Our family witnesses. A lot. Almost never intentionally.
Bringing Shelby anywhere is a huge act of witnessing the joy of parenting a special needs child. Bringing Shelby and the boys witnesses to the joy of hope in our Lord and confidence in His will and promises. People often have a difficult time believing that we would have wanted more children after an autism diagnosis, so the boys sometimes come across as acts of radical faith and in some ways they are, in the same way that all children are.
The weekend of the wedding in Charlotte, my cousin Daniel (who is two months older than Shelby) spent a lot of the weekend with us. Daniel is the youngest of four children. His oldest sibling, his sister Mae, is going into her senior year of high school, so Daniel was really excited to have some kids his age around. The last time Daniel had seen Joseph, Daniel was 1 and Joseph was two months old. And Daniel desperately wanted to touch and play with the baby. My uncle, Ed, would not hear of it because Daniel was only one. So I was not at all surprised that Daniel and my boys took to each other immediately. Or that Daniel was not at all phased by Shelby and her behaviors and noises.
At one point we were in our hotel room and Daniel was with my boys sitting on one of the beds playing with William’s Kindle Fire. Shelby was on the other bed with a cup of soda Jeff had given her. Shelby spilled the soda. We pulled the duvet off the bed and I told Jeff I had seen housekeepers in the hallway to ask if they could take the old one. Jeff found a housekeeper who came and removed the duvet and got us a new one. While she was changing the duvet, she looked over at the kids on the bed and said, “You all have such a nice family! I rarely get to see families this large.” Not wanting to take credit where it wasn’t due, after thanking her, I told her Daniel wasn’t our son but our cousin.
It is strange to think that having a family with more than 2 kids is considered “witnessing” now. When my grandparents had six children, it wasn’t considered witnessing. I would dare say in the 80s (okay so I was born in the 70s) when my parents had four, it was just starting to seem odd to see families of more than 2 or 3 kids. And now, we’re at a time where many remain childless by choice, and consider children an inconvenient by-product of sex that can be terminated at will. We live in a time where people alter their biology to avoid having children, but continue having sex which they try to claim has no consequences.
When we go out with just our three children, we are proclaiming a lot of things to the world. We’re telling them God’s plan is better than anything we ever could have dreamt. We’re telling them that a little trust in His will reaps huge rewards.
That same day the housekeeper remarked about our family, we went out to a restaurant where my boys demanded we say grace before the meal. So there we were crossing ourselves (including Jeff) and blessing our food and I have to hope someone saw and that our saying of grace allowed grace into their hearts. Sometimes unintentional witness, plants seeds in hearts that would not have sown them otherwise.