It’s a blessing to be a new contributor to the Signposts community. I was asked to share a little bit about myself and my family in this post, so here goes. I’m first of all a Christian, saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. That life-changing experience guides all that I think, say, and do; at least I hope it does, because I certainly don’t want to give anyone the impression that I am perfect or even think myself to be. My life is a work in progress.
Further, I am a pastor in Shelby, North Carolina. I’ve been in ministry for just over ten years. I’m married to Camilla, and have been for over seventeen years, and I have six children (Maddy, Lily, Molly, Leah, Michael, and Miriam). We homeschool. Yes, we’re crazy and stupid. I say that tongue in cheek, of course, but when I tell new friends that, the look I get often communicates that sentiment. So, I take it in stride and assure people that I often don’t operate under my own power. I’m sure you’re thinking, “But what qualifies you to be a contributor to this blog?” My sixth child, Miriam, has spina bifida.
Spina bifida (specifically, Miriam has a myelomeningocele) is a peculiar disability. It has affected Miriam in so many ways. Her opening is located in the lumbar region of her spine, between her kidneys. The defect affects her mobility, motility, and continence (we cath four times a day), and the hydrocephalus, which in turn was also caused by the defect, has affected her speech and swallowing. However, when Miriam was still nestled inside of her mommy, we had heard the full range of severity. We were afraid that Miriam would be paralyzed! Of course, the doctors were trying to prepare us for the worst but Miriam has proven to us that spina bifida is not the horror story that was predicted.
Miriam has defied many expectations and we often have placed the bar too low for her. She walks with a walker and is also training with a “star car,” which is like a little wheelchair trainer. She crawls and can pull up, just started cruising, and can climb the two stairs in our house. And as one of her therapists remarked, “Her bowel, bladder, and legs may not function just right, but there is nothing wrong with her jaws.” Miriam loves to eat, and her favorite food is grits, flavored with a little butter and salt. That’s my girl!
We spent sixty-seven days in the NICU with Miriam after she was born. Those were some very difficult days for us, as each day brought with it new challenges and new knowledge. Expectations changed each day. Our other kids were scattered to the four winds. To say our nerves were frayed is an understatement. But God saw us through—we knew He would. Ecclesiastes 7:13 was my constant companion through the ordeal; “Consider the work of God; for who can make straight what He has made crooked?” Though I was strong for my wife (at least I think I was) I was a wreck inside; a seven car-pileup.
Many people have much more trying difficulties than this. But she is my baby and it’s natural to want a healthy and whole baby. During my morning readings, the above verse from Solomon’s writing was part one particularly glum and sad day. I began to consider the work of God.
Perhaps He did make Miriam crooked. Perhaps He was pleased to do so. Perhaps He wanted to give me a baby with a special need. Not for the baby, but for me. Perhaps I’ve been found worthy of a greater honor than any man can ever bestow. Perhaps. I know a lot of the preceding is bordering on mere sentimentality. But there is one thing I cannot deny. Miriam is a precious gift. I look forward to being part of this community of special folks and I hope I can encourage someone along the way.
Thanks so much, Pastor Tony! We’re very happy to have you on the team!