Fall has rolled into Colorado in grand fashion. Fog, wind, rain with colorful leaves falling from the trees mixed with cool breezes and cold nights. I love autumn in Colorado. The bright yellows, oranges and reds fire up the landscape, setting the purple mountain ranges off like no other time in the year. Often, if you wake early enough in the morning, you can catch the sunrise glistening off the top of Pikes Peaks fresh dusting of snow. It is indeed beautiful. Breath taking. Awe inspiring. More than the natural beauty of autumn in the Rockies however, I love this season because it is when my sweet Faith came into the world. She was determined to come early and did just that. I often joke from the moment she saw Pikes Peak she was set to climb it. There hasn’t been any challenge she hasn’t fought to overcome or any dream she hasn’t sought to capture. And yet, in the quiet moments when Faith isn’t seizing the day or conquering the latest challenge, I know there is sadness she carries in her heart. A sadness that begins and ends with a simple question. Do I even matter? I don’t think Faith is unusual. In fact, most siblings of profoundly disabled children at one time or another feel pushed back and sadly even ignored. Even though Moms and Dads, just like Phillip and I, do everything they know to keep the balance between their kids; when your focus is demanded more by one than the other, the more stable child…the more able child…is often left feeling as they have to go it alone.
“Siblings of Disabled Kids May Show Emotional Effects”
“Study found stress, care schedule may squeeze out parental time with brothers, sisters”
That’s why more recently Phillip and I have determined we need to be far more intentional in carving out really special times for Faith – times when she has our full attention – times where she doesn’t have to compete with the weight and heaviness of James’ disability. This Saturday in fact, we’re driving James to Arizona where he will stay for a week with my parents. He will undoubtedly have a blast. Then, on Sunday, Phillip and I will celebrate Faith’s 17th birthday at home alone with her and one of her very best friends. Our plan is to focus on Faith and Faith alone. No talk of bipolar, autism, or other various needs. Just a day of celebrating wonderful her…and then a week of quiet, gentle attention that she can bask in. Tender, gentle, loving kindness that we all know she deeply needs.
I believe, taking the time to love Faith well like this gives her heart pliability towards James. When her heart is full and content, her compassion grows and expands. When her compassion grows and expands, she becomes an advocate and protector of James. When she is an advocate and protector of James, absolutely nothing can stop the two of them from accomplishing the tasks God puts before them. Why? Because God gave them to each other and He intends for them to live life together fully, hand in hand as loving sister and brother. That can’t happen unless both of their needs are met. That can’t happen if Faith lives wondering if she really matters at all.
We are learning as Faith and James parents, who love them BOTH deeply, we MUST be intentional in meeting both kids needs. We must be in tune with their individual heartbeats and we must respond when one of them begins to falter or stumble along the way. When James stumbles we are there to catch him — every time. So, even though Faith’s stumbles seem far less dramatic and urgent, when we see the signs of her needing a little extra TLC, we also must respond quickly and with urgency to catch her before she falls into disillusionment or feelings of neglect. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
Fall has arrived in Colorado and it is lovely for so many reasons. The greatest reason for me though is because it is when my precious Faith was born. I can’t imagine my world without my funny bunny. She is my treasure. I thank God every day for the indescribable gift of her and I can’t wait to celebrate her with great joy on Sunday!