My dear daughter has already, at the tender age of barely two, decided what she will drive.
One morning, as we rounded the corner in front of the elementary school, it came into view. A bubblegum pink, convertible VW bug. She saw it before I did, and immediately declared from her car seat, "It's my pink car! Look, Mommy... it's my pink car!"
Since then, every time we see said vehicle she shouts "It's my car!" Even Richie's in on the act now. Soon as it drives away, "where's my car" and "I lost my car" and "where did Mae-mae's car go" come frantically from the back seat. This morning, we saw Mae's car in the drop-off line just in time to see it drive away. She and Richie immediately began discussing it as much as a toddler and preschooler can, and I said in my infinite motherly wisdom, "You can look forward to having a car like that if you want, but that can't be your only aspiration in life."
I know. Crazy thing to tell a toddler! Someday we'll enjoy telling her about how crazy she was about this random high school girl's pink bug. I don't seriously think her life is going down the tubes simply because she wants a pink car, so try not to worry too much about me. But I started to think... aspiration. What should our aspiration be?
Then I thought about the other meaning. Often, when Eric or I choke on a drink as people sometimes do, one of us will look at the other and say, "You're supposed to drink your lemonade, not aspirate it!" So Aspiration and aspirate have to be related. To aspirate something medically means to breathe it in. To have an aspiration in plain old life terms means to have a goal or dream you live to achieve.
So what makes me breathe? What do I get up in the morning ready to do? What are the things that I do, that I live? What do eat, sleep, and breathe, as we so often say?
Ask me years ago, and I'd have said something aligning with success in my profession. To be a consistent first-division band director, to have state honor band, to win state marching contest, that kind of thing. Then I got married, and more and more my heart pulled me to our home. Then we decided to have Ryan. I still loved band, but there was something different.
It took years for me to grow into motherhood. I was so confused when Ryan was born. I thought that I was supposed to feel like a mother, that I'd magically morph into someone who felt completely different the moment he was in my arms. Imagine my surprise when I really felt like I knew the dog better than I knew him. We grew together, and continue to grow together. Richie and Maelynn came along, and along the way my aspiration changed. I'd been a Christian since the sixth grade, and knew that God loved me, and that He brought me through so much. I had a good handle on church attendance, knew by heart the two that got me through... John 3:16 (the first one you learn as a kid, I think), and Jeremiah 29:11. There were other things I read along the way. The Psalms were always a good comfort, and I enjoyed Esther and Ruth a great deal. But nothing stuck to me the way Jeremiah 29:11 did.
When we moved to Groesbeck, I had the opportunity to participate in a bible study. I'd never done much more than the Sunday-school type of bible study, and through the fellowship of these ladies and the writers of the studies, I discovered a love that had been waiting for me all along.
It waited quietly on the shelf through several moves, in and out of boxes.
It waited in my hand as I took it to church every Sunday, even Sunday and Wednesday nights.
It waited through my good days, through my bad days, quietly and faithfully sitting on the shelf, waiting for me to be desperate enough to open it.
It watched me seek entertainment, attention, and joy from so many other places.
When I was desperate enough to open it aside from looking up the passages in the sermon on Sunday, it was faithful to comfort and lead my heart to safety.
Then it sat again, in between the car, my hands, the church, and home again, as I sought to do life on my own.
I wish I could tell you that I picked it up and instantly, almost like magic, I understood every word. I wish I could say that every passage came immediately alive and all my problems were solved. I wish I could say that I never had another broken relationship, or another pain in my heart.
I can't say that. But what I can say is that the time I have spent in this world has been used to guide me to it. I can say that as I get to know the word of God better, things are less confusing. I'm more peaceful. More joyful. I can say that I do not regret the time I've spent in it. It's made me smarter, wiser, and a better person. It's enriched my marriage, helped me understand its author, and continues to lead me to be a more patient, kind person. Through time in the word, over time, I've grown.
My aspirations have shifted. As I've lived, I've learned that all those aspirations, goals, dreams... they've all poured my heart, like a funnel, into faith in God. I still have goals and dreams, and I still have the problems that go along with living in the world. But seeing these things through a different lens... a Jesus-colored lens... makes them all infinitely more worthwhile. It colors my world with a gratefulness that I would not have otherwise seen.
The challenges. Oh, the challenges are great. The questions are many. But my way of looking at them has changed. My goals and aspirations are still there, but they are filtered differently. Even as new ones arise, I see them through a different lens. I am grateful for the challenges.
Wait a minute.... hold the phone...
Yes, I am grateful for the challenges. The problems. The broken relationships. The money issues. The questions, the journey, the searches for the right treatments, the back surgeries of life. The postpartum depressions of life. The spinal headaches of life.
No, I didn't enjoy these things. No, I don't enjoy autism. The autism culture, along with the ranks of women who have suffered miscarriages, postpartum depression, and the families who lived through daddy having surgery with three small kids in the house are not things I signed up to join. While I did not ask for them and did not feel ready for any of them, they came anyway. And not only was I not ready, I was scared. So many things have seemingly come up and broadsided us from out of no where.
I'm not thankful for autism. I'm thankful for the little boy who brought it to our home, and for the ways he and his brother and sister teach me to eschew selfishness and nudge (sometimes shove) me to faith. I'm thankful for having lived through some of these things, and the things they taught me about myself. Lessons too great to shove into words. If it had been my choice, I'd go back and by now we'd have four kids. We'd have three neurotypical kids. We'd have never upset anyone, and not have one person in the whole wide world who didn't absolutely think the world of us. Eric's back would always have been whole, and he wouldn't have needed to go through the icky experience of having surgery.
But rather than having a life with no suffering, no pain, no complications... rather than wishing for the easy road and only being thankful when things are going well... I am surrounded in the love of a God who holds me through it all. The warm, cozy blanket of the trust that it is all part of the plan, that it all works to the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. As the kids grow into their own dreams, goals, and aspirations, we seek to guide them in a way that they too can rise up through the challenges and pains of life, growing in the peace that God is good, he is sovereign, and we are held in his arms.
Because I want Maelynn to be happy whether or not she gets to drive her pink car.