Yesterday I introduced you to my friend, Michelle. So thankful for her willingness to pull back the curtain a bit and let us have glimpses into their home, and most especially to God’s work in their lives. Here is the second part of the interview!
Worthy Hope: What were/are some of the temptations that you face? What sustains/feeds your joy in the midst of the daily grind?
Michelle Cooper: It’s easy to feel like no one understands what you’re going through. Could this be true? Certainly. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t speak truth into my world. And the only thing I need to know is that Christ does know me and understand my temptations.
~I am always tempted toward pride, as though having a child with special needs makes me more worthy of the Kingdom.
~I am tempted to be discouraged and give up disciplining a child who we are constantly wondering, “does he understand what we’re asking of him?”
~I am tempted to compare my situation with friends who have typical kids who are 5 years old, thinking how simple it must be to have a kid who talks, is potty trained,
easily interacts with others, can be trusted to go play at a park w/out kicking someone off a playset!
~I am tempted to wonder if I would have had a fifth kid had we not had a child with special needs; meaning, life might feel simpler so we might have had one or two more.
~I am tempted to envy my husband who has a life outside of this home 🙂
WH: What truths reorient your heart when you are tempted?
MC: God has had my days and life marked out from the beginning. He knew he was going to save me. He knew He was going to give me this child with special needs. He knew he would give the resources we have, and when not, He would provide through His people. He knew this was GOOD for me and for my husband and our family. Our church. Our parents. Our neighbors. There was NO mistake. Psalm 139:13-18, right? There were absolutely, 100% no surprises for God. He allowed Myles to be born with Down syndrome. He knew it was good for us. I cannot argue with this. I simply cannot. I remind myself of this when I start being tempted to want OUT… to be FREE… to be INDEPENDENT. He has marked our path. And I can be confident in this even on the days when my mental, emotional, and physical body is screaming for something else and I feel my spirit poised to run the other direction. He gently pulls me back and this can be painful, but oh so good when I submit.
In the daily grind– coffee sustains my heart. As well as chocolate bark with salted almonds 🙂 Of course, God’s Word is always encouragement to my soul–I Peter 1:3-9. I know the trials they were going through were perhaps of much more gravity than a child with special needs. But, I still think we can cling to this truth today– He is holding us securely till the end and we can have inexpressible joy even in the midst of hardship because we know what He has done and is still doing on our behalf. This life is NOT all there is!!
James 1 always encourages me, knowing that the testing of my faith produces perseverance. This kind of goes back to the above question about how my perspective has changed. God does build our endurance for the trials of life through suffering. We question His goodness, His plan. The question rings, “How can this be good for me??” I have asked myself that question over and over again. But He gently helps me see the spectrum of where I was when He saved me to where I am now– growing in faith.
We can’t always see the contrast when we’re in the midst of trials. Many times, in the heat of situations, I seriously think I’m digressing! And there are times when I probably am! But in the courage the Spirit gives, we move forward in faith, disciplining ourselves to remember what is true. Eventually He will show us where we are at now and how He has grown us. And that builds more endurance for the next trial. At least this is how it has worked out in my life
WH: In what ways do you see the Lord advancing His kingdom because of Myles?
MC: Having any outward physical identifier allows people in public to connect with you. So Myles has bright red hair, freckles, blue glasses, and Down syndrome. There is a lot to talk about 🙂 We have many opportunities to speak with others ANYWHERE we are at because many times people are trying to make connections. It’s not as though we are giving the Gospel at each of these interactions, but we certainly are able to speak truth and demonstrate joy even in the midst of what can be awkward situations (i.e. him yelling in a store, or running away from us, or hitting a kid at the park).
Our neighbors have basically grown up with Myles. We live on a cul-de-sac and all of us lived here before Myles was born. So when we brought him home, of course everyone was excited to meet the new baby. I think they were shocked by our response. I mean, of course, we were still processing 3 days later what just happened. But we were still filled with joy and able to share our confidence in what God had given us in Myles.
At our church, it has definitely been an opportunity for growth. I think many believers love the idea of special needs having a place in the church family. But when faced with it up close and personal, you are forced to question your philosophy and belief about what that really looks like when practically played out. Many times, it is easier said than done. And it takes hard work to be able to meet the world of special needs when it comes to breaking down barriers that make it hard for the Gospel to get through.
My husband works in public education. He has had more opportunities than I have had to share the Gospel clearly with co-workers. God has used the conversation piece of Myles’ to make easy segues into spiritual matters, whether it’s about the sin nature of a child even with special needs or everyone being created in God’s image or the idea of suffering and trials being ongoing.
And God is working in our family day by day. It has been really interesting to see how God has used Myles right here in our own family! Watching our older boys make sense of disability in their school setting, and having Myles as an anchor in their lives, has really opened their minds to other kids who are not like them. It’s amazing and their love for Myles despite his behavior is enormous. We are confident the Lord will use it long into their adult lives. ~~