Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Good and Perfect Gift

I just finished reading Amy Julia Becker's book A Good and Perfect Gift. It's been on my nightstand for two weeks, and every night before bed I read a chapter or two. In my pre-children days I used to stay up into "the wee small hours of the morning" devouring an entire book in one sitting and then sleep in until ten recovering.

Gone are those days of luxury, and now it takes me at least two weeks to finish a good book...



..and good it was. I received a copy of A Good and Perfect Gift for review, and because I'm a novice at book reviews, I'm just going to shoot from the hip and tell you what I liked and didn't like about it. Because we're informal around here like that.

When I first started reading Amy Julia's first-person account of the birth of her daughter, and her family's journey of emotions in the months that followed, I immediately left a comment on the author's blog...some of the passages were so similar to my own letters to my daughter that it felt a little... eerie. Because the emotions she went through, the deep questionings of her faith and life and Down syndrome and how that all fit together, so closely mirrored my own experience that I felt at times as if I had written her book.

Couple that with the title of her book...which closely resembles the title of my blog, and the theme of my blog...and I started to wonder if maybe we were twins separated at birth.

However...Amy Julia is a graduate of Princeton, and I am...not. I'm a stay-at-home mama of ten, and the closest I've gotten to having anything published was a quote in Real Simple magazine when I sent in three sentences about my "worry quotient" in regards to finances. (March 2008 issue, page 53 if you care to fact check ;))

So after solving that little mystery (we're not twins), I realized that the emotions we go through as new parents of children with special needs are perhaps universal in some respects. Sure, we each filter things through our own life experiences, or faith system or lack of faith system, but many of the similarities I found in Amy Julia's experience were the same ones I've found reading other blogs, and often reflected back in the comment section here on my blog. There is no "right" way to process a diagnosis of Down syndrome, but it is comforting to read someone else's version of what they went through and realize: I'm pretty normal after all.

The parts of the book I loved most were excerpts from Amy Julia's journals. Again, it often felt as if I were reading my own thoughts and journaling on the pages of someone else's book. Here's one of my favorites:

The days feel like a spiral, where I circle around to sadness or delight or confusion or disbelief. And I know it is ground I have already covered, but I have to go back and scope out the territory again, settle into the landscape, assess the contours of the horizon, try to put one foot in front of the other and move forward. Try to think it will not always come back to fear and sorrow, but that we will circle around until their time is done and we can truly accept this new life as ours, as our family, as normal for us..

So reminiscent of my first months after Lily was born.

Here's another:

A friend with a grandchild with Down syndrome remarked upon the blessing it was to us that we didn't know ahead of time. It makes sense now that I think of it. Had I known, I would have prepared for Down syndrome. Instead, I prepared for a child, a family, a gift- not a condition, a syndrome, a problem.

And my favorite of all, (and this was written by Peter, Amy Julia's husband):

Consciously and unconsciously, we had implicit hopes, dreams, and expectations for Penny that having Down syndrome makes unlikely. At the same time, we didn't want to be upset in any way concerning the birth of our daughter. We also realized that it was hardest to deal with this new reality when Penny wasn't in the room with us. When she was out of the room, she became an abstract concept. When she was in the room- nursing, sleeping, and just being held- she became who she is: our beautiful, sweet daughter. The more time we spent with her, the more pure joy we experienced. Who knows what the days and years ahead will hold, but one thing we know for certain: we could not be happier that Penny is our daughter.

I've written here about this before as well. I've had a recurring dream since Lily was born~ that I am just finding out she has Down syndrome all over again. It's like I never knew, and suddenly I'm made aware of that fact, and in my dream I'm crying uncontrollably and scared and grieving...and then I wake up. And those emotions are all right there, and for half a second I am in that half-dream half-awake state, trying to break through to reality- and I turn over and see Lily sleeping peacefully beside me. And instantly the pain and fear is gone and I know: she's just Lily. She's not some scary diagnosis, some unfamiliar syndrome, she's my beautiful, perfect baby girl, and I would not wish away that extra chromosome if I could- because I don't want any baby but my Lily.

Because I'm reviewing this book in the hopes that you'll go buy a copy for yourself, I have to put a little disclaimer here: there is a doctrinal difference Amy Julia and I share in regards to baptism. The core of her faith is exactly the same as mine: salvation through faith in Jesus. But because I am "endorsing" a book, I felt the need to add this in. And I have to say that of all the books I have read about Down syndrome, this one most closely mirrors my belief system, and I love love love Amy Julia's strong stand for the Lord and her strong stand for life.

What I didn't like about the book? I wish it didn't end. Do you ever read books where you just love the characters so much that you want to know what happens to all of them when you're done reading? This is one of those books. But thankfully, Amy Julia has a blog called Thin Places where you can continue to read about her lovely family, and see pictures of the adorable and precocious Penny.

And just because I love you all so much, I am giving away my copy of A Good and Perfect Gift today. I'm going to warn you though: many of the pages are tear-stained. For reals. Wouldn't you just love to win a book with the tears of Patti Rice- famous blogger whose quotes have been featured in the likes of Real Simple magazine- on its pages???? I just knew you would.

So go ahead and leave a comment to be entered to win. Let's make it fun: tell me what you want for Christmas.

Random.org will draw a winner this Friday.

Now go take on the day.




I've always wanted to say that:)

42 comments:

cathy said...

Beautiful post!!!

For Christmas, I would like all my boys to wake up at home on Christmas morning

babypelly said...

I love, love LOVED this book and also said on my blog a few months back that it felt as though I could've written much of it myself. Except for the Princeton part! Beautifully done.

ps. Take me out of the running for your copy of the book as I already have my own tear-stained copy! :)

Shannon said...

I just received the book Monday. I am addicted to reading other peoples journeys. To reliving that time of unknown, and reflecting on how much I've grown since then.

Mrs. K said...

Oh I know you my Patti, you are trying to get out of Mama what I want for Christmas. You sly little girl/woman. I want my Oregonian family to move to AZ. OK, that will never happen. I sure do not want that book, I just read your blog and cry happy tears, sometimes sad tears 'cause you all are so far away. Cannot wait till December to see you all. Love ya.

Mamadala said...

Interesting. I'm sensing a theme in my life recently. Last week, I bought a birthday card for a friend specifically because it had James 1:17 on the inside cover. In the last few days, I've seen variations of James 1:17 online (wish I could remember where!) in places I didn't expect it and now here on your blog. My Christmas wish is for God to lead my husband's heart overseas to an orphanage where a gift from God awaits.

Heidi Ehle said...

I don't want a thing for Christmas. I have more than I deserve already...a beautiful family and the most amazing kids anyone could ever ask for. :)
This time last year all I wanted was to give birth to the healthiest baby girl possible...and now she is perfectly healthy and whole. Who could ever ask for more?

Elizabeth said...

What a great give away! I've been looking for a book that would help me to learn more about DS ever since finding Reece's Rainbow. For Christmas...I don't know...I don't need anything.

Stephanie said...

My wish for Christmas is for God's people to become uncomfortable and deeply burdened for the fatherless. That more churches would begin to step forward and defend the cause of the fatherless.

I also have a personal unmentioned wish also.

Stephanie Lynch

Shauna said...

your copy of this book :) its on my list to read in a few weeks. Really though...I want to see Autumn and Sophia home (ok well on their way home) for Christmas

Elissa said...

Christmas...can't think that far ahead. :-)

Kristi said...

oh ive been seeing this book all over and have been wanting to read it...i would love to a copy to read this..thanks for the chance:) for christmas i dont need anything!!!:)

Anonymous said...

I want sweet Elden-14G at Reeces Rainbow to find his family. Look at the sparkle in his eyes!

Sue-WI

nicole said...

A sweet giveaway! If I could really have whatever I wanted for Christmas I would want there to be no more abortions. ever.

ESolgos said...

Sounds like a must-read! For Christmas, I would like peace regarding our Safe Families baby- for his physical and emotional health.

Lori said...

Ok - I am going to be the first person here to list an actual "item" that I want for Christmas - call me selfish - I want plane tickets and a hotel reservation for my whole family to go to Oregon....

Rachael said...

I already know what I'm getting for christmas, I'm getting to spend the first half of my christmas break with my family and the second half with my boyfriend's family who live in hawaii. so i just want all my family to love the gifts i got them :)

merry christmas!

Jenny said...

You know I have yet to read a single book on Down syndrome! I have not read this one, which sounds wonderful! I have not read, "Gifts" or "Road Map to Holland", none of them! I have always wanted to cause I am a big reader but just never got around to ordering them....Hmmm...Maybe that's what I want for Christmas, all those books :)

Emily said...

I will be 38 weeks pregnant on Christmas. I want Christmas to distract me from the discomforts and anticipation of late pregnancy - and I want a happy birthday for my baby boy! :)

barronfamilyus said...

What I want for Christmas... Is my baby boy to be healthy and strong and able to enjoy his first Christmas and all the magic it's supposed to bring :) He will be undergoing open heart surgery on December 2nd.

barronfamilyus said...

Love the button Patti! Thank you so much! I can't tell you how much that means to us. The number of people who have offered to help us pray for Maddoc has been both awesome and very touching.

Kristen

Linnea said...

Wow. I hope I can read this book, sounds wonderful.

Be blessed

Ashlee

Kiara Buechler said...

For Christmas this year, I would love for my nephew with CF to still be healthy and thriving, and for my HCG hormone levels to have dropped to zero so I can begin the countdown to being able to conceive again after my partial molar pregnancy and miscarriage.

Jessica said...

All I really want for Christmas is our travel dates to meet our son, and the plane tickets to prove it! Love Lily!

Acne Treatment Reviews said...

This book is heart warming and touching. This is a good read. Thanks for the review. Actually your reviews are excellent. Keep it up!

Ms.Carson said...

For Christmas I would like a day of peace and joy at home with my family.

awilburn17 said...

I just got my Christmas gift (a new iphone) but my wish is for family peace and no drama during the holidays.
Angie Bischoff

Jennifer said...

Great giveaway - I'd love to read this book! :)

Today, what I want for Christmas is a day or two without ANYTHING on the calendar!! As the missions leaders at our church, plus teaching Sunday School, plus hosting Thanksgiving, decorating the church this weekend, directing my school Christmas program and trying to get our adoption stuff going and figured out - I am feeling a bit worn out and stretched thin....so a couple of days of rest would be wonderful!! :)

Sarah said...

You are so funny and sweet and wise!

Laura said...

I'd love this book! :) I have never read any of those famous ones either, Jenny (above), though I'd love to. The only one I've read that was written by a mom of a child with Down Sydnrome is The Angel Behind the Rocking Chair. Have you all read that one?

Laura said...

oops, misspelled "Syndrome" :)

Helena said...

All I would want for Christmas is for my chronically ill husband to be well after suffering for 7 plus years. I enjoy reading blogs about DS and follow your blog daily. We are going to have a Christmas without gifts this year my husband also needs to go to Germany to get 2 discs replaced in his lower back. This comes with a very high price tag.

Meriah said...

It was great, wasn't it! I'm not entering for the giveaway, of course, just wanted to say how happy I am that you read it. Awesome book, awesome Amy Julia.

SUGAR MOON said...

For Christmas? Well, this book of course. Enjoyed the post.

Melissa said...

I'm always on the lookout for a good book! Thanks for sharing your copy. :)

For Christmas, I have all I need, but what I want is for Danila's adoption grant to grow, grow, GROW!!

Sandryte said...

Great review! Thank you sharing and missing a reading-hour before bed instead!

For Christmas I want.. a baby :)

Amy said...

Thanks for all of your posts! I enjoy reading them so very much - published or not!
For Christmas - I want Brent's forever family to find him and take him out of the adult mental institution! http://reecesrainbow.org/831/brent-35

Blessings!
Amy

The Holt's said...

Beautiful post!

Deborah said...

I just got this book! I've been reading it while I pump for the past few days. I even pulled out a highlighter so I could mark pages and quotations. Excellent review. :)

TIffany said...

I'm so glad you're writing again. I missed you!

For Christmas I'd love to find out we were expecting a baby!

steph said...

I love reading different stories about children with special needs. This one seems to be like a really good book especially since she is telling about her faith with it.

Laurie said...

Thanks for the review! I need a new book. hmmm...... I think for Christmas....... I want the book..... "A Good and Perfect Gift" :) for real!

Cole said...

I had completely forgotten that little fact that was so true for our early days as well- that life was better when I was with Abigail. It was when we were separated that my mind wandered to places that scared me. When I was with her she brought me so much peace and joy.

For Christmas- I want some a box of chocolates!