home meetglynnis books speakingtopics resources contact

Saturday, November 21, 2009

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."

A friend of mine wrote a book titled, "A Different Dream for My Child." That title really connects with me. I'm still dreaming for my daughter, only it's a different dream than I had yesterday morning.
If you'd like to hear more about our journey down this path, please post a comment and let me know. I struggle with this blog thing, and am never sure what people want to read. And of course, I would love your prayers.

If you are facing a diagnosis for a child you love, I want to recommend a great resource to you, written by a friend of mine, Jolene Philo. It's called "A Different Dream for My Child." It's a book of devotions to help parents when there child is facing a serious health condition. Click here to visit a website she has set up to help parents, and read more about the book.
In His Love,


Anonymous said...

May God keep you in peace, clear your mind so you can see the future through His eyes; you will be in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

A part of me wants to say I am sorry, because I am.. But the other part of me is so thankful, as I know you are, that our Lord has the perfect plan and purpose for your beautiful Catherine.. He knew from the time she was placed in her birth mothers womb, and even before, what His plan was.. And His plans are always perfect!! You are the lucky one, who gets to revel in her every milestone, and to see his plans for her come into fruition. Your family are in my prayers, I am thankful for your blog! May God continue to bless you and your beautiful family!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this personal story. My own daughter will be having some testing done tomorrow and I have let myself become so fearful. I needed to hear that God knows the outcome already and that he hand picked me and my husband to be her parents no matter what the outcome! May God bless you!

awcamp said...

I would love to hear more about your journey with your precious daughter. I have a brother who is slightly mentally retarded, and though I'm a mother myself of one daughter, I'm also in the role (along with my siblings) of caring for my brother. How well I know the pain of having a family member who is not "like everyone else." But to hear that God has a plan for him soothes my soul. Thanks for sharing. I pray for comfort for you and for clarity of vision as you move forward in love with your daughter.

Charles Schoen said...

Mourn the loss of your expectations and then see the beauty God will reveal over the years! It is not a beuty most get or are able to see. You will have a richer life having a special needs child. Is it harder? Yep! But real value comes from hard not easy! You will see! Here is a wonderful description and a video I made of my son, Charlie. He is non verbal but He signs and gestures and is a total love!Has a million friends!


by Emily Pearl Kingsley*

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this…

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum, the Michelangelo David, the gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place. So you must go out and buy new guidebooks. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

Lyn said...

Upon reading your post, my first thought was how great God is to have placed this child in a family and setting in which she will have opportunities for growth into her self as she was created to be. I too parent a special needs child. It's always something. Currently we are learning to take smaller steps toward goals, and to support him as he learns to let go of goals he deeply desires, but are not within his reach. There is a lot to learn and as another poster said, a richer life than you could have planned for yourself. Many blessings to you and all of your children!

jolenephilo said...


I'm praying for you and your daughter as God reveals his different dream for her life. You can be sure that, though it isn't what you expected for her, it will still be very good because we serve a good and gracious God.

Erin said...

I read your blog today after the Proverbs 31 devotional... and kept reading.
I'm so touched by what you wrote. I'm praying that God does plant a new dream in your heart for Cathrine.
May your family be blessed abundantly!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for being so vulneralbe and allowing us to hear your hurting heart. As a result, you know have many, many readers praying for you, your family, and sweet Cathrine as the timing of your P31 devotional was no accident.

Victoria said...

Praying for Catherine, that the Lord will guide her to His plan and for wisdom and strength for you and your family as you begin to understand the challenges you will face, and blessings for trusting the Lord with your daughter. How special and loving you and your family must be for the Lord to trust you with His daughter who needs a little bit extra. God bless.