I'm so excited to be sharing with you about Different, the new book by Nathan and me, which is launching this week! In it, we are sharing our own true life stories which we hope will encourage you as you're parenting your own different children. Here's a little more of my own story--and be sure to read Nathan's post, here!
Sally: At the beautiful restaurant Clay had chosen, we all made it through the buffet line. We intentionally picked a table in the far corner of the room, as far from the crowded center as possible. I had wrestled Nathan in my arms through the whole line and to our seats, hoping that food would appease him for just a few short minutes so I could gobble down my food.
But just as we all sat down at our table and began to eat, Nathan slid down from his chair to the floor, stretched out to his full little-boy length, and began to scream and yell and throw food. I tried to soothe him and placate him, but he lunged out to strike me.
That did it.
I got to my feet and walked away, leaving my toddler screaming and kicking on the floor. I hoped that somehow Clay and his mother, who had joined us, would find the heart to stay with him, because I couldn’t. Exhausted and frazzled, having spent every ounce of patience I could muster, I could find nothing inside to deal with him at that moment.
I was wasted from the embarrassment of everyone watching and whispering and pointing. After giving, loving, trying hour after hour (and day after day) to figure out something that would appease this little boy, I had reached what felt like the end of my rope.
And yes, I felt guilty. Guilty for leaving him, for leaving Clay and my mother-in-law to deal with him, definitely guilty for leaving his brother and sister quietly eating at the table and pretending they did not see what was going on. But at that moment I had no intention of going back. I had served, loved, held, comforted, run after, placated to the end of my strength. Somehow they would all have to cope without me.
I casually walked across the room to the bakery counter, where elegantly frosted cakes and delectable pies filled the racks. Though I was seething with frustration, I put on a calm front, studying the baked goods as if planning a purchase. It was my way of hiding from all the faces, the dirty looks, the insecurity I was feeling at that moment. Whisper- praying that I would be able to settle down, I tried to regain control over my raging emotions.
As I stood there, Nathan’s screams still permeating the room, an elderly man who was attending to customers at the bakery display looked at me, not knowing I was the child’s mother. “That boy needs a strong hand!” he said in a booming Texan drawl.
I shook my head in agreement, looking over at my family as if I didn’t know them. But inside I was thinking, I don’t know what he needs, but he needs something I cannot give right now.
Have you ever felt like a failure as a mama? Like you couldn't keep going? I have. But as I look back over the years, I realized that this role of mine, to shepherd my sweet boy towards a sustainable life, to become mature one step at a time, was fraught with disappointments, difficulties, and yes, failures to understand and know how to cope in all situations.
One of the most important lessons I learned, though, was that I could not carry guilt every day for the ways I had failed. It would crush me. I learned, instead, to see my life as a journey towards wisdom, a pathway to maturity a little step at a time. I gave my false expectations to God and learned to unload my pressures and stresses into His hands so that I did not always feel like a failure. It is essential that as we walk by faith down this very challenging journey that we live free from guilt.
Paul reminds us that "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
We need to live in the grace given so generously by Jesus.
Even as our different children must learn to grow stronger one day at a time, so we as God's children must learn the grace we have to grow through the journey one step at a time.
It took a long time before we finally had names for some of Nathan’s differences. Actually, what we eventually had were letters that described clinical disorders and a form of medically diagnosable mental illness.
Added to this alphabet soup were some learning issues, some personality quirks, a strong will, plus a number of characteristics that have some qualities of autism and even now defy our understanding.
And eventually we did find some help and support to add to the many things we learned through trial and error and love and listening—and lots and lots of grace.
We also learned, through the same trial and error and grace, to hold fast to what our hearts insisted (at least in quiet moments),
Our boy was not a diagnosis. Not a problem to be solved or a disorder to be fixed. He was a child to be guided and trained and gloried in.
And Nathan’s differences—yes, even the ones that sometimes exasperated him and us—were, like Nathan himself, also part of the gift he is to the world and to us as his family.
Today Nathan is twenty-seven, and I can honestly say he is one of my closest, dearest friends. There is almost no one I would rather talk to, and few understand my dreams, thoughts, ideals, and struggles the way he does. I learn so much when we collaborate on projects together, as he is a constant source of ideas and mental stimulation for me.
But as far as we know to this date, he will carry his issues with him his whole life, and we as a family will continue to learn more each year about how to love him better, how to adjust to his unique needs, and how to walk with him through his story more graciously.
Today, learn to give your burdens into the hands of God and live in the grace He wants to give to you to breathe free from guilt.
Support this book's message by getting one for yourself or your friend so that we can reach those who need to know that they are not alone, and that they do not have to live in defeat with those who are different in their lives.