Discouraged by Challenges

I’m told my Nana had a saying that went something like this, “Discouragement is an opportunity for His Encouragement!” Smart lady! In fact, having never met her, I can still say that my Nana was quite a smart lady due to the legacy she left behind, and some of her recorded teachings that I am privileged to listen to. Such a smart lady, and I can’t wait to get to meet her in Heaven!

But this post isn’t about my Nana! Ha ha ha! No, rather, it is about discouragement. You see, in the time I stopped blogging, I found out that Autism runs in my family. While I don’t know if it runs from my parents, I can say that my kiddos are on the Spectrum. For me, finding out I was Autistic felt like someone had put their hand on my shoulder and said, “you can stop fighting yourself!”

For my kids, it was validation that raising kids can really be THIS difficult! In my view, the key pang of Autism is that it makes it hard to see, feel, and hear others. And to a parent dealing with an Autistic child, it can be hard to know if the words got through. Obviously, I’m not talking about the senses. I’m talking about full-scale connections with others.

One of my kids is particularly difficult in this respect. Sometimes, it feels as though words go in one ear and out the other. Other times, it’s like I have been talking to myself. For my child, though, things reverberate and thoughts scramble against other thoughts like a big mosh-pit. My child’s intention is to hear me, to do better in life, to improve behaviors. But when I speak, my child’s mind spins! And often, a simple conversation spins off an essay in my child’s head. This is a key challenge of every aspect of the spectrum, the ability to manage thoughts and ideas and communicate them in a meaningful way, coupled with the child’s self-impression.

So, when I say, “You need to work on your paper.”

My child hears, “Me. I have something to work on? Oh yes, I forgot about that project I wanted to finish, it was so much fun….wait, paper, but I was working with styrofoam…..no, the paper for school. Yeah. I do. But I can’t. I’ll never get it done! It’s too big, and that styrofoam ship; I can finish that! But you want me to work on my paper, that paper, I did all the work, why should I have to write it all down! It’s in my head, isn’t that enough? I’ll never finish it, in fact, I’m already late, so what’s the point? I’d rather finish my ship, I can do that!”

Consequently, it becomes a battle to get my children to get things done, and the hardest part of the battle is grappling with them in love. There’s the internal desire to “just do it!!!!”, to want to force them to just do their work, but force doesn’t communicate love. So, how do you loving battle someone? I’m reminded of the various movies or TV shows that deal with some supernatural aspect and there’s often a showdown wherein a loved one is possessed by some evil being or power. The battle has to happen, but you can’t harm your loved one, it’s not their fault evil is using them. (Don’t take this too far, but when it comes to special needs kids, it tends to be a good analogy.)

So, how do you fight in love? Well, you stand, like Gandalf, on the bridge between the Balrog and the Fellowship of the Ring, and you dig your sword into the ground and declare, “You shall not pass!”, even if it means you will not see the light of day again. I have truly come away from such emotional battles and gone right to an hour-long nap! In the midst of it, you seek to feel where they are at, try to see what might be in their head, and try to call out the man or woman you know lives inside of them! You remind them of all they are, of who the Almighty made them to be, and you remind them that this battle isn’t between you and them, but between their will and what’s right.

So much easier said than done. And as such, here I am today, woefully discouraged after many battles with my child. Recently, there have been many challenges we’ve had to face, and for so long, my child had stood tall, committed to excellence, pursuing a noble next-task. But today…well, the last few days, my child has begun to lapse back into old habits of self-doubt, self-depreciation, and doing the bare minimum.

I’m angry because I know my child can do better. I’m anguished because I know there’s more behind this, and some of it is my child’s own struggling with “I can do it.” My child wrestles with being abandoned by my child’s mother; it is a struggle, of my child, to reconcile the lack of love (and some truly unloving moments) my child’s mother has communicated. And I don’t know which, if any, are the present challenges, but it’s all mixed in together.

So, ultimately, I am discouraged. I know my child and so much that my child is capable of. I and others have seen it, now and again! And then, days like today, I feel like I’ve just lost all progress; 10 steps forward, 11 steps back.

It’s moments like these that I need to remind myself of my Nana’s words. I am discouraged, but He is Encouraging. I am looking at today, this moment, and seeing the pain and the frustration, and the loss that is in front of me. He sees the whole of history, the pains, the loss, the joys, and the wins! He sees how this plays out. He knows where we’re going and how we’ll get there. To me, we’re on I-40 headed East. To Him, we’ve got a cross-country tour with an international circuit after that.

I’m chuckling and crying, as I write that last part. The paradox of life (perhaps everyone’s life) is how often I find myself burdened by the present but lifted by His grasp of the future! My heart aches for today, for the challenges that are present, for how tenuous some improvements are. Yet, I hope not in this world but in Him. As the song says “Jesus Christ, my LIVING hope!”

So, today will finish, and tomorrow will come! And regardless of both, He will be in control, and His plans are perfect! I rarely understand them, but I am always amazed when I get to glimpse at how He has led me to a certain moment; it is always just what I needed, exactly when I needed it, presented precisely how I needed it, so that I could continue to serve Him, once more!

All He provides is all I ever truly need! I don’t know why I would ask for anything more than that!

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