Bright Lights

A few days ago when I went to pick up Jacob, he was slow to get in the van. Kept circling it, tried to open the doors of the car parked next to me, just generally taking his sweet time. At one point, I said, “come on Jacob, get in, we’re going to go see Christmas lights tonight.” That was simple. He hopped right in. A staff member who witnessed this, even commented about I had said the magic words. (Too bad that won’t be an option again until next December.)

As promised, we took Jacob riding to look at lights. Leaving home, he wanted the DVD playing to watch a movie but was a good sport when reminded the purpose of the trip.

None of my pictures are like seeing the displays with your own eyes, but I’m only sharing to show a little of what brings my boy joy. These are within a few miles of our home.

He smiled and sang and twisted around to look again. It was about a two hour car ride that gave him many more minutes of memories to dream about.

Frankly, we have very few lights in and outside our home at Christmas. Jacob does have some lights in his room year ’round but it seems like the ones designated to Christmas decor never work like they are supposed to. In turn, we get terribly frustrated at what is supposed to be fun.

I’ve said the devil is in those strands of Christmas lights because they give us fits and bring out the worst in us! (It’s no wonder when you think about it though, devil and darkness go hand in hand!) And while I joke about satan’s role in the lights, remember only Christ brings the true light of CHRISTmas.

I cannot imagine having thousands, maybe millions, of lights to ‘take care of’ each year. Check for blown fuses, loose wires, clean connections, install/hang/inflate, run extension cords, weather proof, etc. It’s a job that takes months!! I can imagine this though, if you are one of those that has made it your yearly tradition to share the joy through lights, you deserve a major award in my books!! The lights cost you time and money. And probably some frustrations as well. But oh how they bring smiles for days to young and old.

Thank you for bringing bright lights in all colors, shapes, and sizes to Jacob’s life.

The Wonder of Christmas

That’s a phrase we hear often. And while Christmas can feel and seem magical to most anyone, wonder makes me think of a child’s excitement, their bright eyes, the element of surprise.

And even though we have a ‘man child’ and sometimes my expectations are that Jacob will exhibit that wonder, often Christmas comes with disappointment because it doesn’t feel like anything special for him. LINK: https://problemfreephilosophy.blog/2018/12/27/preconceived-christmas/

The church we have attended for years, just celebrated 50 years of their Christmas production. FIFTY! It is one of those ‘can’t miss’ events for our area. It became so popular early on, that they have 5 presentations over 3 days to accommodate the crowds, even though the Sanctuary seats over 2000 people.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, crowds and Jacob don’t mix. But after seeing the Christmas program in the early 80s, we felt sure he would enjoy it. It is a mixture of secular songs, garland and twinkling lights, enormous Christmas trees, time tested Carols, and always a nativity scene depicting the birth of Jesus.

At some point, a choir member friend suggested we bring Jacob to dress rehearsal. While it might not be as smooth as the first ticketed performance, he’d be able to experience a beautiful program catering to all the things he loves. And for several years, we did just that. And it never bothered him, or us, even once if they had to stop for a do-over of a certain piece. Jacob could squeal with delight or self stem and no one would notice or care.

Not surprising when anything good helps others, word of mouth spreads to the ease of attending dress rehearsal. The church became intentional about making that night easier for those that would have trouble standing in a line for an hour and sitting on a crowded pew. Senior adults and special needs folks were some of the main people a dress rehearsal’s atmosphere would welcome.

However, dress rehearsal started to get crowded and we started asking ourselves if it was still a good option. This year, Mike had the idea to take Jacob but sit up in the balcony. Obviously, it might not be ideal seating for some folks. I was even skeptical that Jacob could enjoy and feel all the excitement. But was open minded enough for us to give it a try. And I am so glad I did!! It was PERFECT! In all the years we have taken Jacob, he enjoyed it the most and so did we. There were a few times in the past, that we’d have to leave early. Not this night. It felt like this 270 voice choir was singing to an audience of ONE—my one and only Jacob.

Christmas with Jacob can be hard. Sad. Frustrating. Different. But that evening made it one of the best ever. It was happy and magical and filled with wonder.

He was mesmerized. I can’t explain the feeling of joy in my heart as I watched him watch the program. And what a program it was!! Toy soldiers, candles, ballerinas, trumpets, a bagpipe, shepherds, a manger, baby Jesus. Over 60 in the orchestra with that many on the drama team as well. It was spectacular in it’s presentation and simple in it’s message. Jesus came to earth, our greatest Christmas gift.

I was so proud of Jacob. I do believe I was the most relaxed I’ve ever been in a public place because he had his own space. The only moment he even started to fidget was when the pastor spoke briefly about the Christmas story. Jacob caught my eye and was waving toward the platform as if to say, “enough of that, get on with the show. MORE MUSIC!”

The show ended with a powerful rendition of Amazing Grace! Jesus came to offer us HIS amazing grace. May your heart embrace the greatest gift ever given this Christmas.

A Walk in the Park

Park, make that Parking Lot. That afternoon, as I approached the parking lot of Jacob’s day program, I saw commotion toward the right side. As I slowed to turn in, I realized the commotion was my son and two staffers. They were basically trying to keep him safe and out of the street. I pulled in, threw the van in PARK, rolled the window down, and opened the sliding door. “Hey Jacob, you need a ride?”

I went on to ask what was going on and one lady said Jacob had wanted to go for a walk. And walk they did, taking a stroll all over, spanning two small parking lots. In buildings and around buildings. He had enjoyed the sunshine, twirling and singing. With ‘body guards’ on each side, as it can take two staff members to constantly redirect him away from the street.

As I stopped, Jacob got in the van as if he was ready to go home. But, rather than sit down, he exited out the other side door! I jumped out and one of the other ladies quickly tried to catch him. He moved between cars, again toward the street. Arms jerking and elbows flying.

I had a hard time getting a good grasp of his arm to get him back to the van. On his own, he moved toward the vehicle fairly quickly. And opened the passenger front door. That was not an option. LINK: https://problemfreephilosophy.blog/2019/08/08/driving-under-the-influence-2/

I explained that we were going home but we’d take him riding in just a little while. (This was true. Hi dad and I had already discussed an errand that would take us riding for about an hour.)

He climbed in the van and allowed me to engage the safety lock on his seat belt and we headed home. It was a wild few minutes that ended on a good note. But the what ifs lasted a little longer.

Some days, Jacob likes to go on a walk. Exploring. I’m thankful he can enjoy those moments! I just always have to be at the ready not knowing what he has in mind for the ride home.

As promised, we got to go on a long ride and he was happy the entire time. And so was I!

Precious in His Sight

This Christmas memory is from 2017 but is a lesson that bears repeating.

Our two youngest grands chose to stay with us a few days during their Christmas break. We did all kinds of things and had a lot of fun.

One afternoon we met cousins at the theater and saw the movie, They Followed the Star. That night I was getting Savannah to bed and laid down with her to say goodnight. She was in a chatty mood and quickly the conversation turned to Jacob. She told me that sometimes she is nervous around him and went on to remind me about a time he scared her. She was with me that day. I knew exactly what happened. I saw her frightened face and heard her cries. Oh how I hoped she had forgotten the incident, but it was still in her memory.

We talked about how brave she was then and still is, and how it is okay to have those feelings. I gave her assurance of our presence/protection. As best I could, I tried to explain how Jacob has a harder time expressing his needs, his wants, when he is in pain, or when he is afraid.

I talked about how God made us all different. “I don’t know why God chose me to be Jacob’s mom or us to be his family or why He made Jacob like he is, but, it was part of His plan.” Sweet S (then 8 years old) said, ‘Mary & Joseph wondered why God chose them to be parents to Jesus, too. Just like God made us different, we can all serve God in different ways.’

I have to tell ya—what I thought was going to be a sweet goodnight hug and kiss, turned into a most wonderful Christmas gift. Snuggled beside her in the dark, tears streamed down my face. She gets it. A tender, compassionate heart. Combined with discernment beyond her years.

It is hard to know my son has hurt or scared people. And, unfortunately, he will again in attempts to communicate. I never want anyone to be afraid of Jacob but sometimes his actions make others want to run the other way. And yet, God can use a painful time to bring awareness and understanding.

May we all choose to not focus on the differences that scare us but on how we can serve the perfect ONE who made us all precious in His sight.