“Mama, play with me?” My three-year-old emptied her LEGOs on the carpet. As I shook my head, her shoulders slumped. “Mama has pain?”
I nodded, closing my eyes against the tears. Lord, what kind of a mother am I when I can’t even play with my child? What will happen when I get worse?
After four years of iritis (an inflammation of the iris) with the possibility of losing my sight, and several months of pain wracking my body, I had been diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, an inflammation that starts in the spinal joints. But my relief at knowing what was wrong and being able to start treatments faded as I faced the degenerative nature of the illness, for which there is no known cure. As my ability to serve my husband and daughters diminished—I couldn’t hold a pan or open the blinds, let alone drive—I began struggling with the impact of the disease on my teen and toddler. Lord, what will this do to them? Will seeing me struggle scar them for life? Why should my journey of pain be theirs?
Though I was hoping to protect my children from the full reality of my condition, when a severe reaction to a medication left one side of my body with stroke-like symptoms I realized there was no hiding it.
In the following months, friends provided meals and transportation to medical appointments and school, and even cleaned my house. Overwhelmed by their love and prayers, I realized the sovereignty of God. Though I did not choose this path, He had surrounded us with the support—spiritual and tangible—to help us through the darkest valley, and my family saw firsthand that we could entrust ourselves to a “faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19).
My focus is on equipping my children to walk through pain—the reality of a fallen world.
As I undergo chemotherapy and infusions of a biological drug, our focus is on equipping our children to walk through pain—the reality of life in a fallen world. We talk about my illness, the treatments, the risks, and its impact on our lives; and we turn to Scripture to focus on God’s promises and the hope and redemption we have in Jesus.
The outpouring of help is opening our children’s eyes to the blessings of being in community with believers and the joy of being His hands and feet, and it is softening them to opportunities to serve. When our teen heard of a family’s financial struggle, she used her savings to buy them groceries. She steps in to care for her younger sister, who in turn is the first to wrap me in a blanket when the medications make me cold.
Most important, we’re experiencing the power of prayer—the privilege of taking our needs to the Creator, trusting that He knows best how to answer them. On the days of an infusion, my teen and her friends are the first to sign up to pray for me around the clock. When my three-year-old realizes I’m in pain, she crawls onto the sofa, puts her arms around me and says, “Don’t worry, Mama. Jesus will make you all better.” By God’s grace, she’s learning that’s true—whether He sends healing on this side of eternity or not.