Sunday, December 22, 2013

Milk, Cookies, and Miracles

Had a friend tell me once that there was "milk and cookies on the other side" of the battle I was facing.

Sounds cute, huh?

It was far more than cute.

See, I'm not talking about one of those trivial day to day things that we like to deem as a battle on any given day of the week.  The battle I was facing was big.

I'm talking real-deal, on-my-knees, only-GOD-can-handle-this-because-I'm-dying-here kind of battle.

I found my solace in Romans 8:28 and Jeremiah 29:11.

I had to keep things simple and my brain could not quite wrap around more than that for a while.

Romans 8:28 promised that God would take all of the junk in my world and use it for my good and His glory.

Jeremiah 29:11 said simply that He had a plan for me and it was good.

The combo assured me that I would not die standing up to the battle, but that God definitely had MORE for me than regressing into that same battle over and over again.

Those verses told me that He had a purpose for me... and I needed to hear that.... because, quite frankly,  I had forgotten that I had a purpose beyond surviving day to day.

Eventually I branched out and Ephesians 3:20-21 became my constant reminder that when I released my clenched fists, God would fill them up with more joy than I could possibly imagine.

His plan was to take the tired, beaten down woman that I had become and renew my mind and heart with HIS joy.

I couldn't imagine how He might pull that off, but I had a mustard seed of faith left that told me He would be true to His word.

Nehemiah 8:10 reminded me that the JOY of the Lord was my strength and that I didn't have to have strength on my own.  Like everything else in my life, HE would provide.  I just needed to be willing to allow Him to do so.

So, I made a decision with wise counsel and my God about that battle (you know- the one I mentioned earlier).  I made a decision... prayerfully and focused on what God had for me.  It felt good for a moment.

And then, guess what?

Then it didn't.

I doubted myself immediately.

Big doubt.

Bigger than me.

Bigger than the supporters around me.

... and the doubt FELT bigger than God.

((Yikes.  That's a terrible sounding truth, but it's just how it felt.))

So, I told God that.

And guess what?

He didn't take me off heaven's roster for eternity.

There were no lightning bolts that zapped me from the face of the earth, either.

He kept talking with me... and He just stepped in a little bit closer by sending one of His kids.

"Don't quit 5 minutes before the miracle."

That's what she told me.

Whatever you do, just don't quit 5 minutes before YOUR miracle.

She said it enough that I started receiving it... and I didn't quit.

And I didn't die on that battlefield...

And I'm here.

Years later I'm sitting on my couch on the other side of the battle with milk and cookies in hand...  and I've seen the miracle.

Let me rephrase that... I've seen the MIRACLES.

Tonight, I felt like someone needed to hear that and to know this is just for them.

My words to you are simple....

Lean in... listen to the Godly counsel around you (and choose that counsel carefully).

Talk to God even when you don't want to (He's big enough for your angry, sad, mad, and tired moments).

Keep things simple (4 verses were all I could handle back then).

Don't quit before your miracle.

My PROMISE to you is this...

I'll save some milk and cookies for you.

It would be my distinct honor to do so.

Even better, though?

God's promise.  

He's not going anywhere.

You'll never walk alone and He has plenty of miracles to spare.

In fact, He has one JUST FOR YOU.

Don't miss it because you are fighting life's battles on your own.

He is your Advocate.

He's your Attorney.

He's your Physician.

He's your Best Friend.

Ask Him to walk with you.

Milk, cookies, and miracles are waiting.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Elf on the Shelfers- We Need To Talk

I've wrestled over whether I should bring this message to you.  Really, I have.

The fact is, though, there are some things that need to be said.

For the sake of every elf ...

So that your kitchen has a chance of looking more like this...

And less like this...

And for the love of all things red and green and sparkly ...

Do NOT stop reading.

As uncomfortable as this may be, we have to go here.

It's quite possible that you are an Elf Micro-Manager.

Not sure?  Go look at your elf.

Is it making snow angels in a pile of flour?

Writing messages on your bathroom mirror in snow?

Got it's head stuck in a bag of M&M's?

Now... did YOU put your elf in that position?

That's what I thought.

I'm definitely talking to you.

As much as you've decorated your efforts, you are part of the problem, my friend.

And as precious as I'm sure that you are, you are just one of a group of rebels who didn't read the book that came with your elf.   (I mean, come on! I always hear you complaining of how your "children don't come with an instruction manual," but then you get an elf that DOES come with one... and you don't read it.  That's cute.)

As I think you'll agree, we have a lot of work to do here.

Problem: You are one of the parents who TOUCHES your elf.

The book specifically says that touching elves has a side effect of lost magic.
Just who gave you the right to interfere with North Pole creativity and magic?!  

See, your elves have written to me.  They have filed North Pole HR complaints.  

They are DONE with your shenanigans.

And the Big Guy is on alert, too!  They've begged Santa to just let them continue making toys... to NOT promote them to the shelf in your home.

Know why?

Because you're freaking them out.

(How ya' feeling now, Boss?)

You spend a month every year robbing your elf of its dignity.

Every single time you set them up in a marshmallow bubble bath in the bathroom sink, a North Pole Elf quits its day job.  For real.

You are creating statistics... little Robo-Elves who know how to do what they're told, but have no mind or magic of their own.

Admitting that you have a problem is the first big step, though.

There is hope and it comes in the form of "Elf Parents."

Yeah... that's those parents who some of you have been calling "slackers."

Or maybe you were too refined to go there and you just peeked down your nose at them as you made your poor elf repel from the ceiling fan in the great room?

Yeah.  Don't think that Santa didn't see that that. (You may have quit believing, but he never quit watchin', dude.)

Anyway, the relaxed parents ... I want you to study them.

I want you to see what I see. 

I see hope and the future of young elves and the elves we've yet to meet.

I see promise as that group of parents faithfully allows North Pole grads to fulfill their elf destiny without interference.

Their elves may not arrive until December 23rd and they may not leave again until Valentine's Day, but these pillars of of parenting strength are willing to allow the learning curve.

They are willing to be ridiculed in their parenting styles in order to create elves with passion and purpose.

They don't allow the pressures of the world to conform the lives of their elves.

The result?

When their elf decides to go to move from the kitchen to the den, your Facebook feed is about to get slammed by the celebratory posts.

They aren't creating productions, so they get to see the moments and enjoy them for all that they are.

So chill out.

Stop freaking your elves out.

Start speaking the language of hope to the elves in your care.

They need you to stop with the marshmallows.  

They are begging you to put away the shaving creme and fake razors (because seriously- they are like 5 and you're making them shave!).

They are seriously tired of getting blamed for the laundry that you threw all over the den.

I just saw one of them tweet, "Your Mama don't work here" to their elf owner.

Take the hint.

Breathe in YOUR invitation to freedom as you hand your elf back theirs.

Merry Christmas.

Happy New Year.

Your life is your own again... and elves everywhere just got promoted with a smile.

How ya' feeling NOW, Boss? :)

©Christie Aitken, 2013
Twitter: @ChristieAitken 
Google+: +Christie Aitken 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Changing the Labels and Painting Pictures of Choice

If you've known me or read my blog for long, you know that I believe in finding the silver lining in everything.

EVERYTHING.  Even autism.

When we received our diagnosis, I was relieved.

Some people cry when their child is diagnosed.  I did not.  I said, "Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you." Then I cried tears of joy on the 2 hour drive home.

You know why?  Because it explained things.  After years of living, testing, and doing life differently (but never knowing why), it explained what my heart knew and what our lives had experienced.

It explained the spinning that just wouldn't stop in the middle of my den... and why it made my little one so happy.

It explained the fact that my child was a track star... and that the race was always ready to start, but I might not get notification of the when, where, and why.  It was a heads up that I might want to ditch the strappy heels and get comfy in my running shoes.

It explained those moments that looked like a tantrum that were really caused by communication needs bubbling up.  Communication needs that were screaming for help from an adult that understood were reporting for duty, but we didn't speak the same language.  It explained that I needed to not only BE that adult, but teach others to be the same... and to ensure I placed my child only with adults who WANTED TO BE that kind of adult in his life.

It explained why our life was a little bit different than that of everyone else.

It was almost a signed, sealed, and delivered stamp of approval saying, "It's okay.  We understand... and we get it.  You are right where you're supposed to be."

It explained why life could appear to be so normal one moment and then be so NOT the next.

Beyond all of those things, though, the journey to our diagnosis opened my eyes.

It opened my eyes to what the definition of normal really is and why it's not my place to stamp my flavor of normal on your life... or for you to stamp yours on mine.

It made me look at "out of control kids" and their "ridiculous parents" differently... and it made me want to hug their parents instead of judging them.

And if a hug was not timely or appropriate (because often, it is not), then it made me want to giving a knowing smile or a helping hand.

It also made me want to dropkick stupid labels like that, too.... because they are the breeding of pure ignorance.  (Ain't nobody got time for that. :)  Right?)

It made me more human than I ever thought I could be.  The veil of pseudo-perfectionism was lifted and the masks were chunked to the side....

Because this kind of journey doesn't allow for such pretentiousness.

It slowed me down and streamlined my life to a degree that this overachiever never thought was possible... or necessary...

And in slowing me down, this journey taught me that IT WAS necessary.

My kids, just like any other kids, were CRAVING time to just be kids.

Autism made sure that we allowed for that.

So, why do I call it "our" diagnosis?

The autism spectrum is a place where not just one family member is diagnosed.  Granted, one receives the diagnosis, but everyone close to them receives the gift of doing life differently.

Every person in the family learns how to switch plans at a moment's notice because it's best for the greater good.  Team Players are not optional- they are like oxygen- and we all benefit right now and long term from this valuable skill set.

11 year old children learn to fill out a check in the grocery store line because Mommy's hands are loving another teammate who is overwhelmed by the bright lights of the grocery store or the fact that the cashier just put their favorite marshmallows into a bag with the potato chips.

They learn to write a check... and they gain independence that they never would have had otherwise.  They learn to rise up and gradually become the leaders that God always created them to be... and then to fall back into moments where they are just their age... and so childlike in spirit.

They are proof that autism only robs us of life if we allow it... and they are teachers in receiving only the gifts that it offers.

37 year old parents who've considered themselves fully self sufficient for a lifetime learn how to utter the words, "I need help" to complete strangers, because they know they can't do this journey on their own.

They ask for help... and the world becomes a little more compassionate, and in turn, a better place.  Their walls crumble and the world becomes more knowledgeable as they experience life of another.

5 year old troopers learn how to say, "Take me home" when they can't explain what is wrong, but know that the moment is too much.

They state their needs... and their families learn to be grateful for the cue instead of trying to push them beyond their capabilities for that moment.  These children who have been labeled as having a "language based disorder" become brilliant communicators-  sometimes without even saying a word.  Miracles happen here... if you are watching for them.

I'm writing this today for me, but I hope it helps you, too.

You see, sometimes I forget about autism when things are going well.

I get used to white picket fence living for a moment and I just plain forget about the intricacies of autism.

I forget until all hell breaks loose in the middle of the local grocery store... all because we've spent the day doing stuff that the average American family does with no problem.  SO much fun in the moment (for all of us), but at the end of the day, our sensory cups were depleted and full... because autism can pull that off.

Although we've been trusted by God himself, autism is like a pop test that is always lingering.  If you allow it to, the anxiety surrounding it will deplete you.  It will keep you at home, because of "what if's".  It can steal your life in a moment's notice... and then you GET TO remember that you're chosen.  You are the teacher and the whole world is a classroom... a classroom with students that need the lesson that only your family can give.

And every now and then, you bump into another teacher... and it's life changing.  (Yes, you can fall into their arms and have a good cry.  They will cry through the tough times with you and they'll lift you up for the next lesson to be taught.)

I forget until my little love tells me, "I can't draw candy canes.  Mine are bad" after I tell him that I love his work... and then will continue arguing the point in his own way, because he knows that his work is different than that of his peers.

THIS is when I cry.  An autism diagnosis doesn't bring me to my knees, but a moment like this does.

The moment reminds me to actively show him all that he DOES DO that is beautiful...

To remind him of the smiles that he brings that no one else can bring...

To give him a license to make the world smile because of all that God created him for...

And to remember that God allowed autism into our life as a TOOL to teach the world.

While I don't believe God caused autism, I believe that He allowed it because He knew that THIS CHILD could change the world.

What a blessing to be his Mommy and that God trusted me with this journey.

I forget until I have to just check out of the world for a day- church included- because I have nothing left to give and am not quite sure I can receive, either.  I can't explain it, but I intuitively know that the only thing I can do to be okay by Monday at 5 a.m. is to take a day to insert TLC into my family and put a "Closed" sign on the door for the rest of the world to see.

And, you know what?  God smiles at me on those days.  Because He knows.

He told me to, "Be still and know that I am God."

He told me, "Come to Me all who are weary, and I will give you rest."

He told me, "Do not be anxious about anything," because He would make "all things work together for my good."

I started this blog by calling it "The Not So Happy Side of Autism."  I was going to vent and then delete it.

But I've changed it's label and I  hope you'll use it to change the labels in your life, too-- whether they are autism or not.

You haven't been dealt a hand that God has given you to see how you'll handle it.  That's just not how He works.

He only allows things to touch your life when He knows that He can bring you bigger blessings through them and those will allow Him to use you to change the world through.

Your family has been trusted by the Creator of the Universe to take something that's REALLY, really tough and use it to change the world.

You may not see it right now, but trust me that He's true to His word.

Whether you believe in Him or not, believe that I believe... and I've seen him change "not so happy" into "highly favored."

Logging off now to decorate our world with calm, watch Good Luck Charlie, roast marshmallows, and pull toilet paper out of our trees from last night (War Eagle!).

Choose to see your blessings.  Sometimes they start with the things that bring you to your knees, but sometimes they could come in no other way.

Feeling blessed and highly favored.  I hope you'll paint your world in a bit of the same.

©Christie Aitken, 2013
Twitter: @ChristieAitken 
Google+: +Christie Aitken 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

{{An Open Letter to Auburn}}

Dear Auburn,

You've got the whole nation talking... (well, that and writing "open letters" on Facebook, but I digress).

I should say that among all of those letters, I'm REALLY digging the letter to Alabama's kicker.  I believe it to be so much more representative of our in-state rivals than the one above.

So, although this letter isn't to you, Bama fans, here's a virtual high five for supporting your guy.  #ThatRocks


Back to you, Auburn...

The last open letter to you was in the Wall Street Journal, and you answered it definitively through an on-the-field response.  

It occurred to me that it's been a few minutes since Auburn had a pen pal.

So, here I am. 

As you know, most of the nation sees you as the Team of Miracles.

Others believe that 4 leaf clovers line the locker room at Jordan Hare or that the "magic" they've seen is clearly connected to the Singer on the Sidelines.  (Pssst! Just in case there's something to that sewing thing, bring it on to ATL.  It's not crazy if it works.)

Then there are the naysayers who believe that the lightning seen during the Georgia and Alabama defeats could never strike more than twice. 

There are so many voices shouting their own personal football truth... 

.    .    .    .    .

But, then there's us...

and WE KNOW the truth.

Who are we?

We're the student section that cheers you on in the face of a certain loss... and helps you turn it into a bigger-than-life win. 

We're the ones who've donned orange and blue on the Monday after a loss because we'd rather be for Auburn on a bad day than for any other team on a good one.

We're the grads who just keep coming back-- year after year after year-- so that our kids will know and love all that is Auburn... and then bring their kids back to love it, too.

We're the ones who've rolled Toomer's Corner until it resembled a Charmin's ad on steroids.

And if we couldn't make it to the The Plains for some reason? We're the ones who let the kids create a Toomer's Home Edition in the front yard.  

We're the ones who didn't let the hatred of one man ruin our love for the SEC, Auburn tradition, or our team...

And the ones who took those moments of hate and turned them into a reason to continue celebrating the Auburn that we love. 

Most of all, though?  

We're the ones who see the miracle that is YOU.

Beyond all of the media frenzy and fanfare of this amazing season, we believe you've been chosen for a moment such as this.
We believe you're far too busy playing ball to ever read this letter (and we love that!).

We believe that when you wake up each day, you are PROUD to wear the Auburn name.

We believe that you know the privilege of walking onto the field at Jordan Hare or ANY OTHER FIELD wearing that name... and that you'll always give it the honor that it's due.

We believe that our miracles aren't confined to the field at Jordan Hare, because our miracle is IN YOU.

We're the ones who say, "I believe in Auburn and love it!"... 

and we're the ones who mean it with every fiber of our being.

Have miracles.  

Will travel.  

See you in Atlanta.  

As you were, 



©Christie Aitken, 2013
Twitter: @ChristieAitken 
Google+: +Christie Aitken