There is a sound that fills me with more dread than anything else I have yet heard in my 27 years…
A sound that represents anxiety, suffering, frustration, long days, and sleepless nights…
A sound that haunts the nightmares of every parent familiar with juvenile reactive airway disease…
The seal cough.
It woke me up at 6 am Thursday morning, a few hours after you and I dragged our pillows to your bed in an effort to keep your persistent sniffles and restless sleep from waking Crosbie. (Yes, you are 3 years old, Crosbie is nearing 5 months, and the four of us still all sleep in the master bedroom together. That’s a letter for another day.)
Before I could even swallow my seal cough dread, I got a text from your daddy, who also heard it while getting up to fix a bottle for Crosbie: I’ll stay home from work and help today.
I actually smiled. There’s an odd sense of comfort and camaraderie to be found between those with whom you face life’s chronic trials, isn’t there?
In a matter of minutes you were also awake, snot gushing from your nostrils, breath coming in ragged gasps, and your feverish little body begging to be cradled. I carried you to the kitchen and administered the routine we know by heart after at least 12 rounds of croup: Ibuprofen to control the fever and ease the inflammation in your lungs; Qvar to support your airways; Zyrtec to manage the raging allergies; multi-vitamins and vitamin c supplements to boost your immune system; and at least 3 days’ worth of Netflix, PBS Kids, apple juice, cool mist humidifier, Thieves oil, ice cream, Berenstain Bears storybooks, and anything else required to keep you calm and keep those airways open.
Pardon my French, but croup royally sucketh.
Is there any greater torture for a mother than to look upon her child’s misery with the knowledge that she is completely unable to bear it herself?
I texted a friend when you and Crosbie were battling RSV with ear and upper respiratory infections last month and allowed myself to vent how I really felt: I’m just really, really, really pissed at illness. My girls have been through enough for a few years!”
Her response: They will know how to fight and pray better than most.
(For the record, you two are not allowed to say “pissed.” At least not until you are mamas waging war for your littles’ health and hearts. And then you may join me.)
How quickly we forget in the shadow of our own suffering that big-time refinement requires big-time testing.
Perhaps the rest of the world would scoff at categorizing recurrent childhood illness as “testing.” But every frustrated mama and every weary little who has walked in our shoes knows just how draining and soul-crushing this ordeal can be.
You suffer from the misery of illness and the months spent on total lockdown, devoid of fun and fellowship with your friends. Your daddy suffers from the burden all men carry, the frustration of being unable to “do” something when someone he loves is hurting. Our budget suffers from the constant prescriptions, doctor’s visits, and weekend urgent care runs. And I suffer from the weariness of never-ending vigilance, always sanitizing, always medicating, always wondering if the current respiratory issue will be the one to land us in the hospital again.
Always wondering why I can’t keep you healthy.
I confess I’ve told the Lord it’s not fair. (I’m sure He just loves when we tell him what’s what, aren’t you?) I confess I’ve complained about the extra burdens that accompany a chronically ill child. And I confess I’ve cried more tears than I can count as I’ve laid hands on you and prayed for your healing while you’ve slept fitfully in my arms.
And you know the conclusion I’ve reached?
God is God, and I am not.
The day after the seal cough visited our home yet again, your daddy showed me a line from Surprised by Suffering, an R.C. Sproul book he’s currently reading:
“In all our prayers, we must let God be God. No one tells the Father what to do, not even the Son. Prayers are always to be requests made in humility and submission to the Father’s will.”
Simply put: God is God. And we are not.
Oh, if we could just get this truth to stick, to run down deep into our very bones. It’s so simple to nod and agree and murmur “Amen” when it’s read from a page, but so very, very difficult to swallow when a life that isn’t all peaches and cream practically throws it in our faces.
I’ve prayed desperately for your healing, and so far, the answer has been “no.” I’ve begged for at least an extended break from illness, an opportunity for you to know the innocent pleasure of skipping and jumping and running free, without the weight of a rescue inhaler in your back pocket and the back of your mind. And so far the answer has been “not yet.” I’ve pleaded for your immune system to mature and toughen up, for you to grow out of asthma and allergies so you can at least enjoy vibrant health and “normal” activities in the future. And so far the answer has been, “My strength is made perfect in her weakness.”
God is God.
At the end of the day, I don’t know why you have to face a life of doctor’s visits, bloodwork, allergy testing, steroids, inhalers, and seclusion. I actually tore up a first draft of this letter where I assured you that you are facing these trials now because God is preparing you for a wild and crazy, world-changing purpose.
Do I believe He’s preparing you for a wild and crazy, world-changing purpose?
Oh, sweet pea, do I ever.
But the fact of the matter is, it’s not our job to console ourselves with the thought that something wild, crazy, and world-changing is our reward for enduring these trials.
Because to Him, wild, crazy, and world-changing is sometimes as simple as a cool cup of water.
It’s our job to trust Him, resting in the knowledge that He is good, submitting to the hard truth that we were created to glorify Him, no matter the personal cost.
I don’t know why you are called to endure the trial of chronic illness. But here’s what I do know:
You are learning early in your life that He is faithful, that there is no need too small to bring to His feet, that there is no care too trivial to place on His shoulders.
You are realizing that you are stronger than you know, and that your strength only increases when you cease striving and allow yourself to rest fully in the safety of His arms.
You are building a powerful testimony, one which says, “He didn’t forsake me then, and He sure as heck won’t forsake me now.”
And you are ROCKING the knowledge that He tests the ones He loves: not to trap us or punish us or point out all the ways we don’t measure up, but to strengthen us and refine us and give us hearts that can say with reckless abandon, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us… But even if not…” (Daniel 3:17-18).
So trust Him, my darling, and sparkle like gold for His glory, even through illness, frustration, and pain.
Because THAT is wild, crazy, and world-changing.
I love you every day,