I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! (I, personally, am glad to return to my routine; I find Memorial Day weekend e-x-h-a-u-s-t-i-n-g!! It was great fun to watch our kids march in two parades, though, and most importantly, a humbling opportunity to honor the brave men and women who have kept us safe.)
Today we return to our conversation with Ellen Stumbo. Ellen is a devoted Christian, and she is married to a pastor. She beautifully describes how their church rallied around them after their daughter’s birth, and continued to care for them as they discovered a calling to expand their family…
Looking back, I am thankful for a church family that celebrated the birth of our daughter. The women that held Nichole and awed over how beautiful she was. I am thankful for the friend who took me to my husband’s office the first time I came to church after Nichole was born. She was the mother of an older girl with Down syndrome, and she gave me room to express my feelings and question why God would give me such a baby. She would show up at my house and tell me she was there just to hold my baby so I could spent time with Ellie or take a nap. I am thankful for close friends who showed up at our door the day we received the genetic testing that confirmed the diagnosis of Down syndrome. Their 2-year-old daughter running to me to give me a hug, the little girl I had watched for a year so her mommy could take a part-time job, and a little girl who also shared a Down syndrome diagnosis. I am thankful for the “grandparents” that did not look at Nichole as different, but one more “adoptive” grandchild to love and to care for. Thankful for the sweet friends who watched my girls every week so I could still help with youth group, and the husband who would wear his yellow fleece sweater, “because Nichole likes how soft it is and she sleeps so soundly on my chest.” The family that would volunteer to spend time with the girls and how convinced they were every family should have a member with Down syndrome, and thankfully they had Nichole, their son promising to always watch out for her like a big brother. A friend who provided respite care and was available for me too, offering one of the most valuable friendships I have had. In our church Nichole was not defined by her diagnosis, she was simply Nichole. When we decided to adopt another child with special needs, the same church family rallied behind us, they helped us get Nina home. They were beautiful, so beautiful. The body of Christ loving on our family.
I never wanted to be the mother of a child with special needs. Now, the mother of 3 girls and 2 with special needs, I cannot imagine my life any other way. Sure there are times when things are difficult, and our battles might be a little different. But the joy and love that surround us has surpassed any dreams I ever had. We recognize even the smallest of accomplishments and we celebrate unashamedly. We clap, we jump, we cry with joy.
We are a part of something bigger than ourselves. Of men, women, children, and families that defy all odds and inspire me beyond what words can describe. A special needs community that I consider a privilege to be a part of. Having children with disabilities is not a burden, for me, it is an honor.
And Ellen…it is an honor for us to read your words! Thank you.