This beautiful blog post from April 2017 is not only for parents of children with Autism, but for us all. How do you find joy and love, even on the difficult days? Thank you Joy Foster for your love and encouragement. We can’t wait to hug your neck again soon!
How To Love Others Well
…Even On The Difficult Days
Meet Joy Foster. She is the mother of three beautiful boys, two of whom are served at our Greenville Clinic. Joy is a mom who, no matter the day, comes in with a smile on her face and a story to tell of how she has had to fight for her kids that week. She is a true example of what loving others well looks like.
Since it is April, Autism Awareness Month, we want to celebrate Joy and her boys, but more than anything, we want to connect parents to parents of kids with needs that are out of the ordinary. Please be encouraged! You are not alone. Loving your kids well is a battle that all parents fight, so we want to open the doors for you to connect, relate, and challenge one another. Thank you for the way you illuminateSTARS every day!
This is Joy’s story…
How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways…
When Emily invited me here to share about our little life and how we love our children, of course it was part honor and part vulnerable horror this Momma-heart was feeling. Honor, because someone from the outside took notice of the care and keeping of our clan while we are out and about… and horror, because the inside is filled with my most difficult (yet brilliant) learning experiences while we are tucked in tight. But I quickly said “Yes!” because Emily so sweetly invited me, and as Brene Brown says, “If courage is your value… then you MUST DO IT!”
This life with our 3 kiddos has certainly been our mission field. It has been a dozen years of finding our way and learning how to love them just as they are, right where they are and no matter what. We still stumble, flail, weep and wail on the regular, but surely as His promise tells us, joy comes quickly in the morning.
When I think about fully loving our children, I see them individually, first. I see the unique ways they were created and the incomparable ways they have each claimed their stake in this family. Each one, so very different and gloriously created to be loved fully! That is my first go to — each one so unique and my love for them dispersed accordingly. Taking careful consideration of their love languages has helped us determine the best delivery of our affection. One is adventurous, enjoys exploring and is more curious than the others, so we “go” with him in mind. He also really gets a kick out of verbal praise, so we say, “Hooray!” to fill his heart! Another child also craves words of affirmation, but we must be more serious in our offerings to him. Finding this balance has helped us honor how he is best able to hear that we love him. He also really likes quality time and prefers to be in a smaller group setting or one on one. I have seen him invest his time in others, as well. In getting to know them and remembering important things about them, I purposefully try to respond to each of them just as they need; I am taking cues from these creatures all the time as we observe them becoming their own people, not simply smaller versions of ourselves. We aim to love them well by respecting their ideas and encouraging them in whatever way we can.
As much as our first two children have taught us about parenting, our third child has taught us about loving fully. There are nearly 6 years between our second and third child, and as soon as he came along, it was as if he was here to show us another way. We have watched him be the most accepting. We have witnessed him effortlessly join his brothers in their repetitive play just because it looked like they were experiencing such delight, choosing to fully participate with them over and over. To be with them, fully! To love what they were loving, fully! To speak their language clearly, even though there is a communication barrier between them. Observing this has changed the way we love the brothers, as well. There are dozens of specific ways we have learned to love each of them so they hear and feel it best.
Loving fully – no matter what – also includes our own emotional stability from day to day. We have learned to love them fully “no matter what” we are feeling that day. Just as they are, and just as we are. Whatever the day has brought our way. Whatever mess has been created in the thick of our time together, and regardless of the hurdles we have already leapt. Love shouldn’t have to be given in pieces. It can be janky and timid, wild and fierce, but it must be given without hesitation. Loving has a learning curve, and we surely round the bend daily. Loving our children fully has been such a gift to be able to offer them, and the gift has been returned to us ten-fold!
Finally, when I think about the ways we have learned to love our children, I find my true north in how God loves us completely. I am in awe of how fully, intentionally, specifically, whole heartedly, without fail and with the utmost devotion He loves His children. When I consider all these things, Jesus is certainly the keeper of my heart, the teacher of my ways, and the great source of love spread throughout our days.
When we choose to live loved in a world that daily tries to convince us otherwise, giving love freely and fully is most certainly our greatest reward!