How the Rapids Showed Me Beauty

Life can be like a journey down a winding river. Rivers can be calm and smooth, but usually along the way rapids appear. Life is like that. Sometimes the rapids are exciting and fun, like moving overseas. Other times they are downright frightening, like an unwanted diagnosis.

During those rapids I find myself wanting and sometimes even desperately trying to paddle back upstream away from it all. I long for an easier way, but usually there is no other way. And in the end, I find that God uses those hard situations in my life to transform me.

Fifteen years ago I found myself at one of those bends.

It began in a small Asian hospital room with paint peeling off the walls. My 6-month old daughter battled for every breath. A large green oxygen tank stood tall next to her bed with a long tube attached to the mask that assisted her breathing. We were not alone in that room. Five other children coughed and wheezed around us. Fortunately, the organization we worked for had emergency insurance. A crew of doctors and nurses escorted us to to a more modern hospital, but the rapids didn’t get any calmer. The doctors informed us that something was wrong. It could be life-threatening. We would need to go to the US for more testing.

Alone in that hospital room I looked at my baby with tubes coming in and out of her tiny frail body. As I listened to the beeps of the monitors I heard a still small voice speak to me.

            “Will you still follow me?”

            “Well, yes,” I answered.

            “What if she never walks? Plays soccer? Gets married?”

            A teardrop swelled at the base of my eye.

            “What if I take her home today?”

            Boom! The weight of my fears laid out before me, would I still follow?

            Slowly I answered, “Yes, but please be patient with me.”

            I knew my answer meant I would have to trust God.

Within a few days, my mother-in-law came from Germany to stay with my toddler while my husband finished up the school year. I boarded a plane with our daughter for the US. After a month of testing, her diagnosis came: a genetic disorder called Cri-du-Chat Syndrome. This meant she was physically and intellectually disabled. A few minutes after that, the doctor informed me that surgery was required to insert a feeding tube. She would no longer eat by mouth. I had entered the white water rapids with massive boulders, ready to flip me.

It was at that point that I knew I had absolutely no control. I felt like I was crashing into rocks and branches:

  • Bump! I told my husband the diagnosis and upcoming surgery on the phone.
  • Boom! I inserted the long thin NG-tube through my daughter’s tiny nose to her stomach so she could “eat” while waiting for the surgery date.
  • Bam! Thud! Crash! I sat in another hospital room with more tubes and wires coming out of her tiny body staring at the plastic “button” sticking out just to the left of her belly button.

Those months, when life seemed out of control, felt like one wild ride. But God’s hand gently led and directed me through it all. In the midst of all the bumps and rapids, I experienced God’s goodness.

Before the bend that started in that Asian hospital room I knew all people were made in the image of God, but I’m not sure I believed it. You see, if I’m honest, truly honest – I believe I was caught up in my culture’s lie of beauty. I equated God with beauty. He created some amazingly beautiful creations. God is the original Artist who sculpted the first human, and then breathed life into that creation.

But, does God look at the outside of his most prized creation to find beauty?

I don’t think so. We know the story of David in 1 Samuel 16. The Lord told Samuel that he was looking at the hearts of man to make the decision on who would be king. And if you do a word search on “heart” in the Bible you’ll soon discover that this one place is the place we are told to guard it (Prov. 4:23), to hide his Word in it (Ps. 119:11), and to love the Lord with all of it (Deut. 6:5). God finds beauty in our hearts.

These past 14 years, God has worked on my heart and my vision. God took me through these rapids to teach me a lesson – one on his idea of beauty.

How have you been challenged with being made in the image of God? Or how have you been challenged with people with physical or mental disabilities being created in the image of God?

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Photo by Simon Rae on Unsplash


  1. Lindsey April 4, 2019

    Wow, what a powerful story that God has written on your life and still writing. I know there is so much of our time taken and efforts and money spent on making our outsides look good. Rarely the same attention is given to the cultivation of the heart. God sees true beauty within. I long for my kids to allow God and pursue Him to cultivate the inner man. And also look for the same in a spouse. There is so much beyond what our eyes can clearly see and this requires discernment for us to even see it. Thank you for sharing how the Lord has asked you to release into His hands one of your most precious gifts… and still follow Him. We are all called to do the same. May we have the strength and courage when that time comes to still follow…. like you did. Blessings to you sister.

    1. MaDonna April 4, 2019

      Thanks Lindsey for your kind words. I like that you mentioned your prayer for your kids. It is such a desire for many of us to want our kids to look for the beauty inside when they are looking for a spouse. My oldest is 17 now – so not really looking, but it will come quickly (probably quicker than I’d like. Haha!), so I feel like lights are flashing for me to be praying more about it. I had a friend whose children are now all back in the states tell me that parenting adult children is way harder – she spends more time on her knees now for them then she did when they were all in her house. I’m glad she has warned me of the upcoming rapids, but I’m choosing to trust that God has it all covered.
      I’m not sure where you fall in the ages of your children, but praying tonight that God gives you the wisdom you need in raising them and allowing God to “cultivate their hearts” and yours, too (and MINE, too).

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