Monthly Archives: February 2016

Sophie’s Story: The God who Sees Me

“For nothing shall be impossible with God.” Luke 1:37

I received an unexpected phone call yesterday from Sophie’s developmental pediatrician’s office. A kind nurse, Joann, was calling to inform me of the results of Sophie’s recent developmental screening that we completed at home. I wasn’t expecting a phone call with the results; I was expecting to discuss her developmental status at her next appointment in the spring. I’d been caught unprepared, my heart not guarded. There’s a good bit of shoring up emotionally that I tend to do before these types of conversations. Immediately, my heart began to race. Mentally, I began to brace for another difficult conversation.

To my shock and awe, it was not a difficult conversation that followed. Hold on to your hats!! Sophie scored just slightly below the average for a typically developing child of her age. “Say what?!  What does that mean?” I asked the nurse. She explained: All the typically developing children in her group would be in one of three categories — average, above average, or below average. Those who fall below the “below average” group are considered developmentally delayed. Since she was four months old, Sophie has been labeled as developmentally delayed. She has scored outside the typical range for development in her age group. For four years we’ve carried that label. Four years.


At just four months old, Sophie was diagnosed with developmental delays.


My big four-year-old blew out her candles for the first time!

I can’t even begin to express my joy over this phone call! As a teacher, I’ve honestly never understood the parents and students who were pleased that their child received a D rather than an F. But now I totally get it. For the first time in perhaps her entire sweet life, Sophie is falling within the range of typical development for a child her age, just slightly below the average child. I recognize that there are still many areas where she is behind. But — I. Will. Take. It.

I’ve spent much of the past year accepting the reality that Sophie might always be considered developmentally delayed. I don’t like to live in the future, but there is wisdom in preparing the heart and mind for realistic possibilities. The hope of “catching up” any time soon was long since left in the dust. But here we are. Very close to being caught up. Wow. It feels good. Whatever genetic mix-up Sophie carries, its affect is mild.

The timing of this phone call was, as per usual for me, too precise to be coincidental. Right before I received this call, I had just shared on social media a favorite verse of mine found in Genesis 16:13: “She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’” Hagar, Sarai’s maidservant who conceived a son, Ishmael, with Abram, Sarai’s husband, gave God this name. She was running and hiding because her life was a mess. But because God saw her, she was able to lift her chin, return to her mess, and even receive God’s blessing.

Whenever I have felt overwhelmed, I have prayed this prayer, that I would know I am seen by God. There’s just something about being seen, being noticed, by the God of the universe. He always answers, without fail, in a way that I just can’t overlook or write off, like a surprisingly good phone call from a doctor’s office.

Dear God, you do see me. I don’t deserve it, but I am thankful.


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Celebrating Sophie


Sweet Sophie, just a few hours old

My sweet Sophie girl is turning four years old today. I’m so blessed to be her mama. What an honor. I’m always amazed as her birthday draws near each year by how much she has changed since her last birthday. Each year, I find that I reflect on what the last year has held as she prepares to enter a new year. And of course, I consider how quickly time is passing, and how much further she will progress in this next year. (Dear Lord, PLEASE let that include potty training!!!!)

The better part of Sophie’s past year was characterized by frustration. Her inability to verbalize her thoughts, feelings, wants, and needs severely cramped her style. This was especially exacerbated by her brother’s ability to speak, which emerged at his tender age of 9 months (right around the time Sophie turned 3). My sweet easy-going, good humored, smiley little girl was largely absent this past year.


Sophie signs “love you”

When Sophie was turning 3, she knew only basic signs. We had not yet started teaching her American Sign Language. She had no words at all, only some spontaneous babble that really didn’t mean anything. In March, when she was just three years and one month old, we began to inundate our world with American Sign Language. Within a month, Sophie was signing upwards of 60 signs. By summer, she was signing well over 100 signs. I will never forget the moment she initiated her first signs to me (as opposed to just responding to me), signing “I love you.” When she finally had the ability to tell me something, to express her own thoughts, that was what she needed to say. There are simply no words to express how I feel in my heart about this.

Sophie began preschool shortly after she turned three, to continue state-funded speech therapy, and for exposure to children her own age using words to communicate, in hopes that this would aid her own language development. She remained silent. When school came to a  close, we pursued private speech therapy to fill the gap in school therapy over the summer.

This was when the magic began to happen.

Immediately, Sophie was diagnosed with severe apraxia of speech. Slowly, painstakingly, with great effort, and much practice, she gained the ability to intentionally imitate single sounds — ma, da, ba, pa. From there, she slowly began to put sounds together. By fall at 3 1/2 years old, after 5 months of therapy, she had about 20 basic words like mama, dada, bubba, bye-bye, more, go, etc. We worked so hard for those words.

Click here to see a video of Sophie’s speech progress this past fall, just five months ago: sophie_speaks_fall15

I cannot watch this video without a flood of emotions and tears, lots of tears, seeing how far she’s come in five months.

As winter approached, quite suddenly, Sophie began to try any and all words. In spite of her continued struggle with apraxia which dramatically affects her pronunciation, her speech light bulb has turned on. We are overjoyed! She is now about 75% intelligible to those who speak with her daily, and probably 25% intelligible to the outside world. But, what a huge difference from our silent Sophie of one year ago! You can see Sophie’s current speech progress here, as she reads her favorite book “Newton” with me: sophie_reads_newton


Sophie enjoyed Dora cupcakes with her class to celebrate turning four

As a four year old, Sophie now has hundreds of words and signs. She can count to twenty and knows all of her letters, shapes, and colors. She knows emotions such as happy, sad, scared, and frustrated. She can name all household objects, foods, familiar people and toys. She runs around her environment naming things simply because she CAN! She still has moments of frustration, but I would not characterize her days by this trait any longer. Now she just seems happy.


Sophie at five months old

As we close her 3s and begin her 4s, we see a completely different child. It’s almost like we’ve gone back to the child that we started with, actually. Sophie has always been easy going, sweet as a peach, and of good humor with lots of smiles. As a three year old, that demeanor was largely absent. Her frustration over her lack of speech trumped everything, causing so much frustration, many tantrums, and few smiles. But now that she’s speaking, my sweet peach is emerging once again.

Sophie enjoys life. She spins around in circles until she’s too dizzy to stand, giggling all the while. She loves to be tickled. She loves to cuddle and to read books. She eagerly enters her classroom each morning, excited to greet her friends and play.


Sophie insisted on wearing her “cape” over her party dress on her fourth birthday

We have learned more as a family and as followers of Christ than I could ever explain here in the silent years, and we continue to learn now that Sophie is verbalizing. Most of all, we are aware of how awesome our God is as we have watched him do beautiful, miraculous things in Sophie’s life. When she was diagnosed with developmental delays at just four months old, our future, her future, held so much uncertainty. But God has met us at each and every moment; he’s carried us through many of those moments. He’s shown us over and over that nothing is too difficult for him. He is Sophie’s creator, and he is doing beautiful things with her life.

As Sophie turns four today, I pray that Jesus will grant her a year filled with his joy as she continues to learn to express herself verbally. And most of all, may her words ever glorify his goodness.

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At the Crossroads

at_the_crossroadHave you ever found yourself at a crossroad in life? Here you are, looking down your path, envisioning your hopes, your dreams, your plans. But suddenly you are stopped. There’s a crossroads. And the road that God seems to be indicating for you to take is the one going in the other direction from where all your hopes, dreams and plans lie.

These moments can take your breath away, as you feel your dreams turning to ashes. Feelings run the gamut from anger to fear to grief to a deep, deep sadness. This is not what I expected. It’s not what I hoped for. It’s not what I envisioned for my life.

Crossroads come in many forms in life: A financial crisis, a failed marriage, a tragic loss, a difficult diagnosis, a job loss, a broken friendship. Sometimes we see it coming, but sometimes, it hits us out of nowhere and leaves us panting, bruised, bleeding, shocked.

Many have followed the sage of my health issues since fall of 2015. I suffered months of vertigo, experienced hearing loss, and was diagnosed as a stroke victim. It was all rather alarming, to say the least. I feel way too young and way too healthy to be having so many health problems. Plus, I’ve got enough going on with all of Sophie’s trials — I don’t need trials of my own! Right? So, over the past six months I have undergone a plethora of tests, all seeking a source for this vertigo, hearing loss, stroke. There have been no answers. Nothing has come up anywhere.

In what I thought would be my final neurology appointment last week, I began posing the difficult questions in my heart. If we can’t determine anything else that caused this stroke, then it’s likely it happened because of one of my pregnancies? Which pregnancy? What caused it? Would I be likely to stroke again in another pregnancy? What are the statistics on that? Could it be a worse stroke? With true compassion, my neurologist told me that my questions were likely unanswerable, but that yes, my likelihood of stroking again in a future pregnancy was increased because of the past stroke, and that yes, strokes are unpredictable demons that can be completely life-altering. A risk of stroke is not to be trifled with.

Why is this a crossroads? you ask. Because I wasn’t totally sure that I was finished having children. I love my two blessings immensely. I will never take for granted the gifts that I have been given in them. But it’s like I said before, we’ve all pictured life a certain way, only to realize that maybe it’s not going to look that way. Maybe. I haven’t gotten any further than maybe yet. I’m allowing myself time to process, to grieve, to pray, to consider. My neurologist has ordered one final MRI to ensure that nothing about my imaging has changed. It’s his hail mary at finding out anything at all that can help me in this difficult decision. Perhaps what showed on the first scan was what’s known as an artifact — it’s not actually there, but the MRI machine makes a mistake. (I can’t even think about the irony…) Or, perhaps it has changed some and this gives us a new direction to look. Or, it may be the same, and my questions will go unanswered. Maybe. So, I’ll stand a while longer at this crossroads. I’ll ponder. I’ll pray.

But in these moments, at life’s crossroads, I have one reassurance: He’s a good, good Father.

Even if God’s path for my life is not what I envisioned, I can walk forward into his path, knowing that he is good. Yes, I may need time to grieve the losses of things that I never actually had, but dreamed about and planned on. I need to go through the process of surrendering those things to God. Perhaps in walking on his path, he has other good things in store for me. Or perhaps his path saves me from unimaginable pain. Perhaps his path will indeed hold the very things that I must now surrender to him. I can’t know; I can’t predict the future. But I can choose. Even though I can’t see what his path for me may hold, I can choose it in full confidence because of his goodness.

I made this choice with Sophie when her life began to unfold in a completely different fashion than I expected, and I make it again with my own future. I want to be on God’s path, because ultimately, I know that on my own I lack the wisdom to choose the best path for myself. If I planned out my future, I would undoubtedly mess something up, badly. Even in walking in God’s plan for me, I may still mess things up. But I want my heart to be pointed in the right direction, my feet to be on his path.

Can we just take a minute to say “yes” to Jesus, even if everything in life looks terribly wrong? Can we just acknowledge that he’s in control AND he’s good? Though my emotions all over the place, with my heart, my mind, and my will, I choose God’s path; I choose his plan. There is sadness in letting go of my own plan, but there is peace in knowing I’m choosing the plan crafted by the only wise God who is indeed a good, good Father.


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