The Gift of Grace

11 11 2017

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A little over a week ago I attended one of my favorite annual events, the Young Life Capernaum Art and Talent Show. Every year we auction off original works of art created by teens and young adults with special needs, and we host the most exuberant, unpredictable talent show you’ve ever seen. When I leave my face hurts from smiling.

 

 

But I wasn’t always like this. Before I had children one of my greatest fears was that I might have a child with special needs, and I comforted myself with the assurance that God would never give me a disabled child, because He knew I couldn’t handle it. All I could see was the brokenness. I never got close enough to see the beauty.

Until our son Jacob nearly drowned at fifteen, and I found myself in a world of hospitals, therapists, and a whole lot of new normals. Our family entered the world of disabilities, and once our eyes and hearts adjusted to the light, we were amazed to find Jesus right in the middle of it all.

And now, twenty-one years later, this is what I know. Our cultural ideas about what makes someone a “productive member of society” are completely messed up. Because I’m pretty sure our society needs a lot more joy, a lot more compassion, a lot more patience, and a lot more gratitude. We need childlike faith to enter the kingdom of God, and we need pure hearts to see Him.

So I want to introduce you to a couple of my friends. You need people like them in your life.

This is Will.

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The first time I met Will, I’d come to his house to visit with his mom, Becky. When she introduced us, Becky said, “Do you mind telling Miss Jeanne what you told me earlier?” A shy smile spread across his face, and he whispered, “The Lord loves you.”

Becky explained that she’d told Will that morning that a friend named Miss Jeanne would be coming by, and a couple of hours later he ran up to her and said, “Mom, I have something very exciting to tell you!”

“What is it?” she asked.

“The Lord loves Miss Jeanne very much!”

It’s a truth I know and believe — that God loves me — but in that moment I felt He had come close and I was standing on holy ground. Like God Himself had breathed a benediction on me. Because He had.

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Will helping create Texas flag art for the auction

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And this is Grace.

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Her name suits her perfectly.

In the talent show, Grace sang and performed sign language for the song, “Hallelujah, Thank You” by Rob Biagi. Here are the lyrics:

I bring me to You – like You ask me to
and I’m quiet

I bring me to You – like You ask me to
and I’m quiet

Believing everything you’ve promised You’ll do
and everything I’ve hoped for is true
and every tear I’ve cried you’ll wipe from my eyes
and I’ll say

Hallelujah – thank You
Hallelujah – thank You

I bring me to You – when I don’t know what else to do
keep me quiet
I bring me to You – when I don’t know what else to do
keep me quiet

I’m still believing everything You’ve promised You’ll do
and everything I’ve hoped for is true
and every tear I’ve cried You’ll wipe from my eyes
and I’ll say

Hallelujah – thank You – I sing
Hallelujah – thank You – Jesus
Hallelujah – thank You – I sing
Hallelujah – thank You

I bring me to You – to say, “I love You too”
and I’m quiet
I bring me to You – to say, “I love You too”
and I’m quiet

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When the audience roared their applause, she hid her face in her hands, smiling and crying, and being absolutely precious and lovable. And maybe there’s a place in the world for shows like The Voice, but I would rather be in a love-saturated room listening to real worship pour from a heart of gold any day.

Grace sang her heart out, but she wasn’t finished. Her friend, Anna Lucia, had a poem to read and a song to sing, and she needed the moral support of her good friend.

So Grace wrapped her arm around her friend, and little Anna Lucia made it through her poem and her song (though at one point she shifted the microphone over to Grace, who didn’t know the song, but mumbled whatever she could think of, because that’s what friends do for friends.)

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A recent CBS article reported that Iceland has almost completely eliminated Down Syndrome due to prenatal testing. Though the test is only 80-85% accurate, almost 100% of women who receive a positive result for chromosomal abnormality choose to abort their unborn child. The article is pretty balanced in considering whether or not this is actually a good development, but at the end it quotes a woman named Helga who counsels expectant moms considering whether or not to end their pregnancy. She tells women who are wrestling with the decision or feelings of guilt: “This is your life — you have the right to choose how your life will look like.”

She’s also quoted as saying, “We don’t look at abortion as a murder. We look at it as a thing that we ended. We ended a possible life that may have had a huge complication… preventing suffering for the child and for the family. And I think that is more right than seeing it as a murder — that’s so black and white. Life isn’t black and white. Life is grey.”

Helga, I’m sure you mean well. Maybe you’re a lot like I was before I had children. You can only see the brokenness, because you’ve never gotten close enough to see the beauty. But the truth is, life is not grey. Life is colorful and amazing and full of hope. You’re counseling women to throw away their treasures. And the world is forever bereft because of it.

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I bid on several of the paintings at the auction, but the only one I ended up winning was definitely a favorite. It was Grace’s painting. Splashes of color broken by intersecting lines, and what a perfect picture of this broken and beautiful life. It will hang on my office wall as a constant reminder of God’s best gifts.

As the talent show emcee remarked after Grace stood with Anna Lucia, “We all need a Grace in our life.”

Yes. Thank you God, for the gift of Grace.

 


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7 responses

11 11 2017
lschontos

Not too long ago, I heard the father of a special needs child say he felt sorry for families who didn’t have this gift. They missed out on so many rich blessings.
This is simply beautiful, Jeanne.

12 11 2017
jeannedamoff

Thank you, Linda. I agree with that father. There are absolutely challenges and heartaches that come with special needs, but the gifts far outweigh them. Where I once would have asked, “Why would God do this to us?” now I’m more inclined to ask, “Why would God honor us this way?” That said, it was a long, bumpy journey to get to that place, and I have nothing but compassion for families who are thrust into this world like I was. But whether it’s a condition a child is born with or one that comes through life circumstances like Jacob’s, God is not surprised by it and has beautiful purposes for that child and family. I pray our “enlightened” societies will catch up with kingdom truth and will embrace these precious souls for the gifts they are. Love to you, friend.

11 11 2017
Jim Leftwich

What a wonderful message !! I am so proud of you and happy that you are such an important part of my life—–I love you very much, Dad.

12 11 2017
jeannedamoff

Thank you, Dad! You’re the absolute best. I hope you know that. Love you, too!

12 11 2017
Anita Curtis

Jeanne, thank you for sharing. So heartfelt & beautifully written. What a heart to heart blessing!

14 11 2017
Anna

What a beautiful post. My Grace is turning 12 this month. I can’t believe she’s been home for 7 years. She is a true grace and the best gift indeed.

2 12 2017
Diana Fleenor

Re-read this morning because I had it earmarked to comment but hadn’t gotten there yet. My own heart is struggling today with the brokenness in my life which comes, at least in part, to disability. As I’ve been reading in God’s Holy Word of various kinds of suffering, I am also pleading for the grace to see His holy perspective to discern suffering rightly. I see in these stories you have shared, Jeanne, the beauty of God’s redemptive plan in the lives of these young ones who are not only being supported by the body of Christ, but also are using the gifts given to them to edify the body. I pray for this to become more in my life. For today, I am thankful for the hope that His promises are true which the song Grace sang/signed declared. Clinging to Him in my need!

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