When We Meet Somone Who Is Different
After reading about an encounter my social media friend had last week, I was moved to share my heart in hopes to challenge us all to examine ourselves in a humble, intimate way.
My friend was in a library for story time. She noticed a lady staring at her youngest child, who happens to have DS, but that isn’t what bothered my friend. The lady quickly said to her, “she’s Downs, right?!” My friend’s response was, “Her name is Victoria and she has Down Syndrome.” I’m sharing this very common story with you to say this...
When we meet someone for the first time, remember they are not a skin color. They are not a diagnosis. They aren’t their mistakes. We are more ALIKE than different! Not only in this situation, but in others, many see those that are differently abled, those with a different colored skin, or anyone that is different in anyway....as inferior. It may not be something they feel is true about themselves and would never admit publicly, but that subconscious feeling of viewing anyone that is different as inferior ...is there. That is why many speak to others without using person first language. (Ex. “Down’s kid” instead of their name)
I say this, not condescendingly; but with insight, because I have been guilty of these types of subconscious feelings myself.
Advocating is key. While social media is fine and dandy, I believe many that don’t personally know anyone that are differently abled, see our posts and say to themselves, “Awe, that’s sweet” and keep scrolling.
Our real progress with advocacy is when we have moments like my friend did in the library, with a personal contact! When we are given a moment to make a change in any given day, seize that moment! Carpe Diem with love and kindness!
Henry Blackaby is a pastor and has a study guide called “Experiencing God”. In this book, he says God is always at work around us. He invites us to join Him and it is up to us to do so.
Moments are given to us to make a difference daily.
May we realize we have a mission field around us every single day.
We can make a difference, if we are willing do to do so with love.
What World Down Syndrome Day Means To Me
World Down Syndrome Day is March 21st. That day is symbolic because Down Syndrome is a 3rd copy of the 21st chromosome. This isn’t a day my family and I celebrate and honor the diagnosis itself. For us, March 21 is a day we celebrate the beautiful lives that are living with the diagnosis and the beautiful attributes Down Syndrome provides.
We celebrate the lives that are constantly defying odds and changing statistics daily! We celebrate how those living with Down Syndrome exhibits a non discriminatory love and gives hope to all who have the privilege of knowing them. We celebrate how it brings out the most beautiful aspects of our differences. We celebrate how worthy each life is.
We celebrate and cheer not only our own children and their accomplishments, but all children rockin’ an extra chromosome because we are a team.... a family.
You see, that is another beautiful provision of Down Syndrome. It forms bonds and creates a family that contains members from various cultures, backgrounds, and religions.
World Down Syndrome Day is a day we celebrate a huge part of what makes our youngest daughter, Savannah, who she is. Just like one person can make a huge ripple in the lives of so many, one extra chromosome can cause a huge ripple of love and enables us to see others through non discriminatory eyes. We learn that statistics and a diagnosis doesn’t define us. God never makes mistakes. He has a purpose for each of us. So, on World Down Syndrome Day and everyday, we celebrate that purpose, we celebrate the individuals, and we will continue to cheer one another along.... because after all, we are a team. We are family.
Wanna know something that will make you smile? This month we celebrate World Down Syndrome Day (March 21)! My mom didn’t know that before I was here. 😧
My mom didn’t know much about Down Syndrome either. Down Syndrome used to be something that she would look at with an expression of “awe”, but deep down was glad it wasn’t something that affected her.
That’s where God intervened and showed her that He makes no mistakes...ever. We are all
C💙L💛RFUL and unique! She learned to embrace differences in a personal way.... a way that wasn’t just accepting them from a far (with an “awe”), but in a way that was welcomed in her daily life. She truly started to embrace differences within her heart and it became a part of who she is today. 💜 Accepting differences in your head and accepting them in your heart are two different ball games. ❤️
One person can make a positive difference, just like I did! (I’m almost 3 years old and just getting started in making a positive change in the world around me!)
My mom and I want to assure you that there is nothing to fear when it comes to Down Syndrome! It’s just an extra chromosome that allows extra love to fill all who know us.
We are all C💚L🧡LFUL, unique, and full of purpose. Whether a skin color, limb difference, a wheelchair, braces, speech impairment, hearing loss, battles fought within, or an extra chromosome is what makes us different; we are all made in the image of God. We should be INCLUDED, LOVED, and ACCEPTED as we are, not based on how similar we are to another! We do better when we know better. That is why my mom writes and posts about the beauty of being unique, about acceptance, love, and how we can be a positive light in the midst of one’s darkness. She wants to share something so amazing with you, something so full of love and hope, that it changes you for the better... just like it did for her.
Here is a way you can spread Down Syndrome awareness and celebrate how unique and colorful we all are:
Wear colorful socks or mismatched socks on March 21 (World Down Syndrome Day)! It may strike up a conversation with someone that you can share something positively amazing with, too!
Social Media Can Feel Like A Popularity Contest
Social media can feel like a popularity contest at times. Who’s with me?🙋🏼♀️ Something that came to my mind this morning is that we are not to seek the praise of man. No matter how “cool” we think our IG page is, no matter how encouraging we try to be, no matter how drama free our posts are, and no matter how cute our kids are... we aren’t going to please everyone, everyone isn’t going to like us, and there will always be people that will critique you.
So, this is for adults and children that are feeling they are getting caught up in the trap of social media. The subliminal pressures of sharing our lives and even advocating, can take time away from those around us in “real life”. Even adults can fall into the trap of a competitive spirit and care too much what others think. We can have thoughts like, “why does this person have that many followers and I don’t?” I want to remind whomever this is for, that YOU ARE JUST AS IMPORTANT AS THE NEXT PERSON! You have purpose, you are an influencer, and you matter. The amount of followers on IG or other social media sites isn’t indicative of what is truly important. Look around you... your family.... your people.... the ones that will be there when your car breaks down, the ones that are there when a loved one passes, the ones that won’t leave when trying times come, and those little eyes that look up to you on the daily.... THEY ARE THE ONES THAT MATTER AND DESERVE YOUR TIME.
We can also easily spend too much time on this little thing called social media, even while trying to encourage another, advocating, or being a positive light.
What also came to my mind this morning is there may be a reason some may not have a big audience. One reason is that God may be protecting you from trolls and predators. We may also unintentionally become self consumed and post things for personal attention. Balance and Intent are the key words for this dilemma.
Let’s look up, put our devices away, love those around you, write love notes to your family, and personally laugh with someone today! Maybe even go to a ballgame and spend time with someone that matters to you!
Carpe Diem with balance, intent, and love!
Can you IMAGINE being labeled and placed in a group by someone that deems your life not as worthy or purposeful as another?
For just a few seconds, IMAGINE hearing others having to go before our government to try to convince them that your life matters and is worthy of a chance. IMAGINE that a medical “specialist” tried to convince your mother that you were not worth a chance in life and attempted to get her to abort you.
IMAGINE being told that because of your differences, you will be sent to a mental institution living with other adult patients, but you are just a scared, hopeless child.
IMAGINE that you will never have a chance to succeed in school, laugh or squeal with excitement as you ride a ride at an amusement park, or feel the warmth and security of a loving home because you are living in an institution or nursing home.
IMAGINE not being included in a mainstream school or invited to parties because others have not realized we are more alike than different.
These scenarios are the reality of many precious lives.
Some lives have to endure what we only can IMAGINE, because of ignorance. Ignorance promotes fear and fear promotes discrimination. .
We are all different in some way. Instead of being afraid of “different”, why not learn from those differences? Why do we study different subjects in college? To be educated, expand our knowledge, and have greater opportunities! May we allow our differences to educate us and help eliminate fear, while giving to others what they have always deserved...opportunities and a chance at life that is truly worth imagining!
This is the second day in a row where The Lord has so gently, sweetly and so intimately spoken to me .... Over two totally different things.
I spent a few days writing about one of the things revealed to me because what was revealed needed to be processed in a way that I could attempt to eloquently share it!
This is a very personal post. I realize one swiping through social media may see the video attached and swipe on past, and that’s ok! Every message and every word isn’t meant for everyone. I can’t get my family to always read my blog posts, so I am not expecting everyone to read this. 🤪
However, this post is for that one person, like me, that needed to hear a message that I didn’t realize I needed. I have always dealt with hurt and rejection by NOT dealing with it. I’ve accepted it, adjusted quickly, and kept moving.
Have you ever tried holding more than two or three objects at one time (like rubber balls, toys or clothes we are picking up throughout the house) while still doing average tasks? It can look quite comical if you do! The tasks that are usually easy become more difficult. (Like Mike Todd has so creatively demonstrated in his sermon I have attached to this blog post.)
You see, there are experiences and circumstances that happen to us that we may accept, adjust, and keep moving through while never releasing the pain it may have caused.
These experiences and circumstances are like those rubber balls, toys or laundry we pick up throughout the house while still trying to do other tasks.
I have been in emotional pain for a while, but I don’t feel it daily. You see, that is how Satan deceives us and how we deceive ourselves into thinking what we have been holding on to is ok. I am a very positive, happy person! I love to cut up, sing in a goofy way around the house, make my family happy and lovingly serve them! However, I have been holding on to past hurt and conditioned myself to function with it!
Philippians 4:12-13 (NIV)
12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
This pain goes back to childhood abandonment from my father. I didn’t think it affected me because it’s all I’ve known, but it has. Although I have a good relationship with my ex, I have not fully dealt with a 23 year relationship ending in divorce and the emotional, verbal, and at times physical abuses that transpired during that time. I am holding on to a feeling of rejection and battle with self worth. I have allowed untruths by someone from my husband’s past to blur my focus on trust and rob me of peace at times. I am holding on to guilt from bad decisions that I made in the past to fulfill a void from feeling a lack of love. I am feeling anger towards the medical professionals that tried to convince me to terminate Savannah. I am holding on to family members not liking me and rejecting a relationship with me. The helpless feeling I had while on the phone with a hospital representative, as the nurses were working a code on my momma, haunts me and I have guilt for not being there when she passed. I think of how old our baby would be that I miscarried a little over a year ago and it makes my heart ache.
All of these things have given me a need to seek peace and validation, but the mistake I made is that I have looked to my husband for these things instead of God. Let me be clear, we cannot get from others what only God can give!
How can we receive what God wants us to catch? WE HAVE TO DROP WHAT WE ARE HOLDING ON TO! Releasing the hurt from what life has thrown our way is like dropping all the rubber balls and toys into a toy bin so we are free to catch what God wants to give us.
Philippians 3:13-1 (NIV)13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
As I watched the video I’m attaching, I was overwhelmingly convicted about something else I was holding on to.
At the end of 2013, I was going through my divorce. God spoke to me about two specific things. He put on my heart to sell our house and to delete my Facebook account. I argued with God about FB, but every time I got on FB or even heard someone mention it, I was convicted. So, I deleted it, had complete peace, and didn’t think about it again until several months ago. I have joined a couple of amazing groups associated with Down Syndrome and essential oils. The main way they communicated was through.... what else? Facebook.
So, I innocently piggy backed on my husband’s FB account, not starting my own, to be able to connect with them.
Isn’t it something how Satan can use something so innocent to distract us and take our focus off of the things of God.
I found myself seeing other things on Facebook that distracted me, gave me negative feelings, and endorsed insecurities I needed to drop! With that being said, I will not be on Facebook and will ask my husband to let me know if one of the groups associated with DS has an update.
Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us .
God can only bless the real you, not who you pretend to be. So here I am, being real so another may have the courage to be real, too! Over the years, I got good at carrying hurt on the inside with a strong smile showing on the outside.
“It’s harder to do the things that are easy when you are carrying things you were never meant to carry!”
~ Mike Todd
My friends, we hold on to battles that are not ours to fight and we hold on to relationships that enable us to keep “holding on” to things we need to drop! We allow people and even social media to remind us of frustrations, hurt, and pain! When God sends good things our way, sometimes we can’t “catch” them because our hands and arms are full from carrying an accumulation of pain, rejection, hurt, misjudgment, bad mistakes, abuse, etc. Whatever and whomever has rejected you, embarrassed you, gossiped about you, physically hurt you, or emotionally hurt you doesn’t define you! You may have a fear of rejection and ridicule based on your past and that has held you back from stepping out in faith on a certain calling. Do you have a right, outside of God, to feel what you feel, yes! However, letting go and releasing the negative feelings is God’s desire, but it’s our decision!
God’s plan is better than our problems. What has happened to you and I isn’t a punishment! It’s a platform for God’s glory to be seen in your life!
With that being said, if you are seeing a memory on Facebook that reminds you of something you’d rather leave in the past or that creates negative feelings, then “drop it”. If you are surrounding yourself with people on social media and in your daily life that enable you to carry insecurities, frustrations, hurt, pain of the past, “drop them”. Release and let go. Focus on the present and the future with hope and have your arms free to catch whatever amazing things God throws your way!
“We all come into the world as inheritors for something. It could be a great name, great fame, great wealth. It could also be great tragedy.
If you ever find yourself on a dark road that is not if your doing, just find the house with the light on. It may be down the road a bit. It may even be around the corner, but it’s there. When you find that house with that light on, just know you have a responsibility to be that light to somebody else.”
Something I thought I’d never say is that my heart has been stirred to be a foster parent. However, I’m scared and I doubt. Fear is contrary to faith, but without doubt, faith wouldn’t be developed. My feelings are more of an anxious, nervous, “you must have the wrong person, Lord” reaction.
This journey began with curious thoughts in October. We were on our way to my husband’s golf tournament when I asked him, “what do you think about foster parenting?” His response wasn’t “no” and showed no resistant. Instead, he immediately said, “look it up”. So, I didn’t. Yes, I said DIDN’T. It scared me not to have someone tell me what my flesh wanted to hear.
In my spirit, I was already being called to do this, and not having someone give me an obstacle frightened me.
God doesn’t give up on us, though. He kept placing things before me that kept confirming what He wanted me to do.
A week or two later, I looked up the steps involved with being a foster parent in our state (Ga) and texted my husband, JR. He responded within seconds and his response added to the “wait, what?” feelings I was having.
In my transparency, I am “afraid” of becoming too emotionally attached, I’m afraid of my own momma hen protective feelings and having to give a child I love back. As selfish as that sounds, those are concerns. “I” is also what I kept hearing myself say, instead of “Yes” to The One who was calling my name.
Even on the way to turn our paper work
in, I went back and forth in my mind. Doubting and questioning what God has put on our hearts.
My thoughts included how I’d manage time and honestly, how I’d be inconvenienced.
I texted Jr, and asked “should I turn the paper work in?”
He quickly replied “Yes, baby”.
The major portion of my concerns involve the emotions I will carry for the little ones. One of my fears is my very own emotions. The evils of this world makes me angry! The overwhelming emotions I feel about abuse and neglect almost make me not want to know about them. My mind goes into too much detail and I find myself begging God to send angels of mercy to anyone being abused at this moment because I know a little one is, even as I type.
My ultimate desire is to be obedient and walk in the faith I say I have and to be a humble, unselfish blessing to others.
If someone would’ve asked me about fostering before October 2018, I would’ve said, no. I’m not called to do that. And I wasn’t at that time!
I know there was a reason my job position was eliminated this past Spring. I trusted that decision wasn’t made without passing through the hands of God and now know it was apart of the process.
I recently read about a friend, that is walking a similar journey, encounter someone that told them, “You don’t have to keep praying about it... If you feel led, God has already told you what to do”......
Fast forward a couple of weeks, all the paper work and background checks have been completed for being a foster parent.
Our classes begin the first week in January. A beautiful confirmation that God has called not only me, but our little family unit to foster, is that Alexis and Ava are so excited about this! God doesn’t just call us individually, He calls the family because it involves all of us and we are one, a team.
This part of our journey isn’t about me. It’s not about “my” emotions. It’s about sharing the love of Christ with an innocent child that so desperately needs it and needs to feel loved, protected, and secure.
This past weekend I felt a tremendous feeling to pray for an unknown child that will be placed into our home in 2019. I told Alexis and Ava that there is a child that is in “not so good” situation or in a children’s home that warrants them to be placed into ours. I already have a love for this child and have a sense that someone is missing from our home for the holidays.
This is a prayer I felt led to share with the friend I mentioned earlier in this story and it sums up the beautiful new chapter of our journey that has already begun:
“Lord, you are something... YOU, O Lord always have our back. You always have a plan. You aren’t a genie and don’t just “grant” us what we ask. You allow circumstances to make us more like YOU and to answer what we ask of You. I TRUST YOU, even when I don’t trust the process. I may not even trust myself.... but Lord, I trust you. You have a perfect and beautiful plan not only for these babies, but for their birth families and us. Some circumstances may be harder than others, but You are always revealed in the sweetest, most intimate ways so that YOU and YOU alone get the honor and glory. We are just the conduit. Create in us a clean heart so that Andrea, her husband, JR, me, and all that foster...may be used the way you see fit. Hide us behind the cross as we love others through the eyes of Your precious Son, Jesus. Amen.”
It’s 6am and the first official day of Thanksgiving Break for my children. All three girls are sleeping. My husband has already left for work. As I walk through our living room that is dimly lit from the Christmas lights, my heart is full and I have joy.
I am not without heartache or difficult times. Unfortunately, my husband and I have experienced what other parents have after a prenatal diagnosis of DS, which is extreme pressure to terminate our baby. We also experienced the heartache and extreme trust and faith of handing our baby to a stranger to have open heart surgery.
15 days from today it will be a year that my sweet momma went to be with The Lord and I miscarried. (Within 24 hours of one another). Four months later, my job position was eliminated.
Joy is something that one can have no matter the circumstance.
Joy isn’t based on circumstances, unlike happiness. Happiness is an emotion that is circumstantial.
I have joy because God is good ALL the time. What we may see as tragedy is actually a bigger picture transpiring. You see, God makes no mistakes. Savannah is Savannah, not a diagnosis. Her purpose and one of my purposes through her, is to enlighten others of the beauty in diversity and triumphs over obstacles. She is thriving after her open heart surgery and she has a testimony of how The Great Physician uses the hands of others.
The passing of my momma comes with joy because I know she is with her Lord and knows no pain or physical issues associated with Diabetes. She even had the privilege of holding our unborn child before we did.
Joy also comes with the peace of knowing God has a bigger plan. The job position that was eliminated gave me the privilege of being a full time stay at home mom. That has always been my hearts’ desire.
So, as I sip my coffee in the quiet, dimly lit house, I have joy. I have a full, thankful heart even in the midst of grief, rejection, or any natural emotion from what life presents....because God is truly good all the time.
The car.... a place where some of the most intimate, open, and heartfelt conversations take place.
I get teased by Alexis and Ava that the smallest thing brought up can become a life lesson at times. I guess they’re kinda right. 🤪
One thing my girls know is there is nothing off limits to talk about. I’m thankful that they feel comfortable enough to talk, laugh, and be real in front of their momma.
This morning I told them “Don’t ever settle for the wrong people just because you feel alone.” That includes friends, boys, and possible future business partners! You are worth protecting and loving yourself to never settle!
Even before we depart from an airport, we are prepped in case of an emergency and told to put the O2 mask on ourselves first! We will not be able to benefit others if we are in need ourselves.
The analogy I gave to them is we can never help and love others to our potential, if we don’t do that for ourselves! That isn’t selfish, it’s a necessity. If no one has ever told you that you are loved, I’m telling you now! You are loved!
“For God so loved the world (insert your name), that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Loving ourselves enough to not allow another to bring unnecessary drama and negativity into our lives is crucial. It’s ok to not be BFFs with everyone. We can and should always be kind and respectful! However, “Iron sharpens iron...” Proverbs 27:17
So if there is someone that is in your circle, job/school environment, or even family that is a negative influence, you can place them in the balcony and love them from afar. Not everyone deserves a front row seat to our life!
If placing someone up in the balcony leaves you feeling “alone”, remember we are never by yourself because God isn’t just looking over us, He is WITH us and will never leave or forsaken us!
You are loved, worth protecting, and most definitely not alone! .
When we received Savannah’s diagnosis of Down Syndrome, I felt that I failed. I felt I disappointed JR by not giving him “a perfect child”. Just as one doesn’t know how amazing motherhood is before they have children or how amazing it is to be a grandparent before having grandchildren, I didn’t know the amazing love God would show us through having a child with Down Syndrome. I didn’t know the beautifully unique bond that would be given to JR and I. I didn’t know the tremendous excitement that continues to come with every victory and milestone Savannah accomplishes. So many negative connotations associated with DS is why I advocate and openly share our journey. My ignorance and listening to the negative discussions from the medical community placed an unnecessary guilt and fear in me as a wife, mother, and lady. There is nothing a lady should feel guilty about when their child is given a diagnosis of DS. There is nothing a parent does to cause an extra copy of the 21st chromosome. Why feel guilty about something so beautiful?
There is a 1 in 700 CHANCE of having a child with DS. That means we hit the chromosome jackpot! Instead of feeling guilty, I say to a mom or dad that has just received a diagnosis of DS for their child, CONGRATULATIONS! With any child there will be obstacles and sleepless nights. There will be times romance as a couple takes a back seat. However, there is personal growth and wisdom gained in having a differently abled child. I have learned more how to see others as individuals, not by how they look or act. I also look at other parents with more respect and admiration, never pity. There is also a bond between a couple that is unlike any other. The love we have for one another is amplified by watching our lives come to life! .... All because there is “a little something extra” involved! .
I write about life and family. My heart's desire is to educate as I am being educated, while inspiring and encouraging others through the beauty of Down Syndrome.