A friend posted the poem below on facebook this week and although I have heard it before, I’ve been thinking about it a lot today.  Particularly in relation to how we feel when life doesn’t quite turn out as we expect it to.  It’s called ‘Welcome to Holland’ and was it written specifically to help others understand how a parent may feel raising a child with a disability but I think it can be applied to any situation which results in an unexpected and unplanned outcome. 

“Welcome to Holland”

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away...because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss. But...if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.

By Emily Perl Kingsley, 1987

Isn’t that a wonderful perspective? 

This week we have the Beauty from Ashes team here leading a retreat on grief and loss.  So often grief and loss comes in many forms.  From thinking that you were heading to Italy, suddenly you can find your emotional map being redirected all across the globe!  Whether it’s a loved one who dies, an unexpected diagnosis or something else, it can throw us massively off track and that is completely understandable ….

But we are not meant to stay off track.  Like a boat being tossed about by the waves in a storm, we may move about A LOT and it may feel extremely traumatic and exhausting and never-ending, but for those of us with faith – however much or little we feel we have – we can know that we, like the ship, are held secure because we are held by our loving Heavenly Father who will not let us go even if emotional waves and unexpected, life-changing situations happen at whatever point in life we find ourselves in.

So this week, if this resonates with you and where you are at the moment, why not buy yourself some tulips or find a picture of some tulips and use them as a focus for prayer?  I think I might just do that myself…..