When I get emails from other special needs parents who've stumbled across my blog This Ain't the Lyceum, they often mention how alone they feel. Many times, I’m the only other person they know raising a child with profound special needs. I’m grateful that through the power of the internet, I’m able to offer some sort of hope or support to these parents, even if our children’s diagnosis’ aren’t quite the same. Because we spend so much time carrying our crosses alone and in silence around the majority of our friends with healthy “normal” children, even the briefest of connection with someone who “gets it” is immensely uplifting. Sometimes in our sadness, it’s easy to forget that God is walking this path with us; that we are never truly alone. I wanted to share seven ways I try to pray as a special needs mom that help me remember that my family and I are not abandoned.
1. I pray alone. I pray nightly with my family and on Sundays with my parish, but I make time to go, alone, and either sit in Adoration, or in a quiet chapel during the week and let God know everything that’s on my mind. Getting out of the house and away from all the distractions by myself makes it easier to have an uninterrupted conversation with Him about what’s on my mind.
2. I pray in silence. Often times, I’ve got a lot I want to say to God, or ask of Him, but usually when I’m alone, I try to make time to shut up and just listen. During these quiet moments I sometimes find peace, I sometimes get answers or inspiration and still others, I get only the benefit of quiet time alone, which is nothing to scoff at. I am bombarded with so much “noise” during the day, online and off, that even a few short minutes of silence is sweet relief and helps me return my focus to what’s most important in life.
3. I pray unceasingly. I never stop praying, and the few times in the past I was too angry or upset to pray, I turned over prayers to my friends and family. People always want to know what they can do to help; often praying doesn’t feel like enough, but there are times when those prayers are the only ones that were said for my family because I couldn’t say the words myself. Prayer is the fuel that keep me going day in and day out. If I didn’t talk to my kids or my husband throughout the day, think of how our relationships would suffer. I keep up a constant dialogue with God because it’s one relationship I don’t want strained.
4. I pray honestly. I lay it all out there with God. When I’m angry or confused, I tell Him. When life doesn’t seem fair or make sense, when my child is suffering, when everything is falling apart, I cry to Him about it and I tell Him plainly I don’t know what to do. There are so many beautiful prayers I can memorize and recite and offer for specific intentions, but they do not replace the heartfelt pleas, or prayers for acceptance that come directly from my soul. I know He knows, but to verbalize my specific need helps me see it more clearly myself or question if I’m praying for the right thing at all.
5. I pray with others. I ask for prayers and graciously receive them from anyone who offers, online and in real life. I ask the saints to intercede and give thanks when a Mass card arrives. I call on Our Lady of Sorrows especially when it seems like no one else in the world can understand the pain in my mother’s heart. When I get an email from someone who is suffering, I pray for them immediately and try to remember to offer up my daily trials for them. It’s amazing to be a part of a web of support (or maybe I should call it a safety net) that touches from here to heaven and includes so many people.
6. I pray for peace, with or without understanding, to keep despair and hopelessness away. I could always be angry or wonder why me, or why Fulton. I have to make the choice to not wallow in sorrow. Sometimes, I need help and I ask for it. I know that I can be happy even if I don’t fully understand the ‘whys’ of this life. I need peace when I make a decision or to deal with people who try my patience. I need peace to know I’ve done the best I can and to prevent second guessing.
7. I rejoice and give thanks for all good things, no matter how small. It’s not all asking or complaining. My life is full of blessing and I try to remember to thank God for each one. It would be easy to only see the negative, but part of choosing joy is recognizing the blessings and the little miracles. I’ve learned to see when God has answered my prayers, whether it’s the way I wanted or in an even better way.
How has your child's diagnosis affected your spiritual life? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Kelly Mantoan is a wife, mother to five, and founder of 'Accepting the Gift'. You can learn about her and her family at her blog thisaintthelyceum.org. This post originally appeared there.