Below is a letter I had sent some time ago to a mom who had read the following story on the internet, and then came to me for advice about a child of hers who was just diagnosed with a disability. I hope my sharing of this letter will bring hope to others who find themselves in the same place as this mother whom I wrote the original letter to.
First, here is a copy of the story I refer to in the letter:
WELCOME TO HOLLAND
c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved
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.
I too had been given that same story soon after Thomas was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, and for a while it gave me comfort. But I would like to share with you a much greater truth God taught me out of this story as I sought the “why” behind our family trip to Holland.
Like I said the story of Italy verses Holland did give me comfort for a while, but in my prayers and struggles I found myself asking God to teach me more about how to accept the direction life had taken for our family. Over time God began to reveal to me an even more powerful truth that in time I started to cherish in realizing that God felt me capable of holding this truth out to a watching world. You see many people live their lives in the pursuit of “normal”, which to the world’s point of view is acceptable and unthreatening. But for those of us who have been dealt the card of “abnormal”, then to the world we are marked as offensive because in their eyes we do not have the ability to meet the desired goal. But do you know that this type of thinking is not from God, rather it is a scheme of Satan’s to keep each of us from being a unique creation which he can use for His purposes - as He pleases. In reality what you and I lost the day we found out we had a child that was “abnormal” was a buy-in to the lie that “normal” was our goal.
Yes it is difficult to have that loss happen in our lives. It grieves our souls to realize that many of our pursuits in the past were misguided and our hearts and minds were far from pursuing truth. Over time those things will fade away, but the key to moving forward it to embrace the “abnormal” – the unique journey – the road unknown. In your future you will find how God’s will becomes much clearer to you because the lie of “normal” is not there to mask the way.
I will not downplay the physical, emotional, relational, or spiritual struggles you are going through. All these things are very real and all need to find their place as everything is sorted out day by day. God will show you as you know He has always been faithful in the past, so He will be in the future.
I want to leave you with some verses and I pray they will give you strength to keep on going even when it may seem like you are moving backwards instead of forwards. These are words that Habakkuk spoke when all looked dim in his life and in the world around him. Words spoken not because he knew anything was going to change today, tomorrow, or even next week, but instead because he knew God was the One in control and He was perfect and all loving.
“Though the fig tree may not blossom, not fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; thought the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls – yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.” (Hab 3:17-19)
May the peace of the Lord be with you and always and may you know I am always here for you.
May God continue to give you peace today no matter where you find yourself in this world. Whatever God wills into your life is His "normal" and to God anything within His will is not "abnormal".