Today, my oldest son, Hayden, is 15! Monumental, sure, but also natural, for most people. We all remember turning 15, right? Wanting nothing more than the latest fashion jeans of the season, a dinner out with friends at your favorite restaurant (sans your terribly embarrassing parents, obvi) and to have your name put on the roster of the local Driver’s Ed Academy. But that’s not what today holds for us, although it is still a celebration, no doubt.
Today feels a bit surreal. I’m walking into a time and space, a day I never thought would exist, if I’m completely honest. Hayden was born with a neural tube defect (spina bifida) and given an entire mound of odds stacked against him. I’ve learned more about God, His love, self sacrifice, and eternity in 15 years than I ever could have learned in a lifetime of “normal.” Although it’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done, parenting Hayden has stretched me and molded me into such a better version of myself than I ever dreamed possible. The lessons and love God has shown me with this child as His instrument are more than I could ever begin to count.
I’m actively in the throes of writing a book about hope. Imagine, when by the world’s standards our situation looks hard, grim and hopeless, God has filled me with so much hope I can fill an entire book about it. There’s pain in the book too; but that’s what makes the hope so much sweeter. God has hope for you, friend. If you’re feeling hopeless and in despair today, please know that’s not all there is. God can use your pain for your good and His glory.
An excerpt from Chapter Six of “Hope in Him”:
He came into the world quietly, not a cry or sound, but he was breathing and present with us. He and I both had surgery on the same day - mine left me with a C section scar marking his safe arrival; his, a scar on his back to close the gaping hole he arrived with. When most babies are doing skin-to-skin bonding with their mothers minutes after birth, Hayden spent his first moments in the world lying alone on an O.R. table having his back sewn shut to stop the leaking of cerebrospinal fluid from the defect in his spine. Becoming first-time NICU parents felt like we had been thrown into the deep end of an ocean… during a hurricane… with no life vest… and sharks circling us.
I’ve come to learn that when you’re broken, God has more pieces to work with. Becoming a special needs parent broke me into a million tiny pieces. I treasure life in a way I never would have before this experience. I have a new, fresh perspective on life. And I have a daily opportunity to live out sacrificial love and die to self. I will never again look at situations, circumstances, or “stuff” the same way. As Christ-followers, our identity is in HIM - not in the things we own, the clothes we wear, the jobs we have, the vacations we take. None of this can define us. Christ is who defines us. If and when all of the things in your life disappear, will you allow Him to be your unchanging rock and your steady fortress?
Happy 15th Birthday, Hayden Patrick “HPVIP”! You are kind, thoughtful, sarcastic, witty, ornery, and the cause of most of my gray hair. You enjoy life to the fullest, you love people so well, and you have a major, horrible addiction to your phone, but we love you anyway. ;) Thank you for the privilege of being your mom. For the lessons you’ve taught me and the entire world. I’m so proud of you, son!