Many people have speculated about why my book is entitled, “No More Peanut Butter Sandwiches.” I’ve been amused hearing from so many people who think it’s related to my son’s autism.
But the book is really about finding God’s presence, and learning to discern from Him in the midst of our struggles and trying circumstances. It’s about hope, encouragement, and inspiration for all of us struggling with where we are we are in life crying out to find the purpose in our pain. Here’s where the title idea originated.
Peter Pan…in case you wonder later in the story.
When I was in elementary school our school system started a “gifted program” for certain students who demonstrated exceptionality in science and math. I guess they needed to fill a spot for a freckled boy with bangs because somehow I was chosen to participate.
Each of us had to come up with a project idea to work on for the class. My peers quickly went about developing incredible projects worthy of the gifted program. But while they developed alternative forms of energy, created new ecosystems, solved complex math formulas, and sought world peace; I went down a different path.
I decided to conduct a blind taste test of peanut butters to determine which one was best among 5th and 6th graders. I dipped spoons into jars of various brands and had my peers sample them blindfolded, and choose their favorite.
You see I loved peanut butter. I still do. So my dream project was to spend my days working with my chosen medium, peanut butter. Which explains why now some 35 years later, I still have never been nominated for a Nobel Prize.
If you ask any connoisseur of peanut butter sandwiches, we will tell you there’s a fine art form to making the perfect peanut butter sandwich. And it all begins by making sure you use ample peanut butter and spread it all the way to the very ends of the crust, covering the edges completely.
Otherwise, you end up with a lot of worthless spread-less crusts of bread when you are finished.
Why am I sharing my obsession with peanut butter with you?
Because five years ago, I died on a hospital gurney.
My body, overrun with a devastating toxic buildup, went into respiratory arrest and I quit breathing. Within minutes I was placed on a ventilator to breathe for me, and I spent the next few days on life support in a medically induced coma.
A few weeks later, I returned home a complete invalid. I required 24/7 care with everything from feeding, bathing, medical care, even moving. I spent months in a wheelchair learning to walk again. For weeks I had to have IVs administered every 6 hours around the clock through a pick line, while my foot was attached to a wound vac.
All of a sudden, my wife Becky found herself taking care of two individuals with special needs. She was already laying down her life daily to care for our son with cerebral palsy and autism. His profound special needs required her constant care and attention.
But now she had a husband with special needs who was temporarily, but completely, dependent on her for his every need as well for several months.
One day I requested a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. Now Becky, trying to care for both of us at the same time, quickly put a dollop of peanut butter between two pieces of bread and slid it across the table.
I gazed at the sandwich for a moment. Then I made an elaborate drawn out production of separating the two pieces of bread as if I was searching fruitlessly for the peanut butter. Waving the sandwich at her, I sarcastically said to the woman who was providing life to me, “ You call this a peanut butter sandwich? This is what you gave me?”
I’ll pause here while every woman reading this mutters under your breath and silently thinks, “She should have killed him right there and buried him under the deck.”
Through clenched teeth, a tear running down her cheek, Becky quietly said, “Don’t wave that peanut butter sandwich at me.”
At that very moment, the Spirit of God chimed in as well. “You know, Jeff, you do the same thing to me.”
Convicted, I realized just how petty and ungrateful I had been to God as well.
God has graced me with the strength to persevere and to endure, as a special needs parent. God has taught me the essence of unconditional love, never-ending grace, and finding joy in the simple things.
He has taught me that everyone is wonderfully made, created for a plan and a purpose, and destined to glorify Him. He has provided our every need and has never left my side or abandoned me on this journey.
He gives me life. He inspires and teaches me though my son, and He has made me a better person through my experiences raising a son with special needs.
And though He has chosen not to heal my son this side of heaven, He has used my son to heal me of many things I had in my life.
Like pride, selfishness, greed, arrogance to name a few.
You could say I have been given a child with special needs. I can say I have been given the most amazing gift.
And yet how many times have I waved my peanut butter sandwich at God so to speak, and complained or been ungrateful over something trivial or petty in the larger scheme of life?
How many times have I let my circumstances steal my joy because I put my hope in the things of this world instead of in my trust in Him? How many times have I let my every day circumstances cause anger, bitterness, despair and frustration? How many times have I vented at God because my daily provision “didn’t cover the crusts.”
He stepped out of heaven, transcended time and space, came into my world and died…because he wanted me. He came to earth looking for me because he knew I couldn’t live without him.
“God, I’m sorry for all those peanut butter sandwiches I wave at you.”
We may not always be able to give thanks FOR our circumstances and struggles, but we always can find ways to be thankful IN our circumstances and struggles.
Now you know where the title of my new book originated. It’s available now at Amazon.com!