I met Adria Wilkins last year at a local writing event. My first impression of her was that she was a smiley, joyful person. She radiates joy. We connected over the fact we were both writers AND that we both had experience as special needs mothers. And then she shared with me her story, one that I wasn’t expecting from someone so joyful. Her precious son, Blake, had passed away when he was three, and despite that great loss Adria was now about to publish a book about finding joy.
In her grief, Adria sought the Lord and found that "Jesus sustains, and even surprises His followers with joy."
A few weeks ago I got to celebrate with her at her book launch party of The Joy Box Journal. Adria lives joy and she wrote a book about it, and I am so proud to call her friend.
And now, without any further ado, here are some thoughts from Adria Wilkins, some of which are excerpts from her newly released Joy Box Journal:
“For we are God’s handiwork.” Ephesians 2:10a
"We are so blessed our children don’t have any problems." I overheard two ladies say as they walked past me at the zoo. "Did you see that little boy in the wheelchair?" one asked. "Yes," the other answered.
The ladies had no idea I was the mother of the boy. I had gotten caught behind in a crowd of people as our nurse pushed our son in his wheelchair. In the same way people go to the zoo to look at animals, I always felt like my son, Blake, was on display for all to see.
Many moms may be upset and discouraged with comments such as these, but I took a different approach. I believe God protected my heart because immediately I thought, I am the one blessed to have such a boy that brightens my day, makes me realize how short life is, and teaches me to appreciate each moment.
Our second child, Blake was born with spina bifida. We had no idea he had medical problems until he was born. As the days progressed, we discovered he had more acute problems. He had a condition known as Arnold Chiari Malformation which is part of the brain stem that controls the breathing, swallowing, and body temperature. He couldn’t breathe on his own, so he had to be on a ventilator 24 hours a day. After 100 days we were able to come home with 24-hour home health care.
He was a smart little guy even though he had some complicated medical conditions. He learned how to sign 15 words. He would use a standing wheelchair to get around. Our goal was to make his life as “normal” as possible.
Throughout Blake’s life he had about ten doctors. We lived in Paris, Texas and had to drive two hours to Dallas, Texas to see our doctors. Each time we loaded up our blue Honda Odyssey van to travel it took at least three people to get him in and out of the vehicle. We tried to schedule at least two doctor visits each trip. It was a full and exhausting day of travel and information.
We seemed to draw a lot of attention everywhere we went because of the wheelchair and ventilator. People were always curiously watching us. People were kind, but they always looked and stared.
The words “special education” or “special needs” are used to classify students with disabilities.
I never realized how special these kids are until I had one of my own. It is a privilege to have a child with special needs. No mom ever wants this to happen to her child, but if it does, her life is forever changed.
We are made in the image of God no matter what our circumstances look like. We all have a purpose here on this earth no matter our ailment.
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27 NIV)
Blake was a beautiful child. He smiled and would blow kisses to people he knew. His life verse was Ecclesiates 3:11, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” His life brought beauty into many people’s lives. We would share on our website and give people a glimpse into our every day life. It amazed me the number of people that told us how watching his little life changed their lives. One man shared that Blake’s life encouraged him to stay married to his wife. He said, “If Blake can make it with all of his challenges then I can work and make my marriage last.”
Just like all the animals at the zoo are different and unique, so are people. Passing by people every day at work, school, or the store, you may never know the difficulties they are experiencing. When you see someone in a wheelchair or that has a child with special needs, stop, talk, and be friendly. Most parents welcome any interaction and attention shown to their children.
The joy and contagious spirits the families have–yours and theirs–could be just the blessing God has for you that day.
I like to encourage people to journal after they read a devotion or story. Please take a few minutes to journal the questions below:
Journal: Do you have a family member or friend with special needs? What are some ways they have overcome discouragement? Pray for this family or friend and write a note of encouragement to them (if it is appropriate). What makes you “special” as a person made in God’s image?
About Adria: Award winning author, Adria Wilkins has an accounting degree from Western Kentucky University. She and her husband, Erik, live in Northern Virginia and have three children Katie, Blake, and Anthony.
Adria Wilkins’s book The Joy Box Journal (with Hachette Book Group) released in July 2019.
She enjoys telling a story, adding sprinkles of joy, and a few extra dollops to liven it up.
After suffering the unthinkable - death of three-year-old Blake, she found that Jesus sustains, and even surprises His followers with joy. You can learn more at her website joyboxstories.com.