Monthly Archives: April 2015

Sophie’s Story: The Great I Am and the Geneticist

This Sunday in church we sang a popular new song called “The Great I Am,” and as I sat there pondering this line, over and over again, I was overwhelmed with the reality of God’s sovereignty. It’s something we kind of know all the time — God is sovereign; God is in control — we say these things all the time. But what really hit me at this moment was what that means for me right now.

That means that God chose for me Sophie’s inability to speak.*

He chose to give me a child with a speech disability. Do you know how easy it would be for God to put speech in her mouth? For goodness sakes, he created the entire universe with a word. He could easily give Sophie words. Easily. Yet, he has chosen not to.

There’s both a great deal of frustration and a great deal of peace for me in this. The frustration is of course, “Why, dear Lord, when it would be so easy for you, will you not allow my child to speak?” But the peace is right there, too, assuring me, “Rest easy, God has chosen this for you.” There’s a great deal of assurance for me in knowing that God has chosen this for Sophie, for me, for our family. That doesn’t mean I have to like it all the time, but my feet are firmly on the path God has given us.

This might seem like an odd time for me to be struggling with her speech delay, given that she has finally begun producing some recognizable sounds — so sweet! — but, for some reason, it’s been one of those moments for me when I am feeling down. Maybe it was the upcoming genetics appointment, maybe just a lack of sleep, who knows. But some days this week it has been really hard to accept her situation. And just when I think I’ve finally crossed the bridge of acceptance and gotten my feet onto firm footing, I feel myself swinging in the middle of that rickety rope bridge again. My child is different. Her life will be different. It’s been that kind of week.

Even though my heart has felt heavy this week, I can report that our genetics appointment actually really went very well. These doctors are in the perfect profession. Sophie is terrified of doctors after all that she has been through. But these doctors were so good with her. Normally she screams if the doctor tries to listen to her with the stethoscope. And you might as well forget about looking in her ears. She has to be restrained for that. But these doctors were awesome. I knew we were going to be good when the first doctor turned to Sophie and said, “Do you want to play a game with me?” And Sophie responded with a nod. She let the doctor pick her up, and she held the stethoscope to her own chest. Towards the end of her exam, the doctor asked her if she wanted to look for the bunnies in her ears, and again, Sophie agreed. She stood still, on her own, and allowed the doctor to look in both of her ears. She enjoyed the game thoroughly! What a blessing to see the loving hand of our Father in selecting these doctors for Sophie, and in gifting them with both knowledge and a love for and connection with children. Amazing! We will see them again in six months to monitor Sophie’s progress. Nothing about Sophie’s differences is profound enough to point to a specific syndrome, though the doctor did feel she had some indicators for a possible genetic mix-up, minor as it may be. So it’s more wait and see. And we’re ok with that.

After genetics, I found myself pondering the weight of Sophie’s future, and I felt God’s gentle reminder to take it one day at a time. All I need to be able to do is accept the life God has for us today. Just for today. My daughter is a peach. She makes me laugh every day. Her ability to communicate through sign increases every day.

shades2And so I can accept where we are today. And I can trust God for the future. I can trust him for the rest. After all, he is The Great I Am.

I used to really hate poetry. Even when I was studying English in college, I never got excited about assigned reading that included poetry. I didn’t get it. Too many symbols. Too much flowery language. But there is one poem that I have always liked: Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” This poem speaks of a traveler who sees two paths, but, being only one person, he can only travel one road. In the end, he concludes, “I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Now there’s poetry that I can understand. How I see it is that we’ve got two paths we can be on. We can be on our own path that we’ve chosen, doing our own thing, or we can choose to be on the path that God has for us. It is the lesser traveled path to be sure, but I believe, like the traveler, that it will make all the difference. I would not have chosen for myself a child with a speech disability. But God in his wisdom has chosen this for us. So don’t be sad for me or for Sophie, don’t pity my family. We are squarely in the middle of God’s path for us. And that is a good place to be.

Wherever you find yourself on your path, I imagine there are obstacles, challenges, losses, trials that you perhaps would not have chosen for yourself, could you have seen all the way down the path. But God has chosen to allow these things in your life. So what are you going to do with them? Join me in putting one foot in front of the other, navigating that rickety, swaying bridge of acceptance. Accept today. Trust The Great I Am for tomorrow.

*(A point of clarification — I realize that doesn’t necessarily mean that God caused Sophie’s inability to speak. It’s not God’s fault that our world is broken. But, he allows all things that come into our lives. So I feel comfortable saying that God chose this for us.)


Filed under Sophie's Story

You are [NOT] Entitled to Your Opinion

In a recent post I shared about my struggle with emotional word vomit, aka criticism. I’ve come to realize over the years that a very close friend of criticism is judgment. In fact, I think that the former is perhaps birthed in the spirit of the latter. It’s in my judgments that I become critical. And I find that I have judgments, or, as we like to soften them by calling them, opinions, about everything. (Being an opinionated person is a real struggle. Seriously. I would love to be unhampered by my continual opinions.) I’m sure we’ve all heard someone say at some time, “well, you are entitled to your opinion.” But are you? We live with a very real idea that we are indeed entitled to have any opinions we want. From politics, to the behaviors of others, to sports teams, to social policy, to the education system, to religion, to civil rights, we all have these opinions. And I won’t say that you can’t have any opinions, but I will assert that we often form many more opinions than is healthy and in areas where we have no business asserting an opinion.

The Bible very clearly tells us how God feels about us exercising judgment on others. Jesus speaks on judgment in Matthew 7, instructing us not to judge others, “for in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (v2). This verse gives me that slightly queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. Oh dear me, I do not want to be judged in the way that I have judged others. Have you ever found that those judgments have come back around and bit you right in the butt? I have. I cannot tell you how many times I have found myself encountering a situation or acting a certain way and realized that I had previously executed judgment on another person in that situation or acting that way. Talk about humbling. I’m thankful that God allows me to experience those things though, because I need some humbling. Who am I to look at another person’s situation or actions and determine their motivations, or how out of line they are, etc?

Just today I found myself on my phone, texting, GASP, while driving. (I really really don’t condone this behavior. Please don’t get hung up on that part of the story. ) I was feeling desperate because my daughter Sophie had a very hard drop off at school, and had been struggling for a couple of days because her daddy is in China. So I was writing to a close friend, asking for prayer. My need felt immediate. Maybe I should have waited, but my mommy’s heart couldn’t. As I was carefully navigating through traffic, I realized how many times I’ve been quick to judge others who were on their phones while driving. I get so irritated with these people. Can’t it wait?! Get off your phone! I have places to go! You are putting my life in jeopardy for a silly text!? So self-important, I know. But today it hit me, what if these people on their phones, whom I assume are just so self-absorbed and addicted to technology (see that snap judgment there?) have circumstances, feelings, and needs beyond what I can see? What if they, too, are calling out for the support of a friend during a difficult moment? You see, we can never know what is motivating someone else in a situation like that. Maybe he cut you off in traffic because he’s a jerk, maybe she nearly ran you over the parking lot because she’s paying attention to twitter. But maybe, just maybe there’s something else going on.

I’ve come to realize that I only ever see in part. Even in my own circumstances, I can’t be a judge, because I’m only seeing one perspective, only part of the picture. And when it comes to the lives of others, even if they are making a selfish or sinful choice, I must always remember, there’s more to that person than what I’m seeing. And I’m not above the choice that they are making, either. John Bradford is attributed with saying, “But for the grace of God, there go I.” I love that reminder. I’m only one step away from the same types of mistakes that others may make. Only one step. It is only God’s grace that keeps me from destruction. It’s better for me if I turn my eyes to my own business, and when it comes to others, look only with eyes of love, not rose colored glasses, but love, full of grace and understanding, rather than judgment and criticism. I want to be one of those people who chooses to believe the best about others, who chooses grace, who chooses understanding, not judgment.


Filed under Devotionals

Sophie’s Story: She Speaks

Today is a day I want to remember for many reasons. So many moments to keep on the tablet of my heart. Andrew is soon to depart for China, so we are enjoying some extra family time this week. Today we accompanied him on a work trip to the Equine Affair at the fairgrounds.

IMG_0071Sophie was delighted with the horses. Her squeals were priceless. Her brother lounged in the stroller. He pointed excitedly at the red and blue flags flying over the gyro stand. We strolled through one of the warmest days of spring thus far. A perfect morning.

Afterwards, we enjoyed lunch out at a restaurant with both children for the first time. (Yes, it really did take us 10 months to get out to eat as a family of four.) Micah ate his applesauce with glee. Sophie enjoyed her first milkshake. After we got home, we played outside on the wet sidewalks. Sophie splashed in the puddles in her bare feet. Then she put her hands in the puddle. Then her hair. Sigh. Micah road on Daddy’s shoulders, bouncing and giggling as Daddy jogged around. Beautiful. It would have been a great day if it ended there.

Sophie was very chatty through the whole afternoon, that nonsensical chatter that we love to hear. When Andrew and I were in the kitchen fixing dinner, she came running into the kitchen holding her Current catalog (her VERY FAVORITE reading material), and she babbled out a very distinct string of consonant-vowel sounds. She obviously had something to tell me about that catalog. I was impressed. But she’s had days like this before. She’s chattered away for 48 hours or so and then her silence falls again. Still, my breath caught in my throat when her babble produced my favorite sound: Mama. She looked up at me, holding that blessed catalog, and excitedly said “Mama.” Of course I said “Yes, honey!” And she babbled on about her catalog. What a conversation.

Later in the evening I couldn’t fight the urge to see if it was a coincidence, just a random sound in her babble. And so I asked her, “What’s my name?” to which she sweetly replied, “Mama.” I fought the tears all evening, each time Andrew asked her to say “mama” or she told me my name. My heart is so full. And whether she wakes up tomorrow saying it or not, I know that it was not just babble. She intentionally produced sound today, the sound of my name. I hope and pray that the babble continues, and that the sounds become more intentional, that this is the start of something beautiful. But whatever tomorrow brings, this day is forever on the tablet of my heart. It’s the day my sweet girl called me by name.


Filed under Sophie's Story

Sophie’s Story: The Growth of a Year

You’ve heard me talk about Trichotillomania before in Sophie’s story. It’s a … syndrome? … disorder? … condition? … one of those, in which the person pulls out his or her own hair and often either sucks on it or eats it. In small children, it’s a coping mechanism which the child usually grows out of by age 4 or 5. In teens and adults, it is associated with OCD, and it typically does not go away on its own.

Sophie’s pulling began when she was 18 months old, right around the time my summer break from teaching ended and I started back to work again. It was incredibly painful to watch her pull out her beautiful golden hair. To this day, I still can’t pinpoint why it was so difficult to watch. Maybe because I know that having your hair pulled hurts. I mean, ouch! Nobody likes that feeling. Maybe it was a deeper pain, a sense of guilt because her trigger was separating from me. Maybe it was just more struggle with the idea of a child who was again not “normal.” Why do I still get so hung up on that? I don’t know. I suspect that I’ll be sorting this out for years yet. But it’s a very real struggle, and if you’ve ever felt that your child was “different” in some way, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Easter is a bit of a milestone for us when it comes to Sophie’s hair-pulling. Because Easter 2014 is when it stopped. As we’ve approached Easter this year, my awareness and my memories have been heightened. So I’ve been looking back on photos from last Easter, and they are startling to me.

Easter 2014What I see in these pictures is that I have a beautiful bald daughter. And I see that she did not care one bit whether or not she had hair. She was happy as a clam.

It’s been a full year since Sophie pulled her hair. One full year.

Even with the onset of preschool Sophie has not resumed pulling out her hair. I was pretty concerned about this possibility as we prepared for preschool, and I’m so thankful that she hasn’t had any issues.

One year later, here’s our girl on this year’s Easter egg hunt and in her darling Easter outfit. I’m so thankful for this precious girl and the lessons that she’s teaching me.


IMG_0024As I’ve pondered this idea with Easter approaching, the growth of a year, I’ve been prompted to reflect on my own growth in the past year. Jesus gave his life for me, so that I could be free from slavery to sin and death, so that I could lead a new transformed life. Am I walking in that? Is my life being transformed?

As I reflect on the past year, I rejoice that I am on the path of transformation. And as I ponder anew what my Savior has done for me, I’m encouraged to go deeper into his transforming grace. I want to look more and more like Jesus in my normal every day life. For me, it’s not a year of traveling to Africa or speaking to thousands of people or publishing another best selling book — not that I know of yet anyways — it’s a year at home with my sweet kids. But my normal everyday life is his, and it can have just as much an impact as those who are doing “bigger” different things for the Lord. I want to go forth in my world with boldness, compassion, love, kindness, and grace for those who are hurting and desperately seeking a healing source. I have the answer they seek. Wherever you are in your journey this Easter, consider how you can continue your transformation and how you can touch your world for Jesus. It’s all that really matters in the end.


Filed under Sophie's Story