I turned off the computer and went to bed, completely green with envy. Sleep wouldn’t come. One of my friends was jetting off to an exotic land on a missions trip with her daughter, and another on a tropical romantic get-away with her husband. Proof in pictures for both displayed on Facebook. I couldn’t stand to think about it, but could think of nothing else.
My discontent had been brewing for weeks.
While I adore these children God has entrusted me with, there is no denying that the special needs life can be trying. I had been focusing only on the trials.
Recently, the radio station I listen to has been encouraging listeners to call in to win a trip. Always up for a contest, I reached for my phone the first time it was announced. As I punched in the number, I suddenly stopped as awareness swept over me. I hit end call, instead. Even if we won a trip, we couldn’t go. There is no one who could watch Bo for an extended time.
The realization was a bitter pill. I felt stuck.
I ruminated on it every time the contest was announced. Discontent breeds discontent and soon I was wallowing in other frustrations.
I’ve long been a critic of how the majority of churches handle disability and special needs. Mostly my sense of justice wells up for other families as we’ve managed to figure it out in our own. How we’ve made it work lately is the “divide and conquer” method, meaning, I attend church (usually alone) on Saturday nights and then stay home with Bo while UpcycleDaddy takes the rest of the crew on Sunday mornings. I feel isolated with this system, but at least not spiritually shriveled like I did when I just stayed home all the time, so it works. Except when I am sick or injured and can’t watch Bo, like yesterday, and the entire family has to miss church, all because there is no place there for our son with special needs. Then I get angry and frustrated all over again.
Then there’s the driver and the aide on the special needs school bus who feel the need to tell me every single time they see me that my son’s behavior is less than stellar and sometimes he spits or throws his hat to the back of the bus, as if I have any control whatsoever over his behavior when he is not in my presence. “Frankly, ladies, I can’t keep him from spitting when he’s in my own car! I have no clue what you expect me to do about it,” I want to scream at them, but instead I smile sweetly and say, “Yep. He can be a stinker.”
Or what about the family vacation planned that is getting nearer? Unlike last year, I’m determined to limit panic attacks and to increase sleep. To that end, I’m shopping for a pup tent for Bo to sleep in to keep him contained as he wandered the house at all hours last year. He couldn’t figure out the lock to escape to the beach, but we didn’t know if the skill would suddenly emerge and whenever I did fall asleep, I had nightmares of him being claimed by the waves. We are also investing in stick-on door alarms. The entire family is looking forward to this trip with the lone exception of me, who can only conjure up fear of the dark hours, not knowing if my tricks to keep him safe will work.
So glimpsing the apparent carefree travel of my friends was my undoing. Watching them just fly away unfettered and pursue adventure, left me dealing with the sin of covetousness. I called it what it was there in the dark as I was trying to sleep. I knew perfectly well that I was breaking one of the Ten Commandments with my envy. But I didn’t know how not to covet in that moment. So I whispered:
God, this is not who I want to be. I want to be the encourager, the one who rejoices when her friends rejoice. Your Word says that you will make a way of escape when we are tempted. Forgive me for being covetous of their freedom and their opportunities. Show me a way out of this. Change my heart.
And then I slept.
Until about 2:30 a.m. when the incessant banging of the boy woke both of us up. Have I mentioned that Bo doesn’t sleep much? He slept the first two months of this year and then resumed old habits. We don’t know why he started sleeping and we don’t know why he stopped. It’s maddening. He thumps much of the night. We know him well and can interpret the thumping. There’s the soft, rhythmic thud, thud, thud that tells us he’s rocking his “Moochie cow” and banging his head on the padding we have covering the walls around his bed, and would be irritated if we interrupted. This wasn’t that. This was the loud, insistent kicking the wall between the padding letting us know that he needed something. This time it was a drink. After UpcycleDaddy got him a cup and went back to sleep, I listened to him settle into the other thump he does so well, the “I-don’t-need-anything-but-I’m-awake-and-you-should-be-too” banging. I let it go for about an hour. Finally, I brought him into bed with me. No reason everyone should be awake.
As soon as I climbed into bed after him, he snuggled in close, with his head on my chest and his leg around my middle. He started grinding his teeth, so I lightly stroked his face and he stopped. Soon his breathing deepened and he was sound asleep.
There, in the quiet of the night, listening to him breathe, I was overwhelmed with emotion – love, certainly, for this little one who accepts me so fully as his own; sadness, a little, that I wasn’t there to do this for him those early years, that no one was; but mostly gratitude, that this is the life I was given. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I prayed again, this time with thankfulness and joy. I get to mother this boy. I was sent to do this! What an adventure I am living just in that!
I’m so happy for my friends. Given the opportunity, I would totally jet off to a romantic island or a mission adventure. But that is not my life right now. And my life is good! I so needed the reminder.
And tears of gratitude, too, that even in my ugliness, in my jealousy and self-pity, there is sweetness and gentle redemption. God draws near, gives me eyes to see, and changes my heart. He shows me there is grace even for that.