God Is Faithful
I understand the basics of hearing. I took classes on Hearing Science as part of my undergraduate education. My simplest explanation of how we hear goes like this - sound hits the eardrum setting off a wave of vibration that is carried through three little bones inside the middle ear space. The inner ear, which looks like a snail’s shell, then receives the vibration from the middle ear. This inner ear or cochlea has thousands of little hair-like structures that react to the wave of sound and then sends messages through the 8th auditory nerve to the brain for interpretation of what the sound means. All this is processed through the temporal lobe of the cerebrum and interpreted as language or non-language sounds.
Hearing is quite an amazing process. Even as I type this, I am in awe of God’s creative nature.
For three decades, from a professional stand point, I have understood the concept of basic hearing, but it wasn’t until two years ago that I personally grasped how very important hearing is to our everyday lives.
In March 2016, Olive, my oldest granddaughter, was born with cytomegalovirus (CMV). This virus is virtually harmless to everyone but neonates. Olive’s mother, Sarah, remembers being sick with a cold sometime around week 18 as she and my son, JP, were moving from Texas to Alabama. That was it. Nothing more. So, we were shocked by the doctor’s diagnosis of our sweet girl who was only a few hours old and perfect looking to us. The early detection of CMV, although hard to process in the moment, was a testimony to God’s faithfulness. Olive’s story is miraculous, and I do love sharing it. Sit down, get comfy and keep reading, friend as I detour from marriage this week and brag on God’s love and faithfulness.
JP and Sarah were living in Texas when they had their first child, Joe. Joe was born with the assistance of a midwife. No pain meds, IVs or doctor present. JP and Sarah had taken classes about child birth, had studied and learned all they could and confidently welcomed their precious little boy into their world in this intimate manner. JP and Sarah felt it was a perfect way to start their family. Jody and I missed Joe’s grand entrance into the world – we arrived in Texas a few hours after the birth to find Mom and baby Joe doing well.
A few years later, when Sarah was pregnant with their second child, JP changed jobs and moved his family back to Alabama. Because of Alabama laws, Sarah did not have a desire, or really an option, for that kind of birth experience. So, she and JP learned how to bring their second baby into the world in the confines of a hospital and all of its rules. I had the pleasure of watching this birth. JP and Sarah navigated childbirth like a well-oiled machine. Sarah handles childbirth beautifully and must have an exceptional tolerance for pain because even between contractions, she makes pleasant conversation. This is simply amazing to this old screamer. 😊 Olive came into the world about 60 seconds before the doctor entered the room. Gotta love a nurse with quick hands!
Anyway, as I look into the rearview mirror, it is now obvious that all these things were orchestrated by God. JP and Sarah needed to be closer to family, so the new job happened. Olive would need a medical presence when she was born. She needed the hospital and its staff, so that God could give the support that the entire family needed. Thank you, Alabama, this one time, for not being progressive. 😊
On a warmer-than-normal Sunday night in March, and after a few hours of labor, Olive was born. The small community hospital just two miles from my house doesn’t typically handle high-risk births. So, we had no reason to expect that anything would be amiss – Sarah’s pregnancy had been completely normal. Most evenings, our little hospital has no neonatologist. Complicated births are always sent to the larger birthing center in the next city. But due to a large volume of babies being born that weekend, our hospital was host to a couple of higher-risk deliveries. Two babies in their nursery had required a neonatologist – a baby specialist, if you will. This doctor looked in on our precious girl. The world would say this was a coincidence, but the truth is this – God’s faithfulness shows up again! This specialist looked at our perfect little girl and also noticed what Sarah and I had already seen: 8 to 10 little purple freckles on Olive’s perfect little nose. But unlike us, the doctor understood their significance. Those little purple dots lasted only a few hours, and then quickly faded away. But before they did, the doctor quickly diagnosed Olive with CMV. Though he had never met a child with CMV, he cautioned us that there was a great chance that Olive was both deaf and blind. By the time Olive was seen by a pediatrician, the purple dots were gone. And, I am sure that none of us would have remembered them by the time we took her to her first well-baby visit. But God had the plan! He was already working all things out for our good. More important, for Olive’s good (Romans 8:28)!
We were initially crushed and then went into denial. I remember questioning the doctor’s reasoning as a young nurse was drawing blood out of our screaming little girl’s heel. I wanted the nurse to stop that nonsense! Olive is fine! Just look at her precious little face! Those of you who know me are not surprised. I can be challenging, especially to nurses! 😊 The blood draw was for a CMV test, and because I didn’t think Olive had CMV, I saw no use for it. Despite me, the nurse won the battle and finished sticking Olive … at least three times … to get the needed amount of blood. The nurse was also the one who shared with us that the doctor that diagnosed Olive was one of the best! And, she went on to say, we were “lucky” that he had been at the hospital. And, she said, we were “lucky” that he had noticed the purple freckles and had thought to ask Sarah and JP about the size differences between their two children’s birth weight. The nurse used the word, “lucky.” But I immediately knew that “blessed” was the correct word. Sidebar: typically, second babies get bigger, or remain about the same size. The nurse also explained that our Olive was almost two pounds smaller than her older brother, who was born at the same gestational age. This is another sign of the disease. CMV is often not diagnosed until much later. And, resulting hearing problems remain unnoticed until after the child’s third birthday. As a speech-language pathologist, I understood how much language development would be missed by a late diagnosis. Again, I was reminded of God’s faithfulness!
God is faithful, and as tough as those early days were, we are all now very thankful for each and every one of them! In those early days, Olive got the help she needed. God neither stumbled nor faltered. There was no mistake. God knew Olive since the beginning of time, and He set the plans in place to equip her to be able to love Him and to follow Him well (Psalms 139:13-17). We were just catching up to His plan as fast as we could mentally and emotionally switch gears.
Later that day, Olive failed her first of many hearing tests. This further supported the doctor’s initial diagnosis. So, from day two, we understood what Olive would be up against, and why God had put an extra dose of fight in her tiny little body. Initially, the CMV diagnosis was a bitter pill to swallow, but today we are all thankful for God’s faithfulness. Given how bright Olive is, we would not have suspected that anything was wrong with her hearing for a long, long time. And without an early diagnosis, she would not have received the necessary medicine or early intervention services that she needed! It was hard to hear during a typical time of celebration, flowers, well wishes and hospital visitors. I would be lying if I didn’t say that the news shook us a bit and caused tough conversations and angst about the appropriate course of treatment for our little girl. But, we all knew that God was faithful! And, we often encouraged each other as we walked through two years of yucky medicine, evaluations, therapy appointments, doubts, fears and doctor visits! I am unsure about how the world handles illnesses like this. They must be overwhelmed. The comfort of knowing that God has a plan gets you through, even when, at the moment, you aren’t a fan of the plan. Having a family of believers to weather the storm with you is priceless!
Hard parts of life challenge our faith, particularly when things do not turn out exactly how we imagine or dream. They cause us to realize the meaning of the words in Isaiah (Isaiah 64:8) about the potter, our heavenly Father, and us, the clay. How dare I, the lump of clay that He graciously fashioned, criticize His skill and purpose or question His design or plan for my life! At the end of the day, I want whatever life God has planned for me. And, I want the same thing for my children and grandchildren. This was the challenge during those tough early days – wrestling with what we truly believe or what we only give lip service to.
Do you really want the life God planned for you … no matter what? The answer must be a resounding, “Yes!”
I am pleased that God chose our family to love and support Olive! I trust that He knows exactly what I and that sweet baby girl need. I am happy to have a front-row seat to watch God’s faithfulness.
Olive has perfect eye sight, but she was completely deaf in her right ear. And over a period of 15 months, she rapidly lost hearing in her left ear. God faithfully allowed our girl to be diagnosed early, aided, hear typical speech, even if only for a few months. He also orchestrated the science of hearing to be replicated through Cochlear Implant (CI) technology a few decades before.
Cochlear Implant surgery is where a specially-trained Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeon drills out a place behind the effected ear and inserts a device with a long wire weaved into her cochlea to imitate God’s hearing design. Amazingly, it is an outpatient surgery, with only mild discomfort to the patient. This surgery is nothing short of a miracle! Our beautiful little girl will always be deaf, but when wearing her CI processor, she will hear us and learn how to speak.
Olive received her last of two cochlear implant surgeries this past Monday. She is recovering well! She had her first CI implanted in February and has already benefitted so much from hearing out of one ear. She has about 50 words and is learning more every day! Thank you, Jesus! Her best word is, “chocolate.” Clearly, she is my granddaughter!
Through this experience with Olive, my entire family has grown in our faith and in our understanding of God’s love. Sarah and JP’s marriage has grown stronger and their faith has bloomed. Our whole family has pulled together and has started to learn sign language, as there will be times when Olive will not be able to wear her CI processing units (bath time, beach, etc.). Once again, with God there are no surprises! God started preparing Sarah and I years in advance. We both know sign language and already had a love for it years before meeting our Olive.
Olive picked up signing very easily too! Her favorite sign is, “Papa,” and that thrills my husband’s heart.
Funny side bar: since Olive’s big brother, Joe, has grown up with a deaf baby sister, he is now in the habit of yelling at all babies. I guess he thinks no baby can hear him! 😊 In a few more months, he will learn about quiet words when he becomes a big brother again this July. But for the moment, his loud voice is appreciated by Olive and our family - just maybe not the neighbors.
Thank you for allowing me to share a very personal story about my family and God’s faithfulness. God is not a respecter of persons; His faithfulness can be felt by all. You just have to know how to look for His hand at work in your life. Sometimes, you have to look in the rearview mirror.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?