Precious in His Sight

sarah with sweet manBy Sarah Stonier

I waited tables in high school, my white sneakers fading to gray as they propelled me through long shifts and across long wooden floors. A family owned business in what was once an old hardware store, it sat on the intersection of Mill St. and Route 11; the only true main road through my sleepy northern town. I looked forward to serving on Sundays the most.  All my regulars usually came for Sunday brunch after church and I knew at exactly what time to have their coffee ready and what temperature to prepare their cinnamon rolls.

It was a usual Sunday and a usual seven top table where I encountered a little girl who was far different than the usual,  and would make a lasting impact on my heart. Her eyes flashed at me from behind large framed glasses, and her cheeks flushed to match her pink dress when as I introduced myself as Sarah; she loudly proclaimed to the entire restaurant, “My name is Sarah too!” I had never actually met someone with Down Syndrome before. Her joy instantly melted me and every time I went to serve their table she served me in return with her comments and her mannerisms.

I was at another table when the little girl bounded up to me tugging at my worn and stained black apron. Her mom appeared behind saying quietly, “She wants to thank you.” The little girl took her cream colored pocketbook and dumped out the entirety of its contents: two shiny quarters. Pressing all she owned, everything she had into my hand, she smiled up at me with those big loving eyes. Instantly I was reminded of Mark 12 and the widow’s mite, and what it meant to give everything we have to the Lord. I still have those quarters, glued in to my high school journal, a reminder for me to give everything I have to the Lord and how He reaches out to us in very special ways through those who might be different than the usual. Red and Yellow, Black and White, they are all precious in His sight, and so too are those with Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Epidermolysis Bullosa, those miracles who were born deaf or blind, those who can’t pay attention or whose minds and hearts beat a little bit faster than the rest of ours.

In my day to day routine my interactions are mostly with the parents of children who have special needs. My job is to coordinate nursing service in homes anywhere from two hours a day to 24/7 care. My perspective is continually shaped by the strength of those parents and my heart melts each time I meet any of our kids, staring up at me with their big loving eyes. Through my job I’ve come to realize that life with someone with special needs is not always a collection of tender moments; it’s hard, it’s difficult, it’s messy and raw and painful.

There’s emergency hospital visits at 4 am. There’s medicines you’ve never even heard of that you need to know how to pronounce and calculate. There’s sleepless nights and with each passing day there’s always that undetermined road yawning out before you. Through those realizations it’s clearly obvious that I am nowhere near equipped to write an article on children with special needs. I tried to cram thoughts or questions into a model of living I’ve never lived, and it didn’t work, there was no way my words could minister to anyone whose life was more intimately affected by such a special circumstance. So I went back to the drawing board, or writing desk, if you will. I started asking myself questions I wanted to answer through my words, and I ended with; how has the Lord revealed His character to me through my interaction with individuals with special needs? Not being a parent, I have been an advocate, and a friend; and through my interactions God has shown me that His mercies are evident in the unlikeliest of places.

 

He will make the lame to leap

In the summer of 2010 I headed up a “beautification project” at a group home for adults with special needs. I worked quietly side by side with a gentleman who was 70 or so. He couldn’t speak or hear, he couldn’t tell me his story and I couldn’t tell him mine. But as we finished raking our section of the yard and he beamed a toothless grin of joy at me holding up his rake with his only arm that had the ability to move, I could hear our Father saying; that’s my beautiful child and I knew him before I laid the foundations of the earth! As the day came to a close and a young lady with Autism and a middle-aged man with Down Syndrome played horseshoes together, I could hear our Father saying; I knit them together, they are beautifully and wonderfully made.

 

He will make the Deaf to hear

My older sister Cassia Maguire, is fluent in ASL or American Sign Language. Fascinated by the idea of learning a language she could speak with her hands she chose to make Deaf Education and Special Education her college majors. It was during college that she became friends with Jane, a young woman who was hard of hearing. Their friendship was based on the fact that they could talk to each other, but it flourished because they both had a quirky sense of humor and unique personalities. Cassia sees nothing different in the hearing aids Jane has on her ears than the braces I have on my teeth! My sister sees nothing different in her friendship with Jane than a friendship I have with someone who is Danish; you just need to know a different language to say I love you. My sister captured it beautifully when she said:  “People with disabilities sometimes may look like they can’t communicate, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t someone on the inside who wants to.  More often than not they can, we just don’t know how to listen.”  I see their friendship and I hear our Father saying; those are my daughters, and I knew them before I laid the foundations of the earth! I see fingers fly rapidly through conversations and I’m certain God is listening in to the incredible story He’s written.

 

He will make the blind to see

In the Gospel of Matthew, two blind men cry out for Jesus, the Son of David to have mercy. The Bible says Jesus is filled with compassion and touches their eyes; immediately they can see and they follow the Lord. I read that story and I see how God revealed His glory in Christ through the circumstances of those two men. I see our Jehovah Rapha performing a miracle and I stop to think how miraculous it is that I have been given eyes to see. Not just to see the way wisps of clouds dance around sunsets, or the way crocuses push through layers of ice and snow. No, He has revealed to me the truth of His word, He has enabled me to see that He is the one true God and that Jesus is the Messiah, Son of David, Son of Man, and Son of God. Even in my broken, disabled, sinful circumstance He reaches out to me and washes me in His unconditional love saying; you are my child, and I knew you before I laid the foundations of the earth! You are fearfully and wonderfully made and I laid my life down to call you my own.

A mother shared with me today how she was walking through the midst of her journey with her child with special learning needs. I found it humbling that she would share her heart so openly with me but what stuck out to me the most was how closely her words sounded like “walking through the mist”. I pictured a family walking down a road thick with fog, the answers weren’t clearly laid out for them in scripture, they were unsure of what their daily routines would be much less how the future would be shaped. Yet through the haze came the shadow of the cross. We as Christians live lives under a banner of grace. He portions that grace out to us in the circumstances brought to us. He has this way of assuring us that this grace is more than sufficient, His sovereignty is indeed good and His joy is found behind even the large rimmed glasses of a little girl who might be a little bit different than the usual.

 

Note about Picture: This is a young man I met with special needs during one of my Miss Walking Tall appearances. Through Miss Tennessee and The Miss America Organization I was able to be a spokeswoman for The Childrens Miracle Network and was named one of two Tennessee Miracle Makers for the 2011 Miss Tennessee Pageant for funds raised for CMN. This young mans mother approached me and said he  wanted to meet me and took pictures with my camera as well as hers.

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One Comment to “Precious in His Sight”

  1. Amanda Gillenwater says:

    I just found your website and this is the first article that I have read so far. I am truly touched by the words I have just read. I especially love the quote that was shared. What a way to look at things!
    Thank you
    Amanda