Every young mother has dreams for her children. As we hold that newborn babe in our arms, we begin to see the potential in this tiny human being…one made in the image and likeness of our Creator God. We wonder if that baby girl will grow up to be a carbon copy of her mommy or will she accomplish so much more than her mama had ever dreamed? We see our sons and are in awe that this little man will grow up to be a man perhaps like his father, even having a wife and children of his own some day. We have visions of tea parties, t-ball, and prom dates. But more than anything, I believe we mothers just want our babies to grow into happy, healthy adults.
I was that young mother so many years ago. My babies were just beautiful. I knew more than anything else I wanted to instill in each of them the love of their heavenly Father…to teach them to walk with God and to view the world around them through the lens of His Word. I wanted them to grow to be God-honoring, responsible adults with families of their own. I too wanted them to grow into happy, healthy adults.
And so, my husband and I set out to make the dreams become a reality. We were doing the best we could to get our children off to a good start in life. We loved watching them grow into who and what they were created to be, each one with his or her distinct personality. So aware of the way God had gifted each of them in different ways. Our children, Brad and Lyndsay, were truly a blessing from the Lord.
And then it happened…our son, Brad, had a stroke. He was only thirteen years old, and he had a stroke! This was not in our plans! We had to revise. Brad had to relearn everything…to walk, talk, read, write, add, subtract, even to recognize a penny, nickel, and dime.
We were to later learn that Brad has a very rare migraine disease called Sporadic Hemiplegic Migraine (SHM), so rare that it strikes only 0.01 percent of the population or less. SHM is a condition that has caused our son to suffer two traumatic brain events over the years: the first event being his stroke at the age of thirteen (February 1999); then again, the summer after Brad finished his sophomore year at Florida Christian College (July 2007), he experienced another migraine that led to non-stop seizures putting him in danger of permanent brain damage if the seizures could not be stopped. In order to stop the seizures, they put him into a medically induced coma. Finally the seizures stopped, and ever so slowly Brad began to regain consciousness. In all, Brad was in the Neurocritical Care Unit of Johns Hopkins University Hospital for 16 days! We spent the months of July, August, and September in a series of hospitals. Finally, just a few days into October, we were allowed to bring him home.
Brad and his sister at Johns Hopkins in September 2007; he lost another 20 lbs. after this photo was taken.
Both events in 1999 and 2007 resulted in multiple hospital transfers, multiple days in ICUs/Neurocritical Care Units and inpatient rehabilitation hospitals. Those days were followed by many months of outpatient physical, speech, and occupational therapies. Each time, Brad was unable to do anything…talk, walk, speak, read, write, compute simple math, recognize coins, complete basic care skills, or understand basic social skills. All had to be relearned. I jokingly tell people that I have raised our one son three times. In reality, it’s not a joke but a big part of the story of my son’s life…and mine, as well as every member of our family.
God has a plan and a purpose for my son’s life…for my life. The plans that formulated in my heart as a young mother so many years ago have taken a dramatic turn. I would have thought by now, at age 29, my son would have graduated from college, be established in the profession of his (and God’s) choice, and be married with one or two children of his own. His own dream since he was nine years old was to be a pastor, be married, and have children by the time he had reached his present age.
Many times I have prayed, “Lord, why…why have you not given him his heart’s desire? Surely they line up with your will?” Just when I think none of it makes any sense, God gives me glimpses of His purpose, His glory on the mountaintops. He shows me light on this valley floor. And I am once again comforted and filled with the peace that passes understanding…HIS peace.
Sometimes, in His great love and mercy, God has given me a glimpse into some of the whys.
Times such as this:
The Waiting Room
Sitting in the waiting room of the outpatient rehab hospital, I cried out to God, “Why, Lord, are you allowing my son to struggle once again? Why, Lord, would you allow Brad to be assigned to a speech therapist with an accent that isn’t even close to his native language? How in the world is he ever going to learn the proper pronunciation of the English language with this guy? Why does Brad even have to go through all of this again? Why do we all have to go through this again? Lord, you can heal him…please...why don’t you heal him?”
In the midst of my crying out to God, the therapist, the very one I was just complaining to God about, stepped into the hallway and asked me to join them in the therapy room. He had a few questions he wanted to ask.
Apparently, in the process of the therapy sessions, Brad had insisted that the therapist help him work on writing a sermon. Since writing is a part of speech therapy, the therapist had agreed to help Brad with the sermon. I think at this point he was willing to do anything that would get my son to cooperate in the therapy sessions. In his sermon, Brad was trying to go through the entire Bible beginning with creation, working through Moses and the Exodus (including every one of the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea), basically hitting every single miracle in the Bible all the way up to the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. In this process, Brad had basically forced his speech therapist to look at God’s Word. Not only that, but this young man was raised with a faith that was contrary to Christianity and was beginning to question his own religion. He asked me what kind of church we went to and what we taught. He said that his wife actually attended a Baptist church but that he had never considered going to church with her or looking into her Christian faith. He had been content with his own system of belief. However, after going through the sermon with Brad over the past month or so, he was now considering visiting his wife’s church. He was ready to look into Christianity!
You see, while I was out in the waiting room crying out to God…well…more like complaining, my son was in there introducing his therapist to the One True God. And suddenly I understood. That young man’s eternal destination, his eternal salvation, is far more important than the instant healing of my son.
Sometimes God gives us those moments of clarity in the whys so that we learn to trust in His wisdom, His timing, and His mercy. I have experienced enough of those moments to know that He is faithful and can be trusted with the whys. As I begin to release the ‘right’ to always know why God works as He does, or even why God allows things to happen, peace sets into the depths of my soul. He becomes my hope and my anchor in the storms of life.
Am I saying that God actually chose to inflict my son with this awful condition? No. We live in a fallen world. Everything has been affected by that choice made so long ago. What I am saying is that God, for whatever reason, has allowed this to come to pass, and He has and is going to bring about His glory and His good for Brad and our family. We are promised in His word, “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, NIV).
I trust that God is working this out. I know that the enemy wants to use this to destroy our family. He might as well give up because God is in control, and we have willingly placed our lives in His hands. He can be trusted.
My son loves the Lord and has been called! I just have to let go and let God work out His plan in His time. I have to follow His footprints, His path for our lives. In those times when life seems to have gone off track, yet again, I have learned to just let it go and trust that my loving, all-knowing, and faithful Heavenly Father has this, too!
(Photo courtesy of Rick Norton Photography)
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20, NIV).