I'm not one of those motivational speakers who can lift you up so high you have to look down to see heaven. No, I'm more the practical one. You know, the one who has scars from all the battles, yet has lived to tell about them.
There are countless stories about the power of perseverance and the victory that comes through the pain. And I wish I could already be at the top of that mountain with my arms raised, looking down and marveling at the obstacles that I've overcome. But finding myself somewhere along the side of that mountain, still climbing, there has to be some merit in at least thinking I see the top!
We are the parents of a special needs young adult. She's 23 now, and the perseverance in her is truly something to marvel.
Amanda was born 3 months early, at 1 pound, 7 ounces. This was our first child, and I was only 6 months along, so the thought that I could be going into labor at this early stage didn't even occur to me. But after 3 days of labor we were the parents of this tiny little person that was about to change our world more than we could ever imagine.
Heart Stopping NewsAs Amanda grew slowly, the medical problems began. I remember getting calls from the hospital telling us to come right away. I remember countless surgeries and infections, and then came the heart stopping prognosis from the doctors. They said Amanda would be legally blind, possibly deaf, and would likely have cerebral palsy. This was certainly not what we had planned and we had no clue about how to even deal with this kind of news.
When we finally took her home at a whopping 4 pounds, 4 ounces, I dressed her in cabbage patch clothes because they were the smallest clothes I could find. And yeah, she was cute.
Graced with Gifts
About a month after she was home, we noticed that she was able to follow us with her eyes. The doctors couldn't explain it because the part of her brain that controls her sight is gone. But she sees anyway. And she walks and hears normally too.
Of course, that's not to say that Amanda hasn't had her fair share of medical problems, learning roadblocks, and mental delays. But amidst all those things she's been graced with two gifts.
The first is her heart to help others. She is an employer's dream in that regard. She isn't a leader, but once she's learned the task at hand, she'll work really hard helping those who are. She has a job doing customer service by bagging groceries in a grocery store. She always does the little extra things for people, especially those she thinks are struggling.
Amanda has always had a special place in her heart for people in wheelchairs. Since she was in grade school, she just naturally took a shine to them and she can always be seen pushing people in wheelchairs.
The Gift of PerseveranceAmanda's second gift is her ability to persevere. Because she's different, she was teased and bullied in school. And I have to say it definitely took a toll on her self-esteem. Of course we stepped in and helped all we could, but she just persevered and kept moving forward.
When our local college told her she wouldn't be able to attend because she couldn't meet the basic admission academic standards, she was heartbroken. But she wanted to get some kind of training, wherever she had to go. She attended a Job Corps facility in our state and even though she went through some very hard times there, she received her certificate in spite of them.
Amanda's life dream is to become a nun, so living on her own is her first step. She recently moved out of our home because she wants to try living in her own apartment. She knows that she has more obstacles to overcome as she works toward her goal. Many communities won't accept somebody with special needs so she's determined to show them that she has lots of gifts to offer if they'll just give her a chance.
Climbing the MountainRemember when I said I'm somewhere on the side of the mountain trying to see the top? It's not easy to watch your special needs child struggle through life. I've felt every hurt, every disappointment, and even anger toward every person who has let our little girl down.
Having to pick up your child when they fall and keep them going is something every parent faces. But picking up a special needs child just to send them back out into a less than friendly world is the hardest thing I've ever done.
But Amanda's desire to keep going, keep dreaming and keep pushing forward makes it seem less difficult somehow. She's already doing more than anyone ever dreamed and we will be so excited when she finally fulfills her dreams.
Karen Wolff, a contributing writer for About.com, is host to a Christian Web site for women. As founder of Christian-Books-for-Women.com, she wants to provide Christian women with a place to find practical information, tips, and help with a variety of issues they face every day. For more information visit Karen's Bio Page.