There’s a movement in the Down syndrome community. Moms across the country are getting this tattoo – 3 arrows – to honor their loved ones with Down syndrome and to celebrate the special bond between us friends. To speak of how we rise up and move forward. You can read more about it here.
Yesterday, 25 local moms (and a few dads and siblings!) gathered together to get inked, many for the first time. I said I wasn’t going to get a tattoo. Because I’m not a tattoo person. I don’t like permanent things because I get tired of designs or the way things are done. Trends come and go and I like things I didn’t like before. So I walked into that tattoo shop not at all worried that I would waver. I was there to take pictures, hold hands, and be a support to these women who walk a parallel path to me.
We talked about our children or in some cases, siblings. We nodded our heads as we talked about Down syndrome and how it is never the problem. Down syndrome is only ever good. My children with Down syndrome are some of the greatest blessings in my life – I would not change them for the world. They are better than me. The way that they love, their innate kindness, their sympathy, their ability to forgive – these are the traits that we should be aspiring to. These traits are BETTER than any high cognitive ability this world places value on. I honestly do not know how we can look at those with an extra 21st chromosome and those without and not wonder, do they really have an EXTRA? Or are we missing one?
We talked about the struggle. How the struggle always comes from the outside. The problem is never the person with Down syndrome. The problem comes when we try to fit people into at space that is determined by someone else. Determined by someone who is different from them, and often short sighted. Everyday, when they go out into the world, our loved ones are seen as different. They are seen as less. They are seen as “needing some work” or “significantly delayed”.
There is a saying in the Down syndrome world that people with Down syndrome are “more alike than different”. I have gone back and forth on if I like that slogan. At first, I did not like it because it seems to imply that “different” is not good. That being alike is what makes you good or acceptable. But then, I started to see it from a different angle. I started to see that we ARE all more alike than different. We are all human. We all need love. Friends. Community. We are all made in the image of God. Did you hear that? My child, who many think is not good enough, not perfect enough, not alike enough, is made in God’s image! God does not ever make mistakes. Not ever. Not in my child. Not in yours. This means that the views of the people trying to shove my kid into a box are wrong, not my child. Not anything to do with Down syndrome.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14
WONDERFUL. His works are wonderful. My child is made wonderfully. No mistakes. Those that can’t see that, are missing out immensely. More than I can describe.
And so I wavered. I considered a tattoo. Because each day I will fight for these children. I will fight my entire life so that their worth might be seen. So that the world might change because the problem, it is only with rules and restrictions and perception. The problem is only inside the box, it’s not at all with Down syndrome or the people who have it.
Still, I could not see getting a tattoo for just two of my kids. All six of my children are amazing. And while they’d all support me getting a tattoo for their brother and sister, I wanted them all included. And then my friend (fellow DS mama and mama to six kids) got this tattoo and I lost all ability to resist.
Six arrows for the six children entrusted to me.
Two groups of three for my two children who have three copies of their 21st chromosomes.
A reminder that we are raising arrows.
A reminder of the blessing of each of these kids, and the reason why we strive to do well the hard work of parenting.
A reminder that as the world tells me that I have an unreasonable number of children, God says I am BLESSED.
“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” Psalm 127:3-5
So there you have it, a day I will remember forever with people who are now tied together not only by the ones we love, but also by a permanent mark that seeks to make a statement of worth, unity, strength, and love. Together, we are stronger. Together, we will change the world. This is more than a tattoo. This is a movement and it’s just the beginning.
Also, my sister was praying that I’d get the tattoo. So I’m pretty sure it’s all her fault.
(pics taken the next day with the cover still on so it looks a little wonky…in reality it’s perfect)
Today, I am angry.
This little boy, he died needlessly and he died alone. He died because of lack of medical care and because of a culture that thinks he has no worth but beyond that, he died because the church is comfortable.
He died because those that could go and rescue him, chose not to. He died because of lack of faith that God could provide the money for adoption fees. He died because houses are full (but not really) and we can’t clothe one more kid (but seriously, not really). He died because he’s hidden and so it was easy to pretend he wasn’t real. He died because “I could never have a child with special needs”. He died because he wasn’t born in America. He died because of money. He died because of excuses.
If you are one of those people who says that you “want to adopt someday”, let me urge you – today is the day. While you are waiting for the perfect time, the sign from heaven, the stars to align, kids are DYING. The time is now, the need is urgent.
If you are one of those people who thinks what we do is amazing and yet extreme, let me plead with you to see that we are so ordinary. We don’t have it all together and we aren’t all that special. We just see the reality of what is happening to these little children, and we choose to do something. And frankly, it’s not much of a choice. Kids are suffering in unimaginable ways, the right thing to do is step up.
If you, like me, are a Christian, please search your heart and your Bible. Every Christian should be doing something to support adoption. There are lots of examples of what that looks like. Search your own heart and pray about it and ask yourself if you are doing all you can, or just the bare minimum.
Cristoff had been listed and his picture available to the world for one and a half years and in all that time, no one came. He had a family commit to him this weekend and we are praying for their hearts. Please help so that not another child suffers while we all know and do nothing. If you truly cannot adopt, you can still help. Support an adopting family emotionally, with meals, or financially. Use your voice. Use your talents. Be creative but by all means do something.
We are so privileged, let’s use it for good. And in case it is confusing, turning an orphan into a cherished son or daughter = good.
Wow. I haven’t updated for a while! I really am bad at this blogging thing. I have so many thoughts swirling in my head that I’d love to share, but I also have 6 little people that need me! Did you hear that? SIX! That means our little man is home. He’s been home for 4 weeks now and we are madly in love with him. I hope to come back and blog about the whole beautiful experience but for today I’ll just share a few pictures.
Now that you’ve seen that cuteness, let’s talk about a very big problem and an extremely special little girl. Let me first say this – I have no understanding for why there are millions of orphans in the world. Yes, I understand that our world is not perfect, it is a broken sin-filled world and so there will always be tragicness here. What I don’t understand is how if only 7% of Christians adopted there would be no more orphans. I can’t wrap my mind around the ease of that. 7%. That’s completely doable. Why then do these children wait? Why are so few people moving? Or even why are so few people supporting those who do move?
Personally, I didn’t move until 3 years ago because I didn’t know. I was completely ignorant and had no idea that there was an orphan crisis at all. Once I knew, there was no question. How could I live with myself if I knew children were dying and I did nothing? People say it’s not that black and white but it is. Children are dying. Alone. Starving to death. Being abused, drugged, and living in isolation. In the best case scenarios they have care but no family and they only have care for a short time and then they are out on the streets. In Eastern Europe, if those children happen to have special needs then at 4-5 years old they are put in adult mental institutions. Think about that for a while. Think about what that might be like. And don’t think about a mental institution with white walls and your own private room because I assure you that image is nothing like what I’m talking about. Let’s put it this way, kids with Down Syndrome generally don’t make it through the first year alive. It IS black and white. Right and wrong. What excuse can there possibly be for knowingly letting a child die or at the very least live life neglected and alone?
I will say this, I do not think that every family can or should adopt. That said, I think the majority of families who say they cannot are making excuses in order to keep their comfortable lives. Most people could adopt. So why don’t they?
One theory is that it’s easy to ignore what is not right in front of you. Easy to say it’s too crazy to fly across the ocean for a child you simply have one fuzzy picture of. I can see that. I was scared too. However, I’m going to change that vagueness for you today. I’m going to tell you first hand about a little girl. A little girl that needs you. She needs a family and she needs it now. She is real and perfect and so sweet. I have held her in my arms and whispered to her that I will do my best to find her a family. I have looked into her beautiful eyes (which pictures don’t describe) and felt my heart break. I ran my hands over her head, short hair shaved for the convenience an orphanage demands, and dreamed of the day she is cherished in a family with the pigtails to prove it. I have watched her stare at her hand, her closest companion, and wished for a day when a brother or sister takes that hand and becomes her new friend. I have watched her eyes strain to adjust to the light and prayed that soon she will sit in the green grass soaking in the warmth of the sunshine and her forever family. These things I dream of for her, they are things most of us were born into. The basic needs of a family, friendship, and love – these should not be longed for by a two year old. These should be given to every child. You have the power to give that to this little girl. You have the power to love her, cherish her, and give her those pigtails.
Now you know. This little girl is real and waiting for someone to say yes to her. Why not you?
I’ve debated writing this blunt of a post. On one hand, you shouldn’t be guilt tripped into adopting, but on the other hand, frankly, the church SHOULD feel guilty. James 4:17 says “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” In the end, this little girl should be adopted not because someone feels guilty (although that may be the first step) but because someone adores her. She is so worthy. Also, in my bluntness I didn’t want to come across as judgmental of all who don’t adopt. I don’t feel that way at all. And yet after crouching on the floor of an orphanage with a room full of children who want nothing more than a mom or dad, after holding babies that have no future because no one can make room for them, after having children who has been through more in their short lives than most people could even imagine, I have little respect for the silence, lack of support, and apathy that the church as a whole has for orphans. I pray that I am filled with righteous indignation and fight always for the children who have no voice. I will not forget them.
If you cannot adopt this little girl, sweet “Starr”, you can still make a difference. You can share her picture. You can give to her adoption fund thus making it easier for another family to say yes. You can pray for her. You can support families who are adopting. You can work in your church to create an atmosphere that welcomes those who adopt. Our church has been amazing in welcoming and supporting our family and it has made a huge difference in our lives. But please, do something. Here is a link to her profile on Reece’s Rainbow where you can donate and learn more: www.reecesrainbow.org/starr
I’ll leave you with this:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
I don’t know how to reminise on this day. 2 years ago today we finally stepped off the plane, we finally came home. To say the journey was long would be an understatement. I had been stuck in her country for 2 months. We were so ready to be united as a family again. That day was so tiring. I was peed on. We barely slept. Taxis and plane rides and unexpected delays. But we were home. She slept in her own bed for the first time ever. She woke up to a brother and sister. She was home for the first time ever. So many good feelings. So much hope.
And then there is the pain. So many years we missed with her. 5 years she spent alone. 5 years we somehow lived without her. This girl has been through more in her short life than most of us ever will. Rejection. Neglect. Lack of medical care. Hunger. Fear. Loneliness.
And yet she shined. She smiled a smile that would melt your heart into a million pieces. She laughed. She told jokes! The first time we met her we told her she was cute and she said “Maybe you mean beautiful.” ha! This girl is a firecracker and a complete sweet heart all at once.
We are so thankful for this girl. We are so thankful God preserved her joyful spirit. We are thankful for her spunk that helped her survive those years, for her love that allows her to cope now, for her forgiveness so freely offered to anyone who has wronged her, for her wide-eyed view of the world and the way she jumps into everything as if it’s the best thing ever, and just for her life. We are so thankful she’s in our family, so thankful we get to love her. This girl is such joy and I am determined to treasure each day with her.
Oh the story this boy has! It’s a good one.
5 months ago I asked why this boy is still waiting in this post
. I asked, who will step up for him? Who will run to him? Who will love him with all their hearts? I saw his picture earlier that month and was drawn to him right away. He reminded me of both of our babies. He looks a bit like our biological baby and his pictures and situation remind me of E. I was in love and determined I would not see him die while I stood idly by and did nothing. However, I didn’t think we could go for him. The travel, the cost, the new van we’d need. It was all too much. E still had several surgeries she needed done and we didn’t know how she’d be medically. So I shouted for a family for him. I talked to families. I begged for a home for this boy. And I loved him from across the world.
A few weeks later a family read my blog post about him and it nudged them to step up for him. I talked to them, told them what he would need medically, told them about adoption from his country, and how I loved him. They said yes. I was in part ecstatic (he had a family!!) and in part I felt as if I had just convinced someone else to adopt my child. But I knew that was weird. He wasn’t mine and I wanted the best for him. I accepted it but I didn’t forget. In the back of my mind I still knew this story was not over.
A few months later, the family stepped back. They would not adopt him. He was re-listed. In that moment, I knew. I knew that God had used that other family to “hold” him during the time when we couldn’t say yes. I knew that we would say yes now, but I wasn’t ready to take the leap. E had her surgeries, other details in our lives had fallen into perfect place, and yet I doubted. I didn’t doubt that I adored him, I doubted that the details could work out. Could we raise the money to get to him? Could our family handle the travel? Could we really figure out how to get a new van? Could all this happen in the 4 short months it would be until we could be there holding him in our arms? It all seemed crazy.
In that very first day of him being re-listed, we prayed, we talked, and we were utterly tormented. We had tried to find peace in knowing another family was going for him and yet we knew in our hearts that wasn’t the answer. Now we were faced with not ignoring this child once again. But the thing with adoption is – the price is high and the road is scary. Lucky for us we also know that the end is sweet.
So there I stood in the kitchen that day, making dinner and almost absent-mindedly talking with God. I said, “Lord, please just make it clear. Give me a path that’s obvious. Smack me in the face with the answer.”
I get a text from a friend. “I had an interesting dream about you last night.” I laughed. I already knew what was coming. Later she finishes, “I was at an orphanage where your next little baby was waiting….it was a boy by the way. You had commanded me to go there and feed him…So yeah, I held that precious baby and nursed him the rest of my dream and it was beautiful…How random is that?” Actually, not so random at all. I laughed some more.
We didn’t say yes that day though. For weeks we poured over the details, tried to make sense of the money, and prayed for clarity. We spoke of this boy daily and spent so many moments staring at his sweet face. We knew he was ours, and yet fear of the unknown held us back.
And then one day it hit me. I said to Tyler, “I just realized we aren’t waiting for God to give us clarity on what we are to do, we are waiting for proof that it will be easy.” He agreed.
Yes. Yes, we will run to that boy. Yes, we will take this (huge and scary) leap of faith. Yes, we will love him with all our hearts.
I don’t know where the money will come from. I don’t know where the new van will come from, but I know we already love this boy and for now, that’s enough. I know that God can provide the money, a van that can carry all these precious little people, and a village that will support us.
My friend texts me again after we announce our news….”Marcus is the baby I dreamed about! I’m not even kidding.” Yeah, I knew that.
God is so good to me.
If you feel led to support us in our journey, or would like to follow along, please visit www.youcaring.com/afamilyformarcus