I feel like a fraud. I’ll gladly tell you why because, first of all, this feeling is icky and I want it gone. (Honesty always makes me feel better.) Second, because I’m willing to bet that I’m not the only one…
Two of my four kiddos now have Autism. Two of them had Autism a month ago as well, but no one knew it except my husband and I. Now that the word is out, I’m being told on a daily basis how incredibly strong I am. I’m not sure if the people telling me this really believe I’m that strong, if they don’t know what else to say, or if they’re actually trying to convince me that I’m strong because they recognize that I’m screaming on the inside. Whichever one it is, I have yet to come up with a really good response to these comments. All I know is, the more I hear it, the more pressure I feel to live up to this incredible strength that everyone else seems to think I possess. For the sake of my sanity, because I have more than enough to stress about right now, I’m just gonna lay it out there and pray that no one shuns me for it:
I’m pretty darn weak.
Yes, I get up every day after a heavily interrupted night of sleep to shower, drink my coffee, and read my Bible in preparation to make sure four little people are bathed, dressed, fed, homeschooled, entertained, and shuttled from one therapy appointment or doctor’s appointment or extracurricular activity to another. Yes, I do all of this along with all of the other things most stay-at-home moms do such as laundry, dishes, vacuuming, scrubbing, bill paying, organizing, hosting, owie kissing, encouraging, refereeing, diaper changing, potty training, story reading, and hiding in the bathroom eating chocolate. Yes, I have a mental checklist of things I constantly worry about such as whether or not I’m teaching them enough of the right things, which specialized diet I should or shouldn’t have them on, what TV shows I should be allowing them to watch, who is going to take care of them if something happens to me, should or shouldn’t I have them on medications, which therapies are the best for their individual needs, what do I do if their meltdowns become more violent, how do I give each of them enough individual attention, what kind of friends are they hanging out with, what if no one wants to be their friend, am I being a good enough example for them, did I remember to pray for everything they needed prayer for, am I being too much like my mother…and a billion more. Yes, I have to constantly walk on egg shells, tiptoeing around Autistic behaviors in an attempt to keep some semblance of peace in my family. Yes, I have to prepare a schedule for every single hour of every single day. Yes, I have to live my life one moment at a time rather than looking into the future. Yes, our lives are limited and I have to be extremely creative and well-prepared in order for our family to do things that typical families can do without a second thought. Yes, I’ve gotten myself involved in organizations and projects to reach out to other families of children with disabilities. Yes, I also have a “real job” as a photographer.
Yes, I do lots of stuff. Most of the time with a smile on my face.
That DOES NOT mean that I am strong! It doesn’t even mean that I’m okay!
I. Am. Falling. Apart.
I will probably act tough 99% of the time because of a little thing called “Survival Mode” but, the real deal is this: I’m hanging on by a thread…and that thread is Jesus.
There is absolutely no way on Earth that I would make it through even an hour of this life without His grace. At times, the special needs parenting journey feels much like a marathon that will never end. The finish line is nowhere in sight, I’m completely exhausted, and my body is already broken down but there is nothing that could make me stop running the race…because those are my babies. I will never give up and I will never quit, but I’m not putting one foot in front of the other using my own strength. In fact, much of the time I’m being carried.
Our God is a God who runs the race with us. He is the soul Provider of the strength and living water we so desperately need to keep moving forward. He is the Author of the story we’ve been placed in and, though we may not understand why the journey is often difficult or painful, He promises that His plans for us are to prosper us and not to harm us. They are plans to give us hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Special needs parents have been chosen to run a race that is meant to bring glory to God. Our children bring glory to God in ways that never could’ve been experienced on a “typical” journey. The hardships of this journey drive me deeper in relationship with Jesus. They keep me humble, real, and compassionate. They keep me in tune with the heart of God. I wouldn’t trade that for the world.
I’ll gladly admit that I am weak. This life has brought me to my knees. I’m okay with that, because I don’t want to be known for being proud. I want to be known for having a servant’s heart, like the heart of my Father, and I’ve served many more people while weak and on my knees than I ever did standing tall and pretending I had it all together.
“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10