In May, I embarked on yet another new and challenging journey. I re-entered the world of graduate school. The last time I was enrolled in an honest-to-goodness graduate class was 1999. It was summer. I wasn’t teaching and I didn’t have kids. My time was literally my own. My how times have changed!
To keep my Oregon Teaching License current, I needed to take 9 hours of graduate level coursework. It could be anything. I considered early childhood education, English as a Second Language, education administration, but when I found Liberty University’s nine hour autism certification program, the opportunity resonated. I believed that these classes could assist me learn more about autism but more importantly help me understand my two children on the autism spectrum better. My hope was that these classes could help me become a better parent, a better teacher and a better advocate for the needs and concerns of Jake and Caleb.
How often are we given such an opportunity?
At first, I am sad to confess, I freaked out when taking my first class. I did no better at the start of my second class. In both cases, I was performance-oriented. I wanted to meet the expectations of my professors and earn my “A.” That wasn’t healthy and that wasn’t why I originally enrolled in the program. My focus was not on a grade. My intent was to gain an increased knowledge of the complexities of autism and grow more in maturity, compassion and grace for my children. I wanted to learn and be taught.
To reinforce that, just look what the LORD brought to my attention this morning…
So that your trust may be in the LORD,
I teach you today, even you. Proverbs 22:19 NIV
Time and time again, my God uses a specific word from Scripture to get my attention and to affirm what I am praying about and working through. My God is using a 9 hour autism certification program to teach me more about my children, yes, but even as important, something more about Him and His relationship with me.
When I describe Jake and Caleb, I rarely use the word ‘autism’ or ‘special needs.’ For me, Jake and Caleb are just like Micah. They are my children and each requires something different from me as their mother. However, they all receive my unconditional love and acceptance. I have high expectations for the character development of each of my children. I expect them to be kind, be generous and be respectful to each other and to those they encounter. I also expect my children to work hard and do their best. I encourage them to look at the world in an optimistic and encouraging way. I want them to seek out opportunities to love and serve others. Micah, Jake and Caleb are children of God and are continuing to grow in their trust and devotion of Him; just like me.
I believe my God gave me Micah, Jake and Caleb to teach me more about Him. Yes, even me.
My children continue to broaden my perspective of the marvelous and wondrous love of God. One of my character flaws is that I am a performance-driven perfectionist. My children are teaching me that my performance as their parent isn’t what’s most important in life. They, too, want to do a good job with their school work and are pleased when they have accomplished something significant. However, they are not driven or overcome by their work. Praise God!
Jake hugged me one morning this week and said, “Mom, it’s okay. I’ll be with you and take care of you this week while Dad is in Zimbabwe.”
What’s more important to my God and to my children? The power of presence.
So that your trust may be in the LORD,
I teach you today, even you, Heather.. Proverbs 22:19 NIV
Trust in this verse comes from the Hebrew-transliterated word mibtach. Mibtach means to confide and seek security and rest in God. He wants to be the object of my confidence and the object of my attention. In other words, He wants to be with me. He wants me to rely upon Him for my every need and concern. My God has things to say to me and to teach me, yes, even me. Currently, he’s using a graduate program to instruct me in many more ways than just through the reading material.
Jake reminds me that my God is here. Everything is okay. My God is taking care of me and guiding me one step at a time; even me.
Our family is embracing the God-given life we have together for as long as we can. It’s a gift. My autism certification program is reinforcing this truth to me every single day.