Alphabet Soup

I re-read my latest blog, The Crooked Path, and wondered if I did a disservice to the missionary struggle by not "showing my work" from the months leading up to this point! The last thing I want to imply is that we're trying to decide if we want to go back to Kenya, or suggest that we're asking God if He's released us from Kenya because it's hard there and we're done.

Our hearts are in Kenya. We love the people. We love our jobs. We love our co-workers. We love being given a part to play in what God wants to accomplish there. In some ways, it feels like we were MADE for it! Of course there are hard parts about it--have I ever mentioned the traffic?--but there are also so many blessings and gifts, and it's home.

So why the crooked path? Why the questions?

Do you remember reading my thoughts on calling and how it was time to put my money where my mouth is? It's been awhile, for sure. For those who aren't sitting on the couch hanging on every word I write, let me summarize: God has called us to live as His children, on mission with Him, in the family He has given us. Those callings will never change. God has also called us to live out a vocation in a location depending on how we can live out the first 3 callings in the most faithful and effective way.

Ethan and us at his graduation from Wright School
Now that theory is out of the way, move with me into personal. We have not tried to hide the challenges Ethan has had in the past years, but we also haven't been fully clear on it--partly due to wanting to protect him from scrutiny and labeling. Partly due to new-found awareness of how the stigma of mental health is still alive and well. And partly because we didn't have words to describe things.

The past 9 months here in the US have been nothing short of a gift from God through our employer. We have done some hard work as a family, as a couple, and individually, and it's been brutally exhausting. But the kind of exhausting like a good run, where you know it's growing new muscle and burning off gunk. We understand our son much better now, and we're working on and closer to having healthier expectations for him and tools to help him in ways that are actually helpful.

I can not tell you God's mind or plan, and I refuse to get into a debate about God's active vs. passive will, predestination, or speculations as to why. I know only 2 things for certain:
  1. God loves us and God loves Ethan.
  2. God entrusted Ethan to us for his time on earth, and we have the obligation to model God's love and instruction to him.
Why Ethan faces the challenges he does is unanswerable--the only thing we can do is faithfully work with what is. And what is...is alphabet soup. ASD, ADHD, GAD, and MDD.
 
Let me clarify. Ethan is not those letters. He has them, and his testimony will one day be how he used them and walked with God through them. But for now, let me explain what that means so you don't have to pull up Web-MD.
 
Ethan has autism, which makes it hard for him to read social cues or understand the relationship between him and others. This makes the world unpredictable and seem to be against him, because everyone else is following a play-book he doesn't have access to. At the same time, his brain doesn't filter out any unimportant sensory information, so it's a constant flood of noise and interesting things to look at and he can't concentrate on any one thing...or he blocks out EVERYTHING to the point he can't even hear his name. Since concentration is so difficult and exhausting in the midst of navigating classmates and teachers who make no sense to him, he has anxiety about always failing. He goes into survival mode, protecting himself by only trying things he knows he will be successful at and avoiding at all costs things that require MORE brain power. Like English class. Or math class. Or really any class. And this frustrates teachers and parents alike, which makes him feel bad about himself, and has led to overall depression.

PHEW! Doesn't your heart just break for him???? Our do. Every. Single. Day.
 
So for these 9 months, we have been crying out to God for clarity as to how to best help him while also meeting the needs of our other 3 and ourselves. And the only answer we have received is this: "The work is plenty and the world is mine. Serve me where you can serve me best as a family." It's freeing and yet ambiguous.
 
Kenya gives the kids perpetual sunshine, a safe gated yard to play outside freely, a very strong support system for them and for us, and flexible jobs...and a passionately academic school with limited experience and ability to meet special needs in the higher grades.
 
The US provides public schools who look upon his alphabet soup as just another day, has teams of staff dedicated to special needs students, can offer electives like archery and free-reading and forensics, but we don't have the support systems here, and winters coop us up indoors and push us to the brink of insanity.
 
So the million-dollar question at the end of this crooked path isn't: should we live in Kenya or in the US? It's where can we be the healthiest, most effective family on mission for God? And the answer to that question remains unanswered. So, rather than getting dizzy with trying to sort out what is best, we are sitting back and striving to not strive. We have a team of professionals who know better than we do what his academic needs will likely be, what accommodations he will  require. They will help us know if the effort it will take to meet those needs will leave us with enough to also be effective global workers, or if it will force us to neglect something; the family or the work or our own sanity. So we keep walking, not knowing a single thing about our future other than that God is on this crooked path beside us--catching the tears, feeding us daily manna, and promising that our story is not over.
 
 
 

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