Finding Peace Within

God's In Charge

Have you ever felt exhausted or stressed from trying to make sure everything is just right? I know I have been guilty of this. There have been many times where I would try to control a situation and fix it all by myself. Sometimes, I could get by and make it work, but I often felt anxious throughout the process and drained afterwards. However, since Graham’s illness, I find myself releasing that control. It’s definitely not easy, but I try my best to just trust God and let Him do His job.

When Graham was hospitalized I asked the doctors countless questions. I meticulously watched the nurses as they cared for Graham so I could learn what I needed to do. I spent hours researching Graham’s symptoms, ways to care for a child with special needs, exercises to help with Graham’s physical therapy, etc. I was tired and I wasn’t finding an answer “to fix” Graham. It wasn’t something I could do on my own. At that moment, as I released my control, I finally found peace within. When I let go of the desire to be in charge, I let God in. And with that I was finally okay not knowing what would happen next. I was okay not understanding why this was happening. Instead I knew that I needed to let God do His job and take care of everything else. And I did my job – obeying Him & being Graham’s mom. With this realization, I finally was able to just sit with Graham and snuggle. I finally smiled as I would sing Snuggle Puppy to him and every day we took silly selfies using every filter on Snapchat.

But more importantly, I finally found contentment as I held Graham and prayed. Now don’t get me wrong, I still asked questions and did everything that a mom could do for her son, but instead of relying on myself, and only myself to help Graham, I realized God was in charge, and I was just his Earthly helper.

Psalm 37:5 states, “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act.” It is so simple! If you commit to the Lord, and really trust Him, He will take charge – not you! When my controlling nature tries to interfere, I try my best to release that urge and instead pray. If I commit to Him, He will show me the way. Knowing He’s in charge instead of me, is such a relief! I find comfort knowing I am not alone, and that my problems are in His hands.

Since Graham’s passing, so many people ask us how are we doing. I know every day is different, but truthfully we are okay. And I think we are okay because my husband and I live this verse. We have turned our lives over to Him, trusting Him, and we believe He will act for us. To me, this simple verse, and living it by releasing control has been our secret to finding peace within. It is difficult to let go, but I think you’ll find it gets easier and you’ll be happier when you let Him in.

Finding Possibilities Among Momentary Troubles

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When life doesn’t look like how you pictured it, or when things aren’t going your way, it’s easy to complain, or even turn against God for not helping you. It is so much easier to focus on what’s going wrong in your life, and blame others for our troubles. But what if we didn’t? What if we looked for His greatness in the midst of suffering? 

When Brandon & I pictured a family together, this is not what we envisioned. During my pregnancy, we dreamed about Graham playing little league, building sandcastles on family beach trips, and road trips galore! We beamed thinking about the milestones he would reach, planning his future and his success. But those visions for Graham do not exist anymore & our family picture will never be the same.

Since Graham’s passing, many people ask if we want more children. The answer is always a quick yes. We know another child will never replace Graham or fill this hole in our hearts, but when you watch a piece of yourself grow into this beautiful child who laughs, smiles, and is just picture perfect, you want more. It’s like a drug. And we want our parent “fix” again. When the doctors presented Graham’s diagnosis and explained how his disease was inherited from us, we immediately asked how will this impact future children. We learned that if we choose to have a child naturally, that child faces a 25% chance of having Alpers’ disease. 25% does not seem too high, but after watching the symptoms of this disease manifest in Graham, we know it’s not worth the risk, especially since there is no cure for Alpers’ disease. We were given a few other options, from adoption to IVF-PGD, and we explored the possibilities in depth, analyzing what will be best for our family. Whatever we decide, it will be very different from our first daydream of raising a family together. Again, it’s easy to dwell on how unfair this, or how unnatural this may be, or how expensive it is. But at the end of the day, I think it is wonderful that we have options. I think it is amazing how far science and technology have advanced, giving us an opportunity to have future children who are genetically our own but healthy. Whatever ends up happening, we will be grateful for this new possibility.

Life isn’t always full of butterflies and rainbows. Complaints, frustrations, and heartaches are always present. But these obstacles do not define me, or you. And I will not let them cloud the beautiful life God is creating for me, nor should you. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (II Corinthians 4:17). As we encounter troubles, remember they are fleeting. They are trivial compared to God’s plan for you. They are minor compared to God’s promises for you. As your perspective shifts, you will notice that “picture” you originally envisioned isn’t nearly as beautiful as the one that He is creating for you.

Our Journey

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Four months ago, on January 24, 2017 our son Graham entered his forever home. Graham was diagnosed with an incurable rare disease – Alpers-Huttenlocher syndrome and the prognosis is poor. The disease caused Graham to have uncontrollable seizures, brain atrophy, and liver impairment which caused his liver to fail. Alpers’ disease is caused by an underlying mitochondrial metabolic defect of POLG. Prior to his diagnosis, we were naive to mitochondrial disease, epilepsy, and other rare diseases. Now, these terms are a part of our permanent vocabulary and our lives are forever changed.

After four months, our hearts are still broken, but we are healing. I will always be Graham’s mom and he will always be a part of our family. This is why our life will never be like it once was, but we will find a new normal for us. We know that whatever this new normal looks like, Graham will always be a part of it, just in a different way than we originally planned. When thinking about God’s plans for us, I know God chose us to be Graham’s parents. He gave us the most perfect son, who was also very, very sick. God chose us to care for Graham and to love on him. And when Graham became sick, and it became clear that God’s plans differed from our vision, we had a choice. Do we blame God and turn against Him? Do we doubt God’s plan for us and ask, “Why?” Or do we praise Him and trust Him? Do we pray and ask for Him to show us a meaningful purpose to His plan?

Every day we face this choice. And every day is different. There are days when we feel God’s presence with us and know everything will be okay. But then there are days filled with tears and questions. On those days, it is a difficult to remind ourselves that God is good when the unthinkable happened to us. It is a struggle to see His goodness because we are flawed. Our human flesh is weak and it can prevent us from accepting God’s plans. On those days, I remind myself of God’s grace. “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (James 1:17) God gave us the most perfect gift – Graham. And even though our time on earth with him was short, we will be reunited one day. And God will continue to shower us with gifts of His love. His love for us is everlasting and it will strengthen us when we need it.

When Graham was hospitalized I started a Caring Bridge page to communicate with family and friends about Graham’s condition. When Graham passed away, I stopped writing. Since my last post on Caring Bridge, many people have asked me to continue writing posts. I never envisioned I would create a blog, or share my story so publicly, but it’s been on my heart these last few weeks. I do not know what God’s plan is with this “blog” but once again, who am I to question Him? I will continue to trust Him to lead us on our journey. I must warn you, I am not a writer, and I am definitely not a expert on anything, but this is my attempt to keep Graham’s memory alive and to provide hope for others who need it most.

I envision this blog as an outlet to share our grief, but also our hope for a brighter future. I see it as an opportunity to raise awareness about rare diseases, but also as a way to keep Graham’s spirit with us every day. As his mother and his #1 fan, I want Graham’s memory to grow & impact as many people as possible, hence our title #growgrahamgrow.