Monday Mention: Sherrine and Dayton Hayward + 5 Lessons Those Living with Disabilities Can Teach You

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this…

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says,“Welcome to Holland.” “Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guidebooks. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you never would have met. It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…and you begin to notice Holland has windmills…and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy…and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say,“Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away…because the loss of that dream is a very, very significant loss.

But…if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to go to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things…about Holland.

Emily Perl Kingsley

I switched up my segments this week, because the story of this incredible mother and her son has been written on my heart. I don’t have children with disabilities. I have family that battles mental health issues, but I’m not an expert.

However, I listened to an interview recently on one of my favorite podcasts with Sherrine and Dayton Hayward, and I felt impressed to share these takeaways with you (feel free to go directly to the episode as well):

Lesson # 1: God’s plans are not always our plans.

As Kingsley’s poem beautifully illustrates, the plans we make for ourselves are not always the plans God has in store for us.

Whatever His methods, God is shaping you for eternity. The tools He uses to do that— the people, the blessings, the hardships— are not always the tools you expect. But God knows what He is doing. You are His work and His glory. Trust Him!

The scriptures teach us:

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts”

Isaiah 55: 9 KJV

That is, you may end up in Holland, but, perhaps that’s where you needed to be all along.

Lesson #2: Go after your dreams.

Did you know that Dayton has been to Havasupai Falls? My dream hike. He has also completed multiple triathlons:

Sherrine credits her son’s friends for finding a way to make it happen.

Our bodies and minds will not always function in the way our spirits want them to, but you don’t have to be traditional to go after your dreams.

In a fantastic video I watched the other day about decluttering your motherhood, Rachel Nielson of the 3in30podcast talked about this concept in a roundabout way. She suggested:

  1. Make a list of your ideal goals, dreams, “should”s, and “to-do”s.
  2. To declutter, go through your list and ask yourself:
    • Which of these sparks joy?
    • Which of these stems from a genuine talent or gift I possess or would like to possess?
    • Which of these truly feels like me?
    • Do some of these goals come from external pressures rather than intrinsic motivation?
  3. Work with your family and yourself to re-align expectations.
  4. Tap into your community, cut out the things that don’t work, and find a way to make the things that are truly important to you happen.

What great advice! I love this kind of internal work, because I truly believe:

Small things are brought to pass when we change our behavior; big things are brought to pass when we shift our paradigms.

In other words, the majority of the time, going after your dreams is all about what is in your head. Think outside the box. However you do it, believe that you can do anything.

Lesson #3: Observe with your heart, and serve.

You may have heard the phrase: observe and serve

After the birth of her son, Sherrine and her husband chose to continue having children, and, as she spoke about the difficulty of this, I was floored. She said:

With each child I would have two babies… I would have a newborn, but I still had a child who needed to be fed and changed round the clock here. I feel like I’ve had twins 6 times… I could hardly keep my head above water… And I don’t think anybody recognized what I was going through…. Because they think that ‘oh she’s got it all together’.

First off, I never would have guessed raising children with disabilities could be akin to having twins multiple times.

Jaw. Dropping. Analogy.

— But have you ever wondered: How many people could you bless if you observed, not only with your eyes, but also with your heart? How many people do you pass by because “they have it all together”?

Sometimes we have to get past the things we can’t see, and just serve.

Lesson #4: Make the choice that is right for your family.

Despite the difficulty, Sherrine strongly believed that Dayton’s siblings would:

  • enrich her son’s life
  • allow him to be involved, celebrated, and cared for
  • invite unity into their family
  • teach her children compassion and service

More than that, she loved being a mother. She wanted more babies!

But, one thing that continually touched me throughout the interview was how often she said the words:

I can only speak for myself.

She recognized that her circumstances, as a mom of a child with disabilities, didn’t give her the right to speak for all mothers of children with disabilities. Not only did she focus on making the right choice for her family; she also allowed space for others to do the same.

Lesson #5: Laugh— a lot.

Sometimes, life comes at you. HARD. But, as Mark Twain once said:

Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.

Honestly, Joe and I use laughter to cope with life— All. The. Time.

  • Did my 1-year-old somehow manage to remove his diaper and make a mess all over the crib?
  • Did we run low on groceries, eat a lot of rice, and raid my mom’s freezer for food this week?
  • Did the kids play in the car, leave the light on, and kill the battery, resulting in our asking the neighbor for a jump at 7 A.M.?

Yep. Yes. Uh-huh.

What can you do? We try to find the humor in it, and keep moving forward. In our household, laughter really is medicine. Give it a try!

Saying Thank You

So, if you see someone with a disability, be sure to smile and say Hi— another way of saying Thank You for all they contribute.

And, if you or a loved one are currently living with a disability, here’s to you. You are a superhero!

❤ Jenny

7 thoughts on “Monday Mention: Sherrine and Dayton Hayward + 5 Lessons Those Living with Disabilities Can Teach You

  1. Jenny, what a wonderful, inspirational post! I live grateful, so I love these testimonies and words of wisdom from those who live with and through the trials of life. I am thankful for those whose walk differs from mine, so that my horizons are broadened. That I get to see how God is at work in myriad situations. Blessings to you and your sweet family. ♥

    Liked by 1 person

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