Author Julie Barnhill reminds us that this is true, even amidst painful circumstances: “God watched over our construction from toes to fingertips to hair roots, and he has designed each of us to be exquisite, unequaled, and beyond compare. But it will always be our choice to live our lives as ourselves—not as someone we’re not.”
This is probably the area of our biggest internal disconnect as parents of kids with special needs.
As believers, we know at our core that we’re unique, special. But our circumstances stomp all over us. The reality of “me” is so far underneath the pile of soiled laundry from our incontinent child that we can’t even remember what it feels like to dream, or love ourselves, or to capture the vision of how precious we are as individuals to our Father’s doting eyes.
Whether we think of it often or not at all, there’s a part of us deep down that longs to know why we’re here—not only why we’re alive but why we find ourselves in this life right now. It’s an answer that starts to become clear as we uncover and develop our personal strengths and (sometimes more importantly) discovering the hidden strengths in the aspects of ourselves we’ve often considered mistakes or weaknesses.
So who are you? The psalmist says that you’re “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). Do you recognize that reality every day, in yourself and in the interactions and situations you face? Do you have a sense of what makes you uniquely able to reflect the heart of God in the relationships in which you engage? Here are some questions to assist you in discovering and growing those strengths:
- What are you really good at? What do you do well with little effort? What comes naturally to you? What are you known for, whether others appreciate it or tease you about it?
- What do you love to do? What activities energize you? What sparks your curiosity, your attention, your loyalty, or your longing? With what people or organizations do you most enjoy interacting? During what part of the day are you most vital and creative? And in what environment do you work best? What do you like about that place—the lighting? The aroma? The quiet milling of people around you (or the total silence and lack of competing stimulation)?
- What experiences have had the biggest impact on you? What are your most delightful memories? What feelings do they bring up? What was it about those events that made them so important or special? How have they changed you?
Is it selfish to plan for activities that optimize your strengths or make you happy? My friend, author, and fellow life coach Holley Gerth, addresses that question in this way:
“Sometimes we feel guilty for wishing we knew more about ourselves. After all, we’re not supposed to focus on ourselves, right? I often hear women say, ‘That’s selfish.’ But it’s not the question that matters—it’s what we do with the answer.”
As a special needs parent, we love God and others best (and this includes our kids) when we live intentionally within the core strengths of the unique and special person God designed each of us to be.
Excerpted from Laurie’s new book, Get Your Joy Back.