Ep. 72 || Questions, Appointments, Evaluations and Differences: When Your Child Doesn’t Fit the Mold

The following is a transcript of the audio. Transcript has been edited for clarity.

Laura: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I have my sister-in-law, Emily Jensen here with me. Today, we’re excited to announce something new. As you guys all know, we have an arm of Risen Motherhood called RM|Equipping, and through that branch of Risen Motherhood, we have worked to create resources to help equip you in gospel-centered motherhood, particularly to grow in Biblical literacy, and to help strengthen you to stay focused on your ultimate mission as mothers, to show your children Jesus, day in and day out.

We have a new section of RM|Equipping, called "The Vault." Basically we will still have all of our base resources for free (all of those resources that you guys have come to know and love), and they are super easy to access. But The Vault will hold any additional Equipping resources we have - the only thing you'll need to give us is your email address. We’re not selling your email address and we’re not going to spam you, but the big reason for that is we want to consistently be adding new materials to The Vault when we can and when we do, you'll receive an email to allow you to know that, “Hey, there's something new in there; I want to go and check it out.” 

Then you can easily log in, and go ahead and download whatever you want. So those resources are still monetarily free. They are easy to download and you can print as many as you like. You can share them with your friends, but this is just a good way for us to be able to create a backend system that has all these resources for you guys, which we hope, if time allows, we can continue to build up that area, so that you guys can just scroll through there and say, “Hey, these are six things that I want; I want to download those and print them out.”  We hope that it will be beneficial to you. We wanted to let you guys all know just about that new twist on the website [laughter], and we just pray that it will be a blessing to all of you. 

Emily: Super excited about the Vault. Now, some of you guys hopefully heard the interview that we did with Abigail Dodds, about having a child with special needs. If you haven’t, definitely go look that up in our archives; there are so many encouraging, applicable truths for anyone who's walking through a time of suffering, and does not understand why God is allowing something to happen in your life; it’s wonderful. We know there are a lot of moms out there – Laura and I included – that maybe have a kiddo that we either aren’t ready to, or we don’t identify as being a child with special needs. But there is still maybe some unknown things going on with their health, or their development, or maybe we’re just not sure how to apply the gospel when a child seems to be a little bit different, or doesn’t fit the mold like we think they should. 

Laura: Maybe your child is in therapy for speech or occupational, but you wouldn’t necessarily call them a “special needs” child, yet your child is receiving some extra help. Or maybe they have a physical difference on their face or their body that is pretty noticeable to other people; even glasses, or hearing or vision issues; things like that. What other ideas?

Emily: It can even be something like a sensory issue that makes it harder to go out and do “normal things” in public. Or even I know sometimes food allergies can make regular meals or eating out or getting together with other families difficult. 

Laura: So there's a gamut; obviously it’s always a spectrum, and as you're processing and navigating, you're learning new things every day, and especially when you're at the very beginning stages of figuring out, “Hey, this is something that I am noticing that is different about my child,” or “What kind of medical care do we need? What kind of help do we need? What can I do?” We just want to talk through how the gospel applies, because for both Emily and I, it’s something that we’re currently experiencing, and we know firsthand what a confusing season it can be, and just how lonely it can feel at times. Em, do you just want to share a little bit where you're at?

Emily: Sure. And we will apologize in advance for being a little bit cryptic because as you guys know with your own kiddos, you want to be protective of your family and all of that, but we also want to you to hear where we’re at. So one of our kiddos – our little boy who’s now two – basically around six to nine months, he just stopped reaching a lot of developmental milestones, and it started us on a journey of understanding, like, “What's going on here?” Most things seemed healthy, and eventually we got into therapy, we went to see a lot of specialists. It’s been probably a two-year period that we have been in that process, and it still feels really unknown – what we’re dealing with and what the future looks like. We go to a lot of doctors’ appointments for him. But we've also been sanctified in the process, we've been really blessed by him, we enjoy him so much, and so it’s definitely been something we've had to apply the gospel to and believe God’s goodness, and all of those things, in the midst of something that’s very unclear. 

Laura: I think I would have two children that fit into this category. I think one of mine is very similar to what Emily’s experiencing, which has been really the grace of God that Emily has walked this path a little bit ahead of me. One of them isn’t meeting their developmental milestones, and we’re just in the process of figuring out what that means, and really even what the root issue is, or what's really going on. So like Emily, a lot of doctors’ appointments, a lot of therapy checkups. Right now, we’re really just taking it day by day with her, and trying to figure out what exactly is going on, and how serious it is, and there are a lot of questions for our family.

And then with another child – my son, so you guys will know right away who he is if you’ve seen any pictures, he actually has a lot of vision needs, which we've been dealing with since he's been an infant – everything from glasses and patching and even surgery to help him get the best sight possible. He's also in a little bit of OT (occupational therapy) for both vision things, and other things as well. I feel I am navigating that area with him, and have been for many, many years. But especially on the visible side of things, I can really relate with anyone who's struggling with that because when you deal with glasses and patching and different eye things, there's a very visible marker of something else that’s going on. 

Emily: Yes, those are just two experiences we know of. We know there are millions out there, and everybody’s story is a bit different. If you're a mom and you're like, “I have a kiddo and I have some of these feelings,” we want to know how to apply the gospel there, and the first thing is just remembering, what we typically go through here on Risen Motherhood: creation, fall, redemption, restoration. The other night I was taking a bath and I was thinking about something that my child did, and I just thought, “It’s not supposed to be like this.” That’s so true; it’s not supposed to be like this. God created humans to be perfect, and Adam and Eve were not struggling with these types of issues. They wouldn’t have had to go to a doctor’s appointment or receive an evaluation, or whatever. Pre-fall, if they would have had a child, there wouldn’t have been issues with that. It’s just important to remember that feeling we have of, “It’s not supposed to be this way.” It’s because we long for perfection in the way that God originally designed things to be.

Laura: I think redemption and restoration gives us so much hope even in the midst of that longing, just knowing that God is sovereign over the way they were created. He knits our children together. Your child might not fit the mold, or they might not be exactly who you expected, but God is ultimately over that, and sovereign and in control. That is a hard truth – going back to the Abigail Dodd's episode would be helpful – and we’re going to talk a little bit more about it here today. But just remembering that God is ultimately for our good, and His purpose is to get glory. These are hard truths, especially when we’re dealing with our children, because I always keep thinking, “Lord, just do it to me, not to my kids. I’ll take it, but I can’t handle when this is dealing with my child.” But we can image Christ in our response, and in the way that we love our child, and we can remember the promises in Christ are true for both my very healthy children, and my children who were navigating these really hard situations, and I can still trust God with that child’s life, as much as I trust Him with my more able-bodied or more healthy child.

Emily: It’s a quick caveat there that one thing I've already noticed with a kiddo that’s got some developmental issues is that it can be easy to look at my kids and be like, “I need to be raising them up in the Lord, and giving them the gospel.” And I look at the other kid and I am like, “I need to be given him therapy and special doctors and whatever the thing is.” These promises are true for our children, what every one of our children needs more than anything, is the hope of the gospel. It’s not the hope of being “normal,” our hope is not in finding a normal for them. Our hope is in Christ, and their hope, we want to give them hope in Christ too. That’s just something we wanted to throw in there.

Laura: And going back Emily, to talking about the Garden, and the perfection in the Garden and how we long for that, we can look at that in restoration of how one day we all will be redeemed. Our child will have a whole and perfect body, and that already, I look forward to having more. When you're dealing with a child that has differences, you long for that for them, and in our culture these days, it’s pretty easy to just forget about Heaven because life can be a little easier or really good at times, which is a mercy of God. But at the same time, it’s good to long for Heaven more; it is so good to have Heaven at the forefront, to desire eternity. We know that we have that hope; that it’s inexplicable if you don’t have the gospel, that one day we will see our child fully restored, fully redeemed, and we can have hope in that, in the midst of sometimes a very grievous situation.

Emily: We don’t have a good ton of practical one because Laura and I are in the midst of processing through this. But we just wanted to offer some thoughts; here are some things that are in our inner conversations, that are on our hearts and minds, some things that have brought us comfort and some things that have challenged our thinking. One of the first things we wanted to say is a reminder,  sometimes when our kids have “everything they need and want” – materially, socially, mentally, physically – it can be harder for them to see their need, sometimes, for the word. Not all the time; I am just speaking in generalities. But sometimes, when a kiddo comes up against challenges, it’s actually a mercy, and a grace because they may be a little bit quicker to see their need for the Lord, to have sorrow, and to have a need to depend on Christ. So again, we just have to re-orient our thinking to know that sometimes limitations are actually gifts, to be able to see God’s grace greater.

Laura: I often think with the different challenges that my kids have, even looking down the pipe to adoption, and knowing that some children that we bring home will probably have needs, I know my kids will be better for it, our whole family will be better for it, and that God is going to use this to help our whole family, my extended family, all the people around us that love us. He is going to be using that to point to Himself. As we model God, and as we model His character and His love and His grace and mercy for our differences, we can be a witness for the gospel and draw people to who God is, because it is a beautiful picture when we are comforted in God’s sovereignty over each individual child in our family. 

Emily: This is true for all Christians, but another thing to remember, and that I have to remember often is - my husband and I deal - is God uses all these things in our lives, sometimes including the challenges of our children, to make us more into the image of Christ. One of the things Paul talks about in his epistles is that, as believers we want to keep maturing. He talks about that being a goal of his, is to present believers as mature. But we do that often through hardship and through suffering, and through disappointment, and through having to be patient, and having to wait on this or that resolve, or having to be sad about the way that situation turned out. And then turning back to the Lord again and finding freedom from the things that the world says are going to make us happy, and going, “I don’t have those things,” like, “The world says my child should be a star athlete and should have all these talents and should be good in school – whatever all those things are in order to be happy. If I don’t have that, where am I going to find my happiness?” Well, it’s got to be in Christ because everything else is shifting sands. So those are just incredible and hard ways to depend more on Christ.

Laura: I think it can be really easy to have an entitlement mentality about our children, or even ourselves, saying, “My kid doesn’t deserve this.” We all want easier lives for our kids, right? At one level, we want them to find success and do well and get married. Like Emily was saying, a lot of those cultural beliefs that we have for our kids and often, even with ourselves like, “Gosh, I don’t deserve to have to spend so much time on doctors’ appointments.” Or “This isn’t fair to my other kids,” or just navigating all of the time and emotion and the commitments and the behaviors that your child’s exhibiting.

But really, we don’t deserve anything, but with Christ, we receive it all; we receive everything that matters, so we have the eternal reward that we’re waiting on, and that we wait expectantly here. And just knowing that this life has not been promised to be easy; this life has not been promised to be something that you're going … to find that success - everything Emily was talking about – is a gift in many ways because you can know Christ more fully in these weaknesses. And like we were saying too, even your child may more easily see the graces of God in his or her life because of something that’s a little bit different about them.

Emily: So just along the practical lines, one thing that Abigail Dodds mentioned in her interview, which I personally need to hear, [laughs] is that it is okay to grieve, and it is okay to have sorrow over the way that sin and the Fall has impacted everything especially our children, and that it’s okay to be sad about that.

Laura: Yes, and it’s important to keep perspective on the individual child's needs versus the needs of the family; that’s something that Emily has shared a lot with me especially going before me on some of these things. That it can be very easy to get tunnel vision and obsessive, especially if you have multiple children, to obsess about one child’s needs or differences - wanting to fix it and to go into that mode of, "Doctor Google" and all of those things. And those are important and good things that we must advocate for our children, but we want to make sure that we’re looking at the family as a whole, and sometimes that means you're not able to do absolutely everything that a doctor recommends or the home therapies or other special things. All those different things; you just do the best you can, and trust that God is sovereign, and that He will care for the needs of our family better than we can. I think that often, I want to sort of control all the environments, and make sure everything is perfect, and I can’t. It just brings me to full humility about my limitations as a human, and I have to trust that God will extend those efforts and that He will care for those that I love because He loves them more than I do.

Emily: And as you keep hearing Laura mentioning, we talk about this a lot. So let people in that you feel are safe, and that can hear some of the details of the situation. That probably shouldn’t be everyone, [laughs] but there should be people in your life that you can really be candid with, and just talk about the struggles. There was this quote that came up that we wanted to share; I think Laura I sent this to you at 2 a.m.

Laura: Yes, and I’d already bookmarked it that day, and I saw it at 2 a.m. because we were both feeding babies [laughter]. It’s this quote by Kathy Keller, and it says, “God does not give hypothetical grace for our hypothetical nightmare situation. He only gives us grace for our actual situation."

Emily: I know that is something we talk about a lot, and Laura and I have to remind each other – when we start to get like 10, 15, 20, 50 years in the future – worried about this or that thing, to say, “What God has put on our plate with this child today: right now, this hour, this moment, He has given me grace for it. I can do the next feeding, I can do the next appointment, or whatever that is. God has given me grace for that.” He has not yet given me grace for the things I do not know are going to come or not come.

Laura: And just remembering that future grace waits for you. When you look at a family and you're like, “How do they do it? I don’t understand!” I just think to myself, “That’s future grace,” because God’s grace will meet you. For everything down in the future, God’s grace is waiting there for you. But you don’t need it now, and you don’t have it now, so just remember that God is near to the broken hearted, and He wants, and is ready to comfort you. He gives wisdom to those who ask sincerely, and with the right heart, and He desires to conform you into the image of Christ as you depend on Him every day. If you're in the situation, know that we stand in solidarity, and we just know that it’s a tough season, but that God is gracious, and He has met Emily and I every time when we've not known what to do. He has been so good to meet us where we’re at, and to meet our children. I just always take such comfort in knowing that He does love them more than I do, which is sometimes hard to believe, but He knows what's best, more than I do. 

Emily: On that somber note - but we hope that it was also encouraging – you can find a lot of these quotes, and like we said, we’ll try and include more scripture references and articles that have been helpful, and books that have been helpful on things in our show notes at risenmotherhood.com. You can also find that Abigail Dodds interview there that we were referencing. And you can also find us on social media at Risen Motherhood on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. So, we’ll be back next week.