Ouch!

I can handle anything, God, just not a child with mental challenges. A child with no legs, no problem. A deaf child, ok, so that would be harder. But a child who is developmentally delayed, I just don’t think I could handle that.

Strangely enough,one of my favorite elementary school memories is tied to one of my “slower” classmates. As a star student myself, I was assigned to help him with his work after I had finished mine. Once the last addition problem was completed, we would scramble under his desk, giggling as we scoured the floor for tiny pencils, most likely tossed aside for a brand new one.

In high school I made it a point to spend every other lunch day with the kids everyone else considered too weird, and not a cool weird. I did it because that’s what Jesus would do. But looking back, those are the lunches I remember the best, with the biggest smile. They were so uproariously fun, so real – those kids really knew how to just let their joy shine or their sorrow flow. When they saw me in the lunch line, arms would go flailing and voices would beckon me to please join them. If they weren’t happy with me, they flat out told me I was being a jerk. There was no hiding behind a wall of, “I’m cool.”

But when my oldest child was diagnosed with autism, it was still a huge, heart-breaking shock. The world stopped, my dreams of visiting grandkids, of ever having an empty nest, there was nothing but endless parenting for the rest of my life. The future became like a blackboard smeared of its grand plans, not wiped clean, just a swirling sadness.

I still have no idea what the future actually holds. There will be more parenting than I really want, but the joy of seeing my autistic child finally learn how to brush his teeth by himself is so much more intense. My normal kid cooks a pizza, and I feel like, great, but of course you can do that. An entire angel choir breaks out when my autistic son cooks supper for the entire family.

Do I like the pain? No, I really don’t. But is it worth the gain? You better believe your bippy!

Am I shiny and perfect, no. I have huge flaws. But I am prettier than I used to be.

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StrengthsFinder 2.0

Here is a third installment of something that really helped our marriage.

My husband’s workplace required all of its employees to take the StrengthsFinder 2.0 test and read the book. He then insisted that I take it, too. I am not exactly sure why – I think that he felt that it would help me learn more about myself (he was under the impression that I didn’t understand myself – but that wasn’t at all true, sometimes I just told him I didn’t know why I was feeling a certain way because I knew that if I told him the real reason it would frustrate him/freak him out/make him upset, etc.).

Anyway, I obliged, begrudgingly. It didn’t tell me anything that I didn’t already know about myself, but it ended up being very helpful in our marriage. My strongest strength, I guess you would call it, is Achieving. To feel good about life, I need to feel like I am accomplishing something. My husband’s is Input. He loves to get a lot of information, but he doesn’t care if he actually accomplishes anything.

Finding this out helped him realize that when I say, I need to get out and do something – it really is a need of mine, not just a want. It also helped me realize that when he is sitting listening to podcasts of random information that isn’t necessarily useful for anything, that is something that he needs to do – he isn’t just being lazy. So I have learned to give him space to just be – while I go get something done. And he has learned to be less stressed by my constant need to be doing.

Also, I have learned a bit how to enjoy doing nothing (for short periods of time, anyway). And he has learned to accomplish a few things that I find important before he goes into pure input mode on a Saturday.

So, while you probably won’t be surprised by what your strengths are, if you are as old as we were when we took it, seeing in black and white the strengths of your partner are very helpful in understanding what makes them tick. It helps to better follow the Bible’s admonition to love, cherish and respect each other.

Pray and Love Them Anyway

I can safely say that right now my husband’s and my relationship is going pretty well. I did need to apologize for being snipey yesterday – a common problem for people with autism. I wished I didn’t do it, and I generally do it less than I used to, but it’s an ongoing battle.

But when we were first married, we had a lot of obstacles to overcome, as is true for most couples. Both of us were Christians, but I had grown up in the church and he had grown up going to church only a tiny bit – I believe he was baptized, confirmed and made it to a few Christmas and Easter services. But Christianity wasn’t a part of his everyday life, until just a year or two before we married.  So things that I thought were no-brainers on how to live life and raise kids were points of questioning for him.

There were a couple of times where I felt truly terrified for our children, wondering how they would grow up to follow God when my husband was questioning things that I thought were cut-and-dry matters of Christianity. My temptation was to rant and rave until he agreed with me. But I knew that wouldn’t work. I knew that leaving him wouldn’t solve anything. He is a great guy and wonderful dad so breaking up our family over some theological point would probably only create animosity toward religion in my kids, which is exactly what I was hoping to avoid.

So I brought each matter up once, as calmly as I could. I would like to say that I was perfectly calm and rational each time, but that wouldn’t be the truth. However, with God’s help, I was able to make clear what I thought without causing too much animosity. Then I prayed, and prayed and begged God and pleaded, and had a few (like only one or two) close friends pray (and I talked to them only once about it and only in person – no emails, etc to get out and cause trouble), and kept praying and pleading with God.

I prayed that God would help him to see what I believed to be was the truth. I prayed that I would be able to love and cherish him even though I strongly disagreed with him. I prayed that if he never changed that I would be able to continue to love and cherish him and that God would help our children follow God on those points, even if their dad didn’t agree. I was scared, but I just kept praying.

For those of you with autism, you understand how hard it is to live in harmony with someone that you disagree with on something that you feel is important, even if you agree with them on just about everything else. Heck, it can be difficult for those of us with autism to live in harmony with someone that we disagree with on a minor point, like on what flavor ice cream is the best. My advice to you (and myself) is to let God be God. Let him do the changing of the person’s heart, because you can’t anyway. Oh, and about the ice cream flavor, embrace the diversity they bring to your life and love them more because they are brave enough to like something you don’t.

Also, those of us with autism tend to see problems as much bigger and all-consuming than they really are. So, while God can use our extra sensitive, black-and-white natures to bring others into the truth, we need to remember that not everything is black and white. And even if it is, God can fix anything. So try not to worry so much, but trust in God.

Those of you married to people with autism, try to remember that we are not trying to be difficult. We truly do see things as black and white, and when faced with something we deem to be a big deal and scary, it is very difficult for us to let it go and remember the good. But remind us, gently, to remember the good and trust God, not ourselves.

Back to the issues I was worried about in our marriage: One issue took only a week or so for God to bring him around. The other issue took several months. But both times God was faithful. Oh, and I am sure my husband could share similar stories about when he had to patiently pray and wait for God to bring me around.

Is there something you and your spouse don’t see eye-to-eye on. Definitely bring it up in a calm, respectful manner (or apologize when you get a little too riled up over it). Then pray and love them anyway.

Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self,the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

I Peter 3: 1-7

PS If you are truly feeling unsafe, do seek professional counsel.

Some stuff that’s worked for us

5ll_logo

So a visitor to my website asked if I would post more things about couples where one of the people has autism…

I don’t have something that is specifically for people with autism, but here is something that has helped my husband and I keep our relationship strong. And since I have autism, hopefully it will be helpful to others of you out there like my husband and me.

This is a free little quiz that is surprisingly helpful:

The five love languages quiz for couples

This quiz was put together by author and pastor Dr. Gary Chapman. He has a number of books that are helpful for couples and individuals trying to maintain relationships.

My husband and I some similarity in our ranking of love languages, but his top one was my bottom language, and my top language was farther down the list for him. For instance, he really values people saying nice things to him, while I prefer people to do nice things for me. In my mind, you can talk all you want, but if I don’t see any action, I’m not feeling loved. So I had to get better at saying nice things to him, even though, if someone were to say those same things to me, I would feel patronized. And he has gotten much better at following through on little projects that he says he will do.

At first it was really awkward to say things that I wouldn’t want to hear from someone else, but seeing how much he likes it has made it easier and now it is almost second nature – almost! And it has also gotten easier to say nice things because he is now doing a better job of speaking my love language. So I don’t have to bite my tongue when saying, “thank you,” anymore. Here’s what I mean:

In the past it might take 5, 10 or 15 years for him to get to a project that he promised he would do and he knew I found to be important. He wasn’t taking forever to be mean or hurtful. It’s just part of his dreamer personality to come up with things to do, but not necessarily get to them. So when he actually would get them done, I had a hard time thanking him for them. Or, if I did thank him, I had a hard time not adding, “It’s about time,” or something to that effect.

Take the quiz, you might be surprised to find how easy it is to spruce up your relationship. Oh, and then you get weekly ideas on how to continue to encourage each other. Sometimes I read them, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I try them, sometimes they just seem too cheesy for me. But it is nice to have that free support!

Blessings on you all!

No Fear

Another thing I have seen God do when allowing people to go through trials is that coming out the other side builds such trust in God that we no longer fear what life can throw at us. We have faced our fears and have found them to be lacking when compared to God’s provision.

Proverbs 31: 21, 25

“When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”

May we be able to laugh at the days to come because we know God has it all under control.