Thursday, February 27, 2014

Loving out loud

Dear Isaac,

Guess what?  Tomorrow is your big brother's 10th birthday.  I know you're excited because you keep reminding him of the fact that you're never going to catch up to being as old as he is. And you think he's the best brother ever.

As a gift to Ethan, I want to tell you, Isaac, a helpful tip on being the best little brother ever. You certainly do your job well.  You pester, repeat, sing things like "nah-nah-nee-boo-boo" and run away laughing.  You tattle on him if he doesn't brush his teeth for exactly 2 minutes.  You ride your bike right in front of him when he's trying to shoot a basket.  You jump up and down in front of the TV when he's in the middle of beating a level on a video game.  You yell "YES!" into his ear while you're practically on top of him, watching him play Angry Birds Go!  You forget that everyone will hear you in the auditorium when you are watching Ethan at his school concert and you say a little too loudly, "THERE'S MY BROTHER, THERE'S ETHAN!" and you make him blush and shake his head.  You truly love out loud, Isaac.

Here's my tip:  Never stop loving out loud.  

I have learned so much since Ethan was born.  I learned that I needed to let go of many things.  Ethan taught me how to trust.  And then you came along, Isaac.  You are a great teacher of patience.  I know.  I have been your student.  But I have always witnessed how you have educated your brother in how to grow in love, and he has been gracious and humble in putting you first in many ways.  It is really, truly beautiful how you both have made me better.

I see the moments when he hugs you as you are saying goodnight.  I cherish the mental image of you both splashing in the sprinkler in the summertime, laughing and being silly, the 3 years between you nothing more than a number.   It makes my heart full when I hear you both reading together, cuddled up and giggling over some boyish inside joke or wrestle in the living room.  I am proud when you help one another do simple things, like clean up, without being told.  I love when Ethan bends down to you, and whispers in your ear.  Joy wells up when I watch you both sit and talk out your issues through tears and frustration on the steps in the kitchen.  I'm thankful that Ethan is ok with having you around even when his older friends are--he is a cool guy like that, isn't he? I am excited to see how your friendship grows.

So, as Ethan will always be your older brother, I ask that you respect him.  Encourage him and tell him that you love him all the time.  Ask for his advice, even if he has none to give.  Tell him you appreciate his patience and understanding.  Even if he acts like he doesn't listen.  Keep on.  Because he is listening.

The best gift to give your big brother is you.   Just you.  Because you and your big brother were the best gifts to me.

Love, Momma

And now. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

The "C" Word

This isn't what you think.  No label ever is.

When I was in high school, I worked at Sea World for the summer.  It wasn't as glamorous as it sounds.  In fact, one of the stores I worked in was called "Label Stable." There, one could peruse various Budweiser merchandise (because Sea World was owned by Anheuser-Busch and what aquatic loving tourist wouldn't want a beer stein decorated with Clydesdales?)  I always thought the shop was a little obnoxious and lonely. I greatly disliked working there.

One muggy summer evening, I was told to start closing the Stable early.  Night shows were starting and not many customers came in to browse. It was this time of the night that was the worst.  The park sold beer, and those folks who had been drinking all afternoon in the heat figured they should shop for breakable merchandise.  I can't count how many broken glasses I swept up when groups stumbled in, picked up things they couldn't hold on to and made rude comments about how they REALLY felt about Shamu.  And sometimes they made comments about me.  One man, I will never forget (although I have forgiven), called me "that chubby checkout girl."

Fast forward to college.  My freshman year I suffered a tragic loss of a friend.  I dealt with it in an extreme way, and as a result found myself dealing with depression and an eating disorder by the time I graduated.  I weighed only 104 pounds my Senior year of college and ate no more than 800 calories a day (I counted) I worked out, and began feeling confident.  I was no longer chubby, and in fact, people said I looked good--"You're so fit!" But I wasn't fit at all.  People just saw me by my label, and I wanted it that way. Inside, I was very hurt, struggling with guilt and anxiety.  I was told I would never have children, in fact. (Only after I was hospitalized for a suicide attempt). Thankfully, I recognized how little this outward appearance meant in the plot line of my existence, and made the choice to think beyond myself and what I thought being skinny and in control allowed me to gain...which ended up being the exact opposite of the truth.

Fast forward again.  This time, a dad and mom sitting in a waiting room with a 2 1/2 year old boy who didn't talk, didn't look you in the eye; who was hidden and locked away on the inside, and we were trying every key.  I couldn't go grocery shopping without condescending looks and sometimes well-meaning but very thoughtless remarks of how I can "fix" my child.

All of these memories, these moments, have a theme.  Looks.  Labels.  Lies.

I have experienced life being "chubby."  I have experienced life being "skinny."  I have a "healthy" son who happens to have Autism.  I have not found true happiness in ANY one of those labels and will not make achieving a label my life's goal.  

Healthy doesn't just happen on the outside.  The real health happens in the soul.  True healing, freedom, then, true beauty permeates from the inside out.  From my experience, it starts and continues with Christ.  His love covers you, allows you to forgive yourself, forgive others, and be okay if you (or your child) aren't "the best." His grace gives you new eyes to see yourself, and to see those around you.  Being the best will only get you so far.  And I'm not interested in the standards I see in magazines or TV.

"Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things"  Colossians 3:2

This is my hope in life:  To overcome the labels I hear and see day to day.  To tear them off of myself, whether they have been placed on me by society, or if I have placed them there myself with intentions of motivating myself to appear better.  To rip them off, even if it stings.  To heal them with truth and not be afraid of the scars.  To teach my children the same.  To replace the "C" word with the "B words."

Beautiful. Broken. Being.