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Relative Location of the Heart

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns.” Psalm 139:23

Our family has been, physically and emotionally, all over the map this past few weeks. A dear friend had open heart surgery. Thankfully, they are home and healing now. My daughter, Allison, her husband and our three grand pugs, moved across the country to Maine. They are home and safe now. We traveled to our favorite coast on the Alabama/Florida line to do an autism benefit. After being back home for a few days and settling into our routine, I heard Morgan say to herself, “Thank goodness you’re home. I missed me so much.” ❤️

Allison gave me a very sweet gift when she left. While making the two and half day drive to her new home, she shared her location with me through google. I was able to mom stalk her, check on her whereabouts throughout the trip, pray and feel connected, as I watched her little cartoon face moving up the map.

Grand Pugs on the road to Maine

Being the nerd that I am, I was interested to learn there are two different ways of measuring location; Absolute (Geographically, using latitude and longitude) and Relative (Showing where a place is in relation to another landmark). The absolute location does not change. The relative location changes, as our position and perspective changes.

In my relationship with God, distance happens whenever I try to suppress what’s really on my heart. Dishonesty causes a chasm that can’t be bridged. Brutal honesty has always brought me back home. Admitting to God and myself the things He already knows about me. The pride, the jealousy, the hurts, the anger, … All the Flaws. I’m grateful that I don’t have to pretend to be somewhere I’m not, something I’m not. When I come to Him just as I am, His love bridges my gaps. It’s Absolute. It Never Changes.

I’ve had several people ask me how I feel about Allison being so far away. Do I miss her being closer to home? Well Yes! But the truth is, it’s just geography. There are families who sit across the table from each other every day, whose hearts are miles apart. What’s important for her to know is that I love and support her. We’re staying connected, having honest conversations, and I believe the relative position of our hearts are closer now than they’ve been in a long time. What’s important for me to remember is, while I can’t physically be there anytime I want, God is always there for her. And He loves her even more than I do. I’ve told her as long as she stays close to the Lord, I know she’s in the best location she can be.

Mom and the Mainer

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy

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autism, caregivers, communication, faith, family, friends, Morgan, Uncategorized

I Call It Momtism

“If I find myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” – C.S. Lewis

While shopping in the grocery store, I saw a very familiar face. I could not recall their name or the place where I knew them from, knowing I should know, I ducked down an isle, hoping it would come back to me. It didn’t. The following week, I was at the bank, and Boom! There she was behind the counter, right where she belonged, and everything clicked again. I laughed at myself, then I recalled how seeing someone “out of place” can often rattle Morgan.

I am socially awkward at best sometimes, not great at small talk. There is usually a lot going on in my head, and not everything needs to be shared out loud. 😂 I have to remember, what’s normal in our world, as a parent and a young adult on the autism spectrum, can be miles away from what others consider normal. To say the least, my sense of humor can be a bit skewed. I’ve learned to face the fact that Morgan and I are never going to smoothly or discreetly blend in with the crowd. And that’s ok.

Morgan & Mom Back Porch Pickin’ for Hendersonville Tennessee’s
Front Porch Fest 2020

We are all unique, all fearfully and wonderfully made. We each have our own little quirks and traits that make us us. Genetics, environment, and experience all play their part in how we perceive and navigate things. The more I try to help Morgan understand this world, the more I realize what little sense it makes to me. But I still remain hopeful and thankful. I know it won’t always be this way.

Whenever I have those glitches, those awkward Momtism moments, when I’m totally out of sync with the world around me, I feel a synchronicity with Morgan. I get a better understanding of what it’s like to feel a little lost. Of course it’s brief and I have the tools to compensate, but it serves me a needed dose of empathy for what my girl and others on the autism spectrum go through every single day.

But one day, One. Day. We will no longer feel we are so out of the loop. We will finally be able to communicate and understand each other, and Everyone and Everything, more clearly. “…Now we know in part, but then we will know fully, as we are fully known.” – 1 Corinthians 13:12

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Morgan & Mom

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Uncategorized

Love Your Enemies

Luke 6: 27, 28

I am persistently praying how to best arm my daughters to live in this world, because it is truly a mine field. While Allison left the nest years ago, Morgan is hunkered down for the long haul. The following is true for all of us. The words “Written in Red” are the best teachers.

Deuteronomy 11:19 tells us “Teach them (God’s words and ways) to your children, talking about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

Mornings – As part of our morning routine, Morgan and I read a devotional together and look up the verses on her Youversion iPad Bible app. Near the end of each year, I start looking for a new devotional book that I hope will be appropriate for her level of understanding. This can be tricky. Due to her autism, on hard days, Morgan’s behavior can be like that of a three year old. On good days, she says things that let me know she has a much deeper understanding of things than we all give her credit for. So when looking for a devotional book, I check over a few passages, pray, then choose one I believe will shed new light on things for both of us.

But let’s get back to those “red words”. For those of you who are older, you might remember the EF Hutton commercial, referring to a trusted brokerage firm. Someone would say “Well my broker is EF Hutton, and EF Hutton says…”. Then the whole room would hush and lean in to hear what they had to say. Their tag line was “When EF Hutton talks, people listen”. For quite some time now, I’ve emphasized that the words written in red were spoken by Jesus. On occasion, when seeing the red words, Morgan will say “Jesus said it”. 😍 And of course, when Jesus says it, we really do need to lean in and listen.

Evenings – Morgan has been reciting her bedtime prayer for many years now. I realize it has become rote to her. She even garbles the words at times, rushing through it. So recently, keeping in mind those red words, we’ve reconstructed her prayer. We are helping her to understand the meaning of a new word and more importantly, a new concept. For her level; An enemy is someone who does not treat us with love and kindness. They are someone who mistreats or bullies us. We pray for them especially, because they need our prayers the most.

Nightly Prayers help us keep a good grip on things

“Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. Let Love stay with me through the night, and keep me till the morning light. God bless Morgan, Mom & Dad, our family, our friends, and our enemies. In Jesus name, Amen.

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy Vice

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autism, communication, faith, family, Love, Mental Health, Morgan, peace, Uncategorized

The Grip of Fear

“There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, …”
1 John‬ ‭4:18‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

I was on my way to the laundry room with a full basket of clothes. I balanced the basket on one hip, while blindly grabbing the doorknob. What I didn’t see was the lizard, who was minding his own business, comfortably resting on that knob. He didn’t want to be grabbed any more than I wanted to grab him. The laundry, that poor lizard, and me, All flew up in the air. Neither of us intended to hurt the other, but out of our fearful reflex to escape the situation, we both caused and suffered unnecessary damage. Every time I think about it, I still wince from the spasms, his and mine.

Fear can make us say and do some pretty crazy things. It can cause us to hurt others and ourselves. Anger is often born out of fear. When we don’t take the time to measure how our actions affect others, relationships can suffer irreparable damage.

Morgan, having a more friendly encounter with Precious, our Sunday School buddy.

Love has No need, nor intention, to harm or deceive. It has the self control to take a breath before it speaks, before it acts. Love keeps its peace. It has a healthy sense of humor. It is gentle and kind, patient and considerate. “It bears All things, believes All things, hopes All things, endures All things.” 1 Corinthians 13:7

Love, Perfect love, is a powerful thing. This world continues to be in a spin cycle. So much is up in the air. When I feel the grip of uncertainty in my life, I can be tempted to lash out in response. Instead, I have to remind myself to take a pause and get my footing. I have No need to fear. I just need to remember Who I belong to and what His Love is capable of when I choose it.

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy

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Uncategorized

Window Paintings by Morgan & Friends

The interests of individuals on the autism spectrum are very individual. Morgan takes delight in counting down the days on her calendar and celebrating each month by painting a scene on the windows. Here are some of this year’s masterpieces so far.

January 2021
White is color of January (painted with Mom)
February 2021
Red and Pink is February (painted with Mamaw)
March 2021
Green is March (kite flying time, painted with Mom)
April 2021
Blue is April (painted with Papaw)
May 2021
May is ALL the Colors (painted with Sara)
June 2021
Purple is June (VBS theme Concrete and Cranes)
July 2021
Red, White and Blue is July, of course. 🙂
She always gets a fire hat from her fireman friends at Freedom Fest

Well that brings us to the half way mark. Here’s hoping you enjoy the coming months, and the spectrum of blessings that every season brings.

Until Next Time,

Know the Hope!

Morgan & Mom

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Allison, faith, family, Morgan, Uncategorized

I Saw You

One shoe off and one shoe on. Oh little dumplin’ where’s your mom?

While a few people say they choose to be homeless, the vast majority are homeless for a thousand other reasons. But for the grace of God, it could be any one of us. I’m so thankful for Room In The Inn , The Contributor, and other organizations in our area that provide support to our neighbors in need. As individuals, we can only do so much. Supporting organizations that know how to make an effective difference is one answer.

The first thing I noticed were your light pink tennis shoes, one shoe off and one shoe on. Then, as we passed by, I saw your dark brown hair. I guessed your age to be somewhere between the age of my own two daughters, 27 and 33.

Our family was visiting the Chattanooga Aquarium. It was a beautiful day, so our older daughter, Allison, suggested we walk to the restaurant. It was a twenty minute walk down one of the main city streets. Morgan first noticed a “clock tower” on the side of one of the buildings. She was taking it all in, “Walking in the city”. As we strolled further, we saw a number of people who were homeless. We nodded and continued walking.

That’s when I saw you. You were asleep on the concrete by the sidewalk. Even though we continued walking, acting as if all was well, my younger daughter paused, looking at you and then turning her gaze to me. Remember, I told you Morgan is 27. She is on the autism spectrum. Developmentally, she still sees a lot of things the way a child sees them. She may not have had the words to express it, but she knew you didn’t belong there. I told her you were just resting and nudged her along. But she was right. You don’t belong there and I just wanted you to know we saw you. You are someone’s daughter. As a mother, I will keep you in my prayers.

A photo memory of my daughters

I am a picture taker. I am always snapping photos of the ones I love. I have countless picture memories of my daughters. Although I don’t have a physical picture of you, I do have one in my heart. I see you. More importantly, God sees you and your two pink shoes. He even knows the number of dark brown hairs on your head. He Loves You and so do I. Mom Hugs.

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope,

Tammy Vice

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Allison, family, joy, Love, Morgan, Uncategorized

How Many More Miles?

“There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.” – Roger Staubach

It’s a question my dad, my daughters’ dad, and countless other dads have heard many times. Children can be so ready to get to the destination that they wish away the road time. I remember nodding off to sleep in the back seat, hoping to wake up just in time to be THERE. Now that I’m older, I’ve learned that the miles along the way can be just as meaningful. I don’t want to sleep through the Here and Now.

Building the Trike with Dad. “We got this!”
Morgan, taking her babies for a ride.
Dad and Allison Making Fudge
Mission Accomplished
Morgan, showing her “Three Wheels” to Mamaw and Papaw

Happy Father’s Day to my dad, my girl’s dad, and all those dads that go the extra mile for their families. Hugs and Hearts! 🤗❤️

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy Vice

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autism, communication, faith, Health, Love, Morgan

What Did You Say?

“I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” Robert McCloskey

Have you ever watched a video of a crying baby receiving a hearing aid? When they hear their mother’s voice for the first time, their crying stops. Their eyes open wide. They become calm at first, then smile or even squeal with delight? Then, of course, the mother begins to cry. It’s that moment of mutual connection that those of us who hear often take for granted.

If you have ever seen one of our home videos on YouTube or Facebook Live, you will see All Things Autism. What you may not recognize is that Morgan has a hearing, or rather a listening, impairment. Even though her physical hearing is intact, her ability to process and interpret sound is interrupted by something called CAPD (Central Auditory Processing Disorder). My unscientific explanation is that there is a glitch in her central auditory nervous system wiring. This is a separate diagnosis from her autism. For signs and symptoms of CAPD, visit asha.org . American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

It is hard for Morgan to separate and make sense of sounds, especially speech. There is actually a slight delay in what she hears. When we are at home, in a one on one, quiet environment, it’s much easier for her to navigate. We’ve learned to slow down and give her time to respond. You will see she is very talkative and engaged. She is Very Able to express herself in our home environment.

Morgan and Papaw showing off an April window painting they did together.

When Morgan is in a group setting, there are lots of competing sounds and distractions. Large gatherings can be confusing and stressful. This usually stops her from initiating engagement. When she is overwhelmed, her reaction is to grunt and vocalize her displeasure, in order to get away. Or she will completely shut down, squinting her eyes, bending over and putting her head in her hands. Unfortunately for her, this makes others see her as Less Able than she actually is. When we are able to know what to expect, and provide Morgan with a schedule ahead of time, this takes down the stress and helps her be more successful.

As things speed back up again, we find ourselves stumbling a little more, trying to regain our footing in this world. I guess that’s life, with or without disabilities. I still believe the joy of a meaningful life ride is worth the learning bumps we experience along the way.

There is a giant chasm between hearing and listening. This year of slowing down has really opened my eyes and my heart to the difference. Many of us have forgotten how to listen. It takes time to really get to know anyone. It takes time, patience, and a sincere caring effort to get those moments of mutual connection, where we can all truly communicate.

We openly share our family’s journey with autism in the hope of creating understanding and acceptance for all individuals with disabilities.

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope,

Tammy

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faith, family, friends, Love, Uncategorized

Worth Helping, Hanging, and Hoping

“Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So don’t be afraid therefore; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭10:29-31‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

It was one of those mornings. We really needed to get out the door on time. The list of things to do was long and time was short. As we fixed our breakfast and Morgan’s lunch, I was running down that list in my head. I was hoping we’d get out the door with everything we needed the first time. There was a text with a task to handle, an unexpected knock on the door. “Hello Mamaw. What are you doing here?” Come on in and join our morning circus. A quick hello, and I continued my dance to keep things on track.

As we were about to get in the car, we heard a loud scratching and rustling sound coming from the down spout of the gutter. A bird had slipped down the hole. Bless his heart. He chose a really inconvenient time to get himself in that situation. We tapped on the spout for a few seconds, shook the bottom, hoping we could get his attention to turn around and see a better way out. We reasoned surely he’d eventually get tired and fall to the bottom, seeing the light there and be able to make it out on his own. I did say a little prayer for him as I cranked up the car and drove away. After all, we had a busy day ahead us.

Sometimes we assume there’s an easy way out for others, when there’s not.

That’s how I am sometimes. I mean well, but I’m just so busy. When I got back home, all was quiet and I assumed he made it out. I went about my day and didn’t give it another thought.

“and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself.”
‭‭James‬ ‭2:16-17‬ ‭

Later that evening, I was telling Rudy all about our busy day. Then, as an afterthought, I told him about the little bird. He said, “I thought I heard something out there as I was coming in the door.“ This was 9:30 in the evening. I said, “You’re kidding. Surely he’s not still in there.” He WAS still in there, struggling. I held a flashlight while Rudy unscrewed the extension. It turned out, the drain was stopped up with leaves and mulch. Once that was removed, the little guy wasted no time getting out of there. He was a blur in the dark.

There’s more than a couple of lessons in this for me. With all my wisdom and reasoning, I’m not able to fully see another person’s situation. God is. He works best through me when I slow down and allow life’s interruptions. Whenever I get stuck in a situation, I feel like there’s no way out and no one sees me, God does. No matter how others view us, how they may overlook us, we are all valuable to God. We need to keep Helping others, Hanging in there and making a little Hopeful Noise. God is always working on our circumstances in ways we cannot see.

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy

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autism, faith, friends, risks and rewards, self esteem, Uncategorized

Moving Molehills

“Disability ministry is not complete until individuals with disabilities are ministering back.” – Jim Pearson (No Disabled Souls)

I recently posted this apology on Facebook to our friends, because Morgan has such a hard time breaking her stride to say an unplanned hello. It went like this:

“When we see each other at Walmart and are trying to say hello, if Morgan doesn’t acknowledge you, it’s because you’re not on her schedule. She currently doesn’t take walk-ins.
As a long term member of her staff, I am advocating for policy changes. You’re important to us and we appreciate your patience. Please hold.”

Due to her version of autism, Morgan is prone to self isolate. This year of added isolation has definitely backed us up a few steps. Morgan is very comfortable when she’s “busy relaxing” at home. The longer we’re here, the less she wants to go out. Although we need things to get back to “normal”, I admit, I’ll have to muster up my “want to” to dust off my cheerleading pompoms again.

Morgan is 27 now. Her whole life, we’ve been “working on” something. It started with speech and occupational therapy. Then it was social and emotional skills, educational and vocational skills, life skills, and as strange as it sounds, we even have to work on Joy. Don’t get me wrong. She enjoys putting seasonal events on her calendar, painting the windows, and collecting things that are the colors of the month. But it seems to me, she only tolerates people sometimes, because we can be so unpredictable. I’ve told her that friends can be messy and loud, but they are SO WORTH IT. My constant prayer is for her to just be able to relax with people and enjoy being engaged with others, without the anxiety. It breaks my heart for her that she sees every encounter as a task. We keep pushing forward, because every little successful interaction matters.

Mamaw and Morgan’s February Window Painting

One thing I’ve been thankful to be reminded of again, during this time, is Morgan’s satisfaction when she’s accomplishing something “All Myself”. Thursday is our clean up day. As she helps change the bed sheets, wash the cloths and vacuum, I see her calm delight in doing something that she knows matters. I saw the same thing when she worked at the little sandwich shop before it shut down during the pandemic. We’ve been trying to get that feeling back again. I do believe in all of us there is a need to be needed, a need to know that who we are, what we have to offer, is valued.

Because of Morgan’s social anxiety, it’s hard to get people to understand she is very capable of doing a good job. We’ve had to beg for her to be given any opportunity. I wish I could say that’s unusual, but for many young adults with disabilities, real employment opportunities are rare. Just having that hour at the sandwich shop, a couple of times a week, was very meaningful for both of us. That hour may seem so small to some people, but seeing her feel good about her “Busy Long Day” made it worth all the mountains we had to move to get there.

The sandwich shop never opened back up. But recently, we were able to get back to Meals on Wheels. Morgan helped Papaw in the past, and now she has been given her own route. ❤️ One morning a week, I drive and Morgan “trick or treats” folks with a warm meal. As she puts on her mask, and gets out of the car, I hear her say “I can do it. It’s Izzy.” When she comes back, there’s a high five and fist bump. “I did it!” 🙂

Meals on Wheels – “Trick or Treat”

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy

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