the act of prayer.

I became a Christian just shortly before I started really looking into autism as a possible characteristic of my son, by about a year or so. I knew that prayer is hugely important to Christian life and, more importantly, it is an awesome thing that only a fool would pass up. I mean, who wouldn’t want to hang out with God?!? But I found myself having trouble doing it. I kept reading that it was like having a conversation with God. Well, I often have conversations going in my head, so I figured that would be easy. But I found that it took a lot of effort. It would (and still does) constantly deteriorate into an imagined conversation with someone else or just a parade of pictures and emotions. Then I got into a community and started trying to pray with other people, first my husband and children and then other women. It basically went from bad to worse. For over a year, I was simply incapable of praying out loud without crying. Now I can do it, but only if I rehearse in my head first and keep my eyes open so I’m not really thinking about the words I’m saying and they are just coming out, because I basically have them memorized. To think of what I am praying about and who for and who to and also make the words come out of my mouth is an effort that I simply can not describe. It leaves me shaking and crying, most times, from less than 5 minutes of prayer. I felt like a horrible failure as a Christian.

Then I started to realize in my day to day life that I can’t really think in words and see pictures at the same time and the former takes MUCH more effort than the latter. And then I noticed that the times when I felt like I had really been at God’s feet was when I just soaked in his presence and let my prayers be more of a string of images and emotions: people I wanted to pray for, feelings about the things that I wanted for them, that sort of thing. But nothing that I read about prayer ever described anything like this. Everything I read said that if you wanted a more powerful prayer life, you need to pray SPECIFICALLY. Tell God what you want. Name the things you are thankful for. Keep a prayer journal and have it with you when you pray so that you can pray for your friends specifically. Petition God. Speak to Him. Present your adoration. Bear your soul with all the words of your heart. And the constant:

Pray these words. Pray these words. Pray. These. Words.

But I couldn’t pray those words. I could only read those words and if I was reading them, I couldn’t pray. And if I memorized them and just recited them mindlessly, well, that didn’t seem good either. So I was again saddened by my failure as a prayer, or pray-er, I should say, for clarity’s sake. In fact, I felt a bit lazy. Like if I could just put enough effort into it, I could pray like everyone else. Just focus, Brain, this is for a way better cause than having a conversation or making a Bible lesson plan. This is like the most important conversation about the best Bible lesson ever. But it was still such a struggle and I kept failing miserably. And I know that our prayer lives should be intentional and mindful, but it doesn’t seem like every prayer should be a knockdown drag out wrestling match, not with God, but with your own mind.

But then, as I’m starting to write this, That Weird Kid from the Gas Station sees the title and says to me: “Visual Prayers. Like the wordless groaning of the Spirit in Romans.” And I say, “Oh, yeah. Like the Jeremy Camp song.” =) Anyway, after a quick Google search I find this:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.                                                          -Romans 8:26-27

The Holy Spirit intercedes for us with wordless groaning. God searches our heart and knows the mind of the Spirit. And even when I don’t have any words, the Spirit will intercede for me. It seems to me that if the Holy Spirit prays with wordless groaning, then it’s a good thing to do. And if my will and my heart and my mind and my thoughts are reaching toward God with waves of emotion and visual praises and petitions, I think that God will know my heart with or without words.

I do have conversations with God, but those aren’t the times I really enjoy him. Those are mostly the times when I am whining or ranting. And I am not saying that everyone should pray like me. All I’m saying is that I think I have finally figured some things out. God made the Brain, God understands the Brain.

Also, praying is not a test, or a contest; it’s a relationship.

Mothering is not a reciprocal relationship

The autism community is on fire again over another tragic death of an autistic child at the hands of his mother. London McCabe was a 6 year old autistic boy whose mother threw him off the Yaquina Bay Bridge in Oregon last week. Among other things, NBC News reported this:

Dee Shepherd-Look, a psychology professor at California State University, Northridge, who runs an education group for mothers of autistic children, said “quite frankly, I am surprised this doesn’t happen more often.”

“These children are really unable to be in a reciprocal relationship and the moms don’t really experience the love that comes back from a child — the bonding is mitigated,” she told NBC News. “That is one of the most difficult things for mothers.”

I didn’t want to be one more autistic, autism mom ranting about how outrageous it is that they dehumanize autistic children and make it seem like they may have driven their mothers to kill them. But this just really hits home. First, because London was a little boy who loved his iPad and my son loves his iPad. Second, because my son, though verbal, does not express love in the usual ways. He doesn’t say I love you. He doesn’t hug. He doesn’t ask questions about what you’re doing or how you’re doing or anything, actually. Questions are not a thing he does very well. So I guess London tugs at my heart because he reminds me of my boy. So I am writing about this thing that I had decided not to write about. But I am going to focus on this statement by Dee Shepherd-Look. I truly hope that this was taken out of context and that this person does not really believe what this statement seems to say she does. But what I’m writing is less about the fact that she said it and more about the fact that NBC, a major news outlet, reported it in this way. The fact that they as a station would make this statement.

The first disturbing thing about this statement is the suggestion that autistic people are, in general, incapable of having a reciprocal relationship. That’s not even true. Autism has nothing to do with the ability to feel love. Many of us are capable of showing it in a ways that are totally understandable to neurotypical people. That being the case, many more of us must be able to feel and just show it in less conventional ways.

That’s not the most disturbing thing, though, because it’s not even relevant, even if it were true. I could write about all the ways that Joseph shows caring and concern for others. He does. But I’m not going to do that because it doesn’t matter. If I’m honest I don’t know if he really loves people the way I or other people understand it. He doesn’t talk about it so I don’t really know. He is very, very concrete in his thinking and understanding of the world. I don’t know if he even understands the concept of love. The suggestion that that somehow makes it excusable, even expected, for me to take his life because I don’t feel “reciprocated” in my love for him is the most disturbing thing about the above statement. He has a right to live by virtue of the fact that he is alive as God made him to be. And nothing about my response to him or my mental state outweighs that right. He is still a person, God’s image bearer, no matter how he shows love, or if he never does at all. And that is why it would be wrong to kill him, a monstrous act. And there’s no mitigating circumstance that makes it understandable to throw a little boy off a bridge.

The most ridiculous thing about that statement, is the idea that the parent-child relationship is a “reciprocal relationship.” A child can never give their parents back what their parents put into that relationship. They’re not supposed to. It’s not possible. Parents give their children life and take care of all their needs for years when a child doesn’t even understand what love is. Parents sacrifice in ways that children can not understand until they become parents or, at least, adults. And even when you do understand it, you can never give your parents back what they give you. They gave you life. It’s not reciprocal and it can never be. As a mother, you shouldn’t expect your children to reciprocate. If you do you will be disappointed. Deeply. The pay off of parenting isn’t when they pay you back, it’s when they pay it forward by caring for their own children. Or their neighbors. Or anyone. The pay off is realizing that your children understand the idea of sacrificial love, because the first place they saw it was in you.