Without a Word
Photo by Kandra Benton. Used with permission.
Nothing defines my life more clearly than being the mother of a child with profound medical and developmental needs. My oldest of three daughters has radically shaken my faith countless times. Questions have arisen that will never be answered on this side of heaven. I must daily choose Jesus over answers, submitting my desires and dreams for my child to His ultimate authority.
Watching anyone suffer is painful, but when it is your child it reaches a new threshold–anguish that is indescribable. Because I would never want to limit God’s divine plan for her life, or for my own, I’ve had to choose to trust Him. He has carved away at who I once was through my child, who without realizing it, beautifully reflects Jesus.
Our daughter has a rare seizure disorder, along with many other diagnoses. She has withstood countless hospitalizations and has been plagued by many setbacks. In April of 2018, she had major spinal surgery, bringing substantial complications that caught us off guard. She had a stroke, leaving her unable to eat and her body in a state of shock. This confined us to the hospital throughout the entire summer. I trudged through anger and bitterness like mud, minute by minute. Our already non-verbal child lost her ability to recognize people, things, or places that provided comfort and stability.
Praying was the last thing on my mind. I was so caught up in trauma, never knowing when the next terrible event was going to happen, that God seemed distant. All I could manage, over and over, was, “Jesus, please.” Those two desperate words were all He needed to hear.
God was not surprised, nor was He shaken. He had surrounded me with a group of friends who helped shoulder this burden; women who were like sisters in both their honesty and ability to comfort. I could text them at two a.m. with pictures of claw marks on my daughter’s thighs, the result of a horrific reaction to pain medication. I knew one of them would respond immediately with words of encouragement, a scripture, or even something to make me laugh. These women often knew to send something a tad bit inappropriate to distract me from the chaos of the moment.
As the months went by, we saw small improvements in her physical and mental abilities. She had only been out of the hospital for a couple of months when she pulled up to stand at the piano in our family room. Overjoyed to see her standing on her own for the first time in many months, I grabbed my camera. Our entire family clapped and cheered for her, as she lit up with a smile! I looked down at my camera and was struck by the position of her body. She had one hand on the piano and the other was palm-up, lifted above the keys. Her face was raised towards heaven as though she was worshipping. At that moment, the Holy Spirit stirred and spoke within me, “Kandra, your daughter is always in a posture of praise.”
Always? I had never considered the possibility that someone, much less this child who had endured so much suffering, could always be in a posture of praise.
That night my daughter taught me more than anyone ever has or, I believe, ever will. With her body crippled from cerebral palsy, her spine fused in steel, and her brain enduring surgeries and daily seizures, she is always in a posture of praise. In almost thirteen years of life, she has continually taught me trust, faith, and sacrifice to Christ in profound ways—and she has never spoken.
I immediately shared this moment with my “sisters.” I knew they would be as deeply impacted as I was. I don’t walk this road alone. My girl taught me that, even in hard and dark places, I need to choose a posture of praise. She taught us all that.