As this post goes live, my daughter is 2 days away from camp. I can’t remember how many years of special needs camps Shelby has under her belt, but it’s several.
A couple of weeks ago in an attempt to make sure I had gathered all the necessary forms, permissions and doctor signatures, I searched my email by Camp Blessing. In the list that came up, I found a note from a friend sent in 2015. In it, she asked permission to write on her blog about our experience checking Shelby in together. Her page is no more or I would direct you to it. You would be blessed by her writing. So I asked permission to share these words with you here.
Her sweet words made my eyes leak, and they give me far too much credit. But
I want to use this to honor all the special needs parents whose love and sacrifice often go unnoticed. And may you all find rest and respite this summer.
I stood in the parent check-in line with my friend. The rustic camp’s small main building was used that day to carefully direct all the parents through the process of checking-in their children for camp.
Except this was unlike any check-in line that I’ve been through for my kids. These parents were dropping off consent forms and gallon sized baggies filled to the brim with medications, as well as particular foods for their children’s dietary restrictions.
We were at Camp Blessing near Houston, Texas. My friend Lauren is two weeks post knee surgery and not yet cleared to drive. So I acted as chauffeur to help her get her daughter Shelby to this special needs camp. Uninterrupted conversation time with Lauren is a treat, and she is one of my dearest 2 am friends.
You know–the ones you can call at 2 am and they will jump to assist you. I’ve actually put that one to the test. So, this was a great opportunity to try to return some favors.
But as I stood there, looking at the faces of these parents who are raising children with all varieties and levels of special needs, I felt glad to be there for another reason besides friendship.
I searched the faces of those parents in that check-in line, looking for what I expected to see there. Warriors all, on the front lines of daily battles that most of us cannot imagine. So, I expected to see battle fatigue and weariness, etching hard lines on their faces.
But instead, I saw smile lines and a twinkle of hope that defied the types of things that have become their norm. I wondered at this. I marveled internally. I considered if maybe they have a hope that I don’t have because they have a perspective that I’m oblivious to? The things I take for granted in my parenting…those are the things that are tiny miracles celebrated. Things like a full night’s sleep, void of any night time stirrings from a child who endures numerous seizures every single night, with rare exception.
I considered how my need for (or should I say my idol of?) control is challenging me in this mothering season of letting go. And I wanted to shrink. I wanted to hide under a table and tell them all how foolish I am. Because these parents were relinquishing control of children whose needs exceed anything I’ve ever imagined. Parent after parent went over their medication dosage list and their bottles and bottles of medications with the camp nurse. Explaining and clarifying what each one was for and when to administer it.
I felt humbled. Undone. Unraveled. Lauren calmly described her daughter’s seizures and how to respond to them, and when to give her which medication, so nonchalantly.
It’s a language I don’t speak. It’s a routine I can’t fathom.
I looked around the room again, as others met my look with a warm smile.
And I no longer saw just parents. I saw bravery. I saw courage, people rising to meet challenges that not only do I not face, but which I’m sure I would meet with far less grace and resilience and bravery.
And among those parents were camp staff. Teenagers and college students who had come to be one-on-one buddies with the campers. Adults who greeted each other with enthusiasm and joy to be together again, at the start of another year’s camp.
I wanted to swallow my prideful ways – all the things I tend to whine about in my comfortable, ignorant, limited perspective.
Check-in completed, we walked through a sudden downpour to go meet Shelby and her buddy at the cabin, so that Lauren could give instructions to the buddy and say her goodbyes to her daughter for a few days.
Mollie, the buddy, was quick to introduce herself, explaining with no shortage of bubbly personality, how she was so excited for this week and how she had been praying for it for quite a while now. She talked about filling out her application and then going through camper profiles. When she came upon Shelby’s, she said, “I knew that was the one. That was MY camper!”
I wanted to cry.
What college kid has that kind of perspective in life? I surely didn’t. I was way more wrapped up in my own little ups and downs to realize the joy of serving others like this young lady.
So I basically wanted to wrap Mollie up in a big tight hug and tell her how grateful I am for her and her love for Shelby that will allow my friends a few nights to sleep. All. Through. The. Night. And a few days to have a respite. I wanted to tell her that she was my hero and I want to be just like her when I grow up.
But I refrained, lest that freak the poor girl out.
After all, I’m just the chauffeur.
I stood by while Lauren went through some instructions to help Mollie know Shelby. Things like which words Shelby might use to express her frustration since her verbal abilities limit her. Things like how Shelby eats and what to do when she has a seizure at night, and how she might cry out or not want to go back to sleep because she doesn’t want to have another seizure. How to read her cues and what she likes the most.
The time came to go, and when asked by her mom for a goodbye hug, that precious Shelby girl turned to me and said, “hug!” I quickly obliged and felt humbled at her affection.
After all, I’m just the chauffeur.
We pulled out and I marveled again at Lauren’s strength and determination and casual attitude toward all that her life includes.
I was silently thinking of how it must feel to be the parents I saw there. So ready for a respite. Yet, it must feel so hard to let go. There are things these parents have to control that I have not even considered. What a conflicted angst they must fight as they leave their children at camp.
Lauren seemed to read my thoughts about it all, citing how hard it was the first time. But how it has gotten easier.
In our hours in the car, we covered a wide array of topics, and Lauren wistfully said that the older she gets, the more ready she is for Jesus to come and make all things right. I agreed with her sentiment, thinking of how age and experience are slowly making me more and more homesick for things beyond this earth.
Then she added, “I just can’t wait to see Shelby dance and run and talk and laugh and be made whole and complete.”
I was struck deeply by her words.
As I feel God repeatedly reminding me of his Father’s love for me and his desire for me to have confidence in that love as a dearly loved child.
I thought that I must be like Shelby to God.
Where some might see limitations or inabilities or special needs, he sees potential. He sees the heart of it all, beyond the exterior that might be misunderstood by those who don’t bother to look further.
And beyond all that…he sees the whole picture. He sees the struggles of this world and the ways I wrestle and the things I can’t do or seem to master.
But he sees them through the lens of the coming perfection. He sees them in context of the glorious unfolding, when all that is broken or “wrong” is made right. When Jesus makes all things whole, all things complete.
There is a hope there for me to grasp as a foothold every time I see only my failures or limitations.
To know that it’s all temporary. The struggle might feel real, but it’s not permanent.
Because the day is coming when all those who are physically, mentally, and emotionally broken are made whole and complete and perfect.
That is the truest thing about us all. That is the reality.
This is merely the trailer. That is the special main attraction.
This is the foreshadowing. That is the whole picture.
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
Can you even fathom? When we feast at the banquet table of the Lamb, and I can engage in full conversation with Shelby and she can finally share her wisdom and depth to me to the fullest extent?
May I be found faithful. To seek to see others as He does. The here-and-now through the lens of the what’s-to-come.
Heather Enright has called Grapevine, TX home for more than 25 years, after growing up as an Army brat and preacher’s kid. She’s married to her college sweetheart, Chris (Sic ‘Em Bears). They’re parents to three kids – Collin, Cooper, and Caris. Heather has several bible studies and scripture coloring books available on Amazon. She is the co-founder and Executive Director of The Adoptee Collective – resources for adoptees and all who love them.
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I didn’t know I needed a name for the season of parenting I currently find myself, but Michele Morin of Living our Days gave me the language and a great tip for it. Read Mud Season Prayers: There is No Mess Too Big for God to Clean Up. Thank you, Michele, for the encouragement.
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