Last week, Rachel won an award at school. The award? Transition. As in Rachel won an award for transitioning smoothly from the previous school year to this school year - different classroom and different team of teachers within the same school.
It's been almost 9 years since I learned I was going to be a parent of a child with complex needs... I am still transitioning.
As I watched her receive the award - and watched Janneke move around her classmates in her walker, I was reminded of a phrase I read earlier in September: redefining hope. Tim Keller uses the phrase in his book The Prodigal God. I like the phrase because it can be cut and pasted on a lot of situations.
There's a scene in the Disney movie The Odd Life of Timothy Green that sticks with me: After being told they are unable to conceive a child, the husband and wife are at a loss with how to reconcile a dream that is beyond their reach. They sit down on the couch in the evening with a bottle of wine and decide to write down on pieces of paper all the things they had hoped their child would do. They wrote things like "scores the winning goal in the championship game" and "has the humour of Uncle Bob"... and after writing those hopes on paper, they bury the papers in a box in the garden, covering them with tears and soil.
The scene sticks with me because there is power in naming what you hoped for - and what now is beyond your reach. Like learning to name your grief so you can live with it instead of it haunting you, pinning you down when you'd like to hope again.
Birthing two kids with complex needs means I have to bury two boxes, so I can be free to redefine what I hope for the girls. Admittedly, when I see the girls with their typically developed peers, I see the stark difference between what I had hoped for and what I now am learning to redefine. I prefer to see the girls among other children with special needs because the difference isn't so painful.
So... I am still transitioning. My kid wins the award, but I am still working on it.
My hope? It's in the promise that God says one day all things will be made new. So, I hang on, knowing that there is still good in each day. And there are great things to hope for.
P.S. That movie? It ends with a not-so-subtle plug for adoption. Preach that possibility.