Hope in the Valley

We have been walking through a valley.

Not the valley of the shadow of death, the valley of the shadow of trauma.
Star recognises the changing length of day and as all her big moves have occurred in spring, this is a season full of difficult memories for her.

Her body is telling her that Spring is the time to move again.

We have been trying everything we can think of to demonstrate that she is safe, that she is staying, that our family is forever family and that she stays here.

But like rain falling on impenetrable ground, the truth is not sinking in.
And so with her fear comes regression,

screaming in the evening – wide eyed and terrified,

Saying “NO” to everything

Running off in school, and outside of school.

The teachers, her one to one, the speech and language therapists are at a loss. I sat in an uncomfortable school meeting as they described her behaviour in school. And I could feel the tension in the room.

The staff don’t know what to do next.” I thought.

Eddie and I talked it over. We prayed, lots of people prayed, and a new plan was devised and agreed on for school.

Last week we seemed to be turning the corner.

At the end of our valley was a light. That light is a family Christian conference with members of our church. A few days where we can go away from normal life. Where there is space for bible teaching, for worship with hundreds of others, time to have tea and cakes with our good friends. Time to watch my children grow spiritually and in relationship with the young adults from church, who are family to them.

The man organising Star’s children’s program rang and has someone who is experienced with children with Down’s and they are looking forward to meeting her.

After an exceptionally busy week at work clearing my desk to go away and a 350 mile round trip to meet my new niece. We were nearly ready to go.

And then Star woke up with Chicken pox.

Infectious for the whole period of the holiday, so therefore not allowed on site.

Eddie will take our older two, I will stay home with Star, if she is well enough he and I may swap half way through the week.

I am gutted.

I have asked God how I can keep giving, without being filled?

How I can keeping going without resting?
Why had he allowed this to happen, today, to her. Didn’t he know how much I was doing, didn’t he owe me this one..?

And I cried a lot. Because I am tired, because I will miss my friends. Because I wonder if God is saying “she is not ready.”
And I realise that the bible is true when it says the heart is deceitful above all other things:
Deep down I still act like I can earn God’s favour.

Like God has a heavenly score board where I say “I do this for you, so you do this for me.”

In everyone else’s life I can see this is wrong, ludicrous even.

God has done everything so that I can have a relationship with him, all I bring to the transaction is my sin.

I know that life this side of eternity is not always fair.

I know there are much worse things than missing time and fellowship with my friends due to chicken pox.

Last week at the end of a thirteen hour work day, I went to visit a man, a believer, who had been promoted to glory. My job was to confirm he had died. As I stood listening for the heart beat that was no longer there, as I shone my torch into eyes that no longer responded to light, I thought about hope.

I hugged his wife and confirmed he had died. She asked me if I would disconnect the syringe driver with his pain medication in,
“because he does not need that anymore.” she said.
As I peeled away the dressing and carefully removed the syringe I silently agreed with her.

He does not need that anymore, where he has gone there is no need for morphine for pain, or midazolam, for distress for levomepromazine for nausea.
Because where he has gone there is no more pain, tears or sickness or death.
That is God’s great promise for me and for Star.

One day we will finally exit the valley and Star’s fear and pain will be washed away. She will see her Heavenly Father face to face and he will wipe away the tears from her eyes.

On that day, the longing to be with God and to be with his people, will be permanently fulfilled.

Nothing can prevent that day, the gathering of God’s great redeemed forever family.

Revelation 7:13-17 NIV
[13] Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” [14] I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them whites in the blood of the Lamb. [15] Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. [16] ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. [17] For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ ”

A Tale of Two Nativities

Two years ago, our son Ben was cast as Joseph for the reception class school nativity. The two weeks beforehand were incredibly nerve-racking. Little Ben would come home from school crying that he didn’t want to be Joseph.

He wanted to be a sheep. I spoke to his teacher and she assured me that he was really enjoying rehearsals and knew all of his lines.

But at home the tears continued. The lines were rehearsed the costume was bought, Ben agreed to be Joseph and then changed his mind, then agreed again.

He was so nervous on the morning of the dress rehearsal that they allowed me to come into to school to watch him.

He was fabulous.

Mary was played by a four-year-old who did a brilliant impression of a stroppy pregnant teenager, complaining, “But I am tired do we have to go?”

In came Ben right on cue:

“I’m sorry Mary but we do, our little donkey will carry you.”

On the night of the main performance I arrived a little distracted. I had checked my phone every five minutes all day, as I was desperately hoping to be called by a social worker, regarding a little girl with Down Syndrome who needed a forever family. Her name was Star, I had seen her picture and spoken to her social worker, who had seemed so enthusiastic, but then had not called back.

As I sat in the chair waiting for the performance to start, I wondered where Star was, who was looking after her and where she would be this time next year.

4 months later, Star came home to us.

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“She Adopted a Downs Kid”

It was a sunny summer’s evening when I walked up the lawn of my colleagues’  front garden to join the celebrations for his wedding. I was greeted by a group of retired doctors and their wives.

Aneena, a retired practice nurse, asked after my family and especially Star. I spoke about what they were getting up to now, how Hannah had been in a dance show, Ben loved football and how Star had loved our holiday on the beach, was learning new words and getting ready to start school. I am not sure if some of the group could hear me above the noise of the band and the celebrations. The conversation came to a natural close and I said goodbye and went to find the newly weds to congratulate them. As I walked away I heard Aneena say loudly to the group:

“She adopted a Downs kid.”

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Treasuring Ordinary Moments

When my eldest daughter was born so many people said to me:

Treasure every moment

It goes so fast

Make sure you enjoy it

And if I am honest I found that a huge pressure and it made me feel guilty.

Guilty that I wasn’t enjoying things enough.

That I haven’t got neatly made baby books and journals detailing every event of their first years.

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School pick up and the “walk of shame”

I dislike the school playground.

I find it a lonely place, where I just don’t quite fit in. My children go to a village school. Due to new houses being built the school has grown rapidly over the last decade and there is now a greater social mix of “village = posher people” and ” new estate = less-posh people.” The village people have all known each other since childhood and the new estate people see each other more, as they live close together and might share lifts and child care.

We don’t fit, we live in the village but we are “in-comers.” Someone once told me that it takes 25 years to be accepted in a village. And right now that feels true….

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