I would be remiss if I did not take a few moments and tell you of a providential tale that Lord is working in our lives (Rick and Charyl).
Yesterday (December 17, 2013) I was an expectant dad. We got up at 3:30 in the morning and headed to the hospital. Contractions were strong and about 5 minutes apart. Charyl was a trooper and was dealing with them well. We made it to the hospital, got situated in our room and continued the labor process. Charyl received an epidural and had perhaps the most pain free and easy delivery we could have hoped for. They put the messy but beautiful baby on Charyl and we were all full of JOY at the delivery of our precious child. As they worked on Charyl, I followed the nurse with the baby and had my camera in hand taking pictures and videos. I have been there for the birth of all my children and they have all looked exactly alike. As they wiped Joy off immediately I noticed that she had a different look about her than my other three. At first I thought maybe she just looks different, but as I looked closer, like a punch in the stomach, I had the heartbreaking thought, “I think my new daughter has Down Syndrome.” I dare not speak what I had suspicions of, but in my heart I knew. I looked in the eyes of the nurses and I could tell that they knew. I saw one of them make eye contact with another one and she looked down and confirmed the heartbreak that I was feeling. I felt flushed like I was going to faint. I felt shame, fear, anger, disbelief, and shock. I didn’t want them to take the baby back to Charyl. She is a nurse and I knew as soon as she got a chance to look at her, she would see the same thing. They handed her to Charyl and after looking at her for just a moment Charyl’s face said what I was feeling in my gut. Charyl said in quiet disbelief, “She looks like she has Down’s.”
NOT US…NO REALLY NOT US.
I love people, but like most people, Charyl and I have never felt particularly comfortable around people with special needs. We love them, but probably like most of you are–not sure exactly how to act around someone who has special needs. For this reason we always thought that ministry to special needs children would be something we support, but not our particular calling in life. Isn’t God funny?
I have to be honest… to this point in our life we have lived a life that could possibly be described as enviable by many. We have a strong marriage, 3 awesome kids who are cute as can be, I serve as pastor at a great church, Charyl has an amazing business, we have more awesome friends than should be legal for two people, and most of all, we are happy. We love Jesus and we love life. We have seen all these things as the blessing of the hand of the Lord on our lives. We have tried to honor Him in the way we live and the way we treat others and He has always been good to us. Charyl is still relatively young (30) for today’s standard of having children and we have no family history of Down Syndrome. There is NO way we should have a child with Down Syndrome! This does not fit. This is not in the plan. A child with Down Syndrome does not fit into our crazy perfect little lives. Well…God has other plans! God has better plans. God knows better than we know. A God that has always been good to us is still good to us. He is showing us His goodness through an unexpected channel of blessing named Joy.
A New Way of Thinking
When I think about Ty, Katie, and Karis growing up I think about all they can be and do. Ty is smart and creative. Katie is a loving hard worker, and Karis is dramatic and funny. I think about life milestones like graduation, marriage, careers and children that they will one day have. You want your children to excel in all that they do. As I think of little Joy, I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t ever want to hold her back. I want her to be all that God created her to be. I don’t know what that will be yet. But I do know God has already shown me that He doesn’t measure success the way I do. Success for Joy may be simple things that are easy for other kids. God is already teaching me the value of finding worth in Joy in who she is and not what she can do…although I know she will do much.
Processing Grief and Fear
I am not a very emotional person. In fact, in the 8 years I have been married to my wife she claims she has never seen me cry. I do not count this as a badge of honor, but almost as a source of shame. People cry because they are touched deeply and they care. Believe it or not I have prayed in the past few years that God would give me sincere tears for those who hurt that I may weep with those who weep. Yesterday I wept with Charyl. We held each other and sobbed together. I have never been one for a “cleansing cry” but I think it was good for me to release a lot of emotion. I am sure we will have many days in the future that we will do this again. Why did I cry? I cried cause I was disappointed. I cried because I felt disappointment in my disappointment. I cried at the revelation of the wickedness of my own heart. I cried because I have fear of the future. I fear that everyone will look at my little girl differently. I cry because of ridicule she will face. I cry because I think of things like the prom and marriage and realize she will likely not experience these things.
I have to be honest it hurt and hurts.
A New Ministry
How do you respond to us and how do you help us?
Don’t treat us, or Joy as if we have leprosy – We have not changed and our family has not changed other than the fact that we have added a great new dimension to our family. My wife and I never saw ourselves as having a specific ministry to special needs people. That has all changed. We know God will make our hearts desire to stand up for those who cannot stand for themselves.
The Providence of God in the Birth of our Special Little Girl.
We named Joy long before we knew she would be a little girl with Downs. The name Joy could not be more fitting. My wife is a registered nurse who is uniquely capable of helping a little girl like ours. Joy was born into a family with three super loving older siblings. Joy is a preacher’s daughter and will have much support from her faith family. Charyl and I are not good candidates to have a Down Syndrome child. Charyl is 30 and neither of us have a family history of Down Syndrome. We have three healthy older children who do not have any genetic disorders. We believe God specially knit Joy together for us and for those she will impact.
The Sunday before the birth of Joy I preached a message on the subject of Joy. Here were two of the points of the message I preached on Joy: 1) Joy and Jesus are inseparable. 2) Joy is greater than any of your circumstances.
To sum everything up we have a new daughter named Joy who has what I like to call special abilities that we are deeply excited to welcome into our family. We are thrilled to learn all that she has to teach us. Thank you God for considering us worthy of the gift of this little girl.