Tag Archives: Special Needs Child

Miracles Still Happen

The sunshine peered through the kitchen window as I sat at my table, trying to hold back my exhausted, heartbroken tears.  I can’t do this anymore, I thought.

My 9-year old son Brandon sat next to me, staring vacantly at a bowl of chicken noodle soup.  This used to be his favorite meal…but the soup had gotten cold without a single bite taken.  I got up to reheat the soup in the microwave once more.  As I cleared the lump in my throat, Brandon flew into a fury, covering his ears and screaming.  I jumped with a startled reflex, and mentally berated myself for upsetting the quietness that had become my son’s only haven of peace.

I set the soup down in front of him, urging him to try eating again.  Looking at the clock, we had been “trying” for 90 minutes now.  Tears welling, I blinked hard, commanding them to stop as I saw Brandon attempting to reach for his spoon.  His hand wouldn’t cooperate—it stopped and started, in a repetitive, jerking fashion.  With a face full of anguish, Brandon repeated a nonsensical phrase over and over.

“Ok, Brandon, you finally got the spoon. Good job. Now get a bite of soup.  You can do it, honey.”  I tried to stay calm, knowing that any increase in volume or change in tone of my voice could take us back to square one.

Autism was one thing—and had been our reality for 7 years.  However, when Brandon was afflicted with a second neurological condition known as PANDAS, a true test of our faith began.

Earlier that winter, he had contracted a strep infection without any obvious symptoms.  As his body produced antibodies to fight the infection, the antibodies attacked his brain in an autoimmune response (aka PANDAS).  This devastated his neurological functioning.  He began to develop Tourette’s-like “tics,” both vocal and motor, and as anxiety took over his personality, he quickly became a victim to full-blown obsessive-compulsive disorder.  Our once cheerful and happy boy was tormented and riddled with anxiety.  He had become a vacant shell of a child, and we no longer recognized him.

Brandon’s daily functioning was monumentally impaired: simple tasks such as getting dressed, toileting, eating a meal, leaving the house, and going to bed, took hours to complete.  Every moment of his day was dominated by anxiety and intricate rituals, accompanied by an enormous pressure on me to anticipate and minimize the next inevitable meltdown.

We consulted with numerous professionals:  pediatric neurologists, rheumatologists, oncologists, psychologists, behavioral experts, and autism experts.  When we got the diagnosis of PANDAS, our initial excitement to finally have a diagnosis quickly faded as doctors, one by one, told us that there was nothing that they could do to cure our son of this debilitating condition.  This was, as we were repeatedly told, to be our new normal.

During this time, I cried out to God for answers, help, strength to endure, and above all, healing.  There were certainly moments of despair, but I clung to God as the sovereign creator who knew and loved my son monumentally more than I could comprehend.  I trusted, I wept, I prayed –the cycle went on for 18 months.

In desperation, my husband and I held a prayer session at our church.  I remember sitting in a room, arms around Brandon as our friends, pastor, and the church elders surrounded us and offered up faith-filled prayers and petitions for healing (James 5:14-15).  It was an incredible moment of love lived out in the unity of faith.

As we drove home from church that sunny April afternoon, I stared out the window, thinking-while-praying, Ok God, it’s in your hands…I know that you CAN, but WILL you heal my son? Give me the strength to keep going no matter what is ahead.

A moment later, out of blue, Brandon began singing (a rare moment at that time) a phrase over and over:  Nothing is missing. Nothing is broken.  These were lyrics to a song that we had sung earlier that day in church.  As quickly as he had spontaneously and emphatically uttered those words, he fell silent.  And I knew that his words were God’s answer to my prayer.  Heather, trust me.  Brandon is in my hands.  You will soon see that nothing is missing or broken.

Over the coming months, Brandon gradually returned to the child we knew and recognized, and by the summer he was completely healed.  There was no medical explanation for it, but we knew, and all who had joined us on our journey of faith, that we had witnessed a miracle.

Brandon – 8 years after his PANDAS diagnosis

God is so good!  And He’s still in the business of miracles –able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20).

Have you experienced a miracle?  I’d love to hear about it.  Please share below!

Heavenly Hugs

Have you ever given or received a “heavenly” hug?  It’s a really cool experience…

I used to think that God couldn’t possibly be interested in the mundane details of my life. He has better things to do, right?

It’s easy to go about our day and forget that he is watching and waiting, eager to break into our reality. He has assignments for us, but he won’t force them. He’s simply waiting for us to take notice and say yes.

My schedule can be crazy at times.  I find myself thinking: If I could first make some headway on my to-do list, then I can press pause and cooperate with God. Recently, I learned a lesson about my choices: I can either stick to my own agenda at all costs, or I can see the unexpected curve balls in life as an opportunity to focus on others and to say yes to God’s leading.

One gray, forgettable December morning, I was running errands with my husband. We had scheduled a host of quick stops, with the intention that we wouldn’t be out very long. As the morning unfolded, I noticed that my well-laid plan to have us home in time for lunch was beyond reach. We met an obstacle at every stop: a salesperson went to check on a request of ours and forgot about us, the self-checkout station couldn’t process our coupons, and a cashier realized that she had given me too much change after I had already crammed the money into my bottomless-pit-of-a-purse. These weren’t major annoyances, but something happened to slow me down at every single stop.

In an attempt to speed things along, my husband dropped me off to get groceries while he ran a few more “should be quick” errands. Strolling through the store, I noticed a mother and her young daughter, a cheerful toddler who was engaging anyone who would notice. She was singing to herself in the grocery cart when our eyes met. I smiled and said hello and she beamed. Her electric personality drew me in, and I soon noticed that she had Down Syndrome.  As a mom of a special needs child, I gravitate toward children and families who share similar life experiences.

I checked out, bagged my groceries, and walked out of the store, noticing that my husband hadn’t returned.  I usually opt to wait inside for warmth, but for some reason I chose to stand outside.  Trying to steer clear of people bustling in and out of the store, I noticed the sweet little girl and her mother walking to their van.  I smiled and waved good-bye to my new friend.

My husband was still nowhere in sight. Where is this man of mine? I recounted the numerous delays of the morning while resisting the instinct to succumb to frustration.  A thought popped into my head: maybe I have been delayed for such a time as this. What if I’m right where God needs me to be, this very moment? PERHAPS he has something for me to do, a special assignment. Ok, what do you have for me, God?

Starting to shiver, my eyes wandered to my right; I noticed the mother in the parking lot with her overflowing grocery cart.  She was bagging groceries outside her van in the cold, while her daughter fidgeted in her car seat. My mind flashed back to shopping trips with my son who has autism –where having a root canal was more appealing than embarking on the exhausting task of taking him into a store.  I too had bagged groceries at my car when he was young, rather than risk a meltdown in front of an audience.

Is this my assignment, God?  Does she need encouragement today?

I walked up to her and said, “I hope this doesn’t sound too weird, but I’d really like to help you with your groceries.  I saw you and your daughter inside and she touched my heart.”

With tears welling up, she graciously accepted.  I grabbed some bags and got to work.  We jabbered while we loaded, spending the next few minutes talking about our special needs children and the daily challenges we face.  I offered her encouragement and an understanding heart. In that moment, we were bonded in a spontaneous sisterhood.

Before we parted ways, she hugged me and said, “I was praying this morning, asking God to show me how to bless someone today—and then he decided to send you to bless me.  You really made my day!”

In a heartfelt response I said, “It wasn’t me, it was God…he just gave you what I call a heavenly hug!”

I was just a messenger on that December day. My heart was full of gratitude that God broke into the mundane, using me to answer another mother’s simple prayer. I’m so glad that I chose to see my schedule detour as an opportunity rather than a nuisance.