Sunday, November 13, 2011

Blessings

This morning started out like any other Sunday morning. Pamela and I headed to Sunday school class with a devotional about the hymn Count Your Blessings printed out. Our class has spent the summer studying hymns, their history, their meaning, and their impact on the lives of people. The author of this hymn was a retail and insurance salesman and, if he had time to compose 5,000 gospel songs, he probably had many down cycles in his work life. In the class discussion, I brought up how people can be going through similar circumstances with very different outlooks on life. I gave the example of autism and how some families become bitter and angry while others find blessings in disguise. What helps me do the latter is to keep my focus on God, not circumstances.

Right now, Steve is working in Kansas, so we do not get to spend as much time with him as we would like. His absence has unfolded a disguised blessing for us. While I am in the choir room practicing and sitting with the choir until the sermon begins, Pamela sits in the pew alone. If Steve were there, his careful vigilance would prevent her from doing something distracting and the people around her would miss the joy she brings to the service. Here are the blessings I am counting today:
  • Before the service began, one of the elders gave Pamela a happy meal toy. He knows she is on a special diet, so he collects toys to give to her from time to time. She smiled and told him, "That's a good one!"
  • She sat in the same pew as our associate pastor's family. Today, his wife was caring for their four-year-old granddaughter. Pamela sat next to the girl, sweetly held her hand, and kissed it. When asked about the little girl at lunch, Pamela told me, "We're friends."
  • She exuberantly and loudly recited "The Lord's Prayer." There was a time when reciting in unison with a large group was impossible because Pamela found it difficult to time her actions with others. Today, she was just a hair's breadth behind everyone else, which meant I heard her from the choir. After everyone said, "Amen," she bellowed, "AMEN!" So many people came to me after the service to share how inspiring they find her recitation. "If only we all could recite like we really mean it."
  • With Steve gone, Pamela has taken the responsibility of turning in our offering envelop. Pamela was so excited she stood up as soon as the deacons headed down the aisle, got tired of waiting, sat down, and then stood up again. "If only we all could give with such joy."
What strikes me most is not only the small miracles I see in Pamela, but it how people respond to her. I have read stories that break my heart about how poorly God's people treat families with special needs. Our kids can be awkward. Their behaviors disrupt the well-oiled machine of church ritual. They remind us that God doesn't always heal the way we want.

My church family really does get Ephesians 3:17-18, which our pastor quoted in his sermon today. They delight in sharing sweet moments with Pamela and telling me about them later. They see the blessings in what Pamela does, not the distractions. The "wide and long and his and deep" love of Christ pours out of their hearts when they see her doing something atypical.

I will not deny that sometimes life with autism is difficult beyond belief. On days like that, blessings are next to impossible to see. Just as life inspires the great truths in hymns of yesteryear, the ups and downs of life inspire hymns being written today. If you are having one of those days, I encourage you to warm yourself with your favorite hot beverage and read the story behind the song, Blessings. Singer-songwriter Laura Story may not know autism but she knows how to see blessings in the most difficult of circumstances.
Ephesians 3:17-18 And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

2 comments:

Di said...

Tammy, I loved this post so much. You brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye! I love that you counted all the blessings. Thank you for reminding me that blessings are there and that we must just grab them with both hands and cherish them. Sorry to be so gushy!!

Stephanie said...

This is a lovely post. You have a wonderful church community, and Pamela is lucky to have a family who respects and honors her just as she is. That's an incredible blessing whether someone is NT or not. :-)