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,