Friday, October 22, 2010

Finding my Treasure

Many of you know that my father-in-law is a pediatric neurologist here in town, so he treats special needs children on a daily basis. And, of the many, many gifts we have received since Jack's birth, a couple of them have been from his patients' mothers after he has shared our story with them. One of these such gifts is a book of devotions for parents of special children by Tracy Breland called Finding a Treasure. Now, as I have mentioned earlier, I don't necessarily consider myself a very religious person, but I have found this book to be extremely uplifting, particularly when I am having more difficult days.

In one of her devotions, the author cites the passage from 1 Samuel 16:7, which I also display on my blog dashboard: "For the Lord does not see as man sees; For man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." She then writes the following devotional about her daughter Caroline who has Down Syndrome. I love how it conveys the strength of the love between any mother and her child. I like how she informs other parents like her that the books we are given to read should not be taken literally, that each child is unique in their abilities and strengths and cannot be defined by science. I enjoy that it shows how much more momentous and fulfilling even the slightest achievements are to parents of children with special needs. I also particularly love how she points out that with the proper love and determination, a child with special needs does not have to "experience life as it was dictated by a diagnosis" and how she says that these children have "what God is looking for in our hearts." I couldn't agree more with what she expresses here, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.

Again, this is from Tracy Breland's Finding a Treasure devotional titled "The Heart."

During the first year of Caroline's life I was given many books that tried to explain and prepare me for the hundreds of things that could and probably would go wrong with my special child. In great detail experts relayed what she would do late or maybe never do at all. Chapter after chapter laid out the medical challenges my child might endure throughout her entire life. In fact, the books outlined every conceivable negative so I might be properly informed. Needless to say, I was quite overwhelmed by all this negativity.

Yet, what all these books neglected to share are the thousands and thousands of wonderful things we would experience with this child -- the treasure we would find as we walked through this life with her.

I still remember the day I pushed her in the cart at Wal-Mart, and she put her little lips together saying "mama." It was a defining moment of pure joy, and it made my day every time it happened. I cannot even begin to count the thousands of incidents of spontaneous laughter that she has provoked or the joy of so many accomplishments that we would have taken for granted.

Caroline has brought a level of compassion to our family that is priceless. The patience, the understanding and the thousands of other things that I would gain from this one little life also were not mentioned in the books. The unselfish love that I have seen Caroline extend to others has allowed me little glimpses of what I believe God is looking for in our hearts. She truly values others and becomes as excited about someone else's accomplishments as she does her own.

Perhaps books you've been given also forget to tell you that your special child will make you feel alive, and how the most mundane things become thrilling when you watch him or her experience them.

I'm reminded of Helen Keller. It was because of a mother's love and a teacher's determination that she did not have to experience life as it was dictated by a diagnosis. She did not let a book tell her about her life; rather she wrote books and surprised the world with her endless possibilities.

Remember, dear special parents, the real treasures in life are those felt with the heart. So in this sense, I feel that my child truly is a gift from God to let me experience life with my heart.

I have found my treasure.

"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.
They must be felt with the heart."
- Helen Keller