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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Welcome to Holland



WELCOME TO HOLLAND

by
Emily Perl Kingsley.


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 have had several people share this story with me- thank you. It does such a great job of articulating my emotions.  A different trip, yet beautiful none the less.  It is by faith and God's grace that I can say that- I have absolutely no idea what lies ahead, but I do know that He will faithfully provide for each and every step along the way.





34 comments:

Rebecca said...

What a beautiful picture of life in general. We think things will be one way, and they turn out another. Yet, it's no less beautiful. It all works together for His glory!!

Mei Mei Journal said...

We have a similar situation with our youngest daughter. I have been meaning to look for this story and reread it. I admire and inspire the grace you are showing. Thanks for sharing your family's story so openly.

Oatsvall Team said...

sister you never cease to amaze us w/ the heart of God ... Suz and I have spoken w/ Kelly, Krisiti, Tracy, and Katie about seeing you whenever you come in ... We are ready to sit, jump, yell, laugh, cry, do cartwheels, sing songs, dance, etc ... Whatever you want to do we are there .. We just want to love on you and pray w/ you !!!!

ALWAYS HERE !!!

Thelma & Louise

(and yes we are together right now)

Jess said...

I love this, Em!!!

PS--I am talking to sweet Issy right now...Miss you guys so much!

Katie said...

i love this, emily! thank you for posting it! i work with special needs & i'm saving this & using it! =) how cool that more than one person sent it to you...the LORD is taking care of you.

blessings,
katie

Anonymous said...

The great thing about this story is to recognize the gift that God is giving you by changing your plans. No one ever chooses the trip to Holland! God chooses it for us for reasons we may never fully understand. I know that one day you will feel honored to have had your plans changed into His....not what you had thought or expected, but better than you ever could have imagined!

Jen said...

What a beautiful way to articulate it.

Laura said...

Just so you know, we pray with Meron at each meal and at bedtime. In every one of our prayers, we always pray for Baby Abe. Little Meron is very used to his name and I think she keeps looking for him!

We are here for you,

The Hoffmans

coffeemom said...

This is good. Very true. And it is a great one to share because it does illo all the mixed up feelings. Sometimes it will be frustrating and exhausting clomping around in those dutch clogs in holland....but still, a skill that others don't have and well worth the effort! Life is beautiful, God is good, all the time! Keeping you in our prayers! Another resident of Holland, (and tulips have always been my favorite flower, go figure, ha!) M

Amy said...

This is a really sweet story/poem/piece. Thinking of you guys and praying for you all! Much Love!

Lori said...

That was beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

Keva said...

I think of you often and pray for you . God is charting a new course for you and your whole family with a little boy from Ethiopia I pray He will equip you for this journey and I know full well He will.

Henley on the Horn said...

We continue to pray. What a blessing that you already know that this is in the Lord's hands. It may be different than you planned, but His plans are always perfect, and always the best. Thankfully you know this so well! Thank you for sharing your heart!

babslb said...

I read this other poem somewhere else and thought you might appreciate. Stefanie

The Chosen Mothers
by Erma Bomeck
Mother's Day column May 12, 1974

Most women become a mother by accident, some by choice and a few by habit. Did you ever wonder how mother's of handicapped children are chosen? Somehow, I visualize God hovering over earth selecting His instruments for progagation with great care and deliberation.

As He observes, He instructs His angels to make notes in a giant ledger......."Armstrong, Beth, son, patron saint Matthew"Forrest, Marjorie, daughter, patron saint Cecilia"Rutledge, Carrie, twins, partron saint Greard."Finally, He passes a name to an angel and says, "Give her a handicapped child."

The angel is curious. "Why this one, God? She's so happy.""Exactly," smiles God, "Could I give a handicapped child a mother who does not know laughter? That would be cruel.""But, does she have patience?" asks the angel, "I don't want her to have too much patience or she will drown in a sea of self-pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wears off, she will handle it.""I watched her today," said God. "She has that feeling of self-independence that is so rare and necessary in a mother. You see, the child I'm going to give her has it's own world. She has to make it live in her world and that's not going to be easy.""But Lord, I don't think she believes in you," said the angel. "No matter, I can fix that. This one is perfect. She has just enough selfishness."The angel gasps, "Selfishness? Is that a virtue?"God nods. "If she can't separate herself from the child occasionally, she'll never survive. Yes, here is the woman I will bless with a child less than perfect. She doesn't realize it yet, but she is to be envied. She will never take anything her child does for granted. She will never consider a single step ordinary. When her chld says 'Momma' for the first time, she will be present at a miracle, and will know it!" I will permit her to see clearly the things I see....ignorance, cruelty, prejudice....and allow her to rise above them. She will never be alone. I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life, because she is doing My work as surely as if she is here by My side." "And what about her patron saint" asks the angel, his pen poised in mid-air. God smiles and says..."A mirror will suffice."

steffany said...

He knew from Abe's conception who would carry him through this journey. He knew who would stop, look around, breathe in the air, and who would truly appreciate Holland.

Laura P said...

Thank you for sharing that with us! We are praying for you and the transition to this "new" place.

Rae said...

So true. Children with disabilities are such unexpected gifts. Amazing and wonderful in ways regularly abled children are not, but it wasn't what you planned. You can love and celebrate the beautiful boy you have and still grieve for the son you expected.

Reading you blog, it seems that he was meant for your family and you were meant for him.

Jocelyn said...

What a beautiful story, thank you for posting this.

Natalie Fournet said...

Thanks for sharing this and letting us see insight into your heart

Kim said...

This is so beautiful and we all can relate to the truths of this poem. God's path is always unexpected, harder than we would choose ourselves, full of surprises and most importantly the road that leads us to Him!
Praying,
Kim

Anonymous said...

Dear Emily,
As I was reading the story you posted, I was thinking, "How cool though that you have been to Italy - so you don't have to feel as if you never got to experience that place. Yes, you thought it was lovely, fun, exciting, a source of joy, miraculous - and you were so looking forward to returning there. You spent hours preparing to go back to Italy and then came the realization that you would not be returning - you were going to a new place. Holland had not been on your agenda and you knew next to nothing about it. Jumping into this new situation, feeling unprepared, would cause concern. But the great thing is that this is still a place that God created - and there will be tons of fascinating and lovely and miraculous things there also. You just had not had the opportunity to research the area - to know where to go, how to get there, how long would it take. But all those who returned to Italy where you thought you wanted to go again may never experience Holland - and we won't know what we are missing!!! God bless you on your journey!!!

Lainie

Erica said...

Emily - you have an absolutely beautiful heart. This story is a perfect picture of Gods heart for us. Something that we see as harm He see's for good, just in a different way then we originally thought. Seek out the beauty of this different journey, Abe is so blessed to have you as his mama. This little boy is such a little miracle baby and we are committed to praying for your family, our hearts are sad with you yet we thank God for His comfort as you press on seeking His will in your lives. Thank you for sharing your heart. You bless me girl. Love you.

Abby said...

Wow- that's amazing. Gave me the absolute chills.
As always, praying for you!

Amber said...

You have arrived at a destination...with so many other unexpected visitors. It's a beautiful place, my friend...there are many amazing people here. You are not alone. :0)

Kelly, Mom to the Putty's said...

This is beautiful and eye opening. What strength you all have. Yes, I know it is the Lords. Can't wait to meet in person.
K

S. said...

I have to say--I was not a fan of this poem in the early days of L.'s diagnosis, because I DIDN'T WANT to be in Holland, darnit! But 5 years later, I can say, that having L. in our family isn't just good, but better than good. He adds so much, and I have learned so much as his mommy and know we have a lifetime of love and learning ahead. FYI, the son this poem is about wrote a book called Count us In, and if you watched Sesame Street in the 70's you surely saw him on it.

I love this one:
To You, My Sisters
By Maureen K. Higgins

Many of you I have never even met face to face, but I've searched you out every day. I've looked for you on the internet, on playgrounds and in grocery stores.

I've become an expert at identifying you. You are well worn. You are stronger than you ever wanted to be. Your words ring with experience, experience you culled with your very heart and soul. You are compassionate beyond the expectations of this world. You are my "sisters."

Yes, you and I, my friend, are sisters in a sorority. A very elite sorority. We are special. Just like any other sorority, we were chosen to be members. Some of us were invited to join immediately, some not for months or even years. Some of us even tried to refuse membership, but to no avail.

We were initiated in neurologist's offices and NICU units, in obstetrician's offices, in emergency rooms, and during ultrasounds. We were initiated with somber telephone calls, consultations, evaluations, blood tests, x-rays, MRI films, and heart surgeries.

All of us have one thing in common. One day things were fine. We were pregnant, or we had just given birth, or we were nursing our newborn, or we were playing with our toddler. Yes, one minute everything was fine. Then, whether it happened in an instant, as it often does, or over the course of a few weeks or months, our entire lives changed. Something wasn't quite right. Then we found ourselves mothers of children with special needs.

We are united, we sisters, regardless of the diversity of our children's special needs. Some of our children undergo chemotherapy. Some need respirators and ventilators. Some are unable to talk, some are unable to walk. Some eat through feeding tubes. Some live in a different world. We do not discriminate against those mothers whose children's needs are not as "special" as our child's. We have mutual respect and empathy for all the women who walk in our shoes.

We are knowledgeable. We have educated ourselves with whatever materials we could find. We know "the" specialists in the field. We know "the" neurologists, "the" hospitals, "the" wonder drugs, "the" treatments. We know "the" tests that need to be done, we know "the" degenerative and progressive diseases and we hold our breath while our children are tested for them. Without formal education, we could become board certified in neurology, endocrinology, and physiatry.

We have taken on our insurance companies and school boards to get what our children need to survive, and to flourish. We have prevailed upon the State to include augmentative communication devices in special education classes and mainstream schools for our children with cerebral palsy. We have labored to prove to insurance companies the medical necessity of gait trainers and other adaptive equipment for our children with spinal cord defects. We have sued municipalities to have our children properly classified so they could receive education and evaluation commensurate with their diagnosis.

We have learned to deal with the rest of the world, even if that means walking away from it. We have tolerated scorn in supermarkets during "tantrums" and gritted our teeth while discipline was advocated by the person behind us in line. We have tolerated inane suggestions and home remedies from well-meaning strangers. We have tolerated mothers of children without special needs complaining about chicken pox and ear infections. We have learned that many of our closest friends can't understand what it's like to be in our sorority, and don't even want to try.

We have our own personal copies of Emily Perl Kingsley's "A Trip To Holland" and Erma Bombeck's "The Special Mother." We keep them by our bedside and read and reread them during our toughest hours.

We have coped with holidays. We have found ways to get our physically handicapped children to the neighbors' front doors on Halloween, and we have found ways to help our deaf children form the words, "trick or treat." We have accepted that our children with sensory dysfunction will never wear velvet or lace on Christmas. We have painted a canvas of lights and a blazing yule log with our words for our blind children. We have pureed turkey on Thanksgiving. We have bought white chocolate bunnies for Easter. And all the while, we have tried to create a festive atmosphere for the rest of our family.

We've gotten up every morning since our journey began wondering how we'd make it through another day, and gone to bed every evening not sure how we did it.

We've mourned the fact that we never got to relax and sip red wine in Italy. We've mourned the fact that our trip to Holland has required much more baggage than we ever imagined when we first visited the travel agent. And we've mourned because we left for the airport without most of the things we needed for the trip.

But we, sisters, we keep the faith always. We never stop believing. Our love for our special children and our belief in all that they will achieve in life knows no bounds. We dream of them scoring touchdowns and extra points and home runs. We visualize them running sprints and marathons. We dream of them planting vegetable seeds, riding horses and chopping down trees. We hear their angelic voices singing Christmas carols. We see their palettes smeared with watercolors, and their fingers flying over ivory keys in a concert hall. We are amazed at the grace of their pirouettes. We never, never stop believing in all they will accomplish as they pass through this world.

But in the meantime, my sisters, the most important thing we do, is hold tight to their little hands as together, we special mothers and our special children, reach for the stars.

Anonymous said...

Thinking of you and praying too.
Sherri
www.caringbridge.org/oh/kara

texas8707ms said...

It's really true about Holland. True story that translates to life. In '82 with my sister after Gelato and Parthenon in Italy, Alps in Switzerland, art in Paris, we hopped on the train for our last country, Holland, before heading home. A 50 year old man loved his country so much that he offered to give us a personal tour. Among all the interesting places only the local could have shown us with meaning, we ended up at a once every ten years flower exposition. Really, we were in the midst of acres and acres of the most beautiful flowers I've ever seen. Often, I think, the unexpected places in life can be scary or uncertain until we get there and the "locals", those who God sends our way and who have lived "there", share with us the most beautiful corners of God's world of love. I love you guys. You sure are faithful messengers of God's light and love to those around you. Doug

Kristi J said...

Wow, that was awesome. I don't know who came up with that, but it was awesome..I'm going to share it with the several friends I have with children with special needs...I'm surrounded here by incredibly strong woman that are raising children with disabilities...their strength, compassion and love make me a better person each and every day...beautiful post, kj

Chris & Lindsey Wheeler said...

Oh wow Emily, what a beautiful picture...I am praying!! You are such an example to me....thanks friend.

Annie said...

Dear Emily, I found your blog on a link from another adoption blog. We had hoped to adopt, but in our country it is not so easy, and we are praying about going to live in Ethiopia and help with a mission. We have a beautiful 15yo daughter who has mild cerebral palsy and autism. We tell her constantly that in God's eyes she does not have a disability. She trusts Him implicitly and takes His word as truth in every way. She may never achieve many milestones that this world has to offer, but her relationship to God blesses many who meet her. I really believe that God brought her into our life to teach us more about His love and to reveal more of Himself to the world. Sometimes we grieve when we see her peers achieving things that she can't do, but that is only when we take our eyes off what our Heavenly Father is trying to achieve.
God has obviously seen special qualities in your family that He has trusted you with little Abe.
blessings on the awesome road ahead.
Annie.

Annie said...

Dear Emily, I found your blog on a link from another adoption blog. We had hoped to adopt, but in our country it is not so easy, and we are praying about going to live in Ethiopia and help with a mission. We have a beautiful 15yo daughter who has mild cerebral palsy and autism. We tell her constantly that in God's eyes she does not have a disability. She trusts Him implicitly and takes His word as truth in every way. She may never achieve many milestones that this world has to offer, but her relationship to God blesses many who meet her. I really believe that God brought her into our life to teach us more about His love and to reveal more of Himself to the world. Sometimes we grieve when we see her peers achieving things that she can't do, but that is only when we take our eyes off what our Heavenly Father is trying to achieve.
God has obviously seen special qualities in your family that He has trusted you with little Abe.
blessings on the awesome road ahead.
Annie.

Annie said...

Dear Emily, I found your blog on a link from another adoption blog. We had hoped to adopt, but in our country it is not so easy, and we are praying about going to live in Ethiopia and help with a mission. We have a beautiful 15yo daughter who has mild cerebral palsy and autism. We tell her constantly that in God's eyes she does not have a disability. She trusts Him implicitly and takes His word as truth in every way. She may never achieve many milestones that this world has to offer, but her relationship to God blesses many who meet her. I really believe that God brought her into our life to teach us more about His love and to reveal more of Himself to the world. Sometimes we grieve when we see her peers achieving things that she can't do, but that is only when we take our eyes off what our Heavenly Father is trying to achieve.
God has obviously seen special qualities in your family that He has trusted you with little Abe.
blessings on the awesome road ahead.
Annie.

darci said...

what a beautiful story.thanks for sharing. praying for you all today. darci

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"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from becoming polluted by the world." James 1:27
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