I had the privilege of hearing this touching story a few weeks ago from someone that means a lot to me. She is a beautiful woman inside and out and I am grateful to have her walking through the ups and downs and lessons of life with me. Here is a little bit of her story, as she tells it, and how refusing to continue doing life alone, changed her life…..
“I live what I like to believe is a pretty great life. I’ve been married for 21 years and I’m the mother of five children. I have a nice home in the suburbs and a husband who works hard to provide for our family. I’m part of a community of people who see the best in me and want the best from me.
My childhood was very different. I grew up in a divorced home with very little stability. Two parents trying to figure out their own lives after getting divorced, left me alone a lot with little guidance or support. I learned not to rely on anyone and the way I coped was to try to create my own stability. I would make dinner for my little sister, I’d do our laundry and I went as far as paying my own high school fees. I watched my mom live her life alone, with out many friends and no community to give her the support she needed. She was living her life just trying to survive. Watching her is where I learned to believe it was “me against the world”.
I began living my life trying to hide my childhood pain. I made a vow to myself that when I had my own children I would take care of them and do all that I could so that they would never experience the pain I felt as a child. I wanted my children to feel secure. What I did not give them was a sense of community. I still believed I could do it all myself and not depend on anyone else.
Fast forward to 1997 and the birth of our third child, Nicholas. Nick was diagnosed at birth with a rare syndrome called Cornelia deLange which affects him physically as well as mentally. I was devastated with his diagnosis and this really re-enforced my beliefs that the world is against me. We had just started going to church, but that didn’t change what I was saying to myself, “If God loved me, He would not have allowed this to happen.”
I knew that Nick was going to need help beyond what I could give him. But I still managed to find a way to make it all about me doing everything for him. I was going to get him all the therapies he needed so that he would have every opportunity in his life. Throughout this process I began to see that the support Nick was receiving from his therapists was going beyond the mechanics of helping him physically and mentally. They weren’t just loosening his muscles and teaching him sign language, they were rooting for him. They wanted him to succeed. It was the first time I experienced the power of community as being a place to feel loved, challenged, seen and cared for.
While I was able to seek out and accept help for Nick, I resisted it for myself. I still believed that I could do my life alone. As I watched Nick thrive in his community, I began to realize that I also had a disability. Nick lives his life wanting to be with people and in community with others. I began to want what Nick had for myself. Becoming a part of the CLE community over fourteen years ago were my first steps in overcoming my disability. I still fight it and want to believe I’m not relationally disabled, but I know this community is what I want and need.
One of my favorite verses in scripture is Matt 7:9-11, 9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
Nick’s diagnosis has been the greatest gift God could have given me. Far from a curse, it has been a blessing. I needed God and a community that was accepting, loving and challenging me to be the best me I can be. Through Nick, God helped me realize that I cannot live my life alone and through Nick, God brought me into community others. I know there will be more stones in my life and I’m thankful that God will continue to open my eyes to see that stones, while they may cause some pain and stumbling, also cause me to reach out an grab hold of the steady hands all around me.”
Thanks Laura for sharing your story and reminding us of how much we need God and others in our lives to love, accept and challenge us to be all we were meant to be.
Grace and peace, Sheryl