“How Can You Smile?”

Even after many years as a special needs momma, and having people say the strangest things to me, this question which was posed to me last week really caught me off guard. It wasn’t so much the question, “how can you smile?” but the fact that it was posed by another special needs mom. She wasn’t joking and she wasn’t being dramatic. She was seriously questioning me about something that she perceived as out of the realm of possibility, and her tone indicated that it bothered her.


Actually her question had two parts, the second was much worse than the first and it’s what threw me off.  She approached me at a Special Olympics event where my husband and I sat in the stands ready to cheer on my son – if he actually ran. The starter gun was such a huge obstacle for him to overcome that it was 50-50 at best.  There we sat, praying internally while cheering for the other athletes whose races were before Nick’s. Out of the blue a mom from Nick’s school walked over and looking right into my eyes she asked “How can you smile? With so many problems!” To be honest with you, friends, I didn’t answer her with a kind,  teaching or loving spirit. It made me really defensive and I quipped (with a smile) “I don’t have any problems!” and dismissed her so I could continue to cheer for the races that were taking place. 

I love mentoring special needs mommas, it’s my calling and my passion. But I was a complete failure in that moment, and I’m not really feeling much guilt about it in the aftermath.  I’m also human. I love my life and my family, and if you come at me telling me we have “so many problems” you’re going to get a lot of Mama Bear, and not very much Mama Teacher. 

Having had a few days to reflect, I want to answer her question.  And just in case you sometimes wonder what the heck you have to smile about I’m going to share my top 5 answers with you.  Perhaps the teaching, mentoring opportunity that I blew last week can be redeemed by sharing this list with you:

  • God is good. This may sound basic, or cliche, but once you experience His presence and His nature, you understand that He is good and having Him be FOR me, makes me smile even if others or circumstances are against me.
  • Moments are sweet. Although days and nights may be long, and life may have challenges that seem insurmountable, within that there are still the sweetest of moments, with love and connection that bring a smile to my face.
  • I’m still standing. Whatever storm rages around me, whatever valley I may be walking through, I’m still here, life is still going on. The sun will rise again tomorrow and I will be here to see it.
  • I’m so blessed. When I reflect on the sum total of where God has brought me from and the wonderful things that He has put along that journey to bless me, I can’t help but smile in gratitude from a thankful heart.
  • Special is special. These three words are the foundation for my ministry. I truly believe that “special” kids and adults are exceptionally wonderful, and the fact that God has allowed our family into this elite club that gets to experience life in such a profound and intense way makes me so very happy.  

I know that most of you reading this are special needs families, however, I want to point out that four of the five answers I just gave have nothing to do with being a special needs family! That’s the mistake the inquisitive mom made last week.  Joy doesn’t come from having perfect kids. Joy doesn’t come from a perfect life, a perfect bank account balance, job or house. Joy comes from the Lord and no matter what your situation, no matter your child’s or your prognosis, you can find and radiate joy if you are a believer.  


If you’ve never experienced that kind of unconditional joy because you don’t have a savior, please consider saying this prayer to invite Him into your heart and your life – Jesus brings joy when he moves in! Dear God, I want to know your son Jesus, and I believe that He can bring joy and healing to my heart and life. Thank you for sending Him to take my place on the Cross, and for raising Him to life again as a victor over every issue that weighs me down. Today I receive Him in my heart and believe that you will begin to lead me to a greater, fuller and richer life as I follow you.


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