Finding Grace in All the Wrong Places
Finding grace in all the wrong places has long been the purview of parents raising children with disabilities. When COVID hit the truths we have lived since our kids’ diagnosis–there’s no instruction manual for our lives, neither we nor the experts have any idea of what we’re doing–became the temporary norm for families around the country and the world.
For a brief moment when the shut down first began, many eyes were opened to the manifold graces that connected us despite the pandemic, and we were grateful. Far too quickly, our society allowed the hardness of our changed changed circumstances harden our hearts. Far too quickly, we forgot about grace.
My personal wake up call came on August 10, 2020 when an intense windstorm, which I have since learned is called a derecho, swept through our community and my entire home state. For 3 1/2 days, our family was without electricity or Wi-Fi, and our cell service was non-existent to severely limited. I had no contact with my mother, who lives in a memory care unit. No way to encourage caregiving families through my blog or social media. No way to power our refrigerator or the freezers that feed our multigenerational family of 6 until our neighbor, whose electricity was restored quickly, allowed us to plug into his.
Since then, I have made a practice of finding grace in all the wrong places in the midst of a pandemic that feels like it won’t. These manifestations of God’s grace have helped me maintain and grow relationships until physical gatherings are safe once again.
Old-fashioned mail. Finding an unexpected personal letter or card in the mailbox is good for the soul. So is sending a letter and imagining the lift it gives its recipient.
Phone calls. I call my mother every day. It’s only for a few minutes, and I do most of the talking. Those chats are Mom’s lifeline to the world, and I’m grateful for the grace of technology that makes them possible.
Sticky notes. The physical kind that can be left on the door for the delivery person. Or for others in my family to ensure they will see them and life will move forward. Having lived until age 25 without them, my delight in them is unending.
FaceTime. Once a month, we connect with our out-of-state grandkids, ages 5 and 7, on FaceTime. We’ve taken them on virtual tours of our property, the used camper we bought this summer, and to show them how work on our house addition is progressing. What a grace to share life with them this way!
YouTube movies. When the construction crews come to move dirt, build forms, or pour cement I film and upload short videos to YouTube. The grandkids love when they receive links to videos of what’s going on at Papu and Grammy’s house. Grace and more grace.
Texting. Some of our church community group members have experienced devastating losses recently. Texting has allowed them to communicate their prayer needs and for us to respond in rapid real time. Immediate, communal prayer for those submerged in grief is grace, all grace.
Online school. Every day I counter my negative thoughts about what my grandchildren aren’t experiencing through online school with what their pandemic education would be like without it. So much grace would be unavailable to them. Their lessons would come by mail. There would be no instant answers to questions or feedback about homework. Kids wouldn’t know what their teachers look like. They would have no connection to classmates.
Zoom. Because of Zoom I’ve recorded podcasts, presented at conferences, been involved in a denominational launch of a special needs and disability ministry, participated in a women’s Bible study, done live Facebook interviews, and more. All great, but they don’t hold a candle to the grace of our family gathering virtually to celebrate our grandson’s 5th birthday. Or the grace of family history trivia contest with my husband’s family joining from around the world.
Now it’s your turn to open our eyes to the grace around us. Leave a comment below about where you have been finding grace in all the wrong places since either your special needs parenting journey or the pandemic began.
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Jolene Philo is both parent and daughter of loved ones with special needs and disabilities, as well as a former educator who worked with children for 25 years. She’s written several books about caregiving, special needs parenting, and childhood PTSD, including the recently released Sharing Love Abundantly in Special Needs Families: The 5 Love Languages® for Parents Raising Children with Disabilties, which she co-authored with Dr. Gary Chapman. She speaks internationally about caregiving and parenting children with special needs and blogs at www.DifferentDream.com. Jolene and her husband live in central Iowa.
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