It never ceases to amaze me how ordinary events are so impactful in teaching me valuable lessons about life. God uses them to bring into focus the things that truly matter- the things that will make a difference in someone's life. How thankful I am that God values me enough to give me the opportunity to learn and serve Him by doing what I love - sharing my stories. Praise God he has a sense of humor, because at our house, we are always in supply of humorous material that will keep his funny bone limber...
The following is what led up to a humorous and memory filled Christmas Eve at the Stout House.
My hubby, Dan, and I purchased our first home in December of 1995. We desired a home with character and a place that we could make our own. We decided on a home built in 1891 (and let me tell you, it has no end of "character"). We lovingly named the cottage style house "Brighten Corner" following the Victorian tradition of naming homes. The name was derived from the old Sunday school song, "Brighten the Corner Where You Are."
In the months that followed, we added to our happy home the pitter patter of tiny... (no, not babies)... kittens!
Fast forward 15 years later to 2010, and you will find us in the same home with two senior citizen cats. Tigger and Scooter are adorable, but they are the remaining survivors of the original group of 4 siblings that we raised from birth. The other two: Curious George and Pooh Bear are no longer with us.
Each time we lose a furry feline friend, it becomes harder and harder. The last one to leave us was Pooh Bear. She was alive and well one evening and the next day, we couldn't find her. Dan searched high and low and finally found her in the basement where she had found a cozy place behind a box, curled up and exited this world.
We are fortunate that Kylie has only recently figured out that we have cats. When she was born, Dan built a "playroom" in the basement for the animals; so, they chose to enjoy their playroom and not to spend much time in the main house with the new baby that had invaded their territory.
Our cats have been very therapeutic for Kylie. You see, children with Autism tend to be locked in their own world. It is heartbreaking, as a mommy and daddy, to have your baby stare right through you. You want so much to hold their eyes with your own and have that intimate, knowing "moment." You long for them to recognize your voice and turn their gaze to you. You would give anything for your precious little one to seek your attention, but many times they don't respond to their name (the perfect name that you labored to give them) or even have an awareness that you are there. Because of this, there is a terrible grieving process that takes place in the heart of a parent of a child with Autism. We learn to cope, we find ways to demonstrate our love differently (in their language), but that heartbreaking ache and longing never goes away.
Tigger and Scooter can draw Kylie out of the world of Autism in a way that we have never been able to. Kylie seeks their attention, talks to and empathizes with them. She will lay her head on their fur and, unfortunately for the cats, pull their tail, grab for their whiskers and hug the stuffing out of them. They hate it but always come back for more (who said cats had brains?). Kylie has a love for Tigger and Scooter that borders on obsession and is almost scary to us. The first thing she says when she jumps out of bed in the morning is "Kitties? Kitties?"
Dan and I have started to explain to her that the kitties won't always live with us, that someday they will go to... "college"!! (yes, we are terrible cowards and don't have the heart to tell her they will ...die). They might even study internationally ... right? (wink, wink) =0)
All of this history/back story is information you need in order to adequately understand and appreciate what ensued at Brighten Corner on Christmas Eve 2010...
It was an ordinary Friday morning, the day before Christmas. I was checking email and responding to all the holiday greetings. Dan and Kylie had made their way down our winding staircase to wake up the kitties for the day. I hear Kylie's sweet baby voice sing "Kitties! Wake up!" and then "Well, there you are! Hi Tigger!"
Scooter is always slower to emerge than Tigger and seems to need more beauty sleep, so it was not surprising that he did not make his appearance right away. Kylie
Long story short... Scooter never appeared. Dan began to search for Scooter. We don't let our cats outdoors, but Dan looked outside in case someone had accidently let him out. He looked under beds, in closets, behind the furniture and under the Christmas tree. What started as a casual search, soon took on a more urgent tone. Dan searched the garage, looked at the snow for paw prints, checked the front porch, moved boxes in the basement that haven't been moved in years. He even checked the dryer (ooh yuck!)
He couldn't find Scooter and finally discussed with me that Scooter might have gone to "College"- it would be the only explanation of why he couldn't find him. I assured Dan that cats just don't disappear and reminded him that he has a (much documented - I can provide numerous examples) history of not seeing things that are RIGHT IN FRONT of (if it were a snake it would bite him) his face!
Dan continued to search and the longer that time passed without finding him, my stomach started to feel like butterflies were in it. I feared that Dan was probably right and Scooter was probably quite immersed in pursuing his "college degree". He had most likely joined a fraternity, majored in aviation and, by now, was on his way to earning his wings (anyone else hear the little bell tinkle?).
Even if Scooter HAD gone to "college", we needed to find the "furry evidence" that confirmed it.
We continued to search - hours crept by and still there was NO Scooter! I finally suggested to Dan that we take a break. The search was making our Christmas Eve depressing and this was NOT how I wanted to remember this Christmas Eve. My husband was completely befuddled and agreed to take a break. I kept thinking about how we were going to "sell" the "going to college" story to Kylie so she wouldn't be upset about it.... would we send care packages?? write letters?? either way, it was going to be ridiculous and NOT going to be fun.
I decided to get dressed for the day and began by brushing my teeth, washing my face and performing all the general primping/makeup applying that goes with the territory of being a female. We don't have a linen closet (one of the areas of "character" in our home), so we, instead, store our linens in a large cupboard under the powder room sink.
Dan was talking to me and Kylie was busy
I couldn't believe it! We had spent hours looking for him! We have no idea how he got into the cupboard, but there he was - cuddled up on Kylie's princess beach towel!! We were all scurrying around as he slept peacefully unaware of the havoc his lack of presence had created.
Later in the day, as I replayed the events that had happened earlier in our home, I couldn't help but think of a time many years ago when another search was heavy underway: The search for a baby that was prophesied to be King of kings and Lord of lords.
It was a happy search: The Magi from the east arriving to worship the King baby. Their faithful belief and a strategically placed star led them to the One they had put their hope in and whom they had relentlessly sought.
After all that time and all that travel, we learn that they had planned in advance how they would celebrate and welcome the King: with gifts! They came bearing gifts that were planned, purposeful and that communicated their reverence, respect, and honor to the newly arrived Savior.
What impresses me about these great men was that they used their position of leadership, influence, and worth to set the example for mankind as to what our response should be to this miraculous phenomenon: seeking Him, feeling overwhelming joy at finding Him, worshipping Him, honoring Him, and giving in His name.
Not only did they give the Christ child gifts, but they gave what was symbolic, purposeful, meaningful and valuable to them - simply because the child, King Jesus, was worthy of nothing less.
I love meaningful gifts for just this reason. All gifts are wonderful, but they are best when they can be used to tell a story. Stories are a window into the soul; they create a bond and a friendship like no other. And what a story this is!! The gifts you choose communicate to a person whether or not you really know them.
I often wonder about Mary and Joseph and what it must have been like to have world leaders arrive on their doorstep to adore and dote on their child. If it had been 2010, digital photos would have been taken and placed on Bethlehem's facebook page post haste! Was this a moment in time that Mary "treasured in her heart?" Did she write to her family and share all that had transpired?
I also wonder if Mary had taught Jesus how to say "Thank You" by then? I'm sure she had, but wouldn't it have been something to hear him say it?? Would it have sounded like ..."Fank Yu"? Would he have given them each a sticky, candy cane hug and baby kiss?
You see, Jesus came to earth fully human, while yet still being God. He came so that we could see, and touch and EXPERIENCE Him in a way that our limited brain could wrap itself around. Jesus became even more approachable and accessible by coming to us. He didn't meet us halfway, he came all the way!
Unlike Scooter, who did not budge or come when we called his name (a thousand times), and who grumbled and complained when we disturbed him, Jesus is always here for us. He wants our companionship, our honesty, and wants to share in our life happenings. If we seek Him, He can be found.
I could never walk this road of Autism without Him by my side. He holds me up when I am exhausted from a day of meltdowns, he gathers me in his arms when I can't bear any more news, he loves me when I am least lovable, and he is the best listener when I need to vent. He holds my hand when I walk down a scary or unknown path, He bandages every broken heart and he guides every decision that I make. He is with me when people don't understand Kylie's behavior or when I have to explain to other children about why Kylie does the things she does. I don't have to do my hair or wear makeup for him, I can go to him in my footy pajamas or in my evening dinner gown. I can eat beef or pork or chicken or go on a grapefruit diet for all he cares. I can wear flip flops in the winter, watch reality TV AND wear socks on my arms when I play volleyball (don't ask) =0)
The bottom line is this... and it is so simple...He loves me (and you) just the way we are. He asks nothing of us, other than a place in our life and a relationship with us. He offers everyone the gift of himself and we simple have to unwrap it and accept it.
I hope you will accept Jesus' precious gift this Christmas season because He promises that...
If you seek Him, you will find Him, when you search for Him with all your heart
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!
|Kylie playing dress up with Tigger- love the accessories!|