I’ll never forget the day my heart jumped in my chest when the optometrist said, “This is serious.” I’ll never forget staring at my beautiful 5 year old daughter as he explained what could be wrong with her eyes. It shocked me that he was more shook up than I was. After all, I’ve been through the news that my child is deaf. I’ve been there and held her and rocked her as she underwent multiple procedures and surgery and appointment after endless appointment of audiology programming and countless hours of therapy. Those important and powerful yet often mundane experiences really toughen up a parent, you know?
But this time, something was different. Before there was a clear path. Before we were confident in choosing cochlear implants for our child so she could hear and develop normal speech and language skills. She would be able to hear our lullabies, birds chirping, soft whispers, and she’d be able to tell us, “Mommy, I’m scared.” Or “Daddy, I love you.” We took all the steps. We followed the rules. We put the time in. We practiced. We encouraged. We cried, and we cheered. The audiology/speech therapy/child education world boasts of Gianna as a success story of a cochlear implant child.
But this time — the words, “there is no known treatment” slammed into my chest like a 1,000 tons. No answers. No direction. Just a bunch of, “We don’t know. I’m sorry.” Before it was that my child couldn’t hear me, but she can hear with cochlear implants! But now? Now she may lose her vision. What about God’s beauty? Sunsets, oceans, mountain ranges. What about the love showing on my face? What about the ability to read (she loves to read)? Driving a car?
With these relentless and pounding thoughts, there’s that temptation to sink. To go down lower than I thought I could go. Desperation and helplessness. Grasping and tight breathing. I often wonder if parents struggle much more than their child. Because as parents, we often want our child’s world to be perfect, free of suffering, error, and trials. We want to protect them. And when we can’t have control over that, we mourn. We grieve. We lament. We might even spiral into that helplessness and see no way out.
Well, praise the Lord that I have something that pulls me right up out of that sinking experience. It really can feel like I’m surrounded by water, tons of weight. It can feel like I’m holding my breath. But God’s grace is infinitely more powerful than those thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Many times all I need to do is imagine Jesus on the boat with me. The storm rages on. The waves crash. At times I feel like I am in danger, out of control. But the second I lock my eyes on Jesus and draw close to Him, I don’t see anything else. The storm doesn’t stop. But it doesn’t matter. I only see Him. He places my hand on His Sacred Heart, and I feel peace. Joy. Contentment.
What?? Peace and joy in the midst of a trial. To be honest, it feels more like a trial of the unknown rather than a trial of the possible setbacks caused by vision loss or blindness. But that peace brings me back and grounds me in God’s truths. And there are so many. He promises so many things.
We can do all things through Him Who strengthens us. We are not alone; He is with us in our pain and suffering. After all, He endured the greatest pain and suffering. He promises that the blindness of sin and evil is much more grave and horrible than the blindness of the physical eyes.
He makes all things new. This earthly life presents challenges, disabilities, tragedies, heartbreak, etc, but it’s temporary. So temporary. It’s not the end because we are not made to dwell on earth forever. We are made to live eternally.
He promises the sanctification of our souls for the greater glory of His Kingdom. He does not promise that we will know the exact reason for trials and suffering, but one day we will understand.
He promises that if we unite our hearts with His Heart at every moment we are struggling, we will experience an unexplainable and unsurpassable peace.
And so this brings me up out of the depths of hopelessness. Proof of this is that I cried the entire time I was writing this *until* I started sharing how God’s grace is powerful and how I can be grounded in God’s true promises. These promises from God and constant surrender are what give me strength to be excited about what God has in store for Gianna, my beautiful, strong, intelligent, talented, persistent, independent little girl. He will do great things with her. This might include a miracle. And it might not. I will trust in His Divine Wisdom. But no matter what, nothing will stand in Gianna’s way as she stands on her Rock of Salvation.
Let’s all remember these promises together and when we sink, we can pray, “Heavenly Father, I know you’re there. I surrender this trial to you and I seek your unsurpassable peace. Jesus, I trust in you.”
-Hayley Joy Kaffar
Hayley’s eldest daughter Gianna was born in 2010. Soon after her birth, Gianna failed several hearing screens and eventually it became clear to her parent’s that cochlear implants were the best option for Gianna’s future. The surgery and subsequent therapies were successful, making her parents hopeful that over time Gianna would have the opportunity to attain normal speech and language skills. However, in April 2016 the Kaffars learned that Gianna also has a retinal dystrophy (a disorder of visual function) and may also have Usher Syndrome (which includes hearing loss, vision impairment, and balance issues). At this point in time, it is unknown the extent or rate in which Gianna may lose vision. Consequently the hope is to ensure that Gianna continues to receive the most updated cochlear implants possible, optimizing her hearing as her sight continues to decline. To learn more about Gianna’s journey and to support the Kaffar family, please visit their Facebook page Gianna’s Jewels.