I saw God taking care of two special needs boys and one tired mama.
When my friend, Jodi, asked me to go with her to a doctor’s appointment for her severely autistic five-year-old son as moral support and to watch her eight-year-old in the waiting room, I have to admit, I balked. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to. I was afraid I wasn’t going to be all that her special needs children needed me to be.
She had recently injured her shoulder – could she handle the four-hour round-trip drive? If she couldn’t, my non-driver’s license status couldn’t bail her out. Despite her assurances to the contrary, I still wasn’t sure Gabe, the autistic child, accepted me. Finally, as any non-family member would worry, would older brothter Dustin obey me as we sat waiting for an indefinite time? But I’m the lady who constantly says that God can do anything above what we can ask or imagine so surely God would give me what I needed to be at my best for this family.
I was so concerned about the trip, I asked my family and Sunday School class to pray for me. God’s answers were so obvious, no one could miss it. His fingerprints are indelibly embedded in the playground of our memories.
Jodi’s oldest son loves two things: people and dinosaurs.
Dustin’s way of getting acquainted is to walk up to another child and say, “Hi. What’s your favorite dinosaur?” He never gives up. If one child gives him a confused stare, he happily turns to the next child. With a waiting room designated for children, there were plenty of opportunities for friendships.
The first child, a shy girl, shrugged and turned away. When Dustin tried the line on the second child, I interrupted. “Tell him your name first, ask his name, and then ask him about dinosaurs,” I suggested. He followed the script to the letter. The boys talked back and forth for a few minutes, and then a new child arrived – a girl with thick glasses and a halting gait. Oh, go easy on this special needs child, I inwardly pled.
Undaunted, Dustin forgot the formalities and plunged into his go-to line. Without responding, the girl lumbered to her mother, plucked a pink bag from her lap, took it to the toy table, and produced an entire family of dinosaurs. The three children plunged into dinosaur play for a full twenty minutes, never needing any refereeing from the adults.
I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be sexist but really. What are the chances of a little girl having a pink bag full of dinosaur toys? What are the chances of anyone walking in at that very moment with my charge’s favorite toy? I’m taking it as an answer to prayer! After all, my God deals in the unexpected.
God had another surprise for us in His bag of prayer answers.
Jodi came to the waiting room, smiling. The appointment had gone smoothly, Gabe was more cooperative than usual, and was anyone ready for lunch? Eating at a restaurant was not an option for Gabe, so we had packed a picnic basket. Unfamiliar with the city, we plugged in city parks into her GPS and selected one close by. We parked near a playground with an adjacent picnic table. I sat with my back to the playground and engrossed myself in setting out the lunch.
Jodi peeked around my shoulder. “Karen! I can’t believe this. This isn’t just a regular playground. This is a special needs playground with specially designed equipment.” Her shoulders sagged in amazement. “Of all the parks we could have chosen – is that a coincidence or what?”
I leaned forward. “It’s no coincidence,” I said. “There’s people praying for our day. Look at the other ways God has answered.” I recounted the doctor’s visit and the bag of dinosaur toys.
How did I get along with my little special needs friend?
The picture tells the story. Gabe and I had a blast trying to discover sand with his bare toes. Sensory sensitive, he wasn’t quite willing to take the plunge, but he got close – and he let me hold his hands!
Andrew Murray once said,
“Beware in your prayers, above everything else, of limiting God, not only by unbelief, but by fancying that you know what He can do. Expect unexpected things ‘above all that we ask or think.’”
If you are a parent of a special needs child, you know the day-to-day routine Jodi faces. You’re overwhelmed. On top of the normal frenzy of family life, there’s doctor visits, physical, occupational, speech and behavioral therapy, IEP meetings, medical bills, and a different kind of normal. The normal manual on child rearing doesn’t always work and someone forgot to give you the manual you need. On one hand, you need a bigger support system from friends and family; on the other, your friends aren’t as clued in on how to respond to a special needs child. You have news for them – you don’t either. But you are learning every day and doing your best. But there are days, it just becomes overwhelming and you wonder if God knew what He was doing when He gave you this child.
I have news for you.
God knows what you are facing. He loves you. He loves your child. You can depend on Him to do bigger and more than you can ever think to ask.
No matter what unexpected life twists you face, God can fill your moments with unexpected, undreamed of answers – even down to pink bags of dinosaur toys and special needs playgrounds. He really can provide all your needs in ways that you know can come only from Him.
What unexpected prayer answer have you seen this week?
If you need a good resource about autistic children, I’d like to recommend the awesome book, A Pair of Miracles, by Karla Akins. You can find it on Amazon here.