Life isn't fair. If we live long enough, we'll experience joy and laughter, sorrow and pain. There is nothing like a crisis to awaken compassion for others and to mold a heart that lovingly surrenders to our Maker. Many people say they have learned the most through trials, but few of us want to sign up for that particular classroom. In order to weather the storms of disappointment in our lives, we need to face whatever comes our way. And how we handle life's challenges will help shape the legacy we leave our children and others in our life.
The proper attitude is vital in serving one with special needs. Frustrations are inevitable – late nights when the child is sick, hospital visits, appointments with therapists, case workers and teachers. Every trial builds character. God doesn't ask us to understand it, but He does ask us to accept it and make the necessary adjustments. He wants us to go with His plan instead of our own. When we "embrace the place" the Lord has for us, making this particular challenge our ministry, then others will take notice. As others take notice, we begin to leave a legacy.
We all make choices. Some choices involve good planning. Some involve wise decision making. We can choose to serve as husband and wife together and model to our children that those "for better or worse" vows really work, or we can go our separate ways and hope everything works out. Sure, we all have human failings, but we can develop and make better choices each day. Making wise choices won't keep us from failing, getting frustrated or wishing for a different life. Our choices will often require us to work through failures and frustrations. But if we do so in a healthy way, our lives will eventually be a blessing to us and others.
When our son was young, Cindi's father told us: "Someday, Joey will be such a blessing to you." In the midst of much illness, seizures and therapies, it was hard to grasp that thought in a positive way. Observing other families whose children seemed "perfect" left us feeling empty and alone. Almost 30 years later, we now see more clearly the truth of what Dad said. As our girls leave home for lives of their own, our son is a companion whose simple mind and ways keeps us young at heart.
We've learned to intentionally look for the blessings and benefits of caring for a child with special needs. (The Bible tells us: "It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Thy statutes" Psalms 199:71.) We've learned to love unconditionally, serve endlessly and pray without ceasing. We've been able to work with incredible professionals and meet friends along the way who've shared in our journey, either in their own life circumstance or because they embraced us in ours. We've enjoyed the blessings of fellow believers who've prayed us through life.
As we've embraced our son (and our daughters) and His plan for us, we've also embraced a "don't quit" mentality for the long haul. The long haul is a day-to-day, moment-by-moment journey with each other and God. We haven't reached the end of the road yet, but when we peer into the rearview mirror, it's good to realize that we have no regrets.