There is something inspiring about reading someone else’s story and realising that we are not alone in our need for God’s strength and enabling. In my first year as a Mum, we faced some challenges with our boy which we had no choice but to process and deal with. This week I continue my story. You can read the other sections here….
If faith is like a muscle, it doesn’t matter how much faith you have but rather how much you use your faith. So many christians think they don’t have enough faith to match the challenges they are facing. It doesn’t matter how much you have. It matters whether or not you use what you have. Challenges are like weights placed in our hand to build strength. The muscles won’t grow if they don’t get used and weights go to waste. My muscles only grow as I use them. If I don’t have anything to believe for; to fight for and to expect then that muscle becomes weak and useless. I have learnt that every challenge we face gives us a chance to develop our muscle of faith. We need to be intentional about the muscles these challenges will build. These same weights (challenges) can develop the muscles we don’t want… muscles of doubt, unbelief, bitterness, resentment, worry and fear, complaint, annoyance, frustration. There are also plenty of ‘coaches’ on the side lines telling you which muscles need developing and how. The only coach I want to hear is a coach that will help me build my faith. I need to tune out the voices that are of no benefit to my faith. Sisterhood is about us championing each other on in the journey of faith.
The Weight (challenge)
We had just left Dr Tony Holmes private clinic and were heading off to see Nicole at the Orthotics department at the Royal Children’s Hospital.
Our boy Ethan had been diagnosed with a severe case of ‘in utero plagiocephaly’, a critically uneven head shape that had been moulded wrongly while in my womb due to a very long body and very little space to grow and move. Sometimes when the uneven head shape is more severe or where counter positioning does not work, a cranial remodelling helmet may help. Helmets are lightweight and made of a thin hard shell with a foam lining for ‘comfort’. The helmet helps the skull re-shaping process by removing the pressure over the flat area, allowing the skull to grow into the space provided. Helmets work best between four and eight months of age. Most kids are diagnosed after 10 months.
Nicole was our orthotist, makes a casting of Ethan’s head and custom making the helmets he would be wearing for the next few months. We then had to spend a day in Melbourne while the helmet was made, fitted then trialled and return the next day to have it adjusted before heading back to Horsham. this happened weekly or fortnightly for 5 months. We lived 4 hours away in country Victoria…
Random Stranger sent by God
We had Ethan’s plaster mould set then had to run some errands while we waited for his first helmet to be made. We had organised to use this time to drop by a local car dealer to exchange a car we had leased. Steve was sorting out the paper work with the car dealer when he radnomly asked Steve if we were Christians. He proceeded to mention that he was as well and that in his devotions that morning he had read a Psalm that he felt he needed to share with us. He handed me a post it note he had written that morning with Psalm 91 written on it. Thank God for a Godly man who chose to read his Bible that morning and help us find strength in God. (Be obedient when God asks you to sow into someone else’s life. You never know what they may be going through.)
Faith comes by hearing…
As I sat on my hotel bed that afternoon, I opened my Bible while Ethan took a nap but the emotion of the morning had taken it’s toll and I began to weep so I let Steve read Psalm 91 to me. Listening to a Godly husband read scripture over your life and build strength into you when you feel completely sideswiped is the most precious gift. I thank God for a husband who was so selfless in this season of my life. He dug deep in this season and helped me find strength in God while he had to do the same. The power of someone carrying you when you are weak is not a long term solution but a vital help in getting us to where we need to be. I don’t need my husband to lift the weights for me but lifting weights together and encouraging each other adds a level of strength we don’t have on our own.
That memory is etched in my mind as a moment of vulnerability for me but also a time where I saw what God was very much with us. I could feel God’s peace flow through my life in an instant. God entrusted that man at the Holden dealership with a mandate to encourage a random stranger with his word and that word was to be the one thing that helped me keep lifting that weight and strengthening that muscle of faith.
The Helmet (details because I’m a chick who like words)
The helmet must be worn for 23 hours a day and may come off for one hour (ie to wash your baby’s hair). The helmet shape must be adjusted by the orthotist every one to two weeks which meant weekly / fortnightly overnight return trips to and from Horsham where we lived and treatment usually takes between six – twelve months. Wearing the helmet isn’t meant to hurt and babies usually get used to it very quickly although at the time those 2-3 weeks of rough days and nights seems like a very long time. Ethan also had an allergic reaction to the foam inside the helmet and ended up with pressure sores and welts where the helmet touched his head. Thank goodness it was in the winter and the summer.
We headed to Horsham the following day with a 4 month old baby wearing a helmet. At our first stop in Ballarat we took Ethan out of the car to feed and change him and I was suddenly confronted with the funniest thing. I had still not really had time to process how we were thinking and feeling let alone what other people and random strangers thought. Laughter is like a tonic. Proverbs says a cheerful heart is good like medicine. God has given each of us a sense of humour and we need to exercise that muscle too. Steve and I choose to see the funny side of things. I seriously believe a great sense of humour helps keep you grounded, sane and strong. You may well ask what we saw as funny. People genuinely thought that Ethan wore a helmet because his parents were safety conscious..A safety helmet for traveling?..seriously people ….that is hilarious. Many thought he was handicapped. We let them think it. So much more fun to play along. We really did have fun with it. …for 9 months. (Don’t let challenges rob you of your joy and strength but rather, let them develop the muscles that will keep you strong. When you have to travel 4 hours twice a week for appointments that you know are going to make your child cry and scream…it is important to seek out the things that make you laugh… Intentionally).
I don’t think regional Australia had seen this scenario before so it was an intriguing journey not just for us in our own journey but also taking our youth ministry we were leading at the time, our extended and church family. Sitting on the front row at church singing about God’s word goodness and his healing power while holding your son with a helmet on s head could have been painful but chose to believe. We chose to sing our lungs out. In that season as I led worship I sang louder and stronger than I had ever sung because I wanted my faith to work hard.
This was our own challenge and for us it felt big. There are definitely challenges some of you are going through that are way bigger and more complicated but the same principle applies. The war of faith is won on the battle field not in the bunkers. Choose to live stronger than you ever have before. The destination is only a small part of what Faith is all about.
Just like lifting weights is intentional…praise is intention, thanksgiving is intentional, declaration is intentional, prayer is intentional, listening to the word of God is intentional, laughter is intentional, faith is intentional… I choose faith because choosing fear and doubt and cynicism and dissappointment produces an ugly distorted, bitter, unfruitful alternative.