Okay I am going to open this one with an embarrassing story. You are welcome to laugh at me because I find it ridiculously funny in hindsight too.
When I was pregnant with Jack, part of my litmus test for choosing his name was picturing what it would look like on the back of a team jersey and how it would sound being yelled from the stands. I would run all of my potential names through the "Go _______________" test. I chose Jack because, among other things, it sounded strong. Other names in the running were George and Henry but they clearly didn't pass my shallow name choosing requirements. I share this story so you can appreciate how far God has brought me in 12 short years.
Your story may not be quite as pathetic, but I think you will relate that we go into motherhood with all kinds of ridiculous expectations. I remember thinking how cool it would be if I had kids who were so smart they could skip grades and be in college as 10 year olds. You know, like the stories you saw on Oprah and then responded with the thought, "that is so going to be MY kid".
Thankfully, for my children's sake, I evolved and have gained a much more eternal perspective in my parenting. While historically my greatest concern for my children was their performance, today I am much more interested in attributes like their character and a future that reflects their calling.
Here’s my point. If you know my family, you know that God had a much different plan for us than I pictured as a 25 year old. I am the mother of three special needs kids and while their situations all took some getting used to at first, I can say with confidence that God has healed me of the need for them to be anything but who they are.
Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying that I am glad that my kids have special needs. God hasn't brought me that far yet. :) What I am saying is that I am truly at peace with their challenges and here is part 1 to why:
1. In Their Weakness God is Made Strong.
I witnessed this first hand with Maggie this summer. When she was at her weakest, people prayed. When God healed her, their faith was strengthened. When we had nothing else to give personally, God supplied everything we needed. To God be the Glory.
2 Cor 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. “
2. They Have Taught Me More About Persistence Than I Have Ever Taught Them.
Around our home, Ruthie is the greatest example of this. She regularly figures out how to do things that should have never been able to do on her own. Most recently she taught herself how to tie her shoes. She reminds me that I can do anything that I am called to do if I am willing to put forth the effort.
Phil 4:13 “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”
3. They Have Introduced Me to a Community that is Not Competing Against One Another but Instead Encouraging Each Other.
I don’t know what things are like in your community, but around here, it seems like every elementary kid is working now for a spot on a high school team or a place in their class rank. The culture is one of competition where another child’s short-coming is an opportunity for your own child to excel. It’s sad, but true, and unavoidable.
My experience in the Arthrogryposis, Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia, Single Ventricle, and Adoption communities has been just the opposite. We rejoice with those who rejoice and we mourn with those who mourn. One child’s achievement gives hope to the other members of the group that their child might also excel in that area. When one child or parent is struggling, the entire group rallies around to support them. It is a Biblical picture of what community should look like and an incredible group of people to do life with.
Romans 12:15 “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”
4. They Have Reminded Me of the Need for and Power of Prayer.
Yes this is absolutely true of motherhood in general, but I believe you will all agree that we pray harder when our kids struggle. I have sought God more fervently for my special needs kids and my faith has grown as I have seen God move in their lives and change my heart for their situations. When life is easy, we become self-sufficient and seek God less. With special needs kids, you rarely reach that point.
To wrap this first part up and put a bow on it, Jack still has a strong name. His strength is just a different kind of strength than I so shallowly anticipated, and I am confident that it is a better strength and fits him perfectly.
Here are a few pictures of Jack with his baby sister. He is an amazing big brother and wants to be a cardiovascular surgeon so he can help kids like Maggie. I could not be more proud of that boy and who God is shaping him to be.
So mom's of special needs kiddos, I would love to hear what you have to add to this list. I have 4 more that I am going to add in a few days, but I would love to hear from you too.