Monday, July 26, 2010

This Isn't What I Expected!

"Today I have given you a choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!" (Deuteronomy 30:19, CEV)

This weekend our family had plans to spend four days at a private campground which we had never visited before. It's always difficult to get my hard-working husband to take some time away, so I made sure I scheduled a Thursday through Sunday trip versus the usual Friday evening arrival with Sunday departure. We were all excited as we planned and packed, anxious to get on our way as soon as possible.

Of course, life being what it is, we were subject to any inclement weather that came upon us, and to our great misfortune, the unusually wet season continued. Our hearts longed to get on our way vacationing together, but our logic knew that it would be total foolishness to pitch a tent with severe rain storms on their way. Disappointment set in as the family was at a crossroads. There were circumstances beyond our control, and we could either let it ruin our vacation or find the joy in where we were at.

We delayed our departure and made our way to a local cinema to enjoy the matinee showing of a terrific new release. We shared laughter, popcorn and a delightful movie in our altered time together. The kids were anxious to head to the campground after the film, but saw our wisdom in delaying when tornado warnings and torrential downpours ensued.

The following morning was a much better time to head to our little vacation spot. However, once we got there, we were once again faced with a choice. There was ponding at both the back and front of the site. Being tent campers traveling with a puppy, this would never do! We talked with the campground management, who were kind enough to allow us to sprawl out of the site to dryer ground and a more tolerable setting. As the sun set on our fun-filled day, my husband uttered the fatal words, "See! It won't rain any more! There's not a cloud in the sky!"

That night, it poured without ceasing. As the water dripped on my head through the top of the tent, I was questioning the sanity of ever camping again. Our new $90 dining canopy had been water-logged and twisted by the wind and the rain. We found ourselves at yet another crossroads. Should we stay or should we pack up the wet remains of our attempted vacation and go home? More rain was predicted for the day.

As the weather cleared, betraying the report of the weather man, our decision was to take the chance of staying at the campground. While keeping everyone mud-free and securing our crumpled canopy with rope proved challenging, the risk ended up being well worth it. Our family found joy in everything from simple swimming and peddle cart riding to glow sticks and marshmallow roasting. The kids all quickly made new friends among the wet and weary campers.

Why do I share the lengthy travails of our weekend outing? It occurred to me that our lives as parents of kids with special needs is much like this camping trip. How many of us have received that poem Welcome to Holland shortly after our child was diagnosed? What ends up being so appealing about the poem is the prevailing emotion of "This isn't what I expected!" We can all relate to having our plans be thrown off course. There is heartbreak to the disappointment of not having things turn out as they should be. Something so simple becomes something more complicated.

I do find myself scoffing at the poem's inference that "Holland" (or parenting a child with special needs) isn't "horrible, filthy... disgusting, full of pestilence... and disease... just different." I'm sorry, but the GI bleeds and hemorrhaging nosebleeds and angry hematomas I've dealt with are far more than "just different"! The behavior of those we come in contact with are also often horrible and disgusting. Let's face it, some days, it's just absolutely the pits!

However, as today's Scripture passage points out, God always has the ability to redeem. And Emily Perl Kingsley's poem points that out well. If we continually focus on the broken dreams, we'll never see the joys that the Lord has set before us as a choice! We can choose to pack up the wet tent and go home or jump in the lake for a swim and enjoy an evening hayride. The choice is ours. We can spend time in perpetual agitation with doctors, educators, family and neighbors or we can find humor in the insanity, offering us a huge belly laugh.

Like our children at the campground, we can also meet some pretty terrific fellow travelers as well! Through our heartache, I have formed lasting friendships with other parents who are interesting, practical, fun-loving and compassionate. Had I not endured our trials, I would have never met them.
I must admit that while life has been much harder as the parent of a child with special needs, it has been far more joyful as well. I came to a fork in the road where I could believe that God wanted me to remain miserable for the rest of my earthly days or choose to believe that He wanted me to find beauty in the ashes. I have chosen the path of life, of joy, of hidden delight. I invite you to do the same!

PRAY:  Jesus, lift my chin to see the blessings you shower on me, rather than the rain.  Help me to make the best of every circumstance You allow.  

1 comment:

  1. This could've been our family the first night of VBS Camp! haha However, with our daughter being in a wheelchair and the mosquitos eating us alive, WE packed up our gear and brought the battery operated Coleman lantern and the air mattresses into the living room and decided to "camp" in the air conditioning. Congratulations on sticking it out...esp. with the new puppy!