Starting a post is always difficult for me because it is usually born of an emotional experience and I have to figure out a way to put what's in my heart into words. Not the easiest task, but it is cathartic, therapeutic and somehow a relief to me when I do. I'm not sure why. I told Todd that the only times I am capable of actually posting something are the times when I feel "prompted" to do so, and this is one of those :-)
It is also difficult for me to balance sharing deeply personal beliefs about spiritual things knowing that a lot of people who read this won't share those beliefs. I guess my hope is that you can find common ground in what I share, regardless of your religion or spiritual direction, so that the lessons learned are still relatable.
Sooo....about 2 weeks ago Matthew was in a program put on by the children at church. About two months prior to this program, they gave me his part: he was to get up to the microphone (like all the little children have the opportunity to do--they wanted to include him) and say, "I am a child of God." When I got that script, I was determined to help Matthew succeed! I knew he could do this and believed in his ability to learn something new...and I felt like this is something that I could get Divine help to accomplish as well. I mean, it was for church, right?
I started to pray for help (please help Matthew succeed and be able to say this!), practice with him, say the phrase to him as we would go on walks. I wrote his school teacher, the speech therapist at the school, Matthew's ABA peeps, etc. and asked for their expert advice as to how I could teach Matthew a phrase like this. They were all in it--we made visuals to help him learn it, he would practice with me at meals, we put the phrase onto his iPad, my Mom made him flashcards. And he would say it!!!! He started by saying "God" when we would start the phrase. Then it was "child God" and, finally, with the right visuals and prompting, he could say "I Child God."
We took our family up to the church to practice doing it into the microphone so he wouldn't be intimidated day-of. Oh, he loved the microphone and would bolt for it every few minutes, grab it, pull it right up to his lips....and breathe heavily. Panting and thinking he was hilarious. We practiced taking him back to his seat, waiting with him (the whole while he is pointing at the mic and saying "talk! talk!") and then standing up and saying, "I child God." Well, after about 7 times, we were thrilled to get "child God" followed by several seconds of heavy breathing as we would pry him away from the podium. That, to us, was a victory.
He went to a rehearsal and couldn't sit still to save his life, but when his turn came, he said it! And over the course of the next few days, I feel like we had finally mastered the "I" part as well. Man, was I thrilled! I was so ready for this great experience where the congregation would be doing the dance of joy with me and we'd all feel like Matthew had this great victory.
Morning of, I decided I could pray for a miracle--I asked God to please, please help Matthew to get up, say his line without too much distraction of the heavy breathing, and to feel successful. I told Heavenly Father that I usually don't get that specific and ask for exactly how I want something to go because I understand the idea that He has an agenda too and we can't always dictate outcomes, but I wanted this...and it didn't seem like a lofty request, given all of our prep and his current level of ability. But still, I kind of knew I was praying for a miracle.
Matthew was crazy at church that morning and i thought there was NO WAY he was going to sit still during the program, but there was a good chance (because I had faith and had prayed so hard) that Matthew was going to say his line. I walked him up to the stand where he would sit with all of the other children when the time came and handed him off to my fabulous friend who was going to sit with him during the program. When Matthew's turn came, I knew it was going to be awesome and my heart was pounding. He got up.....and breathed (for several seconds), and then clear as day said "child"....and then got distracted by the audience, breathed heavily for a few more seconds, and then was escorted back to his seat. In the middle of the bench where I was sitting, I lost it. My heart was breaking into a thousand pieces because my miracle--the one I had worked so hard for and my baby's opportunity to have a big victory--didn't happen. I started to shake I was sobbing so hard and just put my hair over my face, hunkered down in my seat, and prayed no one would look in my direction and see my shoulders shaking. I have tears rolling down my cheeks as I write this and remember how broken my heart was in that moment. I wanted him to try again, I wanted to force my miracle to happen! And yet, his turn was over and he sat down.
I was so distracted by my own over-reaction (I kept chastising myself in my head for having such a strong reaction) that I didn't even notice another miracle that was taking place. I was busy justifying feeling a bit ticked off that God hadn't answered my prayer. I mean, it wasn't a hard thing, a big deal to Him, but it would have meant SOOOO much to me! Why couldn't I have that little success (and, to convince myself that I wasn't totally selfish in my request, why couldn't Matthew have that victory)? Bigger than the miracle of him saying those words that I know he can say was the miracle of him sitting still for the entire time! Matthew didn't move! He didn't make any distracting noises, try to grab the watch off a neighboring kid (which he did during practice, all the while yelling the word "watch!" because he was so excited about ti). He didn't wriggle out of his seat, ask for potty or water, walk up and down the stairs, yell "talk" and bolt for the microphone...nothing. He sat and looked at the books I had provided him with and talked quietly with my friend, looking at some things she had in her bag as well.
So me and my puffy eyes went through the motions during the rest of church, brushing off the comments of how well Matthew sat and what a great job Liam did because I was still mad I didn't get what I wanted. Candidly, a feeling of "why bother praying" kept playing through my mind and, I'm embarrassed to say, haunted me for the rest of the week because my focus was on what I didn't get, rather than what I did. I even started to feel a bit like my prayers were bouncing off the ceiling and they got shorter and shorter and I would just fall asleep 90% of the time because there wasn't much meaningful chatter going on between God and I at that point.
Then I went to a conference for women this last weekend and heard a talk from a man who had lost his wife (5 months prego), his only daughter, and one of his sons when they were broadsided by a 17 year old drunk driver. He talked about his conversations with God following that experience his perspective on life. One of the things that he related was that he felt like he could pour out his anger, fear, frustration and even process through some of the "losses" that he was feeling at that point....and God would just listen. He wouldn't comfort him....He would just listen. The comfort would come when all of that started to drain from him and he began to, instead, focus on what he still had--what he was grateful for. That included the memory of his wife, the privilege of raising his kids to the point that he had, and the blessing of knowing their souls were safe, if you will. The main point of his message, which is equally profound, was that the peace that came from those reassurances which followed his expressions of gratitude, enabled him to focus instead on the soul that needed help--that of the boy who had hit them...and he went to work helping that boy forgive himself.
The thing that really struck me, however, was that I needed to shift my thinking to focus on what I am grateful for rather than my loss--what i didn't get. I think that in our lives, we have expectations that go unmet ALL the time. I am a total expectations girl--that goes for my relationships with friends and family (my hubby included) as well as my relationship with God. In all of those relationships, however, there are things we don't know or understand and when expectations go unmet, it isn't necessarily because of ill will or malicious intent or anything. Often, it is because of something we don't see or don't know or don't understand. In my situation, there was another miracle that would be more beneficial to every person in that congregation and every other child trying to participate in that program. Matthew didn't steal the show with distraction, but rather, participated to the best of his ability just like everyone else.
So I got my miracle (actual several) after all....it (they) just looked nothing like I expected. My miracle was this: I have more confidence than ever that Matthew can accomplish things that we put our minds to. I also have a new understanding of how prayer works in my life--I need to look for what DID happen (how my prayer WAS answered) rather than dwelling on what I didn't get (be blinded by how I expected that answer to look). And, finally, a renewed desire to focus on and be grateful for the little victories because as I am, my eyes are more open to seeing the miracles.