My journaling delved deeper as my daughter grew. Images, situations, and details bobbed up to the surface of my conscious. A fear of brokenness; broken people, broken things, and ultimately, my own broken heart, had been tucked inside me since childhood. I wrote, and a thought nagged. Perhaps these words were meant to be read by others?
A memoir emerged.
Q: You are a pastor’s wife. Was it difficult to share the hard parts?
While I was writing, and throughout the process, no. But I have to be honest, once the book published, and my struggles and sins were out there for all to see, yes. In the beginning though, when my husband Sergei and I agreed I would mold my writing into a book, we also agreed I absolutely had to share the hard parts. Without hard parts, the good parts aren’t as good. Without darkness, the light is not as bright. Grace lives in the hard parts.
Q: Do you miss Ukraine? Will you ever go back to live there?
Yes, our whole family misses Ukraine. We would love to go back, but when Polly was around three years old she suffered a massive stroke and was diagnosed with a second syndrome called Moyamoya. She endured two brain surgeries and is doing phenomenally well. But chance of stroke is there, and so it is best for us to stay in the States. That said, if we hear from God and he tells us to go, we will listen. We also plan on short term trips, especially to facilitate seminars and support groups for families who choose to keep and raise their children with special needs in Ukraine.
Q: You speak to groups about bridging the gap between families affected by special needs and others. Why? What is your message?
I speak about bridging the gap between families affected by special needs and others because to put it bluntly, there is still often times a gap. My message is that communication and education are key. I talk about opening up conversations with friends and family who have kids with special needs, and about teaching our kids how to be good friends to individuals with special needs. I guess I just share my experience, and let people know that I have my foot in both camps of parenting … The gap doesn’t have to be an abyss.
Q: October is Down syndrome Awareness month. Does your family do anything special
to raise awareness?
Yes! I usually go to Polly’s class and read a book about Down syndrome and send home a hand out explaining Down syndrome in kids’ terms and encouraging parents to talk about it over dinner. In the last two years, Polly and Evie’s sisters Elaina and Zoya have took it upon themselves to create and present similar presentations to their classes. Warms a Mama’s heart! (Check out Gillian's handout about Down syndrome for classrooms here !)
Q: What have you learned about God through your experience as a mom with two girls with Down syndrome that surprised you the most?
I’ve really come to plead for and rely on this part of the Lord’s Prayer: Give us this day our daily bread. What I’ve learned through parenting kids with Down syndrome, what I think I probably knew cerebrally as a believer but now relay on concretely, is my daily need for God. There’s just no way I can parent without him. He shows up every day, with just the manna I need. The trick is not forgetting. He’s always there, but sometimes, sadly, I stand him up for other things. The good news is, he’s there again the next day, regardless of parenting fails or wins.
And one last "exclusive" question that I had to throw out there:
Q: What was the turning factor in life that brought you from the end of this book to where you were open to adopting a second child with Down syndrome? (by the way, we look forward to that book too!)
That is a big question to answer. Ultimately, as Christians, we sensed the Holy Spirit prompting us to adopt a child from Ukraine. Knowing that couples in Ukraine typically dessert babies born with special needs, and that fact that Sergei, my husband, was born and raised in Ukraine, our hearts were still tethered there. Polly was two years old at that time. I was head over heels in love with her, and much more comfortable with Down syndrome. Since God had already placed us into the world of Down syndrome, we decided to pursue a child with Down syndrome. Evie has been home with us for four years. It hasn't been easy, but it has been worth it. I'm working on a sequel to Sun Shine Down that will tell you all about it.
Now that you've gotten to know Gillian, hop over to www.facebook.com/thecornishfamily and leave a comment there to be entered in to a drawing to win a copy of Gillian's new book, Sun Shine Down.
Gillian Marchenko is an author and national speaker who lives in Chicago with her husband Sergei and four daughters. Her book, Sun Shine Down, a memoir, published with T. S. Poetry Press in the fall of 2013.
She writes and speaks about parenting kids with Down syndrome, faith, depression, imperfection, and adoption. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Chicago Parent, Thriving Family, Gifted for Leadership, Literary Mama, Today's Christian Woman, MomSense Magazine, Charlottesville Family, EFCA Today, and the Tri-City Record.
Gillian says the world is full of people who seem to have it all together. She speaks for the rest of us.
Buy Sun Shine Down on Amazon: http://goo.gl/QnnZO9
Kindle: http://goo.gl/3hFdH9 Nook: http://goo.gl/qKdcO6
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