The Freshness of a Bag of Chips and a Roll of Cookie Dough

The Freshness of a Bag of Chips and a Roll of Cookie Dough

When I think of the word “fresh”, I think of renewal. Sometimes refreshment and renewal come expectedly, as when one schedules a vacation, and sometimes they arrive unexpectedly, when the Lord brings a change for which we may have prayed, but never saw coming. We just celebrated Easter, which is perhaps the grandest gesture of renewal if there ever was one. For those who believe in the resurrection power of Jesus, we know that our lives are not only made new here on earth, they are made new in heaven as well. Mind blown. Though I celebrate Easter with the best of them—whatever that means—I probably tend to celebrate God’s ‘smaller’ acts of renewal more often because they are somehow easier around which to wrap my mind.  Please don’t misunderstand: I love Jesus with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. But God’s giving his only son to die for me, and Jesus’ bloody, awful death upon the cross (at my hands, no less, really), followed by the veil being torn in the inner sanctuary and Jesus’ incredible resurrection 3 days later… well, it leaves me breathless. While it’s the chief reason, I know I can call myself a Christian, it’s very heady stuff–a lot to sink my teeth into for one post. So I’ve chosen an example of the newness of God in my life for which I am ever so thankful; and one in which God worked in such a personal way, it slays me.

[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]Nevertheless, God has provided strength and renewal in so many ways, little and big, since that day I cried out to him. I have learned to believe He is good in all things. [/pullquote]My son has diagnoses which place him on the autism spectrum. He has shared this fairly freely, so I don’t feel like I’m revealing anything too terribly private. His story is his, and I don’t wish to tell it, but as his mom, my story has obviously intertwined with his, and as parents do, I’ve ridden waves of highest highs and lowest lows by his side. And in his life, there have been more lows, for now. But God.

Raise your hand if you thought middle school and early high school was These years were likely (I hope) the nadir of my son’s existence, chiefly because he had no friends. When you have an intelligence beyond most people’s comprehension, a social awkwardness and anxiety beyond that of a typical middle/high schooler – which is saying a lot – and the accurate self-perception of that, as well as the realization that your peers are just not interested in the same stuff you’re interested in, well that’s absolutely the perfect storm for loneliness. Not only was the idea of making friends difficult, my son’s understanding of what he would need to do to maintain a friendship, should one actually take, exhausted him. As broken-hearted parents are often wont to do, my husband and I tried our best to bandage the pain we knew we could never really take away. We searched for any activities which would interest the boy and possibly create fertile ground for a friendship. Finally, we happened upon the idea of taking him to a role play gaming meet up group. Turns out he was the youngest gamer, by decades. Even though these players weren’t necessarily his friends, they were usually friendly, and the routine of meeting weekly gave our son something to look forward to during his lonely weeks. I learned never to use those groups as currency when disciplining our son. The thought of missing them crushed him so that I knew I wouldn’t have the heart to follow through on keeping him away from them. Over the years, some folks from these meet ups actually did cross over to being friends, or at least kind acquaintances who would come celebrate a birthday or send a card for graduation. But mostly… mostly, my amazing husband was Chief Friend One, and I, Chief Friend Two. (Man, it’s surprisingly gutting to write this, even though I’m writing about renewal. Go figure.)

I remember following my son into the dentist’s office on a particularly hard day, when he was about 14 years old. I was nearly in tears, and was praying fervently, “Please God! I just need to see that in 10 years he’ll be okay! I just need to know he’ll be happy!!!”

But faith is a confidence in that which CANNOT be seen, so there’s that.

Nevertheless, God has provided strength and renewal in so many ways, little and big, since that day I cried out to him. I have learned to believe He is good in all things. He has taught me how to be present in the moment, and how to hold fast to hope, with less future tripping and less anxiety. And, I’ve watched Him grow my son, too.

In a few months, our beloved, stinky, amazing, trollish, fun, grumpy, witty, hilarious, slob of a son will be 20 years old. To my delight, he is still living at home with us as he works on his undergraduate degree in history. He is one of my most favorite people in the world with whom to hang out, and his mind never ceases to amaze me. He continues to have his struggles, as most young people his age do, with the angst of “What am I going to do with my life?” and “Will I ever make any money in ­­­­my major?” And I know that transferring to a university makes him nervous because, doggone it, he still questions his worth at every turn.

But you know what? Every Saturday night, our block is filled with cars, and our dining room is full of role play gamers – friends – between the ages of 19 and 40-something. Because he is so tickled to have his friends over, we not only skulk out of the way on Saturday night dates, or hide in our room watching movies, but we buy bags of chips and tubes of cookie dough, so that our son can make cookies and host properly. And we relish doing so. You know what else we relish? That our son has compassion for his friends. “Mom, so and so really has some social anxiety issues, and sometimes when we play, he’s kind of hyper-focused on ____. But that’s okay. I try to be nice to him because I may be his only friend.” To which I melt reply, “Isn’t that great that he’s here, so you can be his friend?!” “Yeah. I suppose so. He’s really a nice guy. I don’t mind.”

This is renewal.

This is refreshment.

It has been hard won, but through this and other times where I think my heart might just break into a million pieces, God gives a fresh start, and it is well with my soul. Praise Jesus, and to God alone be the glory.

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.”  ~ Revelation 21:5 NLT

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. ~ Psalm 30:5b NLT

Grace & Such strives to advance Christian growth among women. While we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, we also recognize human interpretations are imperfect. Grace & Such encourages our readers to open their Bibles, pray for wisdom and study for themselves what the Word says. For more about who we are, please visit the About Us page.
Gretchen Hanna
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  1. Ruth on April 5, 2016 at 6:27 AM

    Gretchen, this is so beautiful. I am so often reminded of this with my own son, who has challenges of his own. Those explosions of fresh joy and opportunities for gratitude are some of the blessings that get us through the messier stuff. Being thankful that God has such unique ways of letting me know he is still at work fuels the sometimes dull routines of every day.

    • Gretchen on April 5, 2016 at 5:52 PM

      Thank you for your sweet words, Ruth. Yes! Those moments when they find their way – even for only a moment – are God hugs, indeed.

  2. Rebecca Preston on April 5, 2016 at 6:46 AM

    “sniff” What a joy for you to watch this happen! My son is a self-proclaimed ‘geek’. Once he found ‘his people’, it was a wonder to watch him bloom. it’s the best feeling in the world!

    • Gretchen on April 5, 2016 at 5:53 PM

      I think things will always be a little socially overwhelming for my son, but YES, I think the best is yet to come!

  3. Natalie on April 5, 2016 at 7:06 AM

    What an encouraging post! I don’t have kids just yet, but I think your tangible love for your son is refreshing in itself. Parents like you are superheroes.

    P.S. Have you watched Parenthood? It’s a really wonderful show that made me cry way too many times. But I think you’d enjoy at least part of it. (Whole series on Netflix!)

    • Gretchen on April 5, 2016 at 5:55 PM

      Thank you for your lovely encouragement! If we are superheroes, we’re tired ones. Ha. 🙂

      Parenthood is a wonderful show. The scenes with Max were sometimes almost too hard to watch. But I LOVED how they loved him.

  4. Jen on April 5, 2016 at 10:42 AM

    Can I tell you how much this post touched me when I first read it? I may have gotten water in my eyes and a slight sniffle. I have always enjoyed watching your relationship with both your kids. That boy has a kind heart just like you. You are a good mama and a wonderful daughter of Christ who leads by example – not just to your children.

    • Gretchen on April 5, 2016 at 5:56 PM

      Sniff. Sometimes I wonder, friend. Thank you for cheering me on. They are both so worth it.

  5. Amber on April 5, 2016 at 11:04 AM

    Goodness, Gretchen. I think one of the best perks of knowing you is to watch how you love. I am so proud of you and your example, and so very glad that you share it like this so that we can all learn and know. There is profound beauty in one who cares deeply and loves muchly. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Gretchen on April 5, 2016 at 5:58 PM

      Sadly for many of you, I tend to share regardless of whether I ought. 🙂 I’m wired to be an oversharer & a cheerleader (all except for the gymnastics part). Love you. Anchored by the encouragers like you whom God has placed in my path.

  6. Bev on April 5, 2016 at 3:15 PM

    Thanks for sharing Gretchen. This is such an encouragement for those with younger kids, deep in the struggles autism brings. What a testimony on what God can do if we just believe.

    • Gretchen on April 5, 2016 at 6:00 PM

      Bev, my faith has been stretched by this & by our non-adoption far greater than I could’ve imagined, & frankly more than I wanted,if under my own devices. But God. Amazing, beautifully gracious God has never left my side.

  7. Diane on April 5, 2016 at 6:16 PM

    “He has taught me how to be present in the moment, and how to hold fast to hope, with less future tripping and less anxiety.” I read this twice so I could absorb all the nuggets you shared! Gretchen, thx for letting us be observers in a life lived trusting that God will come thru, somehow, sometime, some way. I truly believe that kids are part of his object lesson plan for us!

    • Gretchen on April 5, 2016 at 10:35 PM

      Diane, I think kids are most definitely part of the lesson. Jesus loves them so. Thank you for your encouragement.

  8. Sis on April 5, 2016 at 6:28 PM

    I have tears in my eyes reading this. Because you were so open to gamers and they to him, this wonderful son of yours has blossomed. What a wonderful lesson. Thank you.

    • Gretchen on April 5, 2016 at 10:38 PM

      Thanks Sis! I have learned that friends aren’t necessarily peers, & that’s okay. In fact, as we grow further into adulthood, I find that I adore my multi generational friendships. I think my son just got a head start on this.

  9. Tara on April 9, 2016 at 10:07 AM

    Oh Gretchen, there’s nothing like being a mother, right? As a Mom watching (and helping) our kids navigate life, especially as teens/young adults brings the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.
    My son is 16 and just yesterday I open up a conversation with him about social anxiety. It was a hard talk, I prayed for days for God to even give me the courage to have the dialogue. But it needed to be said. There are some things we need to work through and it’s so hard to see that sometimes fuzzy line between being a “normal” moody teen and what might be considered abnormal behavior. What if it is? What if it’s not?
    It’s the small wins that keep us moving forward and give us hope for the future- that and blind faith that God wants the best for our lives and is always ALWAYS working for our good.
    Your post calmed my heart and mind and encouraged me. I have it book marked and will come back to it often as I go through this parenting journey.

  10. Gretchen on April 13, 2016 at 7:33 PM

    YES, Tara! Those small wins calm our hearts and are such a gentle breath of fresh air, aren’t they? It IS hard, but not impossible. I’m so glad my post encouraged you. Your comment encourages me. Praying right now for you and for your son.

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