Miracles Happen One Day at a Time
By Lucinda Secrest McDowell
“What do you think his future will be?” she asked, after observing my little boy in an agitated state outside the Sunday School classroom.
“Honestly, I don’t know. We’re just living one day at a time…” I mumbled, while grabbing Justin’s hand and heading off to retrieve my other kids.
I didn’t know. What the future would be for my eldest child. Born at a time when “mental retardation” was the diagnosis (thankfully, we don’t use the “R word” anymore). While words like that tend to put people in a box, I chose to receive them as a challenge!
“By God’s grace, we will raise this child to live to his highest capabilities…and beyond!” I determined, with both fear and anticipation.
31 years of living “one day at a time” have occurred since my conversation outside that Seattle Sunday School.
I won’t lie to you. It has been hard. And sometimes terribly frustrating. And occasionally heart-breaking.
Raising a child with special needs can put us through the whole spectrum of emotions. Sometimes all in a single day.
Still, parenting Justin McDowell has been Pure Joy. And that’s the truth.
In our family, when someone has a Birthday, we all go around the table and tell the guest of honor something that we appreciate about them. I’d like to do that publicly here for my son Justin. What are just a few of the qualities of the man who has enriched my life and our family in countless ways?
AUTHENTIC – Justin tells it like it is. There is absolutely no guile, no pretense in his soul or demeanor. Now, of course this means we have been forced to live utterly transparent lives, since some things are shared without filter. But that’s not exactly a bad thing…smile.
HELPFUL – Justin helps his Mama and Dad all the time with mowing the lawn, moving furniture, carrying luggage, setting the table or cleaning up a family dinner. And through his prayers and verbal encouragement. But he also helps people I will never know. He constantly volunteers to help folks move, help with children, help at church suppers, in his neighborhood and at work. He has a servant’s heart.
DETERMINED – Justin has overcome much in his life. He is determined to do what others can do – such as go on an overseas mission trip (twice) or learn to snow ski black diamond trails in Canada, or learn how to type on a computer keyboard. When he faces an obstacle, he doesn’t back down and thus has shown courage and perseverance repeatedly.
FAITHFUL – If you ask Justin to pray for you, he will. He calls me up before every speaking engagement and prays for me and my audience and my travels. He prays for his family and when he first met his baby niece, he promptly laid hands on her little head and claimed her for God, praying for that day in the future when she would ask Jesus into her heart (with absolutely no prompting from us!).
LOYAL – Justin is a friend who will stand beside you when times are good and when times are hard (though, remember he will be sure to ‘tell it like it is’ which might include some advice…). He believes the best in people and doesn’t give up on them. He offers grace and forgiveness readily. You definitely want him on your side.
GIVING – Of course I wrote all about Justin in my latest book “Live These Words” under the day which illustrates the verb “give.” Because Justin is always giving away anything he has that he thinks somebody else needs more than he does. Mostly he gives words of encouragement and praise to help support his friends or sports teammates, or colleagues.
Justin was 9 years old when I became his mother and I honestly didn’t know what his future would hold. I had no idea how his ‘differing abilities’ would play out amidst a competitive and fast-paced world of success and achievement. Today I am utterly grateful that he was able to earn his food services certificate from Manchester Community College, has worked at Red Lobster for 18 years, has lived in his own apartment (with some support) for 15 years, walks and buses everywhere, holds gold medals in tennis for several International Special Olympics, and helps with Prison Ministry, Alpha and VBS at our church in addition to several Bible studies.
Is there someone in your life who has been “labeled” with a disability? Please don’t ever give up. Keep pouring into their lives and urging them to fulfill the unique purpose and place God has for them. One day you might just turn around and celebrate another 40th birthday with Joy!
“Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And He chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-27 NLT
under the mercy, Cindy
Read my 2010 post “Disabilities or Differing Abilities” by clicking here.