of the unsung…a compilation of images

Here’s to the husband, who realized a life shift when he heard the sniff, saw the screen glow turned his way, heard the question…..babe, look at this. Can we? Should we? Did you know? How can we not?

And you looked.

Here’s to you, your logical glance preceded by an illogical yearn. No. It’s too much. It can’t be. This isn’t our job…..our plan for our family, my life, our life. I’m too old, we’ve raised our kids, we haven’t had a child yet….

Here’s to the man who struggled deeply, battling the yes, knowing where it came from. Here’s to the husband who tried to want it, but had doubts. Huge doubts. Lingering fears. Here’s to the deep breath and lifted prayers.

Here’s to the hand on the furrowed brow, staring at budgets, crunching numbers. Here’s to the man staring at frightening diagnosis lists.

Here’s to wondering if you could love a stranger’s child like you love your own. Would you? Could you?

Here’s to you, and your brave, blind, faithful yes.

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Here’s to the Daddies, the Babas, the Yeyes, the Fathers, the unsung ones that make up the tribe of men who stand in the gap for the calling. The calling to adopt, to foster, to be a father to the fatherless…..a privilege not for the faint of heart, because it takes a real man to do it.

The job is for the strongest of men, who forgo the gym, the game, the golf course for endless therapies, counseling, hospital visits.

The most challenging road where the best is yet to come, where the end game isn’t an earthly crown.

This is for you.

Here’s to the daddies who don’t count chromosomes.

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Here’s to the babas who strive for attachment, who celebrate the hard fought battle from fear to trust. (the reward is a jet lagged nap)

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Here’s to the fathers who risked it all and won the crown, who have already heard the “well done, good and faithful…” Here’s to your legacy of fatherhood. Here’s to the children you comforted with your last breath. You’ll meet again.

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Here’s to you, when you’re not quite sure where to go from here or what’s coming next.

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Here’s to the dads who breaks down racial divides. Here’s to the dads who wait for years for adoptions to go through…longing to give their child a permanent name and home. Here’s to the fathers who set the bar high in their communities, who inspire others to follow and meet the need.

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Here’s to the oh-so-tired daddies, who work second jobs to pay for home studies, who come home exhausted, pushing through evening medical routines….here’s to the men who can literally sleep anywhere. This is your legacy.

IMG_3252IMG_3272IMG_3241IMG_3285IMG_3245Here’s to the fathers who scarf down leftover hospital food, understand medical jargon, know the ins and outs of wheelchairs, braces, and feeding tubes. We see you. We thank you.

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Here’s to the dads who hold up a family at the resting place of a fragile little one. The bravest of the brave. Here’s to the dad who knew the potential loss and chose it, relished it, embraced every moment of sweet life…..only to let it fly away.

Here’s to your silent, streaming tears, your wife on one arm, a tiny casket on the other.

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Here’s to Gotcha Day jitters, the flight, the strange land, the questioning officials, the deep breath, the pounding heart. Here’s to the lengths you will go for that first smile. Here’s to taking a small person’s terror on your shoulders, here’s to the first eye contact, the first touch, the first hug….

Here’s to the moment when you realized that your compassion was light years greater than your no.

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Here’s to you, father of many yeses…who did it once and went back again, who saw it all and kept offering life.

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Here’s to the dads who are wrapped around their little fingers!

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Here’s to the daddies who do the fun things, who are goofy, who teach, who love….here’s to the laughter and all the things that memories are made of. Here’s where adventure happens. It’s with you.

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Here’s to the songs you sing, the swings you swing, the piggy back rides, and final goodbyes. Here’s to holding on and letting go.

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Here’s what you have learned and shouted to the world. That ordinary men, with God, can do mighty things. Your gentleness is your strength. Your compassion is the most faithful of companions. You do brave, difficult, gut wrenching things.

Because of that….

You are our heroes.

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Here’s to you.

 

*** An enormous thank you to the families who contributed their beautiful photos to this blog! The heart and stories behind each one brought me to tears while I wrote this. I pray that God brings more and more men along the way who will be willing to be a father to the fatherless, who would step up to protect and lead precious little ones Him.

And to my amazing husband, for saying yes twice to our two who are rocking the extra chromosome. God is good and I love you so very much.***

Love,

Cady

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if I could write a miracle…

 

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If I were God that I may write

A miracle, one late night

A babe I’d craft inside my hand

With extra stuff, you understand.

This miracle I’d gently place inside

A place where people seem to die.

A place where most of them don’t live

to see the daylight privilege.

I’d place this babe inside this spot

and hide his extra special lot.

Until he’s born and then I’d watch

him placed into another spot.

Picked up by strangers just to lie

inside a crib, but he won’t die;

My miracles I sprinkle, grow

They get to earth, have seeds to sow.

And from his crib, his almond eyes

take in this world with small surprise.

His growth is slow, his steps are late,

Eyes radiate joy, and never hate.

And one sweet day, heart parents come

to collect their miracle child of one.

Across the sunset line they fly,

Arrow straight, they heard his cry

For lifelong love, a family he

Will join them all eternally.

This miracle boy with extra stuff

Has things to share with all of us.

Courage to love when all seems lost

Hugs to give, without cost.

Lessons taught by one so small

Nary taught by intellects tall.

Watches your face, always in tune

For when you’re sad, he’ll leave the room

Bring tissues, hugs, whatever helps.

Thinks of others, not himself.

Yes, if I could write a miracle child

And place him in the world a while

This is the story I would write,

If dark be overcome with light.

Treasures, most times, are hard to find

And what is valued by mankind?

Wealth and status, brains, power

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Of quiet innocence, simplicity

Sweet life without toxicity.

Search high or low for power to wipe

Your tears, or comfort bleakest nights.

Yes, if I could write a miracle, this

Is the pattern I’d insist.

And if you have this miracle, you

Are highly blessed, through and through.

I tell you this that joy befalls

Those who answer miracle’s calls.

Miracles are both far and few

Answer the call. You’ll find what’s true.

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Written for our little miracle boy, Lian Alexander Driver, by his Mama, Cady Driver. Lian, a miracle from start to finish…from his extra 21st chromosome to the fact that God brought him into our lives through adoption, and the blessings, joy, laugher, and love that He has poured out upon us is immeasurable.

In celebration of ALL of the miracles who are rocking the extra 21st chromosome.

One can only hope that you all find such a miracle.

 

5 quick and easy reasons to not adopt

Adoption isn’t for everyone. This is such an oft repeated statement that we should, really, get t-shirts made of it. I mean, seriously. They would sell like hot cakes. You know how crazy adoption peeps are about the t-shirts!

For everyone’s convenience, here is a conveniently compiled list of the top 5 reasons that adoption is not for everyone. This is a great list to have handy when challenged by those crazy people who adopt, making one feel all squirmy with those shocking photos, inconvenient statistics, and, for Pete’s sake, stop with the t-shirts sales, people!

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5. FROM ANY ANGLE, ADOPTION IS A CHALLENGE

If you’re a person who strives for a life paved with smooth, sparkly stones and peaceful vistas, adoption is probably something best to be avoided at all costs. For most, the challenge of running a 5K or working out in the gym should definitely be satisfying enough. Why put yourself through the equivalent of a lifelong marathon when a weekend marathon can satisfy the challenge itch? Plus, with adoption, there’s no visible finish line, no cheering crowds, and not one single shiny trophy in sight as far as the eye can see.

What attraction is there in the thankless, broken, lifelong marathon of adoption?

Although, I HAVE heard rumors that the adoption marathon could bring enormous, yet quietly celebrated victories that cannot be measured by earthly standards….but those are just rumors and who can trust those?

4. ADOPTION WILL BREAK ONE

Adoption will break the hardest of hearts in all the most tender places. This is definitely NOT good for your physical health, mental state, and definitely puts the blood pressure into digits only recommended for elephants. For example, once you’ve walked through that room, lined with silent cribs occupied by glassy eyed children, your heart will feel like it has been through a shredder and it’s a much larger shredder than the cheese one.

No longer can you enjoy a simple sunset or a cozy Christmas without being gouged by the double edged sword of happiness laced with remembrances of those who aren’t experiencing your current blessings. There is an undeniable shattering of the heart when you weep as your adopted child weeps, as they mourn their loss, as they rage against the life change, clawing through the trauma of a brief but scarred life.

A broken heart is something to avoid at all costs in life.

Although rumor has it that a tenderized heart expands in capacity and endurance, and didn’t Jesus Himself weep over the lost?….. but I could be wrong on that one.

3. ADOPTION WILL GREATLY AGGRAVATE ONE’S FLAWS

If you are like me and you work on an orderly existence with possessions that haven’t been repaired with duck tape and spit, then adoption definitely isn’t for you. If testing the absolute limits of your patience and tolerance isn’t a goal in life, definitely don’t attempt this.

In cautiously avoiding any and all situations that will challenge the assorted fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, PATIENCE, self-control, etc…), you can be sure to never embarrass your Christian testimony in front of others, your faith quota will always be a lavish overflowing waterfall, and you can rest assure that your spotless reputation will stay  solidly intact.

Also, another benefit is that one will not ever have to rely or lean upon your church, friends, family, village, town, tribe, or even perfect strangers, and one’s fierce independence will stay firmly in place.

On second thought, I DO recall that a muscle that is exercised becomes stronger with use,  and the whole “not needing anyone” could possibly be a pride issue……but exercising is hard work, and sweating through these problems might ruin the hairdo or chip the nails….and independence is SO American…so let’s just go with that.

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2. ADOPTION WILL CHALLENGE ONE’S MARRIAGE

Long walks on the beach? Dinner and a movie? Gazing at each other minus the eye bags of extreme exhaustion…. If you just ADORE these romantic things, and they are what make your marriage tick, then I’d recommend continuing on with the comfortable journey you are currently traversing. You don’t need those pesky late night migraines of trying to figure out where the next adoption payment is coming from or which kidney you need to sell to make it happen. Not to mention that the therapies and sleeping at the hospital will DEFINITELY put you out of the loving mood and who wants that?

That sweaty hand in his as you ride that elevator up to meet your child for the first time, the mascara running down your face, those whispered prayers for sleep to come in the traumatized dark hours, the bleary mornings….definitely not.

Besides, who wants to get all sorts of creative with what a date night constitutes? A 15 minute ride in the car with the child who finally fell asleep and you can miraculously finish a sentence….it’s a hot date! Grocery shopping together, catching each other’s gaze over the mushrooms and diapers (hopefully not in the same section)

DATE!

Sitting through a church service for the first time in a year because your child will FINALLY stay in the nursery without exhibiting trauma-related behavior. It’s a DATE…and if you’re lucky, you may EVEN attend a church where you can hold hands or he can slip his arm around you. * helpful hint* Sit in the back. (Not sure if making out will be overlooked, though, unless it’s one of those super progressive churches where you have to feel your way to your seat in the dark.)

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Nah, long walks on the beach are DEFINITELY preferred….

the moment your eyes lock over the photo of that child, and both of your hearts leap with united Divine intent…

…that’s definitely not as glam. Stick with the beach thing.

And the number ONE REASON to NOT adopt is:

1. ADOPTION WILL CHALLENGE  EVERY SINGLE AREA OF ONE’S FAITH

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If you have a huge interest in questioning the goodness of God or why bad things happen to tiny, helpless humans, definitely adopt…..if you really don’t want to challenge your faith with these head scratching conundrums, then absolutely avoid adoption.

Is God good? Will He really, truly provide this Mt. Everest of cost? What is true worship? What does the Bible really say about laying down your life? Why are we commanded to do certain things? What is a soul for eternity worth?

Man, lots of questions like these can almost shove you out of the Christian kayak of belief and then where would you be? Floundering in the water? Getting eaten by a giant whale?

Yep.

Though, there IS some ancient text where a certain person (starting with “P” and ending with “TUR”) was commanded to step out of a boat willingly and if he kept his eyes on Jesus, he walked on water. I could be mistaken though.

Who wants to step out of a satisfyingly safe kayak for a water stroll? Not everyone.

Let’s not get crazy here, folks. Safety is our top priority, right?

Although, I have heard whispers of if a believer wishes to save one’s life, one must lose it.

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These pesky, Bibically-laced whispers….always so inconvenient and they make one just want to turn up the Netflix binge and block things out.

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“Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.” Luke 17:33

“But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Luke 18:16

fear is an anchor…

What if I told you I was afraid….yes, I’m afraid.

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Ignorance really is bliss during your first adoption. There’s SO much you just didn’t know and you looked at SO many smily, family photos, watched SO many tear inducing YouTube Gotcha day videos. Everything is new and amazing, sweet and lovely. You step forwards in “faith”, but a lot of it is stepping forward blindly because you really have zero idea what it is you’re getting in to.

Similar to being a new parent, there are all of these pre-conceived notions of what your birth, delivery, and basically what parenthood will be like and most of those fantasies are really shiny and pretty.

The reality of it is that when you’re staring at the pregnancy test of your second or third child, there is joy, but it’s laced with a bit of anxiety and fear, and just plain exhaustion…Am I enough? Can I love this child the same as the first? Will there enough of me to go around?

Am I right? It’s different the second time.

I’m feeling the same way with moving forward with this next adoption. I look at Lian, I look back over the last 2 years, and yes, it has been AMAZING, and we’ve learned so much, and have been so blessed, but there’s a weariness and a caution laced with fear that I feel dragging us down, holding us back, anchoring us to this earth.

There’s no shiny happily-ever-after view, it’s now all reality…..in all of its hard and wonderful, broken and healed hallelujahs.

And I’m afraid. The “what ifs” press down upon me like stormy waves. The “Was Lian an anomaly? Was he too easy or was he hard?” “What if Ella is hard, like seriously hard…..harder than Lian?”

And fear whispers in my ear because I allow it to be heard.

BUT……

Nowhere is God involved in fear. 1 John 1:18 talks about how “perfect love casts out fear…” and while the correct context of the verse instructs us to not fear eternal judgement because we have accepted Christ’s perfect love, I believe that the Holy Spirit can also give us a perfect love for others, a love that can ascend past the anchor that is fear.

And so, my prayer for this journey isn’t that we would have a blinded, rosy view again…. it’s that God would give us perfect love for this next little one who needs a home….the one who waits.

God, give me perfect love through the long, exhausting, international trip. Give me perfect love through Ella’s grieving process, through her health issues, the specialists and doctor’s visits. Give us all perfect love to, once again, step forward, accepting the hard with the glorious.

Give me perfect love to climb this mountain again. Cast aside fear because You have no part in that.

Recently, this song by Matt Kearney popped up one day in the car…and the words…struck me….and I listened to it with tears streaming down my face, because every word of it is TRUE.

NEVER BE READY

We got our feet on the wire
Talking ’bout flying
Maybe we’re diving in over our heads
Scared of what I’m feeling
Staring at the ceiling
Here tonight
Come on and lay down these arms
All our best defenses
We’re taking our chances here on the run
The fear is an anchor
Time is a stranger
Love isn’t borrowed
We aren’t promised tomorrow
We’ll never be ready if we keep waiting
For the perfect time to come
Hold me steady, we’ll never be ready
When we don’t know, though we can’t see
Just walk on down this road with me
Hold me steady, we’ll never be ready
You’re OK here with me
Here in the silence
With all of the violence crashing around
Saying we can’t go
Saying we don’t know
This road that is narrow is the one we should follow
We’ll never be ready if we keep waiting
For the perfect time to come
Hold me steady, we’ll never be ready
When we don’t know, though we can’t see
Just walk on down this road with me
Hold me steady, we’ll never be ready
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Basically, friends, we’ll never be ready. But God doesn’t call us to be emotionally, physically, mentally, and financially ready, He just calls us to  be willing. The simplicity of being willing is something to rest in, at least it is for me. Because we’ll never be fully prepared for the twists and turns of another broken heart that God calls us to love.
If fear is an anchor, I don’t want it. I don’t want to be held back from the perfect will of God.
Perfect love has no fear.
“And we’ll never be ready if we keep waiting for the perfect time to come.”
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The perfect time is now.

the heart part…

“Wow”, he whispers in his husky, little boy way as I open the locket for the 9th time that Christmas day.

“Who is that in there?” I whisper back. He smells like juice and crackers and boy.

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His dark eyes meet mine. “Mama.” and he solemnly points to himself.  Leaning down he plants a wet kiss on the locket. I brush off the goldfish crumbs and close it.

Stay close to Mama’s heart. Here you are.  And I’m suddenly overwhelmed with the fact that isn’t this every child’s desire? That connection…that love…to be held close to their parents’ hearts? It’s such a basic desire….so easily given to our biological children….and yet, there are so many who never feel that love.

Lian just revels in this closeness….being this sweet center of the family. Not in a  spoiled way…well, sometimes…yes…

but in the undeniable way that he is something that he never was before.

A part of a cohesive group of people who just adore him.

Have you ever been in a large group of people, sometimes for many years, and yet you’ve never felt like you were ever truly a part of them? As if there’s this whole whirling universe of connection out there and you see it, but you’ve never experienced it?

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You don’t know what it feels like to be a part of the group, but you see that some people have it, they are IN, they are a welcomed, beloved part.

Take that feeling, because we’ve all been there, and magnify it by about 1000….because being a part of a family, feeling that closeness is something that children absolutely long for, dream of, cry out for.

The least we can do is hear their cries, make them a part.

I’ve always kind of been a loner in my life. I’ve longed for deep relationships, longed to be included, but I’ve always struggled. Being left out is my normal. I don’t say that for sympathy at all. I say it merely because I understand it thoroughly.

I cannot even imagine what it is like for some of these children who see their friends, their bunk mates, their buddies in the cribs next to them, be taken away to be with family. And many of these older children fully comprehend what is going on….that the more beautiful or the less medically challenged children get chosen first….they get to go away to be the heart of a family….and she is left alone for a myriad of reasons.

This just kills me.

You know what else kills me? Yesterday I was scrolling down the adoption list for children 3 and under….the number 1 age group to adopt from, the most requested age group…..

And this list went on and on…and every other child was Down syndrome, Down syndrome, no other health issues but Down syndrome….quiet, healthy, has Down syndrome, extroverted, healthy, Down syndrome, VSD Down syndrome, repaired heart with Down syndrome.

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Why? LOOK at the videos of our son! He is a happy, wonderful, sweet PERSON who simply has ONE EXTRA CHROMOSOME.

And yet the world says that because of that chromosome, most children don’t even deserve to LIVE and if they DO live, they don’t deserve families. They will sit, day after day, in a crib in an orphanage….

This KILLS me.

And it’s one thing to look at Lian, to look at us and say, “Oh, it’s so amazing what they’ve done, but I COULD NEVER DO THAT.”

Yes, yes you could do this! This is doable for you, for many people. These children deserve you, a family, to LIVE and thrive in.

They deserve to be put in a locket and worn close to their mama’s heart every day. They deserve to be sung to at night and to choose between whether they want blueberries or blackberries for snack.

THEY DO NOT DESERVE TO BE CONFINED AND TREATED WORSE THAN CRIMINALS in broken systems that churn out damaged human beings.

 

They deserve to know that God loves them, that they are valued more than they could ever imagine.

Church, Christians, we need to EXAMINE ourselves and our priorities….examine why we elevate comfort over sacrifice.

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We are not called to live this way.

We are called to be leading the way to rescue these small souls.

If you are feeling called to adopt, please consider a child who has Down syndrome. They are the least of these. Trust me, their extra chromosome will fill up your family with so much love and life, excitement and wonder.  You won’t know what hit you.

Let’s live life this way. Without fear. Let’s say “yes” to hard things.

What you think it the hard part will definitely be the heart part.

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grant me this one request….

It’s October 1st and October is Down syndrome awareness month!
 
Let me share a bit of my past with you. When I was a teenager, I was very involved in the pro-life ministry at our church. We would go to the local abortion clinic in Bridgeport, CT and do sidewalk counseling with the women who were entering the clinic. We would offer to pray with them about their decision, we offered practical help, options for them and their baby, diapers, clothes, classes, anything they needed….ongoing care and support through their pregnancies and after the birth of their child.
 
We offered options for them other than abortion. We truly cared for the mother and the child and we cared what happened to them.
 
Being on the front lines like that at a young age, I knew a tremendous amount of information about the bitter reality of abortion. Every Saturday, we would stand out there, rain or shine, freezing cold or bitter heat…and we’d pray…and sing…and counsel. Sometimes, as we sang, we could see the women peeking through the blinds to watch us. Sometimes our singing would draw them back down, back outside, back to us….back to life for their child. The ministry saved hundreds of babies’ lives, and helped SO many women throughout the years.
The front lines…that’s what it was. We were the last stand between life and death for those children.
We were passionate about LIFE for these children.

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In high school, I was a cheerleader…yes, hard for ya’ll to imagine…haha…but our principal’s daughter had Down syndrome and she was a part of the cheerleading team. We all just adored her and she was the brightest, happiest girl. The basketball fans roared their approval when she’d do the end cheer with us lifting her up or she’d slide her way to the front of the orchestrated cheer. Everyone adored her. She was a beloved and accepted part of the school.
We didn’t think anything differently of her. We just loved her.
 
Because of my pro-life involvement, I decided to write a research paper about abortion for one of my high school projects. In my research, I discovered that a very high number of unborn children who have Down syndrome are aborted….just because they have Down syndrome. I was stunned. I knew people who had Down syndrome and I loved them. They were happy, loved, attending school, living their lives in their own sweet way.
The day I read those statistics….I had a request…. with tears in my eyes, I prayed a sincere prayer. “God, when I grow up and get married, please let me become pregnant with a child who has Down syndrome, because it’ll mean one fewer child that will be killed.” And I meant it with my whole pie-in-the-sky teenage heart.
Now, God didn’t answer that prayer. Not in the way I asked it. Does He ever?
None of my biological children have Down syndrome and it wasn’t even anything I was thinking much about when we started the adoption process.
But God….
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And so here we are.
And here he is, a miraculous part of our family. Lian’s name means “God has answered”.
It still gives me goosebumps because this was the name the orphanage gave him.
How?
How does this happen? How does God take a prayer from decades ago and answer it in this glorious way?
He takes our desires and transforms them as His own…He takes our dreams and consecrates them into His holy plan.
Who knew that He was preparing the way in my heart for the moment when this child’s life would be forever entwined with ours.
I still shake my head in wonder. I still pinch myself. I still look at him and marvel that he’s here….this package of wonderful, extra, mischievous chromosomes.
Let’s celebrate the fact that these beautiful people are in our lives, making us see God more clearly through their sweet spirits and amazing journeys.
Two years ago, on October 30th, Lian was placed in our arms. I am grateful and humbled beyond words to be a part of his story.
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Micah 6:8
“He has told you…what is good…and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Let’s just do this.
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And so it is.

a downsy?

How we label people matters simply because our society has so incredibly devalued the lives of humans who have Down syndrome.

“Oh, he’s a Downsy? He’s a Downs kid…a down syndrome baby.  Is he a Down syndrome boy? That cute little downs kid! That Down syndrome girl…she just had a Downs baby! Was he abandoned because he’s a downs?”

I know that any parent of a child who’s rocking the extra chromosome is cringing right now.

 

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Seriously, I’ve heard all of these and more! Before we had Lian, I really didn’t give much thought to these phrases and I probably used them a time or two, unthinking, unknowingly. I mean, what’s the big deal, right?

Are we, as parents of children who just happen to be blessed with that minuscule extra chromosome, are we being overly sensitive? Too demanding? Too picky?

Hmmmm….. Let’s just do a little experiment here. Let’s switch Down syndrome with something else.

“Oh, that palsy boy? What a cute, little, palsy baby! Oh, she’s a bifida kiddo. Did you know that Amy has a cancer brother, too? Yeah, she’s a cleft girl.”

No. We would respectfully say, “a little boy who HAS cerebral palsy, a little girl who HAS spinal bifida, Sally has a brother who HAS cancer, she HAS a cleft palate”.  None of these things degrade the value of the person at all.

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For example, above is a photo of Lian, who has Down syndrome, with his grandfather, who has cerebral palsy. Neither of these two men allow their condition to limit whom God has made them to be.

It’s called “people first” language or terminology. And, to be honest with you, I learned this AFTER we adopted Lian, but it makes SO much sense and I’m very grateful I learned it.

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As parents of children who just happen to have special needs, it’s so incredibly important to us that you aren’t counting chromosomes and handing out labels before you first see our child as a person. He’s a person first. A person of value who isn’t defined by a diagnosis, and, in fact, has struggled to overcome, to fight for, and accomplish more in his short life than most of us will in a lifetime.

How we label people matters simply because society has so incredibly devalued the lives of humans who have Down syndrome.

Their lives are demeaned to the point that these tiny persons are routinely aborted, never given the chance to brighten the world with their sweet spirits and sunshine smiles. These children are routinely abandoned in many countries solely because of their chromosome count.

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“For God sees not as man sees. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.” I Samuel 16:7

So, the next time you see a parent of a child who is obviously blessing all around him with his cute wave, his husky boy hello…Just smile and allow his sweet spirit to lift your day.

I don’t want this defining question, “Is he a Downs kid?” to be the first thing Lian hears every time he meets someone new.

I want him to hear, “Wow, great signing, Lian! I hear that new word you’ve been working on for months! I love your smile! What a strong boy you are! Thank you for helping!”

And if you feel like you can’t possibly say anything nice, just move on. Please!

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Because who he is isn’t defined by a chromosome. If you could just look past the label, you’d see a child with an enormous heart, sensitive to those who are hurting, ready to dole out hugs and light up the room with his smile. You’d see a little boy who reminds us to pray when we forget, who raises his hands to God in worship service when I’m too self-conscious to, who insists on praying for someone who is injured or sick. You’d see a little person who speaks to God as if they are best friends, who commands the rain to stop with all the audacity of being a beloved son of the King, who makes us laugh all day long.

He, and all of our beautiful children who just happen to have Down Syndrome…they are infinitely more than the label.

So don’t introduce them with the label first.

 

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how do I protect him from words?

If someone were coming at my child wielding a knife, I would step in, take the blow, protect….but these words are like knives for my child’s tender heart. How do I take the blow, somehow anticipating what’s coming?

“Oh my word, I could just take you home with me RIGHT NOW!” She bends down and starts talking directly to Lian.

“Oh, you’re just so cute! How old are you, what’s your name?” He’s ignoring her because he’s rolling a roll of tape across the hardware store’s floor.

“I love it when they’re this age and they don’t talk yet, it’s when they get older and start talking that drives me crazy.”

Ouch…I sigh….what I wouldn’t give to hear Lian speak to me, hear what he’s thinking, hear his little boy thoughts. The countless hours I have spent with flashcards, letters, slowly saying words, coaching, bribing, singing…..Progress is painstakingly snail slow.

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“He’s not really speaking much yet.” I state, inwardly cringing a bit. I know what’s coming and I mentally brace myself.

“Oh”, she pauses, “does he have autism?  Oh, Down Syndrome? You know, you can teach those kids how to talk.” She beams upon me as if, in that one statement, she has rescued me from all my travails, enlightening me with the knowledge that he can be taught.

Those kids. The “us” and “them” thing.

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“Well, every child is a bit different in their abilities.” I wrestle a can of spray paint from Lian’s hand.

Stop the madness!

“You know…(why is every uneducated statement always predicated by ‘you know’), I read that in China, these kids are just abandoned just because they have Down Syndrome and it happens all the time. Parents just leave them. Can you believe that?”

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Oh dear.  God, how do I gently educate this person while keeping my composure? I’m so grateful that Lian doesn’t understand…yet….but does he? I’m not sure what he does or doesn’t comprehend about adoption yet. I want to rush over and cover his little ears. It’s as if she thinks he can’t hear because he’s not talking.

I smile and shake my head. I tell her about the hard choices that some parents have to make with medical care and the cost of some children’s needs. I tell her to not believe everything she reads. I tell her that we love him to pieces and that he is so incredibly valued.

“Well, I could never do a thing like that. I just don’t have the patience for it.” She flatly states.

Okay then…and I tell her to have a nice day and we leave.

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Let me pick your brain with the “what if’s” of this conversation.

What if Lian had been old enough to understand? How incredibly damaging it would be to his core self-worth to hear a stranger make a judgment call as to why his biological parents made the decision they did. This is HIS story.

Would he assume that he is somehow flawed, that was HIS fault he became a orphan, that his parents didn’t love him enough to keep him?

How hard the car conversation will be when he IS old enough to comprehend the heartache of his past.

How do I constructively navigate and cut this conversation short? I’m truly at a loss here because this is new to me. If someone were coming at my child wielding a knife, I would step in, take the blow, protect….but these words are like knives for my child’s tender heart. How do I take the blow, somehow anticipating what’s coming?

I felt torn and guilty that I should have known what was coming.  I should have circumvented it somehow, I could have cut her off (SUCH a hard thing for me to do, since manners have been drilled into me from a young age.)

Mamas who have done this a long while, help me! I don’t know how to handle this well, introvert that I am. I need kind suggestions, not mean or snarky ones (although those are fun to contemplate).  I don’t want to cut people down, I want to educate, but not at the expense of my son’s hurt.

Any words of wisdom? I could use some. Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Thank you!

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Though friends forsake you…

Besides, when you’ve stood in a sterile, crib-filled room, your heart filling with tears, the deafening, infant silence signaling the destituteness of this world, somehow these petty things fall away. You want to join hands with those nearest, forging forwards to beat back the relentless dragon of orphanhood.

“You make me feel inadequate.”

The words were like a knife in my gut. I caught my breath, unsure if I’d heard the phrase through the phone correctly.

“I’ve been praying and God told me that we aren’t good for each other….we shouldn’t be friends anymore.” Her voice was devoid of all its accustomed affection and warmth.

Unsteadily, I’m stammering, “What? What did I do? Marie (name changed), how did I make you feel inadequate? Something I said? Did?”

My heart is pounding and I swallow the lump in my throat, but tears sting.

“This isn’t right…Marie…you can’t just end a friendship, can’t we work this out? This isn’t right!”, I’m awkwardly repeating myself.

What followed was a  litany of reasons why she was upset with me…through the pounding in my ears, it was “you didn’t let me put something in Lian’s care package….it’s all about your kids, not mine….you’re manipulative….you posted a meme that offended me….” I felt like she was grasping at straws, searching for something, anything to end the relationship.

I’m verbally stumbling around, trying to defend myself, apologizing for the offensive meme…..not realizing that I’d offended her by posting it, trying to explain myself.

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A meme I loved and agreed with, but she thought I was aiming it at her…but she didn’t have a facebook account, so how was I aiming it at her?

In frustration,  I raise my hand to my face, feeling it tremble.

“Ok, if that’s how you feel.”  I fall silent, resigned. How can I insist she stay friends if she doesn’t want to?

The conversation abruptly ended. I hung up the phone, sat down, and wept. I’d just lost a friend.  A dear, Godly friend. A person I loved and respected, that I had laughed with, cried with, prayed with…..I was beyond devastated.

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This wasn’t just any friend, Marie was one of my closest friends. Our children had grown up together for years…our daughters were best friends. We would get together for coffee at least once a week and we’d laugh, paint, draw, the kids would play. I so enjoyed her company….a beautiful extrovert, she drew me out of my introverted reverie, her spunky personality and beautiful smile always lifted spirits. She was popular, everyone loved Marie…all were drawn to her charming charisma. Never the popular one, always the nerdy, quiet, artistic one, I was thrilled just to be welcomed into her inner circle.

I vividly remember the years she prayed with me for adoption. She knew my heart and deep passions for children in need of families. A happy history existed, but I helplessly watched those sweet years crumble away into the murky waters of bitterness and misunderstandings.

To be honest, I have wracked my head and heart, trying to figure out where I failed. I would lie awake at night and shed bitter tears on more than one occasion. If a photo popped up on social media of her, sleep would be a stranger to me. I had to unfriend her friends, her family, all people I knew, just so that I could try to put it out of my head…move on, get some sleep.

I was confused, hurt, and in the midst of it all, we were trudging up the uncertain mountain of adoption paperwork and fundraising.

Then, one day, it came to me….the tension, the noticeable withdrawal….It all started that autumn when we started the adoption process. I couldn’t quite put my finger on the problem at the time, but there was a coolness that had started, a drifting away distance. She was no longer available for weekly coffee anymore, too busy. My texts went unanswered…she didn’t call or answer her phone.

“That’s ok!” I attempted to be cheerfully accommodating.  She has kids and a busy life, whenever she’s free, it’s ok. I tried to reassure her…but I quietly wondered.

The distance progressed. A few times I tried to get to the bottom of it, fumbling through emotions and words, sensing something was amiss, but unsure of how to fix it only making it worse, I’m sure.

We were matched with Lian around Christmas time and then that phone call happened after one last, strained coffee together in February. It was over.

It has been almost two years since that day. Does the rejection still sting? Absolutely. Deeply.

Did our adoption have something to do with the ending of the friendship? I honestly don’t know.  What I do know is that the timing was strangely coincidental.

I’m certainly not writing to garner sympathy because I’m pretty sure my experience has been replicated multiple time in the adoption community.  If not friends, then family rejection, neighbors…….I’m writing just to encourage us all, as Christians. Even if God is moving your best friend or family member in a direction that you don’t agree with or if you’re feeling inadequate in the shadow of their journey, you must wrestle through those emotions with scripture as guidance.

If one allows untruths to poison the spirit, strangling the friendship, the ripple effects of those actions in severing the close bonds of camaraderie spread fearfully far.

If you are truly a believer, the words “God told me to end this friendship” should never come out of your mouth. Ever. Unless there is serious unrepentant sin in the relationship, God would never send you in that direction.  In fact, Proverbs states that “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

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What does that mean? God places certain people in our lives to sharpen us, honing our Christian walk, teaching us lessons that we would never learn otherwise.  The sharpening process is metal grating against metal…..not pleasant, but oh so valuable when the end result is realized! When the sharpening process is complete, you are both stronger, wiser, more ready to traverse the challenging individual journeys God has laid before you!

Don’t shy away from the sharpening process in your life, my friend.

We are sisters in Christ.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone….If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Romans 12:15-18

Honestly, my sweet friend, God isn’t going to have a separate area in heaven for the two of us.

“Oh, Marie!  Welcome to heaven…I know that you and Cady have had earthly issues, so please go to Heavenly Sector B….and Cady, please make your way to Sector F, the clouds are especially fluffy there”.

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No! Your journey with your sisters in Christ starts here and now, regardless of our fleeting irritations, busy lives, or PMS driven impulses!

Let us love and support one another, fleeing from unhealthy thoughts that endlessly strive to divide us. How will the world know we are Christians, except by our love? All of our precious efforts should be focused on unity and reconciliation when matters of the heart are on the chopping block.

Besides, when you’ve stood in a sterile, crib-filled room, your heart filling with tears, the deafening, infant silence signaling the destituteness of this world, somehow these petty things fall away. You want to join hands with those nearest, forging forwards to beat back the relentless dragon of orphanhood.

 

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One of my favorite movie quotes is from First Knight, where King Arthur says, “I take all of you. I cannot love people in slices.”

Whoa.

We have to take the bad with the good and love the person in entirety, unconditionally, without parsing out the easy parts of their journeys or personalities. Some of my most fragrant friendships are the unexpected, uncommon ones where God lovingly plopped us together, making me glean exceptional life lessons.

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I’m pleading with you all, as Godly women, to live together in unity, encouraging one another, lifting one another up in prayer, not getting bogged down in divisive pettiness that is the world’s main destructive diet in friendships.

Please, I am begging you, consider eternity. Remember what Christ died for and how He forgave those who nailed Him to the cross. Forgive, as you would like to be forgiven.

If you have a grief against a sister, RUN to them and resolve it, with tears, with humbleness, with hugs over coffee….make it your top priority.

And to Marie, if you ever read this, I love you dearly. I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart for anything I said or did to hurt or offend you….and I’m always here, if you ever want to heal.

We are followers of Christ. Let us act accordingly.

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world not possibly born until they arrive” ~ Anais Nin

 

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trash or treasure…

What’s the old saying?  One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Trash /traSH/ noun.  discarded matter; refuse

Trash is something we discard. It is so valueless that it isn’t worth keeping,  you just toss it and walk on.  We throw things away every day, many times a day, and we rarely pause for thought.

Treasure /treZHer/ noun. A quantity of precious metals, gems or other valuable objects. verb.  to keep carefully (a valuable or valued item).

We rarely find treasure but when we do, our lives change for the better.  We treasure the things that society highly values.  We keep it in gilded boxes, carefully preserved, displayed proudly for all to admire.

When we were in China, one of our guides in Beijing asked us why we were there. We hadn’t had our Gotcha moment yet and I proudly showed her a photo of Lian.

She looked at him and frowned at me, “Oh, something wrong with him?”

“No, nothing is wrong with him.”  I stated quietly, “He has Down Syndrome, he’s an orphan… he needs a home.”

“Oh, you make big trouble for yourself!” she laughingly declared in broken English, shaking her head in dismay.  “Why you do that?”

My heart sank.

Why do I do that?

Let’s see, her assumption was that this small child must be somehow flawed, something must be wrong with him, especially since he’s an abandoned boy.  Boys are more highly valued in some cultures. He must be considered worthless, too sick, too damaged, or too much work, and she’s assuming that that is why he ended up as an orphan.

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She viewed him as abandoned. Discarded. Not worth a thought. Out of sight, out of mind, let’s live our lives and if we’re comfortable, why should we be concerned about these children?

As I considered this, I realized that although this one person, or the entire nation or the world, for that matter, might consider us foolish for taking in a little, unwanted person, we have the unique privilege of seeing this soul with a wholly, different set of eyes.

Heavenly eyes.

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What one society considers unworthy, we know without a doubt that he is treasure.

Our God lovingly crafted this treasure, and what an immeasurable treasure he is.

This child.  This sweet child who smells of strawberries and cheerios, was left in a baby island when he was 6 weeks old.  His note simply stated that he has Down Syndrome, that he’s a good baby, please take care of him…..The mama also wrote that “he is my angel.”

That one phrase spoke volumes to me. I’m sure he was her angel. I’m sure she loved him dearly, but you see, my friend, we live in a world where the vast majority of Down Syndrome children don’t even see the light of day. Iceland boasts that they haven’t had a Down Syndrome birth in 5 years. Some people want to eliminate this sweet extra chromosome altogether.

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Whatever doubts, fears, or family pressures she had to leave him, I’m sure it came from misinformation that pretty much ALL cultures of the world are throwing at mothers who carry Down Syndrome angels in their wombs.

As I’m learning more and more about the dire straights of parents who have special needs children in other countries, I cannot and I never will judge them for the heart rending decisions they are forced to make.  Watching a recent documentary of a family with a child who had cerebral palsy, the child’s care cost $1500 a month.  What was the parents’ income? $400 a month.

Some governments won’t lift a finger in these cases. In their eyes, the child is worthless.  There are countries where you cannot get medical help for your child unless you pay the hospital upfront. This means that if your baby has a heart condition and is turning blue, gasping for air, lethargic, and you rush him to the hospital, he will not receive treatment until you pay.

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If you don’t have the money to pay, what do you do? You choose between abandoning your child so they can receive life saving surgery or keeping your baby and watching her die in your arms.

What is your choice? Choose wisely.

Another parent tearfully lamented that when he took his sick daughter to a hospital, the hospital wouldn’t accept her for treatment because her expensive condition meant that she was considered worthless.  The parents were strongly advised by the medical staff to abandon her.  Trash.  Something to be discarded, someone not worth keeping. Leave her and move on.

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How do we change the perspective of leaders and societies to see the infinite value of these precious souls?

I think it starts with us.

You and me. Down syndrome children used to not be up for adoption in many countries because they were considered un-adoptable, unwanted, unworthy.  They languished in institutions for their entire short lives.

Now? We are bravely showing the world that they have value.

We will fight and work for these children to have families.  Their files are finally being prepared because parents like you and me are willing to shout their value to the world. Down Syndrome children used to not even be up for adoption.

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How amazingly incredible is this?

You see, man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.

Doesn’t that statement “but God” just give you chills?  But God…..sees, He knows, He plans, He changes the hearts of parents half a world away, He provides a way.

BUT GOD gently teaches us that these children are infinitely valuable, maybe even more so than you or me, because of their helplessness, because of their intense neediness, because of their deep losses.

And so, God asks each of us, He’s asking YOU, as followers of Christ, to look at these children through His eyes….. as treasures.

Treasures.

Something that is infinitely valuable, something worth the work, and the time,  the money, the mountains of paperwork, and the perceived “inconvenience”.

What one family, one government, one country, one world treats as trash, I am honored to count it as treasure, and what a beautiful, sticky, funny, loving, stubborn, mischievous treasure it is!  Our lives are forever altered and our once apathetic hearts made all the richer for this treasure that we are honored to have in our family.

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Besides, even if it cost a million dollars, wouldn’t he be worth it? His life, his eternal soul, his story…He is priceless.

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Where is your treasure?  Is it in a glass box labelled “please look but don’t touch” cordoned with velvet ropes?  Is it on display in your garage, expensively shiny and red, ready to turn heads?  Is it coldly lit in numbers on your bank’s computer screen?

Or is your treasure intricately woven with the heart of a soul that you are investing in for eternity?  Eternal treasure.

Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Priceless.

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“Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal.

For were your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21