It’s been such a long school term… Early September, with it’s warmth and sunshine, still long days, the garden and countryside still bursting with fruitfulness, it seems a lifetime ago.
It’s been a hard few months for James, several Epileptic seizures including some at school, changes to his medication and how to get him to take it, his transitions between things being often ever so long, especially transitioning from home to the car for school and from the car into school itself. One ‘memorable’ day when I was stood by the car outside of the school entrance for over an hour while James processed that he needed to go in and eventually got out of the car.
So when it got to this week, the last week of term, it should have been a time to celebrate, a chance to wind down, a time of anticipating lie-ins and lazy days… But we had to get through that last week first, and I was running on empty. In every way it’s been a busy few months, it all had caught up with me and on top of general exhaustion I had caught some winter bug or other and was feeling rough.
James goes in to school three days a week at the moment, Tuesday to Thursday, 11am to just after 3pm. I was lying in bed on Tuesday morning, feeling awful, proper man-flu, thinking about how hard it might be to get James out to the car, then out of the car to the school entrance, about how it might take an hour or more stood outside in the cold and rain. I realised how exhausted and empty I was; how I had nothing left, how I just didn’t know how I was going to do this, I was close to tears. The temptation to just ‘phone school and say that we weren’t coming was almost overwhelming, but I knew that James enjoys school when he’s there, that’s it’s good for him to keep going, that it’s an important part of his journey of overcoming his anxiety and going back out into the world again…
(James spent over 12-months house-bound including the 2017-2018 school year, you can read about it in my blog posts from that time, a couple of which I’ve tagged at the end of this blog post).
I knew I was exhausted, empty, unwell, and just didn’t have the strength if James picked that day for a transitions battle. He’s 17 and taller than me so if he refuses to budge there isn’t much else I can do other than coax, cajole, persuade or bribe him to go. I just didn’t have it in me to do that this time… So I prayed…
I’m not sure what the exact words were, but it was something like this, “Father, you know I’m exhausted, empty, feeling ill, and that I just haven’t got anything left for a battle with James today. I can’t do it, so I need you to. Please, will you help James, and me, with his transitions from home to the car and from the car to school. You know how much we both need this to go smoothly and quickly Father, please help us, in Jesus name, Amen.”
James’ transitions went as well as I can remember them, going really easily and with James happy and showing no anxiety at all. It was amazing, God was clearly at work and answering my prayer for us. James had a wonderful day at school and transitioned back home easily and quickly.
While feeling a little better today, I still needed heavenly help and so prayed again. Same result, God whisking James up and out of the door to the car, then out of the car into school, quickly and easily. Instead of being stood in the cold by an open car door waiting for James to move, I’m at home writing this, praise God!
Now it’s easy to look at this story and think that getting a 17-year old into school shouldn’t be such a big deal; I know there are many reading this who will wonder what all the fuss is about and why I’m “making such a meal of it’. But for us, this has been a battle line for a long time, ever since we, by God’s grace, were able to encourage James back out again in August 2018. Over a year where every trip into school has the unpredictability and stress that supporting a 17-year-old Autistic young man with Learning Difficulties, Epilepsy, anxiety issues and other as yet undiagnosed conditions can bring.
Most of the time it’s OK, most of the time we manage, most of the time we have some reserves of energy in us to use. When these reserves are empty, when there is nothing left, when a virus hits and we’re feeling rough, then it’s not OK any more… it’s too much.
That’s when prayer is even more important than usual, as well as to be reminded of the words of Paul when he wrote to the churches in Rome and Corinth:
“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” Roman 8:26
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” 2 Corinthians 12:9
So if, like me this week, you are empty, exhausted, maybe feeling unwell, if it all just seems too much, don’t forget our heavenly Father longs to hear from us, to love us and help us. At this time of year we celebrate his most amazing gift to us, his son, but he gave us his son so that we might believe in him and put our trust in him. When we pray, we don’t always get the answers we want, but God is there for us and gives us the answers that are best for us, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.
One more school day to go tomorrow… I’ll be praying again. If you too have nothing left to give, then why not give up a prayer… it’s a time of year for wonders!
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The Additional Needs Battle
Little Steps, Big Struggles, Bigger Faith
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