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Praying With PennyHow my daughter with Down syndrome taught me to pray

I have a new article in InTouch Magazine (not the one that's like People Magazine, the Christian one). Some of the content will be familiar to those of you who read this blog regularly, but I still thought you'd appreciate this reflection on what Penny has taught me about prayer over the course of her life. It begins:

A few weeks back, I got into a fight with my four-year-old son William. I can't remember the details, though I'm sure it had something to do with getting dressed for school.

I know it had been a rough night of sleep the night before. I know my husband had left the house early. I know I yelled at all three children when they danced and bickered and lounged around instead of putting on their clothes. And I know that eventually I grabbed William and pulled him up from the floor, inadvertently creating a rug burn on the top of his foot. He sobbed. And then, after trying to comfort him, I put my face in my hands and started to cry.

My youngest daughter Marilee, who is almost two, couldn't understand it. "Why Mommy cwyin' ?" she was still asking 30 minutes later. William giggled uncertainly, as if he hoped I was putting on a show. But Penny, my eldest, knew immediately that this was for real. She came over to offer a hug, and then she said, gently, "Mom, should we pray?"

Penny was born seven years ago. Her delivery seemed unremarkable. My epidural had worked wonders on the pain, and since the baby weighed a mere five pounds five ounces, I pushed for only 20 minutes before she shot into the world. Her vital signs were good at birth, and she cried a hearty cry upon exiting the womb. For two hours, we experienced the euphoria of many a new parent—the relief that labor and delivery were over, the giddy excitement about what would come, the childlike wonder that we had been entrusted with caring for another human being.

But then a nurse called my husband out of the room, and when he returned, his eyes were brimming. "The doctors think Penny has Down syndrome," he said. And euphoria turned to dread.

Penny's birth and the doctor's recognition that she had Down syndrome, a third copy of chromosome 21 in every cell of her body, rendered me silent before God. I was a seminary student at the time, so I had all sorts of theological resources on hand, but I was afraid to pray. It felt too risky, as if another unanswered or misdirected prayer might silence my faith altogether.

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