We use this word to describe the big events in life. From baby steps to potty training, starting school to getting a driver’s license, graduation to college…those are the normal milestones of our lives and the ones we mark with our children.
Enter the birth of a curly-headed little boy back in 1992.
As our son Garrett matured, milestones were no longer predictable. As any parent of a child with special needs can testify, our expectations did some seismic shifting. Accomplishments occurred at longer intervals and may or may not have included the typical things that were celebrated by other children. Often, they did not.
So when AWESOMENESS happens in his life, I have to share the good news.
When Garrett finally learned to tie his shoe, spell his name, or ride a bike…it was big. It was HUGE. I wanted to announce it with fireworks and paparazzi! Instead we clapped and cheered and bragged about him like every other parent. Sometimes, I blogged. If you’d like to read about Garrett’s school/graduation experience, you can read about it here.
The term ‘milestone’ denotes a regular rhythm of occurring events. As in: every so often we mark this eventful mile we’ve journeyed with a selfie and–if it’s truly a biggie–maybe a scrapbook. Not to belittle those wonderful incidents that the average person holds dear. I have three daughters that have lived through most of the aforementioned milestones and, yes, we celebrated, and high-fived, and (for graduation) got the scrapbook made. They are beautiful memories and, to be honest, we have grieved the loss of those regular occasions with our son.
But the infrequency of landmark-moments for those with special needs deserves a better moniker than milestone, in my opinion. Ebenezer seems like a better fit. Not the Scrooge-variety Ebenezer but the Bible-variety. It is a word found in 1 Samuel that means “stone of help”. After the Israelites triumphed over the Philistines in battle, the prophet Samuel set up a large “stone of help” to remember the Israelite’s victory. When God’s people looked upon that stone, it would cause them to remember that it was by the Lord’s great help that they had come that far. It was an acknowledgment of God’s provision and blessings in their life.
So this blogpost is going to be my Ebenezer.
TODAY. Today marked a very important day in the FitzGerald household.
This morning I drove Garrett and all of his earthly belongings to a group residence where he will begin a life of independence. He is officially rooming with five other young men of similar abilities. Instead of three sisters, he now has five big brothers. He will be going to Goodwill each day to a life-skills training program, washing all of his own clothes, cooking one meal a week for himself and the guys, playing Xbox, and hanging out in a pretty cool living room plastered with Dallas Cowboys posters.
I dropped him off this morning and I will not pick him up this afternoon.
We have been through hell and back, in many ways, these past two years. Mental illness reared its ugly head and knocked us flat. Ripped the oxygen out of our lungs and left us grasping to get back to the “easy” life with autism. The idiosyncrasies of autism were a picnic compared to the sudden and devastating onset of mental illness.
And yet it was through this time in the wilderness, through the hospital stays and medicine, through the sleepless nights and being asked to leave dayhab for behavior problems that we arrived at the doorstep of Garrett’s new home this morning!
Friends, I hope our story will be an encouragement to you in whatever hardship you are facing. Our trials with autism are not worse than your trials of being childless or losing your job or the death of a loved one. Pain wounds us no matter how it manifests itself in our lives. Click & Tweet! But when we allow God to use that pain for His purposes we can endure it with hope. Pain doesn’t get the last word. Our heavenly Father does. Click & Tweet!
We don’t get to see the end of the story, let alone the next chapter. We don’t know when a plot twist will leave us devastated or overcome with joy. Although this current chapter may be filled with tests and darkness, and maybe the next chapter and the one after that will be just as awful–but they will ultimately serve a purpose in our lives if we trust God and walk in gratitude and hope.
Not that I’m a shining example of this. But I’m learning.
After Garrett was asked to leave the dayhab he attended we were pretty discouraged. What do you with a 24 year old young man on a daily basis? There’s just not enough stuff to keep him occupied at home. And he can’t be left on his own for long so he mostly did whatever I did, convenient or not.
I called one of the agencies that advocates for special needs clients and said, “Help!” They pointed us to two workshop/dayhab programs that Garrett could try on a three day trial basis. The first day, at the first workshop, we were asked if Garrett might be interested in living in a group home.
Um. Yeah. But that’s sort of like winning the lottery. Practically impossible from what I hear.
The lady explained that just that morning she found out about an opening in a home with guys that are similar in abilities to Garrett. In the best sort of plot-twist ever, Garrett is now living in that very home! Crazy, right? What we thought was another blow to Garrett’s adult life became a springboard of blessing.
I’m still processing.
And he still needs our prayers and guidance.
If you think about him, or me, or us, would you kindly ask the Father to help Garrett have the spirit of self-control? In 30 days we are going to meet with the staff and see if this move is permanent. He has already stayed at this home, briefly, to see if he was a good fit. He had issues but none that seemed too daunting for them to take him on.
Like all of us, Garrett is a work in progress. His shortcomings are just a little more in-your-face than our own. He needs compliance, initiative, and the ability to get up early and get ready. Little things for most of us.
Milestones for him.
We are so thankful for the Lord’s provision in Garrett’s and our life. As I packed his things and made him a lunch to bring today, my heart felt so full.
Full of wonder. Full of hope. And, to be honest, full of anxiety.
Will this really work out?
Only God knows. I must continue to cast my cares upon the Lord and trust His goodness and purposes for Garrett, and us, no matter the outcome.
For today, I move forward as an almost empty-nester. With two adult daughters at home that lead busy lives–and have lived abroad and plan to do so again–it is often going to be only my husband and myself. Since he’s hilarious and gorgeous and my best friend, I’m kind of excited about this.
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. If we want to be spontaneous, we can book a hotel without a second thought of how to take care of Garrett’s needs while we’re away.
Hmmm . . . Tempting!
What seemingly negative circumstances have become a blessing in your life? Please comment and share your story with me!