Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Works of God are Manifest, Sometimes in Whipped Cream



It was a cold day just before Christmas, a year and a half ago. I sat in my car, on the side of the road. I was panting and sweating from deflecting the blows of my large, mentally disabled preteen son, Jack, and holding him from climbing into the backseat and hurting his younger brothers.

Jack had had a violent outburst as I ordered his fries at a drive-through window, and everything went horribly awry. He attacked me, relentlessly, as I tried to drive us home to safety. When we reached a busy intersection, Jack kicked the gearshift into reverse. The car stalled. I screamed. Cars barreled past. Jack punched and kicked me. He bashed his head against the car window and tried to unlock the door to escape.

“Lord, help me!” I yelled.

It was the first, but not the last time I have shouted a prayer.

Jack suddenly quieted down. He stopped hitting. He began to cry. Miraculously, no cars hit us in the intersection. I put the car in drive and pulled off the road to call my husband, Jeff, to come help us.

Jeff wasn’t far away when I called. We sat in silence, waiting. Jack and I both trembled. My eyes prickled as I wondered, is this our future? Has our already challenging, tightly wound family life become something that is also terrifying and dangerous? “What will happen next?” I asked silently.

The spirit responded instantly, with gentleness: “It isn’t going to get easier with Jack.” Though it seems counter-intuitive, I was filled with peace.

A thought pierced my mind. “Look into group homes.”

But that will mean I have failed as his mother, I thought with desolation. If I can’t even care for the special-needs son God has given me, then I am failing in my life’s work.

If you’ve ever argued with the spirit, you probably know how this goes.

A thought again entered my mind. “This is part of Jack’s journey through mortality and it will be alright.”

I sat beside Jack in the car and thought about his life---the difficult, nonverbal, limited life that he valiantly lives. I wanted good things for him. I didn’t know if that’s what would come to be, but I felt that God saw our struggle, and that God loves Jack.

In the Gospel of John, chapter 9, Jesus passes near a blind man. His disciples ask, “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus replies, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”

I’ve pondered this passage of scripture many times in the twelve years since I gave birth to Jack as well as his eight-year-old brother, Charlie, who has autism.

I’m fascinated by this account in John, because Jesus does not immediately heal the man of his blindness, as he often does elsewhere in the New Testament. Instead, he sees the blind man and teaches that God’s works are manifest in his disability.

For many years, I read the New Testament with pure, fervent longing for Jesus to heal my sons. I knew he could, even as I knew he wasn’t going to cure them of all their disabilities. I felt, though I didn’t fully understand why or how, that my children’s special needs were something we needed as part of our mortal instruction and growth.


As Jack and Charlie grew, I accepted that healing for my family would look different than the miraculous healings with which the Gospels are replete.

But still, what does it mean, that the works of God are made manifest in the blind man? This question underscored everything I did to care for my family for many years.

I saw my sons struggle. I helped them with therapy, medications, surgeries, IEPs and behavior intervention meetings, specialist appointments, and behavior plans. It seemed that everything Jeff and I and our two other sons did revolved around Jack and Charlie and their complex needs.

I wondered, “How are the works of God manifest in my life?”

I knew they were there, even though raising my children wasn’t easy. God’s works were more likely there because it wasn’t easy.

I had a dream not long ago that I was eating an enormous brownie topped with a dollop of whipped cream. Like all reasonable people everywhere, I really love a good brownie---dense, chewy, and rich. In my dream, I tried to stretch the whipped cream, because when it comes to whipped cream, my policy is: lots.

Then I noticed that on the same plate, right next to the brownie, was an enormous mound of surplus whipped cream. The extra whipped cream was larger than the brownie itself.

I find meaning in my dreams because they seem to reveal things about my life that my conscious mind just isn’t realizing. So when I dreamed about a brownie with endless whipped cream, and I felt an accompanying sense of joy at this abundance, I immediately came to this conclusion: God loves me.

He gives me figurative brownies.

When I am quiet and still enough, I can see a decadence, a richness of good gifts in my life. There is a surfeit of strength, a profusion of solace.

I dreamt of chocolate because God knows it's my love language, and it effectively helped me see that his divine hand has brought people into my life that have helped and inspired me. I have friends who know what it’s like to raise special needs children, who understand and lend support. I have friends who don’t know what it’s like, because they don’t have the same challenges, but who want to know and who care enough to really listen. God has brought into my life mentors, who have shown me a better way to parent, to live, and to believe.

I am blessed with a web of people who help me with my children. We have teachers, doctors, therapists, and sitters who use their gifts to help our family. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a bustling metropolis to raise a child with special needs.

Mostly, I acknowledge the unmistakable, continuous strength I receive from my Savior.

So many people in my life are the brownie.

Jack still lives at home with our family and is doing much better. An amalgamation of time, different medications, and the right therapists have wrought a positive change and brought back Happy Jack. There is much rejoicing in my house about this progress.

Nevertheless, I still did what the spirit told me to do. I looked into group homes, and I found that in our area, no such option exists for minors. Why, I wondered, would I have such a clear prompting if it’s not even a possibility for Jack, at least not for many years?

I don’t have an answer to my question. Maybe I need time to prepare for this eventuality. But in the last eighteen months, my fears have diminished.

The spirit spoke to me on a roadside when I was desperate for peace and yearning for help.

I heard that God is aware of us.

He whispered in a dream that he is preparing good things for my family, often before we even know what we need.

The whipped cream in my story is resilience, acceptance, strength, and discernment.

He’s giving all of this to me.

There's enough and to spare.



Megan Goates lives with her family in Utah, where she raises boys, teaches college writing, and blogs about the strange beauty of special needs parenting at http://tooursurvival.com


19 comments:

  1. My challenges are nothing like your but I related to nearly every word of this. I didn't even get half way through it before I was weeping. Thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am bawling right now. Thank you for your insight. I have really been struggling lately with the seeming unfairness of my challenges

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think the reason the Spirit told you to look into group homes for Jack is because he may need to be put on a waiting list. When he does go on the waiting list, he may be on the waiting list for some years before a placement opens up for him. I don''t know how it works in your state, but I know that's how it works in Utah. By the time a placement opens for him, there very well may be a group home in your area, for him, where he can live and be near you and your family.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can relate so well to what you've said. It hurts, but helps to hear someone else say the words I think so often. ❤️

      Delete
  5. How talented a writer you are! I loved your choice of words and manner of expression. And my heart was touched by the sensitive acknowledgement of Heavenly Father's love. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. You communicate so well the feelings of a parent of a special needs child. You are the angel that Heavenly Father has sent to bless the loves of others who face your same struggles, including my daughter, son-in-law and grandson. Thank you for following the Spirit as you parented and also as you wrote. You are loved by Heavenly Father and now all other parents are reminded of the same truth.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Megan, I was immediately "involved" with your story. But, just next to that I was realizing you were a very talented writer, great expressiveness and words I haven't seen for decades. I loved the story and your writing talent just made it that much more alive. Bless you for your faith in the Lord, your efforts to hold a very challenging family together and your willingness to share your trials with others. It has spurred me on to tell my story, much of which is in the distant past, but I have had such "telling" revelations on why and what happened, that it has taken my breath away. Thank you for sharing both your story and your talent with us.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you so much for being brave enough to post your feelings, wants and desires for your family. I had a "slow" child and she caused me some hair pulling days. I'm sure God is blessing you with many manner of things and I pray he continues to do so.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you for sharing...inspiring all of us with your beautiful words. I have a niece who is also a blogger, who happens to have a special needs son. Her experiences are very similar to yours except that she is in another state that does have a facility and made the toughest decision of her life...to place her son in a group home. He's been there a few months and is happy, thriving and luckily close enough to have him come home.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Love you, mama. Love your writings. We have to get together.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thank you for your story. I have an adopted son (age 20) with special needs.I had to place him in DFACS custody in order to get the help that is needed. He is in a foster care home, we talk daily and he continually expresses the desire to return home. He requires 24/7 supervision that I physically and mentally cannot do. This has all happened since my wife passed away 7 years ago. I live daily with guilt, confusion, and feeling of failure as I wonder if I made the right decision. Your story has shown me that there are others facing the same problems as I have. We have days we spend together to stay close. Your story and others commenting give me hope.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 39 years ago we adopted a special needs baby boy. It has been one wild ride ever since but through the help of therapists, counselors, and other wonderful people along the way, he is happily living in a Care Facility and the people there are diligent that he takes his medications on time and in an appropriate amount. He is happier and we are relieved that he is safe and that WE ARE SAFE also. Do not feel guilty or failure. It is a journey, not a destination.

      Delete
  12. I don't often cry at the office, but now I do... I have a boy with autism too and I recognise your story completely. We too have the awkward feeling that we put our son away in a special school during the week. But we often feel that we have to do this, that the Spirit says it is the right choice.

    It is good to find out people dealing with the same issues, not because it makes us any better, but to feel that there is, like you said, enough love of God to help us all.

    Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  13. My challenges are completely different than yours, but I was inspired to read your experience and was shown that it was a metaphor I could apply to my own life. Thank you for sharing it! It came at a crucial time. You have a wonderful perspective which has given me strength to persevere. May you be showered with God's richest blessings!

    ReplyDelete
  14. I can relate so much to your story. Thank you for sharing, reaffirming we are not alone on this challenging journey. We, too, have many of the same questions as you, especially as our child gets older. The Lord has been, and will always be, our strength, the only way we can make it day to day. Thanks, again, for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  15. We've been in the scary place and it was lonely, not having anyone to talk to, so thank you for sharing so beautifully. We found some peace in our home and were able to see our son do well in high school after years of tantrums and therapy. He turned 18 and graduated last week, just got his first job, and is headed to college. Love and prayers are powerful, if not miraculous.

    ReplyDelete
  16. In Brookshire Texas The Brookwood Community has been in operation for 30 years caring for people with special needs. My husband and I visited a restaurant, nursery and store served by the special needs community. It is incredible and wonderful. The book "Everbody's Got A Seed To Sow" tells the Brookwood Story. There are locations in the US that are working at establishing this plan in their community. This book may provide some help for those families with special needs members and who are looking for answers.

    ReplyDelete