Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 69, May 21, 2020
“Our Summer in Holland”

I was sitting at a restaurant with a woman who has raised two children. Her two children have special needs. This woman and her husband are very close to me. She and her husband have done an amazing job with their two children. The children are doing remarkably well. Both children have graduated from college. Nevertheless, you can imagine her journey has been one of many challenges. Because I have not been on that journey, her experience is one I will never truly understand. But that day in the restaurant the woman shared a story that helped me understand at least some of what she and others experience as they raise children with special needs. It is a story by a woman who raised a son who was born with Down syndrome. The story, written by Emily Perl Kingsley is titled, “Welcome to Holland.”

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this…

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.” “Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guidebooks. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you never would have met. It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…and you begin to notice Holland has windmills…and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy…and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away…because the loss of that dream is a very, very significant loss.

But…if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to go to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things…about Holland.

With tears in her eyes my friend told that story about Holland. Life didn’t go like she planned. But what I heard her saying, and it is a powerful statement of faith, is that Holland was full of lovely things. Did you have plans for the summer of 2020? Some were preparing for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. An excited group of youth and adults were all set for a life-changing mission experience in Ghana. Graduations were planned. Plane tickets were purchased. Dates were circled for family reunions. Children and teens eagerly anticipated vacations in the mountains, the beaches, amusement parks and National Parks. That was our Italy. We were chomping at the bit to land in Italy and live our dream. Now we know that because of the Coronavirus we are going to spend the summer in Holland. Just like we spent the spring in Holland. Holland might be home for us come the fall. And maybe longer. Probably longer as we learn to live with a new reality.

Here we are in Holland. It would not surprise me to see many, if not all of us with tears in our eyes as we realize our plane has landed in Holland. When I get tears in my eyes, I’m going to try to remember the tears in the eyes of my dear friend, who had been expecting Italy and has now spent some 25 years in Holland raising her children who have special needs. The tears in her eyes were real tears. Obviously, the tears represented sadness and loss. But there was more to her tears than sadness and loss. She has learned that Holland, though not her expected destination, has proven to be filled with some beautiful and lovely treasures, some beautiful and lovely relationships, and some beautiful and lovely experiences.

Welcome to Holland.

· When we mourn because we are in Holland, know that Jesus came to comfort those who mourn.

· When we grieve because we are in Holland, know that Jesus came to provide for those who grieve.

· When we feel like we are sitting in a pile of ashes that represent our burned-out dreams, know that Jesus came to bestow on us a crown of beauty instead of ashes. (Isaiah 61:3) Welcome to Holland. Jesus says, “Welcome to Holland.” Hold fast to Jesus friends. With Jesus as our guide and with Jesus as our friend, I do believe this summer in Holland can be a summer filled with wonder and awe, discoveries of beauty and times of joy, and many, many, many experiences of God’s steadfast love.

With the love of Christ,