Russ and I had been dating for a little while, when we ran into our first….um…altercation, you might say. I was fighting the well beaten path of my heart which had faithfully taken me out of relationships time and time again. He was fighting for me. Russ is a forester and his sanctuary is often an overstocked forest, thick with trees that need to be managed. And so it happened, he was running a property line on some timberland the days following our…um….wrangle of hearts.
God, I love Rachel. Show me if she is the right girl for me….or if I should let her go. He breathed this prayer among the timber that mid-spring day. As he continued his work, he came upon the shed antlers of a young buck. Although he’d found many sheds in his time, this was an unusual find as the set were laying next to each other. Often deer will loose one antler at a time and can even run for days with one antler. As he picked up this find, he heard the familiar voice of the Creators whisper.
This is a good pair. It’s a good match.
As he absorbed these words his heart lifted. It was a promise of things to come. I was not to be let go….for I was his pair, his good match. He threw the antlers into his pack and made his way through the woods with the wild sense of witness to a future that was yet to be. Later that night he held the antlers again, and pondered the 4 points each antler possessed. Children.
Married and talking in hushed tones as our daughter Madeleine slept in her nearby crib, Russ grabbed the antlers from his nightstand. His rough and slivered hands caressed the tines and he humourously asked, “Which one do you think Madeleine is?” I giggled at his seemingly ‘crystal ball’ approach to the set. His hand found it’s way to the smallest tine at the bottom of the antler when he pondered. “I wonder what this little one means.” And without a moments notice, he proposed, “I wonder if we will have a child with special needs.”
Everything in me paused. Yes, I’d heard that. Deeply. I could tell the thought was running through Russ’s head as though he had heard it in real-time with me. Something weighty grabbed those words and a glimpse of our family flashed in my mind. And then it was gone- maybe because I felt afraid to let my mind settle there, for fear that my imagination held the power to create a reality. Or because Russ continued the guessing game, assigning gender to the tines. Yet, just as the antlers had previously spoken to our future and family, we had seen something with our hearts that could not be unseen.
(Children with Down Syndrome are commonly smaller in stature than typical children. So far, our little girl is measuring small in her arms and legs. Small is not less, it’s just small.)
I swooshed Madeleine through the jetstream of the hot tub at our leisure centre. She loves the water. It was a quiet day at the pool, and with the exception of a few elderly folks who walked the lazy river, we were alone. Soon a family came through the double doors, onto the pool deck. The mother was stunning and moreso, because she shone with the look of a new mom. Holding her brand new babe, she found a seat next to the children’s splash zone.
Her husband took the hand of their 3 year old daughter and led her into the pool, protecting her as she fearlessly attempted the slide. When they made their way into the hot tub, I acknowledged them with a nearly silent ‘hello’ and diverted my attention to Madeleine who was trying to excavate a smile from the little girl whose arms were firmly secured around her Daddy’s neck. She had Down Syndrome.
A vision of myself being a mother to a child like her, raised its head above the parapet of my subconscious. Before this vision ducked out of sight, a certainty spoke loudly – I am seeing this for a reason. I’m aware that it’s easy for hindsight to attribute undue weight to the conviction of that encounter. However, in my truest evaluation of that day, I can confidently say that my spirit knew something that I did not allow my mind to believe.
Among other outdoor activities, Russ enjoys plowing the snow from our drive with his quad. It’s his ‘nothing box’ as my Dad would say, drawing from the concept that men and women’s brains are compartmentalized like boxes and spagetti, respectively. When the heavens blanket our property with snow, Russ is no procrastinator in clearing it.
On this particular day, while our chocolate labrador, Ole, chased the quad through the thick snow, Russ’s nothing box was being tresspassed by thoughts of having a child with special needs. He couldn’t shake the feeling and his thoughts swirled like the snow as it sprayed the edge of the drive. This is his story and it is far more personal to him than I can narrate, but in hindsight, this was his hot tub moment.
The night before we received the call and found out we had a high chance our baby would have Down Syndrome, we spent our dinner conversation discussing in great detail what we would and wouln’t do if we had a child, specifically with Down Syndrome. Our conversation was founded strongly on this most beautiful portion of scripture:
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,a]”>[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
Before we knew our baby’s design, we knew that if God’s thoughts toward our baby were already vast in number, if His knitting needles had thread an extra chromosome into each cell and if our child’s days were already written before even a breath was taken- that no diagnosis could steal these powerful truths. Even after such a hope-filled conversation, we each hoped we would never have reason to revisit the conversation.
These were preparations of our hearts which felt dismissable in their moments. Yet in hindsight, they were the assurance that our futures are known by the Spirit, who lights our path and equips us for what is to come. Once we received our babies Diagnosis, we had reason to share our experiences with each other. When we recounted the night we had looked together at the antlers, the individual experiences we had in the hot tub and the snow and finally, the conversation that we had only hours before we found out our baby has Down Syndrome, we felt wrapped in love.
And then this happened. I woke up yesterday morning, far too early. I coulnd’t sleep so I joined Russ in our living room and blearily rubbed my eyes and cozied myself up in my favorite chair. I don’t know if I’d had a dream about it, but I was reminded of a prophetic session I’d had in my hometown of Cranbrook. A team of ministry students from Bethel school of Ministry were visiting a church (House of Hope) and offered prophecy and pray for any who desired to hear from God.
In April 2015 I was 9 months fresh off the mission field and thrust back into the swing of North American life- a ‘regular’ job and a cold cold winter. I felt entirely void of purpose. My Mom and I decided to interrupt our thrift store hopping that Saturday and head to the church for the quick prayer appointments we had been assigned. I was ushered to a small table with a young girl and guy. There were no initial introductions besides smiles and first names. Quickly and naturally they began to speak to me from God’s heart. I recorded it on my phone.
Tucked into the chair yesterday, I played this recording for the first time since that day. There was a piece about worship, a relationship, childrens ministry (?), God’s favour and then this:
“One more thing before we pray for you…I got the word ECE (early childhood education). I don’t know if you’ve thought of ECE- like helping out the kids who have developmental delays. I just feel like you’re going to be helping out with that…helping them gain their confidence and know who they are.”
I sat with tears mounting in my eyes. I had never paid attention to this 30 seconds of the prophecy before. It was almost hidden to me until now. But 3 years ago, before Russ, before Madeleine and before this little one in my womb….God was there. Once again, He spoke into being the plans he had for me, before they made sense to me. The Prophetic is given to us from God to strengthen, encourage and comfort (1 Corinthians 14:3)- and it is accomplishing all three in me.
If you have the gift of Prophecy, please, step out…be bold and trust God for His words to be spoken through you. I don’t know this young lady’s name and honestly, I wouldn’t be able to pick her out of a crowd. But she imparted heaven into my earth. She heard foreshadows from the heart of God and spoke what was not, as though it were. And now it is!
Love had laid for us the stepping stones for our hearts, even when we were oblivious to the destination. Beautiful, isn’t He?