I remember a time, several years ago when my kids were about two and four, when I joined a MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers) group. I was excited to have provided childcare and a break from all the therapies and to be able to have adult conversation with other moms and a little bit of spiritual encouragement as well.
At the beginning of the first meeting we were supposed to introduce ourselves to the other moms at our round table by saying our name and three quick facts about ourselves.
When it was my turn I said "My name is Jenn and I have two boys and I'm a special needs mom and ...um..." I froze. My life revolved around both of my kids' needs and endless appointments and I couldn't think of a single other thing to say about me.
The table leader gently added, "and you're a beloved daughter of the King," before calling on the next mom to introduce herself.
I smiled gratefully at her, but the whole situation and her words left my mind whirling. I realized I had lost track of my own identity in my special needs parenting journey.
Have you experienced something similar? Or maybe you're feeling it now?
My encouraging table leader reminded me of not just one aspect of my physical identity but of my spiritual identity. She reminded me of one way God sees me, and I set to work, reclaiming my spiritual identity. Beloved. Redeemed. Chosen. Loved. Child of God. Worthy. Victorious. On and on the list goes.
Psalm 178:18-19 tells us, "How precious to me are your thoughts, oh God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand."
God thinks wonderful things about us, and we need to be reminding ourselves of God’s truth and what He says about us. That’s our true identity.
My whole life revolved around my kids’ needs, but I had neglected my own, and my husband’s. Not only did I get involved in a weekly MOPs meeting and a small group at our church, but my husband would watch the kids from time to time while I met a friend for dinner or for coffee. Having time to connect with an encouraging friend or with a fellow group of believers was life-giving.
I also became more intentional in spending time with my husband. It wasn’t always easy to find dates for baby-sitters, so we had to get creative. Sometimes one of us would pick up dinner and we’d have a picnic dinner on the living room floor while chatting after the kids were in bed.
It may take more effort to make these relationships happen around our child’s needs and finding childcare, but it’s so important to make that intentional time with others happen.
God created us with gifts and passions, and we’re meant to use and enjoy them. I love how God describes Bezalel: “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘See, I have chosen Bezalel… I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts – to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship.” Exodus 31:1-5
God created Bezalel to craft beautiful things–including His holy tabernacle. I just love the sense of pride God has in His words as He describes Bezalel. We too are created with gifts and passions and it makes us feel alive, refreshed, and purposeful when we are using them.
Find a way, schedule it if needed, to do the things that bring you joy. Maybe it’s exercising or writing or gardening or baking. Maybe it’s serving in a ministry you’re passionate about. Pursuing our gifts and passions, those things that make us feel fully alive and like a complete person, not ‘just a special needs parent’ is refreshing self-care and soul-care that you deserve to find delight in.
What do you like to do to help you maintain your identity that’s not just a special needs parent?