Every Story Needs a Plot… Thoughts on A Good and Perfect Gift

Over the weekend, a friend asked, “What was the hardest part of writing A Good and Perfect Gift?”

When I sat down to write, I had over 200 typed pages of journal entries from the time immediately following Penny’s birth. I recorded the raw emotions, the theological questions, and all the things I needed to learn about Down syndrome and disabilities. But there was one problem–the journal entries didn’t have much of a plot. How do you make the life of an infant interesting? For a parent, every “milestone” is cause for celebration: She touched her toe with her finger! She smiled at me! She’s cutting her first tooth! For a reader, too many exclamation points about baby development gets old very quickly. At the same time, how do you make the fears and sadness of a young mother not feel interminable? Moaning and groaning gets old too.

So the challenge became making the journal entries feel immediate, as though you were in the hospital with me when I was hearing the news that Penny had Down syndrome, or on the phone with Peter when he described helping a woman with Down syndrome across the street after a snowstorm, or standing in the bedroom when Penny first learned about language. To do that, I needed not only the words but the images. As I wrote, I spent hours with photo albums and home videos, figuring out just what she looked like at each stage in her development. And then I spent hours paring down the details–she’s starting to eat mushy peas!–that might seem monumental to me, but. let’s be honest, no reader needs or wants to know. I hope the result is the right balance between the abstract world of thoughts, feelings, and theological reflection and the concrete reality of sleepless nights and giggles and coos and doctor’s appointments and all the rest. Hopefully the words will bring you into the room with us while at the same time launching you into your own thoughts about family, faith, perfection, and what it means to be human.


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