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Holly

But they explain that there’s been a change of plan, that you’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.
“BUT I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT HOLLAND!” you say. ‘I DON’T WANT TO STAY!”
But stay you do. You go out and buy some new guidebooks, you learn some new phrases, and you meet people you never knew existed. The important thing is that you are not in a bad place filled with despair. You’re simply in a different place than you had planned. It’s slower paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy, but after you’ve been there a little while and you have a chance to catch your breath, you begin to discover that Holland has windmills. Holland has tulips. Holland has Rembrandts.
But everyone else you know is busy coming and going from Italy. They’re all bragging about what a great time they had there, and for the rest of your life, you’ll say, “YES, THAT’S WHAT I HAD PLANNED.”
The pain of that will never go away. You have to accept that pain, because the loss of that dream, the loss of that plan, is a very, very significant loss. But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to go to Italy, you will never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland.

“Welcome to Holland” by Emily Perl Kingsley 

As most of you know, I have a daughter, Caroline, who was born with disabilities. My husband and I also have 3 other older daughters. Caroline has brought so much into our lives. She is loving, empathetic, and welcoming to everyone that she meets. Caroline has taught us the joy of small, important things. It is not without sadness, as illustrated in the poem. But we learned to celebrate the positive accomplishments. 

Caroline’s first birthday was a little disappointing. Developmental delays were evident. Celebration of the the first birthday was very contained. We did,  however, hold a huge party around Caroline’s second birthday, to celebrate her first steps. We had been told that Caroline may never be able to walk. I made “foot” cookies with painted frosting toes. We had pictures of the dancing baby from Ali McBeal. It was awesome.

My husband, Tom, and Caroline and I have truly been on a journey over the past few years. As most parents of children with special needs, our main concern was for Caroline’s future when we would not be around to care for her. Our journey brought us from Connecticut, where both Tom and I and four daughters had been raised, to Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Connecticut had eliminated funding for Caroline’s program, and we sought out a place where her future would be secure. Stanton Home was and is the perfect place for Caroline. Tom and I really liked Great Barrington. Everything was great with the exception of a church for Caroline and me. This component was very important to us. We have always participated in a church community. I, personally, had struggled with the Catholic Church’s direction and lack of progression to change. Caroline and I tried a couple of churches in the area. My own personal “last straw” was when it was the beginning of the immigration crisis and children were being separated from their parents. I waited during a Catholic mass to ask for prayers for these separated families to be brought back together. Nothing was said.

This brings me to another part of the poem, “Welcome to Holland.” 

I needed a church that was inclusive. 

Now, in the poem, it describes not being permitted to visit Italy. Well I’m sorry, I can go to Italy, also! No one should be told that they are not included for any reason! Knowing that the Episcopal Church was a much more inclusive type of church, I googled, “Episcopal Church Great Barrington.” I needed to research where Chrissy Farm was located!

When Caroline stepped through the doors into Grace Church, I knew it was the right place for us. Caroline was embraced immediately. I felt welcomed right away. The real topper was during our first visit to Grace Church, we prayed for the families immigrating into our country. 

All were welcome at Grace Church.

Lastly, I would like to tell you about a lesson that I taught during a first grade catechism class. 

I brought a fully wrapped present into my classroom. I told the children that inside this box was the very best gift that they would ever receive. It was better than any video game or doll or anything. We opened the present to reveal a card that simply said Grace on it. I explained to the class that they were given the gift of God’s Grace on the day that they were born. They would be loved by God forever.

Grace is truly a place of God’s love.

Here is the content of the poem, Holly refers to:

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When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like you’re planning a vacation to Italy. You’re all excited. You get a whole bunch of guidebooks, you learn a few phrases so you can get around, and then it comes time to pack your bags and head for the airport.
Only when you land, the stewardess says, ‘WELCOME TO HOLLAND.”
You look at one another in disbelief and shock, saying, “HOLLAND? WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? I SIGNED UP FOR ITALY.”
But they explain that there’s been a change of plan, that you’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.
“BUT I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT HOLLAND!” you say. ‘I DON’T WANT TO STAY!”
But stay you do. You go out and buy some new guidebooks, you learn some new phrases, and you meet people you never knew existed. The important thing is that you are not in a bad place filled with despair. You’re simply in a different place than you had planned. It’s slower paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy, but after you’ve been there a little while and you have a chance to catch your breath, you begin to discover that Holland has windmills. Holland has tulips. Holland has Rembrandts.
But everyone else you know is busy coming and going from Italy. They’re all bragging about what a great time they had there, and for the rest of your life, you’ll say, “YES, THAT’S WHAT I HAD PLANNED.”
The pain of that will never go away. You have to accept that pain, because the loss of that dream, the loss of that plan, is a very, very significant loss. But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to go to Italy, you will never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland.

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