GNO with Suzanne Ebel: Autism, Speaking Up, and Donald Trump

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Veni vidi vici.

 

I came. I saw. I conquered.
Except for the vici part.  
It should actually say,  ‘effodisset’, or “I got smacked in the face.”
 
Being raised in a devoted Christian home gave me one sure thing, a love for God and His word, and an awareness of his abiding presence. It did not make me a perfect person, but it set me on the perfect path. As a full time home maker, domestic engineer, maid and trolly driver, my days are spent tending to the activities, needs and spirits of my family — two teen boys and a college aged daughter, and a husband who is a CEO which means Constantly Extended Operator. My goal in this role is to inspire and encourage the pursuit of knowing and loving God in a world that to often preaches division and judgement. I re-fuel and re-focus by chanting the verse, “They will know you are my disciples by your love.”

What would you share with a new mother?

When I first learned that I was pregnant for the first time I was overcome with the awareness that I knew nothing about being pregnant and little about becoming a mother. I went to the St. Louis county Library and checked out 16 books on pregnancy, developmental and gestational stages of the baby on board, and what I could expect from my changing body. If I had only been this eager to acquire all this biological knowledge while in college!!!!! 
It was exciting. I wanted to know absolutely everything about every developing cell, every developing organ, every developing system, and every single nuance of my developing child. I was in awe of what God was creating and building and knitting inside of me.
Nine months later when Audrianna was born, I found myself again wanting to know absolutely EVERYTHING about Christian parenting. I read James Dobson, Gary Ezzo, Dr.Spock, Growing Kids God’s Way, Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Thirty ways in Thirty Days to Raise the Perfect Child, The Mayo Clinic Guide to Children’s Health and Development, and about 25 other great parenting tomes. I really wanted to do this right. I wanted to be in the center of God’s will, and make sure my children were scaffolded by godly parameters and the tried and true principles taught by the Christian leaders of our day.
We were a family dedicated to prayer. But we were, unknowingly, a family really impacted by a desire to be approved of by our Christian peers. To that end, I think we put too much emphasis on what our parenting looked like to others, rather than being tuned in to what the Holy Spirit was whispering in a still and quiet voice, a voice that that was easy to hush in our eagerness to hear what our Christian peers approved and found effective.
It was a few years before we knew that our second child was autistic. Trust me, Tough Love was not the best option. He needed tender love. He needed us to shepherd his heart, but he didn’t need hours of “crying it out” and repeated spankings. He needed to be held tightly and comforted. He needed a different parenting style, and parents who were willing to do things that might not fit in the prescribed boxes. We knew in our gut that something was off, and that our parenting would need to be tweaked. But we wanted the approval of our new-to-the-parenting scene cohorts. We made a few mistakes. Actually, we made a LOT of mistakes. And the mistakes started with not listening to that still and quiet voice of the Spirit.
My advice to new parents would be to rely heavily on prayer. Also, listen more to the quiet and gentle voice of God as you do to the so called experts and your peers. Yes, there is wisdom in many counsels. And we need to prepare ourselves by acquiring knowledge and reading diligently, but there is no substitute for hearing directly from the Lord about your very unique, very special child of God and from God. Be ready to listen to Him speak directly to you. Because He will!
 
What are some things that you wish you would have known earlier?
I am very thankful to have been raised in a God-centered, Bible-centered, southern family. Graciousness abounded, and “others” were always welcomed. As a family we truly lived the “I’m third” life: God first, others second, and self third. I think God was honored in many ways by this focus.
We fostered orphaned children and learned at an early age to share our toys, the attention of our parents, and our resources. Regular Bible study and prayer were the M.O.  I never knew it any other way. WWJD — this was our mantra before the acronym ever made it to the rubber bracelets. I can’t begin to enumerate the various ways that we were taught to serve others and be available to those in need. My parents were very adept at encouraging a servant’s heart. And I am so very glad for this upbringing.
But, in all honesty, I think I somehow never learned that my opinion mattered. I was third, and therefore, I didn’t matter. Someone else should choose the movie tonight. Someone else should decide what color we paint the bathroom. Did I prefer fish or chicken? Wow. Surely I need to let someone else decide where we eat, it is probably really important to them, and after all, I am third. 
Somehow the wonderful truths of being servant hearted and others- focused led me to believe that I was inferior and insignificant. This was a distortion of a beautiful concept.
I wish I had been taught to balance. To believe in the value of my voice and my opinion — graciously presented. Learning to value your own opinions and your preferences in not an act of selfishness or some form of radical feminism– it is an act of appreciating what God has created within your own heart and mind. And it is an act of saying yes  — to what God has and is doing in your soul. To speak up is not to override others. To express an opinion is not to invalidate the opinion of others. It is an act of building, of contributing and even bridging. 
It has taken me two-thirds of my life to be wiling to speak up. I wish I would have started sooner.


What is your favorite Bible verse?
At the end of every day, I find myself always going back to this verse:  
 
“O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Micah 6:8
Every verse in the Bible is nectar, instruction, warning, and encouragement. But when I want to see if I am on track with God, I do try and ask myself: Am I just in  my thoughts and actions? Is my behavior, discipline and attitude KIND? And most importantly, am I governed by humility? After all, the operative word in the verse is “REQUIRE” — justice, kindness and humility are not suggestions.  And God tells us these are “good.” Just think of how many problems we could solve if we lived justly kindly and humbly! There would be no distension, no human carnage, no “politics” of sorts. 
 
What do you wish you could go back and tell your “younger self”?

Note to self — my younger self and my current self:  DO NOT OVER COMMIT!

Like many eager beavers, and like many who are people pleasers, I was and am quite good at over committing.  It is all very well intended and the causes all equally needy of volunteers and leaders.  Sunday School teaching.  Girl Scout troop leading.  Board memberships.  Committee Chairmanships. Women’s Ministry.  VBS.  Room Mom.  BSF, CBS, Advisory Boards.  Teacher Appreciation Coordination.  And communion-cup picker-upper.  The list could go on and on. 
Both my husband and I are first borns, and somewhat type A. We are self starters, self motivated, and overly self-critical. Especially when it comes to feeling as if we are doing our part and being a responsible and contributing asset to a group. Sometimes we are equally blind to the fact that our commitments reflect a need for approval rather than fulfilling a call. 
Early into our marriage and parenting, Bob and I both found ourselves spending multiple nights per week “out.” He was at his board meeting one night, then I was at mine. He had a men’s Bible study on a particular evening and my women’s study was on another. Then there were the committee meetings that went along with the board meetings, and the pre -committee- meeting meetings to plan and prevent hickups at the official committee board meetings. Oh yes, we were doing our part. We were giving back and pitching in. At one point I was volunteering over 40 hours per week. So was he; on top of working a 50 hour -a-week job. All of this for great organizations. All to the demise of family time! We were lucky if we were home as a family two nights per week. And on those nights there was enough stress to suffocate an ox. Were the children getting the quality time they needed to grow into responsible little humans? Were we able to be attentive to each other and wisely nurture our marriage? Too often it seemed that the only praise that we were receiving was from those on the outside. Our inner circle of family wanted to pull a Donald Trump and say, “YOU’RE FIRED!”
We finally agreed to take turns being on boards and committees which required evening meetings. We also agreed to be honest about why we were making the commitments to various organizations and groups. Were we choosing to serve in a particular capacity because we wanted the social connections or because we uniquely had something to offer in terms of insight, skill, leadership or experience?
Being a good parent, a good spouse and a healthy individual required us to be careful about our outside commitments. 
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Lighten up!” Even the Bible clearly states that a cheerful heart does good like a medicine! Give yourself some grace, and give a double helping of grace to others. Trust me, in time you’ll need a double helping, too!
More good advice from a trusty mentor:
Beware of people who like to use big words. Hermenutics, Cristology, exegesis, trans-substantiation, eschatology.  If a teacher is over-fond of poly -syllabic words originating in Greek and Latin, there is a good chance that the teacher is more concerned that others see him or her as intelligent than they are about helping others understand scripture and know God more fully.  Jesus was all about making himself accessible. Thus his use of parable and the common language.  My favorite teacher always called us to keep the main thing the main thing, and to keep it simple. “Jesus loves me this I know…for the Bible tells me so.”
Your friend, trying to be joyful on the journey,
Suzanne
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