A cocked head.
A furrowed brow.
Subtle clues in a prenatal ultrasound and my first indication that my third pregnancy may differ greatly from my first two. I was 12 weeks expected, feeling what I termed as “miserably fantastic” with waves of excitement and nausea, and in absolute shock as the terms “chromosomal abnormality,” “trisomy 21,” “possible other issues,” and “down syndrome” washed over me. I had walked into my doctor’s office with a plan and a vision for how my life would look and walked out stunned, confused, ridiculously upset, broken, raw and yet … anew.
We didn’t have answers or confirmation for weeks, and I cannot say I was in the best place mentally when we learned our sweet number three would be coming to us with Down syndrome. But despite my struggle, I was striving to be in a good place. I begged God to make me enough to care for this child. In that time and since then, our world has opened up. And as much as I have learned about special needs, about education, about medical issues, about cognitive delays, about therapies, and about the fearfully and wonderfully made gift my son is, I’ve learned an awful lot about myself as well.
So many days were spent asking “Why would God do this?” Worrying about my son’s health and his prognosis saturated my brain with such negativity that I couldn’t think beyond the hardship and the doors of opportunity I saw closing in our lives. I so often sat still and quiet, not knowing what to pray, but having the distinct feeling that we were being covered. God was transforming us while my question, “Why us?” was playing repeat in my head. We felt secure in the plan God had for us, that we were chosen for this child, just as he was chosen for us, but why lingered in our minds. What made us better equipped? What made us better suited? What made us the better plan?
Clarity was provided in the moment he was born. I felt renewed. When they laid him in my arms, I sobbed for us both. He looked up at me silent, expectant and tender. I knew I was capable of anything. More importantly, I knew God would use us, regardless of whether I wanted him to or not.
And use us he has. There can be such fear and worry in having a child with special needs, but if you allow the perceptions of society and your own expectations to be stripped away, there can be a lot of confidence and strength, too. A honing has taken place that required no other option than leaning so far into God that we’ve been able to see his presence in our lives again and again. And not surprisingly, the further we lean, the further he takes us. The more we grow, the more we develop. The more we succumb to his will, the more strength we feel. Some days we are left so drained and weary and weak that we press further into him, leaning so far that the only place left means falling at his feet. But I have learned, in raising our children and in life circumstances, that the fall is never a one of defeat, but an opportunity to be carried by God.
Through Johnny, and God, I have realized a strength, through massive medical issues, through the day to day, and through everything in between. We walk a path that is daring and exhausting, one that can be a little hard to navigate. Being the mom to a child with a lot of uncertainty has shown me certainty in the God we serve. And every day I lay myself before his throne and say, “For what purpose? Use me.”
Use my strengths and my weaknesses. Use my overcompensation and my shortfalls. Use my accomplishments and my holdups. Use my available time, my margin, and the time I don’t think I have. Use my ministry, my job, my hobbies, my tasks. Use my abilities, my skills, my talents, and my passions. Use my actions and my words. Use my confidence and my fears. Use my successes and use my failures. Use my time alone and my time with others. Use my comfort and my uneasiness. Use my good and use my bad. Use every single part of me, for you. For your glory. For your work.
Use all of me.
And when you lay everything down: your children, your days, yourself, at the feet of a God who is capable of all, who knows all, and who can do anything, great things will happen. My life has become more since Johnny. We have new friends, new vocabulary, new focus, new expectations, and new goals. We have been entrusted with ministry for God’s people. We have been able to walk alongside some amazing Christ followers in pursuit of his work and will. We have big goals to serve him in the everyday and in the extraordinary. We have learned and grown and stretched and ached in ways far beyond the words “Down syndrome.” None of that would be possible without the strength found in the humbling act of leaning into God and falling at his feet. And in that, plans far greater than my own are being put to use. For his purpose and his use.
photo credit Ashley Howard
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Ashley Howard strives to be a great many things, but loves being a mom of four, a ministry leader, and an emerging writer. She has been in MOPS as a classroom teacher for years and is now the MOPS Kids Director at her church in Cypress, Texas. She is passionate about sharing her experiences in a variety of mediums and building relationships between people in her community.