Friday, July 6, 2012

A Few Thoughts on Charlie's Graduation

God changed the path of our lives completely the day that Charlie was conceived.  Our lives have taken a very different shape from our original ideas of grad school and ministry.  Launched in a totally different path as his little life sprang forth inside my womb... unbeknownst to us... different and unique from the first spark of life... 47 chromosomes... a world opening up to us at that moment that we had no idea we wanted... needed.  A gift.  But we did not yet know it then.

Plans changed quickly for us when, during finals week as I prepared to walk in graduation, I discovered I was pregnant.  We were dumbstruck.  We told no one.  As we sat in the airport with my parents getting ready to fly to Hawaii to watch my sister walk in her graduation, I stole away to a bookstore and bought a book on pregnancy.  I read it secretly on our trip.  I craved beef jerky.  I felt sick.  We still did not yet know the gift this boy would be to us.

When Charlie was born he was so soft and small.  He had a button nose, and big round cheeks.  The nurses gushed over how cute he was... and really, how often are freshly born babies that cute?  He was adorable.  He was strong and healthy.  A blessing.  But still we did not yet know... the nurses did not know... the doctor did not yet know.  No one knew about the gift just yet.

So when did we know?  Technically, we received his Down Syndrome diagnosis when he was just shy of three months old.  Detected at his two month check-up we waited an agonizing three weeks to receive blood test results.  For three weeks we looked on Down Syndrome as a huge blow.  We told just a handful of people, and we prayed and prayed and prayed for Charlie to be 'normal'.

But you know what?  God knows.  He knows what is best.  He intends good things for the lives of those who love Him.  He knows, and a one minute conversation with Charlie's doctor over the phone changed our world forever.  I remember I was laying in bed with Charlie as he napped when the phone range.  I answered immediately, having carried the phone with me everywhere I went for three weeks.   The doctor gently told me the results, "He has Down Syndrome", and just like that, nothing was ever the same.

I couldn't be more grateful for that very simple, understated moment, laying in bed beside my new baby.  And somehow here we are 6 years later with a vibrant, beautiful, inspiring boy.  A boy who made everything change.  A boy who still changes our lives as we consider his special needs and alter our family path to meet those needs.  You know what?  I'll just say it... we've sacrificed a lot for this child.  This is not easy, and we've had to alter the way we live our lives to accommodate this blessing.  Somehow, these alterations, though sometimes painful for a moment, are wonderful and remind me the path God is setting before us is up to Him... and He is Awesome.  So, we are thankful for our struggles.  We really are.  And we are thankful for the triumphs we reach, and the way our simple little life stretches out before us so dense with blessing.

Charlie amazes me daily.   His character is one we can all aspire too.  He is compassionate and tender.  He is in-tune with other people and what is going on around him.  He knows how to have a good time.  With learning academic kinds of stuff... he really struggles.  Letters, numbers, colors, shapes, they are just abstract concepts to him.  But he's got the important stuff down pat... Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and, er, well, we're working on self control.   Charlie is an excellent family member, community member, a beautiful child of God.  A blessing to anyone who gets the chance to spend time with him.

I am so proud of him.  I am proud of the ways that God is able to use him in the lives of others.  I am amazed at the ways that our family has been gifted with relationship with all kinds of beautiful people through what the world would say are Charlie's weaknesses.  I am so proud of him as he leaves behind a wonderful chapter of his life with the culmination of preschool, and moves forward into something new... a new school, new opportunities to be a gift and light, a wonderful blessing to others, just as he is to us; and indeed, new opportunities to learn and be blessed by his community.  I am excited as the Lord shows us, footstep by footstep, the unique path He has us on as a family.

You know, as I wrap this bunch of wonderings up, this is what I think:

I think that when you have a child like Charlie, a child different enough that you are forced to make major adjustments to your personal intentions for your life... I think at some point in your parenting journey, you will finally find your only decent choice is to simply surrender to the path.  God is in control of our lives... we can fight it, or we can willingly submit.  I think the sooner we get to the willingly submitting part, well, that is when these gifts in odd little packages really begin to flower.  When you will look back on your former self, look back at the strange little moments in your life where you felt everything would fall to pieces, and long to speak the words to yourself that you now know from experience...

You can trust Him... He's got this.  It may seem contrary to what is good, but it's not.  It really is good.  Oh, and... Everything is going to be alright.

You know, there is nothing you can do to ensure you get the life you want or plan for.  So trust Him.  Surrender to those unexpected changes, and enjoy the gifts you are given.  The ones you never knew you needed.  The ones you never would have recognized.  This is Charlie's gift to our family.  Not obvious.  Not easy.  And yet, not matched by anything the world itself could offer.

Thank you, Charlie.  And Congratulations!  We are so very proud of all your accomplishments.  We eagerly look toward the future with you as we embark on new things together.
With All Our Love and Deepest Affection, 
Your Mommy and Daddy.


BrendaLou said...

Kim, I think you need to write a book. Your blog touches my heart deeply. Think about it. I believe God may have this in your future.

Chris Panza said...

Awesome and encouraging post! Thanks so much; very good words to hear.

Jenny said...

This was absolutely beautiful :)

Kim said...

Thank you, Jenny and Brenda.

Chris... it is crazy thinking you were such a part of those early months of Charlie's life, living all those new beginnings with us. We still hold that you are the best roommate ever (do you still do dishes? Wanna come over? :).

Lisa said...

beautiful kim. just beautiful. thank you.

Tammy said...

I stumbled upon your blog today and here I sit still reading posts. The first one I stumbled upon was written in April 2011. I am the grandmother of a "Charli" with Down Syndrome. She just turned 5 months old and I know you can totally relate to what an extraordinary blessing God has betowed upon our family. Thank you for your blog, for your expressions of faith. It is with pure joy I am reading your posts of your Charlie.

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