September 2016. I answered a phone call from my son’s specialist while walking into work. I heard the words, “chromosomal syndrome” and “22q11.2 deletion,” and it felt like my world literally shook. I literally had to sit down in an empty waiting room of the hospital where I worked at the time.
Over the next few months, we went to multiple doctors and appointments. We heard encouraging things – no heart defects, no kidney problems — and concerning things – aspiration, learning disorders, mental health problems. I never knew what to expect going into the specialists. I felt close to panic attacks driving home from some.
For a while, things looked grim. I printed materials to post in Noah’s daycare classroom, reminding them to thicken his liquids, but I worried about substitute teachers who weren’t familiar with his condition. I could add thickener to his drinks at lunch, but what about keeping him away from water fountains? The neurologist cautioned us that he may never improve his swallowing ability. We had more referrals to check immunity and his endocrine system. Occupational therapy. Audiology. Speech therapy. There seemed to be so many things that could be wrong. How would we ever keep him safe? How will we get through this?
For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun!
Getting a diagnosis felt like entering a wasteland, a wilderness. A deserted, desolate, hopeless place. But God created a pathway through for us and provided strength for the journey. Our families, our church family, my job – there were so many places we found encouragement. My career as a speech pathologist put me in contact with a specialist in the area of 22q, and she was able to connect us with other specialists. We found online support groups and a local respite organization which supports families with special needs. We found a whole new community.
God did begin something new and beautiful when Noah received his diagnosis. We had the sense of something new, walking into the world of special needs parenting, but at that time we could only trust in God’s sovereignty. I couldn’t see the rivers He was going to make when I sat alone on that plastic chair in an empty waiting room. But God not only made a way through, but created rivers to care for our weary souls. Rivers can serve a dual purpose. Yes, they provide water and refreshment, but they can also bear the weight of those on the journey. They can lighten the load and ease the journey.
I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
Even during those first grim months, I stubbornly held onto my faith that God was in control. I dug my feet in and determined to seek to honor God with my life. I think I made the decision more from a motivation of what I felt I must do, what I ought to do, rather than what I had strength inside me to do. But God honored my obedience, and I experienced a deepening in my faith like I had not experienced before in my life. I gained new insights when I read my Bible, and I felt like I could see God in so many other places in my life. My writing blossomed, and I was able to reach and encourage other families traveling along a similar path.
The onset of a new thing can feel like entering a wilderness. But as children of God, we can trust Him at His word that there will be a pathway made for us, and rivers to refresh and strengthen us.
You are not lost.
You are not alone.
There is a way. A new way, and a new you. If we trust God and ask for His guidance, He will show us the way.
Do you not see it?