Monday, May 20, 2013

Connecting the Dots

It began about three years ago. Bear with me, it's a long story, but I think it's a good one.
I was reading "Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul" in bed one night and came upon a story entitled "Welcome to Holland." Considering what we were experiencing with Sara Ashley, the story was very relevant to me and I found that it gave me a greater perspective of our circumstances. I also copied it and sent it to a young couple who was expecting a child with Down Syndrome, hoping it would help them too. It would be a few years, but in His time I would find out God's plan to use this story again, connecting the dots in my life to the lives of others and to His purposes for me.

Fast forward three years to this January. In an earlier post about a little girl named Emery Claire, I told you about spending time in a chapel with her grandmother, Sophia. We shared our experiences with our children, our fears and struggles, but also our joys and triumphs. And she told me about this precious little granddaughter of hers who is bringing such joy to their lives. I was also prompted to share with her the story I had read three years before, "Welcome to Holland." At the time, I simply felt that I was sharing out of my knowledge. I would soon find out that I was sharing from a prompting by the Holy Spirit. Although I didn't realize that this story was written by a mother of a Ds child at that time, I knew that it would help Sophia as it had helped me. 

After the weekend retreat, she went home and found that she already had the book "Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul" in her home library. She read "Welcome to Holland" and had the same reaction as I had. She went on to use the story in a speech she will give to a group of ladies on another Christian retreat.

Just a few weeks later, God began laying on my heart the desire to write a book. He assured me of the comfort it would give others, just the way He had and continues to comfort and uplift me and Sophia through things like the story, "Welcome to Holland." He opened the doors for this project, connecting dots to other parents who shared this vision. Everything was coming along grandly until one evening when I read a post by another parent of a child with life challenges. Her post caused me to question this project. I was panicked by a fear that I was trying to make other's pain and heartbreak into a pretty package with a bow on top. Was I travelling down the wrong path? Had I misread God's instructions for me?

I soulfully shared my doubts with several close friends, asking for their advice, and waited for their response. Quickly, emails began shooting back and forth.  Words of encouragement, words of love, and words challenging me to stay on my path.

"Life is about choices," one friend shared. "We all have many pains and struggles. How we look at them and respond to them makes all the difference. I want to find joy and Jesus in my sorrow and struggles ... I want to see with His eyes and become more like Him!"

From another friend, "Everything we go through makes us stronger and better if we go through it with the right attitude and with our eyes in the right place." 

And from my loving husband, "I do not believe for a moment that you are trivializing anything.  What you are writing will inspire families that are looking for hope. Search your heart for direction but listen only for God's promptings."

Then I received a message that gave me the greatest clarity possible, sending chills down my spine. Remarkably, God had connected the dots from three years earlier all the way to that very confusing night. In my doubt and distress, He confirmed for me His blessing on my journey:

"Ever read this before?" my friend asked. You guessed it, the attachment was "Welcome to Holland." Thank you Jesus!

"Welcome to Holland"
c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley.

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......
When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."
"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."
But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.
But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.

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