How to Rise Above Disappointment

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. (Psalm 118:1)

These are the first words I read in my devotional book this morning as I sit on the beach, alone, disappointment hanging over me like a big, black cloud. I watch the waves ebb and flow, leaving rainbow-flecked foam in their wake.

I want to give thanks to the Lord, but disappointment makes thanksgiving almost impossible.

The constant motion of the waves mesmerizes me. Like God’s love, they never, ever stop. Like God, they are a force far beyond my understanding.

I repeat the words of the psalm over and over, a mantra to help me find my center, lost in the chaos of the past few days.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

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I sit on the beach, alone, because our family vacation, so eagerly anticipated, has totally imploded. My husband, along with our son Joel’s caregiver, had to drive Joel home last night—an overnight drive of 13 hours from Florida to Ohio.

Joel is our youngest son, and he has autism. Joel has been decompensating since arriving at the beach five days ago, and yesterday it became all-too-evident that he could not tolerate our current situation any longer.

Those of you with kids with autism know the drill.  Agitation and anxiety, building slowly to a volcano eruption and major meltdown. Hitting, kicking, hairpulling, lying-on-the-backseat-kicking-the-car-windows tantruming. Joel isn’t a little boy. He’s a grown man of 33. This kind of meltdown is serious business.

I keep asking myself, What was I thinking?  A vacation with the entire family—in one house!—including a toddler, two dogs, and Joel?

My rationale? Joel has been doing so well the past two years. The behavior we’ve seen this week, commonplace for several years, has all but disappeared since he moved into his own home with his long-time caregiver. But I should have realized that the reason his behavior has improved so much is that he’s getting exactly what he needs in his new living environment. Quiet and calm and peace and routine.

Truthfully? This vacation came down to what I neededI needed the entire family together for a long overdue family vacation, and time with my darling 18-month-old grandson. I needed the healing oils of the Spirit to flow, mending strained relationships. I needed down time with my husband, unhurried conversations with my other kids, and immersion in the beauty of a place we’ve vacationed as family for 45 years. I needed us to be a typical family.

As the week progressed, the fantasy fell apart and a thundercloud of disappointment moved into my spirit.

As I sit on the beach this morning and repeat this mantra—Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever—I begin to get it. I get that God asks one simple thing of me in the midst of this disappointment.

To give thanks for what I do have.

The psalmist goes on to write:

When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can (autism and thwarted plans) do to me? The Lord is with me; he is my helper. (v. 5-7a; my paraphrase)

And so, here I sit, alone, in this spacious place, looking out at the sparkling green waters of the Gulf of Mexico. I make a choice to praise my God. I praise God for my family, as it is, winsomness and wildness and warts rolled into one. I thank God for my grandson, who makes my heart laugh. I thank God for all three of our sons. I thank God for two daughters of heart. I thank God for Joel’s awesome caregiver and friend of 14 years. I thank God for my husband, and our love affair and partnership of 45 years. I thank God for our ministry at Cloudland. I thank God for Cape San Blas, this glorious place where I sit.

Most of all, I thank you, Lord, for a love that endures forever. Help me continue looking to you; looking to your beauty and power,  strength and grace, to overcome any disappointment life throws my way.

The words of the song, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” pop into my mind: Turn your eyes upon Jesus/Look full in his wonderful face/And the things of earth will grow strangely dim/In the light of his glory and grace.You can listen to this beautiful song, sung by Amy Grant, here:  Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Thought to ponder:What disappointment are you dealing with today? For what can you praise God in the midst of that disappointment? 

The mother of a grown son with autism, Kathleen Bolduc is the author of The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilitiesand Autism & Alleluias. She and her husband own and run a contemplative retreat center, Cloudland, outside of Oxford, Ohio. Kathy is also a Spiritual Director.