This morning has been rough. My Mason is struggling with a recurrence of chronic pain and my heart is aching as I cry out for God's healing. I say this to you, my dear readers, as I begin the third and final installment of our story as I shared it with the young mothers group last week. I share it to assure you that though my time with the MOPS group had to come to an end, I could in fact talk and talk and talk to you about the obstacles my children (all four) have to overcome daily in this walk; I could talk about my ongoing grief as it cycles during big life events (last year's prom sent me into a dark dark place) and especially, oh most especially, when I have to watch my precious ones hurt and suffer pain. And if you are on this journey as a special-needs mom, then consider yourself hugged today. I am here. I am walking with you. And I understand. (If you need to read parts one and two, click here!)
Here's the next (and final for now) installment of our story:
I wish I could tell you that I embraced the idea of grieving immediately. I didn’t. My heart felt broken but it wasn’t until I received a call that my sweet friend had delivered her triplets at 35 weeks – considered full-term for multiples – that I broke into tiny pieces. I had prayed mightily for my friend and those precious babies. But instead of rejoicing in a healthy delivery I threw myself a pity-party.
“God doesn’t love me as much as he loves my friend. More people were obviously praying for her. Her faith must be stronger than mine. God must love her more. That must be it, God loves her more.”
Oh it was quite the pity party -- I had balloons, cake, everything!
That very week, God gave me scripture centered around an imprisoned John the Baptist. When John’s disciples went to Jesus for help, they asked him, “Aren’t you the one who is to come?” Basically saying, aren’t you the all-powerful Jesus or do we need to look elsewhere? Do you understand that? They wanted to know if this was the miracle worker, the One who could save their friend!
In Luke 7:13-28, Jesus assures them that he is the ONE and yet, he doesn’t even consider saving John the Baptist from prison – and imminent death. Jesus continues to speak of John, actually describing him as being:
“ …Among those born of women none is greater than John.”
Yet Jesus did not save John. It was not God’s perfect plan. John was greater than any other human born from a woman and YET, Jesus chose not to save him.
That was a turning point for me. That was the day. The day, when I realized God loves me. God loves me and God loves my boys. That was the day that I cried out to Him and asked him to help me put my broken pieces together. That was the day I called my grief grief, and felt courageous enough to embrace it and then leave it alone.
And ladies, because God is….well, God, He did the coolest thing. He used my boys to help me learn how best to cope.
I told you Benjamin was five when he started using a wheelchair, by the first grade we thought we had the logistics down pat – van, ramps, sidewalks, etc. But in the middle of that first semester in school, my Benjamin got in trouble. He needed a bathroom break at an apparently inopportune time for his teacher. His aide would take him but he hated waiting for her to wash up, etc and so he began to drive himself back to class. The teacher felt strongly that her door remained closed and so without his aide, Benjamin could not get back into the classroom. So this bright boy, not wanting to miss any more school than necessary, devised a way to alert his classmates to open the door. He would ram it with the tray on his wheelchair as his way of “knocking.” Oh boy, his teacher did not like this. And one day she gave both Benjamin and I a stern encouragement to come up with a different system.
After I settled the triplets into bed that night, I heard Benjamin crying. I knew – as Mama Bear knows, that he was crying about his teacher fussing at him. I went to assure him that I would take care of it the next day. I was fairly fuming by the time I knelt beside his little bed.
“Yes, baby, what is it?”
“Mama, I’m worried.”
“About what sweetheart? I can fix it.”
Here it comes I thought, he is about to tell me how upset he is about this teacher. Oh I was getting worked up.
“Mama, I am worried that when I get elected president of the United States, they won’t let you live in the White House with me.”
Cue the confused look on my face, followed by complete understanding of the awesomeness that is my son:
“Oh baby, I promise that when you are elected president you can make them let me live in the White House. I promise.”
When Benjamin rolls into a room, eyes turn. When he speaks with the spiritual gift of encouragement, people listen. He was part of teen government when he was 15 and actually did run for president. Waiting outside the convention doors, I heard the roar of excitement and the thunderous applause but had no idea it was for my son. Benjamin had won his party’s primary for president! I had to smile as I remembered the first grader and his worries. His dreams were never broken.
Mason was five when he required a major spinal surgery. The recovery required him to use a wheelchair for awhile and then a little walker before he was strong enough to use his power sticks again.
When the first week of school, the teacher had them draw self-portraits, I was anxious to know how my little Mason viewed himself? So driving home that day, I asked him, did you draw your picture with power sticks. He said no. I asked, a bit sadly, if he had drawn himself with his walker, he said no. I paused, worried that he had begun to identify himself in a wheelchair. He sensed my pause and jumped right in, “Mom, I drew myself without anything – just like I will walk in heaven!!”
Mason’s dreams aren’t broken. Mason understands courage and how to depend on God for the strength to conquer the hard stuff and see himself exactly as God sees him. Believe me, when Mason lays aside his crutches to encourage a child, to shepherd someone younger, people take notice.
For the last four years, my almost 18-year-olds have been asked to address education students at Arizona State University. Every single time – more than eight semesters now – someone has followed them out of the classroom to enquire about their faith. It is evident in their lives. They are not broken. Their legs don’t work like mine or most of yours, but these boys are far from broken. God is evident in their lives.
Their triplet sister, Claire is passionate about ministering to the marginalized, the hurting, the special needs community as a whole. She plans to be an occupational therapist and work with special needs orphans around the world. Because, dear ones, she isn’t broken either. God’s plan for her was to be passionate about special needs. God’s plan.
Can I share that when the triplets were eight years old, God did this really cool thing? Barely six months had gone by since I had been brought to my knees in my broken place, when I realized I was experiencing some symptoms that caused me to grab a calendar. Are you tracking with me? I counted weeks. And recounted weeks. And finally dropped the kids off at school before rushing to the pharmacy for a pregnancy test….a pregnancy test that turned positive immediately!
My Cate is nine years old today. When she was four, someone asked her her name, and she smiled and said, “I’m Cate. I’m a gift.” I may have told her that once or twice, do you think?
She has been a light in our dark days. When surgeries loom – and they often do – and grief raises its ugly head, she has brought a balance of silly, and fun and love. She was three the first time someone said something negative about her brothers where she could hear, I caught her just as she pulled back her fist to punch the little boy in the mouth.
Now while I don’t condone violence, I had to smile that she was innately ready to protect her brothers. She is – as she so aptly put it – a gift.
Oh readers, this was not the way I thought my life would look. This was not the cry of my heart when I begged God to work a miracle in my boys. No, this was not my plan. Oh no, because HIS PLAN is far more beautiful than anything I could have ever imagined.
In two months, my triplets will graduate from high school. I am so excited for the opportunities that lie in front of them. And am thrilled that God has me on the front lines of their cheering section.
As part of their graduation ceremony, they were each allowed a verse to share, they have given me permission to share those with you today. I think it is a fitting way to close:
Claire asked to share Psalm 36:7: “How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”
Benjamin chose John 9:3: “And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind.’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.’"
And finally, Mason asked to share Joshua 1:9, his life verse: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
And now, you know our story -- at least a small part -- and I am sure you understand why days spent counting my blessings are far far more important than days spent counting our sorrows.
Thank you, God, for trusting me with these.
And thank you dear ones, for joining us on the journey.