I have always loved the piece, “Welcome to Holland” by Emily Perl Kingsley, who was the mother of a child with Down syndrome. She wrote this in 1987, and it compares the unexpected birth of a child with special needs to the experience of planning a trip to Italy, only to find yourself in Holland instead. But her analogy actually applies to many situations in life in which we discover that our planned path has been altered, taking us to a place we didn’t expect. It’s beautiful and usually makes me smile, and if you’ve never read it, you should. A copy of it can be found at http://www.our-kids.org/Archives/Holland.html. One day, though, during a particularly difficult period with some of our special-needs children, I began jotting down the following thoughts. At first, I was only able to write the first two paragraphs. It wasn’t until later that God brought me the peace I needed to finish it. In fact, my original title for these thoughts was, “Sometimes Holland Just Stinks!” Yeah…. decidedly negative. Thankfully, God rarely allows me to wallow in such a dark place for long.
As a parent who has experienced traveling to Holland unexpectedly through the birth of a biological child with special needs and who also voluntarily boarded the plane bound for Holland by choosing to adopt children with special needs, I can say that even when you are in Holland by choice, there are some days when you still just wish you had been able go to Italy like everyone else.
Sometimes being in Holland just makes you too tired and too sad to lift your head and see the windmills and the tulips. Sometimes you just want to relax and eat pasta and lose yourself in the laughter and noise of a raucous gathering of happy Italian people — stop feeling or thinking and just get lost for awhile. Sometimes you just want to escape.
Then you remember Who brought you to Holland. You know that even in the times when you thought you were making the choice to fly to Holland, you were being led there by the One who holds the perfect travel plan for each of His children — the One who makes beautiful things out of ashes. And you realize that you aren’t alone. He is with you. He has always been with you and always will be. You lay your head on His shoulder and cry for awhile, knowing that, after a little rest, you will be able to see those tulips again and fully embrace the beauty of Holland. You know deep in your being that you could never be happy in Italy or anywhere else but Holland. And you are even able to smile a bit through your tears.
…to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of His splendor.” ~ Isaiah 61:3