Sunday, November 12, 2017

Day 11: Thankful for My Dad (Veteran's Day)

Went to see my favorite veteran today: my Dad. 

I told him "Happy Veteran's Day," and tried to make him understand. I even wrote it down for him. I don't think he *got* it, because all he said was, "very nice." 

He recognized me right away, which was great, but then, even tho Clara said he had been asking for me all week, he goes, "where's Leanne (one of my sisters)?" Ha! I told him that she would come another time. 

He seemed a little confused, so I said, "but look who I brought!" I took Clark's hand, and pulled him over. I said, "Dad, this is Clark." He looked at me like I was crazy, and said, "I know."  

God made our minds so beautifully complex. One minute, my Dad was talking clearly about current events, and people he knows...and the next minute, he wasn't making any sense (to us). Or, he would make a random comment about a conversation we'd had an hour ago. Like, it took his mind that long to process what we were talking about earlier. It's all in there, he's just not firing on all cylinders, and not everything is connecting properly. 

He perked up when his "mobility meds" kicked in, and he was excited to eat lunch. 

My Dad, my veteran, is 100% disabled now. He needs help with everything, and relies heavily on Clara. He has fallen hard several times in the last couple of weeks. Altho doctors say nothing is broken, his left shoulder is swollen, and it's black and blue all the way down to his hand. 

He told me that things had really gone downhill for him, physically. 

He spends most of his days in his recliner. He can't hear well, and he's confused a lot of the time. He enjoys getting out and going to church on Sundays. And while he may not remember a lot of things, or even most things, Clara says he remembers everyone from church. How sweet is that? 

I wish he could go to church every day.  

He got emotional when he talked about our family. He said, "I love my family, and I love my kids." He told me we should come again real soon, and bring Rhodie. 

As we left, I gave him a kiss, and rubbed his head. I said, "I love you, Dad." He said, "I love you, too, Marty." And then he said this: "you've been a real nice addition to our family." 

WHAAAAT? 

I mean, I guess that's good, Dad...SINCE YOU MADE ME.

What in the world?

My Dad...humble, faithful, quiet, kind. Knows my imperfections, and loves me anyway. Loves all of us, my siblings and me, unconditionally. Served our country, his church, our family, and others. He prays for us every day. Always sees the good in others. 

Points us to an amazing God. 

I am thankful for every second with him.

"Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God. Let me proclaim Your power to this new generation, Your mighty miracles to all who come after me." Psalm 71: 18

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Day 10: Thankful for the Blessing of Adoption

About a year ago, I was sitting in church, when the pastor asked for everyone, whose life had been touched by adoption, to stand. 

I sat there, and let my eyes look all around the room. I saw young people, old people...and families. I remember thinking, "WOW! This is amazing!" 

I have a heart for adoption. I have friends who are adopted, and friends who have grown their family by adoption. 

To me, adoption is the perfect picture of what Jesus does for us, when we choose to follow Him. He takes us out of our broken state, and brings us into His family. He takes us from a place of no hope...and He becomes our hope. 

As with any adoption, there is sacrifice. There is the death of what was, or of what could've been...and it is replaced by something new: a new life...a new family. 

And it is permanent and binding. 

Likewise, when we join the family of God, our names are written in His book of life (Rev 3:5), and they can never be removed. 

When there is an adoption of a child, the state will issue a new and amended birth certificate, with the adoptive parents' names on it...and they are forevermore that child's parents. 

Back to that Sunday in church: after everyone sat down, Jim elbowed me, and whispered, "Uhh...HELLO?" I said, "what?" He mouthed the name of a family member, and I said, "oh yeah...I forgot!" 

I mean, it never even crossed my mind. 

Which is kind of like it should be, huh?  

There's no difference in any of us, in the eyes of Christ. 

My life has been touched by adoption, and I'm so very thankful.

"God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure." Ephesians 1:5

Friday, November 10, 2017

Day 9: Jesus Is The Cure

My sister took this picture of me and my Dad during our last visit. 

He talks so quietly...I had to really lean in to hear him. 

Finally, I just went and sat on the edge of his chair. What was he saying? I don't remember, and it doesn't matter. I just knew that I didn't want to miss a word. 

He used to leave me with really sweet and poignant nuggets of truth from God's word. Not so much anymore, but that's okay. 

He has lived out his faith. The example he set has spoken volumes to everyone who knows him. 

When I got home, I stared at this picture...so thankful to have it, and hoping to sear it into my memory. I looked at the bracelets on my arm, and took a close-up picture: "relentless." That's what I think of when I think of my Dad. 

He was relentless in his devotion to God; relentless in his desire to protect and provide for our family; relentless in his prayers for me and my siblings. And so, now, because of his example, I try to be relentless in my devotion to God, and relentless in my desire to protect my family. 

And I am relentless in my prayers for my kids...for the things and people who are important to them: day, night, middle of the night...I am storming the gates of Heaven on their behalf. 

And the blue cuff I wear...it's words to a song by the group, Unspoken: "You are the cure." 

He is. 

God is. 

Wars, shootings, unrest, protests, elections, and every other thing that keeps us awake at night. There's only one cure for the sin and evil that seems to be rampant in our world today: Jesus. He is the cure. 

And that's what I'm thankful for today.

"As Your name deserves, O God, You will be praised to the ends of the earth. Your strong right hand is filled with victory." Psalm 48:10

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Day 8: Thankful for My Dad

I didn't think I was gonna be able to get words on the screen tonight, because my heart is full...full of every emotion, and thinking all the things. I'm remembering my Dad tonight. 

Oh, he's still here, physically, anyway. 

But, Parkinson's is a slow-fade, and that's kind of where we are now. 

He's weak, unsteady, confused. He needs help with everything. 

My Dad...my big, strong Dad. He was always the one who wanted to take care of others. He was the helper, the servant, the gentle giant...quiet, wise, encouraging. I don't ever remember him saying a critical word to us. He prayed for us every day. He believed in us. He was proud of us. 

Today, there was a conversation about what comes next for him. Even tho it may be necessary, for his safety, it made my heart so sad. 

But, God is good. He speaks to me in many ways, but especially through music. 

I almost stayed home from choir practice tonight, because my heart felt really tender. But I'm really thankful I went. We sang about how God's love endures forever. And we sang about God's glory. And we sang about how, when we are poor and needy, weak and wounded, sick and sore...Jesus stands and saves us, and EMBRACES us in His arms. 

And then I heard Carrie Underwood sing, "Softly and Tenderly" on the Country Music Awards tonight, and I bawled like a baby. 

Because God reminded me that He is softly and tenderly calling my Dad home. 

It may be this year, next year, or ten years from now... but it will be His way, and in His timing. 

Until then, we are to treat my Dad carefully, and with the dignity he deserves. 

Even tho we can't always see it, there's purpose in the suffering, in the hard, in the waiting. We are trusting God to help us to see it. 

Tonight, and every night, I'm just really thankful for my Dad. 

"Oh, for the wonderful love He has promised...promised for You and for me! Tho we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon...pardon for you and for me! Come home! Come home! Ye who are weary, come home! Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling...calling oh, sinner, come home!" 

"Listen, children, to a father's instructions, and pay attention so that you may gain understanding and insight." Proverbs 4:1

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Day 6: Thankful that God is Always at Work Around Us

I've written, here on the blog, about how, a year or so ago, our church began an intensive focus on discipleship. 

About how our staff wrote the curriculum we would study; how everyone in our church, all ages, is studying the exact same thing; how they put all of this in journal form, and we work thru it each week. 

There's a Scripture passage to read and reflect on each day...and a place for us to write our insights in our journals. 

I don't know how long ago the material for our journals was written. Months, I would guess. 

My youngest son likes to remind me, "God is always at work around you." 

That boy's a smarty-pants. Ha! 

Actually, he's just repeating words I've said to him over the years. And I was just repeating words I read years ago, when I did Henry Blackaby's "Experiencing God" study. 

Months ago, I don't think anyone could have imagined the place we are in now, our church, but God knew. 

Months ago, He laid the passages of Scripture we are studying RIGHT NOW, on the hearts of the ones who were writing this material....and it is perfect for what we need. 

Who knew? 

God knew. 

He is always at work around us, and this is what I'm thankful for today.

"I have set the Lord continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken." Psalm 16:8

Monday, November 6, 2017

Day 5: Thankful for Church

*Well, I thought about not posting this today. My heart is so sad for the victims of the mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas.** 

I don't know if it's the appropriate time or not, what with the church massacre in Sutherland Springs, Texas...because what I'm thankful for today is my church. 

Growing up as an Air Force brat, I've been in churches all over the United States, and in two foreign countries. 

And, since we've been married, Jim and I have been in several different churches. Always, when we move, finding a church home for our family is our #1 priority. 

Church has always been my happy place. I love Sundays and Wednesdays so much. Oh, I've had some sad times in church, but the majority of times have been good. 

People will tell you that a church is just a building, that God can meet you anywhere...and they're right. 

But, for us, church is where my family and I go to connect with other believers. 

It's where we learn more about God, and about how He wants us to live in this world. It's where we find ministry opportunities. It's where we come together, so that we can go out into our neighborhoods, and into the world. It's where we go to sing, praise, and worship God with others. 

It's where we go when good things happen...and it's where we run when times are hard. It's where we find encouragement. It's where we invite others in with open arms. 

It's where Jim and I dedicated our babies to the Lord....where we stood up in front of our family and friends, and asked for their prayers and support, as we committed to raise our children in a Christian home. 

It's where my children learned about Jesus, where they stood up in front of the church to make their decision public. It's where they were baptized...where two of them were married, and where Jim and I were married. 

It's where we've celebrated the lives of those who have gone before us. 

It's where we cry and grieve and laugh. 

It's a place of fun and safety. Or it should be. 

That we now have to have cameras, alarms, security officers, and a plan...that we have to be on alert, in the most sacred place we know...is so sad to me. 

But we don't need to live in fear. 

Over the course of my life, my church, and my church family have brought me great comfort. If you don't have a church home, I would encourage you to seek out a church where the Gospel is preached boldly, where you see evidence that lives are being changed, and where people warmly welcome you and your family into theirs. It can make such a difference!

"And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near." Hebrews 10:25

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Day 4: Thankful for Sisters

Well, I realize that I forgot to post last night...so I'm gonna save it, and maybe post at a later date.
Today, I am thankful for my sisters. One is The Planner, and one is The Nurturer. 
They are both creative and hard-working. They not only see the big picture, they can see all the little pieces needed to make the big picture. They are fierce mothers, and loyal friends. 
I didn't appreciate them when I was younger, but I am so thankful for them now. They, along with my little brother, make me laugh harder than anyone else. 
They are some of my most favorite people in the world, and the ones I want by my side in good times and bad. 
I got this book in the mail this week ("Sisters First," by Jenna Bush), and it reminded me how much I love my family. 
Next to creating a home that provided opportunities for me to get to know Jesus at an early age, my brother and sisters are the best gifts my parents ever gave me. 
"Every good thing given, and every perfect gift is from above..." James 1:17

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Day 2: Thankful for a God Who Hears

I woke up at 3 a.m. I couldn't go back to sleep, so I spent some time thinking all.the.things. 

Like...that, while we are asleep, there are people awake and working hard...keeping us safe, and protecting our freedom. 

And there are first responders: nurses, doctors, emergency personnel...who leave the warmth and comfort of their own families...to care for and comfort ours. 

There are factory workers, store employees, truck drivers, road/construction workers...up before dawn, or working late at night, to meet our needs and keep things running smoothly. 

There are teachers, up preparing lessons, or putting the final touches on them, preparing for the day...bus drivers, getting ready to transport our most precious ones. 

When I wake up in the night for no apparent reason, I pray...for myself, for my family, for friends, my church, needs in my community and the world. 

And I'm not alone. 

People on your street, in your town, your state...and all over the world, are lifting their voices in prayer and supplication to God. 

Some of them may be praying for YOU. 

Aren't we thankful that our God is the God who hears? No matter where we are, He hears us. He never sleeps! And He cares for us. 

This is what I'm thankful for today.

"...casting all your cares on Him, because He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Day 1: Thankful for Down Syndrome

Our Daily Fred:

I know the month of emphasis on Down Syndrome is over, and that, today, we move to a month where we choose to live in a spirit of gratefulness, and look for opportunities to be thankful.

But Down Syndrome is one of the things I'm most thankful for, so I thought I might as well start off November where I ended yesterday...and I wanted to share the words from a sign we have in our home: "We Are The Lucky Few."

I follow a girl on Instagram who has a young son with Down Syndrome. She shared that, after her son was born, a woman who was a member of "the [Down Syndrome] club," came to the hospital to offer encouragement and support to this family.

The woman told this mom, "congratulations...he's beautiful. You don't know it yet, but you have just hit the jackpot."

WOW! What an awesome thing to say!

I wish we had had that experience after Joshua was born. The lady from the "support group" who came to see me in the hospital, was so down (no pun intended!) and depressing, I had to [nicely] ask her to please leave.

Because, here's the deal...even tho I didn't know much about Down Syndrome at the time, and even tho I had no idea what life with Joshua was going to look like...I already loved him fiercely.

Now, 31 years later, I can say with confidence, "we definitely hit the jackpot with Joshua."

And, I'm thankful...because God knew it all along.

"I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." Psalm 139: 14

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Down Syndrome Awareness: THINGS I KNOW FOR SURE

First of all, I want to thank everyone for the support and encouragement you've shown us this month. Some posts were 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 world...is more of Him, and less of me. 

I'm a pretty private person, so sharing such intimate parts of our lives on social media has been uncomfortable at times, but y'all kept me going. And now, on this last day of the month...Mommy needs a Diet Coke, and some Hot Tamales. 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 family...it's brown, almond-shaped eyes and a big grin. It's hair that he flattens down every day but Thursday (he "spikes" it on Thursdays). It's singing #onthesamenote in every song. 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, that makes 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 floor...in prayer. 

It's strength beyond his physical appearance that enables him to lift a bar and metal discs nearly 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 our hearts 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 choose you. Every.single.day. 

“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

Monday, October 30, 2017

[Down Syndrome Awareness Repost]: "High-Functioning" and Other Words That Make Me Cringe

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."

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

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?" Meaning...school, 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 it...so don't be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows." Matthew 10:29, 31

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Down Syndrome Awareness: The One Where Joshua Hates the Blender

Joshua has developed a love-hate relationship with our blender.

I noticed it over the last couple of years. When Joshua would unload the dishwasher, there were a lot of things that he just didn't put away. I took it as he either wasn't sure where those things went...or he couldn't reach the shelf where they were supposed to go.

It didn't cross my mind that he was not putting them away...on purpose; that he was trying to convey a deeper message.

The little stinker.

The other two boys noticed it first. Because Joshua would leave glasses and bowls out on the counter, but not just on the counter. He would stack them ON and AROUND the blender. One day, I came into our kitchen, and saw that Joshua had built a little "fort" or "wall" around our blender, with the glasses and dishes he'd taken out of the dishwasher.

WHAT IN THE WORLD? 

Finally, after intentional observations, and talks with Joshua, we have figured out that he does not like it when Clark makes smoothies. I don't know if it's Clark getting all the things together for his smoothie, talking about what he's going to put into his smoothie, and then actually putting those things into the blender...because that process would drive the Pope to drink. It's quite long, and Clark is typically quite animated...and the boy can talk the ears off a billy-goat (even if the billy-goat is not in the room)!

We also thought that maybe Joshua just doesn't like the noise the blender makes...because it IS loud...and he doesn't really like loud noises.

Whatever...he hates our blender. HATES. IT.

One day, I asked Clark to offer Joshua a small glass of his smoothie, thinking that if Joshua could taste it, and see the yummy goodness that comes from the blender, it might change his behavior. Joshua drank it, and he LOVED it. He said, "I don't know why I don't like the blender...this is GOOD!"

So, I thought we were over it.

Typically, if we call Joshua out on a behavior like this, and tell him this is not the behavior of a 30-something year old MAN, he will see how silly it is...and stop it. And he DID stop it...for a bit. But then, a week or two later, there was another barricade in front of the blender...and Clark.had.had.enough.

There were words between them. I didn't go in there...sometimes it's just best to let them hash it out.

Plus, Momma is tired. 

And old. 

I heard the sound of Crocs stomping upstairs, and I knew Joshua was mad.

When I came back into the kitchen, Clark had taken all the glasses and dishes that Joshua had stacked in front of the blender...and he had stacked them ALL on Joshua's place-mat at the table.

(sigh)

I saw his point, but #LOGICISNOTINOURWHEELHOUSE, and Clark knows that.

Joshua's head about blew off.

Around lunch time, we decided to go over to Holly's, and help out with the baby. Clark got into the car with a large glass of smoothie. He said, "will you hold this for a second while I run back in the house for a minute?" I said, "sure!" I asked Joshua if he wanted to try it, and he said, "yes." And then he proceeded to drink SEVERAL big gulps of it before Clark got back in the car.

Joshua wrote this comment on Facebook...this is word for word: "I might be a blender disliker user, but having a drink of a smoothie is can not be denied." #blenderdislikeruser

"Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!" Psalm 133:1 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Down Syndrome Awareness: Explaining Jesus is the Light of the World to Joshua

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 down here on the 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. But, even if we DO put those things in front of Jesus, it doesn't change the fact that HE 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

Friday, October 27, 2017

Down Syndrome Awareness: Joshua's Selfless Gift

When you have a child with Down Syndrome, I think it's normal to have some questions. Like, what will they be able to understand...how will they fit into your family...how will it affect the siblings.

Well.

It was the Christmas before Rhodie was born. We hadn't found out yet that he was a boy.

A couple of days before Christmas, Joshua came downstairs and whispered to me, "I have the perfect gift for Holly's baby." Joshua's eyes were lit up and sparkling. He was so excited.

I said, "what's the gift?" He said, "Nathan."

If you knew Joshua during the first 8-10 years of his life, you knew Nathan.

Nathan was Joshua's Cabbage Patch baby doll, and Joshua took him EVERYWHERE. In fact, Joshua "loved" Nathan so much, that his head was nearly severed, hanging on by a thread. I had to rush around and try to find a NEW NATHAN that looked exactly like the OLD NATHAN...and make the ol' switcheroo.

I haven't seen or thought about Nathan in years. Like...in twenty years or so. The first Nathan is in the hope chest...severed head and all...but the 2nd Nathan? I had no clue where he was.

Well, apparently, he was on the top shelf of Joshua's closet. Joshua said he had to "use a golf club to whack him down."

Sweet, right?

I was really taken aback by all of this, because Joshua thought of this all on his own. He was so excited to surprise Holly. I seriously almost lost it when he told me about this (turns out I wouldn't be the only one).

I told Jim and the boys about Joshua's gift, so we all knew it was coming. We saved it for last.

Holly opened the bag. Joshua had written a "poem" to her about the baby. On the outside of the note, he wrote something like, "a great treasure for your baby is inside this bag." 

She opened it up, and pulled out Nathan.

To say she was shocked would be an understatement. She started crying...and then she laughed...and then she cried. SHE KNEW what a special gift this was.

Joshua said, "I don't need him anymore...it's your baby's turn." 

(sniff)

Nathan is a little bunged up, a little dirty...and he may have every disease known to man on him...but we were all so touched by Joshua's selfless gift.

"Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Down Syndrome Awareness: The Power of One (Lindsey Walker)

During Joshua's 2nd year of Kindergarten, he met Lindsey Walker. Lindsey's mom was a teacher at their school, and they lived in our neighborhood. I don't know how it happened, or why, but Lindsey Walker latched on to Joshua...and would not let him go. She became his friend, confidant, protector and helper.

Her family also went to our church, so she and Joshua were in Sunday School and children's choir together. He couldn't get away from her if he tried! Lindsey Walker told him what to do and when to do it. She helped him when he needed help...and even sometimes when he didn't!

She fought WITH him...and she fought FOR him. She was a friend to Joshua, and a blessing to this Momma for sure!

Joshua and Lindsey Walker stayed friends all the way through school. I think they were even football managers together in the 7th grade. They graduated together, and Lindsey headed to college...to be a TEACHER.

Joshua's life would've been quite different without Lindsey Walker, I'm certain of it.

If you are a parent, tell this to your kids...if you're a teacher, tell your students...if you're a student, understand this: never underestimate the influence you can have in the life of even ONE other person.

All that Joshua accomplished in school first started with ONE teacher who believed in him...and ONE little girl...who took a chance on an unlikely friendship with ONE little boy...and it made ALL the difference in the world.

"The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense." Proverbs 27:9

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Down Syndrome Awareness: He's a Keeper!

[Down Syndrome Awareness] 

Our Daily Fred: When Joshua was born, I had to have an emergency c-section, and so I was put to sleep. I not only missed Joshua's birth...I missed when the doctor told us that Joshua had Down Syndrome. 

Everything was hazy as I was waking up...I remember hushed voices and people all around. I remember my friend, Carolyn, being there and talking to me. I instinctively knew something wasn't right, and kept fighting to wake up. 

When Jim finally told me about Joshua, I still didn't understand. I've written before about how I knew NOTHING about Down Syndrome. AT ALL. Oh, I studied it in college, so I obviously knew something about it at some point. But I didn't retain that information. I mean, why would I? 

It wasn't going to apply to me. 

Regardless, I didn't care what they said. I thought he was wonderful, and I was just so thrilled to be a mom. 

Jim had the task of calling everyone to tell them we'd had the baby...and that he had Down Syndrome. I sat in the bed and cried. It was hard listening to Jim make the calls, and answer all the questions. 

When they finally brought Joshua to me, I just stared at him. What did the doctors see? I thought he was the most beautiful baby I'd ever seen. 

I heard Jim on the phone with our friends, Billy and Sherri. Jim was saying, "don't come...we're fine." It seemed like just a few minutes had passed when they walked through my hospital-room door. 

Because OF COURSE they came. 

That's what friends do. They show up. 

Even when it's hard. 

I remember Billy asking Jim, "do you think Joshua will be able to hold a fishing pole?" Jim said, "yes, I think he will." Billy said, "well, then...he's a keeper!" 

OH YES HE IS! 

"You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous-how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb." (Psalm 139: 13-15)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Down Syndrome Awareness: Maybe the Detour is the Road

[Down Syndrome Awareness] Our Daily Fred: 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." I've shared this story many times, because, the first time I heard it, I thought, "YES! That's exactly how I feel!" 

You may know that Laura Story'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 onto what WE think is our road? 

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

Maybe the detour IS the road. 

I'm thankful for this winding, twisting, bumpy-at-times detour our lives took back in 1986. There's so much we would've missed, if we had stayed on the smooth, straight road. And the views from here are awesome. 

"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

Monday, October 23, 2017

Down Syndrome Awareness: The Sticky Notes

Joshua was kind of a little stinker during his elementary school years. He was just trying to learn the "rooahs" (rules).

I think it's Dr. Phil who says that every kid has their own "currency..." that one thing that really matters to them and motivates them to do/not do something...or to work harder; that one thing they would not want taken away.

Joshua's currency was recess.

If he did well in his "regular" class in the morning, then he would get an afternoon recess in his "Special Fred" class. And if he didn't behave well in his regular class, he had to stay inside with the special-ed teacher and do class work.

Which, I totally see the reason and point to this, but you just try containing him all morning...and then keeping him inside all afternoon.

Pick your poison, people...you're only hurting yourselves!

I'M KIDDING!

So, the idea was that his "regular" teacher would use a sticky-note to write whether or not Joshua behaved well enough to get an afternoon recess, and then Joshua was supposed to take this note to his Special Fred teacher.

Now, Joshua might "just have a touch" of Down Syndrome, but mama didn't raise no fool.

He figured out pretty quickly that 8.5 times out of 10...what was on that note meant he wasn't getting an afternoon recess. So, Joshua took matters into his own hands. On the way to his Special Fred class, he would just stick the notes on the walls, metal poles, trash cans, windows, etc. And I guess they'd just assume that no note meant "good day..." and they would let him go out and play.

This system worked out GREAT for Joshua until one day, his "regular" teacher saw him outside, having a big, ol' time on the playground...when clearly he wasn't supposed to be there. I mean, she had written a note and everything! She took off to have a word with his Special Ed teacher...and, on her way, she found all of the notes! 

Oopsie!

BUSTED!

We are so thankful for everyone who kept a close eye on Joshua when he was in school, and for everyone who had his best interests at heart.

He's a pretty cool young man, so y'all did a pretty cool job. :)

"Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls and will give an account for their work..." Hebrews 13:17