This picture of the Savior (copyright belongs to Greg Olsen) hangs on the wall in my family room, and was the first "decorator" item we purchased for our home. It is such a tender painting - I feel it shows the love our Lord feels for His children. All of his children.
I have often wished that this artist would paint a picture of the Savior surrounded by children with Down Syndrome - or even with just one child. Can you imagine the joy on those children's faces? To begin with, I honestly feel that people with DS have a capacity for joy that we, typical 46 chromosomers, do not have. They live and love and feel more simply and fully - at least Littlest Dude does - I know I can't make generalizations of all people with DS - but this is a character trait that he has, that I so admire. It isn't wrong to be child-like in your faith, or love, or hope, or joy - in fact, the Savior admonishes us to become like little children - to not let all the junk the world gives us affect us - to be more pure, more innocent, more trusting, more humble, more meek - more child-like. They are not weak qualities - but actually qualities we should all seek for :)
I have been thinking about Down Syndrome and watching Littlest Dude a lot this week - he spent several days at home with me, sick again (kind of?) and an extra day because things didn't work out for him to go on the skiing field trip his school class went on. I have watched him play, interact with his siblings and friends, saw him talk to the receptionist at the State Capitol (twice), saw his curiosity at what was at the end of the hall in the Lt. Governor's office (not the Lt. Governor - I can happily say - as I may have given chase in his quest to satisfy said curiosity), soothed away his sadness at being denied a cherished toy because of losing his privilege of having it, commented on his comments about things he watched/discovered on YouTube (gotta oversee that carefully - there is a lot of garbage on that site - what are people thinking???), tried to decipher some of his more lengthy explanations/stories, watched him work on homework and reading, and enjoyed being on the receiving end of lots of jokes, teasing, hugs, snuggles, and kisses. Can I just say - my Littlest Dude is awesome!!! I know people don't see him the way I do, when they look and interact with him - and guess what - that is okay. But - I would challenge them to look at him with God's eyes, and not their own - because God doesn't make mistakes.... Littlest Dude is not a mistake or defect, and Fiona is not a mistake or defect - and the millions of other people around the world with disabilities - the same goes for them - no matter the severity of the disability, or their level of functioning. You just have to change your eye-wear to see the beauty, the gift, the value - of each life.
I feel like the Lord granted ME a tender mercy by letting me be Littlest Dude's mom. What a blessing for me to have him in my life, what a blessing to learn about some of life's lessons from such a perfect example. Is it always easy - of course not. But - it isn't always easy with typical children either - so that can't be a qualifier for having a child - right? Is it discouraging to watch him struggle, to not be able to understand everything he says, to work hard on concepts - sometimes for years and see only small progress - sure it is - but the progress is there - and it causes even greater satisfaction for him and for us, when it happens. Are there worries and concerns for his future? For his health? Of course - and they may be a little more than with our typical kids - but at the same time, I worry less about some things - so it almost evens out :) Would I trade him for anything? Would I take away him having DS? No - I wouldn't. If Littlest Dude did not have DS, he wouldn't be Littlest Dude - he would be someone else. I WISH things were easier for him. I WISH people understood him better. I WISH he struggled with things less. BUT - he is HAPPY, he is CONTENT, he feels soooo much JOY in his life, and that offsets the frustration he feels - I know this for a fact. AND - I know that the Lord steps in and helps both of us, when either of us are having a hard time. I KNOW that Littlest Dude feels our Savior's love, on a constant basis - he has recognized pictures of the Savior since he was very tiny :) So I am grateful on a daily basis for the tender mercy the Lord has granted me by letting me be Littlest Dude's mom.
And now, now He has granted me another tender mercy. The opportunity to be Fiona's mom. The opportunity and responsibility for US to be Fiona's FAMILY. And, what a tender mercy that is, as well. What a blessing she will be in our lives, what a teacher of things we need to learn, what an amazing little girl she will be. Already she is amazing - after all - to survive life in an orphanage for any amount of time, especially as a child with special needs, shows her strength and persistence. To be able to make the gross motor milestones that she has made, shows drive, motivation, and unfortunately - probably lots of survival skills.
And - the Lord has granted me one of the biggest tender mercies of all. ALL of you - who have given so generously to help bring our sweet girl home. What a blessing you are in Fiona's life - what a gift of love you have given her, and what a tender mercy your love, prayers, encouragement, faith, hope, and generosity are to all of us. Fundraising is so hard for me - it is so hard for me to ask anyone to do anything (from watching my kids, to helping drive etc...) - I don't know if it is pride, I like to think it is just really wanting to be self-reliant in all that we do - but it has been very humbling to ask people to help through giving funds to bring Fiona home. So many people have given so much, and I feel awful asking for more. Every day I try and think of different and creative things to make to sell, try to figure out FB auctions, etc.... to find ways to raise that last little bit of money. It is hard for me to ask - to put it in my FB status, to feel like that is all people think I do - walk around with my hand out. That isn't who I am, who we are - that isn't what we do. But every time I go to the Lord with this - He assures me that He has it, that I can do it - for her - for Fiona - because she deserves it - she is worth it.
And - so I do..... But I am sure hoping and praying that with the last push in our "Heart Attack for Fiona" fundraiser and an upcoming Chick Fil A fundraiser - plus a decent tax return (keeping my fingers crossed) - that we will be able to have all that we need to bring our cute girl home! Because, I know she deserves it! And, I know without a doubt that she is worth it - all of it!
(sooooo much love for Fiona - 2561 hearts!)