But that's not what I wanted…

In the six weeks following Christmas, all three of my kids have birthdays, which means they  receive a lot of presents in a short period of time. After the first awkward incident when my son looked at his grandmother and said, "But that's not what I wanted," we learned to prep them before parties and family gatherings when we knew they would be receiving gifts.

We talked with them about the fact that sometimes we get exactly what we want, and other times we get gifts that other people want us to have -- but that we should be thankful in both situations. I'm not sure it really stuck until they were older, but in the meantime, we adopted a family phrase to cover those times. My boys learned to say, "Thank you for thinking of me." It’s a statement that expresses gratitude without denying that they received an unwanted gift.

As my daughter's 12th birthday approached, I couldn't get the phrase "but that's not what I wanted" out of my heart. A heart that I thought, after much prayer and therapy, had reached acceptance with her delays and disabilities. But I realized it is a heart that still longs for things that will never be. Never in all of my years of praying to be a mom did I ask God to give me a child who would never speak...or still be in diapers at age 12...or still have to be fed pureed foods...or for any of the delays my daughter faces daily. So I found myself focusing on the huge gap between her and her peers and her uncertain future, which led me to think "but that's not what I wanted."

Our church is in a teaching series called Practice Makes Persons, and we’re studying the Book of James. This week's teaching was on persevering through trials (James 1:2-8), which honestly I was a little concerned about hearing. I've been on the receiving end of so many trite Christian phrases regarding persevering through trials that I wasn't sure that hearing this message was going to be a good thing for me. But as I sat listening to Pastor Johnny Johnston teach, I kept thinking, “You can't do this on your own.” I realized that as my grief was welling up inside me, instead of turning to God, I was leaning on myself.

Since I thought I should be over it -- that I should have moved on to contentment, that I should be able to face her birthday without tears -- I was unconsciously turning away from God which is not what He wants for us. He wants us to turn to Him. As part of his summary, Pastor Johnny suggested that in times of suffering and trials that we "consider crying out to God for wisdom."  This verse is from James 1:5, and it tells us that God will give it to us. Instead of leaning on my own strength, I should be going to God with my pain. Instead of beating myself up because my grief has reappeared, I should be asking God for wisdom. Instead of being embarrassed that I need to go to God again with my sorrow and disappointment, I should be thanking God that He will help me turn my doubts back into faith and trust in Him.

After church, I went home and reread one of my favorite Psalms. In Psalm 13, David begins by crying out to God in his pain and despair:

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

and day after day have sorrow in my heart?

But by the end, David is able to profess hope and trust in God:

But I trust in your unfailing love;

my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing the Lord's praise,

for he has been good to me.

Which reminded me that God is okay with us asking why this is happening to us. He knows that there is pain in this world and that grief isn't linear; sometimes it's heavier than others. God is okay with our pain and grief causing us to ask Him questions.

But we can't stay there. We need to turn to Him as we persevere through our trials to regain our faith and trust. And that is what Sunday’s  message allowed me to start doing. I still didn't ask for a daughter with delays and disabilities, but I have a God who I'm able to turn to through my pain and grief. One verse shared yesterday that resonated with my tender heart was 2 Chronicles 20:12:

"We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

If you're facing trials or suffering -- and who among us isn't? -- I suggest you listen to Pastor Johnny's message from Sunday. Click this link: The Purpose of Trials.  

Anne and her husband Mark have built their family through the miracle of international adoption and are now parents of three children. Anne considers herself an accidental special needs mom because it wasn't until the adoption of Grace was final that they were informed of her special needs. Through years of navigating the world of special needs parenting, Anne created First Fridays for Moms, a group where mothers of children with special needs can connect. To read Anne’s full bio, CLICK HERE.