In our home, we’re in the middle of a very draining, painful season on the special needs parenting journey. This season, I’m told, will come to an end. When the end will come is unpredictable. What is predictable is that, though this difficult season will lead to a less difficult season, the cycle will only repeat itself. Most of the time, I let hope lead me and I choose to focus on the blessings. I fight to keep the positives in the forefront of my mind. Right now, I’m losing the fight. The intensity of the battle is wearing me down and I feel much like I’m on the edge of a deep, dark cavern, clawing my way towards the light.
Then, yesterday happened. Another one of my children was given another diagnosis that requires more therapy appointments, more unique parenting strategies and more…well, just more. (When it rains, it pours, right?!) I’ve now sat through three diagnostic assessments and been told three times, with three of my four children, that there’s a label for them that will require me to up my parenting game. That I need to be more and do more and give more…more than I am, more than I can, and more than I have. To say that I’m feeling overwhelmed would be putting it very mildly.
As he got ready for work this morning, my husband noticed the dark cloud hanging over my head. He asked me what was wrong. An answer fell from my lips before I could catch it. Before I could edit my distressing thoughts…
“Life” is wrong?! The moment I heard myself say it, I knew I’d reached a dangerous place. A place of discontent. The Enemy loves to convince us that what’s difficult is bad. That, if it’s painful, it isn’t worth it. He’d been whispering in my ear over the past few weeks, little lies that I didn’t even notice at first. Selfishness ever-so-slowly took root until I’d been deceived into believing that the constant demands placed on me each day are somehow beneath me. That, instead of changing diapers, making appointments and calming meltdowns, I deserved to be relaxing in silence on the porch with a good book. I’d let my focus slip. That was all Satan needed in order to plant thoughts of entitlement in my exhausted brain and, suddenly, I was annoyed at the kids for needing help with tying their shoes or fixing a snack. Before I knew it, I was angry that I had to read my daughter’s favorite book to her again, when we’d just finished reading it a few minutes before…the exact moments I used to dream of before I became a mother.
As I was leaning over the kitchen counter this morning, coffee in hand, grumbling under my breath about my kids’ requests for more cereal (because they’d spilled the first bowl on the carpet), I looked down at my open Bible and God shook my soul violently with one passage:
“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him.” Psalm 127:3
My entire life, I’d dreamt of having four children. I remember praying for each of them and imagining myself in the middle of a crazy, busy life; making breakfast with a baby on one hip, two more kiddos giggling at the table and another off somewhere doing school work. I’m literally living my dream life! God’s graciously given me exactly what I asked for and so much more. Yet, when the details of this life turned out to be much more difficult than I’d ever imagined, I allowed selfishness to gain ground in my heart. The terrible truth about our human nature is that we can have it all and somehow still want more. I began to take it all for granted when the harsh reality is that there are women out there, women I know and love, who would die for what I’ve been given. In my own little circle of friends alone, I know several mothers of angel babies that they never got the chance to hold on this side of Heaven. I know women who have tried to conceive for years, who have watched me get pregnant over and over again as their hearts break, waiting for their turn. I have friends who are devastated by loss and longing, waiting and desperately praying for the very thing I’ve been complaining about. This truth breaks my ungrateful heart. This truth hurts. Confronted with my own sin, the pain is deep and real.
Notice that the Bible verse above doesn’t say “typically developing children are a gift” or “well-behaved children are a gift”. Just children. All children are a gift. Yes, having two children with Autism, one with ADHD, and one sassy three year old mixed in between is HARD. I’m not wrong to feel completely exhausted. Parenting in general can be really, really hard…but parenting is a sacred, blessed calling. I have been given four gifts. The experiences I thought I’d have with my gifts are very different than reality. There is great heartache where I once dreamed would be joy. There are struggles on this journey that leave my heart bleeding and my soul longing. Yet, I absolutely cannot allow the painful, difficult, or tedious parts of this journey to overshadow the fact that I’m immensely blessed to be a mother in the first place.
My prayer tonight is a prayer for forgiveness. For all that I’ve taken for granted. A prayer that God would soften my heart and open my eyes. That He would continue to gently remind me to step back and look at the bigger picture when I’m confronted with more complicated, difficult news; longer lists of tasks that overwhelm. I pray that those who long to be parents would be blessed with the gift of children, and given strength and comfort in the waiting. My prayer tonight is one of limitless joy and immeasurable thanks for all He has given and all He has done. Even when my body is tired and my soul aches…may my life be one of thankful praise.