Peace of Heart Home (POHH) has been built. It is beautiful but the process was messy. It did not go as planned yet I trust God’s timing for it. It alone is an accomplishment but only minor compared to the stories it will set the stage for. While we file our paperwork and wait for our license, we anxiously await the stories of peace, faith, love and hope and the growth they will produce in the lives of our homemates with autism and our staff and volunteers. For me, adding typing and presumed competence (the belief that Gentry is intelligent, her life has value, and she wants to belong and have purpose) to the soil of Gentry’s life and watching her blossom has been better than binge watching an award winning series on Netflix. I have also witnessed similar transformations in the lives of her friends and future homemates.
Building POHH has reminded me of something: I’m a recovering people pleaser. I was a painfully shy child and wanted no attention drawn to myself, particularly negative. I was always a 3rd place finisher in sporting events, academically I was and “A” student but never the valedictorian, socially I was on the student council and in many clubs but always happy to be the 2nd officer. I wanted to “color in the lines” so no unnecessary attention would be focussed on me. This posture carried over to home where, being the 2nd of 6 children and the first born girl, I would do my chores and assist my Mother and tag along with my Dad on Saturday mornings at work washing cars at the dealership rewarded by a glass bottle coke and a mars bar from the vending machine. Life was good. Life is still good but the picture perfect reality of my upbringing did not play out in my adult life.
Somewhere, something changed… life happened and it didn’t unfold as planned. I was supposed to be the Martha Stewart homemaker with 5 happy children happily sending my husband off to work each morning. My plan vs. God’s plan looked more like a “t” in the road than a uniform highway. Looking back, I can now smile in amusement. Why would I be surprised? His plans are always shockingly different and, I might add, more beautiful than I could ever imagine. Even so I still find myself jumping into the role of scripting my life. When tempted to write the story of my life, I remind myself of this scripture from Psalm 5:3 (message version): “Every morning I lay out the pieces of my life on your alter and watch for fire to descend.” I have hopes and dreams but hold onto them loosely. I lay out my plans and ask for fire to come down and take what are my desires, not His. Now I listen for God, map out a skeleton framework, then let Him fill in the pieces.
One thing I do know is God is good. His love His constant. Pain and suffering are a crucible where His most intense work is done. I have been through death, disease, and autism and I will tell you it is autism that has almost taken me under. I have this beautiful, brilliant, strong-willed daughter who has dragged me through fire after fire. She has taught me about true beauty and social injustice. She has taught me to go against the mainstream. She has taught me what forgiveness is. She has taught me what HOPE is: “The belief that the light will follow the dark”.
Gentry has conditioned me to endure no matter the obstacle. Unlike my bent toward people-pleasing ways, I was given a daughter who comfortably did not live life within the lines. Her abstract art is quite symbolic of a life being lived outside the lines. I look back in amusement at the thought of me trying to make her more like the people pleasing me. Gentry has taught me the beauty of the gifts of imperfection. When the former perfectionist in me cries out that it is not enough, that I am not enough, my daughter pleads with me that she has “just enough hope” to carry on and I too must muster just enough hope to forge forward with Peace of Heart.
It is our collective dream to be a light to our community, our state, our country of the beauty, dignity, and worth that persons with autism are and offer to our community. Peace of Heart Home (POHH) is a physical structure but it also is a living and breathing prototype that will be a viable model for others to follow of the beauty that can unfold with the ingredients of faith, communication, and sustainability. I patiently await these stories lived outside the lines. As I wait for this dream to become a reality, perfection screams that it is never enough. My response is to push back with progress. When I’d rather be a wallflower, I now step into roles that challenge me. Progress, not perfection, and grace to color outside the lines is my new motto and it’s our motto at POHC. This IS Peace of Heart.