For years now, I have felt God prodding me to publish a book telling my story. My life hasn’t exactly turned out how I thought or planned that it would. But with each mountain I have climbed and each valley I have fought my way through, I have learned lessons that I don’t think I would have learned any other way.
This is the first chapter of my story, Normal For Me:
It was a beautiful spring day in Arkansas following a long cold winter. After dinner, I glanced out the window and saw couples and families walking down the street enjoying the warmth and sunlight before it faded into evening. The end of a gorgeous day beckoned.
My husband, Justin, and I decided to follow suit and take the children on a walk. We made it about half way down the street when our son Nathan began throwing a huge tantrum. He didn’t want to go on a walk! Nothing we could do or say could convince him otherwise. (We even tried bribery, but it is hard when the words you say don’t penetrate into understanding.)
My husband took Nathan home, and I dutifully finished the walk with the other three children. As the sun commenced its descent, my heart began to sink with it. By the time I returned home, I was feeling overwhelmed and was wallowing in self-pity.
That night as I fell on my knees in prayer, the questions seemed to spill out of my anguished soul:
Why do we have two children with autism?
Wasn’t one enough?
Why is life so hard?
Why can’t we just go on walks like a normalfamily?
Why can’t we be a “normal” family?
Somewhere amidst all my blubbering came a firm, yet kind answer. I will never forget the gentle and powerful impression that came to me at that moment. God simply told me, “Tamara, this IS normal for you.”
This thought took me by surprise! The truth of it resounded within me over and over, “This is normal for you.” It wasnormal for me.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had never known what it was like to have four “normal” children. I have two “typically-developing” children, and two little boys that are blessed and challenged with autism. This was normal for me.
Once I saw myself in that light, it seemed almost ludicrous to ask all those “Why” questions I had so intently been asking just moments before. The answer was simple: Tamara, this is your life! Theseare the challenges you have been given.
It was almost as if God was pushing back the fog of despair and doubt and lifting me to a higher level of understanding. No, my life wasn’t what we would call “normal.” But, then again, whose life is “normal?”
We all have circumstances in life that make us feel a little abnormal or different. We all have challenges that are unique to each of us. Each of our lives is unique and “normal for us.” The crazy thing is, that is what makes us, who we are!
Some of the challenges we face are very apparent because they are physical in nature. With physically apparent challenges or disabilities, most people notice and desire to help. I have met some of the most wonderful people because of my two boys with autism. I have been the recipient of prayers, kindness, love, and service. There are lots of angels out there (both seen and unseen), and God knows just when to send them to help.
The other challenges we have are deeply personal and known only within the confines of our soul. Some of these challenges include insecurities, doubt, anxiety, depression and mental illness. I believe that sometimes it is the inner struggles that are the most challenging because other people are not as aware of them. No one walks around with a sign that says, “Chronic Depression,” “Insecure,” “Lonely,” or “Heart broken AGAIN.”
To those of us who have battled with these inner struggles, may I tell you that you are not alone, even though you may feel very lonely.
In my moments of greatest heartache, I have come to know that God truly does love me and care about me. He is literally my Heavenly Father, and like any good Father, He desires to help His children.
I have spent time on my knees and reading the wonderful accounts of those who have gone before in the scriptures. I have learned that just because God loves me, doesn’t mean that He will take away my challenges, no matter how good I try to be. The challenges I have are there to make me stronger.
For me, the experience on my knees that spring evening was a reality check that helped me realize, “Yes! You are different. That is the way you are. Get over it! Get on with your life, and quit complaining about it!”
That doesn’t mean that my life isn’t hard, or that I haven’t ever had to ask for help. On the contrary, I believe that God gives us challenges that stretch us to our very limits and beyond. Life is VERY hard. But I also believe that God won’t give us anything we can’t overcome or endure with His help.
1. What “why” questions have you ever asked God in a quest for understanding? What answers have you received?
2. Sometimes the answers come quickly, sometimes slowly, and sometimes we are left learning patience. What have you found to help you to keep going when things are hard?
3. What are some things that make you unique, and normal for you?