Vigorously, a wonderful speech therapist at Duke worked with Avery on her sucking reflex. Did you know that sucking is one of the first steps toward speech in terms of the pathways the brain develops? Yes! Go ahead and give that pacifier to your baby! When Avery left the hospital, she took one suck on the pacifier. She fed through a tube, though. My new assignment from the Lord was to help Avery learn to eat. Through a lot of prayer from others, repetition, using special bottles with cold, thickened formula, Avery learned to bottle-feed. She eventually had the tube removed. Doctors told us she would never be free of that tube, but God allowed otherwise. Again, we witnessed direct answers to prayer. God permitted Avery to enjoy something simple to most babies…drinking milk.
Once Avery arrived home from the hospital, therapists came to the house. One shook keys in front of her and told us that Avery could not see or hear. Duh! We already knew that! Thankfully, she told us frankly that she did not know what to do. Another therapist held her, squeezed some toys near Avery, and watched her sleep. She told us that she worked more with geriatrics and really did not know what to do with Avery either. Again, we prayed and prayed. There had to be more we could do for our daughter!
Put simply, we knew that if God wanted to heal Avery, He could. We also knew that sometimes God heals over time and gives us work to do in that process. He often uses doctors and medicines to bring about His plans. Finally, we knew that sometimes His ways are so much greater than our ways that He chooses not to heal on this side of eternity. So, desiring healing for Avery, yet praying for God’s sovereign will, we decided to contact a therapy team from England who came to America twice per year to work with traumatically brain injured children. Although we did not know it at the time, this was the best decision for Avery and for our family that we could have made. God truly guided us.
After learning how to work with Avery as one would a stroke patient, repeating things until the brain forms new pathways, we returned home from a trip to Lancaster, Pennsylvania where we met with therapists. In Pennsylvania, the therapists evaluated Avery and wrote a special program for her. We met other families who were doing similar programs with their children. We learned that we would need three teams per day to work on a 20-30 minute program with Avery. We needed God to prompt 40-50 people per week to come and help us. Wow! Should we even ask people to do that?
Well, we did. Shocked that so many people volunteered to help, we thanked God and those friends from church. In spite of being urged to maintain this therapy seven days per week by the medical team, we decided to run the program five days per week, to have one day for family, and Sundays for worship and rest. In order to stimulate her vision, we painted Avery’s room fire engine red, hung large Christmas lights around the room, and a large disco ball in the center of the room. Volunteers learned the program, entered our home with much love, always made a big fuss over Lindy and Avery, and with excitement worked Avery’s program. During that time, we grew close to those many families and individuals who gave so sacrificially to the Lord and to our family. And…would you believe that God changed Avery right in front of us all…from a baby who did not respond to an air horn blown in a room, and one who cringed and cried when touched, to a smiling little girl who loved to be cuddled and kissed, who loved the sounds of the voices of her new large family?
She gained her vision and learned to eat. One evening, the group working with her placed her on the hall floor and cheered, “Go, Avery, go!!!” Astoundingly, she crawled!
Our amazing God taught us so many things during that time. I will share five of our top lessons.
- Just because a situation looks one way, do not give up, especially in prayer. God is the One who determines the outcome.
“For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise…” Hebrews 10:36
- God cares about every little detail in your life. He is in charge of it all. He is an amazing Creator. The brain is a fascinating, complex organ. God designed it perfectly.
“Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.” 1 Peter 4:19
- God loves to use His people to carry out His plans. He is glorified when Christians unite and treat each other as Christ desires.
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:11
- Jesus is compassionate. He never gives you more than you can bear. He supplies what you need…when you need it.
“The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy.” Psalm 145:8
- Once you are His, Jesus never leaves you. (I might try to leave Him, but He pursues me and brings me back.)
“…For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b
For the next few years, we continued a similar routine in my home town, after we moved there to lower our cost of living and to be near my family. Burwell worked as a school teacher, a part-time youth minister and he supplied the pulpit in my home town area. Our family lived very modestly, but we felt rich in the things that mattered the most.