Saturday, March 4, 2017

Unfailing Goodness

"I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." --Psalm 27:13, NKJV

For years the 27th Psalm has been one of my favorite passages of scripture. It contains such richness of trust and confidence in God's strength, protection, and faithfulness. It speaks of all-consuming desire for His Presence and beauty. It declares His goodness in the face of struggle and uncertainty. In different seasons of my life, specific passages from what I have come to refer to as my "life Psalm" have resonated within me at a deeper level. Presently, it is the above verse that is both stirring my heart with gratitude and anchoring my soul with truth. Let me explain...

Perhaps I will begin by recalling a now cherished memory from over seven years ago. It was December of 2009. Benjamin was seven months old, and we had just discovered that he had double hernias that would require surgery. It was a minor procedure compared to the open heart surgery he faced the previous summer, but it was another medical hurdle after an already exhausting seven months of challenges. I was struggling to say the least. During this time a trusted friend encouraged Shawn and me to offer God a sacrifice of praise in the midst of our pain. To continue the narrative, here is an excerpt from my book Reflections from Holland: A New Mother's Journey with Down Syndrome...

On one particular day that week, Benjamin was extra fussy and did not want to be put down at all. I wasn't feeling well myself, and I was so weary by the afternoon. Needing a momentary break, I went out to check the mail. Some friends of ours who had a baby boy a few months after we did had sent us a personalized Christmas card and letter, with pictures of their family and their smiling baby. I noticed that, though younger than our son, he was holding his head up with ease. Benjamin's neck was still a bit floppy, and we had to make sure he wouldn't flail his head back while being held. As I read their Christmas letter that shared about how well their son was doing and how much they were enjoying life with him (as they absolutely should), something inside of me broke. Waves of grief swept over me as I mourned the early C-section in place of a healthy, full-term delivery. I mourned the long hospital stays in the place of bringing my baby home from the start. I mourned the numerous health conditions in place of a healthy, thriving baby. I mourned the developmental delays in the place of a typically developing child. And now we were facing another medical challenge. It wasn't fair!

I knew I was in self-pity, but I remembered the exhortation to offer a sacrifice of praise, so as I held my fussy baby, I began to sing the chorus "So Good to Me" out of sheer will. As my son's cries escalated, I sat down to nurse him, opened my Bible to Psalm 27, and began to read aloud. I didn't get very far before deep sobs rose up inside of me and I began to release my pent-up grief to the Lord. In the midst of the pain, I felt His peace wash over my heart, and I knew we weren't walking through this alone.

The memory of that day will forever be etched in my memory. Sometimes it is the seemingly insignificant and hidden moments of our lives that in fact become the most significant. They are the moments that begin to define us and establish those thing that have lasting value in our hearts. In that moment (and in many moments since) I experienced the reality that "The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit," (Psalm 34:18, NIV). I discovered that my pain offered to Him in worship could be transformed into a doorway for encounter with my beautiful Savior Who loves me and is present with me in ALL circumstances. What an extraordinary gift!

David, the lowly shepherd boy turned king, who authored most of the Psalms of the Bible, was keenly and intimately aware of this nearness of God in the midst of suffering. His fiery trials taught him the secret of how to strengthen himself in the Lord as he recalled time and again Who God is, what He has done, and what He has promised to do. It is for this reason that he was able to declare in Psalm 27:13 "I would have lost heart, unless I believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." In verse 14 he then goes on to exhort us, "Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart. Wait, I say on the Lord!"

Recently, I have been struggling again. Benjamin is approaching his eighth birthday this May. He is still non-verbal, still in diapers, and still mesmerized by twirling stuffed animals and musical baby toys. In last few weeks we've had some viruses hit our home, and Benjamin has not been exempt. He can't tell us what doesn't feel good, so we have to try our best to decipher through his cries and symptoms. It hurts me to see him hurting. We have also recently begun the process of having him tested for autism. I have suspected this possibility for a long time, but I have honestly been afraid to give voice to it until now. However, I want to provide my son with the best opportunities to learn and grow, and maybe this will be a missing puzzle piece to aid us in our journey  At times I feel so helpless to help him. At times I feel hope waning that he will ever be able talk or relate in a deeper way. Our communication is so limited, and I long to know the inner workings of my sweet son's heart and mind.  It is here that I need to give pause and recall to mind the goodness of my God. It is in this place that I need to remember Who my God is, what He has done, and what He has promised to do! I do not have the time or the space here to list all the ways He has shown us His goodness since our son's birth, but will you please join me now as I testify to what He has done in and through Benjamin?

Benjamin could have died in the womb, but my low amniotic fluid, and his plummeting heart rate were discovered at just the right time.

Though I did not desire a C-section, the procedure ended up saving his life as the umbilical cord was looping around his neck.

The NICU staff did not expect our little warrior to survive, but when he was nearly a month old we brought him home.

His open heart surgery was a success, and was performed by the world class heart surgeon Dr. Nikaidoh, an amazingly humble, Christian man from Japan.

Friends and family poured out an abundance of support physically, emotionally, and spiritually during our most difficult days.

Benjamin's subsequent surgeries were successful with speedy recoveries.

Though he was diagnosed with infantile spasm seizures in early 2010, the Lord miraculously healed him a few months later, and he has never had a seizure since!

He was diagnosed with permanent hearing loss on the eve of his first birthday and soon after fitted with hearing aids. A few months prior to his third birthday, it was medically confirmed that his hearing had been completely restored, and we were told to discontinue use of this hearing aids!

Benjamin has worked hard to achieve milestones that felt so out of reach for so long, including walking, feeding himself, and using some sign language.

He has brought us such joy through his smiles, laughter, and unhindered affection.

He has grown in independence, attending school, loving the bus transport, and enjoying the simple structure of his days.

He has become a big brother to first a sister and now a little brother, and is a vital part of our beautiful little family.

He has taught us about life and the heart of God in unique ways that we would have not discovered otherwise.

He has a sweet connection with Lord, coming alive with joy in His Presence.

Benjamin is a child of promise with the hand of God on his young life. The journey has never looked how I expected it would, but, then again, how often does life ever look the way we envision? Circumstances change, trials and joys come and go. Life is uncertain, God is eternal. The air that fills our lungs, and the blood that pumps through our hearts are gifts sustained by our Creator. Each new days is a mercy, not an entitlement. I do not know what the future will look like, but I do know that whatever the landscape may be, the one sure thing is that I will see the goodness of the Lord. This is my hope, my song, and my confidence. HE IS GOOD!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

What Being Pro-Life Means to Me

If you are on social media, no doubt you've seen the recent increase of posts and articles concerning the issue of abortion. The pro-choice Women's March on Washington following the presidential inauguration contrasted by the pro-life March for Life shortly after on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade has propelled this decades-old debate into the spotlight once more. Opinions and passions run high from both viewpoints as people share the reason and rhetoric for their stance.

I must admit that I am among those that have been taking notice and using social media to raise my voice on this issue for which I am extremely passionate. My passion runs deep. For one, I am the mother of a beautiful little boy who happens to have Down syndrome. Statistically, the majority of women would have chosen to abort him. I also know the sting of personal loss at the hands of abortion. While I never have (and never will) have an abortion myself, I have lost family members at the hands of abortionists--family members I was not given the opportunity to know because they were not given the opportunity to live. I have witnessed first-hand the long-term regret and grief that rises from such choices, and I have had my own share of grief as a result. (I may write more about this in time...) Finally, as a Christian I believe that every life is knit together in the womb by the Author of Life, that every life holds immense and eternal value in His sight, and that every new life is a miracle, regardless of the circumstances surrounding conception.

One of the things that has struck me this week as I have scrolled social media and seen the various posts is that there is not only a debate between being pro-life or pro-choice; there is also a debate about what it actually means to be pro-life. It's got me thinking...

I noticed one article that was basically calling out white, conservative, Christians for not truly being pro-life. Since I match the above criteria, I was interested to see what the author had to say. Some of his points were valid. He made the argument that the conservative, pro-life view often only focuses on the birth of the child and not on the care of the child and mother henceforth. I firmly believe that being pro-life MUST include being pro-adoption. If we want to see these precious lives saved from the abortionists scalpel, then we MUST be willing to welcome them into our homes and hearts. I also would love to see greater outreach to pregnant women in crisis, not only in the form of crisis pregnancy centers and government-sponsored programs but also in the life-styles of every day people, reaching out with love and support. I pray that Christians especially will rise up, embrace these women, come along side them, and mentor them in motherhood. We must be willing to give of our own lives.

"This is My commandment, that you love and unselfishly seek the best for one another, just as I have loved you. No one has greater love [nor stronger commitment] than to lay down his own life for his friends." --John 15:12-13 Amplified Bible 

However, the author of the article went on to propose that if we do not accept, embrace, and celebrate diversity in the areas of religion, sexual orientation, and personal morality, we are not truly pro-life. This is where the line is drawn in the sand, and this is where I cannot agree.

I would like to interject something here. Sadly our nation has become so polarized with an "Us vs. Them" mentality: conservative vs. liberal, republican vs. democrat, pro-this vs. pro-that, anti-this vs. anti-that. In reality, neither "side" has it all right. There are definite merits and glaring flaws on both sides of the fence. Why? Because we are flawed human beings operating within flawed systems. None of us have all the answers. So, my disagreement with the author's stance mentioned above does not have to do with political allegiance but with my allegiance to the Flawless One, the only One who truly has all the answers. Let me explain...

The humanistic ideology of our day would proclaim that love and acceptance must mean embracing all beliefs, all religions, and all lifestyles as equal and legitimate. There is no actual plumb-line for truth, but truth is instead based on individual preference and desire. The author of the article I read held to this belief, proclaiming that I do not truly value life unless I embrace this "free-for-all" world-view. 

However, the Lord of all Creation describes life and love in very different terms, and His Word is my plumb-line for truth and what it means to be pro-life. Listen to the words of Jesus from the Amplified Bible...

"The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows]. --John 10:10 

"Jesus answered her, 'If you knew [about] God's gift [of eternal life], and who it is who says, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him [instead], and He would have given you living water (eternal life)." --John 4:10 

"...If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink! He who believes in Me [who adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Me], as the Scripture has said, 'From his innermost being will flow continually rivers of living water." --John 7:37-38

"For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life." --John 3:16

"...I am the [only] Way [to God] and the [real] Truth and the [real] Life; no one comes the Father but through Me." --John 14:6

God created human beings in His own image to be in loving relationship with Him forever. He created us to find our life and our satisfaction in Him. However, when Adam and Eve sinned by their disobedience to God, death and destruction entered our world and separated us from the very One for Whom we are created. Not willing that we be lost from Him forever, our Holy and Merciful God gave the life of His own Son on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and restore us to relationship with Him. He extends to us the free gift of forgiveness for our sins and the promise of eternal life with Him, but He does not force us to accept. However, for those who refuse His incredible grace, only judgement awaits.

"If we say we have no sin [refusing to admit that we are sinners], we delude ourselves and the truth is not in us. [His word does not live in our hearts.] If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just [true to His own nature and promises], and will forgive our sins and cleanse us continually from all unrighteousness [our wrongdoing, everything not in conformity with His will and purpose]." --1 John 1:8-9 

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God [that is, His remarkable, overwhelming gift of grace to believers] is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." --Romans 6:23 

"Then these [unbelieving people] will go away into eternal (unending) punishment, but those who are righteous and in right standing with God [will go, by His remarkable grace] into eternal (unending) life." --Matthew 25:46

"And if anyone's name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was hurled into the lake of fire." --Revelation 20:15

All roads do not lead to heaven. When it is all said and done, the ETERNAL DESTINY of every human being from the dawn of time until its end will be DETERMINED BY THEIR ACCEPTANCE OR REJECTION OF JESUS CHRIST. Life is only found in Him. For this reason, I cannot embrace and celebrate any other religion or lifestyle that is contrary to Him. I cannot passively accept that which will ultimately lead to another's destruction. If I truly love people, and if I truly value life, I will spend my life pointing others to the Source of Life. The Lord is so patient, continually extending grace and the opportunity to repent and turn to Him. 

"The Lord does not delay [as though He were unable to act] and is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is [extraordinarily] patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." --2 Peter 3:9


In this day of moral relativism, the Gospel of Jesus Christ offends people because it brings our sin into the light, and it establishes truth that cannot be erased, no matter how inconvenient it may feel. We cannot live life however we please, free of consequence and accountability. One day we will all stand before the Lord and give an account for how we lived our lives in response to His Son. The day will come when...

"(A)t the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow [in submission], of those who are in heaven and on the earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess and openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord (sovereign God), to the glory of God the Father." --Philippians 2:10-11 

If I am truly pro-life, my value for life and my love for people will be greater than my fear of offending them or of being misunderstood by them. To use an analogy, if my neighbors' house was on fire but they did not perceive it, I would not sit idly by and "accept" their difference of belief and opinion. I would yell "FIRE!" and warn them of the impending danger. Maybe my warning would offend them because they cannot presently see what I can see. Maybe they would question my motives. Maybe they would respond with anger and hatred. However, if I truly believe that their lives are on the line, I will not allow these things to deter me; I will continue to do what I can to lead them out to safety. Anything less would not be love. 

I am pro-life. I pray for the ending of abortion. I pray for a culture of adoption. Most importantly, though, I pray for another Great Awakening in our nation. I pray that God will pour out His Spirit and turn the hearts of men, women, and children of all various races and lifestyles to Himself, the Giver of Life--Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever! 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

De-Cluttering Heart and Home

Clutter--one little word that encompasses so much MESS! How quickly it can creep in, overtaking homes and hearts. It can feel like an uphill battle filled with great effort yet little returns--one step forward, two steps back. Writing from the perspective of a stay-at-home mom this battle is especially keen. How much energy is spent during a given day simply trying to maintain some semblance of order in the crazy and beautiful chaos of family life, when efforts are so quickly unraveled and the cycle begins afresh with each new sunrise? Toys picked up off the floor are quickly strewn about again, books placed neatly (or not-so-neatly) on the book shelf are dismantled in lightening-quick speed by tiny hands, laundry piles are in constant motion, empty sinks are quickly filled again, empty trashcans are soon overflowing, and the list goes on and on...

We purchased our home well over six years ago, shortly after Benjamin celebrated his first birthday. Up to this point we had only been renters, and we were thrilled to take the big step of becoming home owners. After living in fairly small spaces, our three-bedroom home just shy of 1200 square feet felt like a palace! I had more cupboard and closet space than ever before, and with only one child at the time, we utilized the third bedroom as a home office. I could not imagine filling the space we now had--HAA!

Two more children and six years of accumulation later I feel we are close to busting out the seams! Our desk and bookshelves have been housed in the garage since we welcomed Joelle into the world, and it keeps filling up as the grand "catch-all" of our home. (Forget about parking a vehicle in the there!) Closets are stuffed and overflowing, furniture arrangements have had to become more creative, and I feel like I'm in a constant juggling act to maintain it all. 

As I said, clutter creeps in over time, and I believe that mothers especially are prone to internalizing the external. The clutter of the home can so quickly become clutter of the soul, igniting feelings of stress, frustration, inadequacy, and a general sense of being overwhelmed. In our hearts we desire to love and serve our families well, to enjoy and cherish the childhood years, and to cultivate and maintain a life-giving home environment. However, the monotony of the mundane and the tyranny of the urgent--if allowed--can rob us of our joy. 

This has been my struggle as I have embraced this beautiful, difficult, rewarding, and exhausting call of motherhood. One moment I can be drinking in the giggles and cuddles with my little ones, and the next moment I can be tense and frustrated by the messes I see piling up around me. As I calculate the never-ending to-do list, the conviction and desire to spend quality time with my kids, and the constant demands and interruptions of little ones when I just want to complete one household task start to finish, the exasperated cry can quickly well up within me, "I can't keep up with it all!!!" 

This is the clutter of the heart that turns my focus from what is truly important to that which is fleeting. The seemingly unending tasks of maintaining a home are truly only temporary, while the little souls of my children are eternal. 

Isaiah 40:11 holds a wonderful promise for mothers,

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.

As we entered this new year, I told the Lord that I want to focus on knowing Him more as my Shepherd. I want to go deeper in my understanding and experience of being led and nurtured by Him. We become what we behold, and as I behold Jesus as my Shepherd I will be better able to shepherd the little lambs He's entrusted to me. 

Earlier this week I was nursing Josiah to sleep for a nap and scrolling through my Facebook feed when I came across two separate articles shared by a few of my friends. In a nutshell, one was about de-cluttering the heart, not allowing our to-do lists and projects to crowd out our devotion to the Lord or our enjoyment of our families. The other was about de-cluttering the home, purging out our abundant accumulation of stuff so that we have more time and freedom to enjoy what's truly important. I have read advice of this nature before, but this time it felt as though my Good Shepherd was leading me onto a life-giving path.  

I will begin with the latter. This week I have had a renewed resolve and motivation to DE-CLUTTER our home. I started with something easy--the kitchen cabinet shelf that hosts our wide array of children's cups. I mean, how many plastic cups do you actually need! It took me less than five minutes to sort out what to keep and what to send to the recycle bin, but what a wonderful feeling to open the cupboard and see neatly stacked cups instead of stray lids and bases threatening to spill out onto the counter!

The next day I began the great toy purge. The recent celebration of Christmas made me more keenly aware of the congestion of toys that has built up in our home. The top shelf that spans Benjamin's closet is completely dedicated to toy storage. Joelle and Josiah have a small toy box in their room, and our large toy box is in the living room. How quickly the entire house can become strewn with toys and miscellaneous pieces that no one is playing with!

I have been reluctant in the past to part with much of their toy collection, always justifying reasons for holding onto things. Benjamin does not typically like anything new, and for years he has been interested in the same toys: a See-n-Say, light-up baby toys that play music, and stuffed animals that he can twirl. We have tried again and again to introduce new objects and aspects to his play, often to no avail. I've bought toys over the years, excited to think that it may launch him into a new level of developmental play, only to be disappointed when it is cast aside again and again and again. I have held onto things with the hope of "one day." Recently I have become more accepting that this is where my son is right now, and that's okay. He is not interested in pushing a toy car, or building with blocks, or engaging in imaginative play. Maybe these things will come in time, and maybe they won't. I am learning to let go of my expectation of what his play should look like at any given age and simply let Benjamin be Benjamin. 

Benjamin does not enjoy new things while Joelle is delighted in new things. I delight in seeing her delight, but as a result I have been guilty of indulging her too much. The initial excitement soon wears off, and I'm realizing that the more options she has, the less likely she is to play with any of them. 

I have also held onto to toys for Josiah, thinking of both his current age and his future play. However, he is often just as content if not more so to play with a simple household object while the vast spread of toys sit untouched. 

All that to say I did a big toy sweep this week. Benjamin's closet shelf is organized and no longer overflowing and toy boxes actually have extra space in them. I have also limited the amount of toys I allow to be out at a given time. The purged toys are currently sitting in the garage awaiting the city-wide children's consignment sale next month. So far there have been no questions or objections concerning "missing" toys, and I have noticed that the kids, Joelle especially, have been more engaged in playing with the toys that are available. I feel lighter as well, like a weight has been lifted off. Let the de-cluttering continue!

A few weeks ago we took the kids for a drive through a local light show. We turned on the radio to tune into the accompanying Christmas music, but before we could change stations, I was captivated by what I was hearing. By "chance" we had tuned into an interview with an author I was not familiar with by the name of Gloria Furman as she talked about her new book Missional Motherhood. I found myself hanging on the words of this fellow Christian mother, only a few years my senior and she talked about Jesus and the beautiful, messy, significant world of motherhood. 

When we returned home I quickly looked her up, and discovered that she has authored multiple books. I had yet to spend my Amazon gift card received at Christmas, and I was sure to add her new book as well as one of her previous works entitled Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms to my order. A few days ago I began reading the latter, and her wise words have been helping me in the process of de-cluttering of my heart. Here are a few gold nuggets I have read:

"When your eyes are fixed on the horizon of eternity, it affects your vision of motherhood. We need to have eyes to see a view of God that is so big and so glorious that it transforms our perspective of motherhood. In the context of eternity, where Christ is doing his work of reigning over the cosmos, we need to see our mundane moments for what they really are--worship."

"Our joy cannot be wrapped up in motherhood but only in God."

"Preaching the gospel to myself each day is the best way to remind myself that my life in Christ is the prevailing, permanent reality in my life."

"The gift of motherhood points mothers to treasure Jesus Christ as he transforms our heart from the inside out."

TREASURE JESUS, treasure family, treasure life, let go of clutter both internal and external. Worship in the mundane, rejoice in the glorious, messy, ever-changing, and eternally rewarding call of motherhood. Behold my Good Shepherd as He gently leads me to green pastures and still waters--may these be the hallmark of this new year. Here's to living clutter free!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Benjamin's Song

Mighty Warrior, Child of God
Mighty Warrior, Child of God
Mighty Warrior, Child of God
Benjamin Lee, Beautiful Boy
Benjamin Lee, Beloved of the Lord
Benjamin Lee, Son of my right hand
Benjamin Lee

While pregnant with Benjamin, I asked the Lord to give me a new song to sing over my baby. He answered my prayer with the simple lyrics above along with a simple melody. "Benjamin's Song" effortlessly flowed up from my spirit and out of my mouth one day. I began to sing it over my womb regularly. I sang it over my son after his birth as he fought for life in the NICU, and it was an anchor for my troubled heart. I have continued to sing it over Benjamin ever since. 

Benjamin LOVES his song. Each morning I sing songs to him as we wait for the school bus to arrive. I almost always include his song as well. As soon as I begin my son starts beaming. His face breaks out in a huge smile, he places his hands around my neck, and he joyfully bounces up and down, dancing with delight to this song that is just for him. He literally comes alive!

Whatever his level of comprehension may be, I believe that Benjamin's spirit knows that his identity and his destiny are being released through this simple song. He doesn't question the truth of these words; he receives them with joy!

The Lord has a song in His heart for each of His children. His song speaks of our identity and destiny. His song speaks the eternal truth of who we are created to be. His song speaks of His unconditional love for us. His song is true, regardless of what our emotions or circumstances may be saying to us. There are many voices trying to influence us and shape our perceptions and identity: the enemy, the world around us, the opinions of people, and our own shifting emotions. It can be difficult to drown out all the other voices and really listen to the only Voice that truly matters.

There is much I can learn from my son. He freely and readily receives the true song that is being sung over him. The world may try to sing many different songs over him, but he recognizes his song without question. I desire to cultivate this child-like simplicity that hears, believes, and responds to the song that my Heavenly Father is singing over me. His song is the only one that tells me who I am! 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Celebrating Daddy

Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday, dear Daddy, Happy Birthday to you!

Yes, today we celebrate Shawn's birthday--my wonderful husband and the loving father of my children. Thus begins our marathon month of celebration, continuing with our church Christmas party next weekend, our 11 year wedding anniversary on the 18th, and of course the glorious celebration of the birth of our Savior on Christmas Day! In Shawn's honor, this blog post is dedicated to celebrating the truly remarkable man I am privileged to be married to.

During my teenage years I began praying for my future husband and daydreaming about the type of man he may be. One of the most important issues for my heart was the kind of father he would be for our children. I desired that my kids would have a daddy who was present both physically and emotionally, a daddy who showered them with affection and affirmation, a daddy who could delight them with play and discipline them with love, a daddy in whose love they could feel secure, a daddy who would model to them the heart of their loving Heavenly Father. It is with a heart overflowing with gratitude that I can say with confidence that God answered my prayers!

Beginning the moment Shawn pulled me into a delighted embrace when we had our first positive pregnancy test until now as we daily enjoy the beautiful chaos that comes with raising three small children, he has been a loving and intentional father. He adores each of our children for exactly who they are, and in return they adore him. Daddy's homecoming at the end of the day is always a cause for much rejoicing as he is greeted with squeals and smothered with hugs and kisses! It means the world to me to see my sons and daughter so secure and free in Daddy's love.

Our journey into parenthood had a lot of twists and turns and difficulties that we never could have imagined. After a few years of trying to conceive, we could not have expected that our newborn would be fighting for his life in a NICU crib, facing open heart surgery as an infant, or arriving with an extra chromosome. Shawn was only 24 years old at the time of Benjamin's birth. The stress that continued to pile up on top of us those first several months was intense. However, he never once wavered in his love and commitment to his wife and his tiny son. It is with heartache that I have heard stories of marriages crumbling and families breaking apart after experiencing the difficulties that can come with raising a child with special needs, especially if that child is medically fragile. It is with a heart continuing to overflow with thanksgiving that I can testify that our marriage has only become stronger through it all! I am so grateful for the grace of God working in and through my husband and me as we have walked out our journey of parenting a child with Down syndrome hand in hand. Benjamin is crazy about his Daddy!

When Benjamin was still in the NICU, we were encouraged by a friend to "celebrate our son every day." Over the last seven and half years I have watched Shawn live this out with Benjamin and now with Joelle and Josiah as well. They know how much he values them. On good days and bad days he pours into his children. Surrounded with Daddy's love, our little ones naturally celebrate him in response. Our family is so very blessed!

Happy Birthday, Shawn! It is so easy to celebrate sharing life with you!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Growing Awareness

Throughout my pregnancy with Benjamin, I was aware of the miracle of life growing inside of me. I was keenly aware of the many changes taking place in my body. I was joyfully aware of the first flutters of movement in my womb, and I was lovingly (though sometimes painfully) aware of the kicks, rolls, and punches as he continued to grow and stretched my body beyond what I thought was possible! I so gratefully aware that I was being initiated into motherhood, and I could hardly wait to meet my little firstborn miracle.


On May 21, 2009 I was nervously aware that something was not right when Benjamin was so inactive during a non-stress test, and I was tearfully aware that things were not unfolding as I had planned when the specialist sent us to the hospital for an early delivery, five weeks before my due date. On May 22, after hours on labor-inducing medicine, I was reluctantly aware that a natural childbirth would not be possible and that a Cesarean section was going to be the necessary course of action.

In the midst of my fear and exhaustion on the operating table, I was joyfully aware of my newborn’s first cries piercing the frigid air, and I could hardly contain my excitement to see him. As I waited and waited for my baby to be brought to me, I was suspiciously aware once again that things were not right. Shortly before being wheeled into recovery my husband told me that Benjamin had breathing troubles and was being taken to the NICU.

In the recovery area, I quickly asked Shawn to show me the pictures he had snapped of our son while he was being cleaned up. When I saw the pictures, a new awareness came crashing in on me that was soon confirmed by the doctor’s desire to order a genetic test…Benjamin had Down syndrome. When the testing confirmed his extra chromosome a few days later, our new journey into parenthood took an unexpected turn as we became keenly aware of our complete lack of awareness as to what it meant to have a child with Down syndrome…


The last seven years have definitely been a beautiful learning process as we have navigated the various ups and downs of raising a child with special needs. While it was important for us to become educated on the various medical facts concerning Down syndrome, no facts could ever prepare us for the day-in-day-out journey of loving and caring for our son. Benjamin has Down syndrome, but Down syndrome is not who he is. Yes, he carries an extra chromosome. Yes, he has faced significant medical and developmental hurdles. Yes, he still has much to overcome in multiple areas of development. However, in the midst of these things we daily enjoy a unique and precious little boy, who’s smile has always been able to light up a room and who’s laughter can brighten anyone’s day. We have a handsome little boy with blue eyes just like his mommy and daddy. We have a lively little boy who loves to wrestle on the floor with his daddy and dance with his mommy while she sings his favorite songs.


We have an ornery little boy who knows when he’s doing something he’s not supposed to and will giggle at himself when he feels like he’s getting away with it. We have a silly little boy who loves to spin in circles until he’s dizzy, especially when he has an audience. We have an affectionate little boy who loves to give hugs and slobbery kisses.


We have a routine-loving little boy who eagerly waits for the bus to pick him up each morning as he prepares for another active day at elementary school. We have a food-loving little boy who rejoices at meal times, especially when we go out to eat! We have an independent little boy, who needs alone time just as much as he enjoys time with others. Sometimes he will retreat to his room when he’s ready to take a break from interacting, and he is so content to play by himself for a time.


We have a worshipful little boy who loves the presence of God and expresses such joy and delight in the midst of worship as his beaming face looks upward, as though he is seeing into another realm. Most importantly, we have a beautifully unique little boy who belongs to us, his very life a testimony of the covenant love between husband and wife. We cherish him immensely.

October is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month. This month I rejoice that I am aware of what a gift I have been given in my son Benjamin. I am aware that it is a privilege to raise him, to love him, and to walk with him through every obstacle and every victory as his precious life unfolds and we discover together who God created him to be!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

I Cannot Be Silent

“There are two lines. Two pink lines. I stand in our tiny bathroom in stunned silence. Two lines—there have never been two lines. How many times have I rehearsed this moment in my mind during the last two years? I’ve lost count. I’ve pictured my reaction over and over. Will I scream? Jump up and down? Laugh? Cry? Instead, I stand in silence, studying the little strip again and again to make sure my eyes aren’t playing tricks on me. After all the tears, all the disappointments, all the prayers, is the moment really here?... The reality suddenly hits me like a wave…, and the tears pour down. Deep happy sobs erupt from the core of my being. We’re going to have a baby!”

The narrative above is an opening excerpt from my book Reflections from Holland: A New Mother’s Journey with Down Syndrome, and it lays a fitting backdrop for what I want to write about today. Why was it that those two little lines could cause such a reaction in me? Those two little lines told me that a miracle had taken place, and my life would never be the same again. They were the evidence that a human being, my baby, was growing inside of me! In this blog post I want to address an issue, a crisis of our times, that I have been passionate about for years, long before I was a mother myself. However, becoming a mother has definitely fueled the fire! I have never sought to use this blog as a platform for politics, but this issue goes far beyond politics. This is an issue of life vs. death. This is the issue of abortion.

In a matter of weeks our nation will be facing what I believe to be one of the most critical elections in our history. Regardless of what our individual opinions are of the candidates, the reality is that our next president will play a key role in shaping the trajectory of our nation for decades to come through the appointment of Supreme Court justices. The next president’s choices in this regard will no doubt affect countless lives yet to be conceived, either for good or for evil. Remember Roe vs. Wade? Since the fateful decision handed down by SCOTUS to legalize abortion an estimated 58,586,256 babies ( have been murdered in the womb, and the numbers grow daily. Let that number sink in… 

According to the United States Census Bureau we entered 2016 with a national population of 322,762,018. That means that since the legalization of abortion, nearly 20% of our population has been eradicated in the womb! In fact, it is estimated that 21% of all US pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion ( In 2012 the University of South Carolina published a review that 67-85% of pregnancies that have a pre-natal diagnosis of Down syndrome end in abortion. As I wrote above, I was overwhelmed with joy by my positive pregnancy test because I knew I was carrying a baby inside. The fact that he ended up having an extra chromosome did not change the fact that he was my child and deserving of life! In 2014, an estimated 954,000 babies were aborted ( That’s greater than the population of Austin, TX! These are not just faceless numbers. These are boys and girls, sons and daughters, just like my children, and just like yours. I cannot be silent.

I know I will be stepping on some toes with what I am going to share next, but share I must. We have too long approached abortion as a political issue among a large field of other political issues, as though it somehow only held the same level of importance as tax reform, or healthcare, or foreign policy, or (fill in the blank). Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of important and critical issues that we are facing as a nation. I do not want to undermine the reality of some of the crises of our times. However, we have a literal genocide of innocents happening all around us, and I cannot be silent. I have heard so many share the sentiment that, though they don’t agree with abortion and even consider themselves to be pro-life, they set those sentiments aside in the voting booth and cast ballots for those who support abortion because they “like their stance on other important issues.” It’s almost as if they are saying, “We may not particularly like abortion, but it’s legal, and it’s just the way things are. Who are we to judge?” (On a side note, it was also legal in Nazi-controlled Germany to murder Jews).  There seems to be such a disconnect in this way of thinking. Do we REALLY believe that abortion is the brutal murder of a living child? If so, how can we sweep it under the rug and treat it as simply one issue among many?

Let’s frame this another way. As mentioned above, the abortion statistics for 2014 surpassed the population of Austin, TX. Humor me for a moment if you will, and let’s pretend that, in the name of population control, it was legal for the population of a large US city to be eradicated each year. One political party was in favor of this method, and the other party was opposed. Do you think this would be a game-changer in the voting booth? “Well, I do feel sorry for those poor people in Austin, TX, but I sure like this party’s stance on health care, so they’ll still get my vote.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!!

Or, let’s pretend another scenario. There is an argument from the pro-choice camp that a baby in the womb lacks personhood. defines personhood as: “the state or fact of being a person,” and “the state or fact of being an individual or having human characteristics and feelings.” During a baby’s first year of life there is an incredible amount of dependency on the caregiver(s). It takes a while for a baby to even grasp the fact that he/she is separate from his/her primary caregiver, often the mother. One of our current candidates believes that an unborn person has no constitutional rights up to the moment of birth. So, let’s pretend that this was extended to the first year of life. That’s right. During that fragile first year before a child has really grasped his/her personhood, the parents could decide whether to keep their child or “terminate” their child (to use popular abortion terminology). Maybe they decide that they weren’t ready to be parents after all. Maybe they realize that they can’t actually afford to raise this child. Maybe a disability is discovered, and they do not feel up to the challenge. Whatever the reason, they have the legal right to kill their own child or pay someone else to do the grisly job. It is not required that the “termination” be a humane one. It can be painful and bloody, but it’s their “right,” and who are we to interfere or judge their “choice?” Maybe they will be virtuous and even donate their deceased child’s parts to medical research in order to “save lives!” This scenario sounds preposterous of course, but how is it really any different than the gruesome reality of abortion in which babies are murdered in the most barbaric of ways? If a political party stood for such an atrocity as murdering a child during their first year of life, would we even consider casting a vote for them, even if we agreed with their stance on other issues? Or would we be so horrified that we would stand and fight for change? 58,586,256 lives lost since Roe vs. Wade. Once again, these are not faceless statistics, these are sons and daughters, brothers and sisters…”

In 1999, our nation was devastated when two troubled teens opened fire in Columbine High School, killing thirteen people, wounding twenty more, and ultimately taking their own lives as well. We were shocked by the brutality, the senseless violence, the loss of young lives and potentials. Since that fateful day, at total of 141 lives have been lost in additional school shootings across the nation. Each incident shakes us. Each incident carries with it heartbreak and sorrow, indignation and rage. We mourn the loss of lives, and rightly we should. Every single life is unique and precious. Not a single one can be replaced. Yet, the number of lives lost in school shootings since that tragic day in Columbine is only 0.00000241% of the lives lost since the legalization of abortion. It is only 0.000147% of the lives lost in one year at the hands of abortionists. If we mourn for the young ones murdered in our schools, why don’t we mourn for the young ones murdered in the wombs? If we are enraged by the 141 lives that have been lost, why are we not enraged by the 58,586,256 lives that have been lost?!

We cannot afford to make abortion a merely political issue anymore. We cannot afford to allow the senseless murder of the next generation to continue. We must stand for life, and that includes our stance in the voting booth. In Matthew 12:30 Jesus stated “Whoever is not with me is against me…” I believe this is true concerning the lives of the unborn. Proverbs 6:17 shares seven things that the Lord hates, including “…hands that shed innocent blood.” There is no neutral ground on the issue of abortion. If I am not standing for the lives of the unborn, I am standing against them, and I will go as far to say that I am standing against the Lord of all creation, who knows and loves each of these children who remain nameless and faceless to the rest of us. I cannot claim to be pro-life and cast my ballot for those who support the shedding of innocent blood. The next generation is at stake. I cannot be silent. 

WARNING: If you continue to scroll down you will see some very disturbing images of aborted babies. I really wrestled with whether or not to share these images. I wept the first time I saw them, and then I realized this is the very reason I must share them. When we look the other way, it's easier to remain passive; it's more comfortable for sure. If you are willing to be uncomfortable though, look at these horrific photos and allow your heart to be broken for the plight of the unborn. Allow a cry for justice to rise up inside of you. If we won't stand up for these precious babies, who will?

First Trimester Abortion

Second Trimester Abortion

Third Trimester Abortion

Aborted baby parts pulled from a dumpster behind an abortion clinic