A Hefty Dose of Hyssop

Our Poo Art struggles continue.

The victim this time (or should I say the canvas?) was the living room couch and the Oriental rug. The artist herself was covered from head to toe when I discovered her, so after giving her a bath (hosing her down, scrubbing her head), and cleaning the bathroom (b/c everything she touched was soiled), I set out to see what could be done about the couch and rug.

For some reason, the ongoing Poo Art episodes are very upsetting for the husband and me. It is not necessarily the fact that our property is being destroyed or that we have to repeatedly clean it up (although this is certainly bad enough), it’s the fact that our beautiful little girl seems oblivious to the messes she’s made. She does not seem to understand or care that she’s covered in filth.

This time as I cleaned I was determined not to get (too) upset, so I played music and sang as I cleaned. I decided it was time to purge (no pun intended). The rug must go. We bought it in Germany five years ago, before kids, but now it’s been pooped on, puked on, juice-spilled-on, banana-smushed-on, one too many times!

I know that not all of my friends who read this blog are Christians. My faith is the biggest part of me. And as I try to make sense of these struggles, I can only return again and again to the One who has been my faithful God for as long as I can remember. I’m always asking, ‘So Lord, what are you trying to show me or teach me in all this? How can I know how to live, how to respond, how to breathe in the face of daily disaster?’ With that said, I hope that even if you are not a Christian, you will continue reading.

While I was scrubbing the furniture , I thought of a verse in the Bible where David, contrite from the sins of adultery and murder, prays “Purge me with hyssop, and I will be clean.” Ps. 57:7

I did not know exactly what hyssop was so I did some Google-ing and found out that it is a plant that was used in ritual sprinklings and is an analogy for cleansing. Today, hyssop oil is used for disinfecting, therapeutic purposes. In the Old Testament, hyssop was used to brush the blood of the Passover lamb over the Israelite doorposts. Hyssop was also used in the cleansing of a leper. Most significantly, when Jesus was dying on the cross, a stalk of hyssop was lifted to his lips to give him a drink:

“After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost” (John 19:28-30)

How symbolic, how God-like, that in the ultimate act of redemption and forgiveness of sin – Christ on the cross – hyssop was used as an emblem of cleansing and purification.

So my conversation with God went like this: What in the world do I need purged? I’m the innocent victim here faced with a lifetime of scrubbing poo!

Then the montage played: my arguments with the husband, my murmuring, my complaining, my jealousy, my lack of patience with people, blaming all of my poor behavior on the fact that I have a child with autism.

It hit me like a ton of bricks that the thoughts I had about my daughter really applied to me: I don’t even understand that I’m covered in filth.

Well, I had no hyssop to clean my couch. But I asked for a spiritual dose of hyssop to cleanse my soul… to purge away the dross… to prune the undesireable.

Every time I get angry because these circumstances don’t change – she still has autism, she’s still non-verbal, she’s still a Poo-Art painter,

I feel a swish-swish of the hyssop plant.

Every time I give in to my fears about her future – Who will care for her when I am gone? Entrust her to me. She is mine. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jer 29:11 (NIV)


Every time I allow bitterness and resentment to invade my heart when the going gets rough. “Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time. Heb 12:15 (MSG)

Swish, swish.

Every time I get impatient with people who do not understand what life is like with a disabled child. “Be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Eph 4:2


Every time I doubt myself – God, clearly you picked the wrong parents! I picked you on purpose. “You can do all things through me who strengthens you.”  Phil. 4:13


Every time I allow discouragement and self-pity to dictate my actions… “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart.” Psalms 27:14 

Swish, swish.

Cleaning me and the couch is a process. We’ve hired professional upholstery cleaners to handle the furniture. I had to chuckle because the upholstery care web site promises to apply a protector “to preserve the color, beauty and life of your upholstery.”

I imagine God is giving out the same kind of professional cleaning with the intention of preserving color, beauty and life. 8)

“…wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” Psalms 51:7

26 thoughts on “A Hefty Dose of Hyssop

  1. Hi,

    I’m not a Christian (or any other religion) but I am an autism parent and I can absolutely 100% assure you that the poo-art will stop one day 🙂

    Our autistic child is now eight. Xe will never not be autistic. Xe may never speak (but Xe may well communicate – in fact, xe already does).

    I can well remember the long scrubbing sessions. One parent scrubbing the child in the bath whilst the other scrubs the sofa/bed/carpet/walls/door. In fact, I can remember trying to get our child to sleep (xe has plenty of sleep issues still) and sneaking up the stairs silently, across the landing on my belly and sniffing at the gap between the floor and the door to try and detect the distinctive odour….

    Don’t be too hard on yourself. Cleaning up poo ain’t ever going to match up to a nice meal out and I think its OK to get annoyed or not enjoy it. You hold yourself up to an impossible ideal of parenthood and you’re going to fall short and be miserable every time. The important thing is to separate the act from the child I think i.e. its not done on purpose but its still far from pleasant.

    I guess I’m saying you can enjoy your daughter just the way she is and still not enjoy some aspects of the journey. Others are good though. My child sings at the top of her voice in Supermarkets. Xe has a truly dreadful taste in music but to me its like a choir of angels. Everyone stares and I think how proud I am of xyr – xyr innocent abandon and lack of shame in a given talent such as singing.

    I hope that makes some kind of sense!

    • My dear friend, and yours, Michelle sent me a link to your blog. I can say clearly… you are not alone. As I read Kev’s response, I had to laugh. Smelling the crack of the door was an all too familiar event. It is true, the poo art does stop one day and the best part is they will not ever remember doing it. At least that has been our experience.
      I do believe if we had more of God in our lives during those early years we could have handled it better. I imagine God’s grace filling you, His gift of patience surrounding you and His peace covering your home in this time. We will most certainly be praying for you all.

  2. Kev,
    Thanks so much for reading and thanks for the encouragement. So the poo-art really does come to an end? Really? A few months ago I thought we were finally through that stage and voila! it came back with a vengeance.

    In the future, no doubt I will get annoyed or angry — I’m just going to try and use the cleaning sessions as a time of reflection of what “stains” need washing in my own life. However, the next time I’m poo scrubbing I’ll think of you creeping across the floor and sniffing at the bottom of the door and that will definitely give me a laugh!

  3. I’m sorry to hear that you are going through this. My son is also a “poo artist.” It is not fun, but I know the Lord is teaching me lessons as well. It was encouraging to read your blog. Next time I am scrubbing the stains out of our carpet, walls, and closets I will be reminded that I am not the only one going through this on this journey. 🙂

  4. Always such good encouraging, thought-provoking connections you make! Thank you for this.

    We’ve got an artist wanna-be here, who has “painted” several “canvases” in her day, but refrains from doing so as long as she’s in a dress or a onesie to obstruct the access to the “paint” a little bit. If there are inexpensive onesies out there in sizes larger than 4T, I haven’t found them yet… we’ll be doing onesie-extenders next, I guess.

    P.S. Have things improved with the Keppra side-effects over the past few weeks?

  5. JoyMama,
    How sweet and considerate of your little artist to refrain from her “painting” when she’s in a dress! Haha! 8)
    We use onesies, too, (I recently found some 4T and 5T’s online for a decent price), but my artist just takes them off now – she’ll even wriggle her way out the top of the onesie.

    As for the Keppra it was a total nightmare. We switched over to Lamictal and she’s been on it for about 3 weeks now. We go in to Children’s next week for an overnight EEG to see if the Lamictal is helping. Thanks so much for asking!

  6. Mercy. That was beautiful. Just beautiful.

    (PS-I have no experience with “Poo Art”, but I do have two dogs. I have given up on rugs … except for the “faux” sisal rugs that I can just take outside and hose down! Saves me much grief …)

  7. Well as you may recall I have one ‘superclean at all times’ and another one who doesn’t seem to notice.

    The carpet cleaner seemed extravagant but has been such a boom. Doesn’t work so well on upholstery. I have a lot of blankets strewn around the place as he likes to snuggle in them and they also help with a certain amount of …..containment.

    If I could have kept him clothes more often I think that would have helped too.

    Best wishes

  8. Of course it is upsetting! I think finding the grace to deal with it is great, but don’t deny yourself the grieving.

    Another wall art story for you from moi: A few nights ago, I heard Taz scream from the bathroom, “This is the worst night of my life!” Apparently, he was so busily concentrating on pooping that he forgot about his other bodily functions. He somehow peed all over his face, as well as the floor and sink and mirror and walls and door. After washing his face, I scrubbed the rest while shaking so hard with silent giggles I thought I might have the next accident.

    At least his doodies went where they were supposed to.

  9. Thank you for the verses and lessons here. I am humbled to have a glimpse of how the Lord looks at us through the words of this post – with patience and with love.

  10. Wow, that post made me cry! (not that she smears but all the good stuff that came after it)
    Dumb question: Is the poop-art sensory related? If you gave her some other smushy substance to “paint” with would that satisfy her need?

  11. Thank you for this post. We all need a reminder, from time to time to look for the lesson – I guess The Lord looks for teachable moments with us as we do with our children :0)

    Our Frog abhors clothing, so while he is not exactly a “poo artist” we’ve certainly been in your position more than a time or two. I hope it helps you to know that you are not alone.

  12. You’ve probably already heard this one too, but you can buy pajamas with footies in them at Target or wherever and put them on backwards. (You can cut the footie part off so their feet are comfy.) Then you zip it up the back and viola! They can’t undress or access the poop…

    I don’t think this is God’s will for you sister… I’m just sayin…

  13. autismville,

    lol. yes, we’ve been there, done that. did i mention that my kid is houdini? pj’s on backwards are an exciting challenge. she usually just wriggles her way out of the top of the pj’s. i’ve tried pj’s that are a size too small so she can’t get out of the top, but she still tries to “get out”, and ends up getting her arms stuck inside. the pj’s then have the straight jacket effect and we find her rolling around with nothing but her head sticking out, wailing like crazy. 8)

  14. You are a gifted writer, Jeneil. I had to share this one with friends. Here are some comments that came back. Carrie

    Thanks for forwarding on your friend’s blog entry – wow, what a perspective and what a way with words! – Kari M.

    great post…..I could read her stuff all day……what wonderful insight
    see you at the park……bring the hyssop….. Sarah

    Oh Carrie – I Loved this entry in your friend’s journal. What a wonderful lesson for all of us – we all need a hefty dose of hyssop – Swish! – Pat B.

    Thanks for sharing. What an incredible posting, made me cry. Susan

  15. oh yes, poop art. we have that here too. I HATE it, drives my OCD tendencies over the edge. I want to run around the house yelling “unlcean, unclean!” because I am not sure what he touched with those poop hands. *shudder*

    This post really puts it into perspective. Thank you. You are a wonderful writer!

  16. Again, words cannot capture what God is doing in you and in your family. I can’t even begin to imagine what poo art must be like. I couldn’t stand it when the 12month old I watch would spit up 4-9 times a day everywhere. I have no room to complain. What beautiful research on the hyssop! It’s amazing how many little nuggets there are in the Bible that prove God’s perfect plan over and over again. It could never just be coincidence. God had and has a reason for every little creation, circumstance, being, etc. He’s just amazing. I will take this lesson and carry it with me every time I clean. Thank you for being His vessel. You are amazing!

  17. you always find such beautiful, humbling lessons in all of our travails . and i love you for it

    thank you once again for showing us how to listen and how to learn

  18. Pingback: Just a Thought « Autism In a Word

  19. I am designing a line of onesies for sizes 4 and up…please go to my website http://www.lilyputlane.com if you are interested in purchasing one for your special needs child. You can fill out a feedback form and get on the mailing list for updates.
    Thanks – Lindsay Troutman, owner and mom of 4 kids!

  20. Pingback: Clean « Autism In a Word

  21. thank you for writing this blog. i had sent in a question to reviveourhearts.com about my son who, we are trying to get him diagnosed, for asperger’s syndrom. it was such a relief to see i am not alone. i have been praying like crazy for God to help me and give me words of wisdom, you are an answered prayer. thank you.

  22. Another embarrassing post you need to remove. Seriously!! Did you ever think that Rhema coukd be embarrassed when you wrote this post?

    • Hi Emily,

      Thanks for this message – I now realize you are the same person who left a comment on another post yesterday (?) and perhaps another post last week. Thank you for bringing these posts to my attention. Truthfully I have been thinking about them for some time. I read this one “A Hefty Dose of Hyssop” to Rhema tonight and she is actually fine with it staying up.

      Honestly, when I wrote these posts 5 or more years ago I was naive about a lot of things. One was that what I put out there in cyberspace lives forever – I thought my little blog which was originally intended for updates for family and friends was safe enough – but of course it is not. Years ago when my daughters were younger and I was consumed with their care it was hard to imagine life beyond those toddler and little kid stages. I wasn’t thinking down the road. Once I posted a video of Hope sitting on her trainer potty singing Jesus Loves Me because I thought it was so darn cute. I didn’t imagine her as a preteen or that the blog would even still be around. So to answer your question, No… when I wrote those posts sadly I never thought that Rhema could be embarrassed.

      As my daughters grew older I began to realize that mistake. In a post called “Lost and Found” in 2013 I wrote:
      “A couple months ago I was going through old blog posts for the sole purpose of ohhing and ahhing at pictures of my girls when they were younger. I read an old post that left me very unsettled, and by the end of the night I was ready to delete it and a few others. I realized that all these years I’d not given enough thought to how Rhema might feel about some of the stories I’ve shared. I realized that I’d never acted as if she might really be able to read one day…
      The idea that she could be hurt or embarrassed by something I’ve written about her just crushed me. But my Rhema has been patient and gracious to her mama. Truly. I’d like to think that she would find in these years of words her parents seeking ways to live out the lessons God is teaching us through her. That she would find a long love letter from my heart to hers.
      I am not able to have a conversation with her about what to share or not share here. In recent months I’ve really wrestled with this and how I will blog in the future.”
      We still have very gross days, Rhema and I. That has not changed. But I do not write about that stuff anymore. I think at the time I wrote those older posts, part of me was looking for someone out there in the world to say, “I get it. I’m doing and living the same things and here’s how I’m coping…”

      None of those reasons are excuses and none of those reasons are worth embarrassing my kids. I am truly sorry. I’d like to say I know more now and that I do better now. Perhaps you might stick around to call me out if I fail. (?) I have been in the process of slowly “re-vamping” the blog – updating the header with a friend and going through the 600+ posts. Some of them we will keep up even if they are hard or uncomfortable. Now I can read things to Rhema and get her input – that is a great joy. And hopefully soon I will turn this whole blogging thing over to her.

      Thanks again.

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