Mrs. Lisa Sexton: I closed every blind in my house. I closed every curtain and I mourned for about two days. And what I cried about was, I needed to mourn that I lost the normal baby, that my life was not gonna be a white picket fence with a pretty house and going to the baseball diamond like we had dreamed.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: A very honest admission from Lisa Sexton about some very difficult circumstances in her life. She was with us last time on Focus on the Family describing a deep despair as she tried to cope with the diagnosis for her son, Tyler, of cerebral palsy. And you’ll hear a second day of discussion with your host Focus on the Family president, Jim Daly.
Jim Daly: I love this story because there’s so much hope and faith in it for a mother and a father who gave birth to a child with special needs. And all those hopes that you heard in that clip, those dreams that parents normally have, they were all dashed when they realized their son would not measure up like every other young man. But you’ll be encouraged when you hear what happens next in the story that’s coming. Lisa and her son Tyler’s story reminds us that we’re all made in the image of God and that He cares deeply about each of us and He wants to draw you closer in the trials that you’re facing.
John: Lisa and Tyler have captured so much of their story, the joys and the challenges of special needs in a book called No Such Thing as Can’t. Let’s go ahead and listen to that second part of the conversation.
Jim: There was a story in your book that caught my attention where you creatively took a doll in a down moment, where Tyler was at emotionally that day. Tell us what you did with the Bert doll.
Lisa: Well, I want to encourage parents to – when you’re desperate – desperation is not a bad thing sometimes. If it’s long-term it can be. But desperation leads you to the feet of Jesus. If you see that – I mean, time after time after time in the Bible we see that. And so, a lot of times when you were saying, you know wisdom and different things, you’re desperate for a way to figure this out. And as you said, Tyler had all of these little tiny characters, Ernie and Bert and you know, the whole Sesame Street gang. And he would play with them all the time. It was his very favorite thing to do. And he would put them up on the hearth at the fireplace. And one day he came home from preschool and everything was up on the fireplace. And Tyler’s very meticulous. He’s very – he notices every detail of everything. And so, he asked me. He was sitting by the hearth and he looked up at me and he said, “Why is my legs different than all the other kids at my school?”
Lisa: And I wasn’t ready for that question. And I said, “Why don’t you take your nap? We’ll have lunch and then when you get up, we’ll talk about it.” So, I got Tyler all tucked in and I’m sitting on the couch and I’m looking at those characters. And I thought, I’m gonna chop Bert’s arms off with the butcher knife.
Jim: Now you’re…
Lisa: What kind of mother…
John: Totally (unintelligible).
Lisa: …Does that?
Jim: Yeah, you’re a completely sane woman. Let me just reiterate…
Lisa: I am sane, so I went to the counter and I got out my knife and my chopping block and I cut off Bert’s arms. I threw Bert’s arms away and I put him up by Ernie. And I knew right away that Tyler would notice it. I knew. So, pretty soon, Tyler would combat crawl, because he could not get up on his feet without his walker and his braces. So, he would “combat” with his elbows and then his little body would just kind of swirl behind him as he came down the hardwood floor. So, he came around the corner and he noticed immediately. And he went, “Oh, my word. What happened to Bert’s arms?” And I said, “Oh, you’re not gonna believe what happened. He was in an accident when you were in bed. And the world is gonna call him ‘disabled,’ because they had to amputate his arms. But he can still be with Ernie. He can still hang out with Big Bird and Cookie Monster and he can still be a part of the Sesame Street gang, but he’s going to be different and he’s gonna be special.” And he said, “Just like my legs.” I said, “Just like your legs. You’re gonna have to learn how to do the things that Bert will have to learn about arms.” And he said, “Okay.”
Jim: Did you make that connection? I mean, it sounds like you really caught it.
Dr. Tyler Sexton: Yeah, it just made sense. You know, like I said, at the particular time, it was what I needed to hear, and it was it. It was just okay.
Jim: I just can’t – it amazes me, Lisa, at how God gave you the right thought at the right moment, to kind of provide Tyler with the lesson he needed as a little boy. Let’s move forward. We talked about Tyler’s early years. Of course, he gets through high school. You know, you can hear it, just how bright Tyler is, and you talked about that power of observation that you saw in him as a young boy. And here you are thinking, you know, what will he do vocationally? He has cerebral palsy. He’s – it’s gonna be difficult for him to be mobile. What happens when college comes around?
Lisa: That was tough letting Tyler go, ’cause he needed us so much.
Jim: Did you feel fear?
Lisa: We felt a lot of fear and you’re sending him in to the – the wolves. You know, as a normal child when we dropped our daughter off at college, you’re fearful. You just…
Jim: Now Emily is three years younger than Tyler.
Lisa: Three years younger than Tyler and she is just as loved and special as Tyler is. And she’s , quote, “normal.” And it was fearful dropping her off. And Tyler, you worried about doing stairs, things that other parents don’t really think about. I didn’t have to worry about the drugs, the alcohol, things like that. I worried about the safety…
Lisa: …About him making friends, about him being included.
Lisa: And so, it – um, we were scared to death. His dad and I were both there and his sister and it was a tough time for our family.
Jim: Tyler, at that moment, are you thinking the world is my oyster, that you can do anything? Or are you even understanding the fact that you have these difficulties and the impediments?
Tyler: Oh, it was made apparent by others, not to me. Um…
Jim: You have such a positive outlook. Where did that come from?
Tyler: Well, it first stay – it really did first start from my parents. It really did. They desired me to dream big and they let me do that. So, for me, I wanted to achieve my goals and I knew I could. But some people in the world didn’t agree with that. And so, going off to college – college was one of the most difficult times of my entire existence.
Jim: Why was that?
Tyler: One of the reasons is, I got made fun of almost every day I walked on the college campus.
Jim: At college level?
Tyler: You would think that as guys get older and we, you know – I mean, college is a vast array of personalities and people. And I was just a guy that kinda walks funny, minding my own business, thought I’d be left alone. Every day I got made fun of. The other thing was, about ambulation and moving from place to place throughout the campus. I didn’t – you know, one of the things they said is, “You should use a wheelchair.” And I worked so hard to get out of a wheelchair, I didn’t want to go back.
Tyler: So, I thought, I’ve worked so hard to be independent and to be, um, typical like everybody else, not that – uh, I viewed cerebral palsy as a blessing, uh, and I – and I wouldn’t change it for the world. But I worked so hard to stay away from a wheelchair and I thought, well, how am I gonna do this? How is God gonna do this? And literally, what I saw, guys, at the beginning of all this, at the beginning of high school and on, every time there was a hurdle and said it couldn’t be done, God said, “We’re gonna jump this hurdle hand in hand.” And I remember specifically talking about ambulation in college. In high school, my senior year in high school, we took a senior trip. And I was at Epcot Center in Disneyland. And you know the Segway human transporters that first came out, um, those things that you stand on and move back and forth. I saw one at the Epcot Center in the Way of the Future area. And I said to myself, “That is the thing I’m gonna use to get around.” And I said – I went home and I said, “Mom, God showed me what I’m gonna use to get around.” I did. And so, I got a Segway.
Tyler: And I used a Segway to get around. And then, there was an issue of, can I do stairs on my own? Can I live on my own? Can I do some of these things? And, um, I was on a waiting list for a service dog, Danny, at the time. And Danny was that completion of pictures. And you know, uh, in James it talks about, “every good and perfect gift come from the Father of lights, Who is in heaven.” Danny was my good and perfect gift. The last piece or the kink in my armor or the need that I had, Danny filled it in terms of being my stability, in terms of giving my confidence. Now every day I still got made fun of on college campus. They thought – I mean, they thought I was blind. Of course, it would trip them out when I got on the Segway with my sunglasses on and didn’t hit anything.
Tyler: When I – when I rode away. But the issue was, at first and you were talking about how did I feel and the trepidations of these things, when I went off to college at first, getting made fun of every day…
Tyler: …I became inverted. When I first got Danny, I lived in a situation with roommates that were living the college scene, were doing some things. I got made fun of every day, like I said, and I thought, man, if I just keep my sunglasses on, nobody’s gonna mess with a blind kid. And so, I literally would do that. I would keep my sunglasses on. I wouldn’t talk to anybody. And my vibrancy that you’re talking about right now and I appreciate that, but it really – it was lost to me. And I said, “This can’t be. I can’t let this be, ’cause I won’t be the same man starting off in college to finish whatever I’m trying to do, I won’t be that same man.” So, I started to post Bible verses throughout my apartment. 2 Corinthians 12:9 and 10, “For My grace is sufficient for you. For My power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will delight all the more gladly in my – about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” That’s my life verse. Love it. Started pasting these things and – and I said, “I’m going to do this.” And at that moment, you know, there were issues at, uh – in my previous living situation with the roommates and God took me out of that. And as soon as I changed my attitude again God started opening up doors that otherwise I would have not seen. And that’s really how it all started. And then there were times when I had a passion to become a physician. To work with kids, uh, specifically pediatrics and kids with special needs.
Jim: Okay, now let me – let me slow that down, because a lot of people, I want to make sure we’re all hearing this. You’re in college. I’m assuming you’re taking science as your undergrad.
Tyler: That’s correct. I got all …
Jim: And you’re struggling emotionally, I think it’s fair to say.
Jim: You’re – you’re wanting to hide…
Tyler: Mm hmm.
Jim: …As best you can, so you don’t have to confront these bullies in essence. And that’s completely understandable and again, the application there, Tyler, for all of us is, we hide in different ways, don’t we?
Tyler: We do.
Jim: Especially in the Christian community we can use that to cover up that humanness, those things that we struggle with. How do you see that applying to those who are fully capable physically, emotionally and mentally?
Tyler: Yeah. I’m really glad – I’m really glad you asked that question, because that’s what the book’s about. It’s not just about a child with cerebral palsy and the mom. It’s about identifying whatever part of your life you’re going through and how God can use that particular portion. The way I look at it is, I’m an art fan. I like mosaics. You know a mosaic, when you look up close, they are a random bunch of pictures. And you wonder, now what is this? You look through – and there are certain times in our lives, there were many times I said, “God, why are You doing this? Just give me one month of no ridicule. Give me one month of easy.” And I used to say, one of the greatest things – “you have to walk the rocks to see the mountain view.”
Tyler: And you’ll be amazed. We all have rocks in our lives. You’d be amazed how God uses these rocks and turns them into amazing scenery of these amazing mountain views. Aptly we’re in Colorado and we’re around amazing mountain views. But it’s incredible, because what I did at that time, I looked at a mosaic and I would see that randomness. And I likened it to life. Sometimes we don’t know exactly what God is doing in our lives. But when you pull back on a mosaic, that picture’s beautiful. It’s cohesive. It’s perfect and it’s not missing a piece of that picture. And that’s how life is. Sometimes we wonder exactly why we’re going through that specific piece in our lives or that specific season. And if you didn’t go through it, you wouldn’t be complete. And God wouldn’t have finished His work. And that’s what college was for me and that’s what God showed me what cerebral palsy was as I got older and my relationship grew with Him. Uh, and it just showed me that He is completing in me a great work for a greater purpose and every turmoil and every hurdle, God was doing it to complete the next phase.
Jim: Do you think – and this is a bigger question. But when you look at the state of the church in our country particularly, our we missing that as Christians, broadly? Not to overgeneralize, but it seems to me that we look for safe, comfortable, and, um, materialism as a – compared to, “Lord, the fact that these difficulties…” Um, it kind of is like a force of gravity. They push us or pull us toward God, hopefully.
Jim: But we have to have the attitude to understand that.
Tyler: Right. You make a great point and I say this quite often. You know, a lot of people would say this story is just ridiculous, amazing, unbelievable. And I tell people, “We serve a God of the ridiculous, the amazing, the unbelievable. He took a man that stuttered, who couldn’t speak, through Egypt to part of the Red Sea with a staff. We serve a God of the unbelievable.” And that’s what I think people need to see is that God – like we were saying before, we’re no different. If God can do this for me, He definitely can do it for you.
John: Hmm. Today on Focus on the Family we’re hearing a story of great hope from Tyler and Lisa Sexton. I’m John Fuller along with your host Jim Daly and I encourage you to get a copy of the conversation either on CD or as a download and, uh, we certainly would point out Tyler and Lisa’s book has a new title. It’s called No Such Thing as Can’t and, of course, we have that here at the ministry. I’m sure you have somebody close to you who is up against some challenges. They need some hope and they really could benefit from hearing this. Look for the download, CD, and book at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: Uh, it – let me ask you this question, as well. Um, why did you have the determination, not the desire, but that determination that you could go to med school, that you could succeed, that you could pass and that you could make it? And now you’re a doctor. Talk about that.
Tyler: It’s a truly humbling thing. I stand here almost in tears of joy to say that it actually happened. I mean, I – it’s a God thing. There – I mean, there is perseverance, those things, but I stand here before you as a medical doctor by the grace of God.
Tyler: And I just knew – I wanted to give hope to patients. I wanted to give hope to people instead of worst-case scenarios. I want to be honest with people. I want to be open with people. But I want to say, “You know what? We’re gonna do this, for whatever you’re struggling with physically, but we’re gonna see what God does with the rest.”
Jim: Uh, that has to be such great encouragement for a patient to see you as the doctor. You’re a pediatrician, but you also specialize in hyperbaric medicine. You talked about a case and I know that has to be totally, uh, confidential, but just generically – you talked about a case where a little girl, uh, was about to lose her leg. What happened?
Tyler: Right. So, you’re talking about the ability for me to go in and impact these patients. You know, one of the things I want to do is to say, “I know how you feel” and mean it. Having the 16…
Jim: They can see that.
Tyler: Right. And having the 16 surgeries and going through this, I can look at them as say, “Here’s what you’re going to expect.” Or “Here’s what’s going on.” So, I walked in, uh, to a patient’s room fresh into working at this new hospital and, uh, there was a individual who had decubitus ulcers. She has cerebral palsy, spina bifida and had this wound from not being turned. And they were planning on cutting that individual’s leg off. And the mother looked at me and I said, “I have cerebral palsy.” And she said, “Can you please help me?”
Tyler: “Please don’t take her leg. Please don’t.” And I said, “Absolutely I can.” And I utilized hyperbaric medicine, which is utilized in a variety of different conditions, but we use it a lot in, uh, wound healing. And, uh, she underwent 30 treatments and the wound was completely healed.
Jim: Oh. I mean, that to me – that’s just…
Lisa: He’s going – and he was going to surgery that next morning was scheduled to take off his leg.
Tyler: Yeah. The plan was until we had came up with this plan of mine, uh, was that she was going to surgery the afternoon to have the amputation.
Jim: I mean, that was right in the nick of time.
Jim: And that treatment, although it took several treatments, many…
Jim: …Um, it did correct the issue and…
Tyler: It has not returned.
Jim: …And she was healed.
Tyler: That’s right.
Jim: Um, you know, Lisa, I’m thinking back to something you said last time that has stuck with me. When Tyler was born and you mourned for those two or three days, where you pulled the curtains closed in your home and you literally cried and then came out of that and opened the curtains and symbolically, how that fed your spirit to say, “Okay, God, I’m gonna do the best job that I can do as this boy’s mother.” And I’m sure you were back at that point, you know, many, many years ago saying, “He’s gonna have a marginal life. He’s gonna be ridiculed.” All those things. “We’re gonna be his caretakers till the day we die and then we gotta pray that somebody will come along and pick that up, hopefully his sister, Emily.”
Lisa: Mm hmm.
Jim: But lo and behold, how many times do we say, “You should marry a doctor?” I mean, think about the irony of this and God’s sense humor. And then as you felt at that Easter egg hunt, when that kind person encouraged you to go and let him live and take him out of the safety net. And you were in tears behind those sunglasses as those kids took off to get all the eggs. And you thought you were gonna have to talk to Tyler about why his basket was empty. And yet, he found a way, divinely I think, to find all those eggs that kids were dropping out their baskets…
Lisa: Mmm hmm.
Jim: …And put ’em in. When you look back on your journey now as mom and you think about the way God has stepped into Tyler’s life and how He encouraged you to say, stick with Me, because his life is gonna show My power and My blessing, does your jaw drop? Mine does.
Lisa: I can tell you as we talked earlier, desperation led me to Him. And you have to remember, I was not raising an M.D. I was raising a little boy with CP. So, we had no idea. I didn’t have Tyler going to school. I thought he was never gonna…
Lisa: …Do anything. He’s not gonna drive. He’s – nobody will ever love him. He’ll be alone for the rest of his life. And you know, as Tyler said, we serve a God that – it’s amazing. I mean, every dream that I could’ve possibly imagined and what I was asking God for was not near enough.
Lisa: I was wrong. I was just praying to get by. And I think that sometimes when we pray, we’re – we just want to get out of that moment. “Could You just do this? Could You just do that?” And we’re trying to make deals. And when we let God have that control, He already has it. So, just get down and give it to Him, because what I dreamed for my son and what my husband dreamed for his son and the talks that we’d have in bed and the prayer time is nothing compared to what happened in his life.
John: Hmm. Well, and Jim, we live in a world of contradictions and unanswered questions and you’ve written about that in your book, Stronger. Um, we all know people, and this is an amazing story and as we’ve said, this is hope for so many, but Lisa, you’ve got to talk to the parent who’s saying, “I’m glad it worked out for you, Lisa. It hasn’t worked out for me. My child hasn’t been able to overcome those hurdles.” Or we lost her child. Surely, you have people that you know who are struggling like that. Not to rob you of your joy or to take away the message, the beautiful message God has – has developed here in Tyler, but talk to the parent who’s saying, “Ah, that’s enough.”
Jim: John, can I make that a little more real? Because I can feel that and hear that in your own voice…
Jim: …For you and Dena, thinking about Zane, ’cause you’re not through it. I mean, Zane’s a little boy still.
Jim: He’s that 10-year-old. And I’m sure that pain’s coming through your heart, ’cause you’re not at the end of the journey like Lisa is now.
John: No and I appreciate that, Jim. There’s not – we have hopes. We have dreams. Um, and we see God working and we – we don’t take any of that for granted, but I still got 10, 15 years to go before I can even get to a point, I think, of saying, “Okay, we’re through that.” But there are parents who’ll never have that.
Lisa: And that is a really, um, tough thing and I don’t have all the answer, but I can tell you this. Last night we had dinner with two boys with cerebral palsy. And one of them will never get out of a wheelchair. He will always hurt, and he will always have to have a caregiver, unless God reaches down and touches his life. But he’s the most kind, precious boy that I could ever meet. We even had him in our home for a week in Florida and gave him a Spring break…
Lisa: …Through my husband’s sister, who’s just amazing. And these children, the only thing that I know, we’ve devoted our lives to help families and to make a difference in their lives. But the one thing that I can tell you without a doubt in my mind, is that God is faithful and that if you draw close, you and your wife, you will have the richest marriage and you will have the most healthy home and every miracle that you have that God gives you, you’ll hold onto it. You’ll tell the world about it. I’m not a speaker and I’m and – now I am, because I cannot, not tell people what God has done. And when you talk about, people say, “Well, your son’s a doctor and he’s this and that, so of course, you’re thankful.” I can tell you this. My son called me one night and his little sweet wife, Laura, they were on their back to the hospital and they had just worked a 16-hour shift. And I said, “What are you doing?” He said, “Sweets, Laura and I walked by a room and we saw a parent sitting over by their little boy in the room. And we thought of you and dad and they had their Bible open and then they said, ‘They’re tired.’ Their little guy’s been in the hospital along time. Laura and I made them lasagna. We’re taking it up there and we told them they have to leave the room. They have two doctors that are gonna sit right by their child and not leave him for three hours and they need to have a date night.” I am more proud of my son for being that kind of man than I could ever be that he’s an M.D. And you’ll find that, too, if you allow God to work in their lives.
Jim: Wow. Okay, I got tears in my eyes here. I mean, that is talking about character. You know, when you look at this life, isn’t that what it’s about…
Lisa: That’s what it…
Jim: …For us as parents, to teach our kids that kind of character? Tyler, man, good job. You look at that. You got a proud mama right there.
John: Mm hmm.
Jim: ; And it’s – she’s proud for the right reasons in what she sees in you.
Tyler: Wow, we appreciate it, but again, it’s just – it is about God and – and when you – when you serve Him first, it’s all that matters. And I would’ve – it never would’ve made it this far without Him. And so, I often tell people, you know, I know – you were saying, John, it’s – sometimes it’s hard to know what’s going on and – and I often tell people, “You know, in the Bible for example, when Paul and Silas were thrown in jail, what’s the first thing they did? They praised Him.”
Tyler: And a lot of times in our lives, we’re talking about these moments of turmoil or uncertainty. You don’t know what to do. And the last thing you want to do is praise Him. But I challenge you, when you do, things will start changing. So, in those moments, first praise. Find the blessing that you can say, “God, we’re gonna work with this.” ‘Cause I guarantee you, you will find a blessing and there’s far too many to count.
Jim: Well, and Tyler, I think again, when we look at the early Church and I talk about this often, because they’re close to the real deal. They knew the stories, some of them firsthand, about Jesus’ parables and seeing the things that they saw. And then, of course, the disciples seeing those things. And they had such humility. Um, they approached their environment in such a unique way. And I think if we can do more of that, to fall into God’s arms when we are hurting, when we experience difficulty, as opposed to maybe that selfish nature that is our flesh, where we start to question the Lord and despise our situation. I think there is great wisdom, both in observing them and hearing your testimony these last couple of days. And it encourages me. I know it encourages all of you, too. And when you’re feeling down, think of this story of how God has touched Tyler and his bride…
Jim: …And their family. Thank you. Thank you for being with us.
Tyler: Well, it’s my pleasure.
Lisa: Thank you.
Tyler: Thank you.
John: Hmm. What a great ending to our conversation today on Focus on the Family featuring Lisa and Tyler Sexton talking about their amazing journey of living with cerebral palsy.
Jim: John, they’re such an inspiration to all of us and a reminder of God’s love. Now I realize that some parents are still in a time of uncertainty and they don’t know what’s ahead for their child. You may have a special needs child who didn’t grow up to become a doctor. I get that. But please know that God hasn’t forgotten you. And all I can say is we want to be here for you. And if you want to talk through the grief you’re experiencing, call us. We have counselors here who are ready to speak with you and help you with that grief. And I also want to say thanks to all who’ve been supporting Focus on the Family through the shutdown because you make it possible to offer hope to others and help with our shortfall during this pandemic. In fact, thanks to a group of generous friends, your gift today will be doubled and that is awesome. And it’s a fun way simply to urge one another to support families.
John: Mm hmm. Yeah and this is a special time offer from those friends, so please donate, uh, a gift of any amount today. It’ll be doubled and we’ll send you a copy of Lisa and Tyler’s book, No Such Thing as Can’t. That’ll be our thank you gift for joining the support team. Visit focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Or call 800-232-6459. 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here at Focus on the Family, I’m John Fuller inviting you back next time as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.