With compassion and empathy, Dandi Daley Mackall writes from her heart and shares from the deep well of her experience. Some of her richest experiences have come from seeing life through the eyes of her daughter Katy, who has special needs. In spite of her struggles, Katy has a joyful, loving spirit that could only come from God. Dandi’s new kids’ book, Larger-than-Life Lara, captures the power that a loving spirit has in overcoming life’s adversity. It’s a grace to welcome Dandi to the farm’s front porch today…
Katy wore her purple jersey proudly, thrilled to be part of the Dragons. The thump, thump, thump of a dozen practice balls echoed in the gym.
I watched my daughter smile at every player on the basketball court, even those on the opposing team, the Bears.
“Go, Ka—Dragons!” I shouted from the bleachers. Katy had coached her dad and me not to cheer, “Go, Katy!” Only, “Go, Dragons!”
She jogged out of sight. When she returned, she was pushing a wheelchair with a man I judged to be about forty, twice Katy’s age. He was wearing a Superman T-shirt, and his smile matched Katy’s.
I didn’t think he was on either team, but I wasn’t sure.
A whistle blew, and athletes were introduced as they ran to center court to the cheers of the crowd. Brian skipped onto the court, hands clasped above his head as if he was already the champ. Leslie pranced out, looking paler than the snow we all drove through to get here.
And Craig. Too shy, or frightened, to join his team on the court, he paced just out of bounds until Katy ran over and took his hand, leading him out as far as he’d allow.
Unable to help himself, my husband yelled, “Go, Katy!” She shook her head at him. Someone shouted, “Play ball!”
Katy didn’t come off the bench until third quarter. Even then, she couldn’t get her hands on the ball because the Dragons’ two best players were ball hogs.
Poor Katy ran up and down the court, arms outstretched, pleading for the ball. The boys paid no attention.
But it was obvious that one boy on the Bears team couldn’t keep his eyes off her. Each time they passed on the court, he stopped and smiled, mesmerized.
Someone passed him the ball. The kid’s smile turned back to Katy. He handed that ball to her.
Confused, Katy glanced up at us and shrugged. She returned the Bear’s grin, then shot the ball. Nothin’ but net!
It was the only shot she made all year. The gym erupted in shouts of joy. Even the Bears and their parents cheered.
The Dragons trailed by one. Katy had the ball with two minutes left in the game. Then a wonderful thing happened. Katy walked toward Craig, who still paced the out-of-bounds lane.
The gym hushed as Katy stepped out of bounds and took Craig’s hand.
The clock ran out, but nobody moved. Craig tried to squirm away, but Katy held on until he stepped across the line. She put the ball in his hands, and his arms sprang as if on coils. He missed the backboard. But the bleachers emptied, with both sides cheering their hearts out.
Every person in that gym experienced true joy, shared joy.
And I prayed that God would show me how to share joy in other areas, instead of competing for only one joy—mine.
That evening in the gym, joy poured out of me abundantly, spontaneously. But the truth is that joy doesn’t always come so easily.
Sometimes I find myself wishing that parenting a child with special needs brought with it more moments of straightforward joy. Or perhaps that my joy looked more like other people’s joy.
I knew a couple of weeks after Katy’s birth that she wasn’t developing the way other babies did.
By age two, she required speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy.
When she was three, she lost 40 percent of her hearing overnight and was diagnosed with nephritis and Alport Syndrome, a nasty neurological disorder.
I don’t recall feeling joyful as other moms chatted about their precocious toddlers.
I do remember my daughter, big grin and wide eyes, rushing home after kindergarten one day and shouting, “Guess what! Allyson can tie her own shoelaces her own self!”
She was ecstatic, but my first thought was: And you can’t.
Why is it easier to share the sorrows of others than it is to share their joy?
I’ve always marveled at Mary’s relative, Elizabeth, wife of Zachariah and mother of John the Baptist.
When Elizabeth received a visit from Mary, the future mother of the Messiah, wouldn’t Elizabeth’s natural response have been, Why not me? I’m from the priestly line of Aaron. I’m married. Zachariah is a priest and would make the perfect father. God considered me righteous. Yet my son will not consider himself worthy to tie the sandal straps of your Son? Jesus must increase while John decreases?
Instead: “Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, ‘God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy.’” (Luke 1:42-44, NLT)
Elizabeth was overjoyed because she shared Mary’s joy.
And it’s not an accident that Katy is one of the happiest people I’ve met.
She gets more than her share of joy . . . because she, too, shares other people’s joys.
I am still learning from Katy.
Perhaps we all can.
Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy. Philippians 2:18
Dandi Daley Mackall is an award-winning author of nearly 500 books for all ages. She is winner of the Helen Keating Ott Award for Contributions to Children’s Literature, ECPA Children’s Book of the Year 2015, the OCIRA (International Reading Association’s) Hall of Fame, the Edgar Award, ALA-YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, Mom’s Choice Awards, and others. She was a missionary behind the Iron Curtain (the basis for Eva Underground).
Her new book Larger-Than-Life Lara is a unique and multilayered story for young readers, with equal parts humor and angst. The central character, Laney, communicates the art of storytelling as it happens while weaving an unforgettable tale of the new girl, whose Christlike kindness and forgiveness transform the entire class…until nobody remains unchanged, not even the reader. This is a powerful and emotional story.
[ Our humble thanks to Tyndale for their partnership in today’s devotion ]