In 2012, I found my daydreams of motherhood shattered, replaced with several diagnoses for both of my boys and a slew of endless appointments. Every few months, one of them would receive yet another diagnosis, which would send me into yet another cycle of grief. Each diagnosis also amplified my anxiety, sending me researching on Google like crazy and adding even more appointments to our schedule. Anxiety and depression took turns settling in and making themselves cozy.
I found myself constantly asking God “Why?” and never got an answer. I was desperate for God to show up in my life, but also a little bitter about the life He had given me, His silence, and His distance when I needed it the most.
And then, when I felt I was at my absolute breaking point, God whispered one word that broke the silence and banished the anxiety and grief that had gripped my heart for so long.
Embrace what? I wondered.
And for the next hour or so, God revealed area after area of my life that I needed to embrace. I wish I had written it at all down at the time, but I don’t think my pen would have flown across the pages fast enough. I was convicted. Encouraged. Loved by the God of the universe.
He would gently remind me of something I needed to embrace fully in my life. Something that I needed to not only accept, but cherish. My role as a mother. My husband and his personality and his own way of grieving our childrens’ struggles. My children. Their progress. Their personalities. This special needs journey. Myself. And most importantly, God. My perspective was transformed to the biblical, rather than the worldly way of doing things that I’d been trying to do unsuccessfully for years.
Deciding to Shift Your Focus and Embrace This Special Life
I recently found a quote from John Piper that summarizes what I learned in that hour or so I spent with God. He says, “Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped for. Grieve the losses. Feel the pain. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.”
It’s okay to grieve and mourn. They are healthy, human emotions that even Jesus experienced. But we can’t get stuck in that place of grief and overwhelm and anxiety. As it says in Ecclesiastes 3:4-5, “There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.”
It takes an intentional shift of focus to switch from that time of mourning to a time of rejoicing and embracing. It requires us to not focus on our overwhelming life circumstances and instead choose to focus on all the blessings and the good things in our lives.
To celebrate your child’s progress—every single milestone and every hard-fought inch in-between—rather than focusing on their weaknesses.
To remind yourself of how much you have learned and grown and all the things you do as a special needs parent, rather than feeling like you’re not doing enough.
To ask God what He wants to teach you from this special needs parenting journey, rather than asking Him why He has you on it.
To count your blessings and the good things in your life, rather than dwelling on the things that are hard and not what you expected for your life.
To remember that all of your favorite Bible heroes faced their own struggles and suffering and yet God used them and did mighty things through them. And He will do the same through you, if you are open to what He is doing and teaching you in your own journey.
Choosing to embrace this special life (and all the blessings within it) requires an intentional focus, but its impact will overflow into your heart, your faith, your life, your family, your purpose, and so much more.
Jenn Soehnlin is a mother of two boys who are precious blessings and who both have special needs. She is the author of Embracing This Special Life: Learning to Flourish as a Mother of a Child with Special Needs. She enjoys blogging about faith and special needs parenting at www.embracing.life.