Because sometimes that one child, with all their special needs, takes everything you have


Do you have a child with impulse control issues, ADHD, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Aspergers, Autism, Dyslexia, APD, Depression, Anxiety, or a unique concoction of those listed above? And is it hard? I bet it is. I know it is. Having a child (or children) with special needs, behavioral disorders and learning difficulties can be one of the most difficult weights to bear. And under the pressure, moms can explode and marriages implode and love erode. It's all so very complicated.  

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One sweet mom recently asked for prayer concerning her anger, and was so insightful to recognize the connection between the constant energy her child with unique needs requires and her own twitchy trigger finger.  She confessed the way she tends to explode at the rest of the family when she is simply worn out by her one special child. Yes. I can relate. I remember going to the psychiatrist for the first time with my son with ADHD. After he was assessed and diagnosed I immediately started talking about all the other issues in our family and the possible disorders my other kids might have. The doctor smiled, nodded, and said, "It's very possible nobody has any diagnosable issues. They have issues, but the sort of issues that come from proximity. Don't worry. Let's see if we can help this one kid first. Usually what happens is that once we help one child with impulse control and oppositional tendencies everyone else's behavior in the home begins to change.


Kids with behavioral, developmental, or learning issues often cause the whole family to have issues as well. And to some extent I've seen that this is true. If one brother is hyperactive and discontent or argumentative, think of the way it affects siblings and mom and dad. That peaceful home you always imagined transforms into a stressful one with terse replies and a short-tempered marriage.


Unfortunately it's not as easy as a little pill. Some challenges simply aren't so treatable, and the ramifications run deep and wide. Sure, we can learn behavior modification techniques and coping skills, seek the help of therapists, try changing their diet and homeopathic remedies or more traditional medications, but for many families there remain... challenges.  Challenges because of that one dear child who sits awkwardly somewhere on the spectrum, demanding much of our time, every waking moment. Or the kid with dyslexia that still comes home with two hours of homework each school night, along with a backpack full of self-loathing. And by the time you get his needs taken care of you are all poured out, stressed, sad, and short tempered too.

I'm sorry.


I'm sorry that you have such a challenging reality. But the deal is this, my friends: Your charge to love is the same as the woman next door with two compliant girls and bumper stickers boasting, "My child was on the honor roll... Again!" Every Christian woman has been given the same commission, regardless of circumstance: To love, because we have first been loved. To forgive, because Christ first forgave us. To suffer beside our children as long as need be, because our God is long-suffering in his tender love toward us.


Believe it or not - experience it or not - we have all received good and not evil from the Father's hand. But good doesn't always mean easy. Good means, I believe, just the right circumstances to help us recognize our desperate need for Jesus each and every day! That child with Aspergers and the two with ADHD, the teenager who struggles with anxiety, the one with OCD and his brother with APD, and the husband weighed down heavy with depression, and you with your own soul sadness...


Every human issue has the ability to point us towards our deepest soul issue... the fact we need God's power in our weakness, His saving in our failures, His hand to hold us up, His love when ours runs bone dry.


Ladies, there is no formula to conquer these challenges, and every other, other than Christ in you, each and every day. Abide in Him as He abides in you, carve out the time and make His near and transforming Word a priority, that you might bear the fruit of His Spirit in your overwhelming (God given) circumstances.


Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17


What if the word "perfect" doesn't mean exactly what we imagined when we were first pregnant? We dreamed of perfection as ten fingers and ten toes, a soft tuft of hair, and all the baby powder scented memories we'd make together. We dreamt of perfection as the darling slept contented and awoke happily. We imagined perfect to mean all shiny and lovely and joyful and good. But what if "perfect" has more to do with perfecting the recipient of the gift? Transforming us via the present swaddled in our arms. 


God looks down upon his grown-up child and says, "I love you therefore I want to perfect you into my image... so I will send you a perfecting gift to help you in this process. A gift all hot and fiery to refine the dross right out of you. There may be ten fingers and ten toes, and contented sleep and happy waking times, but then again there may not be. I have formed this perfecting gift within the womb of a woman as part of my perfect plan to perfect a mother. To perfect a father. To perfect a family."


Do you know that God cares more about your transformation process than your comfort? And that is true in our mothering lives as well. And so He doesn't just allow imperfections to slip through His fingers and into our lives... He prepares, pre-plans, and perfects us in these anointed trials of motherhood.


I sat with my child on the end of his bed one afternoon when math was swirling in his head and simply would not make sense. He asked me, "Why do I have this issue?" And I hung my head in surrender there beside him and chose again to let his issue be my own, rather than letting his issue suck me dry and leave me unkind and worn out.


"Son," I said, "we all have issues. Every single person under heaven. And God has allowed them so that we can learn to turn to Him for His wisdom and strength each difficult day." And then I shared with him a few of my own challenges. Because it is true - we all have them. And in that moment my issues became encouragement to another. How much better, how much better... than when I've let his issues cause issues of my own.


Dear parents or children with challenges that challenge you, with issues that create issues there in your home. I'm praying for you today, that the Lord is reveling His perfecting plan in the midst of all of this.


He is good. Your child is good.  And you are good.


Press in to that, and press on.

Grace, Learning Challenges, and The Short Bus


"Mama rode the short bus..."


Sounds like a "Your Mama" joke, but it's no joke,  cause this Mama did.  Ride the short bus to school.


The short bus arrived early for the students who needed a little extra help with basic reading and writing.  I was on that bus, along with the ESL crew and other "slow kids."  We listened to Peter Rabbit and the Briar Patch, wearing puffy pleather earphones, turning the page when the recording when "Ding."  Then the school bell went "Brrring", and the average and smart joined us for the rest of the day.

Some time after lunch I'd get pulled again... for speech therapy.  So there I was, the girl who stuttered when reading aloud, who struggled through her multiplication table, and couldn't say an R or L to save her life.  That was me, the one who almost repeated fourth grade.

Then Middle School was a puddle of Cs, except for the D of my bra size, which was even more embarrassing than my lousy grades.  But somehow I managed to survive that too.  And by the time I hit High School my bra size went down, and my grades went up.

The change in size had more to do with losing my baby fat than anything else, but the grades I attribute entirely to my poetry closet - a cube shaped space behind a narrow door in my room.  In that closet, decorated with pictures of the ocean, I wrote a love song to River Phoenix.  And in that closet I learned to pray.  And in that closet I read God's Word in my Precious Moments Bible.  And as I did, there in that closet, I started to embrace who I was.


Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, Me.


For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

(Psalm 139:13-14)


Now here I am, on the other side of the short bus, many years past Elementary School, Jr. High, High School, and my little girl bedroom with a canopy bed and that poetry closet.  Having since graduated College Summa Cum Laude, worked successfully as an actress, married a loving man, and birthed three baby boys.

But my highest achievement is something I NEVER had to earn.  It was God's sweet Saving Love, through Grace.  Not because of my wits or my charm, my grades, income, or which bus I rode upon.  It was simply that God gave me the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the mind to perceive...


His.  Great. Love. For. Me.


And that Salvation truth is the bus I take today,
it is the ride that can take us all the way to Heaven for an eternity.
No grades can earn that bus ticket.  It's free.
And that Grace is my identity today,
covering and displacing the insecurities of my youth.


And I know, in the deepest, most honest parts of me, I would choose the gift of this grace over a high IQ and AP courses for my children any day!  But here's my awful confession:  Sometimes I forget.  I forget how God can use the stuttering Moses.  And I forget how God looks at the David heart.  And I forget how Grace applies, when I start judging, labeling, even shaming my boys for their own learning challenges.

The one who can't focus, and the one who's behind, and the other who suddenly lost every bit of knowledge he learned last year.  So I harp and wag my finger, as though the nagging will increase their smarts.  Then huff and walk away when the little one can't remember how to count by 2s, and the middle-est can't remember 9x7, and the oldest won't sit still to have a deep conversation with me about his summer reading.


I know a therapist could have a field day with this post!  But I don't need any professional to tell me this:
The grace I received, is my legacy to pass down.  As much as their speech impediments and reading challenges may have come from my side of the gene pool, so grace and love are mine to impart as well.


So tomorrow, before I bring them all my grace-forgetting tendencies, I will climb back into the quiet space of my heart and mind, so very much like my poetry closet, and remember again that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and so are they.

God has wonderful things in store for each one of our children... which may or may not include a full-ride ticket to an Ivy League school.  But I know without a doubt that every good thing God prepared for my boys will come to pass.


The timing

and the blooming

and the grace-believing harvest

belong to Him...