Oceans Deep

Finding & Following Jesus in the Deep End of Life

Month: August 2015

The Sound of Silence

Today, I wanted to write about something that’s very difficult for me to write about—a topic fiercely close to my heart. Indeed, one and the same as my heart . . . my baby boy. My firstborn son, Isaiah. I know I’m his mama, but he is the sweetest, smartest, most tenderhearted and precious thing I’ve ever known on this planet! He is God’s promise fulfilled, a promise of living, breathing flesh.

Like any mama, my heart aches for my children when they stumble and fall or when they struggle. Any “boo boo” or hurt feeling sends me reeling, although I amgetting better at handling it (with these two, there are lots of boo boos in our future!). But what about the boo boos and hurts that can’t be easily remedied by a cutesy Muppets Band-Aid?

Over the summer, we have come to encounter one of those problems, in the form of a speech delay. I know this is such a specific problem and most (if not all!) of you will have no experience with it—however, my heart for this blog is to encourage others, to help others know they aren’t alone in their struggles with faith, fear, or whatever the case may be . . . so I want to share our journey (we are just getting started!) on the off-chance that one of you finds yourself in the same boat. Even if you can’t relate to the specifics, perhaps you will be encouraged as you face your own unique struggles and hurdles. I have a friend from law school who blogged awhile back about her son’s experience with a speech delay, and I found greatencouragement in her words. So today, I’d like to do the same!

As all my fellow moms know, you spend your baby’s first year hyper in-tuned to his or her development—BabyCenter became almost a daily site visit for me, and it is indeed a great resource rich with loads of information. As Isaiah grew, one by one I checked off his developmental milestones with a huge sigh of relief.

He’s smiling! Phew.

He’s responding to his name! Phew.

He’s crawling! Yay! (And, oh no! I have to baby proof now!)

In terms of speech development, I honestly didn’t give this area a huge part of my attention. He made lots of noises, coos, grunts, and cries, and nothing about his speech flagged my attention, especially as a first-time mom. But as he continued to grow (8 months, 9 months, 10 months, etc.) and I spent time with friends and their similarly aged babies, I had that first uncomfortable realization . . .

. . . Hmmm, he’s not babbling like that little girl. He’s not imitating me or repeating words like “ball” and “baby. He’s never even come close to saying “mama.”

Even so, I wasn’t worried about him in light of the huge variation in when children speak, and the fact that boys tend to be less verbal or develop verbal skills later than girls. But as he passed the 18-month mark and neared the age of 2, one of those BabyCenter bulletins stopped me in my tracks. I quickly realized that he did not have the number of words he “should” have, nor was he using verbal cues to inform me of his wants and needs. As we joke around our house, Isaiah speaks “cave man,” and speaks it quite well!

Countless times, I was told “oh don’t worry about it, kids develop at different speeds,” and while this istrue, something simply didn’t seem right. Call it a mom’s intuition, but I felt something else might be going on. Whenever we read books or I talked with him and asked him to repeat words, I could see his mind thinking and his mouth trying to form the word . . . but he just couldn’t make the word come out of his mouth. One thing I’ve learned for sure is to listen to your mama’s intuition!

I brought this issue to his doctor’s attention back in the spring, and we were able to get set up with a fantastic speech therapist at UC Davis (how incredibly thankful I am for the care we receive here!). After a couple of sessions, our therapist thinks he may have a mild case of Apraxia, a motor speech disorder. I’m still learning what that means, but essentially, Isaiah is not fully able to say what he knows. The brain communicates with the mouth/tongue/lips to make certain sounds and words, but this motor pathway is disrupted in children with Apraxia.

Thankfully, he has no cognitive or developmental delays accompanying his speech disorder, so our therapist is positive about the progress he’s made thus far and will continue to make. But it will be a long road, and progress is often slow. I am realizing the importance of reminding myself of this and not falling into the comparison trap! I’m so proud of Isaiah and how hard he works during sessions . . . but oh, how it tugs on my heart when I see other children his age talking up a storm. I never realized just how much I long to hear his sweet voice. He is such a smart little guy, learning so much everyday and changing rapidly—it kills me that he isn’t able to tell me what he’s thinking or ask me a question. When he says simple phrases like “thank you” or “bye bye,” it literally thrills my heart!

So, that’s where we find ourselves now. Weekly speech therapy is a part of our life, and hopefully we will be adding in another session each week via the county (California has some fantastic programs—putting all those taxes to work, ha!). And let me tell you, nothing in my life has sent me to my knees before God faster than my children and what touches their lives. I finally understand what my own mom has told me all these years—that anything that happens to her is nothing compared to what happens to her babies!

As we begin the journey of tackling Isaiah’s speech disorder, I’m reminded of some important truths that we as believers must hold to in faith. It’s nothing new, but I know I need the reminder—and today, maybe you do too!

First, fear does NOT have to be our master. When we’re facing an uncertain future (will Isaiah learn to speak normally? Will he have lingering delays? Will he be able to thrive in school?), the instinct to fear is palpable and sometimes overwhelming. It’s no wonder then, that God addressed this topic in the Bible hundreds of times, with comforting admonitions notto fear and not to be afraid. I love the words of Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea . . . The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge (Psalm 46:1-2,7 NKJV emphasis added).

When the voice of fears taunts you—and yes, it will most certainly do so—remember that we have the God of the universe on our side. He is in control, even when our circumstances feel all kinds of crazy! I’m learning to dig deep into the next level of faith and trust Him with Isaiah’s future, which brings me to the next point:

Second, our children ultimately belong to the Lord. My inner control freak swallows hard at this one . . . my children are not mineto own. They are blessings bestowed by our Creator God and entrusted to Aaron and me to love, teach, and train. A recent Proverbs31 article provided a great reminder that we must entrust our children to the Lord, knowing that their future is in His hands, not ours.

Long before Isaiah was a thought in my mind, His name was on my Father’s tongue. I am learning the difficult task of leaving my hands open, palms up before God and resting in His plans for Isaiah and Hemingway’s lives. I cling to the words of Isaiah 40:11, which read:

He protects His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them in the fold of His garment (HCSB).

Isn’t that imagery beautiful? I am asking and believing God to carry my babies in His arms, which never tire like mine do. While it’s challenging to let go of my illusion of control, I know in my spirit there is no better place for them to be!

And finally, God is still good, no matter what. Guys, this is a tough one, is it not? God is good . . . even when the cancer is incurable? Even when the diagnosis has no treatment? Even when the answer to our deepest desire is no?

Yes, He is. And this is the space in which faith sinks deep into the dark earth, developing strong, hearty roots while grasping the soft, cool dirt in a place the sun doesn’t reach. I believe as Christians, we generally do not give God enough credit. We don’t believe Him when He says He can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine(Ephesians 3:20 NIV). But I believe He is faithful to fulfill that promise when we trust Him and step out in faith . . . it doesn’t mean our life will “look” exactly like we thought it would or should. There are certainly seasons in which we have to look a little deeper to find the good, but I believe with all my heart that it’s there. Are we willing to hold fast to this truth, even when our circumstances entice us to think otherwise?

So, on that note I’ll sign off, as I’ve already written far more than I intended to write (as always, ha!). I hope something in this post encourages you today, and thank you for reading as I share my most honest, raw heart with you.

When You Weren’t Your Best Self

Recently, I’ve come across several devotional articles and videos from a tangential acquaintance I knew from my high school and college years. The two of us have never had a relationship of any kind, but we have several mutual friends—many of whom I was quite close with in my younger years. Bottom line, I’ve been privy to “inside information” about this person and her not-so-kind behavior when we were all young, insecure teenagers trying to find our way.

Immediately, I felt my insides recoil a bit, and in truth, my first thoughts were quite judgmental:

This girl? This girl is going to tell me something about God and how to walk by faith? Really??

Just after these hard-hearted thoughts clouded my mind, the Holy Spirit struck me with conviction at such a reaction: my judgments of her were based on information dusty with the passage of time and second-hand in nature! Even so, I was amazed at how difficult it was for me to let go of my strongly held beliefs concerning her sincerity and motivation.

Enter, a much-needed lesson in grace! As usual, in His goodness God used this musing as an opportunity to turn the spotlight around and shine it brightly into the dank, moldy places in my own heart.

I began thinking of myself and who I was as a high school girl and young college student. And of course God pointed out the obvious, brightly lit neon sign in the room: am I the same gal today that I was all those years ago? Have I not grown and aged and matured and developed a deep and sincere walk with my Savior? Of course I have . . . so why would I now balk when it appears that God has graciously accomplished the same type of change in someone else? The whole thing got me thinking about those times in our lives—whether past or present, whether a short season or a long one—when we weren’t the best versions of ourselves.

I was certainly not the best version of myself in those tumultuous years of high school and college. A move to a new town and a change in schools sent me reeling into a pit of insecurity and a belief that I was unlikable and unworthy of friendship. I felt rejected by my former classmates and rejected by my new ones. While I do not think of those circumstances as an excuse, I see now how the double dose of pain helped morph me into a person I didn’t really want to be. I treated people in ways I wouldn’t treat them today. I dated people I probably shouldn’t have dated. I made decisions I would make differently now, could I go back in time equipped with the knowledge I have as an adult woman. And, I’m pretty confident that—truth be told—this other person could probably say the same thing . . . so where does that leave us? Are neither she nor I equipped or qualified to speak God’s truth or help other people in some way through our own stories?

No. While my enemy taunts me with my past failures and causes me to question another’s motivation on account of hers, I believe the truth is that we are equipped because of those times in our lives, not in spite of them . . . if we allow our Heavenly Father to cover those times with His forgiving, restoring grace and we learn the lessons He’s trying to teach us. The Bible is unquestionable in describing the grace and forgiveness of our God. In Psalm 85:5, King David prayed, You, O Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to You. (NIV). And Psalm 103 contains some of the most beautiful language in all the Bible, in my humble opinion:

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103: 8-12 NIV).

 

I firmly believe that no matter what your past—insecure gossipy teen, prodigal drug addict, and everything in between—God has a purpose and a calling on your life. He has a ministry in His kingdom carved out just for you. Our great God is brimming with unfailing love for us, and with Him is full redemption (Psalm 130:7 NIV).

The full weight and magnificence of His redemption has been sinking into my heart in deep and new ways in these most recent years (if you haven’t read Jerry Sittser’s “A Grace Revealed,” go and get a copy of it now!). It’s becoming so clear—in my own life, in my husband’s life, and in others—how God is able to take our past hurts and failings and transform them into something beautiful. Our greatest shame and disappointment can become the fragrant spoils of redemption, those treasures of darkness (Isaiah 45:3 NIV). This change in perspective is allowing me to see my past as fertile soil where God can sow seeds of restoration and harvest a bountiful crop of opportunities in which His glory can shine in my life. Isn’t that an amazing thought? That we are somehow able to bring a scintilla of glory to Him?

Rest assured, our enemy is on the lookout to instill doubt in our hearts and silence us. One of my favorite passages Sittser wrote in the above-mentioned book is this: “If you dare to surrender yourself to God, He will take up the story of your life and integrate it into the great story of salvation, turning it into something so extraordinary that you will be tempted to think that it was all a beautiful dream.” I love that concept!

So on that note, let us be Spirit-filled and treat ourselves (and others!) with the grace that He has so richly poured out on us. Let us dare to surrender ourselves fully to Him! And for those of you who knew me when I wasn’t the best version of myself, I ask for your grace. I pray you will see my heart and know that God has been molding and shaping and redeeming me over all these years. And I will be faithful to do the same for you.

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