A few years ago, the Marsh family heard at church, “You’re not going to have an easy life. You’re going to have trials and tribulations.” Over the last eight years, Stephanie and Tom Marsh have embraced this truth as they raised their son with special needs, Sterling (8), and their typically developing son, Ethan (5).
From birth, Sterling did not follow traditional developmental patterns. As time went on, it became apparent that he was not meeting his gross motor and speech milestones. Finally, after rigorous testing and therapies, the Marshes learned that Sterling was born with congenital encephalopathy and developmental delays. To Stephanie and Tom, this complicated diagnosis has meant dealing with endless doctor visits, a variety of ongoing therapies and unexpected challenges daily. “With Sterling, we’re constantly in vigilance mode. He doesn’t know how to protect himself and doesn’t know what danger is,” says Stephanie. “He needs constant adult supervision. To do that 24/7 is exhausting. Unless you’ve experienced it firsthand, it’s difficult to imagine how draining it can be.”
It was in the midst of an intensely difficult year in which Stephanie lost her dad that the family discovered Jill’s House. “God’s timing is amazing. We needed a break so badly, and it came the first weekend Sterling visited Jill’s House. We had been hanging on by a thread,” says Stephanie.
Sterling has become a Jill’s House regular, enjoying weekend getaways and day camps at Jill’s House throughout the year. His home away from home gives Sterling a chance to make new friends and visit old friends, which Stephanie says are like extended family to him. While Sterling is at Jill’s House, Stephanie and Tom are able to recharge, spend time together and give one-on-one attention to Ethan.
Now Stephanie reflects on her family’s struggles with thankfulness because she’s encouraged to know others understand how hard it can be to raise a child with special needs. Stephanie says, “We’ve learned to trust that God will carry us through whatever we go through … no matter what it is. Throughout our journey, we’ve seen the Bible verse Matthew 7:7-8 to be true in our lives: ‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.’”