This post is written by Maegan Keel. Maegan is married to Adam, and a mother to three beautiful children: Chloe, Lily and James. She lives with her family in Auburn, Alabama.
Last week my middle daughter, Lily, turned six. It was a perfectly happy day because Lily is a perfectly happy girl. She’s always smiling, content with the simplest things, and full of love and friendship for everyone around her. Her precious disposition is a gift to us, but it is not the greatest gift Lily gives. Lily gave me her greatest gift when she was three, and it changed my heart forever.
Lily was born just 15 short months after her big sister Chloe came into the world, and for that I am grateful. When Lily was struggling to string words together in phrases around her second birthday, everyone assured me that I had nothing to worry about. However, because I had just gone through that development with Chloe, deep in my momma heart I knew something wasn’t right.
Fast forward to a few months after her third birthday. My husband and I were driving home from a psychologist in Georgia where we had just received an autism diagnosis for Lily. I made it through the appointment with smiles and confidence, but I sobbed on the drive home, and the tears just couldn’t seem to stop in days to come. Those days were hard. Lily struggled to communicate with us and tears, hitting, and meltdowns were commonplace. I remember one afternoon when all three kiddos were napping, I lay curled up in my bed crying. I was grieving the loss of who I had thought Lily would be. I was gripped in the fear of the unknown. What if she didn’t get invited to birthday parties? What if people bullied her and took advantage of her in her teen years? Would she be able to go to college? Would she be able to work? Would she go on to get married and have babies?
As I cried out to Jesus in my pain, the Spirit moved in my heart. I began to realize that the reason the loss of those expectations hurt so much is because I had been hoping for the wrong thing. Although we may never verbalize it, as parents we hope for the best for our children; the world’s best. We hope for success, popularity, a steady income, and freedom from suffering. In that moment, crying in my bed, God broke my desire for those things and placed in me a singular desire for my children: to know Him. I stopped asking God to help Lily grow and develop; I only asked that she would be able to know Him and to enjoy Him.
What a beautiful gift Lily has been. She was the tool God used to break my heart and put it back together again. Through her life I have learned to let go of expectations. I’ve let go of false hopes. I still struggle daily with this journey called motherhood. However, Lily’s gift has been that now I’m hoping only in the painful, sacrificial, graceful, completed work on the cross, and that is a hope that doesn’t disappoint.