God, Grace, and Grandma Jeannie

I have a special-needs child, and after ten years, I can tell you for certain that God is good. No, I am not just realizing this now; He has been good all along. But there are days when the rays of His goodness warm my chill-prone soul and a whispered, "Thank You," escapes my lips. Any day that happens is a good, good day.

Benjamin's diagnosis was not a bomb-drop moment. It was nothing that caused an eerie quiet in the ultrasound room or a tearful anxiety in delivery. There was no bad-news-doctor-call, no "Please, Mr. and Mrs. Elliott, you might want to have a seat."

It was just . . . an inkling.

A newborn who squirmed when you rubbed his back. An infant who was unable to nurse. A toddler who cried himself to sleep. A preschooler with little intelligible speech. Little by little, we just knew: Benjamin was Benjamin, and he had autism—an Autism Spectrum Disorder, actually. You know, the one with letters and descriptors that don't mean much, except that he belongs in a category with the other children who can't even seem to muster up a disorder that is "normal"? Benjamin has PDD-NOS and severe ADHD-Combined Type.

God has been good, but it isn't always easy. There are days when my husband and I are exhausted. We, like all parents, sometimes grow tired of the constant care required in the management of a family. There are days when we think it would be so much easier if we had more money, a smaller family, fewer activities, more time, more help—we long for a simpler life.

Through the Window

I'll confess to you a secret: I'm a bit of a people watcher, and an envious one at that. When I'm at the kitchen sink contemplating my umpteenth dish duty this week, I can see straight through to the next block over where there is a line of single-story senior citizen apartments. Since we moved here, it's with great interest that I've watched two older women who live next to each other.

Both appear to live alone, but spend a good deal of time chatting with one another and their neighbors. The lady on the right spends a couple hours each day sunning herself in her patio chair; the lady on the left marches about the lawn, busying herself with one task after another, intermittently hollering at her dog. I'm not sure what they do when they retire to their little air-conditioned abodes, but I secretly imagine each in the quiet of her apartment, relaxing in her easy chair, watching a game show, reading a book, frying an egg for dinner, perhaps. Most days, I think the solitude would drive me crazy, but some days, on the frazzled, everyone's-busy-and-cranky days . . . yeah, I'm a little envious.

I'm envious because, in all of my imaginings, I've invented a few falsehoods—that my neighbors' existences are simpler than mine, that their evenings are more peaceful than mine, and that they are far removed from the weighty work of my world. Truthfully, some days I'm just plain weary of the worry and the work that comes with being the parent of a special-needs child.

Times, They Are A-Changing

When we lived in Michigan, Benjamin attended our local public school where he received incredible special education and therapy services. He was cared for and loved by so many that in our town where I had formerly been known as "Dr. Carlson's daughter," I was regularly met with delightful cries of, "Oh! You're Benjamin's mom. We just love him!" And he loved them. It was safe, and we didn't worry.

When we made the move to Minnesota, we chose to teach Benjamin at home, to ease the transition. But this year it became apparent it was time to get him back into more intensive special ed services. He would be attending a new and bigger school in a town where we knew virtually no one and they knew practically nothing about him. It was just plain scary. I wanted to turn back and give up—to keep him within my sight and my reach. But then I realized something . . .

Two Things to Remember When Weariness Takes Hold

1. When you're raising a special-needs child (any child, really!) there are a lot of questions.
What's his diagnosis? What's his prognosis? Are we treating correctly? What meds should we use? Is he progressing? Is the rest of the family okay? Will he ever be able to drive, to get married, to live alone? What will happen to him when we die?

We don't know the answers. But God does!

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand (Prov. 19:21).

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:13–14).

There are no exceptions. God knew exactly what He was doing when He created our little Benj just the way he is! He knew what He was doing when He moved us across two states, and He has a glorious plan for our family and for Benjamin's life. We can trust Him.

2. We cannot care for, be near, and watch over our children 24/7 their whole lives. But God can.

O God, when you went out before your people,
  when you marched through the wilderness, Selah
  the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain,
  before God, the One of Sinai,
  before God, the God of Israel.
Rain in abundance, O God, you shed abroad;
  you restored your inheritance as it languished;
  your flock found a dwelling in it;
  in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy (Ps. 68:7–10).

The God who cared for His people in their time of need, this is our God, too! Into the hands of this same God, Jochebed entrusted Moses and Hannah released Samuel. Can't we place our dear sons and daughters into the hands of this same sovereign, worthy Lord? We must trust Him.

Glimpses of Grace

Yes, our God is so good and so trustworthy. And sometimes, just when we think our circumstances may have surprised Him, He turns the tables on us.

In September, Benjamin started at his new school. He loves it, and even has a special affection for a volunteer who comes and reads to his class twice a week. He loves "Grandma Jeannie" so much that they had to give him some extra time alone with her so he doesn't monopolize her time with the other kids. And aside from one day when he wandered off while walking from one classroom to another (they found him sitting at their table in the lunchroom, wondering where everyone was!), I'm pretty sure the school has kept track of him splendidly. But when they haven't, God has.

This year, my husband took our younger kids trick or treating around the neighborhood. Michael, Superman, Captain America, and Elsa wove their way down the street, eventually landing at the door of our across-the-block, left-side neighbor (the dog-hollerer). They belted out the proverbial "Trick or Treat!" and when our neighbor saw Superman (a.k.a. Benjamin), a great big smile washed across her face. Opening her arms wide, she pulled Benjamin into a giant hug. "There's my Ben," she exclaimed, "I was wondering if I would see you!" Michael stood there, astonished and confused. "I'm Grandma Jeannie," she explained. "I just love my hugs from Ben."

And there you have it, my friends. All this time while I've been eyeing up "Left-side Neighbor's" carefree, work-free life, she has been in the trenches, ministering to my little Ben. I know absolutely nothing about Grandma Jeannie and her spiritual condition (although we do hope to get to know her), but I do know this: The eyes, ears, and arms of the Lord are indeed in every place, and He can use whomever He wishes to extend them.

Thank You.

How about you? Have you seen the eyes, ears, and arms of the Lord working in your life through another person lately? Have you struggled with trusting Him with your worries, your workload, or your child? Will you trust Him when weariness takes hold today?

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About the Author

Laura Elliott

Laura Elliott

Natives of Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula, Laura Elliott and her husband, Michael endeavor to serve the Lord with gladness in Minnesota as they raise five sons and one daughter, while ministering at Chisago Lakes Baptist Church and School, where Michael serves as the school’s administrator. Laura’s passions include words, music, and encouraging women to pursue the God of Scripture in every season of life. In her so-called free time, you might find Laura cooking (or watching Food Network) at home in North Branch.

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