Thursday, January 03, 2008

Finding God's Path Through Your Trials

I'd like to introduce you to my brother Jake. Jake is your normal twelve year old boy. Sometimes you want to hug him, sometimes you want to strangle him. He loves video games, Cartoon Network, dragons, and his black lab Dotty. He fights my mom for independence, but loves spending time with family. There's another thing you need to know about Jake when you meet him: he has Tourette's Syndrome.

It stated three or four years ago. He was getting ready for Boy Scout camp when Mom noticed that he looked like he was squinting or winking a lot, but only on the right side of his face. He went to camp and came back to an appointment with a pediatric neurologist. Soon the facial tic turned into his shoulder jumping up to his ear. Since then the tics have increased in their intensity and the doctor has responded by upping his medication to the point where Jake has to have regular EKGs to make sure his heart is working well.

On some days, you'd never know that anything was wrong. The slight facial movement might be mistaken for him pushing his glasses farther up on his nose by wrinkling it. Other days the tics are so out of control that his neck and shoulder ache with the stress of constant movement. Yesterday was one of those days. Mom had to pick him up from school and take him to work with her. While the tics exhaust him and make him sore, the reason he left school was because of the teasing and taunting of the other kids. The teacher and principal are aware of Jake's condition, but the kids are careful to do it out of their earshot, and Jake refuses to name names. So while my little brother is tormented physically by a condition he can't control, his schoolmates torment him mentally, and the damage they are causing is deeper than what the tics can do.

Tourette's Syndrome has been portrayed as violent movements with outbursts of profanity or inappropriate words. That's not the way it usually is. Jake's only vocal tic is the occasional quiet grunt.

Next month Jake is scheduled to see some doctors in Madison about the possibilty of Deep Brain Stimulation to help him with the tics. It's a surgical procedure where a small (about the size of a pea) electrode is placed in his brain. Then a wire runs down behind his ear to a pack implanted in his chest. It works like a pacemaker for the brain. It's been used regularly often for patients with Parkinson's Disease with success. It's just starting to be used in Tourette's patients, but never one as young as Jake. He would be a sort of guinea pig. Reading about the procedure scares the stuffing out of me; I can't imagine how deep Mom's fear must be.

But what gets me the most is that if Jake didn't have the troubles he does at school, I don't know if we'd even be considering the procedure. We love Jake just as he is; he doesn't need to change for us. He wants to be in school. He loves being in choir. Although he's just in sixth grade, he's taking seventh grade math, and pulling almost straight A's. Going to school is, for Jake, a form of torture. He throws up a lot of mornings. He comes home angry and withdrawn.

So I'm asking you to pray for my little brother. Pray for the Lord to heal him of this disease, if it's in His plan, and if not, then for the strength to bear up under it. Pray for my mom and step-dad for the wisdom to handle this best for Jake. And pray for someone in that school to stand up for my little brother and stop the bullying.

Finding God's Path Through Your Trials by Elizabeth George is not an easy book to read. George asks the reader to take the words of James "count your trials as joys" to heart, and that's a tough one. It's far easier to complain about our troubles and look for a way out from them. But George explains through Scripture that God brings each trial into our life for a specific reason. There is something to learn, something to be gained from it. There are many ways we try to get out of these trials, but unless we embrace them, we will have to experience them again and again until the lesson is learned. Suffering from the chronic pain of rheumatoid arthritis, this book came just at the right time in my life, and it spoke to my heart. Looking for the joy in this trial, I've found several lessons I've been taught and blessings that have come from it. George writes in a conversational manner that's easy to read and incredibly thoughtful. I can tell that she prayed over her words before she shared them. Going through a difficult time in your life? This book will help you find the joy in it, even if that seems impossible.

My joy in Jake's trial of Tourette's? I appreciate him so much more now than I did before. He used to be just my (occasionally annoying) little brother. Now I admire the enormous amount of strength he uses just to walk into school each day.


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