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Did you know? More than one-fifth of US households with children have at least one child with special needs.
I was a bit shocked when I read this. I did not realize how many families have a child with special needs. I guess our family is even more special because I have two kids and both have special needs. I’ve talked about this so many times here on the blog, but I never expected in a million years that God would choose me to raise not one, but two special needs kids.
Being a parent to a special needs child is challenging and exhausting. Not only physically, but emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually. In-between being mom, therapist, caregiver, and nurse, there’s little time for anything else.
But as a parent and a person, I need what everyone else does too… friendship, encouragement, inspiration, and a connection. That’s why on this journey it’s so important to continue to pursue a relationship with God, our Creator. We need that connection and relationship. We need to find hope and encouragement in His Word.
That’s why authors Kimberly Drew and Jocelyn Green wrote the devotional book, Refresh: Spiritual Nourishment for Parents of Children with Special Needs. This book is filled with encouragement and stories from special needs parents that were interviewed before the book was even written. I’m proud to say that I am one of those parents and in this book, you will find mention of my family and our story at least three times. Here’s one of the excerpts:
Refresh Devotional Excerpt:
The human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?
As a military wife and popular military blogger, Kathryn Sneed knows all about post-traumatic stress disorder. She just never thought she would be diagnosed with it herself.
Caring for her autistic son would in itself likely have been enough to produce chronic stress similar to those who have experienced combat trauma. Then Kathryn’s daughter was born, and almost right away she displayed medical complexities that still elude diagnosis. Severe reflux, failure to thrive, aspiration—at one stage, the choking episodes numbered up to twenty per day.
As more tests came and went, I began to grow numb. The doctors and nurses would tell me they were surprised I wasn’t crying and they didn’t know how I was so calm. I didn’t have time to cry, I had to be strong for my baby. I wasn’t calm, on the inside, the storm was raging and the numbness just grew.
The anxiety was severe. Any sign of sickness in my kids sent me into a panic attack for thought of something serious and having to stay in the hospital again.
Although the choking episodes had gotten better and were almost non-existent, coughing or choking of any kind in child or adult, would send me into a panic. It was like being slammed in the face with everything we had been through with my daughter.
Flashbacks and nightmares haunted her. Several times, chest pains became so severe that she nearly went to the hospital, thinking she was having a heart attack.
In a way, Kathryn was right. Her heart and her spirit had indeed been attacked. Proverbs 18:14 says that during a physical illness, we can keep up our spirits; but, as the King James Version puts it, “a wounded spirit who can bear?” The New International Version calls it a “crushed spirit,” and the New American Standard, a “broken spirit.” Whether your spirit is wounded, crushed, or broken, it must be cared for to recover.
“Physician, heal thyself”: most of us have heard the phrase. But Barb Dittrich, parent of a child with hemophilia and founder of Snappin’ Ministries, suggests an alternative: “Caregiver, care also for thyself.” Prayer and Scripture are absolutely critical tools in our recovery. Ever since her son was little, she and her son would pray through the verses to help calm both of their spirits before infusions. Prayer at such times is indispensable.
“However, as the number of crises increased, it became apparent we needed more help,” Barb wrote. “Sadly, the Church (including us, its members) can forget that in addition to working through prayer and the Word, God also works through people. This includes medical and therapeutic professionals.”
Would any of us deny medicine or therapy to our children if we knew it could help them? Would we tell autistic children to “snap out of it” or children with cerebral palsy to “just try harder” to walk without those braces? Of course not. Yet many of us are tempted to deny or talk ourselves out of our own pain. Only when Kathryn and Barb shared with counselors and medical professionals were they able to get help and start experiencing some relief.
Prayer is mission-critical. Spending time in the Word is nonnegotiable. Surrounding yourself with the body of Christ is invaluable. But if you still are experiencing physiological symptoms that interfere with daily life, don’t ignore your wounded spirit. Seek help from a trusted counselor or mental health professional. “Two are better than one. . . . If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (Eccl. 4:9–10).
Lord, give me the courage to admit when I need someone to help me up. Guide me to the right people and resources. Great Physician, bring healing to my wounded spirit, and bind up my broken heart. In Jesus’s name, amen.
- On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate the anxiety you feel on a daily basis?
- What makes your anxiety worse, and what brings you calm and comfort?
- At what point would you consider seeking counseling?
I love this devotional not only because I was interviewed for it, but because there is so much I can relate to within it as a special needs parent. It’s hard for other parents to understand what we’re going through, but none of this is a surprise to God. We only need to rely on Him to continue on.
The devotional gives perspective and hope through the various stages throughout the book. From the day you get that diagnosis to the possibilities of facing loss and grief, this devotional will help walk you through whatever you’re facing right now.
The devotionals are short but include a reading from Scripture as well as a few questions and thoughts to reflect on at the end. Because these are based on the stories and testimonies from parents of special needs children, the book offers a wide range of encouragement no matter what special need your child is facing. Some that are included are cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, genetic disorders, chronic illness, and more.
Whether you are just starting to go through the grieving process of getting a diagnosis, or if you’ve been on this journey for years, Refresh will help strengthen and prepare you for what’s ahead and let you know you’re not alone.
I wish I could give a copy to every special needs parent out there, but you can enter to win a copy here! Giveaway ends October 8, 2016, and winner will be notified by email.
Also, feel free to enter a giveaway for multiple Refresh books on Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2cOPVS0!
What about you? Are you a special needs parent? Would you read this devotional?