“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18
Sandra Jillian Solomon was born on January 26, 1992. Our family was complete, with 3 boys and now our precious daughter.
But within 3 months of her birth, Jill started having seizures. At first, they were limited to her arms shaking, but when she was six months old, she had her first grand mal seizure. It scared us to death. We had no idea what to do at this point. Finally, we ended up taking her to the ER, where they were finally able, after 20 minutes to get the seizure to stop. Brenda and I began to panic. What had begun as a minor issue had turned into a catastrophe. Jill was now starting to have grand mal seizures on a regular basis. Not just every week, but every day and multiple times a day. Sometimes she would stop breathing and turn blue. I would occasionally have to give her CPR on the floor while waiting on the rescue squad to arrive. It wasn’t unusual for Jill to have 4-6 grand mal seizures a day by the time she was 18 months old. It also had become the norm for us to call 911 and have Jill taken to the ER. Often she would be admitted to the NICU for several days, where Brenda and I would take turns sleeping in her room. The first 3 years of Jill’s life looked and felt like a locust plague had struck our family.
But Brenda and I both knew and held on to God’s promise in Joel 2:23: "I will restore to you the years the locust have eaten." And God kept His promise.
God used Jill’s life to produce staggering changes in my life and ministry. Several years after Jill was born, people at church began to notice that my preaching started to change. My messages were always biblically-sound and passionate, but suddenly, they began to take on a new dimension. The sermons started to become more tender, more feeling and more compassionate. They began to take on a credibility and authenticity, that had not been there before.
I became more humble, authentic and more approachable. This change was almost imperceptible at first, but as the months wore on, it became obvious to everyone that something was happening inside of me. It was as though God had crushed me, and, much like a rose, this crushing produced a sweet aroma in me that was becoming evident in my preaching. I personally did not notice the change. Honestly, I was so overwhelmed with Jill’s illness and the utter chaos in our lives, that I was simply trying to survive. Each week, as I worked on my sermon, I was sort-of in a “purple haze”, the result of a lack of sleep and utter exhaustion, both physically and emotionally. Often during those days, when I came into church to preach, Jill would be in the hospital or at home in terrible shape. Week after week, I would stand backstage and ask God how in the world I was going to walk on stage and preach, when my heart was breaking.
Years later, I would often tell people about that weekly conversation I had with God. I would tell them how the Lord would clearly say to me each week, "Lon, you do your job and I'll do My job. Taking care of Jill and your family is My job. Preaching MY WORD today is your job. You do your job and I'll do mine!" And in that mindset, I would walk onstage, asking the Lord to fill me with His power and give it all I had.
I went on to become a totally different preacher and leader than I was before Jill’s birth. I often said, without equivocation, that God used Jill to make me a better pastor, a better leader, a better husband, a better father and simply a better man, than I could have ever been without her in my life. God not only used Jill to change my life, but He has used her life to inspire a whole new movement in the realm of ministry for children with disabilities and their families. It started with our church, then over the years, has spread to a number of churches and other organizations around the country.
This year Jill turned 28. And I can tell you that God did indeed keep His promise to us. Even through all the pain and suffering, God used the life of a little girl, who can not even speak or dress herself, for His glory. The impact of Jill’s life for the Kingdom stands as a trophy to God’s power and grace.
Only God could take something so little and imperfect-and turn it into something so beautiful.
Lon and his daughter Jill.