Feature

Raising Angels

We finally found friends at an Alliance church

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“Our son, Sean, was a beautiful, healthy baby whose eyes would light up when one of us would enter the room. He smiled and laughed early. I wanted him to enjoy sports, books and life. We had such high hopes for our “little prince,” as we called him—Prince Sean.

But when Sean was a few months old, we noticed he wasn’t sitting up like other children his age. He didn’t walk when his peers did. The doctor didn’t seem worried and said Sean was just a little behind.

By the time Sean was 15 months old, we all began to worry. He was referred to several people at once: a developmental pediatrician, a pediatric neurologist and an early childhood intervention professional. They began testing, and we felt overwhelmed but hopeful. Then we received the diagnosis, the label: cerebral palsy.

I went numb. Our daughter, Michelle, was entering her teenage years. Then on New Year’s Day I had our second son. We were so overwhelmed that Alex didn’t officially get his name for four weeks!

Eventually the reality set in—Sean was a child with a disability. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, he was my gift from God.

When Alex was nine months old, he was diagnosed with a disability called developmental delay. Within the year both Sean and Alex developed a seizure disorder.

Search for Acceptance

When Sean was three he was invited to a birthday party at a local park. He just wanted to be part of the group, but some of the children didn’t want to play with him, and they made a point of excluding him. Sean didn’t know what was going on, but I did and it broke my heart.

After my husband and I went through an ugly, painful divorce in 2002, I experienced a lot of loneliness. At that same time Michelle left for college. We had always been very close, and I felt like I had lost my best friend.

The Lord was not a real part of my life, and I didn’t consider relying on Him. I had always known about God in my head, just not in my heart.

When the boys were infants, I went through the “why me, God?” stage. I was angry at Him not just because of what Sean and Alex had to go through but because of lost hopes and dreams and what the circumstances did to our family.

I was angry because I had asked God to take away my children’s disabilities. I had bargained with Him—if only He would make them “normal,” I would devote my life to Him and share with the world the miracle He had provided. But He didn’t answer; at least that’s what I thought. I realize now He had a plan for me that included raising these two precious angels that He entrusted to me here on earth.

Home at Last

My sons are “typical” children in many ways. Sean enjoys cars, and Alex loves to climb on anything bigger than he is. Both boys like to shop, swim and go out to eat. Because my sons have disabilities, doing these activities can be challenging, but once we overcome the challenges, we have a lot of fun.

I felt it was important to connect with other parents of children with special needs as well as find activities that my boys could participate in. I worked hard to provide as many “normal” experiences as possible for my sons because I feel that it is important for their social development. Yet working and going to school full time made it difficult to find the time and money for many activities. I also knew that I needed to provide for their spiritual development.

Since I hadn’t been raised in a Christian family, I wasn’t sure how to begin a relationship with God. My parents had at least taught me to pray “Now I lay me down to sleep . . .” with my children at night, but I longed for more and I wanted more for Sean and Alex.

I told my coworkers I was interested in attending a church where we would all feel welcome—where people would not be upset if my children did not behave like other kids their age. None of my coworkers invited us to church, and I discovered that most churches were not prepared for us.

I continued to make inquiries and found Friendship Parties at Zanesville Alliance Church. My family began to look forward to these monthly events. I got to talk to other parents and share experiences, frustrations, tears and laughter. Sean and Alex had fun with other typical and nontypical children, and they received God’s message at the same time.

About a year after we began attending Friendship Parties, a friend invited us to a Sunday service at the church. We felt welcomed by everyone we met, and now we go to most services. The boys also attend children’s church with the help of an inclusion partner.

Amazing Gifts

Hearing God’s message at the church affected me, too. I prayed that God would give me direction, and after reflection and a lot of prayer, I accepted Jesus into my heart on December 16, 2003.

I realize now that God wasn’t punishing me when He gave me two sons with disabilities and that God doesn’t put more on us than we can handle. In fact, He must truly love me if He trusts me with these two precious children.

When I look back at the times I’ve stumbled and the unexpected paths my life has taken, I know they were in God’s plan all along. He gave us all a wonderful gift in His Son. He gave me another gift as well—the promise that one day, in heaven, my sons will be whole. They’ll be able to walk, run and talk. But while we’re on earth, I’m thankful that Sean and Alex have a church home where they’re unconditionally loved and accepted.

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