Guest piece from author , Joyce Yexley.
As a parent of a child with special needs, I have experienced my share of heartache and grief. Conversely, I have discovered five valuable lessons about how to live with joy not matter what circumstance we may face: the power of prayer, trusting God, celebrating “tiny” victories, overcoming challenges and growing a heart of gratitude. My hope is that other parents may find some comfort in my words.
Learning the POWER of prayer. Heartache. When every fiber of your soul feels broken, there is only one way to overcome this burden: fall on your knees and listen to God. Come unto to me all ye who are weak and heavy burden. God sees every teardrop. Thankfully, we have a gracious heavenly father who listens, comforts and is willing to lead us to something better. He says, “For I have plans for you to give you hope and a future.” When you look to him, Jesus will nudge you towards his plan with his overflowing peace. Prayer connects you to his power, his strength and new hope. His peace surpasses all human understanding. As you embrace God’s presence in prayer, you will understand the power of his divine grace for your family to live without fear and replace it with JOY.
Learning to TRUST God. One of the hardest things to do as a parent is to trust someone else with your child. We are careful in selecting a babysitter, a special school, the proper therapist and proper nutrition. But, can we truly trust God? Trust involves giving control to someone else. Trusting a doctor is necessary before you allow him or her to suggest a medical treatment or surgery. We need to feel informed and confident at making every decision for our child. When I finally learned to trust God, a load of worry lifted from my shoulders. I was free. God says, Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Trusting God means we have faith he has it all figured out. Be still and watch his plan unfold.
Celebrating small VICTORIES. Our daughter was born with a colon disease called Hirschsprungs. Due to digestive issues, she did not eat solid food until she was 3-and-a-half years old. I actually prayed for the day when she could eat a Happy Meal at McDonalds. Although this is a small and trivial prayer request, I wanted the luxury of not worrying about her food intake and out-take. I longed for a carefree and simple meal like normal mothers who didn’t have to worry about colon and digestive issues. I merely wanted to go to a drive-up window and purchase a simple Happy Meal. After three years of colon surgeries, my prayers were answered. Today, her favorite treat at McDonalds is a yogurt parfait with strawberries. Our God specializes in details. He reminds us, he has numbered the hairs on our head. I love seeing my prayers answered—especially the little ones.
No request is too small for God.
OVERCOMING the obstacles. My daughter had suffered a severe brain hemorrhage at birth. The CAT scan indicated she had no healthy brain cells. It is called a stroke. Since she was premature, her brain was more sensitive because it was undeveloped. One doctor told us, “ There is nothing between the ears.” Her future included the words of blind, deaf, and physically challenged. We understood the reason for this statement, but we still rejected this diagnosis. Fortunately, several doctors told us Amy needed a lot of TLC – tender loving care. Although this statement seemed too vague and abstract, I soon realized it was just what Amy needed. We loved her too much to consider her void of purpose. Everyone has a destiny of purpose and value. Soon I became motivated to stimulate her in every way I thought possible. For audio therapy, I put our baby to bed with an old tape recorder playing a collection of Christmas carols, gospel music and nursery rhymes. For two years this was a nightly routine. Then something happened.
Although she was considered deaf at 32 months old, she heard a song and played it on a piano in her therapy class. Amazed, she continued to play for hours. Joy filled my heart. It was the day God touched Amy. She found her passion. She overcame the impossible. Oh, happy day!
Growing in GRATITUDE. In college, one assignment entailed an entire class to play-role as either a caregiver or a physically disabled person in a wheel chair. For three hours, students were paired to attend a class, eat a meal in the cafeteria, travel in a vehicle and use the restroom. It may sound easy, but after one hour every student in the wheelchair wanted to stand and be removed from the wheel chair. Everyday tasks such as; opening a door— without slamming it on your leg, maneuvering a wheelchair through a cafeteria line— while holding onto a tray; and using the restroom in a wheelchair became a frustrating experience for both students. When we lose our physical capabilities, we instantly realize how fortunate we are to have a healthy body to perform simple everyday tasks. Being a full-time caregiver for a child with special needs isn’t easy. As a parent, your mind is constantly thinking, watching, and assisting with another person’s need. It doesn’t take long to realize the intense physical and mental requirements needed to be a caregiver. Help from strangers and friends are truly cherished gifts. It is in these challenges that a heart of gratitude can bloom. As a parent, I have learned not to focus on the disability, but stay grateful for acts of kindness from unexpected helpers, moments to relax, coffee with a friends and words of encouragement. We all want life easy, fast and simple, but challenges teach us patience and patience teaches us character. I am grateful for the small acts of kindness.
The journey of raising my daughter has tested my strength, my patience and my dedication to trust God’s faithfulness to guide our family. God’s persistence revealed that nothing is impossible with him. Yes, he can work all things together for our good. Thankfully, I have become a mother filled with unimaginable joy.
About the Author
Joyce Yexley is a fashion historian, writer and speaker. She holds three advanced degrees. As approved speaker for Stonecroft Ministries, she has traveled to six states sharing her faith journey to women’s organizations. She has published articles in faith-based and women’s magazines. She has served on the board of Cass County Historical Society. Previously, she worked in the home furnishings industry for 20 years as a design consultant, buyer, and manager. Her business, A Century of Fashion, is a fun-filled presentation including vintage fashion, live models, music, and a power point. She shares fashion programs to venues such as museums, fundraising events, schools, reunions, and centennial celebrations. You can learn more at www.joycesjourney.com.