The Lord is my strength and shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; therefore, my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song, I shall praise him.
The world is full of so many lasts. The last time you pick up your child. The last time you hug a parent. The last time you cook dinner in a house full of people you love. I read these words in a novel by Jo Jo MOYES called ‘Someone Else’s Shoes’.
When I read these sentences, they triggered grief in me. Was it that I resonated with parts of the lives of the main characters? Or that I had become accurately aware of my own lasts, having freshly walked a journey of transitioning our special needs son into the next phase of his life. It is complicated, he needs full support, and as he neared the end of school, I was becoming stressed as I didn’t know how we would manage his needs, my work, my husband’s work, and caring for Justin. We could no longer maintain our status quo. Something had to change.
I reflect on the writing of my book ‘Hope Wins’ and see now that it was a cry for help, the issues were overwhelming.
The reality was that if Justin was to have any meaningful life, we had to make some significant sacrifices. One of us has had to stop working. We had to move out of our home so that Justin could have a home and rent a granny flat for us to live in ( a dramatic change to our living standard) so he can have the support and care he needs to learn to live as independently as possible. I have had to change of jobs. And with these changes came the lasts.
I reflected on the last time I walked up the steps to my family home of 26 years, the last meal we had on the deck with our whole family, including my 91-year-old father-in-law, who drove himself 3 hours to stay with us for his last Christmas. The last drive he took to his best friends in our hometown, deep down knowing it would be a forever goodbye, the last family photo we had of all three generations on our driveway as we catapulted into a new beginning, knowing it was necessary but struggling with grief and loss. The last memories of my mum in our home before she went to live with my sister before she died. My inability to care for her as I was already a carer, ah, mid-life certainly has its challenges.
Other families’ choices are not an option for us, the financial stress, the uncertainty of accommodation and housing costs, and knowing that our decisions for our special needs son impacted his siblings. Our daughter hurting as she no longer felt she has a family home to come home to, our life is torn apart (again). It seemed, at times, too much to bear. And then comes a prophetic word at church “The struggle is over”, can we trust God that it could be true, is it literal, or is it an inner peace that means to let go of struggle and find strength in God?
The decision was made. We needed to let go, to trust that God had the complexities of our situation in hand. Is it possible during such complexity to believe that God is good, that He is there for us even when we cannot explain what we see happening or not happening? Is my heart trusting in Him? We knew we needed the grace of God in our situation to cover our weaknesses, and inadequate responses, to heal and restore us as we moved into our new beginning, dictated by the needs of our special needs son.
As we made these choices to let go of finance, leave the known, and step into the unknown, we wrestled with resentment, grief, anxiety, and injustice. We needed God’s strength, not the grim strength of gritting our teeth and bearing it, but the strength that comes from the greatest source of power in the universe, God Himself!
Often the situations that special needs families endure require real supernational strength, and the Bible in Psalm 28 says that God is the strength of His people. God be my strength and shield. A dynamic strength empowered by the grace of God to help us move into this life that we cannot live on our own. Strength to endure the endurable but infused with the peace and grace that can only come from God amongst the turmoil, disappointments, struggle, and frustrations. A strength to let go and let God, ease and even cease the struggle so we can trust!
I know my situation pales compared to many other people’s stories. Still, what we face as a special needs family sometimes feels beyond our strength and is real to us. Through this season, my husband does feel like he is breaking, mainly as his father, once we moved, declined rapidly, and needed to be moved into high care. Ian thought it was more than he could bear and has to trust God to give him the strength to carry on. Even, the arrival of a small granny flat makes him feel out of his depth as being a handyman is not his thing, amazing with landscaping and gardens. God, where are you in this? We resonated with the cries of Psalmists who also had similar thoughts!
The image of God as our shepherd carrying us is comforting. Finding hope and comfort in God through the lasts, the storms, the complexities, and the sheer exhaustion of special needs. Clinging to God’s grace, finding an extraordinary strength to press on and allowing Him to lead and guide us through the uncertainties of forging a pathway for our son to have a meaningful life.
How? By placing hope and trust in the one who is bigger than the problems, believing that no situation is too difficult for God, and asking God to renew our strength Isaiah 40:29-31 says,
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall.
but those who hope in the Lord.
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles.
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not faint.
Fixing our eyes on the one who is bigger than the problems and trusting that despite the circumstances, there can be ways made even when there seems to be no way that hope overcomes. Strength can indeed be found in God. Strength, real strength, is doing something other than what everybody asks you necessarily. Strength is turning up daily to an intolerable and unbearable situation, even to support the people you love. And that strength can only come from God and is especially needed in our special needs situations, knowing that when we are weak, He is strong. As Philippians 4:13 says, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, so I come to my Heavenly Father, lay my head on His chest, and trust in Him who holds my family’s future in His hands. God’s grace gives strength to the weary and is our daily provision. It is sufficient and is where I find my hope and strength.
So be encouraged. God is your strength and shield. Placing hope and trust in Him despite the circumstances may seem risky. Still, as our family testifies, we have seen God move in ways in our family’s situation, i.e., by providing accommodation, a community, and an internship as a Pastor at church, a fantastic new job for me as we stepped out notwithstanding our fear in faith, hope, and trust. There are still mountains to climb and uncertainties to face so we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.
You can read about the first leg of our journey in the updated edition of my book ‘Hope Wins’ A Mother’s hope-filled journey for her autistic son when the world saw only hopelessness, which includes a journal for all who care.
My upcoming book Hope Overcomes will discuss the journey from where we left off in Hope Wins, of declaring hope in a hopeless space, and how God orchestrated a pathway that only He could give Justin a meaningful life. Thank you for the privilege and blessings of sharing some of my stories with you.
Buy the Print copy here which includes a caregiver’s journal here https://bit.ly/3WFRw3c
Buy the E-book version of Hope Wins here
Until next time,