This is a story of rescue from a sea of stress…
As so often happens, the Scripture readings in today’s daily devotional don’t just speak to my heart, they SHOUT OUT LOUD.
From Psalm 88: “I am overwhelmed with troubles…”
My husband Wally and I have known for a few weeks that our 31-year-old son’s day program is closing its doors next March. Day programs that fit Joel’s unique needs—autism, moderate intellectual disabilities, and anxiety disorder—are almost non-existent. Where, Lord? Where will he not only fit in, but thrive?
Over the past year we swam in a sea of stress as we moved Joel from Safe Haven Farms, the farm for adults with autism where he lived for the past five years (a farm that we helped to establish), to a home of his own in our community, where he lives with just one live-in companion. It was a hard but necessary choice for Joel’s happiness and well-being. He needed a quieter home environment with less staff-turnover, and the opportunity to be in the community on a daily basis. It was a choice that required many meetings, much prayer, a lot of money, and a ton of emotional energy.
He’s finally settled in, and now we have to find a new day program within the next several months?!?!?
To make matters worse, last week I received a letter saying that Joel’s day program is losing staff because of the upcoming closure, and because staff-participant ratios are shrinking, Joel’s week is being cut back from 5 days a week to 4 days a week. Starting next month. This, after his daily schedule was recently cut from 5 hours a day to 4 hours a day. That’s only half a day, folks!
I am right there with the psalmist this morning. “I am overwhelmed with troubles.” Do you ever feel that way?
Then I read the 2nd Scripture for the day. From John 10: “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.”
“Isn’t that what the Lord asks us to do for Joel?” I ask my husband, who is sitting on the porch swing next to me for this quiet time with the Lord. “Lay down our lives for him?”
This feels like another huge sacrifice of time, when we’re trying so hard to get our retreat center, Cloudland, up and running. I feel resentment welling up. Really, Lord? Again?!?
But Jesus goes on to say, “No one takes it (my life) from me. I lay it down of my own accord.”
This “calling” of raising a son with autism and multiple disabilities is something we accepted the moment he was laid into our arms after a difficult birth. Yes, there have been times it’s been incredibly difficult. But we wouldn’t trade Joel for the world. So, we keep laying down our lives for him, of our own accord.
Kind of blows a hole in the fleeting (and sometimes not-so-fleeting) resentment, hey?
In John 10:17-18, Jesus says, “This is the reason my Father loves me…my Father gives me this authority to lay down my life and pick it up again.”
We know Jesus was talking about his upcoming death and resurrection here. But because of that resurrection, because he sent us the Holy Spirit to be our constant companion, he gifts us with the strength to lay down our lives for our kids, and to pick them up again in a myriad of little daily resurrections.
As I sit with that truth, the overwhelming nature of finding a new day program shrinks to a manageable size. We will attend a brain-storming meeting with Joel’s team tomorrow. We will make phone calls, do Google searches, network with other parents, set up interviews with possible candidates.
Yes, this will take time and energy, and it will cause me more than a little anxiety (and much more anxiety for Joel, who struggles with even small changes in routine).
But this is our choice.
And our retreat center, Cloudland? The Lord is blessing us with do-able ideas. We just made a list of action steps. The post for the sign went into the ground yesterday. Two pastures have been tilled and are ready for the wildflower seeds. We’ve hired an architect to design our 1880’s barn into a worship space with a small apartment. I have a group of young women from Miami University meeting here regularly, and several directees for my Spiritual Direction practice.
Maybe, during a season of feeling overwhelmed, you can come and sit with the Lord in Cloudland’s wildflower field, or spend time in our prayer room, listening for that still, small voice that puts everything into perspective. Come and sit with the God who rescues us from seemingly unmanageable seas of stress and plants us in fertile gardens.
My newest book, The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities, is available now at Amazon and on Kindle