16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
If I have a life verse, this is it. Practicing thankfulness was the way out of darkness, out of depression, out of despair.
We were thrust into the world of special education when my oldest daughter was five years old. At the young fives qualification testing, she tested at 2.5 years in reading and math readiness. Instead of thinking about young fives placement, we were offered placement in a pre-primary impaired program. Instead of thinking about the academic achievements of my children, the sports achievements; we began thinking about slow, steady progress, two steps forward, one step back. I dreaded the beginning of the school year. And I mourned the sudden loss of dreams for my daughter. I questioned everything we had done up to that point in raising her. I wondered if something was wrong with me and/or my husband.
Within that year all three of our kids qualified for special education placement. In hindsight, we should have been able to figure out that something was wrong. There were clues.
After our oldest daughter had been in her pre-primary impaired class for a while, I mentioned my concerns about my son. He was very easily distracted. He turned the lights on and off, constantly. He opened and shut doors to the extent that we had to put spring locks high up on all the doors to keep him from shutting the doors on his sisters’ fingers. He was a screamer who insisted on sameness. Everything he possessed had to be green if there was a choice. He had to have his sandwiches cut in triangles. We should have known. We should have known.
My daughter’s teacher also felt that my son should be tested. So an appointment was made for my son. After two tests, which was all he needed to qualify for special education placement, the teachers, social workers, psychologists, and therapists felt that he should be tested more. In all, he went through eight evaluations. It was emotionally draining for me. My husband and I, along with our local school representative met with all the evaluators in one big meeting to go over the meaning of the tests. My husband did not want to go because he felt that all they were going to talk about was what was wrong with his little boy. They said he was mentally impaired, had a mild speech impairment, and had mild autistic traits. But one of the testers told us we should not get involved in the local autism society. (We received some less than stellar advice along the way).
Toward the end of my son’s evaluations, the testers suggested that my youngest daughter also be tested. At this point, I was weary of testing. I told them that they could only perform two evaluations; they could only do what it took to know if she qualified for special education services. She also qualified for special education placement. At this point, my older daughter and son were in opposite sessions of preprimary impaired preschool; one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The teachers wanted me to bring my youngest daughter to the special school for her therapy. I said no. I cannot be stretched that much.They had a speech therapist come to my house for my youngest daughter once a week.
The first two years of dealing with all the meetings and special education therapy homework from the school took a toll on my emotional health. I was depressed and crying all the time. We became isolated from parents with normal children, even my siblings. Part of that was our withdrawal – I could only stand so much bragging about how advanced their children were.
When I thought of the future, there was a wall before me. I couldn’t visualize the future. Then God gave me this verse. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ. I decided that even though I couldn’t see the future laid out before me, I could give thanks, every day. I could do God’s will; I could obey God in doing this. As for praying continually, that was easy. I was doing that already, every day. Some of the the praying was questioning God’s wisdom in choosing me for this job. Some of it was crying out to God. Some of it was seeking wisdom, because God says that he will not upbraid a person for asking for wisdom. But rejoicing? That was a bit much to ask of a person. I found that to be very difficult. So I practiced what I could do, and waited for God to tell me how I could rejoice. As I began to practice purposeful, intentional thankfulness, my depression began to lift.
I have returned to this verse again and again since then.