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Strength to Care

Lessons from Matthew & Isaac – Our CHARGE Syndrome Journey

In good times and in bad…

Before I begin with the topic this week I ask for your prayers for a successful Echocardiogram of Matthew’s heart on Monday, March 14. He will be having this done on at the University of Michigan Childrens Hospital as a final look at what the mitral valve looks like before his heart surgery on April 1…thanks!

As Theresa and I entered the arena of raising a child with special needs we were cautioned about protecting our marriage. “The marriage failure rate of parents of children with special needs is around 80-90%…” we were warned “…these are cold, hard statistics”. I think at the time we catalogued that in our memory and pressed on with the business of raising our children.

Matthew will be turning ten this year in late June and Theresa and I will be celebrating our 20th year of marriage in October. I guess you could say that we have gone against the odds according to what the statistics say. As I have been thinking about this 20 year milestone it made me think about what kind of trust I have in statistics. I began a search of where that 80-90% “statistic” came from…frankly, I found much written about this mythical number but not much evidence to back it up. Many have heard it but I couldn’t find anyone who could quote the source…in fact, many of the studies I found actually showed that the numbers were less than the national average of marriage failures. Theresa and I know first-hand the struggles of raising children, not to mention one of them with special needs. But, marriage takes work, special needs or not. I believe that failure or success is firmly rooted in the foundation of the marriage. The roots just have to be a little extra deep  and a  little wider for those with special needs children.

I started a new book this week and didn’t even make it out of the forward before something struck me and I had to write it in my journal. The book is Seeds of Greatness by Dennis Waitly. Dennis’s grandmother explained what seeds of greatness were one afternoon while they were tending the garden together, a common task they enjoyed together and was the tool she used to pass on many life lessons:

“The Seeds of Greatness are not dependant on a gifted birth, the inherited bank account, the intellect, the skin-deep beauty, the race, the color or the status. The Seeds of Greatness are attitudes and beliefs that begin in children as baby talk, as do’s and don’ts, as casual family chatter, bedtime stories, locker-room gossip – as offhanded, almost unnoticed, delicately transparent ideas, like flimsy cob-webs, at first – then, with years of practice, become like unbreakable steel cables to shackle or strengthen our characters throughout the rest of our adult lives.”

I know the first few years with Matthew started in the flimsy cob-web stage and with years of practice we have become stronger and so has our marriage. I won’t try to convince you that those steel cables are not tested and stretched…we have our times of selfishness, whining, disagreements (fights) and pity-parties, but those steel cables we have formed are firmly anchored to the moorings…the foundation that was laid. Our foundation is the promises we made to each other and to our relationship with our Heavenly Father who blessed those promises.

One thing we have learned and has held our relationship together is that the storms that test those steel cables will come and pass. They will come in everyones life, relationships and families. An analogy about music puts the rainy, storm filled days and the beatiful, sunny days into perspective. In music the beautiful notes are separated by rests. The rests are just as important as the notes and cannot be ignored…without them the beautiful notes cannot be noticed or enjoyed. Learning to play great music is learning to make smooth transitions between the rests and the notes. I think it is the same in our journey with raising Matthew, our other children, our marriage and our walk with God…we cannot forget that the storms are just as important as the beautiful days.

“God left the world unfinished for man to work his skill upon. He left the electricity still in the cloud, the oil still in the earth. How often we look upon God as our last and feeblest resource! We go to him because we have nowhere else to go. And then we learn that the storms of life have driven us, not upon the rocks, but into the desired haven.”  George MacDonald

How are the transitions from notes to rests and rests to notes going for you? Do you need more practice?

  • Doug Bonjernoor

    Really good music has this thing called ‘dissonance’. It is when two notes are used that do not sound good with each other. This is used to set up the sweet notes that come after. Much like the calm after the storm. As always, good job with the writing. Very thought provoking! Doug