This past week, I took my special needs son, Austin, to an indoor swimming pool to meet with his classmates. This is the highlight of their week since they all love to splash and play in the water. Austin especially loves to watch the waves and ripples. If he had his choice, he would stay in the water for hours.
On this particular day, I was watching one of the other children. She had her life belt securely buckled around her waist as she paddled with her hands and kicked her feet out into the deep end of the pool. She was all smiles in her world of water. I wondered if I should try taking Austin out to the deep end. This would be no easy task. He loves to have his feet firmly planted on the bottom of the pool at all times and likely would not be happy with a change. Nevertheless, I decided to make the attempt.
I put a life belt around his waist and a styrofoam water noodle under his arms for support. I wanted to give him the opportunity to get out of his comfort zone and explore the deep end. The first time out lasted 30 seconds, then I guided him back to the shallow end where he could plant his feet. On the next attempt he hesitantly tried to paddle and kick, but soon pointed toward the shallow end. After a little coaxing with love and offering him words of encouragement, he gradually became more comfortable in the deep end. The expressions of anxiety and fear turned to exhilaration as he experienced his new freedom, no longer root bound in the shallow end.
When our son was born, I expected to stay in the shallow end enjoying only a little floating and a lap or two around the pool. What I ended up with was a plunge into the deep end with nothing but water around me. My son’s disabilities stretch me more than I could ever have imagined. His medication regimen, hospitalizations, and even trips to the grocery store where he likes to pick up (and sometimes sample) shiny fruit, cheese, and other people’s groceries sometimes make me feel like I am drowning. But, I have learned to stay afloat in the deep end.
To stay afloat, I take one day at a time. I also learn from, not just endure, my challenges. I find I have increased in patience, faith, joy, and love as I have struggled through these deep waters. I don’t always have complete control over my life. When the waves of unexpected things come crashing over my head, I have family and friends to buoy me up and give me words of encouragement. I also seek for guidance from my Father in Heaven who is always there, and would never let me sink. As I am patient with myself and those around me, I find great feeling and meaning in my life.
QUESTION: Which experiences in your life have changed you most–the easy or the difficult?
CHALLENGE: Take ten minutes to write about a difficult experience you have had, and what you learned from it. When you are having a hard time in the future, recall this experience and allow it to give you hope and patience for your current challenge.