Have you ever wondered how to know God’s will? Or why He allows certain things to happen in our lives? On a recent episode of Your Hope-Filled Perspective Podcast, my guest talked about this, and related it to a set of “God’s doors.” (if you missed that episode, click here to listen: How To Navigate God’s Doors and Know His Will – Episode 71). I’ve asked Cindy LaFavre Yorks to share more with us here about what she learned through parenting a special needs child. She shares how life can be hard, but even in the midst of our trials, God is working in all the details behind the scenes. This special needs mom found hope in God’s promises.
A Special Needs Mom Finds Hope in God’s Promises
By Cindy LaFavre Yorks
Has your life flashed before your eyes? That’s never actually happened to me. I’m more of a rearview mirror kind of gal. In times of stress and uncertainty, I find great clarity in reflecting on the sights I’ve passed to gain a better understanding of my current latitude and longitude as well as what’s ahead. Priscilla Shirer made this watershed observation: ”God can stun you in hindsight when you discover the careful orchestration of events in your life.” I know I’ve truly been continually humbled as I find myself pursuing holiness, nipping at the heels of my way making, sea splitting navigator.
I confess at times in my life I’ve found myself a bit stunned, and maybe even blindsided, by what happens in my life. But in reality, I’m more amazed and grateful for how God really does work all things for good for those who love Him. Like me. God promises this in Romans 8:28. Some people misinterpret this verse, instead believing that those who truly love God should expect only good things to happen to them. In fact, refiner’s fire is not delivered poolside with a delectable plate of petit fours and a fruity drink. It comes instead like a raging tsunami against a comfortable, orderly life, turning expectations on their heads and grandiose dreams into piles of rubble. Yet if we look hard enough, we can find considerable beauty in that jagged rubble.
Early Disappointments, Triumphs and Romans 8:28 Gifts
Flash backward to the 90s. Because we were unable to bear children of our own, my husband and I opened our hearts to adoption, to one beautiful baby boy and then to another. During this time we were also praying mightily together over five job opportunities for my husband. God chose the one that has proved over time to have been the best possible choice in terms of provision, intellectual stimulation and promotion. This domino led to the provision that led our several other dominos into play, such as the house we live in now, which was prayed over on the front yard before we owned it.
That event led to the rare real estate trade I believe God orchestrated to position me for leadership in a ministry I have been in for over 20 years. I was within five minutes of that venue; even the challenges of my son’s autism that later impacted me would not stand in the way of bringing me into a deeper relationship with and dutiful service to Him. I quote his promise in Hebrews 13:20-21: “Now may the God of Peace…equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ…”
My “because of’s” have sometimes been big and sometimes have appeared in smaller ways. Our current home has two rows of shrubs that lead up to the front door. Those protective shrub rows were two “dominos” that helped guide our special needs son, Max, into his “special ed” bus every day and kept him on a straight and narrow path literally. He was unable to dart to the left or to the right. Our home of over 20 years is at the top of a hill on a little high place so he was able to see the bus coming.
Both our sons were divinely selected for our nest and always belonged to Him, no matter who they are entrusted to, as one of my autistic son’s Christ following caregivers recently reminded me of just the other day. Being in the home God selected for us also put Max into a position of being a part of the school district which pays for him to attend the special school he is enrolled in. It’s a school where they can help him achieve his highest potential. My prayers were answered again when the house we eventually purchased for him was also in the very same district, freeway close to the school and three minutes from our house. The shrubs are a reminder of a great promise from God in Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” God is always watching out for our dear Max.
The Sting of Disappointment
Of course, I didn’t always embrace my special needs parenting trajectory. When I first learned of my youngest son Max’s autism at his 18-month mark, I was standing on a grassy knoll in Irvine on a blustery autumn day. I was in a high place topographically but not emotionally if you know what I mean. Satan sought to undo God’s intended tapestry in that moment when He placed in my mind the tempting thought of letting go of Max’s trusting little hand, that Max might run away and I would be free of him. But because God promised in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that he would “provide a way so that” temptation could be endured, I was able to resist. In hindsight, I see that the prayer warriors, my church life group and a host of other caring individuals were the cornerstones of the wall that helped shore me up all those years as temptations of despair continued to present themselves.
Max grew in stature over the years, but many of his needs will always stay the same. (He’s non-verbal and needs help with basic grooming and meal preparation.) I remember once we were at the beach, Max’s happy place, and I was drying him off, not in a “do everything as unto the Lord” kind of way. And suddenly the Holy Spirit came on me and filled me with a deep and powerful infusion of love for Max. It fully enveloped me and remains a powerful memory to this day. When I would find myself feeling out upon by the daily caregiving required for him, I would recall that moment and it would restore my joy to get me through the task at hand. If we indeed seek the Lord with all our heart, He not only allows us to find him, his bright light will radiate through the prominent cracks of our hard knocks lives. I was a cracked pot in progress but much work was – and frankly is – still to be done.
My wandering in the wilderness with Max has had its beautiful moments but the joy has been overshadowed by a long and winding road often full of physical and emotional pain. It’s hard to witness someone completely non-verbal trapped by autism and at times personally enduring the brunt of that frustration and anger in literal, violent ways. Even then, God enabled me to love Max through it all.
Three years ago after a particularly violent outburst, 911 call and trip to the emergency room without my out of town husband, the Lord made it crystal clear to me through my sobbing on the front lawn that terrible day that He would deliver me from that day to day aspect of caring for Max. Though I felt an initial relief regarding this news, the old adage that it can be darkest before the dawn certainly rang true on the day of Max’s worst outburst to date. God provided a way for me to “bear up under it” and it truly is a miracle that I was not injured when his episode began or again at the hospital when even under heavy sedation, he tried to come after me again. In the moments that followed that second terrible ordeal, I again heard from the Lord in my pleas and cries out to Him that my time of deliverance had arrived.
Once we were all released from the ER. I entered a period of intense prayer. I began seeing God’s will in the matter and entering into some hard discussions with my husband after he returned home. A couple of difficult days followed, but by the grace of God we arrived at a game plan that we could both support and sustain. The sacrifices were still seemingly impossible to make, but God saw us through them. He promises to do that for all of us in Isaiah 43:2: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned.”
Needing Myself and Still Meeting Other’s Needs
Over the next few days, a peace and a resolve came over me so surprising and reassuring that it could only come from God. He revealed to me that it was time for Max to live elsewhere and that it would soon be time to enter a new phase of my life: helping other moms like me. To be honest, I wasn’t super thrilled initially about the prospect of trying to help others when I was so emotionally drained myself. In the past, when I was in the midst of free time away from Max, the last thing I had “room” for was to hear the similar laments of others like me. No I don’t want to go to the Broadway play about autism but yes, please feel free to pass the tissues. The writing of my first devotion book “The Side Door: Welcoming God’s Divine Detours” was the beginning of that leading. It was time to help others, I heard Him say, and it was also time to expand my sphere of influence.
So I listened and made some progress. I finished the rough draft of my book but somehow the effort felt inexplicably incomplete. I kept remembering a well-meaning pastor who once told me I would stand on top of the mountain one day and see all that God did. I kept telling myself I had done that but it rang false in my heart of hearts. Something seemed to be missing. Then – at the time seemingly unrelated – I began really praying and entering into the struggles of other moms like myself. I began brainstorming about creative ways to really help them. A new light bulb had come on inside a dark closet but I had yet to open that door. I started to imagine helping others in a bigger way even though I wasn’t sure how I would accomplish such a daunting task when I was still so emotionally needy myself.
Our Way Making, Sea Splitting God
Moving Max into his own home was indeed a God-sized task that both my husband and I were ill-equipped to tackle alone. But fortunately, God isn’t in the business of blowing up mountains like the one we were facing. No. He’s a way maker and a sea splitter. And that’s just what He did for our family.
In an amazing two-week period three years ago come Labor Day, God worked a miracle. Because of His provision, and our experience in previous God-ordained real estate deals, we were able to find, buy, furnish, close escrow and move Max fully into his new home, completely staffed with caregivers prayed for before they ever set foot in that dwelling in a mere 14-day period. “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11). It was as true for Max as it was for me. I am finally able to say after enduring these trials that Exodus 3:12 encompasses my journey perfectly: “He said, but I will be with you and this shall be the sign for you. That I have sent you – when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”
Well I’m no Moses, or even Charlton Heston, but I understand God’s instructions when I get them. So I continue to roll up my sleeves. It’s been said that every mountaintop is within reach if you just keep climbing, and that the best view comes after the hardest climb. I can say with certainty that my view is stupendous and is without a doubt more glorious and satisfying than I could ever have imagined. It is the place God ultimately brought me to prepare me to effectively minister to others. I remember before I went to Rwanda a few years back, we were all formally commissioned. The Bible verse assigned to me was “how beautiful on the mountaintops are the feet of those who bring good news.” Isaiah 52:7. Because of my journey to the top of this mountain, thanks to the way He’s made, I’m positioned and eager to bring the good news of how God really can bring good out of what looks to the untrained eye like heartache and despair.
In pondering all these things, a verse from Job jumped out at me as I was reviewing some old sermon notes the other day. I love how Job is confident he will be able to withstand the trials God put before him. Job says, “But (God) knows the way I have taken; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” Later in Job 42:10, we read: “After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored His fortunes and gave him twice as much as He had before.” It wasn’t riches that were restored to me, but instead I received twice as much joy, double the faith and a two-fold increase of hope; God’s plans and His timing bring about the greatest dividends in life this side of eternity. I saw a beauty in the ashes left in the wake of all that’s happened with Max that surprised me. Someone recently told me it looked to them like it was all for nothing but I see that the opposite is true. I see a little pile of gold nuggets inside His mighty palm. The journey through the wilderness with Max brought the “because of” full circle like an out of the park home run in the baseball game of my life.
Living in High Places
Speaking of home runs, Max’s caregiving team hits it out of the ballpark every week. They are the hands and feet of Jesus himself. I am not exaggerating. They’ve been awesome for three years running now. Even in the pandemic, they’ve stood by his side. And The Domino House, the name I call his humble abode, itself is a beautiful sanctuary for our son. All God’s divine dominos fell into place for him to live there. He has adjusted much better than anyone thought he would. He loves his little home on Altura, which I recently discovered means “high place.” When I learned that, my entire being lightened like a helium balloon with hope and reassurance, I Googled high places and found this amazingly appropriate verse: “For behold, He who forms mountains and creates the wind and declares to man what are his thoughts, he who makes dawn into darkness and treads on the high places of the Earth, the Lord of hosts is his name.” (Amos 4:13.)
I like imagining the Lord treading on Altura street alongside Max and his devoted caregivers. It gives me great joy knowing our Almighty God also inhabits the high place on Altura Street. “Man makes his plans but the Lord directs his steps” (Prov. 16:9). God alone knows what’s next for what I lovingly call the Domino House that God built. Whatever that may be, I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to witness and testify to the miracles God will work in Max’s life and all those who know and love him.
Rick Warren once said, “wisdom does not automatically come from age. Maturity is when you extract meaning from the everyday experience of life.” I’m keeping my extraction in a bottle to share with moms who are still treading water in their galoshes. Because of all God’s done for me, it’s the least I can do to reach out to others like myself who are still in mid-climb. It’s an honor and a privilege to partner with God to see how He will orchestrate Max’s life and all those of my family as we continue our journey to the “most high place,” the New Jerusalem.
Have you ever looked back over the hard times of life and seen God’s faithfulness? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
About Cind LaFavre Yorks:
Cindy is an award-winning writer whose articles have appeared in the LATimes, New York Daily News, Chicago Tribune, Houston Chronicle, and People Magazine. After decades of covering fashion and the red carpet, she traded in her stilettos for sandals and entered into an unexpected door that led to special needs parenting. Married to husband Ben for 37 years, she is now the empty nested mother to two sons and lives in Southern California.
Connect with Cindy here: Facebook / Instagram
Recommended Resources: (If there are affiliate links in this post, meaning, if you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no extra cost to you)).
- The Side Door: Welcoming God’s Divine Detours by Cindy Yorks
- The Trap Door: Embracing God’s Divine Deliverance by Cindy Yorks
- Free Download: How To Fight Fearful/Anxious Thoughts and Win
- Award-Winning Breaking Anxiety’s Grip: How to Reclaim the Peace God Promises by Dr. Michelle Bengtson
- Breaking Anxiety’s Grip Free Study Guide
- Free 7-Day YouVersion Bible Reading Plan for Breaking Anxiety’s Grip
- Hope Prevails: Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression by Dr. Michelle Bengtson, winner of the Christian Literary Award Reader’s Choice Award
- Hope Prevails Bible Study by Dr. Michelle Bengtson, winner of the Christian Literary Award Reader’s Choice Award
Wow, awesome encouraging message, Cindy!! Thanks Michelle for having Cindy share about Max and the journey she continues with his life and her own purposes and plans Father has for her. I know those moms that she encourages and helps are blessed and can see the light at the end of the tunnel of peace in the midst of a difficult life altering situation. So appreciated all Cindy shared and all you shared, Michelle, in the podcast and now this blog. God bless you both!
What an amazing and encouraging story. Grateful to have a Father that is involved in all aspects of our lives and has us in mind always. Thank you for sharing Cindy. I love how God brought everything full circle.
Such an encouraging and hope-filled message. Oh, that we would always remember that our Lord is with us in the hard times and that, amazingly, he actually has a purpose for those hard times. While I do not have a special needs child, I have definitely had my share of hard and disappointing moments, and, looking back, I can see God’s presence in the midst of them.
Patti @ Clothed with Joy