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Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas (?)

Hello everyone! Merry Christmas! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas weekend. Ours was full of nice family time but also full of meltdowns and mishaps. Without going into details, we woke up Christmas morning without a Christmas tree (had to be taken down the night before), the little man's hands patched up with Elmo and Cookie Monster bandaids and me with a horrible migraine that kept me from going to church. My hubby was off to lead the Christmas cantata, which the little man and I had to miss. I posted several stories and links on this blog leading up to Christmas that referred to ways we could make the holidays easier for our kids. I guess because the little guy had been doing so well, I didn't think we needed to prepare so much...and he was GREAT while we were with family. It was once we got into the car and got home that the pressure cooker gave and turned what should have been a wonderful holiday into two of the worst days we've had in a LONG time. And I missed church on Christmas for the first time since I can even remember... Hence the title of this post: "Merry Christmas (?)"

Today I was watching the video from the Christmas service at church and felt so sad that we missed it...yet in my gut I wonder how we could have gotten through it considering the night we'd had before. My husband came home and shared that many of the folks at church are worried that they haven't seen me in so long. He says he always has to give an excuse "She's upstairs working with the kids," or, "She's sick at home." This got me thinking... these are not excuses, they are the sad truth. I honestly believe that our weeks are so hard that come Sunday I am done! Our special needs ministry has not been as successful as I'd hoped, not because the kids aren't there, but because our "buddies" can't always be there as planned. The truth is that on most weeks in my life I am just happy to have been able to cook a meal or two and maybe tossed in a load of laundry (which is probably still in the dryer waiting for  me to take out) that I just can't find the time to make the calls and get all of these folks organized. When the "buddies" can't be there, I try to patch something up to give them a special Sunday school lesson and experience "ASD style" (quiet room, multi-sensory, combining physical movement with the lesson, etc). So, yes, I am "upstairs working with the kids," PRETTY MUCH, ALWAYS!

I am so blessed to have a children's pastor who has a true heart for these kids and ALWAYS has a back-up plan that works. I am double blessed that I have a strong enough relationship with my Lord, Jesus Christ, that even when I miss time with the congregation I still have my special time with Him. I am tripple blessed that the little man and I had been celebrating Advent, so he knows the "reason for the season" and he knows we are celebrating the coming of our King: Jesus Christ! We go see the Christmas lights and instead of yelling out "Santa," he yells out "Baby Jesus! Mary... Joseph...Angel!" Yet the culmination of this celebration is just painful... just thinking about it makes my head hurt!

Our "normal" is just so different! Just to get ourselves ready for church on any given Sunday, we have to do all the previewing, explaining each of the things we will be doing. On a good day, when I have the time and energy, we'll look at pictures to get ready. Then I have to figure out what we're going to wear: it can't be too hot because the little man's temperature regulation is an issue and he's extremely sensitive to feeling too hot. I also can't wear anything that is too textured because he hates how it feels on his skin. I can't wear shoes that have heels because the little man's body awareness is so bad that he ends up under my feet all the time and I could really hurt him. I also need comfortable flat shoes in case I have to run to catch him, particularly when walking to and from our car. Once I've figured out the clothes we will wear to go to church, then it's getting into them..that's a whole other story I'd rather not get into. I make sure the little man's had a good breakfast but still have to pack plenty of snacks, juice boxes, Dum Dum lolipops and toys to keep him entertained. I have to take my things in a backpack so I have two free hands to catch him or give him the physical support he needs (no pretty pocketbooks for this mama).

On the way to church, we have to battle about not going to see trains or airplanes, although the little guy has gotten better at "First church, then airport." It doesn't help that there are about 10 signs pointing the route to the airport between our house and church. We also see three different train track lines on the way to church! Once we park the car, we have to get ourselves to the church... that walk can sometimes take up to 20 minutes between his dragging his feet, wanting to throw rocks or stopping to watch an airplane in the sky. Then it's getting in the door of the church building...and getting him into the noisy and crowded sanctuary. Most Sundays we just go right upstairs to the Sunday school classroom; that seems to work, but if he's there for too long without other children then he gets very territorial about the space and can be pretty nasty when the other kids get there. Navigating Sunday school has its own challenges and they differ every week. Once Sunday school is over, we have to walk down to find his Papa in the large noisy crowd. There's all the explaining and excuses when people want him to speak to them or say hello and he's just in total overload. He is pretty good at giving "high fives," though! :-)

On a good Sunday, I will stay for the second service. We have our special place where we sit, right near the exit and where he can see his daddy while he works at the sound booth or down on the stage when he's playing with the praise and worship team. The lull between the two services is heavenly and allows us to sit quietly, have a snack and rest before the service begins. By that point we are on the home stretch... and can usually make it through the praise and worship (if it's not too loud) and until the offering. By that point, all my tricks have stopped working and it's time to go! So, the long walk back to the car begins... though knowing he will go see trains or airplanes are the carrot at the end of the stick to get him moving a little bit faster. Once we're in the car, I take a deep breath, praise the little man for being so wonderful and before I start the car, I review what we learned in Sunday school. Really, it's just my way of recouping before driving. It also helps him feel like "church" is done and now we're moving on. By this point it's about 1:30 pm and I'm spent, yet we have the whole rest of the day to go! Oh, another small detail, my husband and I usually travel in different cars so I always have an "out" if I need to run and he still has to stay while he serves in his ministries...

I find it hard to believe that I am the only one in this situation. How many of you out there find yourselves in this same "boat" along with me? Going to church is quite the endeavor and it can be completely exhausting! When special events, like Christmas, come, it's just so much harder! I'm not one that is big on new year's resolutions, but I do have a special prayer... I pray that this just gets easier. I don't know how... nor do I know what to even ask God to do to make it easier, I just pray that it gets easier. I see other parents who seem to just be able to leave their child with those in charge and walk away actually able to sit and enjoy the service. I know the Lord sees my actions and He will bless my hard work for His kingdom. I know the day WILL come when I can just leave my little man with the folks in charge, I know others will rise up to share the load of ministering to these little ones... My favorite Bible verse is my foundation:
"Faith is being sure of what you ope for and certain of what you do not see." Hebrews 11:1

I pray for you who may be in this same situation, that the Lord will open new doors for you in the New Year and that you, too, will be able to share the load and take the time to feed your soul as part of your church congregation. Some of you may not even be able to go to church on Sundays at all... some of you may have left the church because of these same reasons. I pray for each and every single one of you, that the Lord will bless you and give you strength...and peace!

Merry Christmas everyone!
The little man's Christmas train...the Bethlehem Express!

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