This was “our” promotion Sunday....
At our church...the promotion Sunday for everyone was last week...but we decided to wait and make this “our promotion Sunday”. The regular promotion sunday is full of fun crazy events for all the kids. It’s sort-of like “open house” at school. It’s great for most families...but for a child with autism it can be very overwhelming. All the parents being in the room...with all the kids...with the singing... and the noise....and a new classroom...and then they served snack (meals are a VERY hard thing for Addie). So I had made the decision...
We had just moved...she had changed classes at school...and I knew she was pretty much DONE with all the transitions. We took the week off...and waited until the next Sunday when things would be calmer and a little more normal for her.
All week we had prepped and prepared for Addie to transition to a new sunday school class. We talked about it over and over. Where she was going to go...why she had to switch...what they might do in class...did they have a quiet potty...etc... She has to know EVERYTHING. We talked about it the night before...she prayed about it at bedtime...and I was hoping things were going to be smooth. I was really feeling pretty proud of myself for all the prep work and the decision I had made to miss the "crazy" Sunday. I even had a nice “cheat sheet” made for her teachers...with all her likes and dislikes... and ways to help her cope in the classroom. I was definitely giving myself a pat on the back...
So the morning came. We got to church 30 min early to let her see her new room...giving her a chance to process the new room without the classmates and teachers. The room was nice and quiet. She walked in... and stopped...just staring for a few minutes. I was holding my breath to see what she would do. I showed her that they had already moved her nametag to the new room. All the sudden her “light bulb” switched on and she said...”I like it...I really like it...I like my new room mommy”.....Phewwwwww....I sighed a huge sigh of relief. “Oh Lord thank you....thank you for this quiet moment in her room...thank you for giving me the wisdom to prepare her”. I was on cloud nine...feeling really excited for Addie....really proud of her...and of course a little proud of myself too.
About 30 minutes later...I started wondering what was going on. There were no kids coming...no teachers....ummmm...had I made a mistake?! I could hear the music starting in “big church”...so I knew something wasn’t right. I peeked into the hallway and asked someone who was teaching this class. The looked puzzled and said...”there’s no kids sunday school today...we’re commissioning the teachers...they have to come in the sanctuary with the adults. Ohhhhhhh NOOOO...the loud sanctuary...she could never make it through a whole service....are they crazy??!!! A cold chill washed over me. I am the worst mommy ever. Oh I am such an idiot. How did I miss that email...how did I not know? I vaguely remembered something being mentioned about this....I vaguely remembered thinking we would have to skip that Sunday....but it hadn’t even registered with me all week.
I looked back in the classroom at Addie who was now playing blissfully at the lego table. Stacking and sorting the blocks...so happy and comfortable. What was I going to do? What could I do? I knew I was about to rock her little world...and there was nothing I could do about it.
I thought about leaving...but little C was already happily settled in his new class. The younger nurseries were still open....and we weren’t about to go and disrupt that. So we decided to brave the adult worship service.
“Lord here goes nothing...please let the people around us be understanding...please help Addie to stay calm...please let her understand...please give me patience Lord”...I was praying as I approached Addie with her legos in hand. “Addie...we are going to change our plans today. Your new teachers are going to be in the big church with mommy and daddy...so all your friends are going to the big church too. Next week we will come back to your new class and you can stay here and play legos with your friends.” She was dead silent...stopped in her building...staring at the legos...Then she exploded... “No no no....I am in my new class....my friends are going to come...my teachers are going to play legos with me...there are two chairs...there are two chairs...there are two chairs” She had been telling me that her teachers were going to sit with her in other lego chair. So she began to chant about the chairs and nervously stack more legos. I took a deep breath...waiting a few minutes to give her some time to process. I repeated myself again...”Addie we are going to change our plans today...blah...blah...blah”. “Oh Lord help me know what to do...should we leave...is this too much for her” I was praying over and over trying to decide if I was pushing her to do something she couldn’t do or if I should try and give her the opportunity to work through it. Then I got my answer...Addie suddenly stood up and walked out of the room.
Walking down the hall...she was fumbling with her lips and doing her stimmy humming...I knew she was getting anxious. I watched a few other families finding out about sunday school and quickly telling their kids that they needed to go to "big church"...and jelously watching as the kids barley reacted and calmly walked in the sancutary. I had a moment where I was a little angry. This is nuts...how is she supposed to make it through a whole service. And I thought about how it wasn't fair that the other families seemed to think it was no big deal to have last Sunday crazy...and this one too. "Lord it just isn't fair that this is so hard for us...and it's so hard for Addie...it's just not fair." Just as I was having my own little meltdown in my mind...we got to the big doors with the music booming from inside. Here we go....She froze at the big doors...in a trance she wasn't moving....so I picked her up and carried her into the big room. My husband and I exchanged nervous glances. We sat on the back row at the end...for easy escape. There were lots of other kids in the service...siting quietly with their parents...coloring...eating “quiet” snacks. It reminded me of sitting in church as a kid. Again I was a little jealous.
As soon as we found our chairs....the band geared up even louder...the drums...the guitars....and then the singing started...and the congregation jumps to it’s feet clapping and dancing to the music. This is usually my favorite part of worship...but I knew this would be a nightmare for Addie. I look at Addie...standing in her chair...eyes wide and nervous....her hands firmly planted over her ears...she screaming “ahhhhh...no....no....tooo loud....tooo loud....too loud”. Of course no one could hear her over the booming music. So I knelt down beside her...picked her up. She was like a stiff board...her little heart was about to pound out of her chest. “Oh Lord what have I done...this is a terrible idea....ok just calm down and explain this to her” I whispered in her ear “we’re singing songs about Jesus....everyone is so happy and that is why they are singing so loud”. She stopped screaming and looked at me. She kept her hands over her ears...but she was quiet...she was just listening. I winked at my husband...he smiled. Even though I could still feel her little heart beating out of her chest....I knew she was calming down a little bit.
Finally we made it to the last song...and it happened...
She took her hands off her ears and started to clap with the crowd!!! I wanted to jump up and down and hug her...of course I refrained. WOW...this was huge. I quickly nudged my husband...he had a huge smile on his face. She wasn’t smiling or singing...and it wasn’t really with the beat of the music...but she was clapping....she was trying to join in. It was such an amazing moment.
I began to feel calmness...I began to feel relieved...”thank you Lord...thank you” Maybe we are going to make it through this morning. The music is over and we can sit and relax a bit.
Of course, I still was having my moments where I felt it wasn't fair as I watched the other kids and parents handling the service with such ease. I wanted that for Addie and for us. All the sudden...the pastor caught my attention. "It isn't fair" he yelled...I immediately turned my focus to the sermon....whoa...chills ran down my spine. The sermon was about Jesus's parable of the man that hired the workers and agreed to pay them all the same. At the end of the day some of the men had worked all day and some only about an hour...and he paid them all the same. The ones that had worked all day were angry...they didn't feel it was fair. (Hello ...that's me....yes Lord....I'm listening now ) The land owner told them not to be angry about his generosity to the ones that only worked an hour. WOW!! It really hit me. I shouldn't be angry or jealous of other people's grace. The Lord gives us exactly what we need. We have exactly enough grace for today....we shouldn't worry about tomorrow....we should compare ourselves to others....it's not a competition...it's not a race. The ground is level at the foot of the cross...and none of us deserve any of the blessings that we have been given. It's only by God's grace. I should be focused on Him and not on comparing myself to others. It was such an amazing message...and one I really needed to hear. It may not always seem fair....but rest assured the Lord is giving me and those around me exactly what we need. Through His grace and mercy and perfect plan for our lives.
During the service...I teared up at so many moments. I watched Addie as she sat and drew in my little notebook that I usually take notes in. I was flooded with memories...sitting between my parents in church. It was such a special moment. Then my husband put his arm around her...just like my dad used to do....and she casually leaned up against him as she drew. He had the biggest smile on his face...and my heart just melted.
The people around us were so gracious. A few concerned glances...while she did her constant humming...constant twirling and fidgeting in her chair...constant clicking her pen as she drew...constant tapping the chair in front of her with her toes. And of course asking every few minutes...”what are we going to do now?” (loudly I might add...Addie doesn’t like loud noises...but she doesn’t notice her own volume control and her voice is often loud when she doesn’t mean it to be). But it was ok.... I was so proud of her. She was siting in church....in a crowd...with a PA system...with loud music...and here she was...handling it all.
And guess what??! She did it...she made it!!! The WHOLE service...she made it!!! And we made it.
I started my morning so proud of myself...thinking what a super duper job I had done preparing her...but I ended my morning so proud of Addie...so thankful that we didn’t leave....so thankful that we had been blessed with this huge milestone....so thankful that the Lord gave me just enough grace for today.
On the way home I saw a billboard for the ice capades...something I’ve always wanted to do with Addie...but didn’t think she would be able to enjoy it with the crowd and loud music. I poked my husband and pointed at the billboard...he smiled and said “maybe so”.
I am so proud of her and how far she has come this year. A year ago she would never have been able to set foot near those big doors with the loud music without crumbling onto the floor in total meltdown....she would have never been able to overcome all that she had today. There are so many times that I question myself...is she ready for this yet?...can she handle this? And sometimes she can't...and we fail miserably...but if we never try then we will never know. She has done so many things that I never thought possible. How can I put a limit on what God can bless us with.
I'm so thankful for God's grace and mercy...so thankful for this milestone for Addie...and so thankful that "it's not fair". I am a different person...a different parent...a different friend than I ever thought I could be. This journey has blessed me and changed me beyond my wildest dreams.
I'll never forget this promotion Sunday...because it truly promoted us all...