At Least Remember Him

The opportunities to drown our hearts in America are endless.

It’s been almost six months since I stood by a bed and cried for a boy who is not my son. Sometimes I even wonder how I got there, and why. What a crazy thing to want so desperately to see. So desperately that I would board a plane and stumble my way into the halls of the mentally broken and physically shattered. What was I doing? What have I done?

Now I’ve seen. So what? I ask myself that question only when my defenses are down. Late at night, when I need coffee, when the mask slips. I try so hard not to rage against the beauty of my life because it’s not the agony that I want. How strange.

This is the secret my heart carries; what if in the end my life didn’t matter.

My hands are full, so full of blessings I find it hard to grab hold of brokenness. Beautiful people adopting children, I know a dozen at least. But I don’t join the ranks and I don’t know why. I think inside I want something different, not better or more, just different.

I wish with all my heart I could do something that would keep moms from letting loose their babies, something that would help dads lead and not turn away. I want to be a part of something that works to stem the tide of the need for last ditch and extreme measures. Because let’s face it adoption is extreme.

Adoption is so beautiful and will always be with us. But I’m not naive enough to think that in many adoptions there could have been a better way, had the story been different from the beginning. I’m looking for the place where the heart of redemptive inclusion (adoption) and engaged cultural transformation (prevention) meet and hold hands.

In the meantime, while God keeps writing my story and weaving it into the bigger picture, I bang on the doors of heaven and plead “don’t forget”. At the very least Jesus don’t forget the boy I can never parent, even though I wish I could, and whose parents can’t or won’t either. At least remember him.

Cedo

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Let’s Pray For Our Kids

This week’s earlier post, A Letter to Mamas Parenting Children with Disabilities, has gotten a lot of attention. Parents raising children with disabilities have commented and shared their hearts. One thing that’s surfaced is the need for parents to teach their children to respect and care for all people.

I have to blow my son’s horn for just a minute! In our family we have talked about the value of all people and I’ve tried to prepare my kids for different situations and relationships. Max has two children in his class with autism. I was recently asking him how one of the little boys was doing, he had been struggling in the class room. Max beamed and told me he was doing great. He proceeded to champion each victory, sitting still, not hitting, and tell about the rewards his friend had gotten because of his improved behavior. I’ve never heard Max say anything negative or demeaning, he accepts his friend the way he is and celebrates what he accomplishes. I’m thankful for my son’s open, loving heart. But that’s not always the case with children at school or in public.

Have you talked to your children about how to interact with and value elderly people, people with disabilities, people of other races or religions? It’s our responsibility as parents to teach our kids how to treat others. They will take their lead from our example.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

How we love matters. Let’s pray that our children will develop tender, compassionate hearts.

Father, thank you for setting the standard of love, that while we were in need you showed us grace. Help us to reflect your grace and kindness to others because we’ve experienced it for ourselves. We want to teach our children that all people are valuable. Would you soften their hearts to be receptive to our instruction. Give them eyes like yours to see beyond the exterior of a person and right to the soul. We pray that they would be leaders wherever they are, setting the tone as they interact with others. Give them kind eyes, inclusive words, and a gentle touch. When a person is being teased give them courage to stand up and defend. Amen.

How are you teaching your children to value people who are different than them?

A Letter to Mamas Parenting Children with Disabilities

Coffee cup 2

Dear Mama of children with disabilities,

I’ve read your letters and blog posts to us ‘regular’ mamas, we’ve had conversations, I’m privileged to know many of you on Facebook and in real life. You’ve candidly shared your thoughts with me about what it’s like to walk in your shoes and now I’d like to take a moment to share my thoughts with you.

I don’t understand. You know this of course. How could I, the mom of two very typical children, understand what it’s like to raise children you spend hours worrying about, defending, and advocating for. I can’t. I wish I could, I have great compassion and admiration for you, but we all know I’ve never walked in your shoes.

With that said the next time one of us ‘typical’ mamas says something rude, or thoughtless, I hope you will understand that in most cases it was completely accidental. We probably realized the moment we said the awkward comment  that it was awkward. We may have stewed over it on the drive home. Will you please give us grace and forgive us? We’re sorry. Of course some people are just mean, after truly ugly comments we realize you are sensitive to our thoughtless comments and it’s easy to react strongly. Instead of being offended I hope you will graciously correct us and explain why our comments bothered you.

I’m aware I don’t understand what it’s like to wrestle extra gear everywhere I go, or defend a child from stares or rude comments. Sometimes I don’t know how to respond to your child’s behavior. I’m not judging them, or you, if a situation occurs that is loud or different than I’m use to, most likely I’m just not sure how to respond. I want you to know that. I would never knowingly add to your discomfort or the challenges you face. If your child shrieks in public or throws something should I excuse myself and give you space, should I offer to help, should I act like nothing happened, should I say something to the people staring? I just don’t know. I hope you’ll understand and tell me what you need, and I’ll try to ask and give you an opportunity to express your needs.

I have a confession to make. It may seem strange to you and I certainly hope you won’t be offended. Not only do I admire you, learn a lot from you, pray for you, but once in a while I’m just a bit jealous of you. (Don’t laugh, hear me out!) Children with Down syndrome touch my heart. I know they aren’t angels or anything other than people. I know they pitch fits and argue just like any other child. But there is something so special and endearing about many of their qualities, you know what I’m talking about. And I think that’s true of lot’s of children and adults with unique challenges. There is often a very sweet and humble dependence their hearts have developed, something profound and beautiful that is precious to be around. I know it is not a treat to be peed on regularly, to be unable to go out with your spouse whenever you want, to be burdened with huge medical bills, or watch your child suffer. But I’ve seen the bond that can form between a parent and child with disability, I know that there is a holy interaction that happens and requires a special grace from God. Sometimes I feel like an outsider to an elite mommy’s club.

For a few years now I’ve wanted to adopt a child with a disability, but God has led me in another direction. I’ve traveled twice to Serbia to visit a mental institution to learn more about their needs and hopefully encourage them. I know my path is probably different than adoption. My heart is being shaped to bring support to families who have children with disability and provide opportunity for people with special challenges to live full and safe lives. So I may never join your ranks, and that’s okay.

But I did want to share my heart with you. I know you need help and encouragement and sometimes I don’t know how to give it. Often I want to help, to understand, but I’m afraid I’m making things worse. I’m not always sure how to approach you or talk about your child’s particular needs or challenges. But I hope you’ll hear my heart when I say that even if I don’t know how, I want to. I hope we can meet half way and have a conversation, that we can give each other grace and ask each other questions and not assume things.

I want you to know that I see you. When you’re tired and at the end of your rope, when you are astonished by the wonder of your child, when you are celebrating a hard won victory, when you are standing between your child and a critical world, I see you. Maybe your kids aren’t angels and you aren’t a superhero, but once in a while I catch a glimpse of your red cape and death defying feats, and I applaud you! I want to take the opportunity to encourage you and make your life easier and never add to your burden. I hope we can become allies. I just have one request, will you help me learn how?

Sincerely,

Your biggest fan

{Just a quick note: I hadn’t expected such a large response to my little letter, I’m humbled. I wrote the letter to mamas because that’s generally my blog audience and platform. In no way would I want to exclude you amazing dads.  I am equally inspired by your commitment and love!}