About six weeks ago I dropped a bit of a bomb on y’all. On my birthday, I published a post announcing our new daughter, Clementine Joy, and oh-my-goodness what fun it was. I admit, it was with a bit of trepidation that I announced our already large family was growing by one, but y’all responded with such astounding love – it ended up being one of the sweetest birthdays I’ve ever had. And that’s saying a lot because I’ve had a lot of birthdays.
But the post was short and sweet. I wasn’t quite ready to share the whole story because, well… it’s quite a story. And I knew getting it written down in it’s entirety, with all the routine craziness swirling around me would be challenging.
I had no idea.
But I persevered. And today I am sharing, as promised, how God did a no-way-God-not-me-okay-maybe-me-actually-yes-me! kind of work in my heart for children with Down syndrome. And I hope you’ll read to the end, where I share some specific ways you can pray for Clementine, if you’re so inclined. It would be such a blessing to us to know that others are praying on behalf of our girl.
So, since the beginning is the best place to start, that’s what I’ll do.
As I’ve shared before, Chris and I had a great peace about being *done* growing our family. And we both felt such a welcomed peace about it. Those of y’all who have been called to adopt understand the weightiness of the Lord pressing on you to be faithful to His call. It’s not painful but it is heart-rending. And it’s not difficult but it is arduous. And, even after you have found the child the Lord has for you, done all the paperwork, completed the check list, and signed on the dotted line, the weightiness doesn’t go away until that child is in your arms. So Chris and I were truly relishing this season of weightlessness. Even as I continued my work on No Hands But Ours, I felt a peace about being able to advocate and care for the least of these without bringing another child home. It was so good.
I don’t recall any awareness of what the Lord was doing in my heart until one day – a day that started just like every other – He showed me. It was the day I stopped, looked back, and actually saw evidence of the transformation He had already completed in my heart. That was the day I saw this post. A post about a bunch of precious kiddos that needed forever families. And they all had Down syndrome.
Adoption was not even on our radar. And, if I’m completely honest, Down syndrome as a need scared the heck out of me. But that day, as I was innocently scrolling through my facebook feed, I saw Desireé’s post about the Bamboo Project. I clicked to read more – because it seemed that I couldn’t turn around without seeing/reading/learning something about kiddos with Down syndrome – and when I looked at Naomi’s face, I was struck.
Because instead of thinking it would be scary to be her mama, I thought it would be awesome to be her mama.
I am sure the Lord had been stirring my heart, but I don’t think I was prepared for the reality that dawned on me in that moment. And it truly felt like the Lord at work because only the Lord can turn a heart of stone into a heart of flesh. So I had a choice… did I want to keep it to myself, knowing Chris would never know what the Lord might be whispering to my heart? Or share it with him, not knowing whether he’d laugh, cry or run for the nearest exit?
I decided to prayerfully consider it, probably deep-down expecting the shock to dissipate and for life to eventually return to normal. But it didn’t quite go as expected. A few weeks later, after the Lord had brought Naomi’s face to mind several more times, I prayed that if this really was His will, He would give me an opportunity to speak with Chris specifically about Down syndrome, somehow, someway. I had no idea how this might happen, since discussions about Down syndrome don’t really occur around here on a regular basis. But one Sunday morning as we were driving to church, Chris brought it up in reference to his mom’s work in the field of special education. Yes, he actually said the words Down syndrome, and he said them together, in the same sentence.
I swallowed hard. And I asked him what he thought about adopting a child with Down syndrome.
No, he didn’t think so. He did take the time to look at little Naomi’s face. And he did think she was precious. But he was sure she wasn’t ours.
In fact, he was pretty sure that there wasn’t another child on this entire planet that was ours. He was quite content with the status quo (and truthfully, so was I) and was most definitely not feeling the Lord pressing on his heart to grow our family again.
So, knowing God’s arm was not too short to reach Chris’ heart for another child, I let the idea go, without reservation. But not the idea of children with Down syndrome. Because that, I knew, was something God was doing.
I began advocating for kiddos with Down syndrome. I also began doing research on Down syndrome. And I continued to prayerfully seek other possible reasons God might have given me a burden for children with Down syndrome.
My head and my heart were all over the place. The more medical research I did on Down syndrome, the more scary it sounded. Down syndrome is a big special need. But the more real-life research I did, talking to mamas who were parenting kiddos with Down syndrome and loving every minute of it, the faster my heart beat for the little ones I saw with an extra chromosome.
Life went on and months passed. In late winter I took Isabelle on a routine visit to the pediatrician’s office. Our beloved pediatrician had shared on a previous visit that she and her husband were in the process of adopting from China, so when she shared the news that day that they had just been matched with a little boy, we celebrated with her.
We talked special needs, timelines and waiting child lists.
Leaving her office that day, Isabelle’s hand in mine, I had a deep sense of joy. Another little one waiting in China, found by his forever family.
After I got home and got the kiddos settled that afternoon, I checked in on Lifeline’s waiting child list, hoping to catch a glimpse of her new son. But instead of finding her little boy, I found a different little boy. A little boy who hadn’t been found yet. And with a special need that was in our no-way-we-can’t-handle-that category. Despite his need, which sounded quite ominous, I watched his video. Again and again, the 45 second glimpse into the life of this tiny cherub strung my heart more tightly around the idea bringing home another child. I showed the pictures and video to Chris. He was surprisingly unperturbed about his special need (which included a very serious prognosis). And the openness of our hearts caught us both by surprise.
We inquired and received his file but were told we could only move forward for him if the current family who was reviewing his file decided not to pursue him. So we waited. We researched. And we prayed. It seemed harmless enough at first, just doing a little research and waiting to hear if we could possibly pursue this little one. After a few weeks we were still waiting with no end in sight.
Soon we started talking names. You know, just in case. And eventually, still waiting, we had the talk:
“What if this family says “no”? What will we say to this little boy?” I asked. We had done as much research as possible on his highly unusual special need, spoken to our pediatrician and prayed for wisdom and discernment. I told Chris the decision was his.
“Let’s bring him home.”
The Lord had united our hearts on this… He wanted us to be open to bringing home another child.
And so we, even more eagerly, waited to hear what the family was going to do.
We waited a month. And on a Tuesday, late in the afternoon, we got an email that the family had decided to bring that precious little bug with the dimpled cheeks home. We were so happy for him. Found by his forever family.
But we were sad for us. After thinking of, talking about and praying for this little boy so fervently, it would have been impossible *not* be sad. But we both had a strong peace and, truly, a deep sense of joy for the family that had finally found their little blessing.
Now we just had wait to see the Lord was doing with us.
But we didn’t wait long. The next day, March 12th, I got an email.
This is not a referral. The following child has been added to the RainbowKids.com Waiting Child list:
For further information, please Login into your RainbowKids.com account and contact the listing agency directly.
RainbowKids.com Adoption Advocacy Website
I had signed up to get email alerts when children matching our profile were added on Rainbow Kids. Specifically kids with dwarfism and Down syndrome, boys or girls, age 2 and under.
I received emails like this fairly regularly, and always logged in just to take a peek. But on that Wednesday, the day after being told the-little-boy-who-changed-my-husbands-heart wasn’t our boy after all, I did not expect to see this…
But there she was. All of 11 months old. Barely holding herself up in that bumbo seat. Special need of Down syndrome.
And cute. as. she. could. be.
Amazingly, she was listed with Lifeline. The social worker who had just emailed me the day before – with the news that we would not be able to pursue the little boy – heard back from me sooner than I’m sure either of us expected.
“Would it be possible for us to review Pearl’s file?”
And review it, we did. We were given two weeks to make a decision and it took us almost the entire two weeks. Because, just keeping it real here, Down syndrome is kind of a big deal. So much more significant that the needs of our other kiddos. And once we were really serious about adopting a child with this need, it suddenly loomed a whole lot larger.
Mild to moderate cognitive delays.
Delayed language development.
Slow motor development.
Possibility of congenital heart defects, respiratory and hearing problems, Alzheimer’s disease, childhood leukemia, and thyroid conditions.
Add to that the fact that this baby was orphaned and most likely living in less than stellar surroundings, and would be for up to another year before we could bring her home.
We were kinda-sorta freaking out.
We prayed and we asked those closest to us to pray. One day I would feel ready to commit but Chris was feeling panicky. And then he’d be feeling confident and I was panicked. The more we struggled to find the answer to “Should we or shouldn’t we?” the more we found ourselves smack dab in the middle of the real question we were asking ourselves: “Can we really do this?”
But God was asking us a completely different question. He was asking: “Will you follow Me?”
Finally, just a few days short of the deadline, we both knew the answer to the only question that needed answering.
Since then we have been hard at work to complete all the paperwork necessary to bring her home. But it feels like we can’t seem to move quickly enough. Clementine has suffered several bouts of pneumonia requiring significant hospitalizations. She requires medication. And she is delayed, even for a child with Down syndrome. If you are so inclined, if you would please pray for our girl… for her to be healthy and well-loved until we can bring her home.
If specific verses to pray for her come to mind, I would be honored if you would share them here.
So grateful for y’all. To each and every one that has walked alongside our family and supported, loved on and encouraged us along the way, I thank God for you. As we step into the great unknown to bring our sweet Clementine home, I appreciate your prayers, love and support even more.
With much love and gratitude,
Stephanie M says
You bet we will pray! We love to pray. It will be a privilege. Congratulations on your newest little one….she is certainly precious!!
love her! love you!
Jennifer Humiston says
You will keep in PERFECT PEACE him whose mind is steadfast, because he TRUSTS in you. Trust in the Lord forever for the Lord, the LORD, is the rock eternal. Isaiah 26:3-4
My husband and I are also praying through weighty decisions. As I was reading this post I found myself in unexpected tears. These words…
The more we struggled to find the answer to “Should we or shouldn’t we?” the more we found ourselves smack dab in the middle of the real question we were asking ourselves: “Can we really do this?” But God was asking us a completely different question. He was asking: “Will you follow Me?”
They spoke directly to my heart. I am marking them down to mull over. Thanks for sharing your struggle to JOY.
My prayers are with you all on this journey. Congrats to you all.
I so enjoyed reading your journey to her, thus far. I will pray for your precious Clementine!
What an incredible way to see God move in your family! I will be praying Psalm 91:4 for her- He will shelter her with his wings; she will find safety under His wings. His faithfulness is like a shield or a protective wall. Also, Psalm 17:8 – that He will keep her as the apple of His eye; hide her in the shadow of His wings. Much love, prayer, and support for you and your family!!
As I read your post, a passage came to mind…the same verses that I kept coming back to as we reviewed and prayed over our now-daughter’s file – Psalm 1. There were a lot of unknowns in our daughter’s file, and we didn’t know what her future would look like, but I kept coming back to the idea that whatever her needs were, we would love her, and we would teach her about the Lord…and knowing Him is what truly makes us prosper, not “success” as the world defines it. I pray that in every way that matters, your daughter would be “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that [s]he does, [s]he prospers.”
“Will you follow me?” The only question that needs an answer. ♥
that was what resonated most with me also! the one question we all need to answer yes to!
Sending prayers and congratulations!
I loved reading this story – she is incredibly beautiful and so excited for you all – we will continue to pray through the winter months for her.
Praying as always as you begin your new journey!!
“It’s not painful but it is heart-rending.” I can identify with that. Whenever I hear people say that God “tugs” at their heart, I always think, that must be nice — He puts mine in a vice grip.
Congratulations! As for verses, Jeremiah 29:11.
i love this post– jim and i are in that place of enjoying the weightlessness- and that’s exactly what it is– no waiting, no worrying, no hurrying.. just enjoying– and we truly think we’re done- but i’ve prayed that if we’re not supposed to be- that God would knock us on the head and that our hearts would be open.
love this story and love your hearts– she is adorable!!!
Julie Strasser says
So excited for your family – what great news for everyone!! Thank you for sharing…
We will pray that you can get that girl home and to doctors/therapists/etc ASAP! I’ve asked my husband his thoughts about Down’s Syndrome for our #5 and right now he doesn’t feel like it’s something we should pursue, but said he’d pray about it. We shall see!
Praying. We’ve been fortunate with our daughter with Down Syndrome. She is now 27. She had a moderate VSD at birth that had completely closed before she turned 3, a situation that totally surprised her cardiologist. She hasn’t had to go back to see them for check-ups. She does have a thyroid condition, but it only requires medicine she takes once a day. Croup was a huge problem and required a few trips to the ER and hospital when she was little, but she outgrew it after a few years. To be honest, Megan has been very healthy! And while she will probably always live with us, the things she CAN do far outweigh the things she CAN’T. And she is simply so joyful about everything and simply accepts the things that can’t be changed. I will love following this journey of yours!
Sue Fordham says
Praying. While I don’t have a lot of hands on experience with Down’s….when I was in high school, MANY years ago, I always helped with the VBS in the summer. For 2 years I was put with the special needs group, who were all Down’s kids. And I fell in love with every single one of them. They are such loving beings, so much more than the average “normal” child. So full of love and joy….and I just know Clementine Joy will be also….Here is praying you will get her home sooner rather than later…and that her medical needs can be handled as soon as possible.
25“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?g 28And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
You asked for verses and this is what The Lord brought to mind. Although specifically, He brought the image of the lilies. He loves you, He is with you, He will never go, He will give you what you need. Thank you for sharing this with us!
Jennifer P says
Isaiah 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Life shouldn’t be about what we can’t do but what we can do. Keep on keeping on and I pray that you find JOY in the journey.
“But God was asking us a completely different question. He was asking: ‘Will you follow Me?'”
Wow. Just, wow.
Clementine Joy is so beautiful, Stefanie! You and your family will be so truly blessed to have her sunshine in your life. If you don’t already, Kelle Hampton writes a beautiful blog that includes (among many, many other things) parenting her daughter, Nella, who happens to have DS. One post of hers talked about a conversation with her husband who was coming to terms with Nella’s diagnosis. In that conversation, he asked if Nella would ever hit certain milestones. At Kelle’s reply that Nella probably wouldn’t do things that other adults do, her husband’s perspective was so poignant. He said something to the effect of: so she’ll always be like a kid? How great is that? Most children grow up to do adult things, but we get to have a child forever.
I always loved that perspective. I will pray for your sweet Clementine, and add her to the prayer groups I am involved in. It might be cliche, but Jeremiah 17:14 came to mind when you asked for verses.
Best of luck in the rest of the adoption process! Much love and prayer coming to you from across Birmingham!
love Kelle’s blog. but WOW. just wow. I have never read that – “so we get to have a child forever!”
Sending prayers for sweet Clementine’s health and for her to be able to join your family soon. You guys are amazing. Blessings to you!
“The Lord is indeed going before you–he will be with you; he will not fail you or abandon you. Do not be afraid or discouraged!” You all are in our prayers–and congratulations!
Jen from cincy says
Such a beautiful story. I’m sending prayers your way!
I am stunned and challenged by your efforts to seek Him and seek His answers for your family. While the choices before us are quite different in this season of our life, the bottom line remains the same. Will you follow ME? His bottom line always remains the same, doesn’t it? Thank you for sharing so truthfully and gently and openly about your process. May the Lord watch between you all while you absent from one another. May His uniting of your sweet little Clementine to her forever home be swift and uncomplicated. May His anointing of healing and peace rest heavy on her body. Hugs!!!!
Matilda Joyce says
I will pray joyfully!! No verse yet, but if that changes I’ll post.
When is your “due date?”
Jean Mulvahill says
Love how our Lord works!! I have heard that too – verifying the fact that we cannot do this BUT HE can! He is so amazing and your precious little daughter is beautiful and perfect! Praying her HOME!
Oh, yes ma’m, I’m praying for all of you!!!!
She is just BEAUTIFUL…
Congratulations once again!
So excited for all of you! May God Bless you all!
Congratulations on finding your beautiful daughter. Nearly 2 years ago we adopted our then 5 year old daughter with Down Syndrome. She is an amazing little girls and such a joy. This little girl is going to be such a blessing to your entire family. I am excited to follow your journey.
I love reading all the verses posted here. So beautiful and such good reminders about our faithful God. As always, praying for you, your family, and your sweet girl. Happy DTC!!!!!!
What joy indeed! Thank you for honestly sharing your story to Clementine. A hymn that gave me strength during our adoptions is “Day by Day” This verse in particular helped me wake up each morning and place all my anxiousness and worry (about my child on the other side of the world) into his sovereign and loving hands:
Every day the Lord Himself is near me,
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear and cheer me,
He whose name is Counsellor and Pow’r.
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
“As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,”
This the pledge to me He made.
Erin @ One Particular Kitchen says
Oh I love, love, love this. Will be praying for your family, including your precious new daughter. A beautiful name for a beautiful girl!
Jordan Hailey Newman says
She is incredibly gorgeous Stef! I can’t wait to meet her. Your article brought me to tears. I love stories of how the Lord tugs at your heart in ways you didn’t expect. I’ve been praying for her since the day I got news your were adopting again. I didn’t realize the story behind it, but I am so happy and excited you shared it. I just read this now and already I love her so much its overwhelming. Tears are streaming down my face. Can’t wait to meet my new cousin, and I will talk to as many friends and family members I have for prayers. Sweet Clementine. love all of you!
OK, You have me crying. I so want to bring one more home and my husband heart is closed at the moment. So I keep telnling myself to not push the issue and just keep praying. And if his heart doesn’t change, than i know there are so many other way that I can serve. So happy for your family ansd I will keep you and her in our prayers.
Like others, “Will you follow me?” resonates with my soul. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” The coolest part of that is that He knows our hearts so much better…that deep down part that we don’t necessarily recognize until we trust Him to peek in. Funny because once we peek in & say “yes, I will follow”, the “crazy” suddenly makes so much sense. 🙂 Thank you for sharing your testimony.
Jenifer Parris says
We have 2 two year olds with Down syndrome and wouldn’t trade them for the world!!! Congrats my friend!!! So excited for you! She is just beautiful!!
Love reading this! The first time I saw I daughter’s face for the first time was on March 12th also! What a GREAT day!!!
We are with LL as well, and currently in the LOA wait. Excited to see the rest of this story as Miss Clementine joins your crew, and will be praying for her as I pray for my own. 🙂
I will definitely be praying for your Sweetie and her health. I just know that she is gonna surprise everyone with ALL that she CAN do! She is absolutely precious, by the way. Someone mentioned Nella in another post. I love Kelle’s blog and when I read her words and look at all of her amazing photos, I never, ever see Down syndrome. I see a bright and shining Star! She is just a regular (NO ONE IS NORMAL!!) little girl. I can’t wait to watch your sweet girl thrive and grow in her family!!
Mary DeGennaro says
Stefanie, so excited for you, and for little Clementine Joy. Have always had a heart for Down Syndrome children. She will just blossom in your family! Will be praying for you as you complete the process to bring her home, and for her to be in good health until you go to get her.
Cindy Beck says
My daughter has Down’s Syndrome. Once you get this little girl home and you interact with her I’m sure you will see improvement in the delays. Just treat her like any other child you love and the rest will be easy. Don’t let all of the things that go along with Down’s Syndrome scare you…not all go with every child. We go through a lot of upper respiratory illnesses but we get through each one just fine. My daughter is 31 yrs old, she still lives at home with us, I love her to pieces and am thankful for her everyday.
Congratulations! My 2 bio sons (age 6 and 8) and I feel the pull to adoption (my sons brought it up independently to DH, I had not said a word to them) DH is not on board, but stated if he was open to adoption it would only be for a child with special needs (? not sure how he can feel ‘absolutely not’ about adoption but thought about it enough to know if we were to do something that he ‘absolutely will not’ do it is to be with SN?) So this post spoke to me.
Bible verse 1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
Love you sweet friend and so excited for you!!! Maggie and Lucy have taught us far more than we have taught them! I love this verse! “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” ~ Romans 15:13
Stefanie, this blog post has brought me so much joy… not only for your family but also for your sweet Clementine. I remember her precious face on Lifeline Waiting List, I remember seeing her sweet video and loving her, praying that her forever family would find her soon. My friend sent me the link to your blog this afternoon and I began reading and reading and as I scrolled down to see “Pearl” my heart was filled with so much joy! Congratulations! She will bless your family and the Lord has great plans in store for her. I will be praying for you and your family. Thank you for sharing your story.
Kate Hawk says
What a precious child and an awesome testimony!!!!! When I read that you were asking for any scriptures the Holh Spirit brings to kind, the word, “Masterpiece” immediately flashed across my mind as I was looking that this sweet girls’s picture. So, I will leave you with one of my favorites!
Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s masterpiece , created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Clementine Joy is His masterpiece!!!!!!
Blessings to you all!
Praying for your sweet Clementine Joy!!! I hope things move along as speedily as possible so you can go love on her and bring her home!! xoxoxoxo
Wow! What an amazing journey! I love the way God reminds us that it’s not about us. It’s all for HIM! We are praying about adopting DS from China also. We have 7 children, 4 from China, 2 of them are special needs. Most people would say we are crazy, esp. since our recent child was deaf but now has cochlear implants. A few years ago I felt the Lord tugging at my heart about DS. I was standing on the sidelines watching a parade when I noticed a little girl with DS in the parade wearing a girl scout uniform. She was waving to everyone but looked a little sad because no one was waving back at her. (The kids were busy filling their bags with candy from the parade). So, I decided I would reach out and wave back at her. Our eyes made contact and she got the biggest smile on her face I’ve ever seen. It brought tears to my eyes and I felt a warmth in my heart for this child. My mother noticed that we were waving to each other and asked if I knew her. I held back the tears and choked out that I did not, but I could see she wanted someone to wave to her. I knew this moment was not coincindence, it never is when the Lord is leading. Many times I worry about what everyone will say and think as we prayabout adopting a child with DS, but the Lord always reminds me that it’s not about me and to follow him. This earth is not our home. We will definitely be praying for you and are excited to follow your journey to bring sweet Clementine home.