The night Brandon was packing to return to Kuwait we had Christmas all over again. He’d brought home the hundreds of cards and letters he received in response to my Mail Call back in December. He and Hope spread them out all over the bed, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude. It was such a gift to read the words and see the faces of friends we know and those we don’t know but somehow God has connected us. Thank you, thank you truly.
Once again during this deployment I am touched by the generosity and kindness toward me and my family. In so many ways people have filled in the gaps while I have been gone. And, when my wife posted a request for cards here on this blog, I was overwhelmed with the flow of mail. A few hundred cards and packages came my way. From individuals, schools, and organizations. From all over the world. Amazing!
I am late with my thank you here because when one doesn’t know what to do/say in response to such a thing, one procrastinates. So, I will just have to say THANK YOU. Please know that the outpouring of mail was greatly appreciated. I took in all of the cards and letters and notes. If you sent a card during the Christmas season, you made my day when it arrived. Thank you.
B’s time at home was great. Two weeks is just long enough to get re-integrated as a family, and I almost forgot that having him home is not “normal” for us. Now that he’s gone again I admit I’m smarting a little to be back in our same old circumstances. Over the weekend I posted the following on Rhemashope’s Facebook page (in fact if you’re on FB the next few paragraphs are a repeat!):
We said goodbye to the husband/father yesterday at the airport. Hope cried buckets of tears. Rhema didn’t seem to understand when he held her and said goodbye, she was too excited to be going on a trip. She tried to follow him as he walked …away. I was business-like(Ok, Be safe, See you soon.) – a thousand concerns already swirling my head. So thankful this is not goodbye for good, only goodbye for 4.5 months. We’ve had many of these goodbyes; they never get easy.
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” ~Winnie the Pooh
Lastly, Rhema is scheduled for surgery tomorrow (Tuesday). It’s considered minor surgery. But when autism is in the mix things considered “minor” are sometimes anything but. There’s the fasting before the surgery, the wait time at the hospital, the anesthesia, the recovery period, the fact that this is not Rhema’s usual hospital, the fact that the husband is deployed, the fact that I have no real way of communicating to her… what is happening – these are things that make this procedure *not* minor.
Because sometimes small things can make a really big difference.
Thank you for sharing in our lives.
“… Though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”
~1 Peter 1:6
We’re studying chapter 1 of 1 Peter, and there is a theme of suffering and ‘joy unspeakable’ in the same breath.
If I were to compare my life to others I cannot say I have suffered. Not really.
But pain is pain is pain. Some days, for Brandon and me, even the wonderful things we experience are underscored by a sense of regret and wistfulness, a sorrow that our darling daughter struggles, that her road is marked with ‘all kinds of trials.’
And yet I’ve looked at my children and I’m certain I’ve seen and been touched by the closest thing JOY UNSPEAKABLE this side of heaven.
Peter called our faith, tried by fire, much more precious than gold. And there is comfort in that. To know that God is doing something. That we can gather up our smoking pile of ashes, hurts, disappointments, broken hearts and dreams and give it all to Him. And nothing is wasted.
This video has ministered to us so much. If you can watch it, do not stop before 3 minutes and 25 seconds in:
I hear a strangled scream from one of my children and then the pained cries of the other. I cannot move fast enough to get to them.
Through many tears Hope explains how she was reading her book of Princess Adventures and how Rhema was sitting on the bed and became upset. How she went over and gave Rhema a hug. (When Rhema is particularly troubled the only person she welcomes touch from is Hope.)
And this is what Hope does when she senses her sister is distressed or overwhelmed – she holds on tight and tells her it’s ok. She doesn’t know why she is distraught, why it happens so often, but that doesn’t really matter to her; she just needs her sister to know that she is never ever alone. And nothing that agitates her or hurts her or scares her or saddens her is bigger than this. This love, this hug.
After the hug Hope goes back to her book. Then Rhema screams and throws her iPad across the room. It smacks Hope in the face, leaves a knot on her head.
Hope cries in my lap. Rhema babbles and hums in the background. No one says sorry but me.
We head to the kitchen for an ice pack. Rhema comes down minutes later, hunting for cheese in the refrigerator. Hope grins wide -even though it hurts – because her sister loves cheese, that’s for sure. She walks over and reaches up, “Are you feeling better now, Rhema??”
Rhema forgets about the cheese for a moment, leans close to Hope. They do the cheek bump. And teach me what I still desperately need to learn – the way of true love.
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy,
It does not boast,
It is not proud.
It does not dishonor others,
It is not self-seeking,
It is not easily angered,
It keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects,
Love never fails.
~1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Brandon is home for 2 weeks. He’s been deployed for 7 months and has 5 more to go. I wanted to tell you about his reunion with the girls yesterday.
Hope thought I would be visiting her classroom so we could Skype with him. Her class has sent him letters and pictures in the past so she thought this was a great idea. When I got there I pretended to call him through the iPad but I really was recording Hope. She just assumed that her poor mother was technologically challenged and attempted to take the iPad from me so that she could call her Dad. And that’s when he appeared…! It was a good reunion.
Afterwards each of Hope’s classmates came up and gave her a hug. Just mush.
Then we went to Rhema’s school. She was having a snack, and she didn’t move from her chair when she saw him. She just grinned and chuckled like she was in on the best joke ever. That alone thrilled my heart. Rhema rarely shows emotion in her face and eyes. And sometimes I don’t realize how much I’ve missed her smiles and giggles until I see and hear them again. We’ll do just about anything for Rhema-joy.
Then she went right to him and gave him a backwards hug.
My video recording is horrid. And I cut out a lot of video because it contains the faces of other kids. But below is a taste of what our day was like. One incredible moment we did not capture on video was when we were leaving the cafeteria at Rhema’s school. Brandon really wanted her to know that he was only leaving for a couple hours and that she would see him again shortly. He kept trying to tell her this because he always worries when he’s been gone for a long time — he never wants her to think he has left her. Finally, reluctantly he turned to walk out of the room. And she said as clear and engaged and purposeful and beautiful as I’ve ever heard her say anything: “Bye.”
There are moments in the day to day caring of my daughter that range from the unbelievable to the hilarious. That’s what you get, I think, when you have a girl in a(n almost) ten year old body who requires the constant help and supervision of a much younger child. That’s what you get when you have a girl who cannot rely on spoken words and so enlists her creative resourcefulness to get what she wants. Some days you both are pushed to the limit – every single simple thing becomes a Herculean task. And when you think it can’t get any harder, crazier, sweeter… it does.
Some things you just don’t talk about (or write about). For the sake of dignity and the fact that it’s… just a mom and her girl trying to do the day.
There’s something sacred about being a caregiver and I want to be like them – the ones who quietly serve a spouse, child, parent or friend. They live moments no one knows about. And no one sees but God.
I read this and remembered that both the precious and the difficult minutes, hours, days are ours – something that we share. And I am so thankful I get to share life with her.
Tonight as she stared straight ahead I leaned over and kissed her cheek. She waited a few seconds before wiping it off. I told her I love her, and she giggled just for me. I don’t know if she was remembering something funny or if she was laughing because she knows she is completely, endlessly loved. I’ll take it, either way.
***I posted this on Facebook the other day but in case you didn’t see it-
Brandon is coming home tomorrow for 2 weeks of leave! He’s been away for 7 months, and for a kid that’s a really long time. Hope knows he’s coming and she’s so excited of course, but he’s actually getting here a day earlier than expected so he’s going to surprise her by picking her up at school. As for Rhema, I don’t know what she knows. She’s had a hard time connecting with him since he left – phone and FaceTime just do not “work” for her. I know she must him. I’ll be very happy for them to be together again.
Once upon a time I was young, but I was right about you. We met at a Christian conference in Pennsylvania for college students. You sat next to me in a workshop called “Giving Your Life Away”, and I liked your West Point uniform and the goodness in your eyes. You scribbled your email address on a piece of paper, and I stuck it in Isaiah 6 in my Bible.
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
We’d only just met, but I knew almost immediately you were the kind who would say, “I’ll go. Send me.”
We corresponded off and on for months, and you asked me to be your date to a military ball. I took the train from New Hampshire to New York. I put my hair up and wore that black dress, but I totally should have worn my hair down that night. I’d had little things with boys before, but you were my first serious love. My first real everything.
After graduation you went to flight school in Alabama, and I got a job in Boston. We were officially dating by then, getting to know each other through letters, emails, phone calls and occasional weekend visits. Can we ever forget those Alabama weekends?
You tried to surprise me with a visit one Easter weekend. (But the truth is B, I’d already figured it out. And I already knew you were going to propose. Of a marriage proposal, you’d said, ‘It’s just like the Lord coming back. You know it’s going to happen. You just don’t know when.’ Dude, I knew when.)
I was watching TV in my parent’s basement with my little brother. You walked in and asked Corey to make his exit, but he took his sweet old time. My serious man, you were on a mission. Before I could blink you were down on a knee asking me to marry you. I was distracted by the fact that my kid brother was there, eavesdropping, anxious to get back to watching his show. It took a while for me to answer you…
What I thought then is what I know to be true now: You say you are not good. But God’s goodness flows out of you. I love that you are wise and thoughtful and purposeful. You live every day wanting to give your life away to God and others. I love that you want to pray with me every night, and that the margins of your Bible are filled with notes you’ve written to yourself. You are Top Gun sexy in a flight suit. When you make a decision, a promise, you are always faithful to it. I know good and honorable men, but your character and integrity sets you apart. You are so generous in your love toward me. I want to go with you until the end.
So I said Yes because the answer was always Yes.
That was fifteen years ago. Before 9/11, and wars within and without, and months and years of separations and moves and kids and special needs and surgeries and heartbreak and “love washing over a multitude of things.” The journey has had more hills and valleys than we imagined but you have held me tight and kept me close and called us blessed.
Your life is a story of giving – to your family and country – willing to go not once but three times on yearlong missions to the Middle East. You’ve sacrificed all just so our daughter could stay in place and get the education, services and medical care she needs. Yours is the kind of love that says, Here am I; send me.
The very nature of Christ reaches through you to love me and our children and words cannot ever express my thanks and I love you.
Once upon a time I was young, but I was right about you.
Marriage Letters is a project at the RunaMuck.com in which spouses write to each other on various topics. It’s great idea for me while Brandon is deployed and one I hope to continue when he returns. It’s about openly blessing your marriage and staking a claim in it over and over again. This month the topic is on remembering… going back to where we first began. For more letters, click here.
Give her everything she needs today to grow and learn.
Please let her have a good day. Or just a good hour.
Let there be short lines and no crowds.
Please help us manage this outing to the ___ (store, park, restaurant, doctor’s office). Help her not to become upset or overwhelmed.
Lord, please make her get out of the ___ (car, bed, bath tub, washing machine).
Give me patience… I need more.
Protect her, dear God – body, mind, heart and soul.
May she be comfortable in her clothes and her own skin.
Help her sleep. And me, too.
Don’t let them discontinue or change the packaging on her favorite foods.
And please let them build a drive-thru Panera in my town.
Give me her smile. And her courage.
Please, please no SIBs today. No aggressions. No seizures.
But if there are, be near to her. Speak to her heart as only You can and please tell her I love her.
Fill her with Your peace and abiding joy.
Help me see what I can’t see, help me understand what she can’t say.
Let me not miss one lesson she has to teach.
Give her something to do that is hers, that will bring her enjoyment and a sense of accomplishment.
Let me hear her beautiful song all of my days.
And let me live one minute longer than her.
May she know she is surrounded in love. That she is seen and heard and known, deeply cherished, always celebrated.
What are some of your prayers for your children? I’d love to join you in praying…