This week I am so excited to share with you all that God has put on my heart. Since going to Summit VIII and then blogging about how I longed to see more of an awareness on the millions of children around the world who have been labelled with some kind of “special need,” God began to stir my heart. I realized how exceedingly blessed I am to be surrounded by a group of women who share my heart and feel the same way as I do about the treasures they have been blessed with–the ones who struggle in this life, the ones who most of the world deems imperfect or not worthy of being loved and cherished.
After writing that post, many wrote to me saying, “I have never heard special needs being called a ‘blessing’ before I found your blog.” Or “We hardly ever hear people who are raising children who have special needs in our community call their children ‘gifts.'”
That just breaks my heart. But then I remember that I used to be that way. There was once a time in my life when I too simply never knew.
Until God got a hold of me and put His heart inside of me.
Since it’s that time of year when we celebrate mothers all over the world who are raising the next generation, I decided to honor some very special moms this week. They’re the ones who, just like me, see beauty and amazing-ness in the children which God has given them (biologically and through adoption). They’re the mothers who embrace special needs and see it as a blessing, not some kind of hardship or inconvenience. These are mothers who look at their precious blessings and see them through the eyes of Jesus–fearfully and wonderfully made just the way they are.
These are my heroes. They’re amazing women of God who understand His heart and His perfect plan for every child who is born.
Thank you, precious women of a Mighty God, for standing with me on the front line and for declaring in a loud voice to anyone who will listen, “Our children ARE perfect!”
Everything below shared from their own hearts, in their own words.
I wanted to honor my mom by sending in a picture of her with just one of her 12 treasures. This is her with my sister, Selah, on the morning of one of her brain surgeries. Selah has hydrocephalus, and is such a miracle. My mom is the greatest- for always saying “Yes, Lord!” no matter what the cost, and for loving us like crazy. I hope to love you, mom, like you have loved us all! Love, Mattie.
It’s hard to sum up all of the blessings he has brought to our family. Most of the time I feel like I’m getting a front row seat on how God uses the weak to lead the strong. Each little milestone he reaches (which people never thought he would) makes me feel like I’m witnessing a miracle. He has changed us from the inside out and in all good ways! He has helped our daughter learn about compassion, love, and helping. She is better because of him. She prays for orphans all the time and she is only 4.
Ashleigh was born in China and joined our family in March of 2006 at the age of 2. She was born with a cleft lip and palate. When we began the adoption process the idea of caring for a child with special needs seemed overwhelming. That was because we had absolutely no experience with raising a child who had any kind of medical issue, but we knew that she was our daughter so it did not matter. She brings so much joy to our lives. We are now nearing the end of a very difficult journey to bring home our newest daughter who was born with Down Syndrome. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she will be as much of a blessing to our family as Ashleigh has been.
Sam is the gift that I never would have known to ask for but am so incredibly thankful God thought to give him to me!
Ava is our 3rd daughter, our sweet baby girl was born with Down Syndrome. We were surprised at birth with her diagnosis, and then dealt another hand, that took our family through one of the toughest times we’ve been through. Sweet Ava spent 6 1/2 weeks in the NICU, and Mommy spent the better part of Ava’s first year recovering from injuries incurred at birth, learning to walk again etc. Through it all, our family blossomed in ways we could not imagine. We have become stronger and more thankful for every little thing. Ava has brought so much joy to us. If it were not for Ava, we would not have found out about sweet Jaxon, who we are in the process of adopting, from an orphanage in Eastern Europe. Our lives were truly been changed for the better, when Ava came along. Things aren’t always easy, but oh the way you grow on the journey is SO worth it. God has been so good to us.
David (age 15, adopted at 5 out of Oregon Foster system, TBI due to Shaken Baby Syndrome at 5 1/2 months, CP)
Emi Faith has Microcephaly, Cerebral Palsy, and Global Delays. She is turning five in October. She is the size of a 2.5 year old. She has taught me so much about love and accepting people where they are. I thought my expectations were in the right place when we decided to step in faith and adopt her. I was mistaken. It took time to get to know her and her needs. I learned to appreciate each little thing she accomplished. My expectations have changed… I know she will become all that God intends for her to be. She is a blessing to all she meets!
God has blessed us so tremendously as He has built our family and given us children with various special needs. We have learned so very much about His love for us and all the He is, since He actually loved us enough to have His Son die to pay the cost of our adoption, when we were much more “special needs” than any of our kids. Autism, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, Selective Mutism, and Down Syndrome (along with other special needs that are mixed in) have made each of us into more compassionate people who I believe are being shaped each day into a little more of what God put His people here on this earth to be for Him. We teach our children that special needs are just one of the wonderful ways that God chose to make each of us different while each made in His Image. Most of my kids can tell you their special needs, but not as a negative, and tell you what things it makes more difficult as well as what wonderful abilities it helps them to have. The things that we all have to work hard to help them accomplish are things that we all get to celebrate and milestones are never just an overlooked moment as we intentionally parent with reaching them in mind. My kids have given my life joy that couldn’t be mine in the typical family with 2.5 kids and a big fancy house with expensive cars, but instead a joy that only a mom with 13 kids in her home (and 5 more soon to make it home but already in her heart) could have.
My inspirational daughter, Shelby, was born at 29 weeks, weighed 3 pounds and spent 5 1/2 weeks in the NICU. Her list of diagnoses is long but what’s more important is how she lives life to the fullest and how God’s light shines through her. She uses a power wheelchair for mobility but doesn’t let anything slow her down. Her spirit is admirable, her happiness is contagious, the way she loves on our medically fragile foster blessings is pure, and the way she brings hope to others is breathtaking. She is my hero.
Adopting Chloe and having her in our family has shown me the heart of our Father God in a real way like I have never known before. This extra chromosome that our family has been blessed with through her encourages us to linger longer the way she does in the moments that are truly important. God has used Sweet Girl to show us the value of EVERY life and given us such a tenderness to how fearfully and wonderfully made each child is. She has forever changed our normal and she brings into focus things that God values and what He would want us to focus on that we were missing before. What an honor it is to get to love her and be called her momma, my heart is forever grateful to My God for seeing just what I needed to better see and understand who He is.
Laurel is 4 1/2 and was adopted from Ukraine at 2. She has Auditory Neuropathy, a complicated type of hearing loss that also effects speech processing. She is completely deaf without her 2 hearing aids but making phenominal (words of the Drs. & therapists!) with them. She is like a little sprite, and has a great sense of humor. Always willing and ready to help. VERY strongwilled (well why wouldn’t she be?) She loves her older brother Noah. She LOVES animals! This little girl deserved a chance.
This is my son, adopted through domestic foster care, who is trach/ventilator dependent and g-tube fed. He is such absolute JOY to us!
With the birth of each of our children the fear was always there that we would have a child born with Down syndrome. We figured it was something to fear because of all the tests to determine if your baby had it. When Jillian was born five years ago with D.S. our eyes were opened to the fact that it is an incredible joy! We are now blessed to have a little girl named Josie from China that also has Down syndrome. Our hope is to be a light to the world that children with special needs are a blessing not a burden!
We adopted our daughter from China in June 2011 with an un-repaired cleft lip and palate. The love we feel for her is literally overwhelming. She is an amazing treasure to us, her siblings and our extended family – she is joyful, brave, happy, smart, funny, strong, spunky, feisty and absolutely adorable. She has stolen our hearts and taught us more than we thought possible – about ourselves as people and parents, unconditional love, grace, and most importantly, God’s perfect love for us. We feel so blessed that God has trusted us to raise up this child in His love and are excited to see what the future holds for her.
My name is Amy and with me is my daughter, Olivia. She joined our family when she was just over 2 and she is now 4 1/2. To put into words what she brings to our lives is impossible. The Lord has blessed us in ways we couldn’t have asked for cause they aren’t what our human minds could have imagined. She has taught us to laugh at the simple things. We have learned a new level of patience as well as a new level of determination and perseverance. She is one of the most joyful, stubborn, determined, loving people I know. I am amazed that I get to be her mommy. She has such a thirst for life and learning new things. She knows how to rejoice in all things. God reveals himself to me daily through her. Now, I’m not saying it’s always pretty and happy in our home, but that God is good through it all and she is a gift to us and all who know her.
Cami is a burn victim who for 7 of her ten years lived with severe burn scarring in an orphanage in China. Since adopting her four months ago, we have walked through 6 surgeries with her already. She is the bravest person that I know; as we watch her physically be transformed through surgeries, it is a reminder every day how God spiritually transforms and renews us.
Katie is my full of joy child. In spite of the severe abuse she suffered before being adopted, she has a heart so full of love and forgiveness. It is a daily challenge for me to be raising a child with developmental disabilities and being her mom has required me to let go of so many of my preconceived notions of what my children should look like and act like. Daily, she requires me to be more than I thought I could be for her sake.
The journey of mothering a special needs child is truly a roller coaster of emotions. But the one emotion I was expecting–that people told me to expect–but that never came is disappointment. Reduced to a prenatal diagnosis and prognosis on paper, his future sounded hopeless, tragic and depressing. Words and phrases like “brain atrophy, severe retardation, multiply disabled, failure to thrive, lifelong care…” these would scare anyone. And yes, they are all accurate. But the one word I’d use to best describe my child is a word that never appeared in any report or from the mouth of any doctor: Exuberant. He is learning and thriving, full of joy and 100% alive. Not one of us would like the value of our lives to be defined by a genetic test or a few paragraphs on a piece of paper. Motherhood has taught me not to let a medical diagnosis or a stranger’s words make me afraid of my own child, or let them define who my child is and who he will grow to become.
We said “yes” to Gods call to adopt a few years ago and began the process to adopt from Taiwan last year. As we waited impatiently for the email with a referral picture for our daughter we ended up getting a very different email. This email was the culmination of many “God Events” that led a wonderful woman to contact us regarding a potential domestic adoption situation. Although we had some fears about the situation and potential for our daughter to have some complicated needs we again said “yes”. And when our daughter was born 6 weeks early and in the NICU we said “yes” again when asked if we were still interested in being considered. And when we got the call, just two weeks after receiving the email the changed everything, we were overjoyed to say “yes” yet again and leave immediately to go and meet our daughter. Although Addie struggles with some medical complications and an uncertain future we are blessed to be her parents. She teaches me every day what true strength and grace is all about, she’s my little fighter girl.
Raising my son Davin Bruce, 19, who happens to have cerebral palsy has changed my perspective on so many things. I have learned that “perfect” is so different than what I once thought “perfect” was. I have learned to appreciate God’s hands on my shoulders when he gently turns me to see the path that He has chosen for me and my family, instead of the one that I thought was best. I have learned not to look too far to the future and worry about how different things will be for my boy than for his brother. Instead of feeling losses, I celebrate the incredible son that God created and allowed me the honor and privilege to raise. Praise God that He knew exactly what I needed!
God knew that we needed Avery in our lives before we even did. We all love her to pieces and its amazing to see the bond and love her sisters have with her. Avery has taught us what true love and true joy is. She has an amazing personality and brightens up all of our world everyday. Her smile and laugh are infectious. If any of us are having a bad day she knows how to quickly get us out of it. We have learned to slow down and celebrate and enjoy everything no matter how little or big it is.
Joshua is my sweet angel boy… he is the reason I get up each day… he is my sunshine!! he had taught me what is real and true and precious!
My second daughter was born with a rare and complicated genetic syndrome known as CHARGE syndrome one year ago. She was definitely not what we were expecting and for months I railed against God that this was not how things were SUPPOSED to be, but then we got to know HER instead of her health issues. She smiles with her whole body and laughs so hard she can’t keep her balance. I thought I knew love and joy before she joined our family, but I really had no clue. Many think that we say we’re happy because we have no choice, that we’re just making the best of a bad situation, but the absolute real truth is that she is a light in our family and we thank God every day for her!
How are we so blessed? Why did God choose us for this amazing journey? I feel so privileged that He did choose us. Blessed that He spoke to us. Honored that He called us. We feel so unworthy of this amazing gift. Really – how did we get so lucky?
God has reminded me, through Matthew’s adoption, that He really does care for the least of these. And He does it through us!
Thomas is two and a 1/2 and blind (light perception only). He also has microcephaly and hypertonicity but you would never know the extent of his challenges if you were to meet him. He is a blessing, a challenge and an inspiration. He has had many surgeries and eats via g-tube but he doesn’t let anything get him down.
My son Noah will be 4 this month. Noah has PDD… speech delays…and sensorial difficulties. He is also one of the most intelligent, kind, observant 3-year-olds I have ever met. His memory astounds me. He makes my heart swell with pride as I watch him make new growth and overcome difficulties– and my heart break as I see him struggle with things that are easy for other children. He has taught me more about unconditional, persevering love and forgiveness… He has opened my eyes to see the world in a whole new way. His life has changed mine like nothing else. I wouldn’t change one thing about him.
As an adoptee, adoption has always been a very important part of my life. But, adoption became a very real, a very important part of my family’s life in 2008 when we welcomed Maylee into our lives through China’s special needs adoption. While in China to adopt Maylee, the Lord opened our eyes in a big way and we returned in 2010 to bring home our youngest son, Sam David. Maylee and Sam David both have spina bifida, but neither lets that slow them down. Each one of us has learned so much from Maylee and Sam David through their determination and genuinely joyful spirits.
My children mean the world to me! They are full of giggles, hugs and kisses. And yes, also full of mischief! People always tell me I will be hugely rewarded in Heaven for my “sacrifices” but I truly don’t understand what the big deal is. They are just my kids.
This is our little Ava, and she has Down syndrome. Although shocked to receive her diagnosis at birth, we very quickly realized that she was a very special present from God. She is the heart of our family and has brought us immeasurable joy and happiness. She fits so perfectly in our family, and I can’t imagine my life without her! She has taught us many things, but most importantly how to love…how to truly love.
James is teaching me about the human spirit. James is teaching me about the true meaning of ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’. James is teaching me about myself. James is teaching everyone he meets that he is capable of anything he sets his mind to. James is teaching our family what’s most important in life: love.
Luke has a developmental delay caused by Chiari malformation and a tethered cord. He may maneuver the playground with less confidence, he may be hard to understand sometimes, and his future may be a big ol’ question mark, but he has definitely changed our family for the better. His four older siblings have experienced the rewards of nurturing someone else instead of always seeking to be nurtured, and we have all learned to recognize and celebrate the little things. Almost every day, Luke says to me, “Mom, let me teach you!” I ask, “Teach me what, Luke?” He always says, “I don’t know!” But I can assure him and everyone else, Luke is teaching me how to be a better mom every single day.
Andrew is profoundly deaf. He has bi-lateral hearing loss. With the help of cochlear implants he can now hear, but is a situation like on the picture…. He is totally deaf! His speech is still about 2 years behind what it is suppose to be. He also has ADHD. This is not a journey that I would have or did pick for myself, my family or my child, but it has been a blessing from God. It takes a lot of prayer and time to remember that our journey is not a sprint, but a marathon and that a lot of training (therapy and hard work) has to go into it. Andrew has showed me that you do not have to be big to have strength, there is no other that I know that has so much inner strength as he does. Peter, his younger brother, has showed me that “special needs” is a label adults use, because to him Andrew is no different than he is. I love being a mom to both my boys and would have it no other way!
Alex has taught me so much about unconditional love. He does nothing for himself, does not feed himself, can’t walk, is not potty trained, is a completely dependent six year old. However, he is extremely loving and is showing us he is much smarter than anyone has ever given him credit for. They past six months have been amazing watching this little boy grow and learn new things. We praise God for the opportunity to watch this little boy reach his full potential. I just adore this little guy.
Although Dusty was six years old and Sonya was five and a half years old when we adopted them they were still in diapers, couldn’t walk or talk. They were like infants and so their lives BEGAN the day we brought them out of the orphanage forever. It has been such a blessing and a joy to watch them in the past year to bloom and grow. I am not going to list all the things they have learned to DO but I will tell you that a simple tissue brings giggles and laughter to Sonya and playing in water makes Dusty so excited and happy. I chose to share with you what they love and enjoy because I wanted to stress that my joy and love for them does not come because of what they can DO! I love them because Christ first loved us. John 4:19 I love and cherish them unconditionally! They have been such a blessing to our family, extended family, friends and complete strangers who hear their story. I believe that God is molding and shaping those people to understand that every person is fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14 My prayer is that those people will hear God’s Call and will cross an ocean to CHOSE a waiting child with special needs.
Part 2 coming soon. More incredible women loving their very special children passionately.