“…what matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.”- Galatians 5:6b, The Message
This morning, it is a dreary, gray, drizzly day outside. The girls are still in pajamas, and they are playing with their ball and blocks (two of their most favorite toys currently) on a blanket in front of me. A candle is lit, coffee is in my hand, and peace in my heart. The weather outside does not bother me a bit. We had almost a full week of sunshine…beautiful, glorious, clear blue skies and signs of new life coming up all around us. Friends, Spring has come. It has arrived both outside and inside our home. The girls are well, and they have been sleeping better than ever this week. Refreshment for both body and spirit. I have found that we are able to embrace and appreciate these “easy” moments more than ever before. We do not know what is around the corner, none of us do. Yet, today, in this moment, I am grateful for some reprieve and rest after a weary and draining month.
Before you are a parent, you begin to think about the different dynamics of parenthood that you want to “get right”. For Hugh and I, we discussed and watched those before us as they navigated this whole idea of teaching and modeling Christ’s love to their children. The things that I pictured versus our reality are somewhat different, and in recent months, I have been putting a lot of prayer into how to teach children with intellectual disabilities about the things of eternity.
There, I said it.
Our girls have an intellectual disability.
So many times in this journey, I have felt the weight of the possibility that this was true. I have rationalized why their cognition could potentially be right on track. I have gotten defensive at the mere suggestion that it was not. Yet another idol hidden deep within my heart. Hugh always does a great job of articulating how this journey with our girls has made us aware of so many more idols in our lives that we didn’t know existed prior. These idols of expectation, these assumptions that we have made about what our family will look like, this placing satisfaction and purpose in whatever normalcy we had falsely assumed would be our normal. For me, I did not realize how high I have placed cognitive ability in my heart. I have often found the things we get most sensitive and defensive about are the things that we are placing too much of our identity or worth in, and this is absolutely true when it comes to worldly intellect. At times, I have thought, ‘Lord, you can take away the girls’ mobility, you can take away their communication skills, but please, please, please, do not take away their cognition’. We do not know what the girl’s development will look like tomorrow, but today, it is clear that this is an area that looks differently than peers their age. A week or so ago, after we had already said goodnight, I simply said this to Hugh, “Babe-would you say that are girls are, you know, mentally…you know.” The dreaded r-word. Hugh stayed silent for a second and then replied, “Yeah, Mo. Probably.” I was automatically ashamed at how much that truth hurt my heart. The reality is, while we say the girls are “undiagnosed”, and the root of their development differences has not been named, we could tag a lot of different words onto their medical files if we really wanted to do so. But really-where is the benefit of naming these temporary differences? Beyond that, what does tagging worldly words onto the girls have to do with teaching them about eternity?
“Where is the one who is wise?…has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom…we preach Christ crucified…For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”- pieces of 1 Corinthians 1:20-25
Each and every time I go into the girls’ room in the mornings, they begin kicking their legs and squealing in excitement. They give me the biggest smile you could possibly imagine, and as I pick them up to get them changed and ready for the day, they grasp onto me with all their might and display a love purer, deeper, and wider than any so-called love from this world. We take care of the girls in the most raw, organic ways possible, and we anticipate this could be true until we or they pass from this earth. We feed them, we change them, we dress them, we carry them, we determine where they go or do not go, we decide what they do for the day…and they are completely content with this. What a model of authentic love and trust they display! The girls’ love is one dimensional, pure, and contagious- a love truly from above.
“…and I said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”.-Matthew 18:3
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”- Matthew 18:10
What kind of wisdom really matters? And, if I really think about it, are the girls not wiser than most people I know? The truth is, being able to walk and talk and live independently does not make you wise. Ally and Bailey Grace live in such a way that anyone who knows them cannot help but see God through their little beings. It is why people are drawn to being around them or reading more about them! They offer joy-squealing, kicking, giggling, bright joy- to anyone they come in contact with. They do not have to know the “why’s” of this world- for they only know Love and that is more than enough. At the end of the day, in the midst of the Spring that has sprung in my heart, I am in disbelief that we are privileged to raise these precious souls. I get to spend my days serving and loving two little girls who display the fruits of the Spirit like no one else I know! They take each day as it comes, laughing and rejoicing in each of the moments they have been given. True, unabandoned trust to the One who created them in His image. Fearfully and wonderfully made, with a connection to their Maker that is infectious and absolutely beautiful. The world might give me a good, Southern, ‘Bless their hearts’…yet my heart already feels unimaginably blessed that this is the life He has given us. A purpose much bigger than I could have ever planned or imagined. Something I would have never prayed for yet can now not pray against, for it has taught me the beauty within suffering and the joy within living outside of the confines of normal. Our priorities have changed in the best way possible. What about you? What things are you allowing to consume you that just plain don’t matter in the scheme of eternity? What things are causing you tears and pain that are really blessings? Where can you let go and allow God to reveal beauty within the ashes? I can promise you this: life is not going to look like what any of us thought it was going to, and that is a very, very good thing. The sooner we realize this, the sooner we embrace the reality that is instead of the cheap fantasy we imagined, the sooner we will be at peace and content with the shots that God has already called. Your current circumstances are God’s best for your life. Every day is a party and a celebration of the victory that Christ has already given us. The battle has already been won—let’s live like it! Each of us is defined by something much bigger than brains or external beauty. Our worth is found in the One who claimed us as His own. May we spend our moments, however many we have left, in peace and relief that He is Sovereign and He is good. Hope does not disappoint, friends. Hope does not disappoint.
“And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given us.”- Romans 5:5