i've been using a hashtag for awhile now, #autismisblessingme. this may be a misunderstood concept, so i would love to explain myself. to be blessed is to be provided with something good or desirable. for me, being a mom to an autistic child has provided me with something good and lovely. it's not the circumstance i would have chosen for me, but i didn't know then that i needed this life so dearly. i must daily decide to see our life together this way. love is the lens for this hopeful vision. beyond feelings, beyond what i see with my natural eyes, love lights the way to a full life.
i don't know what it's like to actually be autistic. i do know how to love an autistic person. i won't fool you or myself and say i get it right every day, because i do not. there are many threads yet to be woven for me in this tapestry of living life alongside autism. one pivotal moment for me seeing a glimpse of the bigger picture was when i realized that love was the whole point. of life, motherhood, everything. i began with love, created on purpose for a purpose. i was rescued by love, christ died for me when i gave zero flips for him. because of that real, righteous love god demonstrated to me, i can pour it out into the lives of anyone and everyone. especially the child god gave me to raise. the beginning of this song (holla, my christmas raps from 2004!) rewinds in my mind, calling me to ponder: more than what love is, what does love do? love is busy, yes?
love is active. in its giving, accepting, truth-telling, rejoicing, knowing, forgiving, listening, hoping, enduring; love is the best sort of busy.
let me back up. my heart is heavy tonight, and has been for a long, long while. specifically over the lack of love i see for others, and even more specifically, autistic people. most recently my deep thoughts were prompted by this post i read last night. brilliant mr. bonnello carefully laid out five ways to damage your autistic child without knowing. i cheered through my tears as i took in his words. please read the article, whether or not autism directly affects your life, i think it's helpful to think on these things, seeing and loving others as they are. i have been guilty of some of the points he made and i have seen the hurt in my child. but the great thing about "seeing the light"? it scatters the darkness and you're able to move forward. seeing my child as a person, not "just autistic", it changed my life with my son. god reminded me that any dream i may have had of a typical life, being a typical mama, it wasn't an interruption or a disappointment to have those dreams replaced. these new paths are invitations to appointments with god. in learning to intentionally love my son for exactly who he is, i am seeing more clearly the way my perfect heavenly father loves me. there is nothing i can do at any time to make him love me less or more than he does right now. that is freeing and comforting and that is the love i want to mirror to my boy.
i cannot give that true sort of love if i see, or allow others to see, my child's special needs as an interruption or burden. when my plans/rest/convenience/focus/happiness are more important than a person, i will fail in the love giving department. elijah is more than autism, and also totally autistic. it's impossible to love him "but hate his autism". if he heard that from me, that would be damaging. for all of us. i believe he was designed perfectly by god and i can love all of him for all he is. even parts i don't yet understand. that is the way i am loved. it's not easy to do this on my own, not because of elijah, but because of myself! i get in the way of my own love mission so often because i think too much about me, me, me and my feelings and my hopes and my dreams. i'd say i want the best for elijah, but really. i think what i was wanting was a different life for myself. this is an ongoing process for me and will be 'til i meet jesus!
this learning to live like i am fully loved and love like i know it's true. when i feel the grittiness of this life, i am reminded that this world is not my home. i wasn't built to be comfortable here! i was designed to long for a more-better life. having an eternal focus has a sweet way of making this earthly place make sense.
before you share about that meltdown on social media, ask yourself something like this: how would i feel if someone shared me yelling at my husband? a time when i've lost control and don't feel safe, broadcast to the world.
it's not wrong to pray for easier, safer, fewer meltdowns. and it's good to seek help when you need it! but let our love be genuine, let our intentions be to build up and protect, just as we would want to be encouraged and kept from humiliation. because face this: our children are listening all the time, and feeling all our feelings. imagine them reading what you write about them, is that a picture of love? if it isn't, there's hope to change that scene.
autism is blessing me, because through loving someone on the spectrum, i am learning more about real love. my hope isn't to have a life as "normal" as possible with my son, my hope is to enjoy life with my son. enjoyment is the result of getting to know him better every day. for our family, we saw that letting go of formal therapy was another pivotal step for us. we were therapy-ing our child to kingdom come! there was a time where elijah was "working" more than an adult full time job, and for what? to "function better in society"? or was it an attempt to make him less autistic? these thoughts can breed heated conversations, and i welcome them, talk with me! we don;t regret our therapy, we had amazing professionals who loved and really knew our boy. we saw when that season needed to end though and he needed to do more life-on-life living in this crazy world. we found ourselves wondering why does being autistic mean his childhood lacks so much free play and exploration? little boys, all children! they learn a massive amount through organic play. he needs to have freedom to play, learn and discover at his own pace.
and before you tell me autistic children don't know how to play, have you given yours the chance? really given them a chance. you're longing to hear the words "i love you, mama", but are you listening? they're telling us, and we hear it when we learn their language. having trouble connecting with your neurotypical loved one? spend time with them, what do they love? love that thing with them, together. you will connect.
i believed too long the discouraging lies, like my child can't empathize. except he's the most empathetic human i have ever met. autistic persons aren't lacking emotion, on the contrary, they're bursting with emotion! i believe they have the ability to love deeper, truer and more free than i ever could.
we all have challenges.
let's stop comparing them and start changing the way we look at them.
let's love each other.
let's accept. let's connect. let's respect. let's protect.
let's be blessing each other, mom to child, person to person, let's be busy loving.
a sweet bonus, because it's one of my favorite spots on the internet: