an odd and jarring encounter

“If you show me that again, I’ll throw up! It’s so weird!” she shouted, while her hands grasped her neck and she made exaggerated puking gestures.

It was Saturday morning at the McDonalds playground, and this little 7-year old girl didn’t seem to know how to cope with my 1-year-old son’s missing left hand.

After a few more puking gestures and shouts announcing Josiah’s difference and proclaiming its “weirdness,” the girls and I made our exit.  Josiah, blissfully unaware, remained happy in my arms.

The encounter had started as a really positive one.  The little girl was initially enthralled with 小弟弟 xiao didi (little brother) and made a big deal of how cute he was.  Because his sweatshirt was covering the end of his arm, his difference wasn’t obvious at the start.  But when she grabbed for his hand to help him up the stairs to the slide, she realized something was up.

“Grace mama!”

“小弟弟的手指怎么了 Xiao didi de shouzhi zenme le?”

“What’s wrong with little brother’s fingers?

Many of the children in our circles refer to me as “Grace mama” or “Rose mama.” (Cute, huh?)  This particular little girl knows me as Grace’s mom, as she and Grace were preschool classmates a number of years ago.  She was also part of an enrichment class where I taught English and has been to our home with her mother a couple of times for holiday events.

In response to her question about Josiah’s fingers, I gave her what is now becoming my standard explanation for children:

“He was born missing his left hand; it just didn’t grow in his birth mom’s tummy. But he’s ok – he’s healthy and smart, and he can do the things other one-year olds can do.”

I’ve had the opportunity to have this discussion with curious little ones a few times now.  At this point they are usually satisfied, unphased, and ready to get back to playing.  But this little gal considered my words, and then for whatever reason began to shout repeatedly:

“小弟弟没有手 xiao didi mei you shou! 太奇怪了 tai qi guai le!”

“Little brother doesn’t have a hand!  It’s so weird!”

After a few such shouts, and when it was clear she had no intention of calming down, I pulled her aside and said: “Yes, little brother was made a little differently, but shouting is not polite.”  And then in a rather serious tone, I told her firmly, “That’s enough.”

I really thought that would be it.  But around this time, one of my girls pulled up Josiah’s left sleeve so that the girl could see for herself that all this was really no big deal.

That’s what brought about the puking gestures and the rather over-the-top behavior I described at the start of this post.

As I reflect on this experience, I have a lot of compassion for this little girl.  I imagine that she has her share of social struggles, and it seemed clear that her mother (who I spoke with later) didn’t know how to handle her.  Thankfully, as the girls and I began to pack up to go, the little girl became more subdued.  She seemed to realize that her behavior had chased her playmates away.  Her demeanor allowed me to have a more positive goodbye, and I had a chance to talk with her about not needing to be uncomfortable around those who are different.

I’ve thought about that morning so much in the days since.

From the beginning, Mark and I have hoped and prayed that the Lord would prepare Josiah to be an emotionally resilient child.  We have hoped that his personality would be such that he’d be able to deflect such encounters, handling them with humor and confidence.  After that morning, I realize I also need to pray that he would be able to respond to unkindness with grace, forgiveness, and humility, too.

Today I’ve been reminded of a moment soon after we’d accepted Josiah’s referral.  I remember thinking that I really didn’t want his identity to be defined by his difference.  I thought about how we could best equip him.  I thought about how I could protect him.  I wanted to do all I could as his mother to make his missing hand a “non-issue.”  I didn’t want it to determine or shape him.

As my thoughts drifted, I felt the Lord reel them back in.

“You let ME decide how I will shape my people.”

So it is here where my heart lands tonight.  I want to equip Josiah to be resilient for the encounters ahead he’ll need to brave on his own.  And until then, I will protect him as best I can from unnecessary cruelty and pain.  And I truly believe that missing a left hand will be a non-issue in most ways, on most days.  Certainly, it will not define him.

And yet, I must believe and trust that the Lord will use this in his life to shape him . . . for his purposes.  For good.

An article sent by a friend today included this:

“When God is plowing in the hearts of our children, we should not be running along side with band aids and crying about it. We should not be getting angry. God purposeth a crop, and the fact that the field He is plowing is one that we are sentimental about must not keep us from trusting. Trying to prevent that kind of plowing is trying to prevent a harvest. It is setting your heart on your child’s destruction.”

These words were so timely.  I’ve struggled all week to know how to think and feel about that odd and jarring encounter with a little 7-year old.

For today at least, my struggle rests here.  Though tears stream down my face when I think about what may lie ahead, I do not want to search for ineffective band aids or waste time in anger or complaints.  I can trust the Lord to do a work in my son’s heart, producing great harvest, though the “plowing” may be painful.  He is in control, he is at work, and I will trust.

Here he is.  My son. Fearfully and wonderfully made.  Playing like one-year olds play.

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23 thoughts on “an odd and jarring encounter

  1. This is so moving, Megan…I have been joining in pryr with you as you and your family have been on this journey with Josiah- awaiting him and now welcoming him into your home- all the while holding him SO closely in your hearts. This post brought me to tears as I think about how I, as a young mommy, would feel with this encounter. Oh…sweet Josiah is SO so very blessed to have a mommy who loves him so much and prys for him so faithfully. I pry and believe that he will flourish as a young boy and child who will be secure in who he…For he has parents and two beautiful sisters around him who allow him to be exactly as he is… and who await with expectation what HE will do through Josiah…. Hugs to you.

  2. What an emotional and encouraging post! Megan, you are a shining light in this world! Your words God spoke to your heart about how He chooses how He shapes His people ring true in my heart as well. As a new mom, I find myself getting worked up about all of the “what ifs” that could happen and try to think about how I can best protect Kale from various situations that he could encounter. How silly….that’s just spinning in circles accomplishing nothing! Thank you for being real and sharing your heart. God knew, before the foundations of the world, that you would be the best mom for Josiah, Mark would be the best dad, and Rose and Grace would be the best big sisters! He is one blessed boy!

    • Thanks so much for your encouragement, Stephanie. I do feel amazed at what a perfect fit this little guy is for our family. We all adore him to pieces and have been SO changed by his life already. Glad you could relate to some of my processing here . . . it’s so hard not to be able to guard our kids from all the hard stuff, isn’t it?

  3. Thanks Megan. Our kids’ preschool teacher was also born with one hand, and she’s amazing! There are also 2 spinabifida kids in their class that she’s so great with. Thanks for sharing such deep insight and honesty. Love to you!

  4. Isn’t it amazing how God keeps teaching US about Himself even when we’re tempted to think it’s someone else who needs to learn. Usually it boils down to a trust issue. In whose power, ability, plans and purposes do we trust . . . ours or His? Thanks, Megan, for providing this “check” for me today. I’m pretty sure I have a few things that need reorienting . . . again. (Hasten the day, when I gain the perfect perspective in His presence.)

  5. Megan, I love how you’ve shared this story. I can really understand your heart’s desire to prepare Josiah to be resilient and to protect him from unnecessary pain. I feel challenged too by the quote you shared from the article and what God is teaching you about how ineffective and even harmful our “bandaids” can be. How our motherly protection can actually prevent God’s plowing and the resulting harvest He plans to produce in and through our children. Those are deep lessons that I want to grow in as well! It is so clear that God has perfectly placed Josiah (and Rose and Grace) in your family: to daily receive your love and care, to rest in their identity as God’s beautiful children—fearfully and wonderfully made, and to learn from you as you model “responding to unkindness with grace, forgiveness, and humility.” I have so much respect for you and how you were able to respond to that little girl with compassion instead of anger. What a gentle teacher you are and so gifted in how you can express at a child’s level that disabilities and differences are nothing to be afraid of. What an incredible platform and voice God has given you!

    • Jodie – thanks so much for your encouragement. I truly just felt shocked and “jarred” at the time, but felt God’s grace guiding my words and actions and the other “externals” . . . though internally my mind was racing. The incident has produced much fruit in my thoughts and prayers already . . . thankful for the chance to think and pray about these things on a deeper level while precious Josiah is still so little.

  6. Hi Megan
    I am the mother of one of the little girls born with spina bifida that Kate wrote about,your story is so inspiring to me and my husband.I like the way you dealt with this little girl without making it a big deal for your son.We too meet people like this and try our best not to let it affect us or our little princess too much.These kids are a real gift from god.The teacher Kate refers too has helped my daughter in so many ways,she is fantastic.

  7. Wow. I’m a mess over here. This is absolutely beautiful, Megan. Thank you so much for sharing this… The truths about the plowing are penatrating deeply today. And thank you for your kind words on my blog today…they affected me profoundly. 🙂

  8. Pingback: Saturday Morning Magic – Vol. 1 | Living One-Handed

  9. Hi! Our second son (we have 3!) is LBE… He is four years old and his name is Oliver, and he is FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE, too! I dearly loved this post. Thank you for sharing.

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