Let It Be Done in Me

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

It was exactly four years ago that I found myself sitting at a stoplight in the darkness of Friday rush hour in Sandy Springs, Georgia. I had just left school and was on my way to Target in search of two things: a pregnancy test and a special gift to announce to Joe we were expecting our first baby. I had taken a pregnancy test early that very morning, before school, but hadn’t shared the outcome with anyone. And I wanted another one — or two — to be sure. As I sat at that red light, so many thoughts were rushing through my head: fear, excitement, disbelief. A song came on the radio, one I had never heard before but found out was Amy Grant’s “Breath of Heaven.” If you haven’t heard the song, it tells the Christmas story from Mary’s perspective. As I listened, not yet knowing I was expecting the son who would be Bert, not knowing all that Joe and I would be called to experience as his parents, one section of lyrics really embedded themselves into my heart:

Do You wonder as You watch my face
If a wiser one should have had my place
But I offer all I am
For the mercy of your plan
Help me be strong
Help me be
Help me

Little did I know – LITTLE did I KNOW – how many times over Bert’s short life I would continue to say those same words to God over and over.

And now, another Advent brings another pregnancy, another baby boy – and another diagnosis to face. Many of you know we are expecting our third son in late January, but most do not know that this entire pregnancy has been fraught with fear and questioning. This summer brought a possible diagnosis of Down Syndrome, then early fall suggested perhaps a hole in the baby’s heart. November brought conclusive evidence of what is truly going on with our son: skeletal dysplasia, more commonly known as dwarfism.
Many of you probably have lots of questions, and the truth is, so do we. We won’t know what specific kind our son has until he is born and undergoes a genetic test. But what we do understand at this time is that this is not the result of anything in my genes or Joe’s; rather, it is the result of a rare, spontaneous gene mutation that occurs in early pregnancy. This is the second time Joe and I have had a child whose diagnosis, frankly, scares people or makes them uncomfortable, specifically other parents. As humans, we want reasons for things. We want to know why. And, in cases like Bert’s and our new son’s, people want to know why because they want to be able to point to something that is different about our family to ensure that the same thing won’t happen to their family. But the truth is, Bert’s Cerebral Palsy has no known cause, and this baby’s dwarfism is also not the result of anything we had control over as his parents. 

Trust me, Joe and I have been asking God “Why?” for many weeks, months, and years now. And the truth is, we don’t know, and, on this side of Heaven, we likely never will. It’s hard for us, sometimes, to look around at families who have two, three, four, five, six children who are all able-bodied. (Please know that I am aware that not all disabilities are visible, but I do hope you understand what I’m saying.) I understand that parenting of any kind is hard. Every child is a unique creation who has his or her own challenges, strengths, and issues. Nothing about parenting is easy. But as the parent of two disabled children, I do have to tell you that this is just a little bit harder. It’s physically harder, but perhaps more, it is spiritually, mentally, and emotionally harder. Joe and I don’t feel that we are special parents in any way. We don’t feel any stronger, any more equipped, any more qualified to parent our specific children. My brother Thomas, however, did mention something that I have kept in my heart since he said it, and that is that in our family, God knew that this child would be loved. And that is something I know to be true. Joe and I aren’t wealthy, we aren’t superhuman, we aren’t infinitely patient – but what we absolutely can do for our son is love him, and therefore give him the chance to live. We will carry him, labor him, deliver him, and raise him with all the love that we can. 

I do not know why we have two disabled children. I do not believe that this was the result of God’s plan, but I do believe that God has a plan for my children. (If you don’t understand the difference between those two things, please ask me. I’d be glad to talk about it with you.) He is infinitely good and all good things come from Him. And as we approach the Christmas season, something occurred to me that I've been thinking about constantly. Every Christmas Eve, my family of origin watches the movie A Christmas Carol, the version starring George C. Scott as Scrooge. In that movie, as in the novel, there is a scene in which Scrooge, accompanied by the Ghost of Christmas Present, invisibly watches the Cratchit family on Christmas Day. Bob Cratchit has just returned home from church with Tiny Tim, and Mrs. Cratchit asks Bob how Tim behaved. Bob replies that he behaved very well, and goes on to say: 

“He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant for them to remember, on Christmas, Who it was that made lame beggars walk and blind men see.”

Although I do not know why this is all happening the way it is, all I can think is that maybe God will use my sons to remind others Who it was that made lame beggars walk and blind men see. Perhaps people will look at my family and be reminded that everyone – regardless of how they look, regardless of how or if they speak, regardless of their age or health status – is created in the image of God. Perhaps people will look at my children and be reminded Who it was that made lame beggars walk and blind men see – be reminded of Jesus. As a mother, could I ask for more? 

As we begin this Advent season, the phrase that I have been holding on to is “Fiat Mihi”; it’s Latin for “Let it be done in me,” which is what Mary says to the angel Gabriel in Luke’s Gospel after he has told her what God would like her to do. I think about Mary, how she couldn’t have seen the future, not been able to fully see everything that God was asking of her, but how she said yes anyways – “Let it be done in me.” I end all my prayers to God with that same thought. I do not know why God is asking this of me, I certainly cannot see the future and everything that this request will include, but all I can say – with faith – is “Fiat Mihi.” Let it be done in me.

If you could, please pray for our family. Pray for Bert who, with his own disability, has been called to be the fearless leader of this band of brothers. Pray for Hank who by the world’s standards is our “normal” child, but who in this family is the “different” one. If you know Bert and Hank, you know they have always been strangely tall and large. Joe is 6’ tall, and of slight build, and both of our fathers are only about 5’7” or 5’8”, so there really aren’t any big people in our families. But perhaps Bert and Hank were created to be so big because God knew He would call them to be defenders and protectors. Pray for our newest son that he will grow to be strong. And pray for Joe and me, too, as we endeavor to raise these children God has entrusted us with. 

Since Bert was little, we have had a lot of paperwork to fill out, and a question that has come up time and again is what our hope is for him. For a long time, we didn’t know what to say. How does a parent sum up their hope for their child in a line or two? But then we figured it out, and it has been our statement about Bert and then Hank, and now it will be for our new son as well. Our hope for them all is this: We hope that they realize the fullness of who God created them to be and that they recognize their purpose in serving God and other people. 

“Now we see through a glass, darkly. But then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” – 1 Corinthians 13:12 

“The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
– Job 1:21

“I prayed for this child, and the Lord has given me what I asked of Him. Now I, in turn, give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” – 1 Samuel 1:27-28

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