When Ben was just 3 months old, a mom on my favorite Babycenter discussion board recommended this book. It was the end of October, and life was full. Evan and Corrie were each on a soccer team, and Evan had just started Awana at our church. Emmett worked late one or two nights a week, and I was pumping six times a day. Ben would see at least one therapist or doctor every week. I had a newborn, a preschooler and a first-grader. I was tired and lonely and I couldn’t find time to think.
This book gave me thinking space. Amy Julia Becker’s memoir of her daughter Penny’s birth and first two years of life was just what I needed to read. Penny, just like Ben, was diagnosed with Down syndrome when she was born. Amy Julia, like me, is a Christian and highly values intellect and education.
Amy Julia wrote down her questions … her doubts … her fears … and she thoughtfully considered faith, relationship, intellect and what gives a person value. Amy Julia examines scripture and herself in A Good and Perfect Gift. Her words paint clear pictures of a mom and baby, loving each other and learning each other, all the while wondering what the future might hold and why God would make it so.
I took this book with me to Awana every Wednesday. Most Wednesdays, I would leave Evan and Corrie in Awana and childcare, and then Ben and I would go sit in a comfy chair and I would read with my highlighter in hand.
“How do we say Congratulations and I’m sorry? How do we celebrate and grieve at the same moment?”
“The days feel like a spiral, where I circle around to sadness or delight or confusion and disbelief.”
“Can she live a full life without ever solving a quadratic equation? Without reading Dostoyevsky? I’m pretty sure she can. Can I live a full life without learning to cherish and welcome those in this world who are different from me? I’m pretty sure I can’t.”
“Either there was no God and natural selection worked her purposeless work and some of us passed along our genes and others failed and died trying, or God did exist and God’s creation was broken, but still glorious – every piece and person in it.”
“It’s the thought that she might teach me to slow down, to love deeply, to compete less, to live more fully – those are the stories that bring hope.”
I probably highlighted more than half of the book. And I bought books to give as gifts. I asked my closest friends and church small group to read it with me. In those first six months, I just wanted someone to walk the road with me, to understand what I might be thinking – even if I wasn’t able to articulate my thoughts.
I think that any mom – regardless of her children's abilities, diagnoses or needs – would value A Good and Perfect Gift. I think Christian mothers especially would be challenged to consider what gives life value - from our perspective and from God's perspective. This book also provided some great jumping off points for discussions with friends.
If you're interested in learning more about Amy Julia Becker, you can check out some of her posts at her personal blog, on facebook, and in this interview. She also writes for Christianity Today's Her.rmeneutics blog.
Sweet Ben in October 2011: