Broken and Mad

My perfect baby boy was broken. And I was mad.


He was our first baby. When he was 3 years old, he was reading and writing. He had already completed the entire game of PacMan World 2 on Play Station and had moved on to PacMan World 3. We would watch him in amazement. He was always inventing things and building things. An engineer. A 3 year old engineer! We bragged on him and had him do his “tricks” for our friends. Let’s just call it like it was…he was a genius. An amazing child genius that was going to put Doogie Howser to shame. Shame, I say!

Then it happened. It started small. Just little weird things he would do. Like…nod his head. All the time. Sometimes he would nod REALLY hard. I would tell him to stop. He would…for a few minutes. Then he would do it again. Then he would blink his eyes. Not normal blinking…more like eye squeezing. A lot of heavy eye squeezing.

So, we took him to the doctor. Something was obviously bothering him and they confirmed it. Allergies. From the age of 3 to 6 we tried every allergy medicine we could get our hands on. Sometimes the “symptoms” would go away. Sometimes not. We couldn’t make sense of it. And lets be real for a second…I had a 3 year old, a two year old, and…a newborn. I was in survival mode. It wasn’t pretty. Sometimes those allergies had to be put on the back burner…

At the age of six things got bad. In addition to head-nodding and eye-blinking, he started this very audible throat clearing. It turned out that it was necessary for him to clear his throat at the end of every single sentence. Sometimes twice. Especially when doing his reading homework. ALWAYS while doing our mandatory “read at home” with mom. Mom’s nerves were shot. Let’s face it. I didn’t handle myself well. I was beginning to panic. I would let him know that he needed to get this under control or he was going to form habits that he would never be able to break…people would make fun of him!! Oh mercy. I was terrible. I would punish him. I yelled at him. He would cry.

Then the doctor said “Tourette Syndrome.”

He said a lot of other things too. He said things about medications. He talked about psychotics that could be permanently altering to his brain and personality. He said, “no cure.” He said something about a small percentage of people growing out of it…most don’t. He said it is likely that it would get worse. He said…other stuff. I don’t even know.

We took him to a specialist. Tried the non-scary medications. Watched his personality change. And watched him get worse.

Then I snapped. My perfect…smart…beautiful baby boy was broken and I was mad! Mad at the doctors who couldn’t help. Mad at myself for being a bad mama. For yelling at him. Mad at God for letting this happen to him and for not helping me. After all,  I had just found my way back to Jesus after quite the hiatus. I had my family in a church and this is how He repays me!? I was mad.

And I was on a mission. A mission to fix him.

No more medications. I committed myself to studying alternative medications and eliminating toxins in our foods and environments. I banned all cleaning materials, soaps with sulfates…anything with artificial anything. I obsessed over studying minerals and vitamins and how they work together and in the body…I tried them all. At times, I would feel I was making headway. His symptoms would lesson. Even disappear for a time. I would remember the exact combination of minerals and vitamins and repeat it and then, BAM. The symptoms would be back. But I  wouldn’t back down. He was becoming more audible with his tics. He was hurting himself. Teachers were concerned. But, I wouldn’t back down. He was having trouble playing the piano because of a new obsession with tracing the straight lines of the keys.

I was going to fix my broken 8 year old baby who now had to repeat the first two words and last two words of every. single. sentence that he spoke.

And I broke. 

A Tuesday night. On my bed. I was frantically searching online for a support group. I needed someone…anyone…that could possibly understand just a little of what I was going through. Maybe they could help?! But…nothing. I was absolutely hopeless. And alone. After my searches came up empty, I just cried…and I prayed for help. Ha. I hope you understand how absolutely ugly this really was. It was more like yelling and pleading with God…with lots of ugly, snotty crying and flailing and pure helpless…brokenness.

Then the phone rang. It was God. Yeah… sort of. Not really. It was an old friend. A teacher that had a student in her class that reminded her a lot of my baby. This student had these tics and had just been diagnosed with Tourettes. She was just wondering if I would be interested in meeting with this kid’s mom. The mom is having a really difficult time and could really use some support. She thought maybe it would be good for us both. Chills.

And that is where the story changed. It turned out that we were visiting a church that the kids had been begging to go to the next night. This “mom” just happened to be the very first person that introduced herself to me in the church lobby. Coincidence? Or God?

That Tuesday night on my bed…wallowing in my own failures and hopelessness…I thought I was searching for a support group. What I found was so much sweeter. Did I find a friend that understood and was going through the same thing? Yes. Did my son find a friend that he was able to talk to about this terrible thing that was happening to both of them? Yes. Did my family find a new church that we would end up falling in love with? Yes.

But the sweetest thing that I found was PEACE. In my efforts to be the “fix-it” mom, I had forgotten a few things.  I had forgotten that God was and always will be the ONE in control. I had forgotten that my God doesn’t mess up. That all things good or bad pass through His loving hands and He will use every single bit of it for GOOD. I forgot that I could trust Him. I forgot that my baby was really HIS anyway. I forgot that He loves my baby more than I do. I forgot that God is ALWAYS good. No matter what.

So I remembered. And I gave it all back to God. And PEACE settled in. A peace that really does surpass all understanding.

The Tourettes? He still has it. I guess? His symptoms started completely disappearing soon after that terrible Tuesday night. I don’t think about Tourettes any more. I forget he has it. He has plans to attend Georgia Tech and study engineering in a couple of years. He is smart. He is beautiful. He is perfect. He is HIS.

Seek peace.


Julie Bowmar

The Dark Room


The Dark Room
by Randall Popham
There’s a growing interest among young adults who were born after the invention of the digital camera. They are quickly finding an interest in developing their own film in a dark room. In the rush to have instant photography and to see the image we just shot with our camera, we’ve left behind a tedious but beautiful process of watching an anticipated image appear before our eyes in a dark room.

There’s something wonderful about snapping a photo and then working with your hands to develop your own picture. I know. I spent some time in a dark room in college at North Greenville University where I studied Fine Arts and Religion. I remember the hours spent shooting the perfect picture and not knowing if you actually captured the image you wanted. After taking the picture, you had to take special care of the film so that you didn’t expose it to light. After that, you removed the film in a dark room that was lit only by a small red bulb. The film was then transferred onto photo paper and then carefully submerged into the right mix of photography chemicals. After placing the image in the pan, you swirled the chemicals over the paper until the magical moment happened. Then, after a few moments and all the hard work, the long awaited image would appear and the next Ansell Adams was born. Processing film in a dark room is a lot of hard work for just one picture. It takes lots of time and resources to simply see one image.

Failure is much like the process of developing film in a dark room. Just as an image on film must go through the tedious and costly process of a dark room for its image to be exposed, God allows us to go through the darkness of failure to bring out his image in us. God knows what he wants to make of you and he’s working your failures to develop his image in you. You see, God has a purpose for your failure. Failure is one of the means by which God reveals his image in you. You might only become the person God wants you to become because of the failure you are facing today. The thing God wants you to learn might only be learned through today’s disappointment.

Failure is often so unpleasant we want to quickly move on, but doing so hinders the process of what God desires to do in us. When we fail we want to hurry through our “darkroom.” But, just like developing film, you can’t rush the process or you won’t get the right image. If you remove the image from the chemical bath too soon, your photo will not fully develop and you’ll be left with an image that lacks depth and beauty.

You’re in the dark room for a reason. God wants to develop something in you. It’s something beautiful and eternal. The Bible says,
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
 2 Cor 4:17 (NIV) Notice the many powerful things this verse says about your troubles.
First it says – 

Your troubles are momentary.

Your failure won’t last forever. When you are in the dark room it can seem you’ll never see the light of day again. But, just as the photograph is only in the dark room for a short period you too are only this dark period for a short season. There is an end and there will be a day when you look back and think, “That went by faster than I imagined.” Remember God is working to develop something in you and when it is complete the season will be over.
It also says – 

Your failures are accomplishing something for you. When we experience failure we think we are taking a step back but God has a different view. God sees a setback as a setup for comeback. The verse says that God is accomplishing something for YOU.

Hear that again – God has something for YOU. It’s something that can only be learned through failure. It’s something you will never have unless you fail. Instead of viewing your troubles as a setback, start to view them as God wanting to accomplish something for you.
Sometimes failure is the very thing God desires for you. Read that again. Let that soak in. 


That’s hard for us to imagine in our world of Name-It-Claim-It theology. It’s as if God is the kind, rich, white-bearded Grandpa in the sky waiting to give us the gifts we desire. That type of thinking says – if you pray the right way, have enough faith and do the right things, then God will give you what you want. It has left many people broken and feeling hopeless when their efforts were not meet with success.

There’s a common lie that God wants to give you success. At the root of that lie is the belief, “If God is for me, I will be successful.” The problem is in the way we define success. God’s definition of success and our definition of success don’t always match up.

Success in God’s book isn’t you achieving your goals, dreams and agendas. Success in God’s book is the development of his character and glory in you. He desires to see you become more like him in your thoughts, words and actions. Failure is a great developer of character. You can be sure God will use the darkness of your failure to develop his character and glory in you.

The verse also reminds us – 
The growth God is doing through your failure far outweighs your current discomfort. 
The darkness is never pleasant but it has a purpose. God is developing something greater in you. In most of our lives we can look back and see that our greatest growth usually came as a result of failure. It’s through failure that God usually teaches us the most about ourselves and about him. We make a mistake when we believe God is only at work in our lives when we have success. He is also just as much at work when we experience failure. Barbara Duguid emphasizes this in her book 
Extravagant Grace: God’s Glory Displayed in our Weakness. She says, “It is a radical and almost frightening thought to see that God is actually as much at work in our worst moments of sin and defeat as he is in our best moments of shining obedience.”
The work God is doing in you through your failure will be greater than the pain, fear and doubt you are experiencing.

Should we then attempt to fail on purpose? No. The “darkroom” process of learning through failure takes patience and is never easy. It would be best if we just learned the lesson God wants us to learn without all the pain, but sometimes the only way we’ll get it is if God takes us through the darkness. That means we should strain toward becoming more like him in our thoughts and actions everyday and if we fail we can be sure God will still use it for our good.

Your failure has purpose and God is developing something in you. In our success and performance driven culture it’s hard to understand that failure may be the thing God desires for you. He is working and he’s taking his time to get the perfect image. If you want to see the end result of your growth, then don’t waste your pain. Slow down. Sit a while in the dark room and start to develop. Start by asking God some questions. Start with these…

  • God why am I going through this failure?
  • God how are you using this failure for my good?
  • God what do you want to say to me about my failure?
  • God what actions and beliefs are you wanting to change in me so I can         become more like you?

Pastor Randall