CircleBen and Emma

Last month, I began praying circles around my boy and girl. Prayers that their hearts might feel more peaceful and less anxious. Prayers that they might recognize their unique strengths and be at home in their own skin. My boy has courageously struggled to fight anxiety since the age of 2 or 3. Just falling to pieces over changes in schedule or a change in the environment, the hallmark of his autism. While he has developed much better coping strategies for these realities over time, he still comes face to face with anxiety on a daily basis. Lately, the sight of his sister’s untied shoes can send him over the edge. And then there’s my girl who would run and tremble, gripped with fear, at the mention or sound of someone throwing-up. She’s come a long ways, too, but being the product of a long line of anxious genes on both sides of the family, she still does her share of worrying.

This decision to pray circles around my children and their anxious hearts came as a result of a study that I completed with my girlfriends around Mark Batterson’s book, The Circle Maker.  Mark tells of the legend of Honi, the circle maker. Honi was a sage who brought rain to his drought ridden people after drawing a circle, stepping inside it, dropping to his knees in prayer and vowing not to move from that circle until God provided the quenching rain which had eluded them for the past year.

When I chose to pray circles around my boy and girl, I had no idea that I was about to be blindsided by a telephone call a week after beginning my challenge. My children’s principal called and asked if it was a good time to talk and the alarm bells immediately started going-off in my head. Uh oh. What did my child do? What has happened to my child? Did something happen to his/her teacher? After reassuring me that my boy was fine, the principal explained that due to a new autism program being started at another school  in the fall, my boy was going to be moved on the basis that we lived closer to this new site. Actually, we live .25 miles further from said school; however, the real issue is that a blanket decision was made, requiring my boy, with autism, anxiety, OCD, and ADHD, to leave a school where he is thriving to transition into unknown territory, likely causing significant regression academically and behaviorally. This decision would not only affect my boy, but my girl, as well. For she attends the same school as my boy on a waiver so that they can be together.

My initial reaction was to sob off and on all day long. My husband, on the other hand, was ready to fight. And while I appreciated his passion, I wasn’t there yet. I really wasn’t sure how to read the information in front of me. Could this change be an even better opportunity? In spite of looking for the positive, though, I really didn’t see how a school could be any better fit for my boy and girl than where we are now. After a day or two of grieving and praying for guidance, I felt like God was leading me to “go to the mattress” for Ben. I needed to advocate for Ben to stay where he is in order to support the peaceful hearts for which I had begun praying on behalf of my boy and girl.

This is where The Circle Maker really kicks into high gear. Once I jumped on board with my husband, we spent the following days and weeks writing letters, seeking guidance from advocates, making comments at a special education advisory committee meeting, and checking-in with the staff at Ben’s school to let them know where we were in the process. While we received full-support from the school staff, our letters and pleas with those in charge of this decision were met with silence. No recognition of having received our letters. No calls. Nothing. The more time that went by without hearing anything, the harder we began to fight, forwarding our letters onto school board representatives and finally the Superintendent. In the meantime, I am fervently praying circles around our situation, praying as if my prayers are already answered. I refused to leave my circle until we were heard, reminding myself to pray through, as we so often tend to give-up right before the miracle is about to occur.

Our final plea was to be made at the School Board Meeting. The night before we were scheduled to speak, my husband and I submitted our comments along with a heartfelt letter written by my boy’s teacher on his behalf. Mind you, I am totally ill-at-ease with public speaking, but I needed to advocate for my boy. Exhausted, but at peace with the knowledge that we were doing all we could, our heads hit the pillow around midnight the night before the meeting.

That morning, I joined several of my girlfriends on a visit to a nearby retreat center to wrap-up our last session before summer break. Tired and distracted, I considered opting-out this time around, but figured it might be a good thing to get away from everything for a few hours. After finishing our study together in one of the retreat rooms, I climbed the stairs to the cupola overlooking the city. There, I opened my Bible and silently prayed for our meeting that evening. I prayed that our words would be met with a compassionate response for what is best for Ben.

Driving home afterward, my cell phone chimed, interrupting my thoughts. My husband and I aren’t in the habit of calling each other much throughout the day, so I figured it was something important when I answered. “I just got a call and it looks like they are willing to work with us.” The decision had been made to allow Ben (and Emma) to continue attending their current school, minus a few logistical transportation issues! All I kept thinking was, “Thank you Jesus!” I felt  like I had won a major court case!

Later that afternoon, upon letting the clerk of the school board know that we no longer would be speaking, we learned that it was the clerk, herself, who acted as the pivotal person in our case. We’re not sure whether she chose to speak-up for us as a result of reading our comments or if she received directives from above; however, I am convinced that God used that clerk to bring about a resolution on Ben’s behalf.

This circle is not the first and certainly won’t be the last to be drawn around my family. And when the time comes, again, I will find strength in God’s faithfulness amidst the many circles drawn and answered throughout my life.

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