Chronic Kids, Healthy Spirits

Mary's Story

My son, Robbie, was having another cardiac catheterization, one of many since birth. As my husband and I drove to the hospital, my mind and heart felt as out of focus as the predawn mist on the highway. I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to conjure up assurances from God to prove He was there and cared.

This feeling was nothing new. As a newborn, Robbie had open-heart surgery to repair a rare defect. It's been a 13-year faith-stretching journey since.

When a long-term condition or impairment touches our children, God instantly has our undivided attention. We cry: “Why me?” “Why now?” “Why my child?” We see disease as the enemy. And we easily hold our children's conditions at arm's length, making it harder to embrace our children. Yet acceptance of a child's illness is the only assurance of the well being of our families.

For God's glory

It's a privilege to be chosen by God to parent a child with a chronic condition. He qualifies us for the role by giving us the passion and skills we need for our particular situations.

It can be hard to believe that this is God's best when our children struggle to breathe, eat, see, learn, even move. Yet God knows what will encourage, bend, mold and challenge us into a deeper understanding of who He is.

When Robbie asks about the zipper-like scar that runs from his navel to his throat, I tell him it's a battle scar — a badge to be worn with honor and pride. He's a soldier in God's army.

In the fall of 1999, when Robbie had open-heart surgery again, the doctors marveled at his three-day post-operative recovery. When we credited prayer and God's faithfulness, the medical staff listened. We can't know the extent of the ripples of our children's stories, but God uses them to touch people's lives.

Elizabeth's Story

I slipped out of bed and tiptoed into my son's room. By the glow of the night-light I pricked his finger with a lancet and squeezed a drop of blood onto a monitor for another blood sugar test — his third that night. How many times had I done this routine over the last three years since Jordan was diagnosed with type I diabetes? I didn't want to do the math.

Yawning, I ran my hand across his blonde hair. “Lord,” I whispered, “I know this child is more precious to You than he is to me. Give Peter and me wisdom to know how to parent him for Your glory.”

Checking the reading on the monitor, I sighed. Finally, his blood sugar was normal. He didn't need insulin or food to protect him from a dangerous coma. I could go back to bed.

I couldn't sleep though. Father, I'm tired of this never-get-a-break disease. But please don't let me forget to guide Jordan to look beyond his disease toward You.

A deeper need

Loss of sleep isn't the only expense of raising a child with a chronic condition. The cost extends to our relationships, wallets, energy, time, faith and sense of well-being. Apathy and hopelessness can dominate our days as we become mechanical caretakers of our child's physical condition rather than nurturers of his spirit.

How could we raise him to have a whole heart for Christ when he may see his body as being “broken”? Because children rarely grow out of their diseases or impairments, part of our parenting role is to help Jordan “grow into” his condition. The circumstances he lives with are not something God has done to him; it's what He's doing for them, to mold them for His glory.

If we help Jordan adopt an outward focus, he'll learn positive aspects of living with a chronic condition. For example, Jordan wouldn't have met his friend Sam if it hadn't been for their mutual diabetes. Plus, meeting Sam's family has given Peter and me a chance to share our hope and faith in God.

Communicating God's love

Each child was created in God's image; therefore they are precious to Him. Even for children with extreme physical or mental impairment, God has created an avenue by which He can reach their souls — through their senses and through their parents.

A few nights later, Jordan's voice woke me. “Mommy?!”

I stepped into his room, “What's wrong?”

“I'm afraid of the dark.” Then in a whisper, “And diabetes. Will you sing and pray with me?”

I sang “Jesus Loves Me,” prayed with him, then snuggled the blankets under his chin.

“Mommy? Will you get my Bible?”

I handed it to him, and he tucked it between his arms close to his heart. “Now I can sleep.”

I marveled at the simplicity. He knew his comfort and security rested with God.

Background Information

Journey of No Return
Sometimes as parents, we have a knee-jerk response to our kids as we're barraged by their numerous inquires and desires. Maybe it's time to stop being so negative.

When Not To Discipline
Parents should recognize when they should and shouldn't discipline their children.

When You Feel Like Calling in the SWAT Team
Are your children constantly testing you? This classic parenting advice will help you regain the upper hand.

Questions and Answers

After I spank my child, she usually wants to hug me and make up, but I continue to be cool to her for a few hours. Do you think that is right?

We'd like to be more unified in our approach, but how do we successfully move from two financial approaches to one?

How long do you think a child should be allowed to cry after being punished? Is there a limit?

I have never spanked my 3-year-old because I am afraid it will teach her to hit others and be a violent person. Do you think I am wrong?

It just seems barbaric to cause pain to a defenseless child. Is it healthy to spank him or her?

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