You know the ones – the party blowers for birthdays with Hello Kitty or Batman on them. They make a loud noise and extend with airflow, sometimes with streamers and usually accompanied by delirious laughter from children and sometimes adults alike.
We opened a package of these on a van ride home just for fun. Just for fun. But there are things in parenting a special needs child that should be fun but start as work first. Painful work to get somewhere normal. The places naturally taken for granted by most are worked for and inched towards on a daily basis. Grace took that party blower and painstakingly placed her lips around the mouthpiece and blew and blew to no avail. No extension of the party blower and no delirious laughter. In fact, the very opposite. A zero to ninety mile per hour build up of screaming, yelling and crying and the party blower is thrown on the ground. And she is mad and I am frustrated for her. There are days where nothing seems easy. Her siblings put their party blowers down in their lap and wait. I am amazed at their ability to grieve with their sister who grieves unexpectedly and without warning. That party blower is normal childhood fun, but for her, it is a speech therapy mountainous hurdle to leap over with lips that have scar tissue and the mechanics of a mouth not quite right. The truth is, she has every capacity in her to blow that party blower. She has the lungpower and the will, but just could not get things positioned right and that party blower is terribly hard.
Sometimes the hurdles she has to jump can really blow a party! She is angry and crying and the atmosphere has gone from celebratory to tense in a matter of seconds. It stinks to work that hard for joy.
I am reminded in that moment how I can strive for joy. I get frustrated in working for it, throw it down and feel defeated. How the capacity for joy is there at salvation but life sends it’s hurdles and the scar tissue on my heart can sometimes make it difficult to position that birthright of joy. For joy to project outward, there is a repositioning and restoring that has to take place. It can get stuck inside and only in my desperation and the throwing up of hands do things get loosened up enough for the capacity for joy to make its way upward and outward. An overflow in abundance is right there waiting. I have to acknowledge my need for it to be restored and placed right again.
Grace finally has that desperation. She asks her sister with a teary raspy voice to pick up the party blower. Her older sister does, encouraging and desperately waiting too. There are some things we can’t give Grace as much as we want to. Joy is one of them. We can demonstrate it and model it, but that positioning of joy has to come from the Father and bubble up from within. So desperately, for a handful of seconds, Grace works for joy. And she finally gets the positioning correct and blows that party blower to full extension! We all rejoice in 5:00 traffic and she continues to blow the party blower and there is celebration. She has found the right position in her little cleft lip and palate to produce joy. That joy is contagious and covers over the grief just moments before. Joy restored in a party blower celebration and another piece of joy restored in her heart. And we learn as a family to ride the waves of grief and joy and marvel at the ways in which joy is more prevalent now and where grief is fleeting. So we celebrate in that van, the milestone of positioned joy, as we crawl baby steps home bumper to bumper.