When my middle son, Keaton, was nine years old, he could not read. He was also very uncoordinated. He played on baseball teams for years, but could never catch or hit a ball. He would trip over his own feet when he ran. He was awkward. When he talked to people, he would get too close, like he didn’t understand personal space.
As a mom, you want your child to be successful in school, in sports, in everything he wants to do, and to have a son who struggled so much was heartbreaking. The fear, worry, and even guilt would weigh on me.
Am I not working with him enough?
Have I done something wrong?
Has he been overlooked because he is the middle child?
What will become of him if he can’t read?
The anxiety I felt kept me awake at night. I experienced shortness of breath, a tightness in my chest, and my heart would feel like it was beating a million times a second. A doctor told me that nothing was wrong with my heart, though. I was having panic attacks.
My daily prayer was something like this…
Dear Lord, could you please just help Keaton to be able to read enough to get by? Please help him to make passing grades. I’m not asking for him to make the honor roll, just let him be able to one day graduate.
One day while I prayed this underwhelming prayer, I felt the Lord tell me to ask for more. I felt a strong conviction that I needed to believe for a greater miracle for Keaton.
Um, okay, then I pray that Keaton would make above average grades.
Pray for more.
Really, Lord? I mean, have you seen his report card? Straight F’s. The teacher says he is reading at a kindergarten level at best. You want me to believe for more?
I usually walk when I pray. That particular morning, I was walking around and around my bedroom as I prayed. I stopped walking and took a deep breath.
Okay Lord, please heal Keaton all the way. Whatever is wrong with him – learning disability, behavioral problem, medical problem – whatever it is, please heal him. Lord, I pray that you would work a miracle for my son. I pray that not only would Keaton be able to read, but I pray that he would be at the top of his class. I pray that he would not just make the honor roll, but that he would make straight A’s. I pray that he would be the valedictorian of his class. I pray that he would excel in sports and anything and everything he does. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.
I prayed like that for about a year. Then, upon the advice of a teacher, we took Keaton to an eye specialist. The specialist diagnosed Keaton with multiple developmental eye problems. He had trouble with depth perception, his eyes didn’t work together, and he couldn’t follow, or track, with his eyes. The eye doctor told us that Keaton needed a year of eye therapy that would be very expensive. He also suggested we enroll him in a sport that involved both sides of the body working together to encourage his eyes to work together. He suggested either swimming or martial arts.
We paid three thousand dollars for the eye therapy, for a year drove forty minutes one way twice a week to therapy sessions, did daily exercises at home, and he joined a swim team. Watching my short chubby nine-year-old flop into the pool was hilarious. All of the other swimmers were skinny kids who wore Speedos. Keaton was quite chubby and didn’t feel comfortable in the tiny, revealing swimsuits everyone else wore, so he wore long, baggy Bermuda swim trunks and a swim shirt. It took him years to learn how to dive, so for a long time he did a belly buster at the start of every race. He absolutely loved swimming, though.
We made the difficult decision to make him repeat fourth grade. His fifth-grade year, something happened that had never happened before – he scored on grade level on his reading tests! By the end of sixth grade, he was reading on an eighth-grade level! His grades also got better and better every year. When he was in the seventh grade, a teacher thought he might be gifted. The school tested him, identified him as having an incredibly high IQ, and placed him in the gifted and talented program. No one was more surprised than Keaton.
He stayed in swim. During the school years, fourth grade through seventh grade he swam on the YMCA indoor swim team. In the summers, fourth grade through ninth grade, he swam with the community outdoor swim team. As all boys’ bodies do, his body dramatically changed. By the time he was in ninth grade he was six feet tall and weighed about one hundred and forty-five pounds with wide shoulders and long arms and legs like an Olympic swimmer.
Now Keaton is in the twelfth grade, takes Advanced Placement classes, makes mostly A’s (Last semester he did get a B in math but all the others were A’s!), sings in show choir, runs track, and is on the swim team. At his last swim meet, he placed first in the 200-meter freestyle! His dream is to one day be a pastor.
I think I now know part of the reason Keaton had to endure that difficult time of his life. You see, now Keaton is the most compassionate person you will ever meet. When he walks into a room, if there is someone in that room who is alone, or different, or marginalized in any way, that is the person Keaton will make a beeline toward and make sure he is their new best friend. He remembers when he was the weird, uncoordinated, little kid who couldn’t read. I pray he never loses that compassion.
Also, this may be a minor thing, but he never would’ve joined a swim team had it not been for his eye problems. Because of the experience, my family has a greater faith, and we have been able to share Keaton’s testimony with many anxiety-ridden parents to increase their faith as well.
Keaton certainly isn’t perfect. He’s a normal eighteen-year-old kid, but he has a tender heart for the Lord and a calling on his life to be a full-time minister, and I am so proud of him.
I’ve heard it said that “Hindsight is twenty-twenty.” It’s easy to look in the rearview mirror and see how something good was a result of something bad. It’s harder to see it when you’re in the middle of the bad. If you’re in the middle and anxiety is your companion, I encourage you to BELIEVE what you cannot see yet. BELIEVE that God WILL make something good come out of your circumstances.
❅¸.•*´¨`*•.¸❊ About Martha Fouts ❅¸.•*´¨`*•.¸❊
Martha Fouts writes devotionals, sweet romance, and Christian fiction. When Martha isn’t writing, she’s attending one of her three sons’ sporting events, buying groceries, teaching 12th grade English, or saying, “Amen,” along to her husband’s weekly Sunday morning sermon. Look for her seventh novel, Christmas with Cameron Stinking Miller set to release in fall of 2021!
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