Every year on Sophie’s birthday, I feel very reflective. We are now 11 years into her journey. I think after 11 years I actually have developed some hindsight. For a long time it felt like I was only able to see everything about our life up close, like a picture book mere inches from my face. But after 11 years, I feel like I have been able to finally take in a bigger picture, to see more of the scope of our journey.

Landscapes are on my mind this year as I reflect.

Some parts of her journey were made in the darkness. We could not see beyond the very next step, and that only became visible as it was time to take the step. These were seasons of blind faith. There is no explanation for a faith like this. You are in the dark, and you know the unseen obstacles are very big. But you choose trust anyways. Faith has carried us through the darkness until we can see again. In these seasons we have seen that our God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all (I John 1:5).

Other parts of her journey were rocky and craggy, like a mountain climb. Now, I’m not a mountain climber, but I can appreciate the beauty of the mountains. I can also appreciate the challenge of the climb, and the training and equipment needed to succeed. These are the tough seasons where the work feels endless. Everything is harder for Sophie. Progress feels minute. But suddenly, we’re at the top, and the view is breathtaking. If you’re in a season of difficulty and challenge right now, know that the peak is coming, and you will not be disappointed by the view. Victory is sweet when the climb has been tough. Our God promises to make our feet like a deer so we can tread on the heights (Psalm 18:33).

Some places have felt like quicksand. We’re stuck. And the more we struggle the more stuck we become. But those are places where God has been our rescue. There is no other explanation than God doing what only he can do. He is truly the God who fights for us when we simply stand still (Exodus 14:14).

Other places feel like a desert. Lonely. Isolating. Harsh. A place of weariness. There are many aspects of the special needs journey that are unique to us and to Sophie. But we have seen that God works in the desert place too. He works in the wilderness and wasteland, bringing forth streams (Isaiah 43:19), and making a path through our desert. And he loves to bring us to sweet places of oasis. Places of kind care, acceptance, love, and support from the many who rally around us and journey with us through our life. The oasis is sweeter because of the dryness and loneliness of the desert. Don’t mistake that. A soaking wet sponge doesn’t appreciate water in the same way a dry one does.

Still other parts of the journey are marked with peace and sweetness. These are like a peaceful walk on a warm sunny day through a beautiful meadow next to a quiet stream. We simply enjoy parenting Sophie. Her quirks are normal to us, and they bring us so much joy. Her heart for others is so big. She loves to be a helper. She gives the best hugs. I don’t know if I know anyone who works as hard as Soph. She inspires me. And she cares so little about what others think… There is so much freedom in that for her.

Our world is a bigger place because of all the landscapes we have experienced with Sophie. As with all the trials I have walked through, I can honestly say that I would not be the person I am today without those different landscapes. So much good has come from our personal family journey with Sophie. We are blessed and favored to have her, to care for her and journey with her.

There’s a new song out right now that has a bridge I really resonate with: “I may not know what a day may bring, but I know Who brings the day. In the darkest night when I cannot see, still my soul will say … I believe in miracle power, in a wonder working God.” I may not know what’s coming up next, but I know the heart of the Giver. Whatever part of the journey you are in right now, trust in the One who brings forth the day for you. He is for you, and he is always working for your good. There is always hope.

This year I’m holding fast to the words of Philippians 1:6 for Sophie: “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Let it be so, Lord.

Catherine Burleigh

Tablet of Her Heart