Monday, January 9, 2012

extra-special needs

My nieces and nephews have always had a special place in my heart. Because my oldest sister is 9 years my senior, I became an auntie to Bethany Jane when I was 15. Instantly, I was enamored with these tiny people, with their laughter and their light. Then followed Timothy James, Benjamin Lee, Allyson Lynn, Beck Christopher, Jack Henry and Nolan Alexander...each one even more adorable than the last! I carry constant current photos on my iPhone so I can show, well, anyone who will look. They are precious and wonderful, and it's been a joy to watch my husband embrace his title of "Unca Dwew" by marriage into my family. ("Unca Dwew" is also much better at assembling trains, playing basketball, and fixing broken toys than Auntie Gwace, making him a popular commodity among the under-5 crowd).

When Benjamin started having seizures three years ago, he was a towheaded bundle of energy and laughter, just three years old and the light of our lives. We had no idea how it would change our whole family's lives, especially that of my sweet sister. She has walked quite a journey with her husband, the past three years, researching tirelessly and finding the best answers available. Currently, Ben is on a ketogenic diet, which has shown some improvement, and we are really thankful. He still battles seizures, as well as learning challenges posed by his difficult seizure history. We've gotten scary phone calls that Ben had a grand-mal once or twice, and every time, my heart breaks for him, but he's still a trooper, has a smile that brings tears to my eyes, and a joy that overcomes even his cloudy post-seizure moments. He is so precious.

What I've learned is that special needs don't just affect the child and their parents, they reach far into their extended family, into their church, into their community. My sister is so blessed with wonderful friends, who step in regularly to help her with Benjamin's extensive needs, and make sure her other kiddos get ample play time as well. I wish that we lived closer, but because we don't, its been awesome to watch her friends and church rally around her/her family! Special needs have touched us in a very close way, both through Benjamin and Drew's niece, Livvy, who has severe autism and learning disabilities. There are no guarantees in life, that your children will be healthy, but there is a guarantee that the Lord will work it for good. What a blessing Benjamin is to us, what a blessing to see the disability ministry that my sister helped start in her church.

Every time I see Benjamin smile, I am reminded not of his special needs, but of my own need and reliance on Christ. Christ, who is always good, even when seizures are wreaking havoc on Ben's little life, even when we don't understand.

God is still good, still present, still working. I see it in Ben's smiles!

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