Monday, February 6, 2012

The importance of a voice

These last two weeks, I actually sensed God's desire for me to open up more about my personal life. I've written about my struggle in telling the whole truth in the memoir I recently finished writing, and about the severity of my experience with post-adoption depression after we brought our daughter Evangeline home from Ukraine. 

A little bit of electricity zapped my fingertips as I hit the publish tab on both posts. What would people think if I put myself out there? I should just keep these things to myself.

This year, in addition to therapy and after school activities and church and writing and querying agents for my book, I've also had the privilege to speak to a handful of MOPS groups in the Chicago land area. I talk about the birth of my daughter in the former Soviet Union and her diagnosis of Down syndrome and about the grief that ensued for almost a year over the loss of the child I expected. I have other presentations about how to teach our kids to be good friends to those around us with special needs, and about loss and grief in motherhood. 

Every time I have a presentation, there is a part of me that is afraid of judgement. Maybe I shouldn't share all of me. Maybe I should just share the good Christian/ pastor's wife/ missionary parts of me and tuck away the other parts: the mom who didn't want her child. The mom who went to a bottle of Chardonnay instead of to the Lord. The mom who adopted another child with Down syndrome; a quasi stab at redemption, only to find that she, of course, was still the one who needed redeeming.

But each time, and I'm serious when I say this, I can almost hear God's voice saying, "share all of you, Gillian. Because in the hard parts, in the times you made bad choices, in your brokenness and lack of faith, I was there. And that's MY story in you."

Before I speak, I usually run to the bathroom and grab a wad of toilet paper to sop up the sweat underneath my arms. I smooth my hair, and look at myself in the mirror. 

I think of God's voice telling me not to waste the life he's given me. I think of one mom who may be struggling. If my voice encourages her to speak up to someone about her struggles, than sharing the ugly parts of me is more than worth it.

And I think of Polly's voice, chattering in my ear non-stop throughout the day. I think about her reciting the Star Spangled Banner with her class in the morning at school. I think about when she tells me that she loves me, and how it fills me up to the brim of my existence with thanks and praise that I get to be her mom.

I think about Evangeline. Oh, how I long to hear her voice. I anticipate it. I wait for it. And until then I stand up for her as her voice.

So, I step out in front of strangers and tell them my story, and I keep querying agnets for my book, and I keep writing down my rambling thoughts here. 

I include the embarrassing parts for sure. But I also include the best parts, how Polly and I are crazy in love now. How thankful I am to be Evangeline's mom. How awed I am that God knew I needed to be broken in such specific ways in order to be used for his purposes and for his glory alone.

Last night, I got an email from someone who attended one of my talks in September thanking me for my willingness to be vulnerable and for sharing my dark moments, thoughts and actions in my presentation. She is a mother to a child with special needs. Here's a little bit of what she wrote:
What you said made me feel “normal”, connected and accepted.  (I’m tearing up as I write this to you, even now, because it meant so much to me and I understand how difficult it is to be honest like that with others…even if they are “strangers”.)

That's really the point of why I do what I do. 

I have a voice, and I am learning not to be afraid to use it.

What about you? How are you using your voice?


  1. Thank you for sharing this, Gillian. I have been feeling to nudge to be more transparent. And have been working on a spiritual memoir of sorts. Even if it is read only by my kids and grandkids...I feel the call to write it anyway.

    Thank you for your example!

  2. You have a beautiful voice.

    In our brokeness, God heals and we must tell His story.


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