Invisible

I really don’t have time to write today. But it’s one of the days that if I don’t, I may explode, the pieces of me, of my brokenness scattered for all to see.

And though writing is like breathing and sometimes I just have to, I hesitate to be real. To write real.

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So I hold my breath. Because I never want to invite my friends to a pity-party with me as guest of honor sitting on my pity-pot like the queen of I’ve-Got-It-Bad-Land, sobbing as my tiara gets ripped of my head from my steroid-raging, non-verbal child while my subjects scurry to get towels to wipe the plethora of mess I’m privileged to clean numerous times daily.

Privileged?  I changed that three times before I actually left it because it kept coming back and I could not shake it no matter how I tried. So, I must be.  God has given me this life and I am to be thankful in all things. Not for all things, but in them.

And while being a wife and mother is my heart’s desire, some days, I sense that it’s not enough.

As a young woman, I felt that need would be satisfied with a career. As I’ve gotten older and dedicated my life to the Lord, I admit I can envy those in ministry, those preaching inspiring messages and leading magnificent Bible studies. I want to tell my story on a stage, be given a platform for what God has called me to do through speaking and writing. I want to go on mission’s trips and even envying my own children who can and the fact they have their whole lives ahead to serve God. I wasted so much time with foolishness.

Yet I know comparison produces nothing and I must walk my walk and do what I am called to do right now.

But sometimes, my legs get cramped, my feet become calloused and my body weary and sore. My arms bear the physical marks of a frustrated and ill child.

I cry to God, “Do you see this??”

“Do you see what I am doing?”

“Do you see me?”

No one sees.

I am invisible.

My other children bear the brunt and carry my hurt. It’s unfair to them, but I know no way around it.

I looked at my oldest son as he helped me one day.  I just looked at him and said, “It’s a different life,” and he nodded. He often carries a load I feel unfair but am so thankful for his heart that is so soft, yet must be so burdened. But he never complains.

But I do at times. I complain when I shouldn’t because others are facing worse. I complain that others complain about things that seem insignificant.

I am a hypocrite when I complain. I have much to be grateful for and the greatest at this very moment is that God’s mercies are new every day.

Every minute.

When I am at the end of my rope, He grabs the other end and pulls me to Him.

He wipes my face and bottles my tears. He does not judge me for them. He knows my heart and feels my hurt and sees my thankfulness even as I shake my fist at Him.

And He sees me.

 

The Loudest Silence

This fell out of my Bible the other morning. One of my favorite pictures of my boy. One that just seems to capture all that he is.

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A few years ago, Joshua had surgery to have impacted ear wax extracted, ear tubes inserted as well as having his tonsils and adenoids removed.

This was the first time my husband stayed with him overnight at the hospital. We decided it best that he stay, since Josh had been going through behavior issues and had become increasingly harder for me to handle. Looking back, I realize I had never considered when he was an infant anything long-term. I blocked any frightening future and only considered the right-then.

My quiet time with the Lord the next morning consisted of daily Bible reading. Determined to read the Bible in a year, I followed the plan, often falling behind.

But that day – in black and white was my word from God.

I wrote it on a post-it note and put it on the back of the picture.

 

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Because Joshua’s ears were just cleaned and cleared and opened by little tubes, now his tongue would be loose and he would speak plainly.

So specific in what I had always hoped for.

When Joshua was little, I thought we could have enough speech therapy so he wouldn’t sound like he had Down syndrome. I used to think people with DS sounded “deaf” and my pride took over as I told myself that my child would sound “normal.”

I shudder as I type this.

If I read this from someone else I would likely be angry and offended because my  perspective has changed so greatly. I also how shallow and selfish I can be.

But confession is cleansing and I confess I how prideful and arrogant I’ve been.

Pride is a dangerous thing. God opposes the proud. I am so un- proud of my pride and ashamed of my entitlement.

I’ve laid bare, pride stripped and feeling forgotten. I no longer care about plain. I just want words. And feel like that is selfish too.

I’ve heard that words aren’t always needed and I have myself said that Joshua has changed people without ever saying one.

Some say this is how God intends for him to be because this is how He made him.

So the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD? (Exodus 4:11)

I have been told I should be grateful in all that he can do. He has made amazing strides and has given us glimpses into things he knows that we never thought he did.

But Joshua does things that we don’t understand and he can’t make us understand. Some of them are potential harmful to himself and to us.  Right this very day we have a doctor’s appointment to seek answers for an issue that has been going on way too long and is taking its toll on him and our family.

Just two words would give us a starting point. “Josh hurt,” or “Josh sick.”

Or, “Me sad.”

Actually one word would suffice. “Mad”.

Anything to know what he is feeling and why he does the unexplainable.

He has therapy to lessen his frustration by increasing his communication and he has made great strides.  Many times, we know exactly what he wants.

The other times..

I know – sometimes words are not needed.

But sometimes I’m selfish.

Some parents of non-verbal kids have said they have a secret language. I get that. I can “read” Joshua pretty well and he can communicate his basic needs of hunger or thirst by taking our hand and pulling or simply grabbing what he wants.

But there is something about words.

As a writer, I love words- their sounds and the way they paint a picture in one’s imagination that is so intimate to the one reading. Or listening.

When  I talk to people with Down syndrome and am both amazed and envious.

For years I’ve ached to hear, “I love you Mommy.” I waited to hear his cute phrases and word mix-ups and all those funny things that I have written down from my other children.

Joshua’s page is blank.

My mama’s heart still longs to hear his voice, though now it is more of a man’s than a boy’s. And that leaves me feeling a bit cheated.

But really, I want it more for him than for me, so that he can express himself in more than grunts and limited signs.

I remember a friend years ago describing a special-needs girl, saying that she couldn’t talk and made “retarded sounds.”

I know the sound. I live with that sound. It resonates through the rooms and blends in the walls.

I’ve been asked if it gets on my nerves and if I’m honest, I would say yes, sometimes.

But I am afraid to be honest because the sound-maker was almost taken from me. The sound means that he is here with me and my gratitude at God’s grace leaves me with a sense that I shouldn’t complain.

But my humanness longs for words he can’t form no matter how hard he tries. My soul cries silently while I smile at him as he pushes out a sound that makes no sense.

I can’t lean to my own understanding because I don’t know how or even when autism took over and stole his voice.

And the point in which I no longer cared that he might sound as if he had Down syndrome.

It is no longer the enemy.

But I’m broken and helpless over his frustration.

I hear mommies say to young children,  “Use your words,” and hope they realize how blessed they are to say that.

I listen to animated and greatly detailed stories from my youngest with eagerness because I don’t take for granted that he is able to express himself so brilliantly.

I am a talker and a listener and love teenagers in the kitchen telling stories and laughing and often watch Josh take it all in and wonder if he knows he’s missing out.

Even as I type, I hear the sounds of silent. The noises of the non-verbal.

In a conversation with my mother-in-law, I mentioned that Josh listens to this counting song over and over and that if he could talk, I bet he could count.

I bet he can read, as he recognizes words on his movies and can “match” them to their cases or knows if that movie is playing.

So could he read? Isn’t reading the recognition of letters, really? Letters arranged so that they take on meaning in their form. But he can’t “read” because he can’t speak.

So why can’t he speak?

She asked if he had speech therapy. yes, but only to the extent of other forms of communication. One can’t work on speech that isn’t there.

And as we talked, I started saying words I had never thought through, yet seemed to make perfect sense – to me, at least.

Signs with Joshua must first be done hand-over-hand, as with most everything we introduce to him. He generally does not imitate. Seemingly endless repetition leads to his mastering the task and eventually, he learns a sign will get him what he wants.

Neurotypical children learn imitation quickly. As a baby learns to talk, he babbles and soon imitates what he hears – words. A parent tells the child to say a word, and eventually will, forming vocabulary.

I realize there is really no way to “show” Joshua how to talk.

He makes noise, so his voice “works” but he cannot form words.

I don’t know why he doesn’t imitate sounds – is it because of cognitive delays, or autism or because he doesn’t know how to form the words. I can’t jump in his throat and “hand-over-hand” a word physically like I can for signs or tasks.

And as I explained this, she merely said, “That is a shame.”  And I guess it is, because I cannot find anyone who knows how to make this happen and I don’t either.

But instead of wondering why, or asking if I caused this or even what can I do, I look to Jesus, Who Himself said, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

God isn’t finished with Joshua. Or me. Or any of us.

Through Joshua, I’ve learned to not for granted things that come so easy for most of us. I have learned to rejoice in the simple and am in awe of the mundane because it is difficult for many.

The works of God are displayed in him whether he talks or not. But I don’t think He wants me to stop asking. We are to seek and we are to pray and we are to believe.

In the meantime, His grace is sufficient.

Until that day…

 

 

 

 

 

To the mommy of a new baby with Down syndrome…

Dear Mommy,

I don’t know you.  But I know you just found out your baby has Down syndrome.

I don’t know if, while gazing into your newborn’s almond-shaped eyes, you were told your precious baby has an extra chromosome.

I don’t know if you are still carrying your blessing beneath your heart and are waiting to hold the wee bundle that isn’t exactly going to be born the way you expected.

I don’t know you.

But I am you. I am you almost 14 years ago as I watched my tiny son’s face emerge on ultrasound while the doctor echoed words that wrecked me.

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Feeling utterly helpless and shattered, all I heard was a diagnosis of doom and all I felt was fear. Anger. Betrayal by the very God Who I prayed to for it not to be. Inconsolable and overwhelmed.

I have a confession – I still feel some of these at times- when the days drag long, the challenges loom large, and the future feels uncertain.

But most times, I am overwhelmed with gratitude instead – for being given for such a gift, to be entrusted with such a beautiful soul whose love knows no conditions and whose smile makes my heart nearly burst.

I don’t know you, but like you, have been entrusted with one who is fearfully and wonderfully made, exquisite and unique.

I don’t know you. But I know you will love your child with a fierceness you never thought possible. I know you will be a mighty momma who fights and you will be able to do this.

I don’t know you, but we are connected, linked by an extra chromosome and placed on a path that only those who walk it understand.  Don’t rush, because the pace may be a little slower and at times and it may be frustrating. But it makes us stop and linger and enjoy the moments that slip like sand through our fingers far too fast.

Your journey waits for you to embrace.

And though I don’t know you, I do. And you will walk it with grace and love.

And I will walk it with you.

Love,

Another Mommy

 

On Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day. As a young woman, even before I meeting my husband, I longed for the day I’d become a mother. I never thought much beyond that-then imginary first child. My family plan was planned more by God than us.

I never considered homeschooling and and not going back to work once my children reached elementary school age. I certainly never expected to have been given the gift of a special-needs child. Life turns unexpected and sometimes hard and often bittersweet.

I miss my momma. That early, middle-of-the-night-morning as she began her forever in Heaven, I wiped my tear and sleep-filled eyes and thought, “What am I going to do on Mother’s Day?”

Not her birthday, not my birthday, not even her funeral, but Mother’s Day.

This day. I confess, I love waking up as I did this morning to gifts waiting to be opened.

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I was even given an early gift late last night after 14 hours of baking for my son’s mission’s trip bake sale today. A dress to wear to church this morning. Because my daughter knows I don’t buy much for myself. And also because I’m sure she likes and wants to wear it too. And I love that.

I love her. She is my fiery soul unleashing her inward and outward beauty growing into her own woman as she shares her love of Jesus and passion for people with the world. She is not only my daughter, but my friend. My firstborn. As I held her the first time, I thought, “This must be what Heaven feels like.”

And my boys. I adore my boys. My oldest son, my quiet man-child finding his voice. He embodies Proverbs 17:28, “A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered.”  His heart is of a servant and a protector. He is much like Jesus.

My special one. My own heart died a bit when I found out his was sick and he would not be what I expected. I discovered that all gifts do not have to come in the usual packaging to be exquisite and  journeys begin with a single step. I may be on this one for my lifetime, and I welcome it. He has made me love with a fierceness I didn’t know I possessed and has given me a ministry without ever speaking a word.

My baby. He’d hate being called that as he will soon enter the year of “double-digits”. My child of trust – the one God spoke to me so clearly about. He is his daddy. He gives me a glimpse into what must have been my husband as a boy. He is all boy, all the time and thinks he’s a teenager too, yet still comes to me to sneak his hand up my arm – my “cold arm” as he called it when he was little and ask for a hug. I am so glad I listened to God, and not to man.

As much as I love this day, it makes me weepy. Not just because I miss my own momma, but for those childless mothers. The ones who want so desperately to be mothers. Newly married, I sat in church and watched my friend stroke her toddler’s hair as his head lay in her lap. I desired that so much I could taste it.

And I have no idea why God blessed me so easily with children when I have friends who want them and can’t or have had to go to great lengths to have them.

I think this day must be agonizing for so many. Especially in a world where children are idolized and parenthood seems to make one complete. I am guilty of sharing too many “mom” stories and getting so caught up in my busy-mom everyday, that I forget.

I think of the childless mother.  Those who long for children, yet arms remain empty.

The grieving mother.  Those without their children this first Mother’s Day. And those who have had to endure this day year after year.

For many, today will take every effort to step foot out of bed and breathe. Many will walk the halls of churches with plastered-on smiles covering a hollowed-out heart. I pray I am sensitive to those who may be hurting this day and am a source of grace and healing.

A mother is an influencer. A mother is an encourager. A mother is a mentor. A mother is a teacher. A mother is a friend.

For all mothers. Those with children and those without.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Some Days

 

Yesterday was a particularly difficult day- special needs-wise. I try not to “vent” or complain too much on Facebook, but there were several times I was tempted to jump on and let the world know and possibly get a little sympathy.

Because some days, I hate autism.

Some days, I scream it out loud.

Ironically, yesterday I happened upon an old TV show, the doctor adamant that “autistics” were intelligent and teachable and not “retarded”.

I turned it off, because it pained me to watch – not just because of the archaic terminology – but wondering about the fact my son has both cognitive delays from Down syndrome and aggressive behaviors I’ve always blamed on autism. Where in the world does that leave us?

Some days I am confused.

Some days I think too much.

Some days I wish he didn’t have both.

Some days I simply don’t know what to do.

Some days I let him get away with too much, using the excuse that he doesn’t understand, because I often don’t know what he does and doesn’t.

Some days I resort to letting him have his way in order to save myself from physical harm.

Some days I sometimes get weary.

Some days I’m just not fast enough to get away and “block” him.

Some days I just don’t feel like doing it all.

Some days I want to scream, “This is so hard!!!” but I don’t want to. Because then all those who think a child like mine shouldn’t be born, or isn’t as worthy as typical children, might have a reason to believe it.

Some days I feel horribly guilty for complaining, because I see on my news feed a little darling with Down syndrome whose parents must say goodbye because of heart defect like my son’s and am so grateful for him.

Some days I don’t want to let anyone know about those ugly parts because he is such a good-natured and loving boy.

Most days.

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I have been blessed with and entrusted with much.

Some days I must make myself count all joy and be thankful while in the trenches.

My trenches include teenagers.

Some days they are hard.

Some days, I miss baby and toddler-hood when hurts were little like their squishy bodies I that I could scoop up and hug the hurt away.

And as rocky as these years can be, no one suggests we don’t have children because they one day will be hormonal, emotional and both independent and relying on you all at the same time.

Some days, homeschooling an active nine year-old boy frustrates me into a mom-fit because he would rather do a zillion other things than sit and do math.

But no one suggested I abort him because he was perfect and healthy. Not like my baby seen as damaged and defective by those who will never know him.

Some days, this angers me.

Most days.

Every single day.

Some days, I have to cry out to God for physical and emotional strength. Out loud.

Some days are harder than others.

Just like for everyone.

But then, last night…

As he laid in bed, ready for sleep, that precious little soul who had angered me so earlier pulled my head to his and would not let go.

And all the hard of the day left.

I remembered it no more. Like our Father who remembers it no more when we come as little children, even like those who can’t speak and simply love Him and ask for forgiveness in the only way we know how.

Some days I would live over a thousand times for that one moment.

Some days I need to tell the world that no matter the cost, the price is worth it.

Like today…

Love Never Fails

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

Valentine’s Day- a day of full of red hearts and chubby cupids, chocolate and flowers, cards and sappy sentiments. A day set aside to celebrate love.

When my husband and I were dating, I planned a pull-out-all-the-stops Valentine’s Day celebration, only to have him called in to work at the last minute. Left alone with my candles and chocolate, a dinner to pack in the fridge, I cried and mourned the by-myself night ahead of me.

That fairy-tale night. That date circled with a heart on the calendar that shouted to me that I must do something to show this guy I was smitten.

We plan the big wedding, we buy the breath-taking dress, we walk the aisle, and we throw the party.

Life happens. Kids come. Sometimes some are born with extreme needs. Businesses close. Finances become shaky. Tempers flare and frustrations mount.

The daily little foxes that spoil the vines and threaten to crack that very foundation poured years ago before a minister on a rainy Saturday.

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And somewhere down the line, love can become no longer patient and sometimes a bit unkind.

As years pass, familiarity and assurance of unconditional love can make kindness dwindle; its reserves poured on strangers and acquaintances and used up.

Yet in the midst of the daily grind, amongst the frustrated and frantic, I find true love.

Not expected flowers and candy on a day. Not mushy-gushy, but love in action.

Love is the sound of my husband give my special-needs son a shower before school and hearing him say, “I love you…”

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Because love is patient.

Love is his taking him to school so I don’t have to get out on a cold morning.

Because love is kind.

Love is working long hours to grow a business to provide for our family. Love is me not envying those whose husbands work steady hours, who go on regular date nights and take yearly vacations, but instead being thankful for what he does and why he does it.

Love is finding joy in the everyday moments.

Love is eating chips and guacamole in the kitchen instead of dinner out in a quiet restaurant.

It does not envy.

Love is buying new tires and putting gas in my van. Love is calling every night on the way home from work to ask if I need anything from the store without ever being asked or expecting thanks.

It does not boast.

Love is, in many years of marriage, not ever demanding that dinner be on the table, never asking what I did all day or proclaim that the house is a mess. Instead, love tells me that he could never do what I do.

It does not dishonor others.

Love is a daddy starting his baby girl’s car on a cold morning before she goes to work.

It is not self-seeking.

Love is not getting upset when I banged up our cars, got speeding tickets, ran over a mailbox, and even when I hit him backing out of our driveway.

It is not easily-angered.

Love is not pointing out my many short-comings and failures, but encouraging me to do what God has called me to.

It keeps no record of wrongs.

Love is staying together though circumstances that should have ripped us apart.

Love believes God for greater things than what we can see, but only He can do.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Some days love must be sought on purpose. Because tempers flare and some days, people irritate.

But most days, I simply listen.

And I hear love in the sound of daddy-wrestling and brother-chasing, daughter-laughing and angel-seer giggling.

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I hear “I love you’s” and read texts signed with hearts and it makes my own full.

I feel hugs and pucker kisses, small hands in mine and heads on my chest and I drink in all that they are.

I see all around me the evidence of those I love and remember that love is patient when I wish they would put their things away.

I thank God that by His grace that I have those who create messes and fill my days. I thank Him that they love me and He loves me.

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I thank Him for love that always protects, hopes, and perseveres.

True love demonstrated and poured out on the cross – a red unlike any valentine and a love none can ever replicate.

Today I celebrate love, not because I have to, but because I get to. Because of Him and what He gave me. For what He gives me every day.

Love never fails.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Lights

Yesterday lights on my tree went out. We thought a plug came loose  – although we all know this could never happen since my kids and dog are so calm and never throw things or hit the tree.  I woke up thinking about how to do this.  I may have actually dreamed about it.

Therefore, today, I will take everything off and re-do my tree if necessary. Even though I need to shop and do a zillion other things, the tree is a priority.

Why? Needles will be everywhere and I will be sap-sticky and aggravated. Why I am I slightly obsessed (although after last night, Jerry would argue that the obsession is more than slight) over a tree? After all, it’s just a tree.

Is it because reminds me of Christmases growing up? Is it because for years when Jerry and I had no money to give each other gifts, the tree WAS my gift?  Is it all for the kids? Why is it that I, in all my frugalness and practicality, must have my real tree instead of buying an artificial one time and using it every year when that makes so much more sense?

I think the tree feels like home.

A real tree looks uneven and has holes. When the lights are off, the branches look bunched up and the wires show. The ornaments look a little dull.

But when the lights are on, it becomes transformed. The wires fade into the green and the ornaments are illuminated. The imperfections are covered and it draws us to sit and enjoy it. It becomes beautiful and inviting.

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Kind of like us. We are real and messy, imperfect and full of holes. When Jesus comes to live in us, we take on His light and become light. We are still imperfect and bunched-up but His light covers us and illuminates through us.

The Light of the World Himself asks us to be Him to the world. His light is inviting. His light is comforting.

His light is home.

 

 

Sorry I’m Late…

I used to be an on-time person. Not particularly early, (unlike those who show up annoyingly early before things are ready and we all know who those people are), but at least arriving at the proper hour. However, lately, (no pun intended), I have just been, well – late.

I stay up late, my kids stay up late, sleep late (don’t judge- they are homeschooled and that means we can), my husband works late. And I run late.

I’ve become that friend who gets there last. The one who calls to say, “Sorry, but I’m running a little late…”

I’m even late on the newest technology.  We still own VCR’s, we still have one TV that isn’t a flat screen and I just got an iPhone 5.  But apparently the 6 is way better. Or so I hear.  So please, just let me have my fun and enjoy my thumb sensor unlocky- thingy, panorama pictures and be happy for a little while.

I will say that one thing I don’t do late is sleep. Late, that is. Well, sometimes I don’t sleep either, but I digress.

This year, (every year), I am late decorating for Christmas. At least according to Instagram and Facebook where I see all my friends’ tinseled trees and evergreen-ed mantels.

But I’m working on it. Last night was the Neely-Annual-Picking-Out-the-Tree-and-Family-Dinner-Out. We got started late. Remember the hard-working husband who works late?

After proper tree-stand adjusting, branch-cutting and the boy’s box-tossing- from -attic antics (if any of my Christmas ornaments are broken….), it was late.  “I’m sorry kids, but 11:30 pm is a little too late to start decorating the tree…” Even I have to draw the line.

So Josh slept late. And was late for school. And taking him late means homeschool starts late. Again.

Daddy used to say, “I’m a day late and a dollar short,” but I never remember him being either.

Unlike me. And I can also excuse my tardiness with “Better late than never.” That is if I’m going to start quoting  clichés.

Yet, somehow in the business of life, it all gets  done. At least the important things.

So the tree will wait until tonight after church.  Although, I really could do it today. I could squeeze it in while my girl is at work, between school and all the other stuff I have to do. I could even decorate it just the way I wanted – all symmetrical and color-coordinated. Not that it would be wrong…

But then it wouldn’t be “our” tree.  And the point of it all is to do it together.

Isn’t it about the journey rather than the destination? Another cliché. I must stop.

So here is an original:

Isn’t the doing it better than it just getting done?

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Here is a peek at my naked tree and mantle scattered with things just sort of left there and tossed upon it. Definitely not my usual decked-out mantle decor.

But I kind of like it. It’s simple and a bit rustic. I may decide to keep it.

Some things we come upon by accident. Sometimes they come late.

I’m thinking that late doesn’t always mean after the proper time.

Just maybe, sometimes late is the perfect time.

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting for “It”

A few months ago, a friend and I were discussing a comment made by Michelle Duggar on her show 19 Kids and Counting. Mrs. Duggar was consulting her doctor about having more children at her age and as they discussed the risks, she remarked that she has been “dodging these odds” for over a decade already.

My friend said that as she watched the show, she waited for “It”.

I recently read a blog post about a mommy and a surprise pregnancy- at the “high-risk” age.

“It”.

I remember a conversation with a friend who didn’t want to have any more children after 35, because, “you know-the ‘risks.”

“Oh, you mean like having a child with Down syndrome?” I asked as I bounced my little “risk” on my hip.

“It.   Again.

Children with Down syndrome are born to mothers of all ages. In fact, more babies with Down syndrome are born to women under 35 simply because more women in that age group give birth.

According to the CDC, one in 700 babies is born with Down syndrome.

That number is pretty large actually considering the number of babies born daily.

And for those of us who didn’t “dodge the odds” – however small or large those odds happened to be…

We wait for “It”.

“It” looms large and hangs in the air.

“It” may be on a TV show, a movie, in an article, a blog or during a conversation.

I find myself holding my breath until “It” comes.

“When the doctors told me my daughter could have Down syndrome because of my age, he put me in a room full of these pictures. So I turned my chair the other way. I confessed she would not have “It” and she didn’t.   And she is SO smart.”  This from a dear sister in Christ, who finally told me because she thought I was ready to hear it.

No, not really ready.

One friend, on several occasions, a friend revealed to me that she would have aborted her baby if the test came back positive for Down syndrome.

Confession is good for the soul they say, but not always to the one hearing.

I often shake inside as the conversation unfolds. That building and escalating to the peak of that point when I know “It” is coming … and I often struggle with what to say.

“I wonder how many babies are aborted because the doctors were wrong and they were perfectly fine.”

My mind hears that to aborting a baby without “It” would be worse.

And my heart hears an underlying insinuation that people without “It” are more valuable.

I often weep that people find my son and those like him so undesirable and worth dodging.

Even the website for the CDC classifies “It” under birth defect.  I shudder as the URL pops on my page.

According to the CDC, my son has a defect. Why after twelve years of his life is this still so fresh?

Is it because I never even had “It” on my radar? Is it the attitude that “It” is the undesired result?

”It” is not just Down syndrome, but any disability. The attitude is much the same. So I nod and smile as people discuss the baby who was supposed to have this and that condition and is now the smartest, the most athletic, and the-whatever-opposite- of-what-they-were-told, – all the while I am screaming inside.

“Don’t you see?!?! There’s more to him! He is not “It”! I love him just as much as my children who don’t have “It”!

Why can’t the world see? Why did I never see before “It” entered my life?

I am saddened that a godly woman, known for her desire to have as many children God allows, missed an opportunity to tell the world she would welcome a child with Down syndrome.

Yet, I do believe Mrs. Duggar’s comment was not meant to be hurtful.

She and her family are obviously pro-life, making their beliefs very public. Recently, her daughter Jessa was blasted by the media for comparing abortion to the Holocaust. She specifically referred to Down syndrome:

“Millions of innocents denied the most basic and fundamental of all rights–their right to life….The belief that some human beings are “not fit to live.” So they’re murdered. Slaughtered. Kids with Down syndrome or other disabilities. The sickly. The elderly.”  And she goes on to say all life is precious.

I realize our words do not always line up with our intent; I believe Mrs. Duggar was trying to prove a point to those who think she may not need to “risk” having another child.

Unfortunately, “It” becomes the reason.

I am, however, horribly offended that a mother would look at a child with Down syndrome and tell her mother, “God would never do that to me.”

What is it about “It” that makes people so brazen?

I hear countless stories from my fellow special-needs parents of rude remarks, opinions, and unsolicited advice.

What makes “It” so horrible and frightful that doctors suggest ending an innocent baby’s life?

Why does not having “It” prompt cheers of Hallelujahs and testimonies of God’s goodness?

Did God not show Himself faithful to me?  What about those, like me, who prayed for “It” not to be, but is?

I know now that “It” is not a failure, lack of faith or unanswered prayer as I once thought.

On this side of “It”, I see the delicate beauty of those who look a little different but love unabashedly.

I treasure friendships formed by bonds of “It” that I otherwise may have never known.

On this side, I cling to His promises, praising Him for each new success, no matter how seemingly small.

I am struck by the enormity of a tiny word as I look back to one of the most difficult times of my life – when I awaited the test results for “It”.

The fear of the unknown and pride of the unfathomable plunged me into a chasm of anguish when “It” was confirmed and would soon be my reality.

Then I saw the face of “It”…

And love overwhelmed my soul while gratitude flooded my eyes for the exquisite creation from my God Who trusted me with such a gift.

A good and perfect gift just the same as if he were born without “It”.

“It” looks with longing almond eyes and smiles with hope.

“It” speaks with no words, while I beg God to quench the suffocating silence.

But challenges and differences don’t make us less, but make us stronger because through Him, the weak are strong.

The strongest I’ve known are weak in the eyes of the world.

If only my mere, fallible words could express my mama’s heart and tell of the love that is so deep and saturating to the point of that it practically hurts.

“It” will always be a part of my son’s life. Of my life.

I’ve heard so often when speaking of “It”, “Doctors are not always right. They don’t know everything. ”

Misdiagnoses do occur. But in our case, the diagnosis was correct.

But the doctor didn’t know everything.

Because no doctor could predict how much I would love and protect and guard my precious boy with a fierceness I didn’t know I possessed.

The doctor, who during his bleak announcement of doom and who could not see past “It”, would never see the exquisite and unique little soul that is my son. He didn’t know that child I was carrying would change hearts and minds.

No one prepared me for what “It” would mean for our lives.

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God did.

I wonder if He waits for “It”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Called

I just came across an article in a magazine about raising a disabled child.  While I am thoroughly immersed in the special-needs world, I am drawn to articles in publications of a more typical nature.

Maybe I’m drawn because I am so aware of how the normal in this world often forgets about those deemed different.

The article caught my eye specifically as it highlighted a child with the same diagnosis as a close friend of mine’s son.  While rarer than Down syndrome or autism, it often “looks “similar. And yet still different.

Like disability itself.

The scope of disability is broad.  The word scope itself is contradictory to me, because it means “extent”, but my mind sees a telescope. Narrow, but enabling us to see an expansive view of things far away and out of our normal field of vision.

Disability is often like this. For those of us who live it daily, whether physical, intellectual or the many and varied combinations of both, our world can seem very small and closed as we operate with tunnel-vision.

My own experiences have often left me feeling alone and isolated.

Left wondering if anyone except me and those who live as I do really care about the seemingly small, yet realistically broad population affected by disability.

Social activities, clubs, groups and even churches are geared to the typically-developed.  While many strides have been made to accommodate the disabled, there remains the unspoken sense that things just don’t apply my special-needs child.

I parent him differently.  Time and again I have heard to treat him like my others and  have the same expectations, but the reality is – well, unrealistic.

How can I explain right and wrong to a child who often does not understand a word I say?

And if he does, how do I know he does? He can’t tell me. I can only assume and hope.

I never really know how much he knows. Only by extreme repetition and extensive practice is a task accomplished, but I really never know if he gets it, or if it is just rote habit.

The physical, mental and emotional exhaustion can be overwhelming.  For me, it’s the constant and active stage of pre-talking toddlerhood, encased in an 80-pound 12-year old. There is no indication or prediction of when or even if the next stage will come.

Throw in puberty changes and up goes the ante.

And that’s just the now.  The stress of planning for the future overwhelms me and while I lay it before the Lord, I feel irresponsible if I simply don’t worry.

Recently, my son accidentally got locked in our van. Fortunately, it was running with the AC on. But as I motioned repeatedly for him to unlock the door: “Come on, right here,” as I banged on the place the lock would so simply slide, he just looked at me and smiled.

I ordered a tag for his shoe with a safety alert blaring “I have autism and am non-verbal. “ Because running or bolting is a concern.

My typically-developed toddler once ran from me in a parking lot and after discipline never did again.

But again-it’s different.

I long to hear: “I love you Mommy”.  And add cute sayings for my list. My other children have many.

But one has only a name.

I know that words are not always necessary.

But the want in me aches to hear a spoken phrase.

And my self-centeredness makes me ashamed.

I read a comment recently from a mother who lost her baby who would have been severely disabled if he had lived. She said people told her it was for the best.

And she said she would see parents of disabled children and think how lucky they are.

I am blessed beyond measure to be his mother. I am privileged and unworthy.

My reality is the constant check of wanting more for my son and feeling guilty for doing so.

The constant element that permeates my life is only occasionally smattered in a magazine that talks of usual life. My constant different mixed with my everyday normal calling of wife and mother.

It’s where my callings meet –  of those I chose and those He chose.

A ministry given by the same grace by which He sustains me in my weakness.

He carries me through what He’s called me to do.

 “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.”

I often hear, “I don’t know how you do it.”  I do not think any of us really know how we do it, except that we just do because we have to.  And I don’t know how those fighting harder battles do it.

But we do because we are called.  Chosen.

Each of us is chosen, by Him, for Him, to do His work and share His heart.

And whether the world ever fully accepts or includes or even mentions those He has chosen me to speak for, I will not stop.

Because He has called me.

Because He is faithful.

Because He will do it.

What is your calling?

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