Monday, March 28, 2011

Because Why?

One of my favorite things about our house is kidspeak.  Ask Richie if he wants a "boh-bee" and he'll say "huh!"  Ask Ryan if he wants to watch "baker train" and he'll say "ok!"  Mae-mae's are different so far... mostly she answers questions, but "doggie", "ducky" and "daddy" are all amazingly similar, so be careful.  Throw in the fact that she usually calls me "daddy" and it's nice and confusing around here!  But we know that Richie wanted a strawberry, and Ryan wanted to watch "Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers".  We're their parents, so we've learned their language... we actually watch them develop it.  Okay, we laugh too but that's beside the point! 

This past week, if you keep up with the Senzig times, you know that we had an important meeting on Tuesday.  Actually, it wasn't as important as I thought it was going to be. It was the "here's your paperwork so we can HAVE the next meeting" meeting.  So I got my paperwork for Ryan to be reevaluated this May by a school psychologist to make sure everything aligns with what we're trying to do for him in school and at home.  I put on Elmo, then Thomas, then Elmo again... we take turns at our house, thank you... and eventually between DVD's, trains, dollies, naps, and the occasional goldfish cracker (colored of course... thanks Granny!) about three or four hours later the paperwork was complete.  Oh, those questions.  They ask your native language about fourteen times... okay, maybe not that many.  But I was sorely tempted to put "Klingon" as my husband's second language. I didn't... but it would have been fun. 

Then you get to the meat of the information.  After you've written your address twelve times, and checked "male" about the same, the real questions come out.  Since the tests are made to cover a range of ages, there are some that make you look up and say to the empty room, "Really?"  One of the questions this time was about Ryan's friends... do his friends participate in smoking, illegal drugs, alcohol, or getting high in just about any other way?  I'm thinking "well, he is invited to keggers a lot, we just don't let him go."  HE'S FIVE!  His "friends" are other kids in Sunday school and I'm sure they're not huffing paint in between coloring pictures of the disciples.  In between the monotonous and the absurd, however, we're smacked with questions that hurt.  Not just our hearts, but our heads!  Holy cow, I've slept since so many of these things happened.  It's hard, though, to remember some of the milestones he missed, and how far off he missed them.  Then there are the ones we still haven't met, and I wind up writing in tiny print so I can cram as much information about how much he's improved and the ins and outs of the problem in the short space given.  Then there are the ones like "does he complain about so-and-so?"  No, he doesn't communicate anything about most things verbally.  If we hear of how school or anything goes, it's from the adult in charge.  Yes, he's improved vastly from the time he entered the program with maybe three words, and for that improvement we are more than grateful!  But to put him up against other five and six-year-olds? 

And my heart sinks into my chair.

Then I look up and remember Who made Ryan.  The One who made Ryan knows him better than I do.  He doesn't have to think about when Ryan rolled over, or crawled, or walked, or even the first time he noticed a flower.  He knows how Ryan's day at school went, even though I and even the people who watched may never know.  When Ryan is visibly upset and screaming and shaking and beating his chest or head or legs and we're scrambling to figure out what the problem is while on the outside remaining as calm and matter-of-fact as possible, He knows.

So how do I find out?  WHY won't he just tell me or make it STOP?! 

That isn't my concern.  I find peace in the fact that God made Ryan, me, you, Richie, Maelynn, and everyone to be who He wanted.  I also find peace in the fact that His mind is not like mine; I am not able to grasp the fullness of His thoughts.  So then, I rest in what?  The changing of one word... why. 

My father-in-law taught me to change "why" to "to what end?"  What do you want me to get from this?  What should I be learning in this challenge set before me, be it a screaming, sick, or lost child, a loved one who's gone on, a heartbreak of any kind, a stress of any kind... to what end has He, the Creator of all, allowed this in our and our son's life?

Now the real, over-arching answer is always to glorify Him.  But at times there are smaller things that are for our good that we can see if we ask the Holy Spirit to show them to us.  Lately, God has shown me that He does, indeed, have a sense of humor... he gave a child in dire need of routine to a woman who is about as organized and scheduled and disciplined as a herd of cats.  REALLY!  I'm awful!  I know dogs who are more organized and disciplined.  Actually, MY DOG is more organized and disciplined than I am!  But in order to love Ryan the way I should, the way Christ loves me, I must learn.  I will learn.  No matter how many books, websites, trips to therapy, techniques... I want to know my son, and love him as Christ loves me.  I want to learn how he thinks, moves, feels, hears, loves, hurts, everything! 

Why?  (oh, wait...) To what end?

That I may teach him to bask in the love of Christ, because His love is the best.  That I may stand one day next to him and worship side-by-side with all my children, as my brothers and sisters.  For now, I love having my lanky five-year old wrapped around me, playing with my earrings, head on my shoulder or wiggling and humming, messing up my hair in church as I lift him up in song and prayer, asking for God's joy and peace to infiltrate every corner of his being, making him the man God wants him to be.  And that's not a burden, or stressful, or embarrasing.  It's a sweet time of unfiltered, unhinged, unmasked worship... and I love it. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Have you ever watched a baseball game?  Notice the players as they go up to bat.  When they leave the dugout, are they considering what the crowd thinks?  His team?   Of course not!  He's completely focused on smacking that ball to kingdom come.  What would happen if, just as the ball left the pitcher's hand, he turned around to explain why he was there to the crowd, manager, coach or whoever?  Doesn't matter who he's talking to... he just got a trip to la-la land and a voucher for a free shiner.  Instead of knocking the ball to kingdom come, it knocked him. 

What happened?  Did he forget how to swing? Nope.  His focus wasn't truly in the right place at that moment.  If it had been, his eye would have been on the ball before the ball was on his eye.  what if the thing he said was really important?  A valid question?  Not the time or the place... his job at that moment was to be focused, not to question himself or anything else. 

This hits me in the softest place.  Others' words and opinions of me matter way too much.  Maybe not to the degree that they knock my life off course or even change my mind about a decision, but that nagging, stinging feeling is still there.  That look back to see what someone else thought catches me off guard way too often. 

One way I know our church family is the right one for us is understanding.  Whaa?  Yes.  Understanding.  Understanding that reality is Ryan can't control what he says during church.  He can't sit still, can't be expected to not stim and hum on anything... my purse, the pew bible, the hymnal, the screen... but he does need to be there.  I have to tell you that every Sunday all through church I'm mentally preparing myself to have to take up for my boy.  The thought of having to do this is frightening to me.  Speaking is so NOT my gift.  I think part of the reason I love blogging is because I express myself oh-so-much better in print.  Not sure why, but it's so much easier to form my thoughts this way!  And as awkward as I am in person, put me on the phone and I'm worse than awkward.  Ask me to leave a message?  Oh dear.  Pack a lunch.  But as nervous as the concept of standing up for anything makes me, I know I have to.  The fear, I think, comes from not wanting to be disrespectful, not wanting to be rude or hurt another's feelings.  I freeze completely, can't think, can't speak, and will wind up either crying or just saying "yes sir, I'm so sorry" or just standing there dumbfounded.  I must hasten to add that this hasn't happened in church at all anywhere.  The one time it did happen was at school, and I just stood there dumbfounded as she refused to speak to me because I was a special needs child's mom.  I also must hasten to add that this problem is not limited to autistic outbursts. 
Just as you can probably relate, not all the decisions I've made about my life have been met with a parade of compliments and reassurances.  The idea that after only four years of college and four years of doing something I absolutely adored (and still do) I'd stay home to raise my children and be Eric's wife sounds perfectly reasonable in most circles in which I'm involved now, but when we made the decision, no.  There were things said but just about everyone who knew how much I love band questioning in some way the decision to stay home.  My father made sure to let me know how lazy he thought I was, and his was the most hurtful comment.  Most of the other hurts have been omission, either by accident or purposefully.  No, it has not been the easiest decision, but it was and is best for us for several reasons.  For us, that is God's best.  So why do I feel the need to explain that to those around me?  I shouldn't.

Did you notice that?  I shouldn't.  Obedience to God's commands and instructions should be their own excuse.  There is nothing wrong with sharing the testimonies of how God has used me being home to grow us in our faith, or how it's allowed me to minister to students when I drag our kids to the middle school to give them my time.  See, all those hours spent in study and practice to learn to more effectively teach were given to me.  Any talent I have in anything is a gift of the Lord to be used for His glory!  Every day of those four years I spent teaching band full-time was a gift, too.  But I look at my life now and see, although the world may not readily make sense of it, how all the pieces of my talents and gifts work together to make this Senzig household run in a way that is glorifying to God.  Knowing this, why in the world would I feel the need to explain myself? 

Pride. Ouch.

How is it prideful, even sinful, to be concerned about the comfort level of those around you?  When I'm worrying about how I look to others, it takes my eye off the ball. 

Enter the "ouch."

My focus should be to make sure my boy learns to be with God's people and hearing His word, not to make sure everyone around me knows he has an excuse for his behavior.  Yes, part of learning to be in church is learning to be quiet and listen.  I'm not advocating rude behavior.  But I should be more concerned about whether or not my son is learning to love God and love others than about what the lady three rows ahead or the man three rows behind thinks of my parenting skills.  Likewise, in every area where I'm being obedient, I should be so focused on being obedient to the Lord, prayer, staying in His word and carrying out the ministries He has for me that the negative isn't noticed, or begins to just roll off.  It is then when I can fully rest in the esteem I have as a daughter in Christ... as one of His chosen... and begin to trust that when need be, the Holy Spirit will give me the words I need to defend only as needed, and always in love.

So as I go about my day, doing dishes, changing diapers, sweeping floors, answering the tons of questions in the pre-assesment surveys for Ryan, reading to my Richie, snuggling my Mae-mae, my prayer is that I will rest in the fact that I was made for this.  Even the parts I don't like or understand.  Even when I mess up, and the sheer amount of stuff to accomplish seems impossible.  Praise the Lord for the works of His hand that we are! 

And may we all learn to keep our eye on the ball. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Practical-ish Fairy Tale (of sorts)

Once upon a time, there was a lonely young lady (well, she tried to be a lady) who loved to teach band but wanted to live her first dream... to be a wife and a mommy.  Since you can't go to school or work toward that dream, she enjoyed her job, hung out with her friends, and did her best to be a godly young woman... okay, maybe she didn't do exactly her best all the time... *ahem*... but you get the point.

One weekend, the lonely young lady went to judge in the stead of a retired fellow band director whom she respected greatly so that he could be with his daughter as she tried out for TMEA all-region (most of our kids tried out for ATSSB.  If this alphabet soup means nothing, just go with it).  All the way to the tryouts, the retired band director joked about how the lonely young lady was going to meet her husband on this panel.  With a "haha, yeah right" the lonely young lady laughed off this notion politely, while secretly hoping he was right. 

At the tryouts, the lonely young lady found her room and got settled in a seat next to the panel chair.  Now, on these panels there are five band directors who listen to the kids one by one behind a partition.  Let's just say it's a long day. In breaks between auditionees, the other judges laughed and joked and visited with the lonely young lady (who, at that moment, wasn't feeling very lonely at all).  Well, three of the judges visited and laughed and cut-up... one didn't.  He sat at the end of the short line of desks lined up against a brick wall, immersed in a book until it was time to start listening again.  Surely the retired band director was wrong, thought the lonely young lady.  She noticed that the panel chair was very married, and kinda short.  Yeek.  The person to her right was another lady, one she knew, but double yeek... she was a lady too.  the next was another married man.  The man on the end of the line of chairs was not married, but... *sigh*... he just didn't seem interested in anything other than his book.  "Definitely not my type," thought the lonely young lady, "he doesn't laugh or joke or seem very nice at all."  Hmph. 

And so, the lonely young lady continued her search for Mr. God's Best.  She came across one who was too shy, then one who was too tall, then one who just didn't work out at all.  "I GIVE UP!" said the lonely young lady at last, and followed a job offer to another town. 

During a staff meeting at the new job, the lonely young lady enjoyed meeting the rest of the staff of five.  She knew she'd surely miss the sweet family she worked for before and all the wonderful students, but she felt God's call to this town and was sure although it was hard to tell through the heartbreak of losing those people.  In a restaurant that day, she met the head director, the assistant high school director, and the junior high director (who would turn out to be one of the best friends a girl could ever get into mischief with I MEAN have).  But where was the fifth guy?  Just as the head director said his name, in walks mr. head in his book. 

"OH NO!" said the lonely young lady.  "Not him!  Anyone but him!" 

Little did the lonely young lady know that mr. head in his book was her knight in invisible armor... Mr. God's Best. 

Within two months, the lonely young lady began to date Mr. God's Best.  A week and a half after they began dating, the lonely young lady became The Future Mrs. God's Best.  

As I'm sure you've figured out, Mr. God's Best is Mr. Eric Senzig. 

I've asked him over and over what in the world posessed him to ask me to marry him after just a week and a half of dating.  Over and over, he's said he just knew.  And on occasion, he asks me why I said yes... to which I have to smile and admit that I guess I just knew, too.  I also have to admit that agreeing to marry him may just be the best decision I ever made... I'm sure it's the best snap decision I ever made! 

So since September of 2002 (when we started to date), Eric and I have been through our share of better and worse, but it all started with that decision.  I still marvel at the ease with which we agreed to enter into such a huge commitment.  But when you know what we know about God's providence, timing, and plan, it's not nearly as crazy.  See, God not only knew what we'd been through, who we were, and how much we needed each other... He knew exactly how to time things to make it all happen. 

Yes, I was incredibly wrong about who Eric was at the beginning.  He is wonderful, sweet, caring, funny, loving, patient, and an amazing father.  Yes, he does love to read and his love of reading can at times make him tune things out.  But he had prayed for his wife, and even before that his parents had prayed for his wife.  I was prayed for before my parents were married!  Yes, a full seven years before I was born!  What a wonderful wedding present to give to your future son or daughter-in-law. 

Really, this fairy tale began forty years ago tomorrow on March 21, when the world first laid eyes on Eric Senzig. We've been through tons together and will go through tons more, and I can't imagine going through daily struggles of parenting, living, teaching, and just breathing with anyone else.  I certainly can't imagine celebrating, laughing, and sharing life with anyone else, nor would I want to!    

So tonight on the last day of my dear Eric's thirties, I would like to wish him a blessed birthday tomorrow, and many, many more years of love, tears, laughter, hugs, and joy to follow.  I'd also like to congratulate his dear parents on their fortieth anniversary of parenthood!  I'm so thankful for my amazing husband and so grateful for the Lord's providence in everything about our lives.  He who has promised us is FAITHFUL!  He has a plan for our lives, and it is to prosper and not to harm us, to give us a hope and a future! 

So happy birthday, sweetheart.  You truly are Mr. God's Best. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

News Flash!

I'm tired. That's it. 

Okay, I admit that's a bit of a disappointment.  But so is the realization that the boy pictured above, our Ryan, has a hard time doing so many things.  I do my best to focus on the positive things... he is smart!  His intelligence is well above other children his age.  He is loving, he is kind, he is a beautiful child, fearfully and wonderfully made.  After all, he brought his sister a pacifier and actually put it in her mouth last night!  he climbed in my lap as I was rocking his sister and told me I was "a really nice toy".  But sometimes I fear that people, especially his little brother and sister are just that in his mind... really nice toys. 

Now I know that's not the truth... or, at least, I know better than to speak negatively over my children.  But we're at a decision-making point with Ryan, and as I see it, I'm more and more concerned that I'm not doing so well in keeping up with his development.  Blogs, articles, books, movies... so many things that ought to encourage me and I ought to devour with the fervor my Richie devours his strawberries, do the opposite.  There are so many parents who seem to selflessly, dramatically, completely throw their entire lives into making sure their special needs children have the very best of everything.  I see that, and try to do it, and I fail.  And it hurts. 

Just yesterday, I was on my way home from taking Ryan to therapy, thinking about the experience.  I sat outside the room in the building where Ryan has ABA therapy once a week (which I know isn't enough, but it's what worked in our schedule) and listened to his screaming through the wall.  Any other mother would pop through that door and demand to know what's going on, but I know that she's working on transistion.  I'm always amazed to see Ryan bound out of the Baylor Autism Resource Center grinning, running straight to get a peek at the elevator (which was out that day, but he was enthralled anyway).  Yesterday his therapist, a sweet grad student in ABA therapy, wanted to talk about what we do at home.  "so what do you do when he starts a fit like that?" she asks.  "Well, we usually send him to time-out, where he stays until he's calm."  Then I get to admit the part that kills me.  "He's managed to stay like that for entire days at a time." 

That's one of those sentences that comes out of my mouth on automatic.  If I really thought about it, like I am now, I would hang my head and cry.  And have to immediately hold my boy, rocking him, praying for him as I have so many times.  On those days when it doesn't matter what I say, how I say it, or what I offer, he's so troubled in some way that there is no consolation.  Those days when Richie goes in to check on his hero and is screamed at or pushed down and comes to me with his little heart broken.  We won't even go into the trips to Target, Walmart, etc. where he's screamed the WHOLE time over a tiny piece of cracker that fell through the basket, or a toy he saw that looks like one he has, so in his mind it's his and he needs it... NOW.  Or the way he thrashes from side to side with his knees in the basket while he screams and cries.  Yeah, he rides in the big part of the basket.  If I have to have groceries and he needs to go, that's how I keep track of him.  He's a wanderer, meaning (to us) that he has no boundaries.  If he were a dog, he wouldn't know where his yard ends and the road begins.  And even worse, if he did get away from us, can't tell you who he is or where he lives.  He knows, but he can't tell you.  CAN'T.  Not won't.  You'd be amazed who doesn't understand the difference. We've found things like temporary tattoos that you can put your phone number on, but getting him to let us put a band-aid on is like trying to pull teeth without anesthesia. If we do manage to get a band-aid or something similar on Ryan, you can guarantee that it will be gone in a moment.  If he can't get rid of it, he will shake and cry and completely turn himself inside out until it's removed. 

Honestly, I get to the point when I just have nothing left.  You know, that end-of-the-rope, no more mental or emotional energy, if anyone asks me to so much as pass the salt I'm gonna scream or cry point.  I do.  When that happens, I'd like to say that I automatically turn upward and remember every scripture I've ever learned and all the wonderful blessings that we have, but I don't always.  I get tired and want to know WHY.  Why Ryan?  Is it so selfish to just want him to be able to share his frustration without screaming and hitting himself?  Is is so wrong to just want to plan a family trip to someplace without worrying about having to avoid elevators, candles, lines, and the fact that someplace might not have pizza or burgers? 

No, it's really not wrong to want those things... and I know so many other parents of ASD kids who want the same thing.  Actually, just special needs parents who would like to live like other people seem to live. 

But the overarching idea here is WHY ME?  What did I do to deserve this? Why HIM?  Surely Ryan has done nothing to deserve autism.  Then, if we back up just a little more in the big picture, doesn't everyone have something to ask that about at one time or another? 

Ah, reality check.  I'm not the only one with problems.  Ryan's not the only special needs child in the world, and I'm certainly not the only person who ever felt hopeless.  Or not up to the task.  Or tired.  Or like something has to give... NOW. 

What does one do in this situation?  The general population would tell me I need a spa day, a vacation, sometime away, or a break in some manner.  While there's nothing in the world wrong with any of those things (and they sounds pretty danged awesome... especially a weekend in a hotel with my husband...), they CANNOT BE MY HOPE.  As absolutely fabulous as my husband is, he cannot be my hope, my peace, my reassurance, or my happiness! 

Inevitably, at this point, since I am a Christian, God sends something to remind me.  It may be a phone call, an action, or simply a prompting of the Holy Spirit to remind me that, just as John 14:27 (ESV) says, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." 

Aah.  It's like cool water on a sunburn.  So is Romans 8:28.  So is the knowledge that Ryan (and Richie, and Maelynn) is "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14).  It all comes flowing back, sometimes... and sometimes it comes through friends, or my husband, or a sign, a song, or in a Facebook update. It happens, and it works. 

I cannot explain why there are problems that seemingly have no point or reason.  But I can say this, and I can say it from experience.  There is a reason.  There is a God.  He cares for us, and His ways are designed for our best and they are not for us to fully understand.  "You ask me how I know He lives?  He lives within my heart." 

So if you're tired, hopeless, lonely, exhausted, broken... don't believe that stuff about the rope.  You're on the bottom.  Look up, ask Jesus to throw you a rope.  He'll not only throw you one.  He'll come down, pick you up, dust you off, and hold you up. 

He did that for me just as I was speaking to you.  Kinda cool, huh! 

Have a blessed day, and remember that His arms are always open, and are ready to receive you and whatever issues you have.  Your fault, not your fault, socially acceptable or not. 

So look up. 
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