A Long Journey; A Journey of Faith

When you become a mom you don’t have the luxury of seeing a future film about the twists and turns your life is going to take. You don’t know what joys, trials and tragedies may be awaiting you. You become a mom on faith.

Faith that you will weather the sun and rain that is a part of raising a child.

Faith that you will have strength for the long haul. 

Faith that you will have the grace it takes to love a child more than you love yourself.

In faith we get pregnant. In faith we give birth. In faith we cry tears of joy as we look at our newborn, awed by tiny hands and feet, puckered mouth, and newborn wrinkles. In faith we adopt. In faith we see our child for the first time at an orphanage or foster home, and from eyes to heart we know this is our child, given to us at this moment for this time. In faith we find out that something is not normal with our child, in faith we move forward learning all we can about children with Down Syndrome, or Muscular Dystrophy or Autism. It’s a journey, a journey of faith.

And there are moments when you see results of your faith. First steps, first word, first prayer, first day of school, completion of kindergarten, healing from a first heart ache or broken friendship, healing from a first wound, graduation…the list is endless.

It’s a long journey; A journey of faith.

Yesterday I saw a result: I received a text from my youngest saying “It’s all good!” – he had completed all the course work required and is graduating from high school. Next Wednesday he’ll pick up his cap and gown at four in the afternoon and go over final steps of the program. We will be there, celebrating with proud grandparents who will quietly cheer as their 17th grandchild graduates.

As youngest of five kids Jonathan came into the world with instant family and no need for play groups. He was adaptable and flexible, rarely displaying a temper and willing to go with whatever was happening. He is one of those kids that is comfortable to be around, even in adolescence. (Well. Mostly.) We can sit for hours discussing life topics, things that matter.

I’ve written before about Jonathan and academics. It’s been a long journey. He is smart, loves reading and is a critical thinker. But. He doesn’t fit with the main stream learning process that demands sitting at a desk, fitting in with the status quo, and writing one hundred ‘P’s’ across the paper in cursive to show you have it “right”. Wow. Good for us. We have a bunch of kids in this country who can write ‘P’s’.

And until this year, Jonathan did not have teachers that encouraged. He had teachers who were type A personalities whose teaching careers seemed defined by the results their students achieved. He has had teachers who follow the book to  the minute details and struggle to find room for the “Jonathans” in their classroom. He has had teachers who are more concerned about standardized tests than true learning. He was a statistic, caught in a bad system.

Until this fall. And this fall, by faith, we were able to move him into an extension program where he was surrounded by teachers who love teaching and love the students. He is now affirmed for who he is, not who they want him to be. He has excelled as he has inhaled Dostoevsky and Mark Twain, Kerouac and Nietzsche. It has not been easy and he has worked hard.

We celebrate the results of his work as he graduates a year early. This child who didn’t want to go to college (ever) is now excited about learning and looking into colleges and universities. He has applied to do a gap year in Oxford at an advanced studies program. He boasts a reference letter from one teacher that had me in tears with her affirmation of him as a student, of him as a person.

We become parents with no guarantees. Whether biologically birthing or adopting, parenthood is a journey of faith. Today I get to celebrate. Tomorrow I may have to cry. But that’s what this is: A long journey, a journey of faith. 

20 thoughts on “A Long Journey; A Journey of Faith

  1. I love this post, Marilyn. So beautiful. I think sometimes the only difference between those the world may call a ‘failure’ and those the world calls ‘winners’ is that the winners had somebody cheering them on, reminding them that they’re going to make it; that they’ve got a reason to try, that they’re worth it. So happy for your Jonathan. Blessings on his future! What a joy to hear his story!! We need more people like him, and like his teachers.


    1. Amen! We all, in our walks, whatever that may be or wherever that might be need, encouragement along the way. I see how many young folks did not have the support and encouragement of a loving family or the educational community and then they have fallen into the statistics of the failures. To whet an appetite to learn in whatever way they learn best and to let them fly and not be caged, nor have their wings clipped is not only a blessing but a service. And bravo to those who allow our children and our community’s children to be who they are even in their learning style. I recall these battles with one of my own and am thankful to see him walk with confidence and freedom, not to feel he must be like his brothers, but to display the giftedness that he has been given by the Lord. Again, blessings on Jonathan in his new adventures.


    2. Thanks both Jessica and Lou Anne for these words. What may not have come through in the post is some of the agony. It’s been good for me. I’ve wondered many times if this is what it is like for those with special needs kids who feel so alone and have to advocate every day of the school year so their kids have a place. I so appreciate both of you – your insight and love that comes through these comments.


  2. What an exquisitely beautiful post, Marilyn! Bravo, Jonathan!! And isn’t it true, that despite the twists and turns and those moments when we parents “walk to the edge of all we have known and step into the oblivion of the unknown, we must believe that there will be something solid for us to stand on or we will be taught to fly!” Thank goodness for the faith that draws us to take those steps . . . and then teaches us and our children to fly!


    1. Cathy – thank you so much. I have had the privilege of you walking this path a couple years before me and helping me more than you know!
      And yes – thank goodness for faith! Talk soon.


  3. Oh how this tugged at my mom heart strings. You said it all well and congratulations to your Jonathan! I have a Jonathan, too.


  4. “oh dawn it. i wanted a sistoh!”
    ~stef gardner, 3 yrs. old, on hearing of the birth of her little brother jonathan

    mabruuk ya jonathan! and mabruuk parents!


    1. It is so fun to think back on you watching our kids during that time while Mary headed off to Nile Badrawi to help Cliff and I! Seems like a lifetime ago and like last week simultaneously. Love you Ya Marty!


  5. Oh, Marilyn, I write this through my tears. We have only known little bits of his struggle, and we have prayed for him, and loved him and enjoyed his spontaneous hugs even after became a teenager and the tallest one in your family – not quite the tallest grandson! So glad we can be there next week. Love that young man! And you! And Cliff, and all the rest of the unique and special Gardners.


    1. And I thank you so much for your prayers and love. I often think “what would I do without the prayers of my mom”. Look forward to seeing you to celebrate!


  6. Well said, I had my last day to chauffeur Erik to school and yep, it’s time to reflect on that journey of faith and also to reflect on the continuing journey with all its’ new possibilities – the gap year possibility sounds really exciting.


    1. Oh so many congratulations to you and Erik! So exciting. And yes, here’s to the new journey where we don’t have to make sure homework is completed! I am excited for Jonathan’s gap year. What are Erik’s plans? We celebrate together Helena!


  7. We had a moment the other day, where when I later reported it to my husband, I said, “She has a soul!” And I was surprised, pleasantly so. I had begun to wonder if we were raising a self-obsessed soulless shell of a person. But then there have been a couple of moments. She reached out to another girl on the track team, she noticed a boy (whom she loathes) who’s mom wouldn’t be there for him and she asked me to cheer for him, and on another day I came home to a clean house (She actually did something to bless me!?). She has a soul. Those are the moments on this journey of faith that motivate me to keep on parenting. Sometimes its long and arduous. But then I read stories like yours Marilyn and I’m given hope to keep on! Bravo Jonathan! Congratulations Cliff and Marilyn. You all three kept on. And now, “It’s all good!” Well done!


    1. I love this Robynn. What insight to what I have felt (only that’s another post!) Maybe a post from you. I feel a bit like I want to curl up in the fetal position for awhile, but instead we will head to Rockport tonight to reclaim our little cottage after renters have been in it and soak in the ocean. When are you coming??? We should do a writers retreat!!


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