Sunday, December 29, 2013

Not Taking on a Lot - I Serve with Joy

"You're taking on a lot, having two of them," she said in that matter-of-fact, almost accusatory way school teachers sometimes have. 

One of the things I love most about my job as an occupational therapist in sub-acute rehab is the opportunity to build rapport and share life with my patients. 

In between exercises, Mary*, a retired high school math teacher, and I were chatting about the holidays. I had just shared about how my emotions ran high over Christmas as it was Bo's first with us. She had a lot of questions about our adoption of him and even more when she found that he is not the only child we have with Down syndrome. That's when she said it:
You're taking on a lot, having two of them.
The sentiment is not new to me. We heard it a lot when we were in process to bring Bo home, and at that time, I was pretty good at deflecting the skepticism, so sure was I in our mission. But that was a long time ago. I am out of practice. I mumbled something unconvincing and introduced the next set of exercises. 

I couldn't get it out of my mind and in the middle of the night when Bo woke me with his nightly thumping to stim himself back to sleep, I stayed awake. You're taking on a lot...You're taking on a lot...You're taking on a lot. It was a relentless refrain, one that seemed eerily familiar.

And then I realized.

Back when I heard the sentiment frequently, before we met our favorite orphan, I began to believe it was true. The seed was planted. This is going to be hard. I'm not sure we're up for this. We're taking on a lot.

After meeting him and realizing just how developmentally delayed he was, the idea grew. He is more like an infant than a three-year-old. We will need to do everything for him. We're taking on a lot.

Coming home and experiencing the sudden impact of three in diapers, all of which enjoying a strange urge to paint with poo, and it was no longer an idea. It was a fact. We have taken on a lot. 

Every doctor appointment that led to another specialist that led to another test, interspersed with the needs of our other seven kids, was a greater solidification of that fact. I began to believe it with every fiber of my being. We are in over our heads. It is so much. I'm not sure I can do this. We have taken on a lot. 

I wore it as a cloak. I wrapped myself in it and found comfort in the self pity it afforded and resigned myself to my fate. So when I was confronted with it in the subtle accusation of my patient, I had no answer. Deep down, I had been agreeing with her for the last ten months. 

My middle of the night realization made me see it for what it is. It's a lie. "We have taken on a lot," and every discouraging thought that goes along with it, is a lie. 

The truth is simple:
Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. Deuteronomy 30:11 
I can do everything through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 
This is not too much. We did not take on some big burden by adopting Bo into this family or even having a family this size. The evidence I used to convince myself otherwise simply boils down to my own inflexibility, and lofty, and therefore unmet, expectations for myself and others. 

I'm ashamed of myself. I'm ashamed that I so quickly bought the lie and that I wallowed in it for so long. But with the recognition of truth comes a heart change. Too long I've been kicking against the goads. This is not who I want to be or how I want to view my world. 

I need a new mantra. I refuse to don the cloak of self pity anymore. Upon prayer and reflection, one thought kept repeating. 

I serve with joy.

That's what I want my response to be. That's the refrain I want to have coursing through my veins. More prayer than statement of faith, more plea than testimony at this point, I serve with joy is a perfect resolve for the new year. When people ask me how I do it, I want to honestly answer by year's end, I serve with joy. 

Of course, I've already had opportunity to try it out. The other night I left my sick husband and spent the night in the ER with an even sicker Bo who was having some signs of respiratory distress. After a dose of oral steroids, we were released and crept back into the house at 4:30 hoping to get at least a few hours of sleep. As I was putting Bo back in his bed, Eon sat up, looked at me, and proceeded to vomit all over himself and his blanket. I'm not sure I'd call it serving with joy exactly, but I did find myself laughing at the absurdity of the situation. 

Baby steps.

*Not her real name.


  1. I can't believe how disoragnized being a mom has made me! I didn't even send out Christmas cards this year! I want to honestly answer by year's end, I serve with joy. I'm not sure I'd call it serving with joy exactly, but I did find myself laughing at the absurdity of the situation.

    Diaper Bags

  2. I love this post Tara. Love it. Instead of asking myself, "How do I feel?" or "What am I doing?", I have begun asking, "What do I want to feel?" or "What do I want to be doing?" When serving a large family and people with SN, it makes all the difference in the world.