I recently received an email from a mother who just received a diagnosis of Autism for her son. She told me she didn’t have any support from her family but was trying to stay hopeful and was working hard to begin new therapies. I also received a letter from a mother of two boys with Autism. She told me about their struggles and that one of her boys was struggling and lived in a residential facility. The struggles of raising children often come and go, but raising children with special needs can be extremely overwhelming.
Our intense struggles with Justin from earlier this year have subsided and we are calmly riding our roller coaster ride of Autism—and we are well!! I love my family and for 6 out of 7 days, my life is adjusted in a way that I think we are pretty normal!! We are happy!! We adjust our goals often and try to stay focused on the positive. So why is it only 6 out of 7?? There is one day a week that always makes me feel like our family is not normal—and that is on Sundays. It is the one day a week I feel a divide in our family. At this point, Justin drops to the floor when we go into church, refusing to move until he bolts to the cultural hall to run around and stare at the lights. My other two toddlers run after him, or the other direction and very quickly we start to unravel at the seams!! It is in these moments, where I am trying so hard to stay positive that a voice in my head frantically says, “This isn’t working, there is no place for your family here—this is not normal.” I share this not as a complaint against any of the wonderful people in our church family—it is just the one day a week that I feel like my testimony of my family and my testimony of attending church meetings don’t correlate!!
I recently shared my feelings about this with my sister-in-law after I had gone to a church Christmas party. My husband stayed home with 3 out of our 4 kids and I had a great time saying hello to my friends who are like family to me. But as I watched beautifully made videos of families together at Christmas enjoying traditions—all I could think of is how different it is for my family. I came home to my sweet family and was reminded how much I adore them—with all our differences. But the next day I had to vent to my sister-in-law about my insecurities. She said, “Shannon, you love your family and are happy. Don’t get caught up in wanting a cookie cutter family—this is how your cookie has been cut, and it is wonderful.” I started laughing because she was so right!!
As all of us adjust our cookie cutter dreams and expectations may we realize how truly blessed we are just to be children of a Heavenly Father who loves us. He loved us enough to send his only begotten Son to die for our sins so that we can live again with Him.
My favorite talk about clinging to hope is by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, an Apostle in our Church. You may link to the whole talk here. He talks about faith and says:
When problems come and questions arise, do not start your quest for faith by saying how much you do not have, leading as it were with your “unbelief.” That is like trying to stuff a turkey through the beak! Let me be clear on this point: I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have. Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith. It is not! So let us all remember the clear message of this scriptural account: Be as candid about your questions as you need to be; life is full of them on one subject or another. But if you and your family want to be healed, don’t let those questions stand in the way of faith working its miracle.
I love my family, and I love my life and the opportunities I have to see beauty and joy in the smallest triumphs!! Watching my kids overcome trials is such a strength to me of the great courage and faith we all can draw upon to keep enduring and pursue our goals of happiness. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!! This picture is from 2 years ago—but it is one of my favorite pictures of my cookie cutter family!!