By David Dawson
Baptist and Reflector
GATLINBURG — Natalee Barbier didn’t say it has been easy.
She just said it’s been worth it.
Barbier, who was one of the featured guests for the “breakout sessions” at last week’s WMU Get-Together, spoke to the attendees about the challenges that she has faced during parenthood. Her session was entitled: “Unshaken by Life’s Storms.”
Natalee and her husband, Jay, the evangelism event specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, have a 15-year-old daughter, Mary-Clare, who has Down’s Syndrome. The journey of raising a special-needs child has been challenging, of course, but has enabled the couple to grow in their faith in ways they couldn’t have imagined. It has shaped the Barbiers’ ministry, and opened doors to sharing God’s love and faithfulness.
Barbier said she has been amazed by the strength and courage that God has given her.
“The enemy likes to whisper to us, ‘you can’t do this,’ ” said Barbier. “But while the enemy is telling us those lies, we have to remember that our God is the God of truth.”
Barbier admitted that when she first learned that her baby girl would be born with Down’s Syndrome, she simply wasn’t ready to process the news.
“I had a picture in my mind of my daughter as a cheerleader with a big bow in her hair,” said Barbier. “So, I struggled with trying to understand how our lives would look.”
Now, 15 years later, Barbier has a much different perspective. She clearly sees how Mary-Clare — who has an energetic personality and infectious smile — has been a blessing to so many others, and how God has used this experience for His glory in the lives of the entire Barbier family.
Mary-Clare’s amazing life journey is a daily reminder to the Barbiers, and to others, of God’s sovereignty, and how He is at work in our lives, even during the most testing times.
“We all wonder sometimes why a loving God allows ‘bad’ things to happen,” she said. “But we have to understand that there is purpose to our pain. When disappointments happen, God so often has something bigger and better in mind.”
The Barbiers’ son, Caleb, 17, says his sister is “a rock star” because people are drawn to her anywhere she goes. And, yes, Mary-Clare has joined the cheerleading team at her school.
“God speaks in the language of freedom,” said Barbier, “while Satan speaks in the language of restrictions.”
Barbier said it is often hard, perhaps even impossible, to comprehend God’s timing. “I think it’s easy to get tunnel-vision in terms of how we think things should be,” she said. “But we must be obedient and trust the Lord.”
Barbier said choosing to have faith during tumultuous times will open up possibilities to the blessings that the Lord has in store.
“Sometimes we just need to ask ourselves: What if the very thing that is causing us pain is actually saving our lives?” said Barbier.
Barbier noted that Matthew 5:4 talks about being patient in our hour of darkness. She said she has learned how to do that, although it’s still a work in progress.
“It’s sometimes hard to do this, but we must fight for joy; fight to get out of the pit,” said Barbier. “We have to learn to rejoice — always.”