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The gift of Erin

John and Carol welcomed their fourth child, a beautiful baby girl, Erin, in 2001. Life was hectic with four young children all under the age of six. When Erin was around five months old, a friend of John and Carol who was a nurse, expressed concern with Erin’s development. John dismissed it explaining their older daughter was also slower in meeting the developmental milestones. When Erin was nine months old, she was referred to Iowa City. Again, John thought it would be a formality and it would confirm she was fine. After undergoing an MRI and many different tests, they discovered overwise.

“When the doctor gave us the news and showed us the graphs, I didn’t believe it,” said John. I was in such denial. They had to be very straight with me by saying, ‘Erin is not normal and never will be.’ We were then told there was nothing else that could be done and we wouldn’t know more until she was five to seven years old.”

“It was a punch in the gut,” said John. “I will never forget the drive home after hearing that news. Carol and I were not okay with just waiting. We needed answers. They told us Mayo would tell us the same but we went anyway.”

They spent a couple of years going to the Mayo Clinic where they ran test after test. Erin screamed and only the distraction of a TV soothed her during the many appointments. By the time Erin was three years old, it was obvious they were no closer to finding answers to help Erin. Many of the biopsies and tests were invasive and when they eventually got results back, they would be inconclusive. John and Carol felt they could no longer put their daughter through all of it.

Their experience helped moved them from wanting to “fix” Erin to focusing on loving her and providing her a supportive, nurturing family.

At this point, Erin was having screaming fits where she was inconsolable. It made life very difficult. A friend suggested they see a chiropractor in Illinois. They were open to trying it if the treatments and therapies were non-invasive. As soon as the chiropractor saw Erin and noticed how much she perspired, he knew she needed more salt in her diet. It was causing her extreme headaches and that was why she was screaming. As soon as they added sea salt to their family dinner table, Erin became a different person and the screaming stopped. It never returned. John and Carol saw the blessings from God and how He orchestrated it all in helping Erin.

When John and Carol were at the Mayo Clinic, they were told Erin would never walk or talk. Carol wouldn’t accept that. She prayed for a miracle and begged God to please let her walk. It was Holy Week and during her many therapy sessions, they shared how Erin was making some strides with walking. Carol had only seen her take three steps. When Erin was four years old on Holy Thursday, Carol saw her walk! It was her Easter miracle!

“She just kept walking and walking and walking! She took 181 steps. It was a miracle and we were so thankful!”

“It’s amazing to see how God uses the gift of Erin to make a difference in the lives of others. Erin is a joy to our family! Her three older siblings help care for her and they have grown to have a servant’s heart,” said John.

John and Carol shared how they have had many respite care providers through the years who have helped in their home. Many of them are students who are studying to be occupational therapists, nurse practitioners or other health care professionals. They have fallen in love with Erin and her unconditional love she freely gives. Because of their relationship with Erin, two of them switched areas of study to go into special education. One of the respite care providers shared that Erin saved her life.

“God is writing straight with crooked lines,” said John.

Carol shared how it really tested her faith. She struggled and went through the stage of asking God, "Why us? What did we do to deserve this?"

“I felt like it was a punishment,” said Carol.

“Going through all of this forced us to trust in God,” said John. “There was so much that was out of our control. We had no choice but to trust in Him.”

“Now, I can see all the blessings. I would not have picked this path,” said Carol. “However, to see how God has used it as an opportunity to grow in faith, love and trust, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Reflection Questions:

  1. How have you witnessed God writing straight with crooked lines?

  2. How is God calling you to grow in faith, love and trust?

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So very true, Kathy! Thanks for sharing!


Not knowing what tomorrow brings is an invitation to grow in faith and meet the demands of love by trusting in the Lord. “The Gift of Erin” illustrates this well. Thank you to John, Carol and Erin.

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