Well, today’s post is going to be personal. Personal to me that is. But perhaps it will be a word someone needs to hear, and maybe it will help you see how God can use all circumstances for good.
People who know me well will know some of my story. If you’re my Facebook friend, it doesn’t mean you know my story. You have seen me smiling, and looked at pictures of various trips I’ve gone on, but you probably don’t know about the trip God has taken me on in the last six years. It’s not a trip I asked to go on. I didn’t pick the location. I didn’t buy the ticket. Yet, I still ended up on the plane, not realizing the place I would end up is where God wanted me.
It started when my youngest son was in first grade. He was always a happy kid- full of energy and life. But by October of his first grade year, something happened that would change both our lives forever. He started exhibiting motor tics. His legs, arms and head started moving on their own- without his consent! He also started blinking his eyes continuously. His hands and fingers started twitching when he’d write. He found himself getting in trouble at school because his leg would hit the desk, or the pencil would suddenly drop from his hand. The teacher thought he was doing it on purpose.
At first I thought he was doing it on purpose. I would tell him, “Stop! Why are you doing that?” He would say, “I’m sorry Mommy. I don’t want to do it.” Over time I realized something was wrong. I took him to the doctor and initially they said he had a transient tic disorder. They were hopeful it would go away on its own.
It didn’t go away. As time moved on, it gradually became worse and within a year he had a diagnosis of Tourette’s Syndrome. I was devastated. No parent wants to hear those words. I felt like the floor dropped out from under me. I was paralyzed with fear and “what ifs”. All I could picture is my helpless child- dealing with a life of scrutiny by a cruel world. The world doesn’t look at Tourette’s with much sympathy from my experience. I think people often just look away, or do their best to ignore. There are others who give a look of pity, or shame. I’ve even seen people make fun of it.
It was during this time I decided I would have to help my son because I really didn’t think he stood a chance in the school system. So, I left my career as a gifted teacher, and I decided to homeschool him. It was a hard thing to do because teaching was all I ever knew. lt was part of my identity. Now I had to leave it behind.
I homeschooled my son in second and third grade, and those years were hard. Sometimes I would be trying to teach him to read and his eyes would roll around, or his head would jerk up and down. Other times, he would exhibit vocal tics and they would plague him all day (it wasn’t cursing or yelling words, but rather a grunting or humming sound). There were days when I just went back in my bedroom and cried. I didn’t say much to other people. In fact, I didn’t tell anyone what he had. I felt completely alone. It was just me, my husband, my child, and those horrible tics.
It was during this time that I really began praying. Most of my life I had known the Lord to some extent and I would definitely call myself a Christian, but I can’t say I knew the Lord the way I know him now. The years when my son was struggling were so hard- I don’t know how to even write about how I really felt- everything felt so broken and hopeless.
In the midst of pain and turmoil, the Lord did something I did not expect. He began laying many things on my heart- things that had nothing to do with my pain, or even my son. The Lord began showing me HIS HEART, and what he longed to see happen in this broken world. This was strange to me because here I was in a pit, and the Lord was putting my focus on his plans. Truly, I wanted him to focus on me, or on my son! I wanted him to focus on healing my son!!!
But, that’s not what the Lord initially did. Instead he laid on my heart his plans for Israel, and the Jewish people. Now don’t get me wrong, I have always had a love for the Jewish people (even though I’m not Jewish), but why in the world would the Lord want to tell me anything about them? What could I do? I had a basket full of problems I couldn’t solve at the moment!
I was a teacher for 14 years, but little did I know that Jesus would become the one to teach me! And teach me he did! Over the next few years I learned amazing things about the connection of the Jewish people to Jesus, and to Christianity. I learned about biblical prophecy and God’s end time plan for the United States and Israel. I learned about the Hebraic roots of the Bible, and how Jesus is foreshadowed in all the “Jewish” feasts.
During my time of struggle, the Lord taught me to focus on him. I couldn’t focus on my son’s illness, or the hopelessness. I focused on Jesus. As I did this, something even more amazing happened. I started to see my calling. I started to see God’s plan for my life.
As time passed, I saw changes in my son as well. When he was in fifth grade the doctor made a discovery about his condition- He didn’t have Tourette’s after all. He had a condition called PANDAS- which stands for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Strep. We found out his tics were being caused by a reaction to strep bacteria! He was given antibiotics and the tics started to disappear. I was so relieved. I cannot describe the weight that lifted when he started getting better! Unfortunately, we realized the antibiotics didn’t cure it forever. Once he was exposed to strep again, the cycle would start over again. At this point I had placed him back in school but soon realized that STREP BACTERIA IS EVERYWHERE! He would get over an infection just to get re-infected! The cycle continued over and over until we had to pull him out of school again.
Since he now has the proper diagnosis we are able to keep his condition at bay. He still has some tics, but they are minor compared to before he was treated. He is not plagued by continuous tics. They are more intermittent.
Most of the time all I ever wanted is for my son to be healed completely. I prayed hours and hours. Yet, he still has this condition. The good thing, however, is that he should outgrow the condition when he is a young adult. His immune system will mature and the condition should fade away. The bad thing is that he has to stay out of public school until then. He still has to deal with tics as well. Even though they have lessened, they still interfere with his learning, and his daily routine.
As I sit here and type this I still want him to be completely healed RIGHT NOW! But, I’ve come to the realization that God is using all things for good, and for his purposes. In the midst of all this I have written two books that I could have never imagined I would write! I have started this blog site as well. But, more importantly, I am a different person. I don’t look at life the same. I don’t worry about “things”. I don’t fix my eyes on the temporal- I focus on the eternal. During my pain, the Lord showed me that our ultimate destination is heaven. We are here a short time, and he has a job for us while we are here. If we will just listen to him, he will lead us to the place he has prepared for us. He will show us our calling. If not for the pain, I do not think I would have heard his voice.
As for my son, every day I am overwhelmed by his gifts and talents. He has artistic gifts, and a sensitive spirit. Through the years of dealing with the tics, he has come to rely on God as his source of comfort and strength. There are times when I am feeling down and he brings me up. When I am ready to give up, he does something that causes my thinking to do a 180. Sometimes I wonder how he does it. If I were a kid in his situation I would have thrown in the towel. I would have crawled under a rock. But then I see him. He’s smiling. He’s thriving. He’s praying.
Have you ever heard the song, “Even if”, by Mercy Me? That song brings tears to my eyes. It goes…
“I know you’re able, and I know you can, Save through the fire with your mighty hand, but even if you don’t, my hope is you alone. I know the sorrow and I know the hurt, would all go away if you’d just say the word, but even if you don’t, my hope is you alone.”
I don’t know what the full plan of the Lord is, but I know it must be good. He has done things in me I could have never done! He has done things in my son I would have never imagined.
Recently I went on a trip to Niagara Falls with my husband and son. You will see the picture at the top of the blog. As I stood looking at the falls, I couldn’t help but hear this verse in my head: “Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea- the Lord on high is mighty.” Psalm 93:4 I also thought of this verse from Revelation 14:2: “And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps.” Ezekiel 43:2 popped into my mind as well- “And I saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east. His voice was like the roar of rushing waters, and the land was radiant with his glory.”
As I stood there gazing at the thundering waters (Niagara actually means “thundering waters”), I instantly thought of the mighty power of God, whose voice is like the rushing waters. Jesus is called the living water. Watching the water fall, I looked over at my son. He was smiling and laughing. He looked so happy. In that moment, I realized I was never alone. The King of the Universe was with me the whole time. In my brokenness, he picked me up and put me back together. When he put me back together, I was better than before. I was changed and remade. Most people take broken things and put them in the garbage. Not God. This is when he does his best work. After all, God’s own son was broken for us on the cross. This one act brought salvation and a renewed, remade life for all those who accept this free gift- a gift that came from brokenness.
“Surely he took our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him and afflicted. But he was pierced by our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53, verses 4,5
In God’s amazing supernatural way, he verified this message on my way home from Niagara Falls. I was on the plane, sitting by a man with a large tattoo on his arm. I noticed it had a crown shaped pattern, and then inside the crown were the letters YNWA. I wanted to take a picture of it, but I figured the man would not appreciate it. So, I made a mental note of it and when I got home I looked up what YNWA meant. I was stunned when I found out that YNWA means YOU NEVER WALK ALONE. That brought tears to my eyes. The crown I saw on the man’s arm reminded me of Jesus- the one and only crowned king. This crowned king stands with me in the darkest hour- through the tribulations of life. I NEVER WALK ALONE.
I don’t know what you are facing. Maybe its more daunting than what I have faced, and continue to face. But, I can tell you this. You can trust God to put you back together. He won’t put you back the same way though. You will be made new and you will be carved by his hands. He made the universe. Don’t you think he can remake you, and your life?
Here’s a link to the story behind Mercy Me’s song Even If. A good friend told me I should look it up and I did. What a great testimony.