Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Thank You Post

First of all, I want to thank everyone for the support and encouragement you've shown us this month. I don't know what got in my head to make me decide to write a daily post on Down Syndrome. Some posts were so very hard to write, but y'all were so kind.

I feel like whatever we do: write, preach, teach, sing, minister, work, parent, volunteer, love...we need to remember that while it might affect others, our goal is to please an audience of ONE. I pray God was glorified, because what I need more than anything in this more of Him, and less of me.

I'm a pretty private person, so sharing such intimate parts of our lives on Facebook has been a huuuuge stretch for me. I typically save those types of posts for this blog.

But y'all kept me going...and now, on this last day of the month...Mommy needs a nice, long nap. Ha.

This whole month has been about Down Syndrome awareness...which will hopefully lead to acceptance for individuals who have Down Syndrome...and for the ones who love them.

I don't know what our lives would look like without Down Syndrome. I can't even imagine. I don't want to imagine.

For us...for our's brown, almond-shaped eyes and a big grin. It's hair that he flattens down every day but Thursday...he "spikes" on Thursdays. It's singing the same note in every son. It's hearing "you're pretty," and "you're a good cook," and "my dad is a furious protector..." pretty much every day. It's help setting the table and unloading the dishwasher and straightening up around the house. It's him taking my hand, and saying, "let's pray" when he hears of a need. It's sheer determination, day after day, to make his hand hold a pencil, so he can write letters on a page. It's overcoming a hearing deficit by using intense concentration. It's walking past his room to see him on the prayer. It's strength beyond his physical appearance that enables him to lift a bar and metal discs twice his body weight. It's the way small feet wearing Crocs sound walking across the floor, or going up the stairs. It's the matter-of-fact way he accepts the truths of God in childlike faith.

I don't pretend to understand the mind of God. All of these kids...these adults...God created them. And "God don't make no junk." He created them just the way they are...or He has allowed their circumstances, for His purpose and for His glory...and for our good.

I don't always see it...because with some people? Their lives are HARD and their challenges are great. But sometimes, God peels back a layer and allows me to see a glimpse of His purpose in all of this. 

For sure God has enlarged our territory. On March 28, 1986, our lives changed in an instant...and the focus of our family, and our ministry as a family, was made clear. Joshua has opened many doors for us to tell our story...which, really, is not our story at all...but the story God is writing in our lives.

For sure God has enlarged our hearts.

He has shown us more grace than we could have ever imagined. He's given us way more than we deserve.

"Oh to grace how great a debtor, daily I'm constrained to be..." 

The goodness that has come into our lives because of God...because of Joshua, and the world his life has opened up to us...has enhanced and enriched our lives beyond anything I could have ever dreamed.

"Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee."

Fetter: "a chain used to restrain a prisoner."

YES, Lord. Shackle my heart to Yours.

For sure God has opened our eyes.

I wonder...if our hearts would've wandered if God hadn't given us Joshua. If pride and the pleasures of this world would've overtaken our lives, and pulled us away from what is truly important. Because, our hearts are weak, y'all.

"Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love..."

For sure God has stayed close...and kept us close to Him.

In God's goodness, He chose Joshua for our family. Or our family for Joshua. And His goodness binds our wandering hearts to Him.

"Here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above."

Joshua Garland, I'd choose you.

“Before I formed you in your mother’s womb I chose you. Before you were born I set you apart. I appointed you to speak to the nations for Me.” Jeremiah 1:5

Friday, October 30, 2015

Bear With One Another

Well, we are about at the end of October, and all of these posts on Down Syndrome Awareness.

Hopefully, things are changing.

I feel like if we could put ourselves in someone else's their situation...then maybe we wouldn't be so quick to judge them, so quick to dismiss them, so quick to segregate them...even more than they already are.

Because, life is tough...can I get an "Amen?"

And even in the best of circumstances, there are things that God allows, and things that we choose, and consequences we face from the actions of others...that can make life hard.

In the case of Down Syndrome, these individuals didn't have a choice. They are either wanted, chosen and accepted...or they are neglected, abandoned or aborted. Any way you look at's not their choice.

Up to 90% of parents who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome choose to abort their child. The rest of us got to be surprised with this extra-special news at delivery, and have spent our lives trying to figure things, work, therapy, health concerns, relationships, independence. Lots of hit-and-miss.

It's like someone giving you material, and telling you to make something without a pattern or instructions. Raising a child with special needs, without the support of family, friends and the church community, is like telling you to make something without a pattern or the a storm...while hanging off a cliff.

It can be very isolating...but it doesn't have to be.

I don't have a lot of answers. I'm just here to talk about awareness...which I hope will lead to acceptance...which I hope will lead to us realizing that it's not good for anyone to do life alone.

Did you know that the divorce rate in families who have a child with special needs is between 80-90%?

Instead of making things easier on these families, we sometimes make it even harder.

In order to know how to support them, we have to get to know them. It's time-consuming and messy to jump into anyone else's life, especially into one where we have no knowledge of how to help.

But we can learn, right?

And, if we don't know what to do for a specific child, maybe we can support the parents?

I realize that we can't make every situation "okay" for every family, but maybe we can do something.

Because, you might be you one day. Or me. We are all a fall...or a heart attack, aneurysm, amputation, car accident, disease, brain injury...away from losing our mental or physical abilities, needing lots of assistance...and being labeled, "special needs."

I guarantee we all have ideas of how WE would want to be treated, right?

I wonder what would happen if each of us reached out to one person or family in our own little corner of life...single moms, foster parents, families dealing with illness, special needs, job loss, etc.

It's almost like all of us, coming together, could be a kind of net. And then, if life got hard, for any of us, we could hold each other together.

" worthily of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love..." Ephesians 4:1-2

Thursday, October 29, 2015

That's One Way to Look at It

The other morning on our way to Little Rock, Joshua kept saying, "that sun is sooooo bright!" And variations of that statement. Over and over and over.

And, I don't know, maybe I didn't sleep well the night before, or maybe I thought I had time to kill on our drive...but I said, "you know, the sun is ALWAYS bright...that's how God created it. If you were on an airplane, you could fly through the clouds, and the sun would be shining...even if we were having a gloomy day on Earth."

Joshua said, "well, today it's BRIGHT," and he pulled out his sunglasses that he wears OVER his regular glasses.

I said, "the sun is bright every day. It's just that sometimes there are obstacles that keep us from seeing how bright it is, like buildings...trees...clouds...pollution...smoke. But the sun is still up there, bright and hot, just the way God made it."

Joshua: [crickets chirping]

And then he said, "what if the greater light was at night, and the lesser light, the moon, was during the day? That would be ONE MESSED UP CREATION!"

And because one of my sons told me that I could make a Bible lesson out of a sandwich, and because Joshua understands some deep Biblical concepts...and INSTEAD of listening to that little voice in my head that said, "SHUT YOUR MOUTH AND PLEASE STOP TALKING, MARTY," I pressed on saying, "it's like how the Bible tells us that Jesus is the Light of the world...and He is. It's just that sometimes we put other things in front of Him like our pride, or our busy lives, or wanting to do things our own way. It doesn't change the fact that JESUS is the LIGHT of the world."

And then I stopped, satisfied that I'd made my point.

Joshua just looked at me, shrugged his shoulders, and said, "well...that's ONE WAY of looking at it."

"Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'" John 8:12


*I tried to post this last night, and my computer was acting I'm gonna post it now...and then today's post later tonight.

Have you ever thought about the things God brings or allows in your life?

We spend a lot of time counting our blessings this time of year, and that's a good thing. It's good to be thankful. I think the problem comes when we equate "blessings" with only the good things. We are "blessed" to have a car, but if it breaks down...are we still blessed? We are "blessed" to have a great job, but if it moves us away from our family and friends, is it still a blessing? Our beautiful and healthy children...they are blessings, aren't they? But what about the ones born with health issues or challenges...or the ones who develop them later? Or the ones chosen from the foster care system, who are so deeply wounded by abandonment or abuse...their new parents wonder if there will ever be enough love to erase their pain? What about the ones, wanted and loved from birth, who chose a different path, and walked away...from family, friends...from God? Were they not considered blessings at one time?

When I was pregnant with Joshua, back in the olden days, Pa and I drove the covered wagon into town one night for one of them new-fangled parentin' classes.

Apparently givin' birth out in the fields ain't no good no more. 

One of the first things our instructor did was to have us fill out a questionnaire. The very first question was, "I hope my baby is _____." I put "cute." Because DUH.

Twenty-three other people in our class put "normal." 

Well, I think I got exactly what I wanted: the cutest baby EVER. And yes, the road has sometimes been hard...but hasn't yours?

We've probably all heard the song, "Blessings," by Laura Story. It talks about hard things that are "blessings in disguise." You may know that Laura's husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She said that her whole life, she sang the song, "Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus." But she said that until Jesus took her through something where her only option was to trust Him, she didn't really know that sweetness.

I love that. 

I also read that, when Laura and her family were talking about this "detour" God had placed in front of them...with her husband's surgery and radiation and therapies, her sister said, "you know, I think the detour is actually the road." 

I love that, too. Because how many times do we try to hurry up and deal with any problems or road-blocks, so that we can get back on what WE think is our road?

But what if you can't get back on the road? 

Maybe the detour IS the road.

"And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left." Isaiah 30:21

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

When "Church-People" Hurt You

A couple of years ago, our Sunday School lesson was from the book of James...on the power of the tongue. Our teacher asked, "what are some words we should never say?"

Someone piped up first thing, and mentioned a certain racial slur. They didn't say the word...we all knew. And we all agreed we should NEVER use ANY racial slurs. Our teacher asked, "what else?"

One class member spoke up and said, "well, I'll tell you one we can't use, and it just burns me up..." and then she said it...the word. I'm not gonna write it out. I can't. I won't.

It's an intellectual slur, directed at people like my son. We call it the "R" word.

She said, "I am so sick of the PC police telling us what we can and cannot say. I believe in calling a spade...a spade."

Oh no, she di'int. Oh yes...she did!

I felt ALLTHEEYES on us. And, here's the thing: we had been in the class for probably 2 years at this time. They knew us...they knew the make-up of our family.

She went on, "it's a 'medical term,' ya know. We tell our kids not to say it, and, when they do...they get in trouble in class. Teachers can get in BIG trouble if they say it. People can lose their friends, jobs and reputations for saying this word...and it's just ridiculous."

My heart was about to beat out of my chest. I knew my face was red. Jim was looking down at his Bible. She continued..."the reason this word is upsetting to some people, is that we've given it too much power. By making it taboo, we've created this big 'thing' about it, so that now kids want to say it...just like they want to say all the cuss words."


She said that people have t-shirts saying we should get rid of this word (I have one)...and stickers and rubber bracelets saying we should get rid of this word (yep...have those, too). She said it made her "thankful" when she heard kids call each other this word...because it "lessens the power of it." it doesn't.

I thought I was going to jump out of my skin. Everyone was nervously looking around at each other, and at us. I think I asked Jim if I could respond, but I didn't wait for his answer. When you have a son like mine, and he comes home from school saying that someone called him that word, and told him that he had a messed up brain...well. don't even talk to me about the power of a word, unless you've experienced something like that with one of your own kids.

Experiences like that either cloud my judgment...or enhance it. TAKE YOUR PICK.

I would like to say that others in our class spoke up in defense of the defenseless...except no one did. I feel like there was a way that others could have spoken up that day...and it wouldn't have been judgmental for the lady...and it would've been encouraging to us. I don't know...I just pray that God would give me boldness to speak life, if I'm ever in a similar situation. Because there are millions of words in the English language. Why would we choose to use hurtful and divisive words when we can choose words that can encourage and heal?

But, no one spoke up. It was more than a little disheartening. BUT, it was a lesson to me that sometimes we will stand alone, and that's okay. And that there are times when we should speak up ("speak up for those who have no voice..." Proverbs 31:8), and times when we should hold our tongues.

So, I told the lady, "I completely disagree with everything you just said." I stated my thoughts in a calm and restrained way, even tho I was about to have a nervous breakdown. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done...because MARTY DOES NOT LIKE CONFRONTATION.

Jim and I walked out of that class feeling even more burdened. I begged Jim to let us leave that class and go to a different one. He said, "no." And every day leading up to the next Sunday, I would ask again, "pleeeeeease?" And, like Tom Cruise in "Top Gun," he'd emphatically say, "I'"

Actually, he'd say, "we are NOT LEAVING THIS CLASS."

Week after week after week

In the end, it was all...okay. The lady came to our house, and apologized if she hurt our feelings. I will never agree with her point of view. Like, ever. She will likely never agree with mine. But I forgave her, and neither one of us harbored ill-will toward each other.

Seven months later, Jim and I had to switch to a different class because of a scheduling issue with Joshua.

But it was on God's timing...not ours.

I've been dragging my feet on posting this, praying for the right time...and IF there was a right time. It's not my intention to bash any person or any church. I love my church. I think Christians should be in church. But just because we're in church doesn't mean we are perfect. In fact, far from it.

Church is a place where we go to worship God with others. It's where we go when we realize we can't do life on our own...that we need the support of community. It's where we go to learn more about Jesus...and to develop our relationship with Him; where we go to prepare ourselves for the trials that come our way...and to learn ways to share our faith.

I just wanted to show how one negative comment can overshadow 10 positive ones. And to show that, even in the one place we hope to find grace and support, we sometimes don't.

Christians aren't happy all the time, and churches are full of hurting people. Many times, we don't know the burdens they carry, or the ones placed on them by others. Our church is full of many wonderful people, and yet the negative words of one person stay with me...and remind me that we are gonna fail each other. We are.

But God never fails.

"Everything He does reveals His glory and majesty. His righteousness never fails." Psalm 111: 3

Monday, October 26, 2015

Broken Pieces

Our family likes to go to the beach over Spring Break if we can. Rain or shine, it's a nice way to relax and unwind with the family. The weather in March is unpredictable. Some days are really warm, some are cool.

So, on one of our cool days, we decided to go on a family walk. Joshua was not a fan. In this case, I didn't really blame him. For one thing, it was sprinkling...and I know we were at the ocean, so a little rain on our heads shouldn't matter...but ain't nobody got time for THAT.

For another thing, Jim and the boys were acting like we were filming a segment for the Amazing Race. Seriously. WHERE'S THE FIRE? 

It's hard for some of us to walk on the sand.

So Holly and I decided to hang back with Joshua, and look for shells. He is not really a huge fan of that, either...but the walking and the looking and the choosing and the PICKING IT UP FROM THE SAND? All really good for Joshua.

So, I held the baggie as we walked. If I saw a pretty shell, I'd pick it up and put it in the bag.

It didn't take long to see a BIG difference in the way Joshua and I chose our shells. I was looking for the perfect shells. You know, the ones that weren't chipped, that didn't have one of those fossil-looking lines on it...the ones that had a pretty color.

But Joshua? I would see him, bent over a bed of shells. He would look and look, and then pick up one to put in the bag. Every shell he chose was broken, chipped...worthless, really. TO ME.

Joshua would pick up little pieces, and not care if they were whole or unblemished. In his eyes, each piece had value.

This had such an impact on me, because this is the very thing I preach: awareness and acceptance; how people are more than a diagnosis...and more than how they look on the outside.

I don't know if it's human nature to choose the perfect and beautiful...but this day was a huge reminder of how there is beauty in the the the missing pieces.

And I, of all people, should know that...God has been making beauty out of my broken...for my whole life.

"The LORD has made all things for Himself..." Proverbs 16:4

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Joshua's "Gift" of Words

During Joshua's Senior year of high school, he started writing.

Not writing-writing...he'd been doing that since Kindergarten.

I'm talking, he started writing poems...he called them "songs."

The physical act of writing has always been challenging for Joshua, because of his fine motor skills, but this was different. It wasn't was something he was doing for himself.

My mother-in-law got him a guitar one year, and Joshua would write these songs, and then strum the FIRE out of the guitar. And sing? OH MY WORD. We called it his "praise and worship" time.

One day, I asked him to let me read some of his songs, and he brought me a stack of papers, his scratchy handwriting all over them.


I nearly died.

The lyrics were beautiful. They made sense. They RHYMED.

I thought, "thank you, Lord, for this great blessing. THIS is going to be how Joshua makes a living!" I could just see it...he was going to be one of those rare prodigies, gifted by God. He would be on TV. He would be known all over the world. I could almost picture myself decorating our second home in Nashville! Ha!

Joshua always wished he could be a preacher...or a missionary. His greatest desire is to serve God in some way. Here was something he could do to get the message of the Gospel to others...all from his writing!

I reveled in bliss for a couple of weeks...maybe a month, and then, one day in my car, things became crystal clear in an instant.

I typically listen to K-LOVE, but they were having a telethon, so I switched it to a country station. As I drove down the road, I thought, "I don't think I've ever heard this song before...but the words sound SO familiar."


You know where this is going.

My little stinker was getting on the internet during his computer lab at school, and copying the lyrics into his notebook. I'll WAS kind of ingenious. But we had a long talk about how you can't copy someone else's songs, and now he writes his own stuff. And it's way better. Maybe not better technically speaking...but better, because it comes from his heart.

We each get a special poem or song at Christmas or on our birthdays. I get one on Mother's Day, and Jim gets one on Father's Day.

He's written some really sweet tributes for people, too. One time, he wrote one for a former coach who was dying from a brain tumor. The coach's wife had it printed out in the bulletin at the funeral, and even asked Joshua to read it during the service! It was a HUGE honor, and I think it blessed his Coach's entire family.

All because a little Downsy boy used the talents God game bless others.

"And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." Colossians 3:17

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Joshua and the Jumbotron at Church

Joshua loves church...always has.

Unless it goes past noon...then all bets are off.

Oh, he'll wait until he fills in the last point on his fill-in-the-blank sermon notes...but then it's pen up, Bible closed, leather jacket on (he has this leather jacket that he wears 365 days a year, and when I asked him about it one hot August morning, he said, "well, where ELSE am I gonna put my water?") (He carries a water bottle to church with him every Sunday.).

Anyway, back to the whole not-preachin'-past-noon thing...his exact words on that situation are: "I love Jesus...but it's time for lunch."

Joshua has difficulty hearing in certain situations in life, but thanks to the sound quality in our new worship center, he hears pretty well in there. The Jumbotron is his best friend, because it makes it easier for him to keep up with all the words.

Back in July, we sang the song, "You Are Holy." If you are familiar with the song, the men and women take turns singing, and there is a part in the chorus where the men and women are singing different words AT THE SAME TIME. Usually, this is highlighted in some way on the screen. This particular time, it was not. I don't know that it would've made a difference with Joshua. Most people figured it out. Joshua was not one of those people.

We're talkin' jaw set, bottom lip stuck out, and arms folded. There may or may not have also been some muttering of all the Downsy bad words he could think knew.

So, the guest pastor was preaching on "Understanding the True Meaning of Freedom." He was talking about the slave-turned-brother-in-Christ, Onesimus. Joshua likes to fill in the blank on the sermon notes, and Onesimus was one of the answers. Joshua would look up at the screen, write a few letters, look up at the screen, write a few more letters.

So he started "o-n-e..." and scratched it out. Then, "o-n-e-i..." and scratched it out. Then, "o-n-e-s-i..." and as he looked up at the screen to get the next letters, the screen changed to the next point.

And there was a repeat of the whole jaw...bottom lip...folded arms...thing.

The only thing that would've made it worse is if the preacher had posted a Hebrew or Greek word on the screen, and then expounded on it's original meaning. This happened one Sunday...and Joshua?

Head flew straight off.

Jim always shares his notes with Joshua, so no worries.

There have been times when Joshua has had to take matters into his own hands. A couple of years ago, one of the fill-in-the-blank answers was "enthusiasm." I watched Joshua struggle with the spelling, and then put his pen down in frustration. I was just about to nudge Jim to help him, when Joshua picked up his pen. I watched as he slowly wrote, "J-O-Y" in the blank...and then looked up with his proud face.

Enthusiasm = Joy. Yep. That'll do.

And it just got me thinking how we don't know the struggles going on with the people right around us. Big struggles, small struggles, little annoyances. Like the quote, "everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about." 


Big, small, young, old, talented, struggling; black, white, red, brown, yellow; strong, weak, agile, feeble, deaf, blind, mute; healthy, jovial, challenged, athletic, smelly, LOUD; troubled, saved, sickly; beautiful, "ordinary," dirty, clean.

I love this quote from Kelly Minter in "Wherever The River Runs," a wonderful book about bringing the Gospel to the forgotten people of the Amazon: "The least of these have the most to give."

Yes, Lord. Give us eyes to see.

"In fact, some of the parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary." 1 Corinthians 12:22

Friday, October 23, 2015

Down Syndrome and Acceptance

There's this "thing" going on in the world of special needs. It's more of an undercurrent at this point...a "one-upmanship" thing, and I'm not happy about it at all.

Because not only do some of the FRIENDS feel like they don't measure up in the world of their parents and siblings...they now feel like they don't measure up in their own world.

And we, as parents, start to feel like something is bad wrong with us, if our child is not somehow exceeding all expectations or preconceived ideas.

We are putting our Special Olympians, ambassadors, students, employees, and spokespersons...up against each other. We accept those WE THINK will fit in better in society, and we call them "high-functioning."


We stopped for lunch at Braum's in Alma, Arkansas, one day in June. We had just picked up Joshua from Camp Barnabas. I noticed a man staring at us (we get that a lot...ha!). As we stood up to leave, he came over and struck up a conversation with Joshua. He told us that he had a daughter who had Down Syndrome and Autism. Jim said, "oh, really? What does she DO?", work, any type of volunteer post, or some kind of adult program.

The man replied, "nothing...she does nothing." And he kind of shrugged his shoulders.

Jim and I said, "ohhhh..." and let our voices trail off. We both thought to ourselves, "well, how SAD," but here's the thing...that should be okay.

Because, we don't know them. We don't know their daughter's abilities, challenges, or fears. We don't know their struggles, or anything about the roads they have traveled. And it's not for us to judge anyone else, or tell them what has worked for us...what they SHOULD or SHOULD NOT be doing...what so-and-so is doing. We aren't the boss of them. As long as they are doing what is best for THEIR child and THEIR family, who are we to say anything? And, unless they ask us for suggestions or opinions, it's none of our business.

*I'm saying that regular people shouldn't do this. OF COURSE, people who are professionals, who work with your child or at your child's school...they probably should be giving you suggestions.

Because for every individual with Down Syndrome who owns a restaurant, writes books, paints pictures, wins medals, makes speeches, attends college, meets presidents, and travels the world (and there's NOTHING WRONG with any of that)...there are a thousand other, seemingly insignificant and unremarkable individuals, who are quietly living their lives at home...or IN a home; who need some help...or a lot of help; who love their family, and enjoy their friends. They may not hear or see well...or at all. They may not speak well...or at all. They may not be able to walk well...or at all. They may be confined to a wheelchair, or to a bed. They may struggle with health issues, shyness, selective mutism. They may live with severe anxiety.

Their lives are no more important or valuable than the "stars" that shine in our Down Syndrome community.

All lives matter. ALL of them. All of us.

This month is about awareness...and, I hope, acceptance.

"...not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing don't be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows." Matthew 10:29, 31

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Messed Up Brain And Other Not-Nice Words

Overall, Joshua's education experience was a positive one. There were so many kind and knowledgeable people who helped us along the way. There were only a couple of rough years: his very first year of Kindergarten...and The Year Without A Desk.

The Year Without A Desk was also the year that Joshua came home from school and told me that he had a "messed-up brain." He'd heard someone tell him that at recess.

Now, I don't know if that's ever happened to you...with a child of yours...but it cut my heart like a knife. My precious boy looked at me for an explanation and an answer...and I didn't have one.

I just hugged him and told him he was an amazing son, and that we should pray for people who are unkind to us. And then I went back to my bedroom and cried my eyes out.

I had to fight every momma-bear instinct I not stake out the playground, and go all old-school crazy on some unsuspecting kids. I mean, they were just Was it right? No. Should they have said that? No. But Joshua made his own share of inappropriate comments over the years.

Like the time he called his 80 year old teacher's aide a "bird-brain." 

Joshua's friends from his Special Fred class were an interesting mix of cultures, abilities, backgrounds, belief-systems, family dynamics, and diagnoses.

Joshua, and his friend, David, stayed into it most of the time. Joshua tried to "help" David by telling him he needed Jesus, and DAVID wanted to "help" Joshua right out the door!

The teacher said one day, Joshua was laying it all out to David...the plan of salvation...everything. His teacher heard it all...but decided not to just see where the conversation went. When the teacher told me about it later, I was so proud of my little Billy Graham!

But, as always, God had a way of bringing me back down to reality.

Joshua's teacher said there was one particularly hard day...Joshua and David had been going back and forth, aggravating each other (I'm guessing they ALL needed Jesus by the end of this day!).

Jim went to pick up Joshua from school. Joshua's Special Fred class met in one of those modular buildings that had steps leading up into the classroom. Jim got there and stood outside, talking to the teacher, while Joshua gathered his belongings.

When Joshua appeared at the door, Jim said, "let's go, buddy." Joshua turned around to face his classmates, and yelled, "I'LL SEE YOU IN HELL, DAVID!" and jumped out the door.

"By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Joshua the Basketball Manager

Well, the details are a little fuzzy (it depends on who you ask), but Joshua was in the 9th or 10th grade, when he came home from school telling me that he'd been asked to be a team manager for the Varsity boys basketball team.

I wasn't immediately excited, because we...his teachers and I...had never even entertained this idea. NOT AT ALL. I was skeptical...and nervous. I thought, "oh no...Joshua has either convinced himself that he's going to do this...OR, he flat-out asked the coach if he could do this, and the man didn't have the heart to tell him, "no."

Oh, dear.

But he kept on about it, so I asked his Special Fred teacher to please check it out.

Because here's the thing: Joshua is neat. He picks up after HIMSELF. He was not going to be too thrilled to be picking up after those Varsity boys. Also, Joshua is a GERM FREAK...he was not about to touch a water bottle that umpteen people had been drinking out of...or some nasty towel that had been thrown on the floor. And, finally, sweat grosses him out.

WELL. Those Searcy Lions were going to be LUCKY to have him! :)

His teacher got back to me, and she was more than a little excited! She said that she had talked to the coach, and he told her that he had, indeed, approached Joshua about it. And I may or may not have cried. And, when I got home later and told Jim about it...I may or may not have cried again.

Joshua called himself the "home game" manager, until the following year, when Holly signed on to help with the team. This was all her doing, but was such a blessing to Jim and me. Holly's presence added some support to the situation. Joshua was able to attend the away games now, with his sister...and the other managers...and then he and Holly rode home together when they got back to the school.

There are several touch-stone moments from Joshua's school years, and being a basketball manager was one of them.

High school is hard enough, for everybody, but that one invitation, from a kind-hearted coach, made all the difference in Joshua's confidence at school. He felt important. He felt needed. He felt like part of the team...and he knew EVERYONE.

We always tried to sit behind the team, because Joshua sat on the the very end. This meant that we always sat on the visitor's side of the home games, and that was always super fun. NOT. We just wanted to be close in case there was every any sort of issue. Knowing we were there also gave Holly the freedom to do her job.

The main thing we worried about at games were safety issues for Joshua. But sometimes, we also had to worry about his attitude.

Joshua didn't always have the best attitude when his team was losing. There were gestures...mumbling...arm-folding...and the mad, bottom-lip-sticking-out thing.

He was the manager for 2 or 3 years, and we made it out of high school without him drawing a technical for our I call that a win-WIN!

On Senior night, all of the Varsity boys (and girls), and all of the managers, were recognized on the court before the game. When they called Joshua's name, the entire gym erupted in applause, and everyone stood up and cheered. I could not believe it.

I glanced around, and saw so many of our friends there, smiling and cheering. Truthfully, they had been there all along...good days, bad days...and the hard years when it felt like every day was a struggle. Some of his teachers and therapists were there...many of them had been there from the start of his educational journey, so it was only fitting that they were there at the end.

This night, Senior night, all started because ONE PERSON...Coach Roger Franks...took a chance on Joshua. And, because of that, love was raining down on our family.

I wanted to freeze that moment in time, because you know what it felt like?

It felt like GRACE.

“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.’ Matthew 25:40

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


People say there is more awareness in our society today, and tolerance for those who are different.

I hate the word "tolerance." HATE STRONGLY DISLIKE IT.

Allow me to define the word tolerate: "accept or endure (someone or something unpleasant or disliked) with forbearance (self-control); to put up with, bear, stomach, deal with."

Tolerate and tolerance are not good words when used for people.

Tolerance...tolerating my opinion, should not be something we try to practice in the body of Christ.

I'm just sayin'...would YOU like feeling that other people have to "stomach" being around you? That they are enduring the time they have to spend with you?

Not me.

Last week, I talked to a mom of a young child who has Down Syndrome. She shared some of the things they are going through with school, and y'all...the school days are just hard days. 

Or they were for us. Home-work, therapies, doctor appointments, IEPs, teacher conferences and WHY DOES EVERYTHING HAVE TO BE SO HARD? It's hard enough already.

The school work was hard. The social situations were hard. Wondering if we were doing any of it right was hard. Wondering why everything seemed like a fight. Hard.

I remember those days...when I would pray all the way to school...and pray during the day, and wonder how things were going...was he safe...was he sad...was he liked...was he keeping up? Was he lonely? 

Kept me on my knees.

And at the end of the day, I would sit in my car and breathe a prayer. I hoped there would be "good notes," and that I would hear positive things. And then I would take a biiiig breath, and walk into his classroom to get the re-cap.


Because a society...spend a whole lotta time trying to get these kids (and adults) to fit into the molds we have...because that is what we think is best. For them, and for all of us. And maybe it is. Because it seems wrong to let them maybe take a different path...because we want to bring them along with the rest of us, and help them to fit in...with us. When maybe they weren't met to fit in. Maybe none of us were. I don't know.

Maybe...we should try to fit in...WITH THEM. Hmmmm...think on THAT a while. Because Joshua and his friends? They are so precious and unique. They are interesting. They are compassionate, thoughtful and creative. They love big. They are pure in heart...innocent, trusting, and vulnerable.

I am very thankful for the teachers, therapists and other professionals in Joshua's life, who knew what to do and how to do it. They thought clearly for him, when my mind was clouded by emotion. Most of them did not "tolerate" Joshua, but, instead, loved him, cared for him, expected the best from him, pushed him, prayed for him, coached him, encouraged him, listened to him, invested to him. I can never thank them enough for their part in making Joshua into the fine, young man he is today.

Today we are living what I call the Years of Blessing. Joshua is happy. He is healthy. He is caring and kind (usually). He sees the good in others. He speaks his mind no matter who is around to hear it! He is funny! In fact, over the past few years, he has turned into our resident Jay LenoHe is sensitive and insightful. He is excited with the little things. He is wise.

God has been so gracious to allow us these fun years with Joshua...sandwiched in between the hard times he had in school...and the hard times that are sure to come. 

I love writing about the fun stuff, but if you read around on my blog, you will see that I write about some of the difficult stuff, too. I just want people to feel know that Down Syndrome is not a death sentence for your life, your child's life, or for your family. It's a different path for sure. Difficult for sure. Uncertain, scary, frustrating, sad...blessed, joyful, rewarding and happy. And, guess what? All of those same things can be said about parenting our other 3 kids. 

I am so very thankful for this man-child.

"For this boy I prayed, and He has granted my request. So I have dedicated him to the LORD; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the LORD..." 1 Samuel 1:27-28

Monday, October 19, 2015

Joshua's Words on "Special Needs"

So, we think he doesn't always "get" it...that we can make it okay, and he'll never know.

But we can't...and he does.

Joshua has been reading this Tony Dungy devotion book that he got for Christmas last year. It's about to be an influence, and ABOUT being an influence. He will occasionally post a Facebook status about someone from his life who was a big influence on him.

In March, there is always a big campaign called "Spread the Word to End the Word." The "R" word. You know what I'm talkin' about, right? 

So, Joshua had been reading his Tony Dungy book, and some of the "R" word posts on Facebook. He also said that two verses from a recent sermon really spoke to him: First, in Genesis, where God created everyone in HIS image. EVERYONE. And then in Matthew, where Jesus said to treat everyone how you want to be treated. EVERYONE.

He said that he was sick and tired of being silent about it, because it just wasn't right.

Joshua can write him some dramatic Facebook posts. He likes to use very descriptive words, some of which he makes up himself. You just never know what he is going to say. So, I thought that you might want to read something that Joshua wrote himself...just in case you're like me, and thought maybe "they" don't understand.
Because this post? I read it...and then I cried...because it came straight from his heart:

"In a way I think when people treat those with special needs. In a mean way it is not nice at all. The bible states that all people are created by The Lord. In a morphincal way. I think that is wrong for treating those with special needs. I will not stand aside and let people like my self be treated in a mean way. Because we are just created in the image of The Lord god has created people with special needs for a reason. Even if one stand's alone. I commonly have to spread the word with camp barnabas and with my companion. Jenni Hayes as well as many others whom has special needs. Quit using the r word. Because we have feelings and we are one in The Lord. We are have one heart in The Lord. The Lord even proclaim's to don't judge people at all unless you want to be judged. I have to happen to have a heart for people even people whom all has special needs. So treat people the way you want to be treated Matthew 7:12 I care for people. I believe that everyone has a heart of Christ within us. Who will stand up with me for those people whom has special needs.thank you."

Preach it, Joshua!

I was flying high with pride at my little Norma Rae.

BUT THEN, he said, "and if anyone wants to make fun of people with special needs or disabilities...they're gonna get a kick in the face from THIS GUY with special needs."

Annnnd...there it is.
So high...and then so low.

"In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary." 1 Corinthians 12:22

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Joshua's List For A New Pastor

After our pastor resigned, our church started the process of seeking the man that would lead our church. One of the first things was to form a search team. Our staff prepared us for several weeks, and then asked us to pray about and then submit 7 names from the men and women in our church. Once the ballots were collected, the top 7 would be voted on by the church...and they would be our search team.

I talked to Joshua about all of this at home, and we prayed for our church and the people who would be on the search team. I felt like he had a pretty good grasp of the process.

When the day came to fill out our ballets, I asked Joshua if he wanted one, and he said, "yes."

I pulled up my list...I had saved it on my phone...and glanced over at Joshua. His head was down and he was writing furiously.

Not gonna lie...I had a twinge of pride. I thought, "TAKE THAT, people who think he doesn't know what's going on."

But, when he was done, he showed me his list. Instead of listing the names of 7 people, he had listed 7 qualities or characteristics he wanted in our new pastor:

*has a heart for kids

That last one about did me in.

So...after 10 months or so, we found our new pastor. He's been here a few weeks now. Best I can tell, he has every one of these qualities.

That last one? He and his wife have 6 kids...4 of them are adopted.

To quote a line from the movie, Babe, "that'll do, pig...that'll do."

"Pray without ceasing." 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Making New Friends: Building Bridges

One Sunday, way back in 2013, our former pastor preached on "Making New Friends..." building bridges between us and people we would normally avoid for one reason or another. He used the story of the Woman at the Well" (John 4:1-42) as an example.

He talked about reaching across racial lines and economic barriers, overcoming fears and stereotypes, being open to learning about other cultures...and reaching out to people who are different from us socially...people who are considered social outcasts.

He encouraged us to look at others through the eyes of Jesus.

His points were that, when the disciples saw a woman...Jesus saw a PERSON; when the disciples saw a Samaritan...Jesus saw a FRIEND; and when the disciples saw an outcast...Jesus saw an EVANGELIST.

Bro. Mark talked to us about the people we tend to avoid...because they are different.


I spent the first part of the sermon climbing up on my high mountain. ALLLLLL up on it.

Because being a mom of a son with special needs sometimes clouds influences my judgment...and so I was thinking, "all of YOU PEOPLE need to LISTEN UP."

I'm with the different and the overlooked every day. I've seen the pointing and staring. I've had people ask me questions that should be addressed to Joshua, like, "would he like a cookie?"

Or, "does he need a children's menu?" (ummmm...he's 29 years old)


But God...was so kind to help me down from my high place, and hold me tight. He reminded me that He loves Joshua more than I ever can. And that I'm no better than the woman at the well; no better than the ones who judge, stare, ignore and avoid people who are different.

Because what I want for my child, and his friends..what I expect...I often fail to give to others. And I'm ashamed to admit it, because I know how it feels.

And I know better.

He also showed me that the annoying questions, and the odd things people have said to me, CAN...depending on how I react...sometimes be the beginning of building a "bridge" between people who see each other as different.

We're all different...right?

I'm so thankful that, once upon a time, as a young girl...Jesus met me where I was, and drew me to Him. And loved me. And all those times as a teenager, and then as a young wife and mom...and, even now, TODAY, when I mess up...Jesus comes to me where I am...and He draws me back to Himself. And He loves me.

How can I do any less for someone else?

"In as much as you have done it unto the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you have done it unto Me." (Matthew 25:40)

Friday, October 16, 2015

On How God Gives Us More Than We Can Handle

The first time someone said this to me, and it's happened MULTIPLE times over the years, I thought, "I canNOT believe what I'm hearing."

We were at a thing with some people (vague much?), and this girl that I HAD JUST MET, started gushing over Baby Joshua: "he's sooo cute...he's sooo sweet" and all of that. I thought she was being a faker-von-fakerson, but hey...those brown, almond-shaped eyes, and that infectious grin, have sucked me in on more than one occasion.

And then she said...she goes...she goes..."I always thought that if my baby had to have something wrong with it, I'd pick Downs.

And then I punched her.

And then the conversation was over.

Have a good day...thank you for reading.


What I WANTED to say, was...first of all, chick-that-I-just-met...there is nothing "wrong" with my child.
Second of all, you don't get to pick. And 3rd of all, shut your cake hole, because you don't have a clue what you're talking about.

But that's not nice, is it?

(Answer: no, no it is not)

I will have to say that some of this happened before I had grown into my whole "most people mean well" philosophy...when all I could think of was, "what are you saying...please stop talking...and, I want to punch you"

(Yes...again with the punching)

Over the years, I've been told one thing more than any other...I bet you've heard it, too: "God won't give you more than you can handle." And to that I say, "Ummm...yeah, He will."

Because, here's the thing: if you could handle it, you wouldn't need Jesus. Right?

You remember Job? All that he went through in his life...the unimaginable loss and suffering...and yet he would say, "God might kill me, but I have no other hope." (Job 13:15) He knew that, even if he had everything...He would be utterly lost if he didn't have God.

If we could handle everything on our own...death, sickness, loss, abandonment, would we ever recognize our need for a Savior?

Paul told of his hardships in his life: beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, long journeys; danger from rivers, robbers, from his own people, from others; faced danger in cities, deserts, and on the seas; he worked long and hard, had many sleepless nights; he was hungry, thirsty and cold; many times, he didn't have enough clothing; and he had a great burden for all of the churches.

What God said: "My grace is all you need. My power works better in weakness."

What Paul said: "When I am weak, then I am strong."

I don't know anyone who has been through horrible things like Job or Paul. I'm using them for perspective...and as examples of 2 people who persevered under great trials.

We all have struggles and challenges...that's a fact of life.

What we need: more of Him...less of WE.

"He must increase, but I must decrease." John 3:30

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Joshua's Advice

So, this girl that Holly went to college with at Ouachita...had a precious baby boy last Spring. It wasn't long before some of my friends were texting me about it, wondering if I'd heard. OBU is a small college, so it's easy to keep in contact with people after graduation...if you want to. This girl was in Holly's same sorority (social club), and Holly pledged under her.

The reason why people were contacting me about this girl was...her baby has Down Syndrome.

I remember this girl, and I knew she was pregnant again. I had not heard she'd had the baby, or anything about it. Bless their hearts!

As an older mom looking back, I wanted to tell my friend, "Oh, how WONDERFUL for them!" But, I know some of the struggles that are ahead. These young parents are not in the same place I am now...because, with age comes a lot of perspective.

Oh, people sometimes call it "wisdom," but I call it "TIME." 

And "learning from my mistakes." 

And, "learning to see the big picture."

These young ones? Well, I'm sure they are feeling many emotions.

I thought about it for a while. Things are more different now than even just 29 years ago, when I had Joshua. There seems to be more knowledge...more acceptance of...more services with DS. I hope that's the case, anyway. I told Holly, and the friend who texted me, that I would be more than happy to visit with the family at any time...when THEY'RE ready.

I warmed up some "re-runs" for Joshua's lunch. That's what he calls, "left-overs." I decided to see what he would have to say about the situation with Holly's friend, and I tried to prepare myself for anything he might say. I wanted him to say his honest opinions.

I didn't know if he would say, like one of his friends did, that he wished he didn't have Down Syndrome. He already told me that the main thing he's looking forward to when he gets to Heaven is: "no moles (don't know what brought that on) and no Downs." I didn't know if he would talk about feeling left-out, like when his 4th grade teacher had the names of all of his classmates on their desks, but didn't have a desk for him. Or if he would remember about the kids at school who told him he "had a messed-up brain." I didn't know if he would want to talk about the things he didn't get to do, like drive a car or go to college.

You have to be so careful with Joshua, because he is easily influenced if he thinks you want him to say a certain thing. So, no "leading" trying to fill in the blanks for, assuming what he might be trying to say.

I said, "hey, Joshua...a friend of Holly's just had a brand-new baby boy...and he has Down Syndrome like you!"

He said, "oh, WOW!"

I said, "what do you think about that?"

He said, "that's a pretty good kid if he came out like that."

I asked him if he had any advice for the new parents and he said, "what advice did you get when you had me?" I told him how my friend, Karen Alexander (Doyel), came over to visit after we brought him home from the hospital...about how she sat on our couch and held him while we talked. She told me, "just love him."

And how I thought, "well, that's EASY! Look how cute he is!"

(Joshua just grinned and grinned when I said that part)

Joshua said, "I'll go with that, too. Love him. And train him up to be a man of God."

And then he started quoting Scripture after Scripture at me, and I could not EVEN keep up. I had been trying to discretely type his answers on my cell phone without him knowing what I was doing. OH MY GOODNESS, my boy knows his Bible!

He said that the book of James says that trials will come, and that Joshua 1:9 says to be "strong and courageous." These are the two passages that I remember.

Basically, he said for them to train their baby boy to have the faith of Joshua-from-the-Bible, and to be a leader for his generation.

He ended his sermon talk with these words: "I turned out okay, and he will, too."

"I give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made..." Psalm 139:14

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Cheerleader-Friends and Treat Bags

Years ago, after we got home from Clark's very first 9th grade football game, he casually mentioned that he didn't get a "treat bag" that day. I had just spent 3 years helping with the Mom Squad for the Varsity boys, and we made sure every player, manager and coach got a treat bag for every game.

The kids at the elementary schools would decorate the bags, and then we would fill the bags with peanut butter crackers, granola bars, cookies, candy, roll-ups, etc...things they could have for a quick snack after the game.

Clark said there were a few others who didn't get a bag that day, but that didn't make it okay with me. He said, "Mom, CHILL...don't make a thing about it."

Like I would.

Enter: Joshua

He had overheard the conversation, and quietly slipped upstairs. Later, he came down with a big grin on his face. He was holding a white lunch bag that he had decorated for Clark. He whispered, "for his next game."

Because, y'all...his brother was NOT going without a treat bag. No, ma'am. Not on his watch.

So, for the rest of the season, Joshua would get a lunch bag out of our pantry, and he would go up to his room to decorate it. He started out writing things like, "we love you," or "go for a win." But, as time went on, he got more creative. He'd use quotes from football movies, like, "you blitz all night," "make sure they remember the night they played the Hornets," and "Stonewall defense" (whatever that is)

There was also our personal favorite, "spank them like a 4 year old at K-Mart."


Later, he'd bring the bag downstairs, I'd fill it with goodies...and we'd "hide" it in Clark's football bag. Every.single.week.

I love that Joshua loves his brother...both brothers and his sister. He's their biggest fan. I think that we have all thought that WE were the ones encouraging HIM through life...but then he shows up, and encourages us right back.

You know, we all want a cheerleader in our lives. Someone who will tell us to keep going...who will pray for us, who will hold us up when we think we can't go on...who says, "hang in can do it...I'm here for you."

I've had people like that in my life...just not here where we live. Yet. Just yesterday, I was thinking, "whew! It's been a long 3 years here..." but then God sent a couple of those cheerleader-friends who spoke life into me.

And, today at lunch, I met up with two cheerleader-friends whose stories made me laugh out loud so much! They also made me break out in hives. And, at one point, I started poppin Altoids like they were chocolate chips...but that's another story for another day.

Who cheers for you? Who do YOU cheer for?

I love the "faith" chapter of Hebrews. In Chapter 11, the author lists some men and women of the Bible, who lived out their faith during trying times in their lives. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham...Isaac, Jacob, Moses...Joshua, Rahab, Gideon, David...and more. If you're a Christian, this is your heritage of faith, too!

I can just picture them standing in Heaven, along with Jesus, God, the angels...and all of those who have gone before us...cheering us on.

Isn't that awesome? It's like our very own treat bag from God!

And guess what? No one is overlooked!

"Therefore encourage one another and build up one another." 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Mrs. Deb and Sharing Your Faith

Before we moved here, we lived reallllly close to Wal-Mart. Joshua loved to go, and so we went several times a week. Grocery shopping with him is different than when I go by myself. We don't "run in" and "run out." No. We take it slow. He talks to people, and reminds me of the things I forgot to put on our list. He makes friends with some of the checkers. Then nice ones? We try to get in their lines every time.

There was one at our Wal-Mart: Mrs. Deb. She was special. She was friendly to everyone...but she was REALLY friendly to Joshua...really sweet, and genuinely interested in him. Joshua would start looking for her as soon as we walked in the door. He would make a mental note of what lane she was in, and we would get in her line when we were done shopping.

If she saw him first, she would speak to him, and give him a big hug...sometimes even stepping away from her line to do so. She treated him like he was the most important person in the world to her.

She got to know all about our family, and we got to know about hers. Joshua would tell her about Special Olympics, and she would always say that she wanted to come watch him. She never did...but she would remember to ask him about it, and he would bring his medals for her to see. She always asked him about Jenni, and we would show her pictures.

Mrs. Deb was older than me. She was married, and had a family...and grandchildren. She loved fishing...loved the beach...loved her mom. She talked about her mom getting cancer, and how she took care of her in their home. She told us how they kept a small Christmas tree up all year in her Mom's room, and how, even after her Mom died, the kids and grand-kids would pick up little ornaments and knick-knacks to put on the tree. She called it her "Angel Tree." Joshua bought an angel ornament, and we took it to Mrs. Deb the Christmas after her Mom passed away.

Mrs. Deb loved spending time at the lake or the beach with her grandchildren...teaching them to fish, watching them swim and play. One year, she went to Gulf Shores on vacation, and brought a cap back for Joshua. I was so touched by her thoughtfulness, because...really...except for our WM connection, we were strangers. He still wears that cap.

But a random thing happened with Mrs. Deb. She fell. HARD. I can't remember how...but she never could get to feeling better. She tried to come back to work, but it was too soon. She was going to take more time off to rest and heal. We saw her on the day she was leaving for her extended time off. It was obvious that she did not feel well at all, and was in a lot of pain...this is a lady who was ALWAYS happy. But she hugged Joshua and gave him a big smile...and headed out the door.

We missed her a week or two after that...but one day, I "ran" into Wal-Mart without Joshua. I didn't see Mrs. Deb, but assumed she was on her lunch break. As I was checking out, the girl mentioned that it had been such a hard week. I asked her about it, and she told me about one of their checkers dying. I told her that I had read about it in the paper. And then she said something about Mrs. Deb. I said, "she's okay, isn't she?" The girl just looked down and shook her head.

I can't remember exactly what she said...something about a massive heart attack...or how I got home. I told Joshua, and we prayed for her family...and we both cried. It was a profoundly sad day.

I believe that Mrs. Deb knew Jesus. We talked often about Him, and shared our faith with her. She shared prayer requests with us, and we promised to pray for her. But there are a couple of things I learned from this:

First, time is short. Don't waste an opportunity. There will probably be times when you'll have a longer time to cultivate a relationship with someone, but there will be other times when you just have a minute. A minute to listen...a minute to pray. Make it count.

I was also reminded that God can use us if we are willing. We don't have to be a preacher or a missionary. We don't have to be a doctor, judge, lawyer...or someone the world perceives as "influential." We might be a Mom...or a Dad. Or we might work at Wal-Mart...and it might be EXACTLY where God wants us...where we can be His hands and feet to a hurting world.

We sometimes think that, with our busy schedules, we don't have time to invest in the lives of others...but we do. As Christians, especially, we need to seize the moments in each day. You might not be able to make it to Tuesday Night visitation at the church...but you can reach people right where you are. Sometimes people just want to talk...sometimes they want to listen; sometimes they need a hug; sometimes you'll have the opportunity to pray with them...or for them.

It's important to be intentional in how we spend our look for those people who are look for those opportunities to be a witness...and a friend. Our pastor is preaching on this very subject this month.

I'm not sure Mrs. Deb ever realized the impact she had on others...on us. But here it is, 4 years later, and I'm still talking about her...and I have tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat when I remember her kindness to my son.

God will sometimes use the most unlikely people to do His work. Because of Joshua, we have met more people, been in places we wouldn't normally have gone, and had more opportunities to share our faith. God puts people like Mrs. Deb in our lives every day...we just have to be open to it.

Tell your story.

"...when you did it to one of the least of these My brothers and sisters, you were doing it to Me." Matthew 25:40

Monday, October 12, 2015

DS Awareness Month: School Days and Discipline

I don't know what happened last night. I had the post all ready to go, and posted it to Facebook...guess I just forgot to post it to the blog. So, if I am able to post all 31 days of October for Down Syndrome Awareness/Acceptance Month...I'll be a day off from Facebook. I don't like to be "off."

The time Joshua spent in elementary school was good, and it was hard. Joshua was a trailblazer, and that exhausting for all of us. He was also a charmer...and he was a mess-and-a-half! 

There were a few times when he was called to the principal's office. And a few more times that I was called there as well, making the walk of shame from the parking lot into the school. Times when "discipline was required," as stated in the school's handbook. 

Fortunately, and by God's plan and provision, we had the best principal. Mr. Wood was a kind man with a huge heart for kids. Joshua loved Mr. Wood, and Mr. Wood loved Joshua. But there were rules, and Joshua was breaking some of them. And while he knew exactly what he was doing when he did it, he did not quite have the whole consequences thing down. 

So there were a few times when Joshua had to be paddled at school, and bc we signed the form saying we wanted to be contacted first...we had to go to the principal's at school. And by "we," I mean ME...bc Jim was usually at work. Mr. Wood talked to me friends...and he never made Jim and I feel like we weren't doing a good job with Joshua. We were never in the room when Joshua was paddled, but Mr. Wood would tell us about it later. He would talk to Joshua about his behavior, and the reason he was getting paddled. He said Joshua would listen to him so carefully...his brown eyes watching the emotion on Mr. Wood's face. 

Sometimes, Mr. Wood couldn't bring himself to do it...sometimes they just talked. Sometimes they cried. 

Both of them. 

Like discipline grieves the heart of a parent, it grieved Mr. Wood's heart as well. So thankful for his compassionate heart. 

We need more people like Mr. Wood in our schools.

"People who accept discipline are on the pathway to life, but those who ignore correction will go astray." Proverbs 10:17