If ever you question that God has a sense of humor, a quick look at my life is all you need.
You see, I've always what people have referred to as 'painfully shy'. With a diagnosis of social anxiety, I don't particularly care for attention on myself. I am perfectly content to blend into the background, I like calm and quiet... I don't want things to be overly exciting or unpredictable. I rather enjoy boring.
Sending an adventurous Marine into my life was the first clue that God had something else in mind for my life. He was not going to stand by and let me be content in a boring existence. I was thrown into the confusing, unpredictable life of a Marine Corps wife.
And then I became a mother, and at two years old my oldest son received a diagnosis that would further change our world: autism. And let me tell you, raising a child with autism is anything but calm and predictable. Quite the contrary, life with autism is confusing, ever changing and at times downright messy.
Life with autism is:
- a constant stream of meetings, therapies and appointments.
- missing out on every day experiences, because it is too overwhelming thanks to sensory issues. Going to the movies, church, some museums, all out of the question.
- a sudden unexplained fear of the color red, which naturally happens to occur on the day his soccer team is playing the red team.
- begging for McDonald's, and then having a meltdown when you finally give in and are given a Happy Meal in a bag, rather than a box.
- obsessing over that one hard to find toy that your child is convinced with 100% certainty that Santa will bring.
- noticing even the slightest of change in a favorite theme song opening, and not being happy about the change.
- scrubbing poop out of trains and tracks because someone decided to reenact his favorite 'stuck in the mud' moments.
- just scrubbing poop in general... because at 7.5 years old, potty training still has never sank in.
- facing judgement when out and about because your child 'looks normal' and is 'so smart'... so his behavior issues much solely be a result of poor parenting.
Yes, raising a child with autism can be, quite literally, very MESSY! Some days- when I find myself cleaning yet another pair of dirty underwear or fighting my seven year old to pick up after himself or do his homework or follow directions when asked- I think it would be exceptionally easy for me to feel sorry for myself. This parenting a child with autism business is no joke. It's hard, its sometimes frustrating and it's emotionally and physically exhausting. But then I realize that if I dwell on these things, then I miss out on the beauty... because in the midst of the chaos, autism can be pretty beautiful too.
It has taught me to love unconditionally. It has taught me not to take anything for granted, to treasure the moments and the milestones no matter how seemingly small they may seem to others. It has taught me that perfection is overrated. It has given me an amazing little boy who is as sweet as he is brilliant. A little boy whom I would not trade for anything in the world. God has certainly pushed me out of my comfort zone with my son, but He has also blessed me much more than I could ask for.
It is this- the beauty among the chaos that Sarah Parshall Perry speaks of in her new book, Sand in My Sandwich:
You know that thing when you're in Walmart at noon before you discover you haven't brushed your teeth? Sarah Parshall Perry gets that. She also gets weird things showing up in her bed, her daughter asking for war paint, and her son crawling into a giant blue sock on Christmas morning. Mainly, she gets that conflicted feeling of finding her kids hanging out in the dogs' cages and happily realizing they have stopped getting into trouble for a minute.
According to Perry, "The hardest stuff is the quickest way to God," and readers get to watch the systematic destruction of her carefully planned life, laughing at her missteps, aching at her tragedies, and recognizing themselves along the way. A mother of three children, two of whom are on the autism spectrum, she has experienced plenty of ups and downs, but from the chaos of her "ordinary" life she pulls the universal truths of motherhood, addressing them with humor, poignancy, and a naked honesty that will make the reader think, "That sounds a lot like my crazy life". Perry helps mothers realize they aren't alone, even if they've fallen off the straight and narrow of their intended path and are instead lying in the ditch next to it. Life's a mess. But as Perry reminds us, it's all for a purpose. Perfect for mothers, this book will encourage, inspire, and enlighten.
As a fellow autism mom, I found myself relating to Sarah's story which in so many ways was similar to my own. How refreshing to read stories of someone else fighting the same battle. But while life raising a child with autism might be messier than most, motherhood can be full of twists and turns regardless. Moms of all kinds can truly appreciate and learn from Sarah's story as well. Motherhood is not a one size fits all experience. We will all be filled with our own fair share of challenges and messes, but if we turn to God, He will show us the blessings among the mess.
Sand In My Sandwich is available to purchase now at Family Christian.
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