Finding Belonging in the Unexpected

Out of Place – Carrie’s Story

As I watched the group of twelve-year-old students standing in front of the homeschool group waiting for their gifts and prayers of blessing, I had this empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. This was an important rite of passage before moving up to the “Challenge years.” 

My own twelve-year -old son, sat next to me in his wheelchair; he was not with his peers. This time of celebration marked something new, different, and wonderful, and yet we weren’t experiencing it. The overwhelming grief of my child being left behind overcame my ability to hold it together, and I hurried to the bathroom as waves of sobs rushed in. I grieved that I couldn’t celebrate like those other parents, that my child was losing friends, and the reality that academically, he was far behind his peers. 

I should have been used to this feeling of being left behind, out of place and the grief that comes in waves. Being a special needs mom affords several opportunities to feel out of place. I could tell you about the day of diagnosis while still pregnant as I fought the label of special needs mom. I could talk about when my son was two and half weeks old and his health took a turn for the worse. Our son ended up with a tracheostomy, a ventilator, and a feeding tube, which is rare for his diagnosis. There have been many scenarios of not fitting in. In some ways I had come to accept many of the things our son couldn’t do compared to his peers. However, that day, when it was so obvious that my son should have been up there, next to students his own age, embarking on these junior high years together, it felt like a slap in the face.

One important thing I’ve learned along this special need mothering journey is that it is important to grieve the moments when life doesn’t turn out like you expect. It’s important to recognize the loss and lament it to the Lord. Just as God was present with Job, Abraham, and David as they cried out to God in their circumstances, He is present with us today. He understands our grief. Isaiah tells us that Jesus had no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities, and with his wounds we are healed (excerpts from Isaiah 54:3-5, ESV). What is striking is that He chose it. He chose to leave heaven, to submit himself to human form, and the weight of our sorrows and sin. Out of a depth of love we cannot possibly comprehend, Jesus chose to not only be our Savior from sin, but also to experience human pain, grief, ridicule, and sorrow. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, and we can “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16, ESV). In our moments of greatest grief and sorrow we can draw near to Him because He brought himself near to us.

The Remembrance Stones

It’s been a few years since that day of sobbing, and my son is now in junior high. Many years ago, God instructed Joshua to have a man from each tribe in Israel retrieve a stone from the Jordan River and place them as a memorial on the other side after they crossed. Just as it is important to grieve the hard places in our lives, it is also important to remember and recount the times of God’s healing, grace, love, and mercy. The children of Israel could have easily focused on the long journey, the battles that lie ahead, or maybe their hurting feet, and aching backs, but they would have missed the provision. Not just once in Israel’s history, but twice, God had separated the waters and allowed them to cross on dry land. God knew this and asked them to bring stones to set up as a memorial, so their children would remember. (Joshua 4, ESV).

In the same way, if we spend all of our time comparing our current situation with those of others, we will miss God’s provision, mercy, and grace. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” If I spend all of my time lamenting how my son is different from his peers, not only am I allowing comparison to steal my joy, I’m also not giving testimony to my son and others of what God has brought him through, many he doesn’t even remember. At one point, he could not speak because of a tracheostomy tube, but now he gives speeches to his homeschool class. Once he could not read, and now he is the first to volunteer to read scripture to his small group. This is not evidence of our efforts, but the beauty from ashes God has created out of a life that to outsiders appears disabled, out of place, and not normal.  What is even more beautiful is the change in our hearts, the deeper faith and trust in the One who has carried us. It’s the realization that no matter what we experience, He understands, He’s lived it, and His plan is working something exceedingly abundantly above all we could ask or imagine. Praise be to God.

If you’ve ever felt like you don’t belong, this series is for you! Every Monday, we’ll hear from someone who has also struggled to belong. Be sure to subscribe below to get The Scoop so you never miss a post! As a thank you, you’ll receive access to these scripture cards and adult coloring pages in the free for you library!

Thanks! I can't wait to connect with you!

Meet Carrie M. Holt

Carrie M. Holt is a writer, speaker, and podcast host. She is passionate about encouraging mothers of special needs children to identify, accept, and thrive in the grieving cycle that is part of the special needs journey. She co-hosts a podcast for special needs mothers entitled Take Heart Special Moms. She wrote a chapter in the book, Your Next 30 Days of Relationships, encouraging parents whose children experience suffering. She has co-led a support group, speaks about Family Centered Care at the local children’s hospital, been a guest on the podcast Pediacast, and was invited to speak to women at Vertical Church Columbus about abiding in hope. You can find her at her website, on Instagram, and Facebook

*Feature Photo by petr sidorov on Unsplash

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Sarah K. Butterfield is an author, speaker, and ministry leader who has a heart for empowering women to grow in their faith and be intentional with their time. She and her husband and two boys live in San Diego, where she writes about pursuing a deeper relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.

One thought on “Finding Belonging in the Unexpected

  1. absolutely beautiful post of encouragement through such pain and loss, I am sure. Thank you for the encouragement to not focus on the journey but on God. He is the One calling us and equipping us for the good works He prepared for us to walk in.


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