You and I are in a battle and the stakes are high.
A parent of a child with a special need faces overwhelming demands each day. There are therapy needs, educational needs, social needs… and these are just the needs of our child! We must also take care of our own adult needs including maintaining our home, our marriage, and our health… and more.
We also have an enemy who would like nothing else than to see lose hope and accept that experiencing a joy-filled life is for other people… that kind of life is over for us.
I want to tell you something that our enemy doesn’t want you to know: it doesn’t have to be that way! We can live an amazing life full of joy in the midst of our needs. Better still, when we understand that Jesus died to give us an abundant life of joy, then we will also rediscover our hope and find the strength to face what the day brings, whatever it may be. As much as it sounds impossible, the biggest blessings in life can be discovered in the midst of our greatest challenges, even in caring for a child with a special need.
Photo courtesy of Bigstockphoto (Contributor: soupstock)
My Life Without Laughter
When my son was diagnosed with autism in 2003, my husband Matt and I found ourselves on a new road, and we had no idea how to navigate it. Everything about living with Alec was hard, from putting on Alec’s shoes in the morning, to feeding him, transitioning him in and out of the car, running errands, going shopping, and everything in between. I was a frazzled, angry mess of a mom.
Secretly, I had high hopes of “getting back to a normal life” one day. Surely Alec would be better soon and life would be as it was in the blissful newly-wedded days of life with my husband. I longed for a return to quiet restaurants with adult menus and relaxing weekend trips to the mountains. I missed the peaceful evenings at home watching television or reading for hours.
My new reality had no time for these things. By the evening, I would drag myself to bed in tears, usually praying that Alec would stay asleep through the night so I could rest. I was so very weary.
As the years went by, the truth settled in and I understood that there was no going back to the place that we were before autism.*
Depression was knocking at my door each day, and it was all I could do not to let it in.
The Healing Gift of Laughter
One day when Alec was about five, our family was traveling in the Smokey mountains and needed to grab some lunch. As we sat in the restaurant, my son Alec decided to learn the art of balancing a spoon on his nose. Again and again, he placed the spoon on his nose and would laugh loudly whenever the spoon fell from his nose. Watching his joy was delightful and soon we were all laughing.
In the sweet release of our laughter, something heavy lifted from my soul.*
The meal ended and a man stopped by our table to introduce himself. With a smile, he said, “I’ve been watching the four of you, and I have never seen a family so happy to be together or having so much fun at a restaurant. It was so nice to see you laughing.”
I have never forgotten his words. On that day, we were not a family dealing with autism, but simply a family laughing and glad to be together. Actually, we were having so much fun that I had no awareness of the man or anyone else in the restaurant.
That moment taught me about the restorative power of a good dose of laughter, and I’ve been prescribing a dose to myself each day. Laughter — even when it means being able to chuckle at my own messy life — ushers in joy. And in that joy is strength.
The Bible says,
The joy of the Lord is our strength.
Now I know that a finding joy and laughter in the day isn’t a luxury… It’s a necessity!
How Watching “The Middle” Makes Me Stronger
Have you ever sat down and watched the evening news, only to get up afterward feeling miserable? I enjoy staying up on current events, too, but too much of the news will bring me down.
A while back, a friend told me about a sitcom called “The Middle.” The show is about a family who is, well, average in everything. The show features Frankie (Patricia Heaton) and Mike (Neil Flynn) Heck, who are middle income, middle aged parents living with their three “average” kids in the Midwest.
The family battles the same things we do: archaic appliances (a clothes dryer) that shake the floor, kids who won’t eat anything green, crazy financial schemes to make ends meet, a house that is falling apart before their eyes, and uninspiring jobs to pay the bills. They have a daughter who is full of optimism (but never makes any school team she tries out for), an oldest son who is self-absorbed, and a youngest son, Brick, who is socially awkward, audibly whispers words to himself (a tic), and struggles to stay on any given task. (Sound familiar?)
Frankie and Mike are constantly called in to meet with the school counselor to talk about Brick, the youngest. The counselors begin each meeting by saying, “I’m sure you know why I’ve called you in,” to which Frankie and Mike smile and lie, “Of course we do!” with a pasted-on smile. Each time, the counselor offers creative suggestions to help Brick be better suited to the classroom, and always, as the suggestions fail, they learn to appreciate the uniqueness of their son.
Every challenge that Mike and Frankie face is familiar, and I can’t help but laugh at the honesty of their challenges. By the end of each episode, they accept their not-so-normal family and truly embrace who they are, tics, bills, failures and all, and always in a humorous way.
I can so relate to the Heck family!! Of laying down my struggle to “fit in” and be a “normal” family and just learn to love the beautiful, strange, eccentric family that I love with all of my heart.
When I am discouraged, “The Middle” helps me to remember this and find my laughter again. Rediscovered laughter brings in joy, and I find my strength again.
Stay strong by remembering to laugh a little each day, even in the messiness of life. We are uniquely beautiful children of God… set apart for good things!
If the day is long and you find that you are discouraged:
- Remember that God’s Word tells us that strength is found in joy. MSG
- Allow yourself a 30-minute break. Put on a favorite sitcom (The Middle!) or read a humorous book and laugh a little. You’ll feel better!
- Give yourself a little grace. We aren’t meant to be perfect… but God still loves us, mess and all. He’s not done with us yet!}
Comment below: What Brings You Laughter on Difficult Days?
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