I've had a few times in my life, when a doctor's words have changed my future. The first was when at the age of 11 months, my oldest son Josh was put in glasses. I remember holding it together in the doctor's office and then sobbing all the way home.
The fears of the future overwhelmed me, with thoughts like: If he needs glasses now, will he eventually go blind? How will other children tease him? Will we be facing surgery because of his eye condition?
My heart broke for my precious baby boy and all that the doctor's diagnosis would mean for him in his life. Some of my fears did come true. Josh did need surgery at 18 months. He also wore a patch over one eye until he was 7 years old. And I'm sure some kids did tease him. And his bad vision did impact his ability to play sports.
But my 18-year-old son is happy, healthy and exploring other God-given gifts like music and studying to become a teacher. So once I got over the disappointment, I was able to move on to all other ways God would use my son.
Now I'm facing another doctor's diagnosis. This one is more life-altering. And I'm writing this today to remind myself that this diagnosis isn't a surprise to my God. He knew this was coming and he already has a plan to use my beautiful daughter Cathrine, and to create an amazing life for her.
Four years ago today, my two daughters stepped on American soil for the first time. Previously, their life in Liberia, Africa consisted of the most deprivation you can imagine. Never enough food, little protective oversight, no schooling, no books ... just a life of survival. (Cathrine is on the right)
When they joined our family, they blossomed like lovely roses. We saw them go from scared, emotionally frozen children, into confident, healthy, curious, laughing little girls.
Ruth, who was 8 when she arrived, took to learning like a sponge. She adores books and will often initiate learning about a specific subject. Although she is a few grades behind her biological age, it's a perfect fit for her developmentally. Within a year of extra help with language skills, Ruth was speaking clearly and in almost perfect English.
Cathrine arrived at age 10 (almost 11), and struggled with learning and language. Even with hundreds of hours of extra tutoring, she couldn't seem to grasp some basic concepts. She didn't grasp language either, and talks with a heavy accent in poor grammar. The education experts were confounded, and were certain the more time was needed for her to understand. They pointed to her background, and her deprivation, and explained away the poor test results. They gave her several IQ tests, and disregarded the results saying they didn't think they could get an accurate score because of all the extenuating circumstances.
That's when I started homeschooling her - certain that all she needed was consistent one-on-one help. But a month into it, I could see that something was wrong. She just didn't understand things.
So we had Cathrine tested by an educational psychologist, and have confirmed what my gut has been telling me for years. There is more ... and sadly it's not a learning disability we can address. Yesterday he told me my lovely, active, athletic, responsible, social daughter is mildly mentally retarded.
You would never know. Cathrine is conscientious, helpful, kind, thoughtful, funny, caring and loves her family and friends. But when you get a little closer, you see things that just don't click with her. Like when she asked if I will be her grandmother when I get older.
So now we face a new future. And just like I did 18 years ago, I'm struggling to keep the fear at bay.
But ... I've walked with my God long enough to not give in to that fear. Here's what I know today:
God has Cathrine in His hand, cradling, and lovingly protecting her.
God knew this was coming and hand-picked my husband and I to be her parents.
God will equip me to deal with this.
God has a future planned for Cathrine, and He will use her to do amazing things.
I am very thankful to finally have a diagnosis because now we can let go of some things and embrace others. And explore ways to help her develop into her full potential.
God's Word brings me much hope, and I can't help thinking about Jeremiah 29:11:
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."