Amy Julia Becker's experience as a first time mom was, in many ways, no different than mine, yours, the moms in my MOPS group...any mom you might meet at Target.
The feelings are universal, though each mom's journey is as different as the children we bring into the world.
For Amy Julia Becker this meant first time motherhood was also accompanied by words she did not expect. Down syndrome. Special needs. Increased risk for heart problems, eye sight impairment, challenged mobility, among a long list of other possible challenges...Things every mom hopes she never has to hear...Things that are difficult and challenging to process, especially when the come unexpectedly.
In her book "A Good And Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations and a Little Girl Named Penny" Becker recounts her first year as a mom to a beautiful little girl named Penny. A little girl who happens to have Down syndrome. A little girl full of smiles, giggles and joy.
I met Amy Julia at a writing conference almost four years ago now. She is a good writer, a great mom, a bright and insightful woman (I won't lie...I envy her degree from Princeton!). She has a wonderful knack for telling the stories of her life in a way that makes them personable, relateable and inspirational.
Her book is as much about her spiritual journey as it is about motherhood. About how our spiritual journeys can become confusing when we're not sure how to reconcile our circumstances with our Christian faith...when the two things don't seem to make sense together. It's about those times when life doesn't go as we had planned and we're not sure we like the fact that it might be going just as God had planned...
I didn't open my Bible often those days. I didn't pray much eaither. I would have liked to ignore God all together, but my whole adult life had been consumed with Christianity. I couldn't get away even though a part of me wanted to.
...I closed the Bible, my finger holding my place. There was so much of me that didn't want to remember the abundance of my life as a Christian. I had a shelf of journals, and I could take down any one of them to find answered prayers, verses from teh Bible that spoke to my everyday life, whispers of the Spirit of cofmort, purpose, blessing. And here was Jesus saying, "Don't you remember?"
I couldn't forget. The time on the beach where I had heard words as distinct as an audible voice saying, "I am with you."... The time in college when I was afraid to go back to school said to my mother, "I just want someone to be there with me to hold my hand." That same evening I had gone upstaris and picked up a dusty book filled wiht Bible verses from the bootom shelf of my bedside table. I opened at randome and read, "For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, 'Do not fear; I will help you." And when I returned to school the next day, here was a card from my grandmother in my mailbox. Printed on the inside was the same verse, as if God wanted to make sure I was paying attention."The other reason the book really resonated for me was because I have a very good friend who has a sweet little boy with Down syndrome. He just turned 1 last month. She too experienced the confusion of unexpected news...finding out in the hospital, after his birth, that things were not as she and her husband had thought or planned.
Living life with her through our phone calls, reading Amy Julia's book...they have been eye opening to me. Eye opening to the fact that being a mother to a child with Down syndrome is not all that different than being a mother to any other child...As a matter of fact my friend Sara's sweet little boy is often the least of her troubles...His big bright blue eyes often smiling away while his two older sisters wreak havoc on the house and their mother's mental health!
I am thankful for these gifts in my life...the gift of a book that opened my eyes, the gift of a friend whose life took an unexpected turn and the grace I have watched her walk through it with...these things, they strengthen my faith and expand my heart.
Becker makes an incredibly insightful observation at the end of this story. She defines the one thing we all have in common: We are imperfect because we are human.
Penny wasn't a perfect child. Neither was William. We weren't a perfect family, and we never would be, at least not by the standards I would have set out for us years earlier. But we were coming closer to our telos, our true perfection, because we were learning what it meant to be human, what it meant to be whole.
If you are looking for an inspirational read I would highly recommend "A Good and Perfect Gift"...It is a story that will encourage you to count all of your blessings-- both the expected and the unexpected.