More alike…no really.

I heard the sweetest/saddest/sweetest story this week and I want to share an abbreviated form of it with you, and then share my heart.

The story begins with a little newborn, surrendered to authorities and failing to thrive.

Failure to thrive is no joke. I was warned of the possibility when expecting Thaney. That low muscle tone, or poor reflexes may result in an inability to tap into our instinctual drive to survive. It was during those visits with doctors and the warnings they gave, that Thaniels dad began to form the opinion that he “couldn’t handle” the future with Thane.

This other little one was given to a foster family and eventually he was adopted by them, but as the telling went, I got a sense that the story teller felt he was lucky. Blessed even to have been taken in at all. Essentially unwanted, unworthy and ‘ graced’ with people who decided to put up with him anyway. Like they were doing him a favour.

I understand that. I always felt that was what God had to do in my case. Until I really met Jesus and He just flooded my heart with the depth of love He felt for stupid clumsy me… but up until then, I figured He was a ‘ Saint’ and that’s just what saints do.

Enter Thaniel. God’s living breathing walking talking pooping singing hugging loving example to me of just how deep and wide and full and eternal and all encompassing and perfect love can be. And I know my love for Thaniel and he for me only scratches the surface of our Savior’s love for us both.

So here is my Christmas homily for that little newborn who felt rejected and despised and taken ‘anyway’ . It’s for you who might be feeling like you don’t qualify. For you who feel that if you work hard enough you’ll earn a place at the table.. and for Thaney bear, may you never ever feel that you are anything less than God’s most perfect design. Formed with purpose, on purpose and to my absolute joy and thanksgiving.

I have nine children (eight earth side and one heaven side) . All carried in my own body. Genetically all mine. Flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone. They should be all the same. They eat the same foods, and go to bed at the same time, I sang the same lullaby’s to each of them as they rested on my shoulder and I rocked them to sleep. I wrote them stories, and told them at bedtime, passed down the same traditions, introduced them to the same Saviour. But they are all so different. Despite all of the sameness, they are all so different. Unique in their personalities, character traits, emotions, behaviours, viewpoints. And the gap only widens as they get older. Outside influences seep in and colour the canvases once blank for my choosing.
Difference can be divisive. It can sever ties, cut communication, end relationship. Difference is scary, it’s odd, it separates, excludes, sets apart. No one really likes difference. For all of our uniqueness we are the same in that. We don’t understand difference.
How do we relate to the other? How do we communicate? How do we find common ground? Because the common seems to be the only way we bridge that gap. For some reason we are unable or unwilling to leap across a chasm and accept difference for what it is. We search for a common. A same.
My ninth child is different. VERY different from his siblings. He looks different. He sounds different. He learns different. He moves different. He was carried and nurtured and cared for the same, but he is far and away different. The very core of his DNA is altered and apart. He is genetically different. He stands alone.
And yet, his sweet unique is pulling my family closer. Despite all that sets him apart, he seems to call everyone to him. In our home, in the grocery store, in the mall and on the street. People draw near to him. And it’s not just him. We, my family and I are all drawn now to others like him. So different from ourselves, but now seemingly bound together in some strange but awesome family of “others” . I see someone like him and my heart responds with “YOU TOO!” I feel joined, familiar, the same.
How is this? That we are different but so alike.
Jesus was this.
Jesus was the same. Born of a woman. Carried in a womb. Delivered in a baptism of blood and water. Raised, loved, taught, and tucked in, just like each of us. But He was so apart. So very different and unalike. We considered Him afflicted and rejected and we didn’t understand His difference. Fully God / Fully man. All at once like us, and all at once nothing like us. He walked with us, and we never really knew Him. We turned Him away. We didn’t want everything that came with Him. We knew not what we did.
Until the spirit opened our eyes and we received Him as He is.
After which, everyone we met who had brought Him in; became familiar, family. We could look at someone across the chasm of race and colour and socio-economic standing and say “YOU TOO!” And feel bound together. No free man, no slave, One God, one family. Same.
Now, I’m not for a second relating my son to the most high. Not at all. But it’s that same drawing, that same camaraderie I feel with him and those like him that I feel with the family of God. And it leads me to believe that despite our difference. We are more alike.
My children are all different. But they are more alike.
My Christian family are all different, but they are more alike.
You just need to let the spirit in.
When you see my son, and you note his difference, and you consider him afflicted and perhaps intend to reject him… stop for a second and let the spirit of him in, and see if all of a sudden you don’t find yourself in a sea of family, of oneness with humanity, of same.

Because truly. We are all more alike than different.

Everyday that I have been a single mommy to this most awesome baby boy, has been one filled with a dual prayer… ” Lord Jesus, please let Thaney never feel even for a second that he was unwanted in anyway, and God, Thank you. Thank you Thank you Thank you!

And when it comes to that other little baby boy,  Thank you God for him too. Thank you that he did thrive, that he found his family, that they were blessed enough by You to have the privilege of knowing and loving him, Your creation , Your glorious design. And thank you that he found You, the author and finisher of our faith, the greatest qualifier ever. Ancient of days, we love you too. 🙂

Apples to 🍎.

IMG_2663.JPGOh yuk. Yuk yuk yuk. Picture me here right now just shuddering and making the ” I just ate a bug” face.
I didn’t eat a bug.

It was worse in some ways.

I compared my child to another.

I swore I’d never do it. I would not be that person. I promised myself and my child I would rise above.
VEHEMENTLY.

I understand we are in Holland and taking the scenic route and all that. I have seven other children, and not one of them is alike. I delight in the fact that my baby boy has remained more ‘baby-like’ then my other children, they who seemed to fast track thru the cute snugly stage into little kids, leaving me longing for the days of yore.

Last night we celebrated Thaneys accomplishment of linking two words together, (one of them was even crystal clear!) and using them in the right context. Had a wee little happy party over it, as we do all of his awesome sauce accomplishments; so hard fought for and achingly won. Each milestone is a cause for cake and celebration . Thaniel is three years old and I really am ( really really really) thankful for the pace at which Thaniel is becoming a person. I get it. I do. ( am I convinced yet? Are you?)

But today another three year old, this one on my school playground, had a lengthy conversation with me about his morning so far and though it was in a lispy three year old little voice… it was coherent , it was thoughtful, it was so much more than two simple words linked together, only one of which was even intelligible. That lead me to the wretched place of also contemplating how that same child at my school had put on his own outdoor shoes and followed instructions to line up with his peers and follow them outside and was going to do all of that same instruction following when he comes in and sits down at his desk, takes out his own snack and eats all by himself. And I had to slip away to cry.

Cry.

Like an ugly ,thoughtless, judgey, ungrateful, discontent, unsupportive ,bad mom.

A pity party. Not for me of course, for Thaniel …

Except it was for me. It could only be pity for me, because quiet frankly Thaniel is NOT busy comparing himself to other kids. He’s busy playing with other kids, and loving them and loving the world and stringing two beautiful words together to communicate in his own perfect way with those around him. He is NOT hung up on what he won’t do, where he won’t go, who he won’t be. That was all me today, mourning stupid preconceived prepackaged notions of ” normal” that are shoved down our plastic loving, photoshop filter making selfies.

I thought I’d outgrown comparisons.

I really thought I’d moved on and finally gotten clear of that fruitless joy killer. I spent most of my adult life comparing myself to other women and coming up staggeringly short. In high school I was confident, out going and vibrant. My parents loved me, my best friend was crazy awesome and I was sure of my place in the scheme of things.
But then I got married and very quickly I learned that my husband preferred anything other than me. I tried dying my hair, cutting and growing my hair, changing my clothes, changing my personality, losing some weight, gaining some weight, giving him children, keeping those children out of his way. Everything I could think of in my power and control to be something he’d love and want… but he didn’t. Why? What did they have that I didn’t? What did they do? What made them better or more deserving of love and desire than me? It eluded me. Whatever it was I didn’t have it.

And then he left and married another woman and loves her very much, proving everyone who said it wasn’t me it was him, wrong.

I spent the next ten years comparing myself to every woman I saw who had a successful relationship. Wondering over and over why I was unworthy of the same. Coming to the conclusion each and every time that I was some how less than, lacking and unloveable.

I completely ignored the unconditional and overwhelming love that had from the foundations of the world been held out to me.
I’d made the love of a man… a MAN! … my plumb line of worth, and brushed off with casual dismissal the fact that the designer of the universe, the ancient of days, who was and is…(you get it?) loves me with an everlasting love. I dismissed the fact that the only one worth judging me ALREADY DECLARED ME WORTHY. Like the whole world, I swallowed the lie that something in this tent of clay was important and that the soul inside it was inconsequential.

God met me on my knees in my kitchen while I mopped the floor, and asked me why I didn’t consider His love enough. He poured over me that day and described the way He waits to get a glimpse of me, how He loves when I bother to talk to Him, wants to be my first thought in the morning and my last sigh at night. Desires my company, considers me beautiful and love-ly and has so many plans for us together. All of the things I’d longed for from a man, all this time… He loves me.
And not the imperfect and imposed love of a parent. You know… because they HAVE to love you, you’re their kid. No- HE CHOSE ME!!!! Keeps choosing me, even when I have pushed Him away and ran after other lessor things.

For the past few years I finally let go of the ache and question. I’m enough to God, I need nothing else, and I stopped comparing.

Until today.

God please forgive me. Remind me again how the soul inside of Thaniel is exactly the one you intended him to have. That he is fearfully and WONDERFULLY made. That I am blessed beyond measure to know him and to be a part of your creative process in bringing him into the world, and help me divinely to steward his time here for your glory. Remind me that what he becomes and where he goes and what he does, has already been seen and planned by you and you call those plans Good! Who am I to call them less than. Forgive me for comparing Thaniel to anyone else in your creation. You made no mistake. He is just right. Father please, never let Thaniel sense any hint of disappointment in me, or look around himself and wonder if he isn’t somehow lacking from everyone else. Protect him please Jesus, from the lie our world clings to of outward perfection, while ignoring the eternal, the incomparable in each of your image bearers.
And finally Lord, could you please, in your time, meet Thaniel just as you met me, and let him feel and know and be filled with the indescribable love that only you can provide. Thank you for putting up with us, thank you for loving us. I love you too.

Dear you,

Maybe you just found out the child you are carrying may have or has Down syndrome, or some other such “imperfection” and right now you are mourning your dreams and hopes for the child you pictured having, the future you envisioned for him or her. Maybe you are comparing yourself to other parents of special needs children and thinking you come up short and could never ” do what they do”

I know. I feel you. Take a knee if you must.

But know this.

This child you are carrying was thought about and intended long before the foundations of the world. There is a plan in place. There’s a love growing inside of you that is just waiting to pour over you and fill you with more than you ever dreamed possible, it’s being held out to you, and it is without compare. Don’t brush it off or dismiss it or in fear deny it in a pointless search for temporary (and false) perfection. I promise you, you won’t be sorry.

And hey Thaney… cake tonight pal. You rock your awesome sauceness and I’m crazy in love with you, never forget it kid.

I’M PROLLY GUNNA CRY ALL DAY.

Today is NOT world down syndrome day, but since Brampton Christian School (greatest school on the planet FYI) will be away on March break for the celebration, they flipped the date 3-21… and we are celebrating today 3-12.  B.C.S is decked out today in multi-coloured crazy socks to show their support for MY SON and people just like him, people like me and you and you and you… all different but so much the same.  And the whole thing has made me crazy emotional. I’m crying as I type.

Can someone please explain to me how this little boy with his crooked smile and his squinty almond eyes has turned me…fiercejoy, into a blubbering mess??  At the first hint of support or love that is shown to him by anyone, I melt.  I’ve spent a good portion of this last year crying rivers of happy tears, emotional moved to soggy-ness tears.

It’s as if I’m expecting the worst.

I’m expecting stares and whispers and pointed fingers and when I get open admiration and respect instead, my eyeballs get so shocked they spill.  And maybe in part it’s because I want to protect him so badly. I watch him fight so hard and struggle for every inch of his growing and becoming that I feel this fierce and overpowering drive to put a hedge around him and make his way easier. He does his fighting with a smile and baby jabber and I do mine with watchful eyes and clenched fists.

I am so crazy proud of my school today. Not just for the socks… that’s fun, and everyone likes fun. I’m proud of the way they asked questions during my classes with them these last three weeks, and became irate when I quoted the current abortion rate for kids with T21.  Of how they ask about Thane nearly everyday,  and add him to their classroom prayer lists, how they call him “so cute” and the littlest ones ask if he can come to school with me yet?. I’m proud of the way my colleagues hold us up in prayer all the time, and how they love me by loving Thane.  I’m so proud I’m prolly gunna cry all day.  The rainbow of colours that line the hallways today screams that bullies don’t have room here, that discrimination doesn’t have a place, that inclusion is a forgone conclusion and that LOVE WINS.

Every time.

When I became a single mom a year ago I woke the following day with a crisp and clear resolution. That Thaniel would never feel the gap. That he would lack for no thing that I could offer him, whether it be material or emotional or spiritual.  I didn’t have a plan as to how I’d pull that off mind you, just that resolution.  Days like today I see it. I feel the fullness of the life he is going to lead, it reminds me of the way air enters a balloon and pushes out the sides. Each deep breath in when we are at our end and struggling; finds it’s release in the awesome sauce way we are held by our friends and family and Thaniel’s world becomes bigger.

I realize that these are the easy days, the days when he is little and cute and you really can’t tell if he has deficits or not and everyone just wants to “hug the baby” . I realize that the real mountains are ahead.  When he is big and maybe loud and silly and I’m the only one that finds him adorable.  But for today I’m gathering his army of supporters around us like a squirrel with nuts to carry us thru.  And when I go home tonight I’m going to pull him into my arms and bawl like a big girl and tell him all about the school that put on crazy socks and wore ribbons and celebrated HIM today.  Thank you Brampton Christian, it means the world to us.download_20150312_123136download_20150312_123130

Here`s what I know so far

“I bet you wish you’d stopped at seven huh?”

That was an actual sentence uttered in the staff room to me. A fellow colleague had heard me ask for prayer in the morning staff devotions, for my unborn child who wasn’t expected to live, and that was his offering to me. “Bet you wish…”

I stood stunned. which is good. If I had been able to speak I would have said something I’d later feel great about, but still have to apologize for. The problem is, what he said wasn’t far off of what I’d already heard coming from all over. The first ultrasound technicians reassuring hand on my thigh and an encouraging lilt to her voice “These babies rarely survive anyway” , My G.P’s pointed ” You have seven healthy children and lots of time to exercise your options”  and the first visit with the obstetrician…  “I’m so sorry.”

Apparently everyone had already written this kid off.  I was clearly carrying something to be sorry about.

(For anyone already angry on my sons behalf. I changed family doctors, changed OB’s and even changed delivering hospitals.  The first geneticist I spoke with at the new hospital said plainly “we honour all life here, how can we help make all this easier?”  )

I was pretty angry about some of those words, but I’ve had a year and a half with my son now and all of those ugly, ignorant, well-meant but misplaced words have fallen away and I am left with the brilliant and awesome and encouraging.  It’s those words and those people I’d rather write about.

For starters there were my midwives, who were gentle with their pronouncements and kept my “odds” (what a ridiculous system of unnecessary worry those are) to themselves for nearly eight months. (my odds were 4/5 BTW) and called this pregnancy  ‘extraordinary’ but said it with hope and not apology.

Next there was Vicki. I can’t thank Vicki enough.   When I told her what doctors suspected and how they were interested in doing more tests she said ever so eloquently “screw the tests, enjoy your pregnancy” and “your having a baby. It eats it sleeps it poops, don’t let anyone tell you different”   Vicki has a grown daughter with DS and she rocks several flavours of awesome sauce.

My parents were amazing, they held me close when I first announced the test results, they prayed with incredible faithfulness and fervor for Thaniel’s life and health and they covered every gap caused by the extra involved with his pregnancy.

And then there were my children. My brilliant children who just loved and celebrated along with me. Who never complained about all of the visits I had to take to the hospital an hour and a half away, or how we had to cut back on a lot of stuff since I was on a partial leave from work, or how I missed my then youngest sons very first day of school, and then the next four weeks of school.. My children who fended for themselves (with my parents help) and who didn’t spend our time on the phone complaining about what I was missing, but instead they asked about their cute little brother.

I quickly became a single mother as Thaniel’s father couldn’t cope with his diagnosis and left… but in reality I have never ever felt like a single parent because of my incredible family. We are a village.

At work I am loved and supported. I was given extraordinary grace all throughout Thaniel’s pregnancy and ever after. My co-workers have baked and cooked and gifted until I’m humbled by them. I’ve had to miss weeks at a time and they pitch in and give up and rise every time. And they have never let on that it’s a hardship, even though I know it is.

What am I trying to say?

Maybe you just got the news. Maybe you went to the internet to read about this diagnosis and you stumbled upon this blog. (Please for the love of all that’s pink, stay AWAY from Wikipedia and google nonsense when it comes to your baby) If that’s you, if you are reeling and doctors are hinting, and family is `sorry-ing` and former friends are `tisk-tisking` let me give you this gift. It`s all I’ve got in the way of Down syndrome wisdom, because I’ve only been stumbling through this myself for the last year and a half.

You will get new friends, who are several shades of brilliant and they will quickly become very dear to you. You will be embraced by a community of parents unlike any other who will seem like family from the word go and will hold you up when you have little to go on.  Your family, the good ones, will come together as you have never experienced before and this little miracle you are carrying will be without question the greatest thing you ever did, and you will call yourself lucky in no time.  (If you cried when you heard, don’t feel bad… a lot of us did and as much as I regret it now .. as much as I wish I’d thrown a blue and yellow party instead, it`s alright to mourn the stuff you `thought` was important.) And all of those other people will fade away. They can’t take the awesome. They will disappear, shrink, cease to be important. I promise.

And on behalf of Thaniel and myself.. `congratulations!`

(it really is just a baby… eats, sleeps, poops. she was right)