Families love reasons to celebrate, and graduations in particular are special seasons of life. They swell a parent’s heart with pride at the accomplishments of their child. Graduation day for our son represented a “way out there” dream for me. In our son’s younger years I had allowed myself to envision him strolling across the stage in a cap and gown. But as he grew there were many years during which I hardly dared to entertain this dream. It was just too big, too grandiose, perhaps even completely audacious and out of reach.
Even allowing myself to imagine this moment never failed to elicit an emotional response in my heart. Each year in May I would attend our high school’s graduation to witness the commencements of nieces, nephews or friends’ children. As I listened to the names being called and watched the graduates cross the stage one by one, tears would come to my eyes at the mere thought of our son one day crossing that stage himself. How could I dare dream that a child with Down syndrome might be able to graduate? At the time, this was unchartered territory.
In my doubt and fear, I would reflect again on the character God remembering the praise time each week at my Moms in Prayer group where we always spend a few moments praising God for who is … trustworthy, sovereign, all-powerful, faithful and good. I believed God loved my son even more than I did, and I could trust God with the plans for my child.
Before we knew it, the big day arrived! As his name was read, our son crossed the stage to receive his “diploma,” and I was enveloped and overwhelmed by the goodness of God.
This verse sums it up for me: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!” Ephesians 3:20-21
Take time in prayer to give your fears, your hopes and your dreams to God. He is the One who is able to go beyond our expectations.
Here’s a verse to get you started: “For ____ is God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for _____ to do.” Ephesians 2:10
Still hangin’ on to dreams,
When it comes to parenting, how are you feeling? Is your family the picture that you had in mind? I know that for a long time I had this picture in my mind of the perfect family; the kind that you used to see on TV shows years ago. However, the reality of kids with special needs and the inability to totally control my life eventually made me take a more realistic look at image I was clinging to family. The truth is, we are all holding pictures of what we think a family is supposed to look like. Our pictures come from a variety of sources: magazines, TV, Hollywood, and parenting books to name a few.
However, the Bible does a better job at portraying real-life examples of parents and families. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at some of the parenting examples that you encounter in the Bible:
- Noah- had a drinking problem.
- Abraham- offered his wife to another man.
- Rebekah- schemed with her son to deceive her husband, Isaac.
- Jacob- his sons sold their brother into slavery.
- David- had an affair, and his son started a rebellion.
- Eli- lost control of how his boys acted in church.
You might ask, “What about Joseph and Mary? They raised Jesus and He turned out okay.” That’s true, but don’t forget the time they left Him at church for three days! Today, they would have been reported to child services.
Clearly, God is not trying to paint a picture of an ideal family. So what’s He doing? He’s writing a story. A story with multiple chapters, a story that’s unfolding, a story that is a process, not a point in time.. The Bible demonstrates with surprising candor that God is interested in using imperfect people…imperfect parents…imperfect kids…to tell His story.
God’s story is a story in which everyday faith becomes a reality.
It’s a story where we have a chance to start anew. It’s a story that gives every family and every parent a chance. Imperfect people are the primary characters featured in almost every story in the Bible and God uses them time and time again to influence those around them. I believe that as parents we can breathe a little easier to learn that God is not nearly as interested in putting a perfect picture in front of us of what our family should look like as much as He is trying to tell a story through us.
If your picture is not where you want it to be at this time, you may be tempted to throw in the towel. Don’t. I would encourage you to not focus on the picture. Focus instead on the bigger story that God desires to illustrate through you. Rather than painting a picture of the perfect family, God wants to use our families as a canvas for His redemptive story. He wants to use parents, just like you and I, to show our children and those around us what it means to have an authentic, everyday faith with a God who restores and redeems imperfect people.
Too many of us buy into the myth that we need to become the right kind of parent before God can use us to nurture our child’s faith and those around us. The Bible does not give us a perfect picture of the family, but it does suggest that every father and every mother has a unique role in portraying God’s love to one another and to their children. Let go of the myth and let God use you, just as you are, to tell His story.
God bless you and thank you for all that you do as a parent!
I sometimes feel a strange sense of guilt, or at least dis-ease, about Penny. It’s not what you might think. I’m about as comfortable as I can imagine being with a child who has Down syndrome, and I think my kids are too. (The other day, I was explaining that some athletes from the Special Olympics practice we were about to see might have Down syndrome. Penny did a fist pump in the air and starting chanting, “I’m Down syndrome! I’m Down syndrome!” William piped in, “I’m not Down syndrome! I’m not Down syndrome!” as if they were congratulating one another, and themselves, on these basic truths about their respective identities. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I prefer person-first language: “I’m a child with Down syndrome!” I just shook my head in wonder at the two of them.)
The reason I feel uneasy is because it’s pretty easy for us to have a child with special needs. It took some adjusting, and I still have the practical challenges of IEP’s and ENT visits and the like. But Penny is healthy, she’s happy, she reads books, she helps with her little sister, she gives me lots of hugs. William and Marilee, young as they are, love their big sister and get plenty of attention from me and other loved ones.
I feel guilty because we have a good life, and Penny’s needs don’t feel any more significant than those of our other children.
I was talking with a friend a few months back, and she accidentally completed my sentence for me. I was about to say that I thought Penny might “fall into a gap,” between typical kids and kids with special needs, but my friend said, “create a bridge.”
It’s possible, of course, that our sense of ease and comfort won’t last much longer, that a major health concern will raise it’s ugly head or that Penny will struggle more in school or with friends. But I’m hopeful that her health and happiness continue, and that we can use it not as a way to divorce ourselves from families with children with special needs who are struggling, but instead to connect, to bring together, to build bridges.
Some of you are feeling lonely and isolated and beaten down. I can only hope that this post hasn’t contributed to that sense of isolation. But some of you might need a gentle reminder, like the one I received from my friend, that though the world sees disability as negative (as I did–thinking Penny would “fall” into “a gap”), our children in and of themselves are gifts, to us and to the world around us.
God is a God of bridges, of going out of the way to find the lost and draw people near, no matter the cost. I am grateful, and honored, to think that our family might play a small part in God’s work of redeeming what has been broken, comforting those who despair, bridging the gaps.
As some of you know I have been sick for the past few weeks. I spent eight hours in the emergency room one night, several visits to the doctor, a CT scan at the hospital another day, and nothing wrong was found. I am doing a little better now, but I have been really struggling to wrap my mind around everything that I feel God has “allowed” to happen in my life over the past year.
Over the past year it has been one thing after another, my husband deployed and everything went wrong, car problems, illnesses, family issues, therapy visits, stress, stress, and more stress. Then my husband came home and I thought everything would be better. It was for awhile, but then more and more things kept happening. We got an Autism diagnosis, had problems with tricare, dealt with issues with the therapy visits and all the procedures leading to his diagnoses. And now it’s been one health issue after another. Between me and Adam, I’m pretty sure we have had enough sickness to last us the next five years.
I couldn’t figure out why God would allow all this. WHY? WHY? That’s been the question haunting my life. Why did my parents have to get to divorced? Why did I have to miscarry my first baby? Why does my son have Autism and SPD? Why do I have all these health problems? WHY?
The past few weeks we have barely been to any therapy and any appointments because I have been so sick to do so or Adam was sick. My frustration mounted as the housework piled up because I felt to sick to do it. The overwhelming feeling that I was doing everything wrong, but at the same time not doing enough was killing me. I started to realize that I can’t do all this, it’s too much. I am under so much stress.
Why do I try to do it all myself? because I want to be strong. I want to be the mom that does it all for her son. I want to be there for my husband. I want to be the housewife my family deserves, but honestly I can’t do it all. I read all these blogs that say to do this and that and you will be a great mom, and a great wife, and have a great family, but let’s be honest, there is no perfect formula for a “great family” and a “great marriage.” Yes, I believe you should do your best, but sometimes it’s just all too much and you have to take a step back and re-evaluate everything.
I thought that maybe God is trying to teach me something in all this. He is showing me I can’t do it all that He wants me to just lay back and rest in Him. To TRUST Him.
Yup, there’s that pesky little word again. I have talked about trust a lot on my blog, my struggle with wanting to be control and not willing to let God lead in my life sometimes and to trust Him. But I wonder if this is why God is bringing me to my knees, to show me that I can’t do this alone. This anger I’ve been feeling as though He has failed me somehow… it’s not true. He hasn’t, He’s been there all along.
I was thinking last night about this example of God’s love and how He never fails me:
When Adam and I go places, I get him out of the car and I set him down. I grab his hand and we walk through the parking lot to whatever place we are going. But sometimes in that parking lot, Adam lets go of my hand and tries to walk off ahead on his own. He doesn’t want me to lead him because he wants to be in control, but I am still there reaching out, trying to grab his hand and I say, “Adam, hold my hand!” And he does because he realizes he needs me to lead him to where we are going.
It’s the same way with God. When we get saved we start out holding his hand, we are going along well until we think we can do things on our own and we let go. We want to be in control and we think we can do it all by ourselves. And God is there beside us still holding out His hand waiting for us to take it again saying, “Kathryn, Hold my hand. Hold my hand!” And when I take His hand again and trust Him it’s then that He can lead us through the valleys, through the tough times and even through the good times, because He is in control and He knows where I’m going.
And that’s when I am overwhelmed by His amazing love. His love that wraps around me even when I fail HIM. And I am amazed.
I am feeling a little better now, but I am still learning to slow down and trust. I do believe I was sick from the stress and anxiety of everything that has been going on and I am still struggling with a few of the symptoms, but I am learning my lesson. I have to let God lead me in a direction where I can learn to rest in Him and not do it all on my own.
So for you tired moms out there. You can’t do it all. You don’t have to do it all. Just ask God to take you where you need to go today, because today is all you can do right now and that’s all that matters.
If you are in a place where you feel stuck and with no options…God sees and knows your situation. I truly believe that He has you in that place for a purpose. The best thing you can do is lay your frustrations, your fears, your anger, your anxiety and all the negative feelings you have about the situation on God’s altar.
God wants to show you more of Himself. He wants you to learn to trust and to be content in all circumstances. Think of how many people in the Bible found themselves stuck in a hopeless, depressing situation that seemed to have no way out and would lead to their demise. They were in places where it seemed the only thing to do was to give up and resign themselves to face their fate….Daniel in the lion’s den; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace; His chosen people surrounded by their enemy until He parted the Red Sea; Joseph being sold into slavery, then imprisoned when he spurned the advances of Potiphar’s wife; Peter in prison and God sent his angel to free him. There are so many examples in the Bible that are there for our benefit.
What do most of these people have in common? They were in impossible situations, with seemingly no way out, and they had peace regardless of what they were facing. They didn’t struggle, they didn’t complain about their unjust treatment or predicament. It’s so hard for us, to resist the urge to wonder, “Why God?” “Where are you?” “Have you forgotten me?” If our back is up against the wall and it seems like we have no choices and no moves available, rest assured God sees and He knows and He is working on your behalf.
Your mission now, is to learn to know Him in ways that you’ve never known Him. Cling to the hem of His garment. Take advantage of the time where it is just you and Him. Read everything you can get your hands on that will increase and build up your faith. (Read about all those people I just mentioned.) Fill your days and nights with just feeding yourself with God’s word, truth and presence.
I learned this lesson first hand when I was bedridden and couldn’t do anything, or go anywhere. I miss those days, where it was just him and me for hours and hours everyday and no other cares of the world to distract me. What awesome fellowship I had with Him. I could sing like Peter did in prison, because my God was with me and I felt His presence. He puts us in those places for a purpose and then He does miracles to show that He alone is our deliverer and redeemer.
Don’t let the enemy discourage you or rip you off. You may not be able to change your circumstances…but you can change the one thing you have control over and that is your attitude. God has a purpose and a plan for you for being right where you are. He is still God, He is still sovereign and He is still on the throne…let your situation transform you instead of break you. You may be weak and weary, but He is our strength. Let Him transform you mentally, emotionally and spiritually. You are in a place where spiritual giants have been..trust Him, He knows what He is doing. Praying you will see your trapped situation with spiritual eyes. May your fear and depression dissipate as you learn to let go of the struggle and rest in His arms!
We walked into the office together and Max plunked down in his usual chair. Max couldn’t wait to get through the “talking part” of the doctor’s appointment so that he could play with my iPhone. I introduced the doctor to Kacey who had joined us to help with Max during the appointment. Kacey is 23 years old, and a gifted teacher. And let’s just say that if Kacey had been born in another era, you would have seen Michelangelo running behind her, lugging a 4 ton block of marble, begging her to stop and pose. We all exchanged pleasantries, as much as four of us sitting in an office the size of an elevator is pleasant. And then Dr. T. asked Kacey how often she helps with Max.
Kacey leaned into the table. Everything about her smile at that moment told me that if a wing could be built off the side of our house, she would live in it. That if Max were to join the circus, she would bunk with the elephants. Or, at least help him with the trapeze. Kacey has come to love Max; her beauty runs deep. She looked at the doctor and said, “I try to work with Max as much as possible, every day if I can.”
Dr. T. dropped his eyebrows and leaned away from Kacey. He sat back in his chair as if he’d been thrown against it. And then it happened. It was a casual little comment that hit like a slap across all three of our faces. The doctor looked right at Kacey and smirked, “Don’t you want a life?”
I gasped and turned toward Kacey, whose statuesque shoulders had slightly drooped. I wanted to reach over to her and brush off the soot and grime, to bleach everything back to white again. I turned to Max, who fortunately had my iPhone up to his ear jammin’ to Cindi Lauper’s “Girls just wanna have fun.” Had he heard it? Had he heard that helping to care for someone else, care for him, wasn’t a life? I looked back at the doctor, my words sputtering, “This is life. This is a beautiful life.”
The doctor’s words stung my heart and bounced around in my mind for weeks without a place to land. Have we believed the lie that our highest aim in life is to serve “self” rather than others? Do we believe that to have life we must have glamour or ease or popularity? That’s the Hollywood myth, straight from the homeland of the miserable. And it’s the lie that causes us to question every minute of caring for an individual with a disability.
I’ve bought that lie many times when I’m too tired to see, when I’ve forgotten the gifts and beauty, when I demand there should be more of “me.”
When I believe the world instead of listening for God.
It’s a radical idea that the more we give away, and the more we lose ourselves by serving others, the richer we become. But God offers something the world cannot: an abundant life. Jesus Christ came to this world so that we might have life, and have it abundantly. And He offers His abundance to every life, the young and old, the weak and strong, the tired mom who can’t navigate the world without an extra pair of hands. He even offers it to the highly educated physician who still has much to learn. Jesus beckons us to take our eyes off self, and trust in Him.
I know…it’s so completely counterintuitive. This stuff will never make People Magazine.
Perhaps Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, put it best. He spoke at a dinner this past Saturday at an event hosted by the Colson Center. Cardinal Dolan shared the Law of the Gift, originally penned by Pope John Paul II. “We are at our best,” the Cardinal began, “we act most in concert with what our maker intends, when we give away in love to another what we most prize within ourselves.”
Do I still dream of a day at the spa? No. I dream of a month at the spa. But I know it’s not where I will find true beauty, where I will find an abundant life. God’s abundance, his grace and beauty and presence and provision, is found in the everyday, even in the challenges and exhaustion and isolation. I find it when I can pry my eyes of self and trust in Him. And I see it in a 23 year old, whose heart seeks to serve another.
It’s a beauty that even Michelangelo couldn’t have captured.