Such a simple, small word. Just four letters. Yet filled with so much meaning. So much longing. So much promise.
Today, I am sharing with you my journey to hope. A journey I am on with my husband and Sweet Boy-Child. This is a journey we have been on for a little while, for most of Boy-Child’s life. Though, perhaps this journey is not as long as it feels. It is a journey I have shared bits with you before, throughout my posts, but specifically in The Journey and Rejoice.
My boy-child came into this world as the third child in our growing family. He was a busy baby in the womb but proved to be a relaxed and easy going third. He loved cuddling and was happy to be strapped to me in a carrier as we adventured. At an early age, he was an observer. He watched his older siblings (almost 2 and almost 4) and marveled at their crazy antics. He did not copy them, just watched. Always interested. Always curious. But always a bystander. Yet always, always with a smile.
Honestly, I do not think a more beautiful boy has ever existed.
Boy Child was an early walker. Really, he had learned to become a do-er. His observing taught him how to do things. It did not teach how to communicate those things, however. I assumed he was a quiet child. Or maybe, I hoped he was a quiet, “easy” child. One that takes after my husband more than me. I assumed he enjoyed just watching and was happy to go along with the older siblings.
But I was wrong. And here is where I see grace begin to shine. I begin to see the hope. I can stand here today assured, I did nothing wrong. I did not under-parent him. I did not under-love him. I did not miss something. Instead, I see, now, that he is a little different than his siblings. He understands, interprets, grows a little differently. And really, dear friends, aren’t we all just a little different from each other. It is those differences that are beauty-filled. They are grace-filled. They are joy-filled.
Though Boy-Child has some differences, those differences truly have changed each and every one of us. Each in our little (or rather, big) family. He has changed each of us for the better. And in that, there is beauty, grace, joy, and hope. Hope for a brighter future for each of us. Hope to learn to love more fully, more truly. Hope to understand others, different than ourselves.
Sweet Boy-Child is not easy-going. He is not quiet. A little after 18 months, he started to get frustrated. Quickly and easily. I realized then that there were speech delays, and pretty significant ones at that. Yet, I didn’t understand fully what we were dealing with, where we really were.
We sought help through our state’s Early Intervention program. Sadly, the system failed us. They suspected his speech would be coming in any moment, and told us to call again after he turned 2, if it did not. I look back at this time and wish I understood more of what our delays were so I could have fought for him. But I did not. Again, there is grace in this. I was pregnant, expecting our fourth, and honestly, was trying to stay afloat. I was not living in community and so life was hard.
I truly believe God was using this time to make me ready for our journey. It would be hard. I needed to come to my end so I could learn to fully trust in Him. To lean on Him. I look back at this time, and though I am sad, though I wish we had received help earlier, I KNOW that this was a time of learning. Of growing. Of preparing. Of HOPE.
A few months after Boy-Child turned 2, we contacted Early Intervention again. We were placed with an amazing social worker that expedited our testing and services. She immediately saw our need, perhaps even more than I did. I am so thankful for her, to her, still to this day. Boy-Child was tested for speech delays, developmental delays, and sensory processing needs. I was still in much denial that there were delays in anything other than speech.
Despite my denial, Boy-Child needed more therapy. Though I did not understand, though I did not fully see – I did what was best for my little one. Boy-Child received three hours of therapy each week. Three hours of amazing services with amazing therapists. Each that helped him, but even more, helped me. They cared for me and my family. They worked with me. They taught me. They showed us all grace. And they gave us HOPE.
This was the hardest year of my life, so far. It was a year of intense emotions. Of in-explainable behavior. A year of watching my child come apart and not knowing what to do or how to help. Of my hands being full and not always seeing the grace in it. It was a year without hope. Until.
Until we dared to hope. To pray. We decided that the life we were living needed to be lived in community. Honestly, I stopped and told my husband that I could not continue. I was done. Hands raised high in surrender. Life was too hard to do alone. So we updated our home and began the search. Through it all, we had to rely on God’s will and His timing. Each and every one of the controls, my contingencies, that I placed on our home search fell apart. They had to be broken. And when we had lost hope, when we came to the end of ourselves, we found our home. The home that was beyond all that we had asked for. The home we are in now.
Hope came alive.
When Boy-Child turned 3, he aged out of the Early Intervention system and we moved. We chose to move into the Early Childhood program with our School District and work under an IEP. Things with Boy-Child continued to grow harder.
Since he was 18 months old he was easily frustrated, easily overwhelmed, easily upset. He screamed a lot (and, no not the typical toddler screaming/fits). It was hard. And it was scary. Our move was particularly hard for him. The break from services for a few months, even harder. We were careening out of control and I was relieved when school began. I knew the routine that school could give would help. The therapies he would receive from school would help. And it did. HOPE bloomed once more.
THE NEXT STEP
When school began, I jumped into community. I began growing, changing (You can read more about my growth, here). I had seen God work in our lives and I was ready for more. Except, I wasn’t. Not the way He was moving.
I joined a book group with my church. We were doing a Priscilla Shirer study on Jonah. In the first video she asked what our “whale” was (our “interruption,” our call to God). She gave multiple examples, one of which was a special needs child. I cried. I realized then, really for the first time, that my boy child may be dealing with more than delays. He may never be typical. But more than all of that, I realized I had been blaming myself for the delays my son was experiencing, was battling. If only I had given him the attention I gave my first, he would not be delayed. If only I could handle it all, he would be typical. I know now that these were lies. Whispered by the Enemy, perpetuated by my sin. My pride. And today, God’s grace covers those lies and my sins. With forgiveness. And with HOPE. Hope that it all was for His glory. It is all for His glory.
I began to make spending time in the Bible a priority. I began to grow. To trust more. To see more clearly. To see grace and to see hope.
To be honest, I spent a lot of the next months crying. Crying tears and crying out to God. My journal is filled with pages wondering what our present and future would hold, with cries to God for my child, with the tears of a weary mom. And filled with hope. For each cry out to God, there was a Psalm that answered me. (You can read more about my journey through the Psalms in: Road Trip, Truth, and Joy: A Product of Thankfulness & a Provider of Freedom.) I had found grace, beauty, and hope. And I was clinging to it.
Life continued to get harder. Boy-Child could not handle the typical one year old behaviors Baby-Boy exhibited (like moving unexpectedly, usually to touch him; loud noises; Baby pulling off his own shoes…), so he would get frustrated and upset. Baby-Boy thought this new found game was fun, making life all the harder.
Finally one day I stopped. I had been on a path of waiting, of hoping for one day. But I could not continue on that path any longer. I needed answers. I needed to know what path we were on. I had my suspicions, I had my doubts, I had my questions. But now. Now I needed the next step. I was ready. Or as ready as I could ever be. I had a community to support me. I was surrounded by prayer. And I was rooted in His Word. In truth. In hope.
We began the process of seeing a neuropsychologist around Easter. The appointments were long and tiring. The paperwork was emotionally exhausting. Through it all we were strengthened, by our community and by our God. The day of the first appointment, as I drove home, God wrote His love for me in the sky. I know it sounds crazy, but the sunset that evening was beyond beautiful. I had friends sending me encouraging text messages. Reminding me of truth. Of hope. Of grace. I received a new courage key in the mail when I arrived home (you can read about my courage and grace keys, here). I firmly believe, that when we look at the seemingly little things, we can see God whispering “I love you” straight to our hearts. We just have to look, to see, with eyes open to a God that loves us unceasingly.
Through each and every hard moment, I cried out to my God. And He heard me. He spoke to my heart. Words of courage, words of peace. Words of grace. And words of hope. He spoke through the Psalms, through words written long ago. Words that are no less true today than when they were first spoken. He spoke through words from friends, through books, through sermons. And each message reminded me of hope. Each and every word showed me grace. And I clung to them.
We have since attended our feedback appointment. My sweet Boy-Child has changed in these last months. During this relatively short journey seeing a neuropsychologist, he has grown. He has begun making eye contact. He began speaking. A lot. He began communicating his needs, his wants. And understanding what we were communicating to him. He began regulating himself when the environment around him was hard.
Truthfully, I didn’t see the changes until after our appointment and a friend asked me how my Boy-Child was doing. Then, my eyes were opened. I saw. I saw the changes. The growth. The veil that was torn. And as each day has come and gone, I shout for joy. I shout for His glory. I stand in hope. And I stand strong.
Our appointment yielded that Boy-Child suffers from severe anxiety. As a three year old.
As his mom, as any mom, these words were hard. I was prepared for an altogether different diagnosis. Not for this. Not for something that runs in our family lines. Not in a child this young. That night I was upset. I was confused. I did not understand the hope the doctor had. That my husband had. I did not understand this diagnosis. At all. I did not see the next steps.
But that night, as I sat. As I wrote. As I cried. I realized that the hope was blinding me. We could learn to navigate this. We could all grow in understanding severe anxiety. And he could be typical. Life will not be easy for him. For us. Anxiety is something Boy-Child will always live with. He will always need to understand it and manage it. It is something that will be difficult and will affect him. But it is something we can intentionally speak about, learn about, and teach him.
We now find ourselves in a sort of meeting place. A middle ground between the hard days of the past year and a half and the beautiful, hope filled days of our future. We have days that show me the joys of this new life. The adventures to be had, the changes. But there are still days that remind me of the past, of the hard we have already battled. These days keep me planted in the now. They remind me of how far we have come and to continue to work in each and every moment. To help him, to work with him as we battle the anxiety and the resulting rigidity and sensory issues.
The days are still hard. Baby-Boy continues to be a trigger, as do the changing seasons, the dropping of seeds, the revival of insects. But with each trigger, each challenge we now know what we are fighting. We are fighting anxiety. Instead of pretending it does not exist we talk about his fears. We are intentional, purposeful with every.single.moment. Though it is exhausting, we have seen the fruit from it. Already. So quickly. He is learning. He is understanding.
And it brings me back to hope. Even on the hard days, on the days so like the ones from a year ago. Because, now, my son can tell me he loves me.
Because now my sweet Boy-Child does more than scream – he can tell me what is scaring him. He shares his thoughts with me. And I can point him to One who hears him. Who hears his fears and will protect him better than I can.
Today, I can help him be less afraid instead of crying with him.
The days are still hard. But there is hope. Hope in each day. Hope in each word spoken. Hope in each moment.
Though our journey is not over, there is hope in our journey. And there is a promise: that it is for His glory. And that, dear friends, is enough for me.
This post is a part of the Tell His Story link up with Jennifer Dukes Lee, because I believe each part of this story is telling of God’s glory and grace. His love and mercy. Also, the Grace & Love link up.
A Grateful Heart link up with Ember Grey, because through it all, I am so so grateful for His hope.