As far back as I can remember, I’ve thought of myself as overweight. Indeed, for many years, I have been overweight. A few summers ago, I embarked on a journey to reach the weight which God designed my body to carry. In that season of hyper-regulated eating, premade bars, and powdered shakes, I discovered a curious thing:
For much of my life, I’ve been content to wear clothes that are too big for me.
Overweight people wear plus sizes; I’m overweight; therefore, I must wear really large sizes. Those big shirts hid my actual shape and, I dare say, made me look heavier than I actually was. But I wore them because I believed they were what I should wear.
Wearing the right-sized clothes took some getting used to. I still have to make a mental adjustment when I purchase new clothes. I have to be honest with myself and buy shirts and pants that fit the body I currently have—not the body I used to have or the body I want to have someday. More times than not, finding clothes that fit me is a process involving fitting rooms and catalog returns. Each company has a different idea of what size is accurate to the label: a size large at one place is not the same size as a size large from another place. It’s exhausting. Yet when I find the right fit, I feel confident and beautiful.
In the same way, finding the right fit for my daughter, and discovering the right size for our family, has transformed the way we do life. When she was little, we jumped through various clothing hoops in order to accommodate Cami’s sensory struggles. Yet the fit I’m talking about here is in her environments, in her activities, in her friendships, in her transitions. Sometimes, it takes a major shift to find where Cami fits and what works for her. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a little tweak here and there in the status quo. Every time, it takes paying attention and being brave enough to say, “This isn’t working. Let’s try something different.”
My friend Betsy used to describe it as being a student of my child. She used to tell me that Cami’s learning glitches—the dyspraxia, the dyslexia, and sensory processing disorders (vestibular, visual, and auditory)—were gifts from God because they made me slow down and pay attention to my girl. She was right. When we pulled her out of public school kindergarten all those years ago, we took time—time for Cami to heal from the traumas at school, and time for us to figure out who we were and what worked best for our family. We took time to discover the right fit for all of us.
We stopped looking at Cami as a problem to correct and instead embraced her as a puzzle to solve—an intricate, sometimes frustrating, but always fascinating treasure to unlock. God forced Michael and I to take Cami out of the box that the benchmarks and growth charts and child-development books tried to keep her in. He helped us turn our girl loose in an open field and say, “Go be who you are. Let’s see what happens!” What we’ve discovered is this amazing human being who loves God with all her heart, loves other people in a truly selfless way, and loves to learn. We’re also discovering how to look at each other the same way we look at Cami.
We’ve stepped out of the trap of “supposed to be.” We’ve stopped comparing our family and our rhythm of life to other families around us. We’re finding the right fit for us. It isn’t easy. Sometimes, it’s downright chaotic. But every millimeter of the journey is worth it because we’re following Jesus, and I have to tell you: our family is brimming with life. Our hearts are settled and at peace with Him and with each other. We genuinely like each other!
As parents and caregivers, we must be careful—and intentional—to allow our loved ones to be who God created them to be. He made them fearfully and wonderfully, seeing them as His masterpieces, His beautiful, glorious works of art. He made us all that way, infusing us with His image. We are all different. It sounds like a cliché, but it’s true. Each one of us has a unique fingerprint, a unique DNA sequence, even a unique ear shape! God takes such great care to craft us each unique from anyone else. So why do we spend so much time and effort trying to look like everyone else? be like everyone else? do life like everyone else?
Be brave enough this week to ask Jesus to show you the right size and fit for your family. Just ask Him. And when you ask Him, be ready for the most amazing discoveries you could ever imagine.
Now glory be to God! By His mighty power at work within us, He is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope. Ephesians 3:20, NLT
Flattening boxes of fear and expectations, dancing in fields of grace,
*An earlier draft was first published at ChosenFamilies.org on April 28, 2013.