To the readers of my blog: I’m leading a book study and will be using this space to review each chapter. I will continue to post other topics here as always but about once a week for the next several weeks, a Chapter Review will appear. Please feel free to share it with any of your friends, but especially those who parent children with special needs or chronic illnesses. It will also give you a glimpse into my heart on our journey of parenting the children God has placed in our home and care.
DESPERATE – HOPE for the MOM Who Needs to Breathe
By: Sarah Mae & Sally Clarkson
Book Study: Chapter One
Study Guided by Renée Parris
Geared to parents of special needs or chronically ill children
In following the format of the book, my thoughts will be put into the format of a letter to you, the reader. Any direct quote(s) from the book will be in italics. All other words are my gifts to you.
This book study can be applied to parents of all ages, personalities, and types of children. However, my main focus is to address the parents with special needs children. For the sake of simplification, I will address our special needs children as “specials” and our children without special needs as “normals.”
Here we go with an overview of Chapter One.
My dear friend,
I prayed for you today! I do not know what your day has brought thus far at the time of this writing or what the day will look like when you choose to read this chapter review. But, I prayed that you will feel loved in the knowledge that you are not alone on this journey of mothering and that someone has breathed your family’s situation before the throne of Heaven. I asked the Lord to give peace, comfort, wisdom, and grace to every single person who will read this and to work as only He can in your family.
Sarah Mae begins Chapter One by describing what motherhood looked like in her mind, back before she actually had children. She says, “I knew how it was going to be because I was going to create that picture. The vision was fixed in my mind and my heart, the vision of the woman, wife, and mama I was going to be.” Speaking about her own mother she says, “My mom was the opposite of my dream….she wasn’t bad, she was wounded…I loved her, I just didn’t want to be her.”
Then motherhood happened, dreams became reality, and she realized, “The days became long and impossible. Taking care of my children was too hard. Being a good wife was too hard. Cleaning, creating life, living…was just too hard.”
Does that sound familiar to anyone besides me? Most people I know would agree that parenting is the hardest job, by far, that we will ever do in this lifetime. Add to that, the quirks, complexities, and challenges of a child with chronic illness, handicaps, emotional issues, unexplained behaviors and well, honestly, most days we fall into bed physically, spiritually, and emotionally depleted.
A lesson that was difficult for me to learn and that Sarah Mae echoes is the impossibility of being the Good Housekeeping mom of the 50’s because that is not our personality type, despite our appreciation of that image. She says, “I didn’t take into account my personality, my weaknesses, and my strengths. I just chose an image and purposed to be that image. I didn’t purpose to be Sarah Mae, a unique individual with gifts and talents from God. Without a realistic vision, I was crushed before the season of motherhood even began.”
Oh, how I can relate to her honesty. I had it all figured out UNTIL our daughter was born with more medical complications than I could pronounce, understand and wrap my mind around. I quickly learned that all the planning, love, and dreaming meant nothing if I didn’t have God’s help in navigating this world of motherhood. I, too, would be an utter failure trying to live out an unrealistic dream that didn’t match my personality and the gifts God had given that were unique to me. I had to learn who I was in Christ first, then what that meant as a mother and how that would show up in our home on a day-to-day basis. Talk about needing an outpouring of grace on a daily basis!
Now, let’s look at Sally’s introduction to motherhood. This amazing lady whom I love dearly and has shaped my view of motherhood more than any other person also had a vision of motherhood that didn’t quite match the reality she was given through the birth of her firstborn child, Sarah. Sally recalls of her first encounter with childbirth, “Twenty-two straight hours of labor and more pain than I thought possible.” Sarah’s was a rough birth as you can read about in the book. Then, “It seemed so much more of a miracle to me than I ever had imagined. I fell in love instantly.”
For all mothers there is that moment when maternal love floods through every fiber of our being and replaces all the strands of what we thought was love with a cord that cannot be broken. It is the tie that binds.
Just a few minutes into her career as a mother, a nurse came to take Sarah away stating that her APGAR scores were not what they should have been, her lungs were filled with meconium and she was not breathing very well. Sally remembers, “I felt the intense pain of heartbreak, of having nothing but the sadness of empty hands. This was hardly the entrance into motherhood of which I had longed dreamed.”
Knowing the Clarkson family personally, I know some of what they have endured with their children having physical illness, asthma, ADHD, OCD, and other issues. She has lived for many years with issues that many of us moms deal with day in and day out. Mirroring what so many of us feel, she says, “Fear flooded my heart, and the insecure thoughts began to surge in. What if I don’t know how to take care of her? What if she gets pneumonia? Anxiety wrapped around my whole being and sent me into a hole of insecurity.”
What I admire about Sally is that she dealt gracefully with the puzzle pieces God gave her and now that her children are young adults, we can see the beautiful puzzle that God planned to be the Clarkson family.
On pages 9-11, Sally says so many wonderful things about God’s design for motherhood and here are some of my favorites:
“In keeping with His character, He must have intended something beautiful in creating a woman with this ability to give life, nurture with love, and cultivate the soul of a precious human being entrusted into her hands.”
“I am quite confident that He who designed this role to be so eternally significant is the one who is ready to help, support, instruct, and guide. He will provide all we need for the task He has given us to fulfill.”
“To hear from God, we must become women of the Word and women who pray so that His voice may lead us as we grow into this role with grace.”
“I caught a glimpse of God’s longing to teach me more about His ways and His grace as I accepted this gift He had given into my keeping, my very own little girl.”
I’m quite sure I never understood the depths of or the spiritual importance of motherhood before I was a mother. It is a ministry with eternal ramifications. Sally reminds us that “Many of us have never been taught to believe that someday we will have to give an account to God, face-to-face, for the spiritual, emotional, and moral work that we steward in the lives of our children.”
“As I searched Scripture as a young mom, I began to catch a glimpse of the profound meaning imbued by God into the home environment. My home then became my kingdom over which I longed to rule well as I was crafting lives, my own children, for His glory.”
Since many of you who are reading this review are parents to special needs children, you will understand how some of these statements affect us differently than they do as it relates to parenting “normal” children. Especially the realization that for many of our children we may never truly know what their capacity is for accepting Christ as it relates to eternity nor how much of our training really resonates with their little souls and minds that are often locked inside a body that doesn’t function like the masses function. This has been a particularly difficult struggle in my own life. What does discipline look like for a handicapped child? Does God expect me to train my “special” one the same way as my “normal” one? While one is being prepared to go out into the world equipped with the belief that he was sent to do a great work for God in his generation, the other will most likely remain in my care until God calls me home. She will not be sent out from our home. What is God’s plan for her? Whispering the truths of God into her soul looks very different from it does for our son. This makes parenting all the more challenging. Yet I know that God divinely chose these particular children and placed them into our home so the need to seek His will and wisdom increases in my walk with Him.
There are many times when God’s answers to our prayers do match our requests for His interventions. During those times we need extra faith to believe and grace to accept that His ways are always best though His choices for us seldom comes without pain. There is such peace though in the surrender that comes in giving Him the right to work on our behalf. Sort of like free-falling and trusting that someone will catch you.
Let me close this chapter review with one more quote from Sally. “I was just beginning to grasp how profound God had created the role of a mother to be.”
I love that…it is a profound calling. I’m so thrilled God counted me worthy and gave that calling to me. For many years as we struggled with infertility and loss, I didn’t believe I would ever know the joy of actually holding a child in my arms, nurturing the physical needs of a human being, training a young mind, and pouring into an eternal soul love that I only dreamed existed but never fully understood.
Bless you as you read this week. I’m looking forward to our next study: Chapter Two.