Sunday, December 7, 2014

Advent: Waiting, Anticipating, Preparing

This week, I have been thinking about Advent, the Christian observance leading up to Christmas, the celebration of Christ’s birth. While the source of the word Advent comes from the Latin adventus meaning arrival, these four weeks leading up to Christmas are often seen as a time of waiting, anticipating, and preparing. Often the busy season of activities, such as shopping, wrapping gifts, and decorating, distracts us from the primary focus of celebrating the birth of Christ. As I watch Alex count down the days on his various calendars to his upcoming birthday and Christmas, I notice that he primarily anticipates his favorite days of the year, knowing that I will take care of preparing for the celebrations. He trusts that I will make certain those days are as special for him as he imagines that they will be. Fortunately, he has learned patience over time, which makes the waiting easier and the anticipating sweeter.

Like Alex, I have learned patience over time, which is a lesson autism has taught me. Because Alex’s development has not followed the typical patterns and timelines, I have had to trust that milestones will eventually happen. Waiting often becomes a way of life for us, whether it be sitting in waiting rooms for doctors and therapists, waiting for paperwork to be processed, or waiting for Alex to finally master a skill. One blessing of this waiting is that when the appointed time, the answer, or the accomplishment finally arrives, the celebration is even better.

For two and a half years, Alex was on a waiting list for an excellent day program for adults with disabilities. When we first visited the facility and decided that they could offer him exactly what he needed, we prayed that we wouldn’t have to wait long before he could enroll there. However, various circumstances slowed the process, and we felt frustrated that his placement was delayed. Although we were told that he would be considered after a major construction project was completed that expanded their program, another year passed with no word that he would be enrolled. In the meantime, I knew that sitting around waiting to hear from them was wasting time, and we set out to make sure Alex was engaged in various programs that helped him develop his skills by adding recreational and music therapy to the behavioral therapy that was already in place. We filled his schedule with activities not only to keep him busy and active but also to prepare him better once the time came for him to go to the day program.

Last month, the day program for which we had been waiting called to let us know that Alex’s name had finally come to the top of the list, and he was eligible for enrollment. While we should have been celebrating an end to a long wait, we felt conflicted instead. Although the day program offers many opportunities, Alex is thriving under the program his case manager, therapists, and we have put together while we were waiting for an opening in the day program. Besides not wanting to make changes when things are going so well, after prayerful consideration and consultation with our trusted team of professionals who work with Alex, we decided that the day program we had wanted so badly for Alex at one time was not right for him at this time. Consequently, we politely thanked the agency and declined their offer, hoping that another client who has been waiting a long time like we have will be delighted for the chance to enroll. While we were waiting and anticipating, we were also preparing, and these preparations led us away from what we had originally planned to something even better for Alex.

Similarly, we spent a great deal of time waiting for respite services for Alex. After waiting several months for services from one agency, we decided that their program wasn’t ideal for what we needed. They required a minimum of four-hour blocks of respite and preferred that service take place at their respite care facility instead of in the family home. For us, the longer blocks of time and taking Alex to a place twenty minutes away wasn’t ideal, so I began searching for other options that would work better for us. After seeking other parents’ input and finding an agency less than five minutes away that offers two-hour blocks of respite care time in our home, we decided to switch respite care providers. However, our waiting was not done yet.

Although the new agency eagerly welcomed us and moved along the paperwork quickly, assigning a respite care worker for Alex did not happen as rapidly. Despite prompting from our case manager, the person in charge of finding a respite care worker failed to provide one. As we waited for months, I kept telling our behavioral therapist that I was in no hurry because I knew that the right person to work with Alex would come along when the time was right. Finally, after nearly a year, the person who was supposed to assign a respite care worker left that agency, and a new employee was assigned to Alex’s case. Immediately, she found an ideal respite care worker for Alex—after we had waited nearly a year with that agency and over a year and a half with the previous agency. As I had believed, God had selected the right person for Alex. She is about his age, has a calm and sweet personality, shares many of his interests, and understands autism well because she has family members who have autism. While we waited patiently for the wrong people to move out of the way and the right people to move into our lives, Alex was preparing by improving his social skills so that he could interact with his respite care worker and enjoy their weekly visits, which has certainly made the wait worthwhile.

Through our experiences with waiting for what’s best for Alex, we have learned to anticipate that everything will work out in the end. Sometimes plans change, and other times, we must anticipate that all the pieces will fall into place eventually. In the meantime, we keep ourselves busy and moving forward by preparing for what is to come, knowing that God has a good plan for Alex. With that in mind, we keep waiting, anticipating, and preparing for Alex to continue making good progress and to continue healing, all the while thanking God for all He has done to bring us this far.

“The Lord will work out His plans for my life—for Your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for You made me.” Psalm 138:8


D Marcotte said...

I am so glad to hear that things are working out so well. I have found in our own lives that things often fall into place that turn out better than the plans we had originally made.

Pam Byrne said...

Dear D.,
I totally agree with you--God's plans are always better than our own, even when we can't always see it that way at the time. :) Thanks for your kind comments.
Take care,