Blows and Cushions
I said I would write a post about the positive aspects of the last year – here it is.
It feels weird in a way to do it, because we are going through some unpleasant stuff and I never know whether in emphasising the positives, it comes across that we are being trivial or flippant about a serious (and as yet unresolved) situation. And it’s not me or Richard that are suffering the worst of it, it’s Scooby himself, and that seems extremely unfair to say ‘Never mind, but isn’t it good that...’
But things are not black and white and while I cannot understand why all this has happened in the first place, I only know that it is happening and God in His sovereignty has brought so much good out of a bad situation. The only way I can describe what it feels like is to keep receiving blows but every time – and I mean every time – landing on something soft. As soon as you think you’re about to be floored good and proper, a cushion appears as if from nowhere and instead of a harsh impact, there is an unexpectedly soft landing.
These are snippets and generalisations but I hope they get across how faithful and amazing God is in any and every situation:
1. Scooby’s overall health. From the very beginning, doctors have been baffled at the inconsistency between Scooby’s scans and his outward health. We get told most visits that we should have a very poorly-looking child – and most of the time, we don’t J In the beginning of this leg of the journey, when we had doctors coming to his bedside everyday with more bad news about what was going on in his body, this was the cushion. I’d hear the news, look at the boy bouncing around next to me, and inwardly thank God that nothing seemed as bad as it ought to be. This carried us so much in the first month, it was incredible. Even now, we are still being told that his shakiness and coordination should be much worse than it is, and that his brain must be working really fast all the time to make the necessary adaptations to control the changes going on in there. I agree, but think there's something else going on in there too ;)
2. Time with my boy. I love spending time with all my children, but right from the start, Scooby seems to have been the one who ‘needed’ that one on one contact all the time. The others have always been more self-sufficient in imaginative play or construction, but Scooby just loves people. He used to beg and beg for me to sit and play board games with him all the time. Between jobs to be done, and school, and having a toddler in the house, I hardly ever managed to do that with him. But through what has happened, we have had loads of time together, doing things we both love. He is so like me in many ways and we have loved reading books together, doing puzzles and workbooks and playing board games (we are both very cool, I know). One of the main highlights of lengthy hospital stays has been setting up Monopoly games that have lasted days without fear of small hands to destroy it. One night we stayed up till 11pm finishing a game. He said that was his best day ever J We are never bored in hospital. We are weird, but we’re weird together.
3. Rest for me in pregnancy. I was in so much agony with my fourth (and final!) pregnancy. I had a condition called SPD which meant that all the ligaments around my pelvis softened when I was pregnant. This was painful but manageable in the previous pregnancies, but unbelievable in this one. From four months, I’d had to use crutches and from seven months, I couldn’t walk at all. I was bedridden and had to crawl around the house if I needed to move. The first two weeks of last year I had spent feeling really sorry for myself and saying to God, ‘I can’t do this anymore! You have to intervene! I can’t look after a toddler all day or the other boys when they come home from school and I’m so scared I’m going to do myself permanent damage if I have to keep going up and down the stairs!’ Well, it was an unusual answer to that prayer, but little did I realise that for the last month of the pregnancy, I would get the rest I desperately needed, lying on a parent’s bed alongside my child in Manchester Children’s Hospital! The staff were fantastic with me and wheeled me to other departments whenever we needed to go for scans and xrays, and some would bring me food or a cup of tea if I was having a particularly sore day. When we came out after four weeks, we were given an appointment almost straight away at the maternity unit in our local hospital, and they induced me a few days later. Thanks to family and friends helping out, I was able to rest after Baby’s birth and was walking without the crutches by the time she was six weeks old. Without this intervention, I honestly don’t know how bad my back and pelvis would have been now and whether I would have fully recovered like I have.
4. Permission to focus on the children. Lots of people have asked if it’s been difficult having a new baby while having everything else going on. In some ways it has, but mainly I think that it has actually given me more opportunity to focus on family than ever before. Even though Richard took Scooby straight back into hospital the day I got home with Baby, and they were gone for a month, I had great support for those weeks. My amazing sister moved in and travelled nearly an hour there and back to work so she could be there for me in the mornings and evenings to look after us all. A neighbour and a friend managed the school runs, and a group of people even got together to pay for me to a cleaner for one morning a week. For ten weeks it was like having a tracksuited, chain-smoking angel with a pinny on appearing at my door every Tuesday to whirl around my house and blitz every surface. It was amazing. Once I was back to health, and ever since, I have pretty much let everything else go apart from looking after the house and the family. Most of my days consist of to-ing and fro-ing, because Rocky has half-days at preschool, Scooby has just an hour or two at school everyday, and Turtle and Ace have regular school hours. Some weeks are broken up with hospital appointments, other with admissions that last several days. We’ve had to cancel invitations to parties and family events because we don’t want to be further than ten minutes away from Scooby in case he has a seizure (although finding a babysitter for five children is nearly impossible anyway, so it hasn’t made that much difference!). We’ve had to drop out of church events at the last minute depending on how he’s doing. But all this has meant that the children are my focus, and there is no guilt attached to saying ‘no’ to other things now. I know it’s a season and it won’t last forever, so I’m just enjoying that extra time I have to roll around with them and stay at home while the rest of the world rushes by. And, as all health scares do, it’s given me an extra appreciation of all the time we spend together and a determination to capture as many memories as possible. It’s made me focus on fun!
5. Footprints in the sand. In the busyness and the chaos, there has been a peace like I’ve never known before. It’s so very true what they say about God carrying people through the storms of life. There have been many times in my walk where (rightly or wrongly) I have felt like I’ve been battling or pushing forward towards something, but last year has been very different to that. It’s been about clinging. Not in a desperate way, like off the side of a ship in a storm, but like a baby being carried by its mother. It feels like it’s clinging in order to stay up, but in reality it is being carried completely safely the whole way. God has been so real to me, and all the things I ever knew about Him are so much clearer than ever before. Words of old hymns come back to me as I fold laundry and make me feel restored and full of hope. Waiting times, that should be inconvenient, have turned into my secret quiet times, reading my bible in the car outside school while the babies are asleep in the back. Whenever I hit a wall and feel like I can’t go on (which is, on average, about once a day), if I take the time to look in the Word (and I don’t always because I’m slow and inconsistent like every other human), He just jumps off the page to me and everything makes sense again. I’ve had some really tough and distant-feeling times in my journey with God before, but this is not one of those times. Right now, He is definitely making that side of stuff really easy for me! Thankyou God.
6. Being a part of something bigger. When Scooby was at his worst, this time last year, some amazing people began spreading the word on our behalf. Before we knew it, people everywhere were praying for our family and our boy. We were getting messages from places like Chile and Australia and South Africa and Germany and many many more, as well as churches all over this country, to say that they were praying for us. Some were rearranging their prayer meetings for us. A group was set up on Facebook for a day of prayer and fasting for him. Hundreds of people joined, including many we had never met. Friends who didn’t even believe in prayer started praying! Shortly after this, Scooby made a massive turn for the better and his health has never spiralled down like that again (thankyou God!). But as well as that, something else amazing happened as a result. People, including me, began to have their faith restored not just in God, but in the church as a global community. It was like seeing the Kingdom of God in action, and it awakened an excitement for prayer and unity that had been forgotten by many people. We are still receiving messages all the time from individuals and churches to say they are praying for us, and I am absolutely convinced that this is why we are experiencing the closeness of God that we are. I know I ought to have crashed and burned a long time ago, but the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective!
7. Scooby and Jesus. Scooby has always been the sort of child that is amazingly enthusiastic and compliant most of the time, but occasionally gets himself worked up to a point where he cannot control his temper. Unfortunately, the amazingly fantastic medicines that have kept our boy going and stopped him having continual seizures do have the combined side-effects of producing mood swings. Oh boy. Even his spectacular toddler tantrums couldn’t compare to him as a seven-year-old boy deciding that he would rather lie on a pavement in the rain than walk to his front door a few metres away because he thinks his mum (who is carrying a baby and a bag of shopping) can’t do anything about it. This has definitely been one of the blows and has been extremely hard to deal with because it is not very clear where the chemical imbalance ends and the stubborn child who needs boundaries begins. It has tested my parenting skills to the limit and is not fun when either one of us is slightly tired or overstretched. One particularly harsh time, as he was raging and storming in his bedroom, slamming the door over and over again and screaming at the top of his lungs, something in me snapped and I ran up to him shaking, ready to do anything to make him stop. But God took that five second sprint up the stairs to do something in me, and when I opened that door I lost my rage against him and just began praying over what was happening inside him. I didn’t shout or yell, I just prayed as I stood next to his little furious body and asked for peace, joy, calmness, love and gentleness in him. He stopped raging and became still and we crawled into bed together. I continued to pray in whispers over him, against the fear, the anger, the confusion and the anxiety that seemed to keep coming over him. And then, finally, we talked. He really wanted to be free of this uncontrollable feeling that kept coming over him. He hadn’t been able to acknowledge it up till that point but suddenly he could see it for what it was. We talked about Jesus and the Holy Spirit and having a changed heart. We talked about how God was bigger than any feeling or situation. He asked me to keep praying for him and to intervene with prayer whenever he started to get out of control. That was months ago, and since that time, he has prayed every day for peace and joy in his heart. He prays it for the rest of us too, especially if he thinks we particularly need it :S He still has tantrums sometimes (the lying down in the rain thing was just yesterday), but they are shorter lived and usually have a happy conclusion (unlike the long stand-offs we used to have where neither of us would back down).
There are many more. Many many many more, but these are the biggest ones, and the ones I can remember right now (and I feel like I've just skimmed through them without giving full justice to each aspect at all). As well as those, there are lots of individual incidents, like people being there at the right moment when he’s needed to be rushed into hospital; and having big travelling and food expenses to pay out for a hospital visit, then receiving a cheque in the post to cover the same amount of money. Friends who have come to visit at the right time, and the other kids being unbelievably helpful when we’ve hit a point of crisis. There are so many. We are so blessed.
And I am glad that this post is so much longer than the negatives one. It deserves to be.