This is for the mama who feels like things are just too hard right now.
If you follow me on social media, you see that I often post fun photos of my kids, especially my youngest son with Down syndrome. What I don't often share is that it's also hard. These days are thankfully not like the survival mode we were in for the first two years of his life. It's also more than the typical challenges of raising children without disabilities, and maybe that needs to be shared too.
If you really know me, you know how frustrated I feel when someone says, "Every child comes with their challenges," or something like that. I have two children without Down syndrome, so I do understand the challenges that come with other children. What we face with Redmond is different. If you're raising a child with a disability, what you face is more than what other parents deal with. Maybe we're the only ones who can understand that.
His sweetness and pure heart cannot be beat, and he's 100% worth it. I actually don't think much about the struggle most days. But every once in a while it hits me. For example, other families go on mountainous hikes while ours looks for trails with wide paths and gentle slopes. We could put Redmond in a carrier and go on more strenuous paths, but he wants to be free to walk beside his siblings. That means that his siblings rarely get to test their limits on rocky terrain, but he gets to participate. Sometimes, we face the guilt and decide to leave him with Grandma while we do things with the other kids that he can't handle. Sometimes, we send the other kids off with Grandpa to have adventures that we just can't do as a family.
I accept the slower, less event-filled life than the one I expected. I accept that my other children have less of my attention. I accept that he learns at his own pace. I can work with him, but some things can't be rushed. There's other things I accept that I won't write about here.
My dreams came true with these three little blessings. Who would've thought that the 36-year-old woman with nothing would be given so much in just 10 years? God, of course, and He prepared me beautifully. Ephesians 2:8-10 says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." God prepared this good work of motherhood in advance for me to do, and God has given me everything I need to do it. And when I have not been nearly enough, God has provided all along the way. God's goodness is so much greater than I could ever say.
If you're facing a mountain of challenges as a mother and it seems like that climb is too much for you, you're probably right. It's too much. But the good news is that you don't have to climb it alone. God has uniquely prepared a path for you, one full of helpers to hold your hand through difficult passes, with breath-taking views along the way. God will be with you every step of the way.
Maybe you're not the mother of a child with a disability, but you're a single mom who rarely gets a break, or you're a mom who gets no help from her husband or family. Maybe your child's disability is undiagnosed (or invisible) and you can't imagine anything harder than what you're going through right now, raising that challenging child. God sees you. Ask for His help, then open your eyes wide to look for the ways He provides for your needs along the way.
My blessings have come with pain. I guess that's life. I know you have pain too, and if you serve God, He's prepared you to handle yours too. Accepting that pain and joy are often intermingled is one way to handle it. The other way is just to pause at the times when there IS a breath-taking view and fully appreciate it. Soak it all in, realizing that this view is rare. Others who are busy conquering mountain peaks aren't likely to have noticed it, and we are unusually blessed.
There is one other thing about having a child with a disability that I'd like to share. Before Redmond was born, we chose his name carefully. Redmond means "wise protector". Samuel means "my God has answered." My God has answered with a wise protector. Right after he was born, we had a moment when we questioned if that was still the name for him. How could a person with Down syndrome be a wise protector who God had sent as an answer to prayer? I somehow knew though. God had given me that name for him when only God had known everything about him. I chose to name him that prophetically, calling into existence wise protection over our family.
We can never know God's purpose in sending us children with disabilities. As I consider that Jesus is coming back soon, I feel a great sense of anticipation over Redmond's role in it all. He has a unique ability to tap into how others feel and provide what they need in the moment. Is laughter necessary to break up some tension? Does that person need a gigantic hug that doesn't let go until something inside them releases? Will his lack of guile somehow be the key to keeping others safe? God never does things in the way I expect, so it's likely ridiculous to even speculate. The thing is, people who approach the world differently almost always have a unique super-power that this world desperately needs. Yes, things can be harder with them, but maybe they are exactly what this world needs.
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