It was the most difficult season of our married lives — big trial, uncertainty, no routine, and high stress. We had five children and had unloaded all the baby paraphernalia. We were tired, worried, confused, frustrated, and as stretched by and dependent on God as we ever had been.
So we thought.
God has a way of using our trials in unexpected ways, doesn’t He?
I got pregnant. We were shocked. I thought I had entered menopause. But nooooo, I was with child.
I responded, to my shame, differently than I had for any of my other pregnancies. Instead of feeling elation, excitement, and rejoicing, I was shocked, panicked, and totally at a loss as to why God had allowed this in the midst of this season of trial.
In short, I was an internal basket case.
Four weeks later, while still in the midst of big trial, test results arrived…. Our child would be born with Down Syndrome.
Okay, Lord. I. Can. Not. Even.
I don’t remember much from the months that followed as we clung to God — more trial, many tests and ultrasounds (Really, if my doctor mentioned my “advanced maternal age” one more time…. clearly, the man didn’t realize he was dealing with a woman on the edge, but I digress), homeschool, trial, test, ministry, parenting, trial, test…. You get the idea.
At some point, a dear (and brave) friend suggested I go away for 24 hours and cry. I thought that was a terrible and, frankly, silly idea. That night, as I was mid-sentence telling my husband about this ridiculous idea, he picked up his phone…
…hold up, Buster, I’m talking here…
…and made me a hotel reservation.
Why is no one listening to me? Seriously, am I yelling into the wind? So off I go to Bawl-a-Thon 2013. Yippee.
I’m not gonna lie. Twenty-four hours alone when you have any children, let alone five, is nothing to shake a stick at. But going away to face my fears, my sin, my ugliness, my sorrow, my unbelief. Nope. Nope. Nope. Didn’t wanna do that.
Alas, the reservation was made, so off I went. I checked in with a Bible, an iPad, and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Armed and dangerous, that’s what I was.
I read Scripture. I listened to worship music. I read about Down Syndrome. I journaled. I cried. I ate ice cream.
As I look back at Bawl-a-Thon 2013, my perspective didn’t change immediately, but a door opened that began a work of healing.
The week before our baby was born, we shared our situation at a small group meeting. Up to this point, very few people knew of our baby’s possible diagnosis. We had not even told our children. The doctors could not diagnose with 100% certainty and we didn’t want to give needless reason to worry (‘cause you see how well I was doing).
They prayed for us.
The following week I was different. I couldn’t tell if it was because God had moved or I was numb, but it was a welcomed change, regardless. Even my husband noticed I seemed peaceful for the first time in a long time.
The day of her birth was pleasant and peaceful. Hers was the easiest of my deliveries. She was born perfectly healthy…and with Down Syndrome.
They laid her on my chest and I thought, with certainty, joy, and exploding love, “Thank you, God. She’s mine.”
I do not regret that God gave us a child with Down Syndrome. I am not angry. I rejoice.
I do not look far into the future. I advocate for her, but I don’t project too far ahead. That’s a lesson I learned. It is fruitless to worry about the future because God has not shown us that far. There is no grace in the realm of the “future unknown.”
God gives grace. He gives more grace than we could ask or imagine. But He gives it when we need it. And not a moment before.
So, I encourage you, friends, don’t go down the dark, slippery, emotionally draining, character wrecking slope of “Worry and Fret for the What Ifs, God, You Gotta Be Kidding, I Can’t Do This.” God’s not in that.
You will, however, find all manner of swill — schemes of the devil, all the bad, yucky, damaging emotions and self-talk, isolation, and hopelessness. These are the places God does not go, except to lovingly call us back.
Rest and be still, friends. Trust and obey. Your circumstances may be unimaginably hard, harsh, and sorrowful. You may not know how you are going to get out of this mess. You may not be able to see two steps ahead of you.
You don’t have to.
God’s grace arrives only as we take the next step — the next, uncertain step He asks you to trust and take in faith. He’s in that. Like a lighthouse guiding you sure and firm in the midst of the storm, He’s there. He’s there with grace, comfort, wisdom, and supernatural, indescribable peace, even joy.
And He will meet you there.
Step on, friend. His grace will be sufficient. I know. God has sent a reminder so that I will never forget. I look into the beautiful, brown-eyed face of moment-by-moment grace every day.
And it’s miraculous.