“It is not easier today than it was the day of the diagnosis. It is the hardest thing I have ever committed to doing in my life.” Best-selling author Chad Judice is talking about accepting his son Eli’s prenatal diagnosis of Spina Bifida and all that entails.
One of Judice’s fears of having a child with a disability was realized when he learned of his second child’s diagnosis during a routine ultrasound.
Judice has written a trilogy about his son Eli and his own spiritual growth. His latest book is called Growing With Eli: Our Journey Into Life and Light. His first two are Waiting for Eli: A Father’s Journey from Fear to Faith and Eli’s Reach: On the Value of Human Life and the Power of Prayer.
In Growing With Eli, Judice shares more about his son Eli and the everyday struggles of his child. But he also shares much about his own spiritual growth within the Catholic Church. He describes his Catholic faith as “ground zero” of his daily struggle to continually say “yes” to the life God has for him.
His spiritual journey began years before Eli was born. Judice reveals his fears of being a parent. He cried when he found out his wife, Ashley, was pregnant with their first child. “I was overwhelmed at the thought of it,” writes Judice. “Inwardly, I was in crisis — and on the verge of completely losing all physical attraction to my wife, even though she is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen.” His book details how he went from that to becoming a vigilant protector of his family. He realized that, even as he loves his child unconditionally, God loves us infinitely more.
Growing With Eli covers Judice’s own spiritual growth from a frightened parent to one who leans on God daily. He writes that before Eli’s birth, he had the illusion that he was in control of his life. “But that illusion died a sudden death that day in the darkness of the ultrasound room, on September 30, 2008.” He and Ashley realized just how dependent on God they were.
He struggled with anger about Eli’s condition, although he wasn’t fully conscious of it at first. During a time of reconciliation with a priest, he broke down. He admits that his “failure to acknowledge the frustration and disappointments I was feeling on this journey with Eli had robbed me of mine.” Perhaps the issue all along, he writes, was not so much Eli’s physical paralysis as it was his spiritual and psychological paralysis. He wasn’t in control.
His spiritual journey continued as he learned of his wife’s third pregnancy. His mother-in-law gave him a holy card with a prayer to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. He prayed it daily. He prayed for the baby, that his unborn child would be healthy. As he was holding the card one day, Ashley came to tell him the news: the baby was healthy and it was another boy.
Even as he dealt with the health of his children, he was in constant prayer about his job. He left education to become a full-time speaker and author, but quickly realized he needed a way to support his family. He was offered a job as a teacher in the Religion Department of Catholic High school in nearby New Iberia, Louisiana. He discovered that their patron saint was Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. It was meant to be. At least for a time.
Judice also writes about the people who have been changed over the years by Eli’s story. Many people have approached him to tell him they chose life for their disabled child instead of an abortion. Eli’s story has also brought many closer to God. He shares that he and Ashley have learned to take life day-by-day. They don’t look to the past and they don’t dwell on what the future might hold. “Truly, Eli has taught us how to live in the present moment, to see and appreciate the blessings that are right in front of us.”
This detailed and fascinating book shows Judice’s vulnerability as he shares what it’s like as a father of a child with a disability and how that experience has paved the way for his own spiritual growth and connection to God.
Judice is a public speaker, award-winning author, husband to Ashley and father of three boys.
Just in time for Father’s Day, Judice’s trilogy is available at Amazon.com or from his website at www.chadjudice.com.
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Copyright 2018 Nancy Flory
About the author: Nancy Flory is an Associate Editor and writer at The Stream. She is currently working toward her PhD in Strategic Communication and Journalism at Regent University. She’s a wife and the mother of four boys.