Anthony and I were married in 1997. Ours was a whirlwind romance where we were married just a few short months after we met. We always knew that we wanted children, and as we headed into our second year of marriage, we decided to start our family. Our first son, Connor, was born healthy and with no complications whatsoever. He was just seven months old when we were pregnant again. We loved being parents and were beyond thrilled to be having two sons who would be close in age.
At my sixteen week ultrasound with the second pregancy, routine tests showed possible “complications.” One test came back positive with a Down syndrome diagnosis.
I will never forget the call from our OBGYN.
To say that we were afraid is an understatement. We had no clue about anything to do with special needs. Surely that was something that happened to other people?! People who were prepared. People who knew what to do. People who had some special gifting that we knew absolutely nothing about. People who would know what to do with special needs because the two of us…well, God had surely put us last on the list of those equipped to be able to handle any kind of needs in children. We had never even been around a child who had Down syndrome. Not once. Ever!
We were the type who awkwardly said hi to any child with special needs who approached us in the grocery store and then briskly walked away before we had to say anything else. Yep, awkward!
We were the kind who scrutinized every ultrasound and counted every finger and toe that we could see in hazy pictures on black and white screens to make sure everything was normal. We were those parents who asked the delivering doctor if everything was perfect…before we even asked what the gender of the baby was.
In South Africa, it took many days for the test results to come back. The test that would tell us for sure if the sweet baby boy in my womb had Down syndrome.
Days and days of not knowing. Days and days of agonizing and questioning our ability to parent a child who could possibly be born with a diagnosis that we knew nothing about.
We only knew one thing…
He was our son.
And no matter the outcome of the tests.
No matter what was “wrong” with Kellan.
No matter how ridiculously unprepared, fearful and unskilled for the task we felt…
GOD NEVER MAKES MISTAKES. HE WOULD TAKE US BY THE HAND AND LEAD AND GUIDE US.
Two weeks after the initial testing, we got the updated results.
The test had, indeed, been a false positive.
No Down syndrome.
But God…He is always working in ways that we cannot see. Cannot feel. Cannot touch. Cannot fathom.
I have looked back countless times to that season in our lives over the past seven years. The uncertainty over what lay ahead. The fear when we felt like God really should have called anybody other than us. The anxiety over what was to come. So many emotions.
The strangest, most miraculous thing happened in our hearts over those two weeks that we waited to find out if our baby boy had Down syndrome.
God changed US.
He changed us in ways we never dreamed possible.
He put in us His heart for children who are born with disabilities–something, ashamedly, we had never really even thought much about before that life-changing season.
He used a false Down syndrome diagnosis to show us that even when we felt like there was no way we could ever…
…Actually…the truth was…
Nine years after a seed was planted…
…God began to grow it.
In 2009–after having three biological boys and adding two beautiful daughters through the gift of adoption to our family–we declared many times that our family was complete. Life was full and blessed.
We poured our hearts into advocating and trying to bring an awareness to the realities of the millions of children who still needed families to choose them. Over the years of being involved in the adoption community, we knew about the plight of children who are born with Down syndrome in many nations around the world. Their stories broke our hearts and brought us to our knees–begging the Lord to intervene.
He does, you know. He longs to intervene.
And sometimes…sometimes…He uses you and me.
One day, while sitting at my computer, I saw her little face.
The face of a tiny, fragile little girl who was languishing in a crib in Eastern Europe. Nearly five years old, weighing about ten pounds, drugged with an adult tranquilizing drug to make her sleep her life away, and with a Down syndrome diagnosis–she was clinging to life.
And there, in the stillness of the night when everyone else was in bed–I remembered the seed.
The seed that had been planted all of those years ago.
The still, small voice of the Holy Spirit reminding me…
And on trembling legs and with our faith that felt tinier than the tiniest of tiny mustard seeds…
We said yes.
Because seed that is planted in our hearts will be watered when the time is right. When HIS time is right.
Seed planted in fertile spoil will bloom and grow into something that is far beyond what we, in all our humanness, can ever dream or imagine.
We said yes to not one, but two of the most precious, most beautiful, most amazing gifts that God could ever have given us on earth.
And then, three years later we grew again…
Triple the love.
Triple the joy.
Triple the hugs and cuddles.
Triple the blessing.
Six years have passed since God began to water what HE had planted.
I look back on our journey and of one thing I am so absolutely certain.
These three children are and always will be three of our greatest and most incredible blessings here on earth.
They have been three of our greatest teachers.
They have taught us to slow down and savor the moments. Every moment!
They have shown us that children are not a one-size-fits-all deal. No, they are precious and unique, and we have learned to go at their pace, not ours.
We have learned that sometimes the bar needs to be lowered, not raised.
They have taught us to examine our expectations and parent with immeasurable grace.
These three children have taught us to do everything we can to help them to become the best that they can be…
…but that looks so very different for each one of them.
We have learned that slow and steady really, really does win the race.
And we have learned that victories come in so many different shapes, sizes and forms.
From learning to walk at nine years of age, to eating independently from a spoon at ten, to learning a new sign, to learning to express a need without words, to learning to use the potty when we wondered if it would ever happen, to learning how to put a shirt on the right way.
These are the things that we call victories.
And we rejoice in every single one of them.
I don’t understand God’s ways. I don’t know why He chooses to do things the way that He does. And I certainly don’t understand the crazy journey of faith.
But as I reflect of what He has done and how exceedingly, abundantly He has blessed us…
…I am so, so thankful for the story that He wrote for us.
People always tell us, “These children are so lucky that you adopted them.” Well, maybe. They’re here, not there. But GOD is the Rescuer who uses weak, frail, often failing, unskilled, fearful, sinners saved by grace, stubborn…yet willing vessels like us.
But the TRUTH of the matter is this.
WE ARE THE ONES WHO ARE SO, SO RIDICULOUSLY BLESSED THAT GOD CHOSE US!
October is Down syndrome awareness month. There are hundreds of children just like ours who are still waiting for families in many nations around the world and right here in our backyard too. If God has planted a tiny seed in your heart, please, give them a chance! They will amaze you. Astound you. Fill your life with a love and a joy that is so sweet, so utterly tender.
They are gifts from heaven just waiting to be found.