Lessons Learned from Sunflowers

It all started with a volunteer sunflower that popped up in the herb garden beside the playhouse earlier this summer.  That prompted Dad and me to plant more of these joy-filled flowers.  I’ve wondered if one of the many birds that visit our feeders dropped that seed there one day.  Dropping seeds of joy and happiness–what a great idea!

“Let your faith be bigger than your fear.” ~Unknown

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“Which makes it ironic my favourite flower isn’t even indigenous to the British Isles, let alone Yorkshire. I don’t think there’s anything on this planet that more trumpets life that the sunflower. For me, that’s because of the reason behind its name. Not because it looks like the sun but because it follows the sun. During the course of the day, the head tracks the journey of the sun across the sky. A satellite dish for sunshine. Wherever light is, no matter how weak, these flowers will find it. And that’s such an admirable thing. And such a lesson in life.” ~ Calendar Girls 2003 Movie

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“He restores my soul.” ~Psalm 23:3

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“Live life like a sunflower. Reach for the sky. Stay open. Bend with the breeze. Bloom where you are planted. Grow from the rain. Turn your face to the sun.” ~Unknown

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“I want to be like a sunflower; so that even on the darkest days I will stand tall and find the sunlight.” ~M.K.

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“You are altogether beautiful my love; there is no flaw in you.” ~Song of Solomon 4:7 (The  photos of the sunflower below is where it all began beside the playhouse.)

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This entry was posted on July 27, 2014. 2 Comments

Bluebirds and Birthdays

My husband knows that look I get when my brain is cooking up a project and, thankfully, he doesn’t jump on the lawnmower or head out to his beehives.  He patiently listens to me spill out the details of the project and then the work commences.  That’s exactly what happened earlier this year in April when we erected three nest boxes on our property in an attempt to expand the bird population to include bluebirds.  I could hardly contain my excitement when, a few weeks later, I saw pine needles in the cracks of one of the nest boxes.  I carefully peeked in and saw five tiny blue eggs!!!  Performing weekly checks on that nest box has given me great joy.

On an entirely different topic, I’ve been finding more projects to keep my mind occupied this week–something I typically do when Momma’s birthday is approaching.  I know that tomorrow she will be experiencing an absolutely heavenly birthday, but that doesn’t take the sting out of wanting to touch her face and tell her how much I love her.  As I was heading home from work this afternoon, I popped in Dollar General to see if anything caught my eye that I could add to Momma’s grave that I pass by every single day.  It only took a few minutes for my eyes to fall on the perfect addition to her gravesite.

As the sun was setting this evening, I realized that in my attempt to stay occupied lately, that I had not checked the nest box.  I set up the step ladder and had my camera ready when I opened the nest box that contained five eggs when I last checked.

Well, I left Momma a gift at her grave and I got a gift in our nest box.  Happy Birthday, Momma, and I’m looking forward to these five babies spreading their wings and flying confidently into the world, just as you taught me to do.

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Adam’s Sermon to His Parents

On this gorgeous Sunday morning, Adam woke up with a burr in his bottom or a bee in his bonnet.  Call it what you want–he just had quite the uncooperative attitude about getting dressed so that we could take a well-earned day off to explore Lynchburg, VA and Lovingston, VA.

Fortunately, both Larry and I were endowed with enormous amounts of patience this morning–that doesn’t happen very often on the same day for both of us that just happens to coincide with the stubborn streak that Adam can whip out of his bag of magic tricks in the blink of an eye.  We both continued to get ready while a mini-meltdown ebbed and flowed in Adam’s bedroom.  I was already experiencing visions in my head that this episode would set the tone for the remainder of the day.  Lord, where was that fun that I had anticipated our family experiencing today?  Did autism really need to rear its menacing head today?  Really?!?!

The last several years have been filled with quite a bit of maturing for Adam and he has come to understand that life doesn’t always go his way–that his time table may have to be put on hold for someone else’s time table.  So, as the mini-meltdown quieted to a very low growl, neither Larry nor I were surprised when Adam emerged from his bedroom fully dressed before his timer went off.

We have taught Adam that he must ask for forgiveness when he has had a “burr in his bottom” moment and it’s not uncommon that he will voluntarily offer an apology which is precisely what he did this morning.  Larry and I were not prepared for what happened next.  The young man clasped two hands together, uttered a couple of sentences in which we heard, “I sorry” and then closed with “Amen”.

Larry and I just looked at each other and then thanked God that we had a sermon from our son before we ever headed out the door. “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.” I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD. And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” (Psalm 32:5 – NIV)  Personally, I needed to be reminded of this Bible verse. Oh, and the day of exploring?  Well, we think God blessed a young man’s obedience . . .

While strolling on Main Street in Lynchburg, VA, we discover unique pianos on the sidewalk for the public to play and enjoy . . .

While strolling on Main Street in Lynchburg, VA, we discover unique pianos on the sidewalk for the public to play and enjoy.

Adam experiencing his own  form of paradise.

Adam experiencing his own form of paradise.

 

"Fun is good." (Dr. Seuss)

“Fun is good.” (Dr. Seuss)

Amen.

Amen.

Symbols and Cymbals

The past few years have found me on a journey of wanting to learn and understand more about my faith, my Christian heritage and my Jewish heritage. As I write this post on Saturday night, I’ve just arrived home from the last of three festivals or services which were held over three days at our church. Collectively, these services are called the Holy Triduum and here’s a brief synopsis of each service and what I learned . . . about me and about the God I love.

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The Maundy Thursday service is, of course, rich with symbols of Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples. “Maundy” comes from the old Latin word meaning “command”.  During this service, the story of the Last Supper that Jesus shared with his disciples when he commanded them to love one another by washing each other’s feet is retold.  Jesus provides a visual lesson in teaching us to serve others.  Our Lord stoops, bends and washes the feet of his disciples. I witness a grandmother and her granddaughter lovingly take turns washing each other’s feet.  Dear friends who have rejoiced in each other’s good times and sorrowed together when death took loved ones to Heaven exchange loving glances as feet are washed.  Many others come and participate at the foot washing station as a testimony to Amazing Love.  Larry and I discussed this ritual with Adam prior to the service and both he and I exchange the act of washing each other’s feet. I view this as a time that I can thank both God and Larry for their faithfulness and steadfast love to me during the course of my life and my marriage, as well as a time of reflection.  We then jointly wash Adam’s feet, to symbolize the trust we have that God knows the plans that He has for Adam’s future and that He wants us to be patient (ummm—that God wants ME to be patient—that the packing, the celebration party and Adam’s move to Wilmington, NC will come together when it NEEDS to come together).

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We participate in the sacrament of Eucharist and I dip the fresh bread in the cup and when the bread meets the wine, I see His broken body and His blood. The Eucharist is such a powerful sacrament and it’s no accident that ever since I read Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, that I’ve woven the word “eucharisteo” into my heart and mind. Read her vivid description:

“Eucharisteo—it comes right out of the Gospel of Luke: ‘And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them…’ (Luke 22:19 NIV). In the original language, ‘He gave thanks’ reads ‘eucharisteo.’

The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning ‘grace.’ Jesus took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks. He took the bread and knew it to be gift and gave thanks. Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning ‘joy.’

Charis. Grace. Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving. Chara. Joy. 

Deep chara joy is found only at the table of the euCHARisteo; the table of thanksgiving. The holy grail of joy, God set it in the very center of Christianity.” 

There is no benediction at the end of the Maundy Thursday service. Rather, the chancel is stripped—and everything is draped in black burlap. The Son of God has begun the dark journey to the cross.  As the black burlap is draped over the cross, I think of the blackness—the darkness—that I would still be in, if I did not know Him.

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The Good Friday service is somber and the silenced church makes me wonder what the disciples were thinking on this day.  The “Shadows” liturgy describes Jesus’ journey to Golgotha.  Scripture takes us through Jesus’ shadows of abandonment when the disciples fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane, of betrayal when Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss, of accusation when Jesus appears before the Sanhedrin, of Peter’s denial, of the injustice imposed by Pilate, of the mockery by the soldiers, of Jesus’ death and, finally, of His burial.  We walk silently through the twelve stations of the Cross and read the Scripture at each station. No words are spoken and we exit in silence. Emptiness is the theme that I hear in the silence. The bulletin contains this prayer to sustain us through the silence–through all the silences of our journey:

Lord, You have always given bread for the coming day; and though I am poor, today I believe.

Lord, You have always given strength for the coming day; and though I am weak, today I believe.

Lord, You have always given peace for the coming day; and though of anxious heart, today I believe.

Lord, You have always kept me safe in trials; and now, tried as I am, today I believe.

Lord, You have always marked the road for the coming day; and though it may be hidden, today I believe.

Lord, You have always lightened this darkness of mine; and though the night is here, today I believe.

Lord, You have always spoken when time was ripe; and though you be silent now, today I believe.

Saturday brings the Easter Vigil and this service finds its roots in the Old Testament and relives in ritual, the night the Israelites stayed awake waiting for God to deliver them from their slavery in Egypt. Similarly, since days begin at dusk in the Bible, we gather on this pleasantly warm Saturday night to celebrate Jesus’ victory over death by recounting the entire story of God’s salvation from Creation to New Creation.  We begin the service outside the church around a fire and proceed inside to the dark sanctuary with our candles lit. We’re carrying a light, but not just any light—it is symbolic of the Light who came to dispel the darkness.  “When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NIV)


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The Christ Candle

Christ yesterday and today…the beginning and the end…Alpha…and Omega…

all time belongs to Him…and all the ages…to Him be glory and power…through every age forever. Amen.

I listen to one of the lectors read the story of Abraham as he sojourned up a mountain in the region of Moriah with Isaac by his side.  He walks in obedience; he takes each difficult step with trust. Abraham reaches the destination where he will sacrifice Isaac on the altar and then God provides the lamb. Much later, God provides another Lamb for humankind. Someone sent me this picture taken at the Easter Vigil after Adam and I had participated in Eucharist, and, while it is a moment that I could have chosen to remain private, it illustrates the point that Jesus died on the cross for us all—for people of all ages, nations and races. He loves us all.

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Four letters sum up three days full of symbols—LOVE.

What if I could speak all languages of humans and of angels? If I did not love others, I would be nothing more than a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1)

As I move from Easter Sunday into Monday and, frankly, the remainder of my life, my hope is that I will be a symbol of His love instead of a clanging cymbal.

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Heartfelt gratitude to our Pastor, our Pianist, our Lectors and to all folks behind the scenes who

made The Holy Triduum such a meaningful and rich experience.

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Sunrise Service on April 20, 2014

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 Peter said, “I really am learning that God doesn’t show partiality to one group of people over another.

Rather, in every nation, whoever worships Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him.

This is the message of peace He sent to the Israelites by proclaiming the good news through Jesus Christ:

He is Lord of all!”

Acts 10:34-36 (CEB)

 

 

Autism Ramblings

Yes, April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day and I’ve painted my toenails blue, our entire family recently walked in the 4th Annual Coastal Run/Walk for Autism to raise money for Autism Society of North Carolina and GHA Autism Supports and tomorrow, April 2, the Hupps will be wearing their Love/Support/Advocate for Autism t-shirts.  It’s one day where people light it up blue and puzzle pieces symbolic of the mystery that autism poses fill up social media.  Whenever I’m needing encouragement from someone who has walked this journey long before me, I pull out my copy of A Thorn in My Pocket by Eustacia Cutler, who is the mother of Dr. Temple Grandin.  Dr. Grandin has autism and opened many doors into the understanding of what people with autism experience–their sensory load (or overload), so to speak.  She was diagnosed in 1949 and her mother’s tenacity, perseverance and courage forged an avenue for Temple and opened the doors to a community for autism that, frankly, puts me in sensory overload at times.

Mrs. Cutler did not have iPads and communication apps, IEPs and all of the tools and resources that we have today to assist our children and adults in navigating through daily life as they struggle with autism.  She’s a champion that we can all look to when hope wanes.  Perhaps you, too, will find encouragement in some of my favorite quotes from her book:

“There are no answers. There are only choices. And making choices takes a kind of persistent courage.”

“Autism uses up all the oxygen – it puts the other children in the family in the roles of helpers. But they are children too and have a right to the freedom of childhood. Yet when as parents we are no longer able to care for our autistic children, it is the siblings who will have to step up. We have no choice but to build strong, willing siblings and we must make sure that they don’t feel they have been shortchanged.”

“Temple’s journey is marked by shared concern and shared expertise. There was nothing more important than consistency between school and home.”

“I think it is at this time that Temple asks me, “Why am I different?” She doesn’t ask, “Am I different?” but “Why am I different?” “I don’t know why,” I tell her, “but don’t worry about it. We’re each of us different, each given traits that work for us and against us. What is important is to understand the traits so you can run them, and they don’t run you.”

“You’ll survive, that’s what. You’ll find your footing and stagger up onto dry land holding on tight to your child. You’ll limp, but you’ll make sense. There’ll be good days and nightmare nights, moments of great pride and days when you want to slink out of sight. But it won’t be raw knees in the undertow.”

And, my all-time favorite quote goes out to Maureen Morrell, who co-authored the book, Parenting Across the Autism Spectrum: Unexpected Lessons We Have Learned”.  Maureen was the first person I spoke with after we received Adam’s diagnosis.  At the time we spoke over two decades ago, she was a parent advocate for TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication handicapped Children) in Chapel Hill, NC.  Justin, their twenty-something son, had recently moved out of their home to a residential setting when she wrote these words:

“So what have I gained from being Justin’s parent?  An extraordinary relationship with a high-maintenance, low-functioning, difficult young man with a killer smile, a mischievous sense of humor, and a charm all his own.  The defining relationship of my life has brought me (literally and figuratively) kicking and screaming into a life I did not want, but now cannot imagine being without.  If, as Judith Viorst tells us in Necessary Losses, our growth as human beings is inextricably linked to our losses, parenting Justin has forced me to grow into a better person than I believed myself to be (Viorst 1986, p. 5).  For how could I not learn to be courageous when I witnessed his courage in facing a world that so often scares and confuses him?  How could I not learn forgiveness from a child who never held a grudge despite my parental failures?  And how could I not learn about the difficult demands of love when living with someone who could sometimes act so unlovable?  Sure it taught me that love is not just a feeling, but also a choice.

I have had remarkable teachers throughout my life.  Yet some of the most important lessons in my life over the last quarter century have come from (many would say) the least likely source–my son, Justin.  In this future that I did not expect, I miss his presence in my daily life.  My heaviest responsibility, he has also been one of my greatest gifts.”

I agree wholeheartedly, except I must add that Larry has steered our ship through some tumultuous waters, all the while helping us to hold on to the Anchor.  Our daughter, Sarah, has been and continues to be a source of encouragement and a pillar of strength in all of our lives.  Amen.

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Life Lessons Learned on a Leisurely Walk in the Rain

I love doing “firsts” and I especially love it when I have the opportunity to do them with my family.  Today we participated in the 4th Annual Coastal NC Run/Walk for Autism in Wilmington, NC.  Funds raised benefit the Autism Society of North Carolina and GHA Autism Supports.  I believe everyone in attendance took away a few life lessons.

“And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.” (Gilbert K. Chesterton)

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“Because of my father, we are that Shining City on a Hill.” (Michael Reagan) (I found it noteworthy that Michael Reagan is the adopted son of Ronald Reagan.)

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“Fun is good.”  (Dr. Seuss)

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“I run because it’s so symbolic of life. You have to drive yourself to overcome the obstacles. You might feel that you can’t. But then you find your inner strength, and realize you’re capable of so much more than you thought.” (Arthur Blank)

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“Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” (Michael J. Fox)

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Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.” (Wilma Rudolph)

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and I just had to snap a picture of this Superhero with his autism puzzle piece cape of courage . . . 

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In conclusion, to all of our family and friends who donated to Team Piano Man, please accept our family’s gratitude.  The ripple created in our hearts will remain forever.  “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”  (Mother Teresa)

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And It IS Good . . .

I had one of “those afternoons” today.  Larry and I spent 3 hours with Adam’s Wonderful Care Coordinator completing a SIS Test for Adam.  The “wonderful” is added to her job title because this woman is a kindred spirit in many ways and one heartstring that binds us together is that she is also the parent of a child with special needs.  By the way, SIS is an acronym for Supports Intensity Scale and the test gives a fairly accurate picture of how much support Adam needs in order to go about his daily activities.  We first completed the SIS Test 3 years ago and it’s encouraging to see how many more skills he’s acquired in that time frame.  But at the end of the questions covering everything from medical situations, community activities, work and social activities and a host of other items, I feel like an 18-wheeler has run over me, backed up and left the trailer sitting on my chest. I feel as if I cannot breath. I felt the same way at the conclusion of the test 3 years ago. Feelings of inadequacy flood over me and I wonder if we have done enough for Adam and then He whispers these words to me that a blogger friend has posted on Facebook:  “Don’t let this throw you.  You trust God, don’t you?  Trust me.” (-Jesus)

And I hear laughter from Adam’s bedroom as he strums his guitar and plays along to bluegrass music on YouTube.  I’m breathing again and God said, “And it is good.”

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