Wednesday, July 10, 2013

SAVING SUMMER: Smiles, Skills & Social Graces

God speaks in different ways,
and we don’t always
    recognize his voice.
~ Job 33:14, CEV ~

It's easy to feel defeated, like the joy of Summer is slipping through our fingers as we sit on the "ash heap" of parenting a child with special needs.  Job questioned again and again what God was up to when so much tragedy befell his life.  His "comforters," who weren't of much comfort at all, did have some valid points.  In today's Scripture verse, Elihu reminds Job that God does speak in various ways, though we may not always perceive it.

While such a statement may have been originally intended to make a friend "'fess up" to the guilt of deserving harm by God, it holds brighter promise for those of us who are feeling guilt about not making the most of Summer with our children.  If the Lord is speaking in various ways, though we do not always recognize it, then we can spend time being more deliberate about paying attention to Him in our challenging Summer months.  We can, in our prayer life, however brief those moments may be, ask that He open our eyes to how He is working in and around us.

Having transitioned my family out of school in a rather stressful way this year, I certainly wasn't seeing a Summer that was starting out as very fruitful.  Yet, I knew that our Father was active, working perfectly despite my weariness and confusion.  As I began leaning in on His power to redeem our vacation days, He faithfully answered my request to see where He was working by showing me the following:
  • Smiles Matter-- Having time off of the usual school year to refill our "smile bank" is replenishing.  Whether it is staying up late to watch a movie or get silly with glasses that have the mustache attached, doing those out-of-the-ordinary little things are a welcome diversion for all of us from the pressures of school.  It doesn't have to be as complicated as we like to make it.  So often, it is the simple occurrences of life that create a lasting, joyful memory.  Be encouraged, as I am, knowing that we are still cooperating with God's perfect season by finding family joy in little things like relishing a meal together or watching lightning bugs in the evening.
  • Skills Develop -- While I watch others running their kids to every practice and game possible, my children are winning at life by learning some basic, necessary skills.  Those of you who have children who are cognitively or emotionally challenged understand what a big deal this is.  My 11 year old Aspie who often behaves like a 5 year old when it comes to responsibility is learning to develop new basic life skills like cooking and cleaning.  My 13 year old is gaining responsibility by doing tasks without me having to ask.  He is better grasping the need for family teamwork when it comes to tending a home.  I don't know about you, but I am finding these essential pieces to adult life much easier to impart to my children when we don't have the demands of homework and more rigid schedules.
  • Social Understanding Grows -- During the school year, the difficult social encounters seem to come flying at me like a driver at 50 miles per hour without a windshield.  With our son, it's having to talk through how much he wants to share with people about his hemophilia or what to do when someone asks why he's in his wheelchair again.  There is more time to emotionally rehearse situations or talk things through when we aren't rushed in the Summer months.  With our Aspie daughter, so many, many social cues are missed.  This Summer has afforded me opportunities to talk her through the nuances of how to correctly plan a play-date, how to let someone know they've hurt us without losing them as a friend, and how to discretely keep certain news to yourself.  Those are some HUGE steps.  The learning is different from academics, but definitely no less important.
While we may not always feel like we are creating measurable results over the Summer months or developing a long portfolio of memorable excursions, we must trust that the God of the unseen is still at work in our lives and our children's lives.  Rest in the assurance that our Creator is fine tuning the important, subtle parts of life over these months in ways that cannot be addressed as effectively during our children's school days.  Our vacation may not include Disney or even a local kids sports team, but there is much that the Lord is redeeming over these months, whether we recognize it or not.

PRAY:  Oh, Father, thank you for reminding me that you work in far more ways than I will ever see or realize!  Let me rest in that knowledge as I try to redefine what a perfect Summer looks like in my own expectations.

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