In November of 1995, I became a mother. My firstborn baby girl, Katelyn Elisabeth, entered the world at a whopping 9 pounds, 10 ounces, and we were thrilled. But soon after we brought her home from the hospital, she became very sick. Watching her little body vomit repeatedly was frightening, and we rushed her back to the hospital. This was not what we had planned or hoped for! And though so much was happening around us out of our control, and for a time we really had no idea how this would turn out, I can testify clearly that I felt like God was nearer to me in that time than He had ever been before. He showed Himself present in so many ways. One night as we left the hospital, just as we got in the car, the Christian radio station announced her name and asked for prayer from what seemed like the whole city of Houston. A world renowned pediatric surgeon performed the surgery to correct her twisted intestine on her 8th day of life, and a week later, she was all fixed up and good to come home. We were so thankful, knowing our child was well, when so many of the kiddos we had seen at the children’s hospital that week would not recover well. (Later she would learn to call the big scar on her tummy her “Rapha”- God heals me.)
This beginning to parenting was not at all what we had planned, but I know with great confidence that it was exactly what He had planned. He showed me through those very hard weeks that He is the one in charge of my child. He is her Creator, her Protector, her Teacher, and the One who grows her physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Since then God has blessed us with three more children- a daughter, a son, and another daughter. And I see my role as parent to them as a great calling- as well as a great challenge. I see my role as a steward of four great gifts from God the Father, “on loan” to me for this life that I may prepare them to live life eternally with Him.
My heart for special needs children began back in high school, when I served as a classroom aide for the special education class. Years later, our church began an outreach for special needs children and their families, and I loved getting to volunteer there. We moved to a new church in 2012 with an established special needs ministry, and I knew that would be my place to serve. There was a clear need to start an outreach to the mothers of the children in the ministry, and we began a new parent support group. I have learned so much from these amazing women, with children in all kinds of unique situations, as well as from my own experience with my children’s differing physical, emotional and social challenges.
Recently on a mission trip to Romania, I had the opportunity to love and encourage women as their special needs children received medical care. I was able to share with them several things that I hope can encourage moms anywhere.
First, I have been there. I understand. I know it’s hard. And it’s hard everyday. (It was amazing how those few words of truth spoken compassionately would start many to tears).
Second, you are a strong woman.
And third, you are a good mom.
My prayer is that God would use each of our challenging experiences as He did for me when my daughter was born. May He draw nearer than ever before, and may He make His great presence known. We will find purpose in our pain, strength through the struggle, and joy on the journey when we see Him here with us.
He is here- and that is our hope.
Lori Kuykendall currently serves as a small group leader for mothers of children with special needs at her church and helps when she can in the “Sonshine Room.” She is the Director of Internal Development for ServingHIM, an international dental and medical missions ministry, which among other outreach strategies, provides dental care to children of special needs in Romania, Moldova and Guatemala. Her four children are of middle school, high school and college age, and she is thankful for her husband to share in growing them to be all God created them to be.