Sunday, February 26, 2017

You Are Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

I believe we can learn a lot from each other's lives. I want to thank this anonymous writer for sharing her journey in faith and parenting. Raising children with typical needs is difficult enough and adding in complex behaviours adds a whole other dimension and struggles–it can be exhausting and isolating. My hope is that if this could be a piece of your story that you feel less alone. If this isn't close to your story but something you witness at the park or store, you will be slow to judge and eager to view the situation with a lens of compassion.

We recently reached a milestone birthday with my son. I think that as much as he was extremely excited to hit double digits, my husband and I were equally excited to have reached this with him. I will share some of our journey and the things God taught us along the way.

When I was pregnant with him, my usual ultrasound showed two alarming things – placenta previa and only three chambers in his heart. This lead to close monitoring of my pregnancy, and many ultrasounds. I was set to go in for my 5th (the decision making) ultrasound at 33 weeks with a specialist. My placenta had 3.5 cm remaining to move up before we could deem it a healthy pregnancy, with none of the placenta previa complications remaining. In 13 weeks, it had only moved 1 cm, so we needed a miracle. We had prayed so much over our baby and that I would finish off with a healthy pregnancy. I was desperate to hear from God; my heart wouldn’t be at peace until I had. I remember God speaking so clearly from Lamentations 3:22 – 26, this is the word that I clung to going into that appointment.

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord”.

I was overcome with peace, knowing that God was faithful to us in this circumstance, that it wouldn’t consume us because His steadfast love and compassion would never fail us. I was waiting for the salvation of the Lord in this area of my baby’s life, of my life. This scripture has captured my heart many times since regarding my son, I am so thankful that the Holy Spirit brought it to my remembrance on so many occasions when I was crying out to the Lord.

As I was lying on the table getting the ultrasound done, the doctor looked over at me and joyfully said, “It moved! Your placenta moved exactly 3.5cm”. I was shocked and amazed, but also impatiently waiting to hear about baby’s heart. “Your son has four chambers in his heart, he’s a healthy baby”! When God speaks, you can stand on His word and walk in faith according to that word because He is faithful to perform it. Hands down. 100%.

Delivering a healthy baby, after a pregnancy wrought with complications and challenges, was the most amazing thing. What I didn’t realize at that time though, was that I would need to go back again and again and seek His word on behalf of my son. We didn’t realize what God was asking us to walk, how He was going to stretch us in our roles as mom and dad, how much we needed to walk by faith in our parenting, and how much we needed God to teach us and change us. What I also didn’t understand then was how His faithfulness in our lives would be far greater than I ever thought was possible. How every struggle would reveal more and more of His love, and that none of that would consume us. His word to me over 10 years ago is as real to me today as it was back then.

We began noticing a difference in him from other “typical” children primarily in his toddler years. Toddler tantrums are normal. The terrible twos and tumultuous threes are real for sure! But his tantrums took a whole different turn than others’. He couldn’t be persuaded or distracted out of them, we couldn’t talk him through them, or just give a time out and hope that it would change his behaviour. I remember being on vacation with our friends in Cali when he was about four, and my friend looked at me and said, “he needs a psychiatrist”! My heart sank and broke. She wasn’t meaning it to be ill-spirited, but I realized then that others could see the behaviours that we were seeing at home. As a mother, you want nothing more than to protect your child, their heart, their feelings, the way others see them. I must say this though, our son is the most compassionate, loving, discerning, gentle spirited, genuine, kind boy. This is the heart of who he is. This is who he is. That is who I wanted people to see when they looked at him, not a behaviourally challenged child whom they could then form their own opinions about. My husband and I were at a loss as to next steps in figuring things out with him. We began with a trip to our doctor. He did all the necessary tests to check for anything medically wrong with him. A couple of minor things came up that could have been the source of the behavioural challenges. We started off by changing his diet and adding in different vitamins, fish oils, etc. and that seemed to have some improvement for a little while.

By grade 1 however, his outburst became more and more frequent and grew in intensity. He became violent and extremely defiant. I could never put my finger on any of the triggers, and I was desperate to figure them out so I could prevent the outbursts. I was at a loss. I would receive calls or emails daily from his teacher, the principal, or the child care worker at the school. And with every passing day it got worse. He was losing friends at school, would fight with the neighbourhood kids, fight with his older brother and was extremely violent with me. He was running away daily and no amount of punishment was working. It would take two hours in the morning to get him to school, and then more often than not, he would bolt as soon as we got there! The afternoon and evening presented another two or so hours dealing with his behaviours because of some trigger that I could never figure out. I was at my wits end trying to figure it out. And I was exhausted.

We started seeing a pediatrician who specialized in behaviourally challenged kids. I walked into our first appointment with him and my son with pages of notes that I had taken on the behaviours we were seeing, words he would say, the whole gamut, and he simply listened and took notes for 45 minutes! He was amazing because he listened! This was real stuff that was going on and he believed me and wanted to help us! Incredible. He directed us with next steps and what he believed was going on, but for any additional help at school and proper therapy approaches, our son needed a diagnosis. I’ll simply say this, in B.C., the wait times for mental health and behavioural assessments are far too long! We couldn’t afford a private assessment, so we waited 10 months for a therapist to see my son! Ten months with escalating behaviours… I didn’t know how we would get through the next day, let alone having to wait that long. Our pediatrician was able to pull some strings and got him an assessment at Children’s Hospital with a psychiatrist – my friend was right all those years ago. He was diagnosed with a few different anxiety disorders and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. They say with ODD that the child needs to start receiving treatment by the age of eight for it to be effective. He was nearing eight and we were on a wait list still…thankfully this brings me back to where God acted in our lives.

When your child is acting out and pushing you away, a lot of initial reactions are to give a Time Out or remove your child from the situation. However, I learned with my son that this was doing the opposite and instead furthering his outbursts because he felt unloved and unwanted. In my naivety I did this many times. Here’s where the lessons were learned. Every time he hit me or swore at me, broke something, whatever it may have been, I tried in earnest to swallow my emotions and simply deal peacefully with him. I had found that any time I appeared upset or angry - which I was simply disappointed and exhausted, but this was interpreted as anger by my son – it would add fuel to his fire and things would get worse. So I pushed all my feelings on the situation aside to deal simply with the behaviours. I remember one day I was kicked in the face, so I sent him to his room. I sat at the bottom of the stairs and just lost it and was crying out to God for direction. He was screaming upstairs from his room and I was hysterically crying at the bottom of the stairs. I felt like I had failed as a mother, failed him. Having a child with challenges is terribly lonely. Other people just can’t understand. You don’t want to tell them what’s going on – again, you don’t want them to form their opinions of your child based simply on what they see going on externally and not who they really are – and you don’t want to hear the judgment and opinions they have about your parenting because you’re already feeling it for yourself. The conviction of the Holy Spirit came over me at that moment and I felt led that I wasn’t to send him to another room, but rather to be present with him in those moments, as much as he hated it at the time! 

Not long after that he attacked a neighbour-boy, his friend, of whom there weren’t many left, and came running into the house. He was inconsolable, sobbing like we had never seen him before. This was the first time in all those years that he actually told us what he was feeling in the moment. “I hate myself. I hate that I do that”. Of all the things he had ever screamed at us, the numerous times he told us he hated us and wished he wasn’t part of our family, that was the hardest to hear. Completely heartbreaking. He didn’t want affection because he didn’t feel deserving of it. He didn’t want to show affection towards us in those days because he was afraid we wouldn’t love him or want to receive it from him. Those moments where I would sit beside him or hold him while he was acting out were exactly what he needed because he had to see that I wouldn’t leave him or forsake him in those times. I knew that is why the Holy Spirit prompted my heart to not send him away when he was being challenging, he needed to be brought closer. God was using me to show my son that He never leaves us or forsakes us, even at our weakest moment. God our Father is near to the broken hearted, those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). Those times of desperation were real and so very, very raw. Those were the times when I was back at the foot of the cross, knowing Jesus was and is our saviour, and oh how we needed his salvation in this. His compassions towards us never failed, and because of the Lord’s great mercies we were not consumed by those dark, dark days.

Praying over my son as he slept one night, I was convicted in my spirit. I had wondered many times if I had done something that I shouldn’t have during my pregnancy. Did I eat something that I shouldn’t have? Did I take a medication that affected him? Did I do something wrong? I didn’t know, but all of those irrational questions come into play when you’re trying to figure out why you’re walking such a journey with your child. God spoke to my heart and reminded me that He is our maker, our creator, and that my son was “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). It was nothing that I had done wrong, and my son’s challenges were not because God had made a mistake! He was wonderfully made! God’s works in him were marvelous! All of those amazing things that I knew my son to be were real, they were the work of the Lord, and his diagnosis didn’t define him, they were simply things that God could use to his glory. So in those trying times when he would act out, I would hold my boy and speak over him, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made. There are no mistakes in you. You are a child of God who is loving, kind, compassionate, genuine, discerning, smart, funny. You are loved and my love for you doesn’t change because of how you act”. That boy who was rigid, angry and who rejected affection began to soften and melt in my arms every single time because he was receiving the love of our Heavenly Father through me. God is love and He teaches us how to love. Love is patient, slow to anger, it keeps no records of wrongs. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). That is the heart of God, and it is exactly what my boy needed from me.

I am thankful writing this today. Thankful that we have come so far with him! Reflecting on his ten years we clearly see that God’s hand is upon his life. He has allowed God to mature him, and the wisdom that comes out of his mouth astounds us. He is calm and caring, thinking of others, gentle with his younger brothers and sisters, he shows and receives affection and there is so much peace and joy in our household. He is fearfully and wonderfully made and it is such an honour to be his mother.


  1. Bethany9:12 AM

    Thanks for sharing! Such an amazing story of faith and unconditional love through intense challenges. Hope this mom knows she's doing an awesome job!

    1. Yes, unconditional love is the key! Thank you for pointing that out :) I think you just let her know she's doing great--thank you!