For all of her life, Cate wanted to have a daughter. Three years after her first child, Elijah, was born, her wish came true. In 2015, two weeks late, Nora came into the world. Cate was ecstatic. Expectations of bouncy pigtails and matching frilly outfits filled her daydreams. And surely, this sweet girl would have a squeaky voice and would fill their home with endless conversation: boys, politics, Jesus. Cate was dying to meet her and knew her life would be complete once she arrived. But, her dreams took an unexpected turn. Cate remembers,
“When Nora turned two, we noticed she didn’t talk nearly as much as our son had at her age. Not only that, the few words she once had seemed to vanish into thin air. I expressed my concern to my husband, to which he lovingly reassured me that she was still young and we simply needed to give her more time. We agreed to wait until she turned two-and-a-half to have her speech assessed.
Months went by and her speech remained mostly gibberish and she struggled to even mimic our words. In October 2017, I swallowed hard and made a call to a speech pathologist in town. After a brief conversation, she gently explained the suspected cause for Nora’s speech “delays;” a disorder called Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS). Because I had heard of this disorder from another friend’s experience, I hung up the phone and burst into tears. All the dreams I’d had of raising a chatty little girl crumbled under the weight of this news and this label. I was crushed.
The evaluation was exhausting. With the disorder ever more obvious, the guilt crept in, followed by a monsoon of fears. When she faced the dangerous world, would she be able speak up for herself? When she formed meaningful relationships, would she be able to express her love for her husband or children? Would we ever have those conversations I had long dreamed of? Worry moved to guilt, which eventually became to fear. From the fear, my grief turned into action and I thought I could battle the uncertainty with my own self-sufficiency. I began going hard after every bit of “homework” the therapist sent home. We read more books than normal. I spoke slowly and clearly and never let an error slide. I thought, ‘proactivity could heal my broken heart and Nora.’
Not long after I made the call in October, a women’s bible-study on the Fruit of the Spirit began at Doxology. While I know the Bible is living and breathing and true in all seasons, this study was ever so necessary for the valley I was walking through. As a decades-old Christian, I could list the Fruit of the Spirit by heart and could recite them forward and backward. But, for some reason, I had never dwelt on the fact that God effortlessly inhabits each one of them and through His Spirit invites us to experience the fruit with Him. He is ever patient, ever kind, ever loving, ever peaceful. My heart is impatient and chaotic. My love and joy and faithfulness are contingent on circumstances.
In this trying time of learning to lean only on God’s faithfulness, He has used my sinful tendency to rely on my own self-sufficiency to point to his perfection. While wading through the waters, His words have echoed in my heart with absolute clarity. Romans 8:26 rang true: ‘In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.’
I embraced the truth that the Holy Spirit intercedes for me in the same way he was, is, and will for my little girl. Yes, she needs physical words to speak, but, without effort, the Holy Spirit petitions on her behalf. He knows her comings and goings. He knows every hair on her head and exactly what her journey holds. He is faithful, when I am not. He is gentle when I am harsh. He is patient, when I am rushed. And He is at peace when I’m in the hurricane. I don’t need to be all those things for Him to be. He works with or without me. His providence is contingent on nothing. It is not my self-sufficiency, because He is sufficient.”
Cate doesn’t know how long it will take for Nora to learn to communicate without struggle or challenge. In her self-sufficiency, she has learned to trust the One who has proven Himself time and again. “He was, and is, and is to come and He is fighting for us every step of the way.”