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!
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.”
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,
When his younger brother is in the backseat teaching Andrew how to say something,
When his brothers all get invited to birthday parties, and Andrew doesn’t,
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.
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.
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!
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