No Cheap Blessings

Several weeks ago I got an e-mail from an old friend. He was telling me about his 9 year-old daughter Allison, who was troubled by a belief that her teacher didn’t like her. She explained to him that her teacher (who gives stars for positive behavior) used to give her tons of stars. Allison was one of the leaders on the star board. But then all of a sudden the stars stopped coming for Allison, while other kids continued to get lots of stars. Some kids had gotten 15 or 20 stars since she last got a star. In her dry spell, she went from near the top to absolute bottom. When pressed, she confessed that okay, “there was this one ne’erdowell kid who had fewer stars than her, but among the human kids, she was dead last.”

Allison’s father suggested that they pray that she would find favor in her teacher’s eyes. So they did. The next day he asked her, “Did you get a star today?” She said that she did (her first star in like 10 days). When he cheered, she protested, “But EVERYONE got a star today. It was a star for everyone because we were good.” He said, “I understand what you’re saying. But we prayed to God for Him to help you to find favor in the teacher’s eyes. If she truly didn’t like you then she would have given everyone BUT YOU a star. Right?” (She begrudgingly said, “Yes.”) Her father continued, “Don’t cheapen God’s blessing. He answered your prayer today.”

Allison went on to get stars every day for a week, and she pulled out of last place. She came home one day and exclaimed, “Daddy, this is DEFINITELY God!”

What’s so special about this little girl and endearing about this story is that this occurred during the week when Allison’s mother received a diagnosis of breast cancer. And yet, Allison can still recognize the blessings in her life (like stars) and can proclaim with a knowing in her heart, “This is definitely God” as He moves on her behalf.


Why did I share that little story?

Lately, I’ve been troubled with something JoyMama illuminated recently. Elvis sightings. It’s a one-time utterance or action that comes surprisingly out of nowhere, and then disappears again. Or it’s something new and exciting that Rhema will do for a time, such as say hi or yeah, and then without warning she will seemingly lose the skill.

I hesitate to tell friends about Rhema’s progress sometimes because they do not understand the nature of these things. When I tell someone, she said Hi, they are so happy for us all assuming that the “language explosion” has finally come.

(I realize that this is not just something that affects kids with classic autism. My friend has a son with high functioning autism, and she told me that on a recent vacation they were absolutely amazed because he acted so typical. For a couple days, she and her husband caught a glimpse of “typical” in their son.)

Although we have come to expect that these things will go away, these glimpses – the Elvis sightings-  leave us a little baffled, heartbroken and discouraged each time. Perhaps the hardest part is knowing that we won’t know when the last time will be that we will hear the word or see the action (- some other form of communication such as signing or consistent eye contact). We live waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Allison’s story about the stars was well-timed for me. First, I think I need to learn the same lesson: don’t cheapen God’s blessing. Like streams in the desert, God has allowed me rare insight into my daughter through these Elvis sightings. I’m learning to be thankful for them, as they are, pure and simple. Thankful that each “Elvis sighting” is just a little dollop of encouragement to keep pressing on. Thankful that the gains and setbacks keep us humble, keep us from taking anything for granted. Thankful that we know how to cherish the little things.

Again, I’m thankful for this space. That I can write about the unexpected, out-of-the-blue, blow-your-mind gains. And that there are friends who will cheer each step forward (even if there are two steps back). Friends who help us celebrate each and every little victorious moment, even if it is just for a moment.

I want to change my own demeanor and language starting right here, right now.

Instead of telling you,

“I think Rhema’s been saying “Mama” today (she’s home sick), but I know it’s not going to last…”

I’m saying, “Rhema’s been calling me Mama today…

This is DEFINITELY God!”

19 thoughts on “No Cheap Blessings

  1. That is so true – we learn not to take anything for granted. And because of that, I think we enable ourselves to feel even more blessed. What a beautiful post. And how wonderful to hear ‘Mama’!

  2. I have a friend who is always waiting for the big day that he can do a happy dance about a contract he’s trying to get for his company. He’ll tell me that they’ve signed papers, and I’ll say, “Happy Dance!”, and he’ll say, “Not yet, they could still pull out!” He never celebrates the steps forward. I say, if you can do a happy dance today, do it! If things don’t work out in the end, at least you have fun and get some exercise.

    Happy Dance for Rhema!

  3. I love the way that we bounce, and amplify, and illuminate one another’s ideas out here in bloggy-land!

    Thanks so much for the light in this post.

  4. I struggle with this too. So much good news lately and I always feel like a “but..” is looming. But – so what if it is? That certainly doesn’t mean our family doesn’t get the moment to draw the collective deep breath we so deserve.

    You, my friend, deserve to hear “Mama” every day. But even if you don’t, I’m glad you took a minute to appreciate the day you did.


  5. I hear you. At least it seems these Elvis Sightings are not limited to desirable behaviors alone… so long Oinking phase… I don’t miss you wall chewing days… hasta la vista stripping in public… and Thank You Lord for the extinction of Poop Art!

  6. Oh yes! I don’t think we are able to bid adieu to Poop Art just yet. But we are sooo close! I can just feel it! And public stripping is also at an all-time low. =)

  7. Oh, Jeneil, this gave me chills! I appreciate the story that you shared and the application in your own life. No cheap blessings! I love that. 🙂

    And, as far as the “Elvis sightings” in our lives, which appear briefly, unexpectedly, and irregularly, I pray to remember that the Lord sees the fullness of what we only glimpse, for “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.” (Hebrews 4:13a).

    Love you, my friend.

  8. Just is a beautiful post and just what I needed to read to. What a great reminder not to cheapen God’s blessings. Thank you.

  9. Ahh – I LOVE this post. What a GREAT way to look at everything. I specifically love when you said “Thankful that the gains and setbacks keep us humble, keep us from taking anything for granted”

    It’s amazing the lessons God teaches us through our children. We think we are here to take care of them, when in fact SOMETIMES He takes care of us through them.

  10. it is so important to celebrate the positives and the gains, because even if they do disappear, it was/is a gain. Being thankful for what you have is indeed a blessing in and of itself. Bless you!

  11. Such truth. It is so difficult not to focus on the vacillations and simply seize the moments before things change. It is so difficult to live without waiting for the other shoe to drop when the shoes have dropped so many, many other times. Yet faith propels us forward…relish in the upturned shoe!

  12. For real. We are so attuned, aren’t we, to those “on” moments and those “off” days. It can play games with that little box around our hearts. “What happened to that word?” I so often ask myself too. But, tell you what, I hear that Elvis is still living somewhere in the hills of MT. We just got to find him. =) You should get a star everyday for what a great mom and inspiring voice you are to us all. Thanks for reminding me not to take the little blessings for granted!

  13. So touching on so many fronts. I don’t even know what to say. I don’t look for “elvis sightings” enough in my children. Instead, I assume and take for granted so many things.

    Thanks for being willing to share your story with such tenderness and truth. You make me want to be a better mother.


  14. That is so true, what a great reminder. We have those little glimpses and accomplishments too, some of which are just once and some we may see again but not for a few months… all of which are blessings all the same.

    I like the term “Elvis sightings” what a great description :).

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