I have a very odd way of remembering things that truly impact me. It could be 10 years later and if I remember something in great detail it is because it was either a turning point in my life, something that held great meaning to me at the time, or just something that sticks with me and no matter what I can't shake it or forget it. Tonight one of these memories is has come flooding back and I feel led to share it with you because I believe one of you needs to hear this right now.
When I was about 19 years old I was reading the newspaper.. (Don't ask me why because that has never been a habit of mine!) I think I was reading the "Dear Abby" colum... At least that's what I think it was, please correct me if I am wrong.. It was either dear Abby or Dear Nancy? But I am leaning towards Dear Abby! Either way, I remember it was a reprint of this poem, apparently she had printed this poem many years earlier and someone was requesting she print it again, and so she did. I read this poem that day and it has always stuck with me, so I decided to Google it tonight and there it was on more than a dozen sites.. So I thought I would share it with you.
Welcome to Holland
By Emily Perl Kingsley
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......
When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."
"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."
But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.
But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.
I know that Emily wrote this poem to describe what it was like to raise a child with a disablity but I believe it applies to so much more. I pray that tonight we reflect on all of our plans.. Weather they be for children or for spouses, for ministries, to where you are living. And think of all the times you heard "Welcome to Holland". How many times have we felt our lives turned upside down to sit back and remember its not about us and our plans but the plans that our God has in store for us. His plans are always the best even of we don't understand them. I know personally I have landed in "Holland" a few times, but looking back I see God purpose for the trip. So my question to you now is, have you ever been to Holland, or are you in Holland now?
He says, "Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”