|"Upward Journey" courtesy of Simon Howden via freedigitialphotos.net|
"Be joyful because you have hope
~ Romans 12:12, NIV ~
So many of our years of raising a child with challenging issues is spent moment by moment, fighting battle by battle, struggling day to day. Sometimes it feels like our progress is measured in inches rather than miles. It is exhausting, and often discouraging.
How often we feel like we are getting nowhere fast. The occasions where we get the privilege of slowing down, reflecting upon how far we and our children have come, seem far too rare. Perhaps life would not seem like we are digging ourselves out of an endless pit if we could have a few more of those encouraging moments.
On occasion, we suddenly experience a marked breakthrough, one that signifies a notable positive shift in course. I am experiencing one of those shifts with my youngest child this school year.
It has been a painful, relentless, long journey with our youngest child. With all of her invisible challenges, the negative response we have received from family, friends, neighbors, and classmates over the years has been heartbreaking. There have been way too many times where I wasn't sure we could make it through the next 24 hours with our girl. I bought into all of the condemnation that others ignorantly hurled at us. I prayed that I would not be visiting my child in jail one day, but would rather see God using all of this energy and adversity for His glory.
You can imagine my surprise when I prepared for my early school year "huddle" with my daughter's teaching team when I got e-mails back from the staff saying such things as, "I love your daughter! She is such a big help to me in the classroom," and "She's doing great this year." MY daughter? No one EVER "loves" my daughter! Exasperation? Yes. Love? No.
While all of this was music to my ears, I was still very nervous ahead of our brief, before-school meeting to all get on the same page with my daughter's IEP. Nevertheless, the good news continued. While I expressed my daughter's challenges with hating reading, one of her teachers proclaimed her delight that our girl had already DEVOURED 4 books within the first 5 days of the school year. I was shocked in an oh-so-grateful way. With my daughter participating in the meeting, she did well in advocating for the things that concern her and help her to focus in spite of her challenges. The team was more than happy to accommodate those things. Hooray for the social skills it takes to build self-awareness and self-advocacy! And the team also discussed how they approach the school year with preparing the kids to make good choices with their time and transitioning to high school. What a load off of my mind!
I realize we are only 3 weeks into the school year, but I have never experienced this before. My daughter is activated in her learning, gaining ground, and moving in a positive direction like never before. Her homework is all done, and she is receiving all "A's" in her work thus far.
This past Friday night, she even met peers at the high school football game. It was raining out, and we really didn't relish the thought of taking her or bringing her home in crummy weather. Yet, the ear-to-ear smile of that soaking child as she got in the car, contently feeling the acceptance of her classmates who had also attended the game made the sacrifice all worthwhile.
Don't get me wrong in thinking this is some fantasy-come-true that will remain or come to all of us forever. What I am trying to convey here is that there is such AMAZING fruit when we persevere as parents of complex kids.
Did you read where I said earlier that there were times I wondered if I would be visiting this child in JAIL? For too long I couldn't even use a bathroom without worrying about what would happen next. I poured nearly every cell of my body, time, and intention into channeling this child's giftedness in the right direction. I saw her energy and put her into sports. I saw her love of animals and included her in dog training. I spoke life into her, letting her know that I loved her completely. I sought homeopathic solutions to her sensory and allergy issues. I advocated for her again, and again, and again with neighbors, educators, medical professionals, and youth leaders.
My point here is that God promises His word will not return to Him without accomplishing the purpose for which it was sent forth. (See Isaiah 55:11) When we trust in His word, being hopeful, long-suffering in our struggles, and praying continually, that relentless work of faith WILL bear positive fruit. The progress may seem to come at a snail's pace or may not even be visible to our eyes, but He is completing His perfect work in and through it.
I share this story to encourage you to persevere, my friends. It can be so wearying, feeling like we are getting no where. We emotionally throw up our arms in despair wondering what all of this effort accomplishes. I am here to assure you that your labor is not in vain. He IS with you, and whether you can perceive it or not, your faithful perseverance WILL yield good fruit in the end.
PRAY: Holy Spirit, it is only by Your strength that we can hang on through the rough, thankless days of parenting a challenged child. Pour Your encouragement and strength into us. Help us to just do that next right thing in each step as we march heavenward.
~ Barb Dittrich