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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sermon

This morning, I gave the sermon at my parent's church in Clarksdale, Mississippi.  Here it is:


Good morning.  I want to quickly explain why I am here.  A few months ago, Father Jason and Sarah were having dinner at my parents’ house.  Somewhere in the back of my mind has always been the idea that I could go to seminary.  Jason found out about this, probably from my dad, and said I should give the sermon Sunday.  This being a Friday night, I told him that he was crazy; there was no way I could give a sermon in 36 hours.  I thought that was the end of it until Jason called me a few days later.  He told me that he still wanted me to come speak, and that when the idea of going to seminary was floating around his head, someone had let him preach.  So we set a date, and here I am. 

My son, Cooper is fifteen months old.  He was born a month early, and at first, he looked a little funny.  So we had some genetic tests done on him and he has a chromosomal abnormality.  However, there isn’t much they could tell us beyond that.  He doesn’t have a defined syndrome, so the doctors don’t really know what to expect from Cooper.  By the time he was six months old, we knew things really weren’t right.  Our pediatrician thought we should look into putting him in a developmental day care.  We went and looked at a couple of places, and found The Allen School.  They performed some tests on him, which meant they asked us a bunch of questions and played with him, and determined that his developmental age was between 1 and 2 months.  So he started school and therapy in April.  And everything was great.  He received physical, occupational, and speech therapy 3 times a week, and he was working with the most amazing people.  Then at the end of May, we hit a big stumbling block.  He was diagnosed with infantile spasms.  Infantile spasms is a type of seizure disorder.  Most children that have it go on to have mental retardation, cerebral palsy, and epilepsy.  Essentially, this was the worst diagnosis he could’ve gotten.  It basically guaranteed that Cooper would never be “normal.”

For me, this diagnosis was the last straw.  This was when I finally got really angry.  I just could not figure out why God gave me Cooper.  And why 15-year-old girls still in high school get normal, healthy children.  I ranted and raved at God.  I yelled and called him terrible things.  And then I figured out a few things.  One, God has been called many, many things, but I don’t think “fair” has ever been one of them.  And maybe it’s not fair to my husband and I that we got Cooper, but maybe it’s fair that Cooper got us, and not a 15-year-old mother who had him while she was still in high school.  Cooper needs US.

Another thing I realized was that this was the most honest conversation I had ever had with God.  I have always believed in God, but I have never really needed God.  I took him for granted.  Sure, I prayed for a win before the big game, I prayed that I wouldn’t fall when I was walking down the aisle on my wedding day, I prayed that I wouldn’t be late on the first day at work, etc.  But those were shallow prayers.  They were meant more for me than for him.  But now, we were really talking.  And I felt that I was getting things in return.  Somehow, He pointed out that Cooper needed me.  He made me realize that I could deal with having a child like Cooper.  While I was the most angry with Him I have ever been, I realized just how much I needed Him.

And almost just like that, I got over it.  I told myself to would love Cooper for Cooper.  I would stop comparing him to other children, I would stop stressing when he didn’t meet milestones, and I would just love him for him.  I’m so proud when he does meet a milestone, no matter when that happens.  I have learned to be at peace with him.  In 1 Samuel, it says, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  I try every day to see me as God must see me.  He must see me as strong, loyal, and fierce or he would not have given me Cooper.  When things are bad, when Cooper spends 3 weeks in the hospital, stops eating and has to have a tube put into his stomach, or develops a milk allergy of all things, I take a minute to look in the mirror and try to see me as God does.  Somehow, it makes me able to face the next challenge God throws at me.

The holiday season is now in full swing.  For the first time in my life, I find myself thinking more about Mary than about her Son.  She knew, from the beginning, that her son would be different, that He would be an outcast.  But she agreed to love Him, to support Him, and to treat Him like a normal boy.  And in order for Jesus to become Jesus, that is exactly what He needed.  He needed a mom who loved and supported Him, who taught Him that to be Himself is ok.  If He hadn’t had that, would He have found the human race worth saving?  I find it unfortunate that the Christmas story is all about Jesus.  I wish I knew more about Mary.  I hope that she had someone to talk to.  I am fortunate in that way.  I recently read an article in the New York Times called “Notes from a Dragon Mom.”  Her son has Tay-Sachs disease.  He will develop normally for a while and then he will regress until he dies, usually by the age of three or four.  Her parenting is not “future-driven,” she allows her son to eat and do pretty much whatever he wants.  And why not?  But the thing that stuck out to me was this sentence: “Conversations about which seizure medication is most effective or how to feed children who have trouble swallowing are tantamount to breathing fire at a dinner party or on the playground.”  Cooper has both of these issues, but unlike the dragon mom, and perhaps Mary, my husband is a pediatrician, so I do have people to talk to.  Pretty much everyone we know in Little Rock is a doctor, married to a doctor, or dating a doctor.  To them, discussing Cooper is just what they do everyday.  They don’t think he’s strange; they just think he’s cute.  I also have an amazing Bible study composed of women who are also moms to children with special needs.  The day I met them was amazing.  We speak the same vocabulary and sometimes that is all that matters.  The teachers and therapists at Cooper’s school have also been wonderful.  His physical therapist even calls Cooper her third grandchild.  I am so lucky that we ended up here with these people.  I don’t know what I would do without them.

It’s when I go to real parties that things get uncomfortable.  Here is how conversations go:  “Oh, you have a son?  How old?” “15 months.”  “Oh, he must be in to everything, running around.  How many words is he saying?”  “No, he has a developmental delay.  He acts like a six month old, just rolling over, almost sitting up.”  And then there’s an awkward silence and the subject is changed.  No one wants to talk about a child like Cooper.  As the dragon mom says, “Parents who, particularly in this country, are expected to be superhuman, to raise children who outpace all their peers, don’t want to see what [parents of ill children] see. The long truth about their children, about themselves: that none of it is forever.” “Parenting,” she goes on to say,” is about loving [your] child today. Now. In fact, for any parent, anywhere, that’s all there is.”  Mary realized this.  She must have, or she would not have been chosen.  She raised her child in love, not to make her child, and therefore herself, look good.  She had to parent without thinking of the future.  She had to act on pure love.  And I hope that this is what gave Jesus His humanity.  This holiday season, remember that.  Remember to love your children for the now.  Take time, create memories.  This time of year is when that sentiment should have to most meaning.  I love Cooper for Cooper every day. 

And in good news, he has been seizure free for several months now.  He is continuing to develop at his own pace.  He is getting stronger every day and his personality is getting bigger and bigger as well.  Please keep Cooper, and his family, in your thoughts and prayers.

Let us pray.
O God of all seasons and senses, grant us the sense of your timing to submit gracefully and rejoice quietly in the turn of the seasons.
In this season of short days and long nights,
of grey and white and cold,
teach us the lessons of endings;
children growing, friends leaving, loved ones dying,
grieving over,
grudges over,
blaming over,
excuses over.

O God, grant us a sense of your timing.
In this season of short days and long nights,
of grey and white and cold,
teach us the lessons of beginnings;
that such waitings and endings may be the starting place,
a planting of seeds which bring to birth what is ready to be born—
something right and just and different,
a new song, a deeper relationship, a fuller love—
in the fullness of your time.

O God, grant us the sense of your timing.  Amen.

8 comments:

Lauren said...

This is the most beautiful sermon! I have tears running down my face! It is honest and real! You, Crady, are like Mary, as you said, and God definitely chose the best mom for sweet, adorable, baby Cooper! Love from Texas!!!

Katie said...

Perfect Crady. Just perfect.

annabclark said...

Hi Crady. I have been reading your blog for several months now--after being introduced by my sister-in-law, Julie, who is a friend of your family.

That sermon was beautiful and I just wanted to say that you, your husband, Cooper, and your family are always in our thoughts and prayers.

Cooper is precious. I can tell that you are a terrific mother and the PERFECT fit for Cooper. I know that God gave him to you for that reason.

We enjoy keeping up with Cooper and your family through this blog and we thank you for sharing his life with us. We will continue to pray for him.

Anne Schneider said...

Dear Crady, I have just read your sermon, aloud, to share it with Harry this morning...and we both have tears of joy running down our cheeks.

To know you and Brad and Cooper is a blessing in our lives! Thank you for being our Teacher, for painting a picture of unconditional love for all of us.

From beginnings to endings, it is all we need...it is who & what we are each called to be.

Thanks so much for sharing this sacred sermon!

Love, Anne

Courtney said...

Crady,

I was in tears halfway through your sermon. Thank you for reminding me of what is important in mothering. I am not in your position, but am raising an eight month old as a single mom and in medical training and what you said about Mary really resonated with me. Thank you for posting this. God bless.

Courtney

Courtney said...

Also, I would love to meet Cooper one day! He is precious =)

Signy said...

God bless you Crady.\!

Tamara said...

Absolutely beautiful. Though our family is Jewish, your sermon reaches across religion and into the united faith we all share as mothers. Prayers to sweet Cooper and to your lovely family this Christmas. xoxo