I’ve been purging and re-organizing a large closet filled with things for Carly, our daughter with disabilities. The closet is actually pretty organized. But it is filled to the brim with history in the form of therapy equipment, medical records, school records, homemade vocabulary cards, adapted toys, regular toys, boxes (and boxes) of family photos, and care supplies. There is even an extra shower bench in there that Carly used to take to camp.
That closet is a literal time capsule of Carly’s life so far. Twenty four years of hard-fought life and possibilities.
I confess. I am having a hard time letting go of a few things. I think the hardest items of all are the hundreds of homemade vocabulary cards we created for Carly when she was a preschooler. Over a few years’ time, we photographed nearly every item in our house, yard, church, school, and community to saturate her life with language and teach her about making associations. She is exceedingly visual and that missing gene on her 15th maternal chromosome makes it very hard for her to process language. We were taught early on that it could be easier for Carly to connect words with images when those images most closely represented the things she was most familiar with. That is why homemade vocabulary cards were more helpful to her than something we might have purchased at a store.
These are not things someone else could use. And they are things Carly is highly unlikely to ever need again. Yet for every item that holds deep meaning and was responsible for some fruit in our lives, I am tempted to hold on or wonder if we should try again.
On the other hand, the whole purging and reorganizing project is something I have wanted done for a few years. Alas, I have procrastinated. And making these decisions is at the root of my resistance. We all know this situation. There is nostalgia. There are future dreams. (Maybe my grandchildren will want to play with some of those awesome toys that still have not intrigued Carly after repeated rotations in and out of the closet.) There is decision fatigue. There is a myriad of rational and irrational thoughts and emotions. Yet we need the space. Physical space. Mental space. Emotional space.
We all know it feels so good — and is necessary — to purge once in a while.
Now, there is urgency. I need to make room for something new that is happening in our household this summer.
A very helpful dinner conversation with one of Carly’s friends helped me recognize some unhelpful things I was believing and identify some helpful truths. That conversation got me unstuck and helped me push back stubborn fears about discarding something I might later regret.
Here are five things I am telling myself in this process that might be helpful to you also:
- Hold on to trusting Jesus and being present with your child more than clinging to past memories, pride, insecurity, and fantasies about the future.
- Properly grieve before the Lord and someone else the disappointments of what was not accomplished with these tools.
- Remember and celebrate the many ways God used people and resources to release learning, personal growth, and healing!
- Recognize and confess things like fear, and your pride in all of the personal effort you put into collecting and implementing resources.
- Don’t let the enemy steal your hope in what healing is yet to come!
Now, if only that closet was the only place I have stored things from Carly’s life. Her life consumes our home in so many ways.
Thankfully, Carly’s life also consumes our hearts in the best of all possible ways.
I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, pastoral counsellor and author of popular books and Bible studies including Finding Glory in the Thorns and Jesus, Let’s Talk. She leads a weekly online discussion group welcoming caregivers in families living with disability. Lisa and her husband, Larry, are co-founders of Walk Right In Ministries, a non-profit organization building faith and community with special needs families. They live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome.