It was about this time of year in college when I'd get out my school of music handbook and turn to the charts of classes required to graduate. My freshman year it seemed particularly daunting. But every year, I signed up for the classes that would assure my graduation someday.
The carrot at the end was teaching. I wanted to be a band director more than just about anything. And through four long semesters and three summers of checking off, studying, practicing, and checking off some more, I graduated in August of 2000 with a degree in music education. Though I had come in with zero hours, the Lord allowed me the gift of graduating with a four and a half or five year degree in four years. There were times that were hard, but I could always go back and see how much I'd already been through, how many of these rough classes that everyone said would separate the men from the boys that I'd managed. Although I fought hard for many of them, I'd survived.
But there was always that carrot at the end. There was always the chart of classes that I still have somewhere that comforted me. There was an end. If I worked hard enough, if I met the very clear expectations of the university, I would graduate. It wasn't hard to meet the moral standards either; I've been boring for as long as I can remember.
You know what else God handed me on a silver platter? The best job any girl could have, right out of the box. I had my first job set before I graduated. This job was the best. I just fit in the community, and it was more like play than work every day. I loved it! I loved the people I worked with, for, around, and the community. Those two years will always be remembered as two of the sweetest in my life.
It was there that God started to work on my control freak, planner nature. He started to show me that the best things in life are gifts from him, not anything I can earn.
More than anything I so wanted to be the wife and the mommy. You can't work toward that. There are no boxes to check, no requirements to meet. As a matter of fact, by any worldly standards, I fell pretty short of the requirements in that area... or at least I felt like I did. There was also the issue of my blasted test taking ability. It's horrible.
Even with study, I failed the first time I took the teacher certification test. The music part I aced, the actual teacher part I just missed. I needed a 75. I got a 74.42.
One day, I walked to my mailbox and tearfully opened the letter that regretted to inform me that I would be terminated if I didn't pass.
It didn't matter how I was doing my job. That test stood there taunting me.
I did pass the test, but still had the hardest time with the fact that I was still just me. The first thing I wanted and couldn't work toward caused me to make some of the most stupid mistakes. But God blessed me, in 2003, with the best man in the world. I'm sure your husband is nice too, but to me, Eric is the best. And there is nothing I did to earn him. Quite the opposite.
Then we wanted to have a baby. So badly. We were blessed with and easy time getting pregnant, and Ryan came along in May of 2005. But again, so many things were going just wrong. Eric lost his job, I worked there too, and had to keep working there so we would have insurance.
He did get another job, but that required quite a move. It was an exciting move, and not in a good way.
A year or so later, in September, we decided we'd like to have another baby. Again, we had no trouble getting pregnant. Easy-peasy. And we were all so excited!
Through Christmas, I just didn't feel good. Just not right. But hey, I was pregnant, and who feels just fabulous right at the end of the first trimester?
The day after Christmas, we found out why. I had lost our next little one, and in the process, we came a bit closer to losing me than we wanted.
For the first time, there was no reason. There was not thing one I could do. Night after night I tried to go to bed, only to lay there crying, shaking my fist at God. Yes, the very One who had given me so much already. Somehow I felt that if I couldn't keep a child in my body safe, how could I keep Ryan safe? Why did I have to sleep? Night after night I would silently get out of bed, creep to Ryan's room, and stand there over his crib in tears. I was so inadequate. So helpless. Now that my heart walked around outside my body in this little boy with big, blue eyes, I was a mess. And nothing I did helped.
One night, I finally had to admit I couldn't do it. There was no way. I had to have God control it, really, in my own heart.
The next September, I was happy to find that I was pregnant with Richie. Along his pregnancy, we saw Ryan's lack of communication skills.
His lack of interest in us.
The way he'd never called us by our names.
The way he only screamed at night if he needed us.
The way he was completely uninterested in the other kids at church.
How the couple of words he did have disappeared.
And the greatest lesson in relinquishing control and relying on the Lord, his Word, his peace, and his people began.
There is no raising a child, or a child with autism, checklist. The only thing we can do is listen, feel around for the next thing to do, make educated guesses about what to do, and remember that we are not in control, but One who is good is.
The letting go of control is not a school, a degree plan, a program, that I sought. It is a journey that only in December of 2006 did I realize that I was on. I can look back and see the track... the road... the landmarks behind me that show I've been there, but didn't know it.
Now I sit here, the kid who always only wanted to be with her mom, the teacher and student who desperately wanted to be the wife and the mom, listening to my kids play with blocks in the floor while I wait for my mother to get ready to go Christmas shopping when Ryan is out of school at noon.
Sometimes the blessings we want can be handed to us seemingly immediately. Other times, and far too often than we realize, God is working in and around us to set the stage to give us His best. And that is far better... greater... than any plan we could invent on our own.
Would I trade having to go through some of these things? Not now. While I was going through them, absolutely. "Rescue me, Lord," I'd plead. "Take this cup if it is your will. "
But He didn't. And looking back, I'm grateful.
Thanks be to God.