“What do you think 2015 will be like?” Max’s tutor asked as we sat around the dinner table helping my son with conversation skills. I took a bite of dinner and sighed, “I hope it will be better than this year.” The room grew quiet. Did I say that aloud, I wondered? Was that my voice? I am the certified and licensed cheerleader of the house, the girl who was nicknamed “Smiley Emiley” in grade school. I looked at the faces around me and nearly choked on my gluten-free grain-free pizza, which is not so hard to do. There was no way to take it back; the words hung in the air like the little black rain cloud that sometimes hovers only over Eeyore, the pessimistic pal of Winnie the Pooh.
We have had an extraordinary year filled with an abundance of blessings. Doors have not just been opened; they have been blown off the hinges. Yet there has been this cloud following me, a real and looming struggle that has cast its shadow on the way I’ve seen all of life. And I hadn’t realized it until those words slipped from my lips.
Pay attention, my heart whispered. Pay attention to the blessings.
A few days later on New Year’s Eve, I ripped a bulletin board off an old display and lay it flat across the table. “Max, lets do a project,” I said, thinking it was more for my benefit than his. We spent the next hour looking back over our shoulders and writing down the blessings of the past year. “Riding a zip line,” Max yelled as he held his pen to paper. “Working at the Car Wash!” “And our church, Max,” I added. “Let’s put that on there.” And then I pulled out a stack of cards I had filled in with some of God’s promises for our new year ahead. Max read each one aloud as he placed them ceremoniously on the board.
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13
“And we know that in all things God works together for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
“Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord” Psalm 121:1-2
“I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”John 15:5
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
We finished listing blessings and promises just in time to dash over to the TV and see the big moment in Time Square. Standing side by side we watched the ball drop, the brilliant reflection filling Max’s wide eyes. I smiled realizing this was a first in his 24 years. The moment and the music swept us both in and we danced around the living room shaking the house until I had wrestled Eeyore and every dark cloud of discouragement to the ground. In the midst of autism, and the challenges of life, I refuse to miss the blessings. God’s goodness is abundantly clear.
It was 1:30 in the morning before Max’s light was out. That’s hardly a first, except that this time it was actually on purpose. As I turned to walk down the stairs, I heard him begin to talk -but it wasn’t his usual video scripting. Instead, he was breathing his own words of resolution into the air.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”