Kim grew up in a very religious household. Her faith was relatively straightforward until she was thrown a major curveball—her daughter was born with a rare bone disorder.
In this episode, Kim shares the anger towards and betrayal from God that she felt whilst she pled for a miracle for her daughter. Everything shifted for her when her daughter was involved in a critical accident, and she chose to place her daughter in His hands, regardless of the outcome.
This episode is divided into two parts. This is part 1.
Kimberly Arnold 0:00
You start to wonder, what is God's role in this? Is he allowing this to happen or is he doing this? I think it's something you start to question.
Madeline Cheney 0:11
Hello. You're listening to The Rare Life. I'm your host, Madeline Cheney. I am seriously so excited to give you Kim's special topic episode. It is all about the evolution of her faith in God that occurred because of her daughter and the things that they've gone through together. If you haven't caught her story episode yet, I encourage you to hit pause on this episode, go back and listen to that one, and then come back to this one. It will make this episode a lot more meaningful if you get to know Kim and her story a bit first. So when I was first conceptualizing this podcast and envisioning each of you, my dear listeners, I made a very intentional decision to keep it a non-religious podcast. I am aware of other podcasts similar to mine that explore and talk about God and faith in context of our parenting journeys, and I think that is needed in this space but I also see the value and need for a podcast that is inclusive to all religious and non-religious backgrounds. I have no shame in disclosing that I am a deeply religious person and I'm very involved in my church. Up to this point I've kind of danced around that aspect of my journey but this episode is a chance for us to go all in and examine religious beliefs and faith as a very real part of some of our journeys, as is the case with Kim and I. I love to keep it relatable but as with all episodes, this one is only representative of a couple of women's takes on the universe and God and it is not intended to represent each of your own opinions and belief system, which would be an impossible task anyway. My hope for this episode is that it will provoke you to really examine and sit with your own personal beliefs about the universe and to recall what part that has played in your parenting journey and ponder what part your parenting journey has played in your own personal beliefs about the universe. This episode is a first of its kind because it is split into two parts. This was a judgment call on my part because, while I'm typically a ruthless editor and cutting out fluff that really packs a punch, it was clear that all of our conversation needed to be included this time around. In part one, which you are listening to today, Kim shares how her belief in and about God shifted when Julianne was born, the anger and betrayal she felt, and the role that an incredibly scary accident with her daughter played as a turning point in her previous understanding or beliefs about God. In part two, releasing next week, she goes into depth about her altered view of God and a faith that is stronger than ever before. I personally love Kim's expression of this because so much of it lined up and resonated with my own personal experiences. She is so articulate of things that are often really hard to put into words. I hope this episode is as meaningful to you as it was for me. And again, I cannot say it loud enough, if the things we say do not align with your own personal beliefs, or even contradicts them, I see you. The purpose of this podcast is never to suggest that there is one right way to process our experiences. This is simply one woman's deeply personal experiences and evolution of faith, and it is so beautiful. So, without further ado, let's dive in. Hi Kim, welcome back to the show.
Kimberly Arnold 4:43
Kimberly Arnold 4:45
I'm really excited to talk about your special topic, all about your faith in God and how that has evolved because of Julianne and everything that has happened in regards to her diagnosis. I think everyone's religious beliefs, beliefs about the universe, etc., I think they all are probably affected by things like this, for better or for worse. For example, maybe realizing you don't believe in some things anymore or realizing you need this more than ever. So, I acknowledge that this is one outcome that can happen and I'm really excited to dive in and really explore what this was like for you and how your faith was affected. I would love to start out with how you would describe your faith, your faith in God, specifically, before Julianne was born.
Kimberly Arnold 5:47
So I grew up with a pastor for a dad. I grew up in the church and I never knew anything different, to the point where my husband still laughs at me. We grew up with all of our Christmas presents being from Jesus and Santa Claus was just his helper. He was just the delivery man. I definitely grew up with that faith being strongly instilled in us from an early age. But I will say, I went to college, and that was when I left my small hometown of Casper, Wyoming, and came to a big place like Texas, went to a big college, and my faith was just kind of in the backseat for a long time. I didn't go to church as often, I tried but it definitely took a backseat in my life. Going into marrying my husband and my relationship with my husband, we came from two different backgrounds. He grew up Catholic and I grew up Baptist, so we knew that we had the same faith at its core. I definitely cooled off, is what i'm trying to say, I had cooled off on my faith. I still prayed, I still went to church, I still had this strong faith that God is who he says he is, but I don't think I really understood the depth of what actually having faith means. And what God's role in my life really was, he was just kind of this thing that I was growing up with, this thing that I knew well, but that was it.
Kimberly Arnold 7:51
Yeah, totally. I totally know what you're saying. That really resonates with me. I think when we don't feel like we need God, it's harder to really have that relationship. I think it's just part of human nature that if we do have that belief system, and then when something hard happens we're like, "Oh yeah, I need you right now. I need help right now." I think that can be really strengthening of that relationship or it can be like, "Why did you do this to me?" It can really can go both ways. So I would love to know, was there an evolution that happened immediately when you found about Julianne? Was it kind of like an eventual thing for you? How did that work for you?
Kimberly Arnold 8:45
I would say it was definitely an evolution that took time. Like I said, I had grown up in the church and I thought I had this really strong faith because I knew who God was. I went to church and did all these things. I didn't ever see a problem with my relationship with God but when Julianne was born, I'm not gonna lie, I was furious. I was so angry with God, to the point where I wanted to scream, I wanted to yell at the sky. I was just so furious. I felt all those emotions, like you said, I felt like, "Why?" And it wasn't even "Why me?" It was, "Why her?" It was more, "Why Julianne?" The part that really upset me was, like I said, I thought I had a great relationship with Christ in my life and I thought everything was fine. When I was in labor, when Julianne was born, those hours that I was waiting for my contractions to reach the level that we need them to be. I remember I was laying, and I will never forget this moment, I was laying in the hospital bed and I was holding my belly and I was counting the minutes between my contractions. I remember praying and telling God, "This child is yours. Do with her what you will. I promise I will raise her to love you, to know you." I made this dedication prayer of, you know, "Thank you for giving me this child, thank you for making me a mom, thank you for all these things. I'm so grateful." I was dedicating Julianne to him in prayer. And then, for me to find out that she had broken her arm and we're headed down this path of diagnosis, I felt like God had betrayed me. Like he had stabbed me in the back. I just spent all this time telling you that I'm going to make the most of this child and that I will raise her in your word and all this other stuff, making this dedication prayer, and then for something like this to happen. I just, I was furious. Those were all the emotions that I was feeling in those early days and one thing that really resonated with me, and still does to this day, was my brother, actually. I remember calling him from the hospital one night and I was just so broken and confused and angry with God. I believed at that point that God didn't exist, like, this is a joke. And my brother sent me a passage from the Bible where Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane, and he is crying. He's praying to God, please let this cup pass from me, if you're familiar with that passage. And obviously, it doesn't. That's not the will of God in that moment and he goes on to be crucified and dies for all of our sakes. I remember my brother told me to read that and he said, "I know you're angry right now and I know you're confused, and you wish that this cup would pass from you as well. But just know that Jesus was in that same position. He was scared, he was confused, and he knew that there was a hard road ahead of him and there was pain to come. And yet he still trusted and he went on." In that moment, it didn't help. I mean, I'm not gonna lie, in that moment, it didn't help. I was upset and I didn't see how that was going to help me. Because, it's like you said, it's easier said than done. But for a while, I was just angry.
Madeline Cheney 13:09
Yeah, totally. I think that makes so much sense that it was so magnified by the dedication prayer that you made, like you said, it was like he stabbed you in the back or betrayed you, a right after you had done that. It was obvious that you were going to raise her in a way that would respect him and honor him, and then maybe to feel like, "Well, you're not respecting me or honoring me. Why would you do this to us?" I think that probably made it so poignant for you and so painful, especially in that moment where I'm sure that's when you really needed him. That relationship, in some ways, shattered or really altered because it didn't feel like he was there when you needed him most. That probably added to the pain so much more.
Kimberly Arnold 13:56
My initial reaction when they first started talking to us about her potential diagnosis and she was in the NICU, obviously, my initial reaction was to pray. I prayed and prayed and prayed every second that I was awake, I was praying that she'd be okay. That a miracle would happen and she would be fine. Her arm would heal and, even if she did have OI, osteogenesis imperfecta, that we wouldn't have a fracture for a really long time. She would recover and we'd be out of here and everything would just be fine. But, one moment that I remember in the hospital was I read on Google that one of the symptoms of OI was a blue sclera, which has to do with their collagen because they produce collagen differently than we do. It's that the whites of your eyes are blue. I remember sitting in the PICU at that moment, and I was looking at her and she had woken up and she looked to the side. I saw the whites of her eyes, and they were really blue. I had been, obviously, praying and praying and praying that this was going to be fine. Please show me that this is going to be fine. But as soon as I saw that, I just remember breaking down because it almost felt like a sign. It almost felt like a punch in the gut, like, "No, this is your reality, this is what's happening, and you need to get on board." So yeah, it was tough in those early times. I think that probably goes for a lot of people, especially if you grow up with a faith, and then something changes, like this in your life, where you start to wonder, what is God's role in this? Is he allowing this to happen or is he doing this? I think it's something you start to question.
Madeline Cheney 15:58
Yeah, I think that's a really big question that can have a lot of sway on what you do with that information. Did he do this to Kimball? Or Julianne? Or is he allowing it to happen?
Kimberly Arnold 16:15
And if so, why?
Madeline Cheney 16:17
Yeah. And like, "Well you obviously could just fix this, right?" Especially if you read the Bible and stuff like that, you're very aware of these miracles that happen in those books. I was raised in a very Christian household too, and we're constantly talking about the miracles like, "Oh, he healed this person. I prayed for this and that happened, and it was so awesome. I knew he loved me." I think that's one thing that really got me, was the "He healed" or "Fixed the issue." Especially healing because it's very directly related to the medical issues and stuff. "I just knew he loved me because he healed me/healed my child." In fact, I even had an experience with my best friend. While I was pregnant with Kimball, she really went through it with me and he was born with all this medical stuff. Then she was pregnant and found out that she had this big birth defect and that was crazy. I was like, "Wow, we'll be here for each other." Then she went on to have the best case scenario, it was still hard for them but she was like, "Yeah, I was able to breastfeed but they said she would have to be tube-fed, and it was because we prayed and we got this miracle, and it was just so wonderful." And I was sitting there like, ouch. It hurts so bad to hear that because it was like, "Do I not have enough faith? Is that why Kimball is still having all these medical issues and struggling and suffering way more than her daughter? So is it my fault? Is it because he loves her more than me?" Is it this comparison of miracles, or like, "I prayed and it worked out?" I think it's really easy to be like, "So if God loves us, it works out. If God loves us, it's not hard." Which, I don't know if this is the conclusion you came to but I have, and it's not true. But it's hard when you're watching other people or you've heard of other people being healed and you're like, "I know it would be easy for you. I have faith in that. Why won't you fix it?"
Kimberly Arnold 18:12
Absolutely. And, like I said, for a while, up to that point, when I left my small town, I feel like my faith did cool off for a long time. I made my share of mistakes and when I found out that she had this diagnosis, my immediate thought was, "Is it because of what I did? Is it because of my mistakes?" That's why my concern wasn't, "Why are you doing this to me?" It was, "Why are you allowing this happen to her? She's innocent, she's so brand new to this world, she hasn't done anything. She didn't choose to come." I just was so confused. Like, "Why?" Like you said, you start to question, "Is it because of me? Is it because of God's feelings towards me, God's love for me, or is it my sins against God?" You start to wonder if your situation is correlated somehow to how he's feeling about you or how he loves you and cares for you.
Madeline Cheney 19:26
Yeah, which is freaking painful to feel like you caused it in that way, I think, is the worst. It really reminds me of, in the Bible, one of the miracles where Christ heals a blind man. I remember I read this when Kimball was really little and it really hit me. But they were like, "Okay, who sinned? Whose fault is it that he's blind? Did he sin or is it his parents sin, whose sin is this? There must be some kind of sin that caused being blind." Which, in that day and age, you were a beggar and that was it. They didn't have the systems to help, they didn't have technology. Just picturing that too, in context, but when he was like, "Oh, neither one sinned. It's so that God can show forth his power." And I paraphrase, I don't remember exactly how he said it but that really struck me. Traditionally you would think "Okay, so then he'll heal Kimball and that'll be showing his power." Or he'll be like, "Well, in what other ways?" Could this experience with Kimball in his disability and everything be showing forth of God's power in my life and for others too? That's been an interesting question to have when it's no responded with the traditional, "He was healed" or "It was fixed."
Kimberly Arnold 20:48
Yeah, absolutely. And again, even with that, it's hard. Those are like, really deep, deep feelings that you have to wrestle with, like, "Well, if you are doing this to show your power, why? Why this?" For me it was hard because she was just so tiny and she was going through so much difficulty and pain, that I was like, "Okay, break her arm once, but break both of them? Break her legs? Like, enough is enough." I remember feeling that way and asking God, like, "Enough, enough." I felt like he was picking on me, almost, or not me but Julianne. You start to feel that way when you have back-to-back situations like that. So yeah, those are really such deep feelings to have to wrestle with.
Madeline Cheney 21:40
Yeah, it's like mama bear. If you feel like he's the one attacking your child and you're like, "Oh, watch out. Stop doing that!" Yeah, that makes so much sense. So, do you feel like there was like a turning point for you where you were kind of like making better terms with him? Or did something shift for you?
Kimberly Arnold 22:08
Yes, it was an evolution for sure. I would go back and forth. I would go back and forth from being angry to feeling absolutely vulnerable. I remember feeling, especially that day that I mentioned with the blue sclera that I noticed in her eyes and everything just felt almost like a sign, like I was being hit with reality. It felt like another punch to the gut at the time. I just felt so vulnerable becaus the doctors couldn't do anything, I couldn't do anything. No one on this human Earth had any power to do anything about this situation. The only person that I felt like, could, was God. And he wasn't. So it was like this super, super vulnerable place of feeling the weight of God's power. And yet, he wasn't using it for my benefit at all. It was just such an evolution, to where I would go back and forth feeling like there's no other place for me to run to other than God because who else on this Earth is going to do anything. No one. And then going back to being angry, I had lots of nights when I was just angry and frustrated. But I also tried to let myself feel those feelings. Then we had an accident with Julianne where, it was a perfect storm type of situation. It almost felt like God was allowing this to happen on purpose and did this on purpose. We were walking her outside in her little stroller and the only reason we had walked was because I had been working all morning and was working from home. I was back to work and she was, like, four months old. I came out and my mom was watching Julianne, and I said, "Hey, I'm really stressed out. Why don't we go take a walk?" Well, that morning, my husband had been running late for work. We lived in an apartment complex at the time and he said, "I'm running late. Can you guys take the dogs out for me?" So I was like, "Oh, we've got to take the dogs out too. So let's go ahead and do all this at once. Let's just go for a walk with the dogs and we'll come back." We're out with the dogs and I had handed my mom the doggy bags. We're out there, my dog has gone to the bathroom. As soon as she had finished, I asked my mom for a doggie bag. She took her hands off the stroller to hand me the doggy bag. In that same incident, another dog and his owner had come out of the apartment building. In that same instant, my dog ran for that dog. So, all in a matter of two seconds, where it was this chain of events and my mom took her hands off the stroller, my dog's leash wrapped around Julianne's stroller and knocked it completely over. Julianne didn't fall completely out of it, thank goodness, but she did fall enough she hit her head. We rushed to the ER and she had fractured her skull an she had two fractures on her neck. So they put her in a cervical collar. That night, we almost lost her. Her breathing was struggling. She was in and out of consciousness. I felt like, at that point I had tried so hard to make amends with my feelings towards God and then for this perfect storm to just injure the one person who we were trying so hard to protect. And then to see her laying in that bed, and her breathing was struggling, she's coming in and out, and we weren't sure if she was gonna make it till the next morning. It just put me right back in that place where I was like, "I don't know, God, what you're doing or why you're doing it." It was a lot. No one could help. No human doctor, no person on this Earth could help in that situation. It was kind of like, I know that God is the only one that I can turn to right now and he's not doing anything but I have to try. I have to pray and I have to hope that he's holding us tightly somehow. I continued to pray about him and about her and everything. And that was a really trying time. The doctors had told us that she would heal, she was in a cervical collar and they had told us that she would heal within 6 to 12 weeks, but 6 weeks would most likely be the timeframe because she was so little. Babies are prone to heal a lot faster than ours do, as adults. Luckily she made it through the night and she made it through that hospital visit and, amazingly she didn't break any of her arms or legs. Which is crazy because those are always the most fragile for her, but she didn't. Her skull fracture didn't affect her brain so thankfully, her brain was okay, her spine was okay, other than that fracture on her neck. They sent us home and I was feeling really hopeful, but then we were supposed to go in 4 weeks later to get a follow up X-ray and make sure that her neck was healing, okay. We went for that follow up X-ray and they told us that there was no healing. She hadn't healed at all. So he said, "You know what, come back in a couple weeks and we'll see how things are looking. It might just be taking a little bit." I was like, okay, I'm still feeling hopeful. We left, came back in a couple of weeks, got another X-ray, and there was still no healing, at all. So, at that point, I was just so confused, and our neurosurgeon then talked to us about what this means for Julianne, which was that because her neck isn't healing, he said he was afraid that maybe this fracture had actually been there before the accident. There had been scar tissue that developed around the fracture site that was preventing the bone from sticking to itself and healing. If that was the case, if she didn't heal on her own, then she would have to stay in the cervical collar until she was big enough for spinal fusion, which would most likely be at the age of three, and she was four months old at the time. So she would have to stay in a cervical collar. He told us the risks of her moving her neck too much, which were paralysis, brain damage, all the slew of scary things that he had to tell us. He said there's nothing else for us to do here other than wait and see. I immediately Googled 'top pediatric neurosurgeons in the country'. I made three appointments with really experienced pediatric neurosurgeons for them to look at her scans and tell me what they thought. I had two calls with doctors who told me that it was a very, very real possibility that that is exactly what happened, that there was a fracture that we didn't notice when she was little that has now created some type of scar tissues and is preventing her bones from healing. They said the same thing, "We probably have to wait until she's three years old to do a spinal fusion." We got to that point and, obviously, things are just really tough. But then, two weeks after that visit, we went in for another follow up, after eight weeks of not having any healing on her neck. We went in for another X-ray and she had nearly complete healing in her neck. So we had gone from our last follow-up X-rayand there being nothing there after having multiple X-rays prior to that showing no healing, no healing, no healing, and talking to all these doctors, to the following X-ray just showing almost complete healing. Our neurosurgeon looked at me and he was like, "I don't know what to tell you. It's almost completely healed. I guess I was wrong. That was definitely a day-and-night type of change." But he said, "Give us another couple weeks of healing time and I think we can leave the color behind." I remember walking out of that doctor visit and walking over to my mom's car, and we just like, were crying hysterically. We were just so emotional that that had happened. I think why that was a turning point wasn't because she had been healed, it was because we had been in such a vulnerable place. We'd been praying for so long, and struggling with my faith and struggling with all of this. It was like this tiny glimmer of, "Hey, I'm still here." I think, because I had just gotten to the point where I was so broken down by the constant fracture and fracture and fracture, and then for her to fall, and to almost lose her in the hospital that night, and then to see no healing. My doctors tell us that she's going to have to wear this collar for three years, and all this other stuff. Then also her head, which, we're still dealing with that, her skull fracture. This is the crazy part, her skull fracture actually had a very rare complication, which only happens in 1% of pediatric skull fractures. The surgery to fix it, our doctor said, has never been done on a child with OI. Especially not as young as Julianne. So he was like, "I don't even know if I can fix it or what would happen if I tried." All of these hits that we just kept taking, and then to get to this place where this tiny, tiny little glimmer of, "I'm still here." I think it was huge for me but it showed me that I can't wait for a miracle. If I had left my faith up to God showing me a miracle, then he would have healed Julianne the day she broke her arm. This never would have happened. But it's not about that. My faith has to be, I guess, I don't know what I'm trying to say. It's not reliant on what is God going to do for us? What is God going to give us? When is he going to heal us? When is he going to make our lives perfect? Especially in terms of Julianne, I don't want Julianne to see God that way. To where, one day, she could fall, or she could be in an accident, or something else could happen where her life is at risk, or something major happens where she's in pain and there's a lot that can happen. I don't want her to look up to the heavens and wonder why God hates her. Instead, I want her to be able to feel those feelings, absolutely. But also understand that God has left, even if you can't feel him in the moment, I guess is what I'm trying to say.
Madeline Cheney 36:21
Join us next week for part two of this episode. There is so much more to examine it and I truly hope you join us. See you then.