Exploring God’s Path for Your Life, Part 4

Exploring God's Path for Your Life: A 4-Part Series

 

I am absolutely thrilled to have my friend Julie Holmquist from Stuff of Heaven here today for the final installment of this blog series on your life’s path. We have discussed knowing when a storm is coming and how to seek God’s guidance. Today, Julie has written a lovely guest post on unexpected turns in her life path, and how she clung to her faith in those unexpected turns. Welcome, dear Julie!

Unexpected Turns

Life sometimes seems pretty straightforward, and I can see for miles. Other times, there are so many twists and turns, I get motion sickness from all the curves in the road. Some people’s lives happen exactly as they plan. I have one friend who got married when she thought she would. She had each of her four children when she wanted them — almost exactly two years apart. She and her husband were in ministry together, living out their dream.

My life, on the other hand, has never really been that straightforward. It’s had lots of twists and turns, switchbacks and unexpected detours along the way. One of those unexpected turns happened around the time my third son was three years old. He wasn’t meeting his developmental milestones, and we noticed some odd behavior. Friends and family kept assuring us he was fine and that he would talk and walk when he was ready.

Still…something didn’t feel right! Around the time he was three years old, he was diagnosed with periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) and cerebral palsy (CP). He also struggled cognitively with a low IQ. He had a host of other health issues going on at the time as well, but these were the big players in his life. This was not on our map.

Perspective in Poetry

The poem “Welcome to Holland” by Emily Perl Kingsley now made sense to me personally. The first part of the poem reads:

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip–to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy.”

Grieving

And the grieving process began!

Grieving is cyclical in nature–lots of twists and turns. With each milestone that neurotypical children meet and Andrew doesn’t,

we grieve.

When his younger brother is in the backseat teaching Andrew how to say something,

we grieve.

When his brothers all get invited to birthday parties, and Andrew doesn’t,

we grieve.

When Andrew realizes he will never be able to be a police officer like he’s always wanted,

we will grieve.

When Andrew’s brothers get married and have kids of their own and Andrew will probably always live with us,

we will grieve.

 

Andrew is a gift from God to us, but he’s just not what we thought when we were dreaming of what his life would be like. Andrew is in 10th grade, yet he can’t read. He can’t do basic math. Andrew is still unintelligible at times, but I will tell you what he can do:

  • Light up a room with his infectious smile.
  • Hug you when you’ve had a hard day.
  • Ask why you are crying and rub your back while telling you it will be okay.
  • Make you laugh with real sense of humor.

 

Unexpected Blessings

We were inducted into this club of being a parent of a child with special needs, whether we wanted to be or not. At first I went kicking and screaming. I did all I could to fix Andrew. I wore myself out from trying to make him “normal” — whatever that is. Someone once said that normal is just a setting on a dryer.

God has seen fit to send various people in our lives to refresh us along the way in our journey. Friends who still invite us into their home even though they’ve experienced some of Andrew’s worst behavior. A church who considers Andrew family and tells us that if someone new comes to the church and they can’t handle Andrew’s behaviors, then that is not the church for them. Strangers who rub my back and tell me I’m doing a good job as a mom while Andrew is having a meltdown right in the middle of the store.

Who is God?

As we are going through life, even the darkest and hardest times in life, God wants to reveal more of His character to us. One of the most profound blessings of having a son with special needs is that God reveals Himself to me in ways I might not ever have experienced otherwise.

God is a giver!

We are constantly giving to our son. He has many needs that are not going away anytime soon. God will require us to keep giving, and as we keep giving, He will give to us. He will refresh us! God gave His best to us. Through Him, we can do the same for others, especially our son.

God is mysterious!

The mysteries of God are wrapped up in the weaknesses of my special needs son. I consider it a privilege and a responsibility to unwrap the gift of God in my son Andrew. Just because he has special needs does not negate the fact that Andrew was made in the image of God. That’s hard to fathom sometimes.

 

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

New Paths

As we keep walking this journey of the unexpected with Andrew, we’ve learned to TRUST God on the journey. God is not constrained by time; He is already in the future. God knows the beginning from the end; He is not surprised by the detours our lives take. Sometimes those twists and turns are actually orchestrated by Him. Just like the path to the Promised Land was only an 11-day journey but it took the Israelites 40 years, we are sometimes detoured on our journeys as well because of wrong choices or sinful tendencies. We have to keep in mind that we are not so powerful as to thwart God’s purposes in our lives. He uses everything — even our weaknesses.

 

Has your life taken a sharp, unexpected turn? He is our True North! Keep walking toward Him, and as it says in Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight (NIV).

***

Julie’s honest, powerful testimony has inspired me, and I hope you are blessed by her tender glimpse into her family’s life of faith. Please visit Julie’s site Stuff of Heaven to check out other posts she’s written. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Friends, join me next week for my new four week series, The Abundant Life. I look forward to seeing you here!

 

Learn how God guides you on your life path.

***

If you liked this post, I would appreciate your shares on social media!

You can find this post linked at #livefreethursday, #heartencouragement, #chasingcommunity, #encouragingheartsandhome, #tuneinthursday, #gracemoments, #saltandlight, #graceathome, #quietlythroughthursday, #thankfulandgrateful#dancewithjesus, #faithnfriends, #freshmarketfriday, #graceandtruth#faithonfire, #sundaythoughts, #mommymoments, #momentsofhope, #dreamtogether, #glimpsesofhisbeauty, #soulsurvival, #modestmommondays, #lmmlinkup, #inspirememonday, #gritup, and #goodmorningmondays.  Visit my linkups page to find more wonderful places where I link up every week.

Disclosure: Some of the links above may be affiliate links.

***

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  • Beautiful words from a mother’s heart! Thanks for your God-breathed perspective, Julie.
    And thanks, Sarah, for bringing this new friend to us!

    • Sarah Geringer

      Thank you Michele! Blessings to you, dear friend!

    • Julie Holmquist

      Thanks, Michelle!

    • Julie Holmquist

      Awesome way to put it, Michele: “God-breathed perspective!” Yes! Without Him giving me that perspective, I would not be where I am today.

  • Liz

    Such a beautiful testimony to faithfully following where God leads! Many blessings to you and your family! Thanks for sharing Julie with us, Sarah!

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hi Liz! Thanks for stopping by!

    • Julie Holmquist

      😊😊😊

  • Someone I love deeply is here, in shoes that are very similar. You offer great hope and a broad, forward looking perspective. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    There is hope. There is a future.

    • Sarah Geringer

      Thanks for reading and commenting today, Linda! Blessings to you!

    • Julie Holmquist

      Yes, there is a hope and a future just as He promises!

  • Erika DeWitt

    Thanks for sharing this at Thankful & Grateful Thursday Sarah 🙂

    • Sarah Geringer

      Thank you, Erika! I deeply appreciate your new blog linkup and the tips on there too!

  • Well I didn’t expect ugly tears this Thursday morning . . . but alas! What a raw and beautiful post, Julie. While I can’t relate with everything you are facing, I can on a smaller scale that sometimes feels so heavy. Our son was born pre-term — only by about a month but I wonder if it’s caused some of the things he’s battled since about 3 years of age. It began with a speech impediment that not even the best pediatricians could name. This determined mama did, though! He battled “word final disfluency” for about two or three years. We were so relieved and happy when it seemed to be disappearing — only to realize he was now developing other challenges. He’s battled chronic motor tic disorder ever since. Doctors kept telling us it would resolve by this age … and then that age … and then another. He’s nearly 12 and there’s no end in sight. So, we manage — and he manages. It’s so hard sometimes, especially now that he’s getting older – and so are other kids. They ask him why he’s always blinking … or why he keeps twisting his neck that way. It’s not always present. Some days are better than others and sometimes he’ll have wonderful periods of long rests where tics aren’t noticeable or present at all. But then, inevitably, they’ll start back up. Stress can aggravate it, so I battle with guilt. Am I making him stressed? How can I be a calmer mother or create a more peaceful home for him? But then Jesus calms my own heart and reminds me that I’m doing my best and He will help me with the rest. And I know what Jake battles is nothing compared to what other children face – and that God created him perfectly and with great care. Releasing my son to God’s plans and purposes is hard, but I know it’s necessary. Thank you for opening such an important discussion! Blessings to you and your beautiful family! xoxoxo

    • Sarah Geringer

      Amazing testimony here, friend. Thank you so very much for sharing it here bravely, just like Julie. I get to hug you in person tomorrow! So excited!!!

    • Julie Holmquist

      Here we are again, Rebecca! It’s hard to watch our children deal with things, isn’t it? May you find rest on your journey with Jake and may you see CLEARY on your journey to helping your him

  • Wow! Life can be hard and take unexpected turns that have you reeling for years. Julie, I love your honesty and your openness about grieving the things that won’t be, yet still looking to God knowing he knows the path he is leading you on. What wonderful advice for any hard times we face. Because if we are on the path of life very long, our path will take a direction we don’t expect. And while we are not expecting to arrive in Holland, it will still be the best place for us to be.

    • Sarah Geringer

      Thank you for coming by here today, Theresa! Your post I read today was beautiful!

  • Julie, you’re such a good writer. What a powerful testimony of Andrew’s life. Thank you for sharing your heart so vulnerably, sweet friend. ((Hug)) And, thank you, Sarah, for sharing Julie with us today. xoxo

    • Sarah Geringer

      Thank you for coming by here, Brenda!

    • Julie Holmquist

      Awwww…I receive that compliment, Brenda, especially coming from you, Sweet Friend! You are an incredible writer!

      Having the right perspective in life makes all the difference!

  • Rachel Lee

    This was absolutely beautiful! I have several friends who I’m sure could relate to your struggle. Thank you for being so open, honest and vulnerable. Blessings to you!

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hi Rachel–thank you so much for stopping by! Julie is in a crazy-busy season, and I know when she has time to read, your comment will encourage her.

    • Julie Holmquist

      Thank you, Rachel! I’m glad a portion of my journey blessed you! I hope these words were an encouragement to your friends as well — if you shared them. 😊

  • Julie, thank you for the honest peek into the twists and turns of your life with Andrew and the things you grieve and find joy in. His smile sure does bring light and life.

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hi Valerie! Thanks for coming by. Julie will love your kind comment!

    • Julie Holmquist

      Absolutely! And yes, when I get weary on this journey, I go back and look at pictures of his incredible smile!

  • Thank you for sharing about your beautiful blessing with us.

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hi Barbie! Thanks for your comment…Julie will appreciate it too!

    • Julie Holmquist

      Thank you for taking the time to read it!

  • Sarah, I think you already know the emotion filling my heart right now as I read this ♥ Julie and Sarah, So much here is what we have lived. Our sweet girl did not grow in my belly, yet as she grew in our heart we had dreams of a “typical” life for her. One that our love and some extra work would give her. One that would see us sharing moments like dances, college, work, weddings, and babies. At this point, although we believe in the God’s ability to change everything with just a touch, “typical” doesn’t look like anything in our future. But we look at the good. At the blessings and the ways God is using our Selah to do His work. We hold onto hope and cling to His promises to walk with us through every storm.

    Thank you for sharing this hope. And thank you, Sarah, for sharing this at #MomentsofHope ♥ I am featuring this post for this week’s link-up! Thank you for blessing me so. I pray God will use it to encourage and bless many more!

    Blessings and smiles,
    Lori

    • Sarah Geringer

      Thank you so much, Lori! What an honor to be featured on your wonderful site. Thank you also for sharing a bit of Selah’s story here, friend!

    • Julie Holmquist

      Lori! We’ve walked similar paths. Thank you for sharing a peek into Selah’s life as well. I would love to meet you in person some day soon. 💜

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  • What a beautiful story filled with such grief, joy, trust and God. It hit home. We too have lived, no are living some of the same things. We do see the blessings too in our story but still live with the grief. Thank you for sharing.

    • Sarah Geringer

      Julie will appreciate your comment, Maree. Thanks for stopping by, friend!

    • Julie Holmquist

      Thank you, Maree! Isn’t that the beauty of all of our lives?! Grief, joy, trust all living side by side!? I’d love to personally hear some of your story when you get a chance.

  • Julie Holmquist

    I had some technical difficulties and am just now able to respond to your comments. So sorry it’s taken so long! Plus we were living in a Ronald McDonald House about an hour away while Andrew was receiving some pretty intense therapy for autism. Thank you for all your kind words. I’m so glad my story resonated with so many of you. God gives us grace, His divine enabling, just when we don’t think we can do it!