As I think about what encourages me, I first have to think about what discourages me. I don't know if it's because I tend to be a glass-half-empty kind of person (thanks, Dad) or if it's just by nature of defining the word. Either way, what discourages me has definitely changed over the past several years.
In high school, it was discouraging to get bad grades. I was an A student, and academic excellence is what I strived for. So in order to be encouraged, I would study hard and make good grades.
In college, it was discouraging to not have a certain boy interested in me. I was finally interested in a social life, and it was awfully disheartening to realize it was a lot more difficult than it looked on Beverly Hills, 90210. And a lot more painful. So it was encouraging when God finally sent me the man of my dreams.
When I was a teacher, it was discouraging when students didn't or couldn't grasp the concepts I was trying to teach. Or when the students were disruptive. Thus, a bright, well-behaved class (you know who you are...) was a wonderful encouragement to me.
Being newly married, it was discouraging when Matthew and I would have small spats, so making up and trying to see the other's point of view was always encouraging.
Being a new mom, it was extremely discouraging when Andrew would not breastfeed well. Sadly, the only encouragement offered with this one was the hope that the next baby would take to it well. (And he did, thank God!)
And then Benjamin was born.
And discouragement took on a whole new meaning.
Because being discouraged about weight gain or finances or a messy house or even a spat with my husband seemed really petty things to be discouraged about.
I had a son with Down syndrome.
He would always have Down syndrome.
No matter how much I tried to wish it away or solve the problem, there was nothing I could do about it.
He had heart defects, an intestinal blockage, and aspiration in his lungs. Thankfully, the first two of those have been fixed, and the third one is continuously being monitored.
But he still has Down syndrome.
Sometimes the words still haunt me. I know many of you other moms can relate. Some days, even months and months later, all I hear in my head are "downsyndromedownsyndromedownsyndrome."
And so what is discouraging for me now is the thought of the future. And what it holds. And what he will become. And what I will become. And what we will become.
I see adults with Down syndrome, and sometimes I have to take a deep breath. Because part of me just hasn't come to grips with the fact that that will be my son. That is my son.
And I think about the Orange Grove Center here in Chattanooga, a non-profit organization that employs adults with disabilities. Part of me wants to scream out, "I don't want this!!!!"
I wonder if Matthew and I will ever be able to travel like we had planned after the kids are grown. You know, because he'll never truly be "grown."
I wonder if he'll graduate from high school, get a job, live independently, get married....
And it breaks my heart that I even have to wonder. Because those are just things that adults do. No one wonders if their children will do those things.
But we do.
Let's back up.
Adulthood might be too far.
Let's think about elementary school.
In a way, that is scarier than adulthood. Because I've been there more recently (as a teacher), and I know how cruel and heartless kids can be. I wonder not only how it will affect Benjamin but also Andrew and our other child(ren).
I just want to say before I continue that I *know* a lot of this is normal to worry about, and that *all* parents worry about their kids' futures. And it's not like I *always* worry about it, and I definitely pray about this and seek reassurance from God about these concerns.
And let me tell you how God calms me.
How He reassures me.
How He lets me know that He is in control.
That He gave me Benjamin on purpose.
That this is all a part of His master plan.
Better yet, let me just show you:
I am not kidding you when I say that I cannot look at this boy or hold him or smell his sweet skin and worry one bit.
You know that adult with Down syndrome? He is someone's Baby B, as we affectionately call Benjamin. And when my Baby B is the adult, he will still be my Baby B.
All I have to do is look at him.
For more stories on what encourages women, go to http://www.incourage.com/ or http://www.incourage.me/2009/08/the-kaleidoscope-.html
Believe me, you'll be glad you did.