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Kimberly Andrich explores the need to lean into God when parenting a child with health and behavioral issues.

Parenthood is a great gift and a great responsibility. We imperfect people are trying to raise and form other imperfect little people to mature adulthood and trying to inspire them to a faith and love such that God will welcome them with open arms into His Heavenly abode. Not a small task.  
But this task becomes harder when health or behavioral issues enter the picture. The challenge of parenthood is multiplied, the strain increased, the stress and overwhelm amplified. It can be easy anyway to feel like a failure as a parent, but it becomes even easier to feel that way when a child has a difficulty that we can’t help him with or that we can’t control.  
The demands placed on us parents by a child, who truly does need us, can feel like it will absolutely stretch us beyond our limits and break us. Yet breaking does not feel like an option; we must stay strong for our children.  
At least one of my five children has an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the brain rather than, or in addition to, attacking an invading microorganism. And because most of these children have at least one chronic infection such as Lyme, the immune system is constantly on alert, and the children get little or no rest from the barrage. This awful disease causes such things as OCD and inordinate fears, anger issues and rage, sensitivities, social issues, and a host of other problems. These poor children have great difficulty controlling their emotions and behaviors because their brains are inflamed.  



Frequently my daughter, set off by a minor incident, has run screaming down the hall to her bedroom, hitting her legs and slamming her door, her face bright red. There is nothing I can do in the moment. Holding her would only cause her to kick and scream more. And so I take a deep breath and wait until she calms down. 
It is very difficult for me to handle this. Though I have trained myself to keep a calm exterior, inside I am often holding back my own screams—screams to no one in particular, except perhaps God.  
To live in this place of unpredictable outbursts, big fears, strong emotions, and sensitivities is difficult. I feel helpless to help her much of the time. I feel exhausted and spent. This cross she carries wounds me as well. 
Yet, as with other crosses, God flips things over and provides blessings in the trials.  
Parents of children with health or behavioral issues know their weakness and littleness quite acutely. We are all too familiar with our powerlessness and know our need for God and for Him to sustain and care for us and our families.  
These difficulties are opportunities to turn to God and to invite Him into the chaos, into our homes, into our hearts. They are opportunities to lean into Him and to beg Him to hold us, to see our lack and our imperfections and ask Him to make up for them. To turn our children over to Him and ask Him to care for them in ways that we cannot, and to remember that, even more than they are our children, they are His.  

God knew our children before He gave them to us. He knew where they would struggle and what they would need. He knew their crosses and how those crosses would take shape.  



He also knew us. He knew what gifts and difficulties we would bring to the parenting journey. And still He entrusted us with the children we have. Therefore, we have—with Him—what we need to parent these particular children, even when we don’t feel that we do. 

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God knew our children before He gave them to us. He knew their crosses and how those crosses would take shape. #CatholicMom


Our children may have heavy crosses to bear. As parents, we want to protect them and keep them from all pain. But God wants to sanctify them through it—and to sanctify us as we walk the way of the cross with them. 
Sometimes it is our job to be Simon of Cyrene for them. It is not our job to take the cross away but to walk with them and to carry the portion that falls on our shoulders. 
Through the cross, through their struggles and our enduring alongside them, God purifies us both. The cross stretches and sanctifies us, calling us to join Him and walk with Him as well. Calling us to look to Him who is our strength. To draw hope from Him. To lean into Him and His love.  
This journey—this mission—is our purpose. Learning to carry and even embrace the cross and teaching our children how to do so is the greatest thing we can give to them. 
To live this way takes “hoping against hope” as Abraham did (Romans 4:18): hoping in God that, even when all feels hopeless, it is not. It takes our standing on faith even when we feel like we could crumble. It takes loving another even when we feel battered, and even when the only love we can offer is a prayer and a steady look in their eyes, saying "I love you and I’m here with you."



Copyright 2023 Kimberly Andrich
Images: Canva