The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities

An Interview with Kathleen Bolduc

Not many of us would put together the words love and suffering. Suffering feels like anything but love. One of life’s greatest struggles is to resolve that our all-loving God allows us to suffer; in fact, Scripture repeatedly reminds us that God is love and we will suffer.

Kathleen Bolduc understands suffering, as she raised a son with disabilities. She has experienced bitter-cold sorrow and has been warmed by God’s loving embrace for more than thirty years. Her book The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities helps us understand that God’s love breaks through most often when we are broken open.

If you are enduring pain and questioning God’s love, Kathy’s words will warm your soul.

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Love is a word pregnant with warmth and hope, joy and happiness. If love were a season, it would probably be spring; and as a color, we think of red or pink. Suffering, on the other hand, feels void of warmth and life: cold, lonely, painful, and for some, hopeless. If suffering were a season, it would be winter—icy, bitter, bleak, and void of any color.

Falling in love is exciting, falling into pain is excruciating.

Resolutions: The Why Behind What You’re Doing

The success rate of people keeping resolutions is around 8 percent (tops). Resolutions fell off my to-do list years ago. However, I’ve heard that more than 50 percent of Americans still firmly believe in making resolutions.

New Year
(Photo Courtesy of Pexels)

And let’s just say old habits are hard to break; the ritual of making resolutions began long before Christ was born.

I finally nailed down my New Year’s resolutions:

  • Gain 20 pounds
  • Create chaos and conflict with family and friends
  • Stop reading my Bible
  • Stop exercising
  • Dive deeper into debt
  • Get fired
  • Have a nervous breakdown

How to Beat the Burn-Out

TIRED! That was the only word I could think of. Typically, my husband—who leaves for work by 5:20 a.m.—sends me a text asking how the morning routine and getting out the door went.

Stressed Woman
Image from Photodune.

For us, that can be a risky inquiry since, quite often, departing for the day is something just shy of the Exodus.

In spite of appearing quite normal, my son’s global intellectual developmental disabilities (IDD) require a lot of assistance—which isn’t that big of a deal.

The bigger deal is me: the mother who hates mornings, rarely has “anything to wear,” and struggles with ADD and focus challenges.

I kept thinking, all moms juggle morning routines. I’ve been at this for over 20 years. Why is this still such a big deal?

Cutting Out the Christmas Conflict

I don’t think there is any other time of the year when we are faced with intense conflict than at Christmas time. While we sing about it being the most wonderful time of the year, would you say that’s your experience?

Christmas Stress
Image from Photodune.

If it really is the happiest season of all, why do the mental health statistics reveal December has the highest suicide and depression rates than any other month of the year?

A Great Panic Attack Can Change Everything

After my first marriage fell apart, I vowed that Christ would return before I would ever consider getting married again. Why on earth would one desire a messier life than I had created by age 40 . . . HONESTLY!

Scared woman peeking
Image from Photodune.

Meeting people—well, okay . . . men—occasionally wasn’t problematic. People fascinate me, and I enjoyed making new friends in the aftermath of it all.

On the Mend

One guy stood out as a fantastic, lifelong . . . friend. We could—and did—talk for hours. His kids, too, had a history of health challenges. He was . . .

Trash or Treasure

The weathered wooden trellises were trashed . . . or so they thought. I found some timeworn trellises stacked in a pile my folks planned to toss out. I have a thing about refurbishing or renewing stuff that appears dumpy or dilapidated, and giving it new life.

cemetery_pink_rose_trellis
By Acabashi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

If it’s family stuff, all the better. Around my house we have a saying: “Your trash is my treasure.”

The trellises had been used for years.

  • They had held fragrant climbing roses my dad cared for, cutting one for my mom each day.
  • They were placed by the swimming pool where for years my kids and I swam.
  • The man who built them out of wood had passed away, but his work remained.

For these reasons and more, I hauled them home, knowing they could be beautiful again.

Not long after, my daughter was engaged, and we were pinching pennies by making the most of her decorations. TA-DA . . . the trellises . . . they could work. We decided to make an A-framed arbor; each side measured about 4 ½ feet tall by 3 feet wide, held together with four vertical wood slats and six horizontal slats.

In all, each side had a bunch of smaller, square-shaped spaces, superb for her wedding style as we envisioned it in our minds.

Cleavers, Christ, and Cutting Out Life’s Misadventures

It really was not what we had planned for a quiet Sunday afternoon on Father’s Day . . . but so it goes. Shortly before summer, my youngest son, Jon, got to pick out his very own dog . . . sort of.

Abby
(Photo Courtesy of IFLM)

With all of his siblings now out of the house, Jon wanted companionship, and after all, dogs are “man’s best friend,” so we went for it.

He saved his allowance, we studied the breeds together, and finally the day came.

How to Live for What Lasts

I couldn’t believe the day had come. As we drove away from my son’s college apartment building, its soft yellow paint began to blur as tears welled up in my eyes. I was suddenly filled with a flood of memories, most of them fixed to what I wished I would have done better as a mother.

rear-view mirror
Image from Photodune.

When the kids were little, a bazillion adoring “older” folks said something I didn’t thing was right.

Triggers, Traps, and Truth Bombs

This past summer, all my best thinking led to some tearful conversations with my grown son and daughter. Apparently there was a disconnect . . . and it wasn’t on their end, it was on mine.

Mother & Daughter Serious
Image from Photodune.

It all started in May. My stepson finalized wedding plans and got married. My son came home from college to work, save money, and take some classes online. What we didn’t plan on was identity theft, which led to a consuming amount of work and documents galore, no Internet, computers, telephones, or cell phones, and thoroughly rewiring our home.

I admit, I was a little uptight. Okay, I was a little like Squidward from SpongeBob on a very bad day . . . for days . . . which turned into weeks . . . which turned into the whole summer.