A Nugget of Hope for Transracial Adoptive Families

In 2012, when my husband and I took those first tentative steps toward adoption, I had never heard the words ‘transracial adoption.’ I grew up in an adoptive home with a brother who is Costa Rican, a lone caramel drop in a sea of vanilla. As a late 80’s-early 90’s coming-of-age kid, I don’t remember the phrase ‘transracial adoptive family’ ever used to describe our household dynamic. We knew other white adoptive parents raising kids with varied skin tones but none seemed to have the language for this unique phenomena. In my young mind, our family was just moving through life, handling the complexities of an adoptive family but believing we were basically typical.  

Becoming a transracial adoptive parent has been surprising, both in its beauty and pain. I’ve grown in ways I didn’t think I needed to and I’ve met countless other diverse families who challenge and inspire me to parent more effectively and with greater awareness.

In the midst of necessary growth and meaningful connections, my eyes have also opened wider to my own bias, white privilege, and the systemic racism that both built and plagues America.

As I’ve listened to various Black and Brown voices via books and podcasts and online spaces, I’ve gained a better understanding of the history of racial injustice and white supremacy that runs rampant in this country. I’m humbled by the work of the Holy Spirit that’s led me to confession and lament for my own complicity in a social construct designed to benefit the skin I wear. I grieve the ongoing experiences of racism and bias that stalk my beloved family members and friends of color. And I wonder nearly every day, what these issues will mean for my kids as they grow.

Despite the personal work I’ve done to better understand minority experiences and the fierce love in my heart for my kids, they will likely struggle to find their place, not just as adoptees, but as Black/white kiddos in a home and community where they are not the majority. This is not a pessimistic perspective but a sobering reality as I continue to wrestle with questions about our future and the fact that my best efforts will not be the ‘cure all’ for their sense of belonging.

  • How will my kids be treated as they grow from Brown toddlers to Brown teenagers to Brown adults?
  • Will they feel like they belong to their white parents?
  • Will they feel like they belong in our predominantly white community?
  • Will they be considered the token diverse friend?
  • Will they be Black enough for their Black friends and white enough for their white friends?
  • Will the “N-word” be spray-painted on their lockers?
  • Will Eden be pulled over by the police and assaulted–or worse?  
  • Will Sam be followed by police officers, his innocent actions mistaken for criminal intent? Will he understand when I tell him how to stay safe when approached by a police officer?  
  • Will they be part of the disturbing school statistics that tell us students of color are more likely to be mistreated, harshly disciplined, and accused of cheating than their white peers?
  • Will they be able to wear hoodies without their motives being suspect?  
  • Will they be denied service in restaurants and stores?
  • If we move to a more culturally diverse area, will we be resented for our whiteness, which grants us certain benefits, status, and freedoms that people of color don’t necessarily enjoy? (See also: white privilege)
  • Will white people ever stop touching Eden’s hair? How old will she be before they respect her right to personal space?
  • Will I always have to explain to others that I’m their ‘real’ mom?

In the rubble of my angst however, I have discovered a hidden nugget of hope. While this basic truth doesn’t solve systemic racism or trivialize our legitimate struggles as a multiracial family, it does help to restore my joy and peace when I’m bombarded with worst-case scenarios:

Our diverse family was designed by the hands of a perfect God.

I could tell you the details of our pre-adoption research, how we chose an agency, what it’s like to wait and prepare for the unknown, why we said ‘yes’ before we were sure of our kids’ ethnicity, and how adoption can be affordable for a family living on one very limited income.

But behind our myriad human choices, Divine hands were quietly weaving the different colors of our family long before 2012. The circumstances and connections that surround our adoption stories can only be explained by the creative work of a good and perfect God.


The Divine design of our family doesn’t excuse us from engaging the social issues that accompany white parents raising non-white children in America. Celebrating our family’s varied hues doesn’t deny the reality of racial injustice or ignore the work we must do to stay ‘woke,’ particularly as white parents raising Brown kids. Divine design doesn’t protect our family from the harsh realities of being non-white. Some days this responsibility feels especially heavy.

On those days–when I get the invasive questions and comments from white people telling me, “We should all be colorblind…racism is just blown up by the liberal media…it’s not that bad…why are you raising your kids there…”–I return to the truth that our family was God’s design long before ‘Merica, 2019.

On those days–when I see the depths of learning and unlearning still needed in my own heart–I find assurance and strength in the One who knit my kiddos together in the wombs of their courageous birth moms.

On those days–when I’m tempted toward overwhelm as I consider my kids’ future identities as biracial adoptees–I turn from fear to trust in the One who has written them in the palm of His hand.

Sometimes I find it easier to get anxious or angry over what is beyond my control–the microaggressions in the form of racist jokes, strangers insisting on touching Eden’s hair, Confederate flags waving to us on family walks, and invasive questions about their ethnicities. While I can (and do) try to graciously respond accordingly, I cannot totally eliminate these frustrations from our lives or force minds to change.

And yet, I can stay aware.

I can continue my own personal work and education.

I can help my kids navigate these issues of belonging and race.

I can build resiliency and courage in their young hearts and minds.

I can teach them how to love our enemies, real or perceived.

And I can choose to rest in the Hope that holds me and reminds me that our diverse family was designed by a good God who is always with us and always for us.

**Featured photo cred: Nathan Dumlao at Unsplash

When You Hate the Mirror: What I’m Learning About Belonging & My Body

It’s a new year–a time when many of us vow to eliminate ALL THE SUGAR and banish ALL THE FAT to lose ALL THE WEIGHT.

“This is my year!” we announce, fist raised to the sky. “I will exercise 2 hours every day! I will eat only tasteless legumes! I will have the physique of an Olympic soccer player! My thighs will be chiseled tree trunks! Look out, Michelle Obama–my arms are toning as I type!

Photo by Alora Griffiths, Unsplash

I can relate to that rally cry, that desire to be more physically fit, to lose the badonkadonk that makes my hardwood floors squeak. To be skinny or at least skinny-er.

Though I have always hated exclusion in any form, ironically, I’ve struggled to welcome my body as my own. I’ve spoken hateful words to and about my body–words that I’d never say to another human.

My poor body image began when I was a young teenager. I cannot remember a traumatic experience or hurtful word that led to this negative perspective–it seemed to tag along with my bent toward perfectionism and my residence in America, where it’s more acceptable to resemble a stick insect than, say, an ox beetle. While I never had an eating disorder, my thoughts on food and exercise have been all-consuming at times. Embracing my body was usually contingent on hitting the ‘right’ number on the scale or achieving the ‘right’ look. Even as a mature, (relatively) well-adjusted adult rooted in her faith, I’ve struggled to belong to my body, to receive my God-given frame as a gift.

Since the 4th grade, my hair has been unruly, course, thick, and dry. Each strand is like actual wire. Not even kidding. As if one calic weren’t enough, I have two–on either side of my forehead. #Symmetry. My hair was an out-of-control “orange on a toothpick” kind-of-fro that failed miserably to be ‘cool’ when I was a tween.

Try gel, they said. Use hair spray, they said.

Perm it.

Pull it back.

Leave it down.

Curl it.

Straighten it.

Cut it.

Grow it.

Thin it.

Layer it.

The suggestions to fix Badfro were endless. But Badfro would not be tamed. Unlike the smooth, moisture-laden locks of my friends, Badfro was more like a nest of Muppet hair haphazardly arranged above my disheveled eyebrows.

Speaking of eyebrows, the first time I went to have mine waxed (a luxury I no longer indulge), the tech announced, “I have NEVER seen eyebrows like this!” I didn’t know whether to laugh or take offense. Eyebrows like what? Like fuzzy caterpillars? Strips of steel wool? Misplaced mustaches? The tech didn’t elaborate but she didn’t need to-somehow I already knew.

I see my arms as shapeless logs hanging from my shoulders. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll extend my elbow and accidentally smack an innocent bystander with one of my cylindrical rolls. (Would that be assault?) No number of burpees or push-ups or chair dips have given my arms the kind of definition that begs to be seen in a tank top. I just don’t think it’s in the cards for me.

When I was 11, I started running XC, a sport that elongates the leg muscles. I also played basketball, which contracts the muscles. My legs seemed confused by my choice of sports or maybe family history overruled and I developed thunder thighs BECAUSE GENETICS? The verdict is still out on this one.

To reinforce my point, while in London as twentysomethings, my girlfriend and I chuckled each time we hopped on the tube (subway train). Instead of advising riders to “watch your step,” the English warn folks to, “Mind the gap.” My friend & I just laughed and laughed–we knew we had no gaps to mind.

Just like there is no specific moment or person to blame for my poor body image, there is no specific time when I became aware of my need to give thanks for my body. This evolving acceptance has been a slow process of absorbing this powerful truth:

We are made in the image of a perfect God.

I was well into my twenties before this message finally began to take root in my mind and heart. Choosing to believe that I bear the image of Divine perfection, regardless of my weight or whether I eat vegan, has helped nudge me toward gratitude for His design in making me.

While the truth has been instrumental in adjusting how I think about my body, connecting with people who live with disabilities has helped change how I feel about my body. Their resilience and joy have quietly convicted and encouraged me over the years, causing a shift from chronic negativity and discouragement to healthy acceptance and appreciation. Though I still fight self-criticism at times, I am no longer plagued by it. I’m learning to welcome my body, as these friends have learned to welcome theirs–to gladly embrace it, rather than fixate on its perceived inadequacies.

In addition to slowly absorbing the Truth and learning from my beautiful friends, I remember what my body has experienced over the years.

It has housed 3 babies, two that I got to birth naturally without pain intervention, one that I gave right back to God after carrying for just 10 weeks.  

It has run 2 marathons and 3 half marathons, countless 5ks, and thousands of miles besides. It has felt the relief of completing the American Berkebeiner, a 52k XC ski race that took 6 hours, two more than it planned. It has toddled through the jungles of Venezuela, walked the lively streets of Paris, hiked the western beauty of Yosemite, and snorkeled the turquoise waters of Key West.

Yosemite National Park

It has endured severe sunburns, icy water, blistered heels on back country trails, frostbite, and temporary deafness from a whitewater rafting spill.

What a delight to re-discover what my body has enjoyed and endured these past 40+ years.

When I get irritated with my less-than-defined arms, I rejoice that they’ve snuggled new babies, carried the painful stories of friends, and gently lowered the lifeless body of our 14 year-old pup into the dirt.

Then I remember my friends with cerebral palsy, arms folded into their chests, their hands curled into tight fists.

When I get annoyed with my hair, I celebrate my spunky, determined grandmothers and mother who gave it to me.

Then I remember my friends with Down syndrome who struggle with the added social stigma of alopecia.

When I wrestle these thighs into my jeans, I choose not to ‘mind the gap’, knowing they can chase giggling tots around the house.

Then I remember my friend with multiple sclerosis, bound to his wheelchair, slowly losing the freedom of his arms. 

Can I choose to embrace my body, despite all the ways it fails to meet my own (often unreasonable) standards?

Can I choose to thank the One who gave it to me?

And can I stop making ridiculous jokes about my body? Can I quit using humor (like I did in this post) as my default attempt to hide my frustration and shame over my physical appearance? Ouch.

I’m convinced that our bodies are Divine gifts that allow us to do meaningful, eternal work–work that matters and makes us come alive as we serve others. We can’t effectively use our gifts and passions when our limited energy is used to manage our body image issues, wrestle our perfectionism, and fight the habits that ensnare and distract us from the truth that we are loved–just as we are.

I wonder, dear reader, if you need to take any steps toward belonging to your body?

Admit your body image issues?

Work through your perfectionism with a trusted counselor or friend?

Release unhealthy habits?

Choose a sustainable routine that leads to a healthier you?

Practice daily gratitude for what your body can do?

Or maybe you’ve discovered deeper, more painful parts of your story and you need a professional to help you work through them?

Wherever you are on this journey, may you move away from the shame, discouragement, and unrealistic expectations that have plagued so many of us (for far too long) and may you move toward the truth that you are celebrated by a redemptive Creator who sees you, delights in you, and welcomes you.

**Disclaimer: I am not professionally trained to advise or treat anyone who identifies with legitimate disorders related to body image. Issues of this nature often require the help of a trained therapist who offers a holistic approach to treatment, and a supportive team. If this is you, please connect with a trusted friend and contact your doctor.

Main photo by ivanovgood at Pixabay.

A New Word for a New Year

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.
Helen Keller

It’s the start of a new year, when many of us share a word that brings clarity or a specific challenge to the next 12 months of our lives. I’ve mentioned before that for years I delayed jumping on the ‘word for the year’ bandwagon–until 3 years ago, when I gave in, hauled myself up on that rickety ride, and never looked back.

I don’t know about you but my process for choosing a word begins in October. Usually, 4-5 ideas float around in my head for a few weeks. As I pray and process, one word slowly fades away, then another, and so on, until I’m left with one. This year, “dare” seemed to linger as the others bid farewell.

When ‘dare’ comes to mind, I think of the beach, a place I’ve loved since I was a kid. Maybe because I’m a big fan of water and big skies and simple living.

Fresh air? Bring it.

Outside all day? Yes, please.

Sunsets over the Gulf? Erryday.

Or maybe I love the beach because it gave me such a deep sense of belonging–and still does. Regardless of my weight, abilities, social status, or history, the coastline will never judge or exclude or ignore me–and that feels like a rare space these days.

Growing up in central Florida allowed me ample opportunities to experience this sense of belonging, stretched across sky and sand and salt water. The constellation of freckles sprinkled over my nose and the blonde streaks in my unruly brown mane gave evidence to the hours spent ducking beneath the waves and riding them back to shore. I couldn’t get enough.

I miss those carefree days of sunscreen and seagulls and seashells.

I miss the excitement of leaving the familiar shore, that last look back to catch a glimpse of my family’s beach blanket before turning to face the water.

I miss the wild sprint through the thick, coarse sand.

I miss the fearless plunge into the waves, without worry of jellyfish, nipping minnows, or the undertow.   

The years have passed since those childhood beach days and I’ve grown a bit wiser, a little less excited to run reckless into the mysterious water. I’ve learned that it’s important to consider the potential dangers beyond the shore. To tentatively move toward the lesser known. (A jellyfish sting and a near drowning will do that.)

It’s necessary to charge into the waves, to boldly leave the comfort of land, when God leads us to do that. But sometimes He leads us to camp out in the sand. Sometimes the choice that requires the most faith is to stay on shore (when we’d rather leave) and open our eyes to the adventures around us, even when they feel mundane.

Sometimes we mistake an exciting invitation for the leading of God. We enthusiastically shake hands with a human, sign on the dotted line, toss the pen, and race toward the waves while ignoring the whispers of the Divine. In our discontent, we foolishly believe that adventure can only be found ‘out there.’

But sometimes the waves aren’t meant for us. We must accept that and trust that the God who calls us out to the water is the same God who might also ask us to remain on shore.

So, this year, I’m daring to go and stay. I’m daring to let go of the certainty of the shore, when I’m certain of God’s direction toward deeper water. And I’m daring to stay in the sand, knowing that beauty and adventure live there, too.

Sometimes daring requires us to respond to an opportunity with a gracious ‘no.’

Sometimes daring requires us to hug the shoreline, to engage with those under the umbrellas, to help build sandcastles, to serve and play contentedly right where we are.

And sometimes daring requires us to leave the familiar, to venture beyond what we thought we knew–what we thought we wanted.  

Ironically (providentially?), I chose this word before I was asked to consider a few opportunities. These days, I’m not sure whether to head into the water or remain on shore. Regardless, faith is required.

Whether sand or waves, daring requires us to move through our fears and trust that a loving God will lead us to meaningful endeavors that allow our gifts and passions to serve the world and bring Him glory.

Both have value. Both have risks.

With the start of a new year, I’m daring to be content to work in the familiar sand (loving my family & community, practicing forgiveness, and faithfully writing) while also daring to consider unfamiliar waters (possible job opportunities and a book proposal), as the Divine so lovingly leads me.  

I wonder, how is God leading you to ‘dare’ in 2019? Where do you need to take a step of faith? Toward the salty waves? To remain on shore and discover the adventures around you? Maybe some time in both?

Recommended Adoption & Foster Care Resources for 2018

One of my favorite parts about adoption is the connections I’ve made with people all over the globe. I’ve come to know and appreciate an inspiring network of truth-tellers and hope-bringers doing meaningful, sustainable work within the adoption community. I am a more educated, better informed adoptive parent and human being because of these relationships.

This post is for you if:

  • You believe foster care or adoption might be the next step for your family.
  • You need ideas on how to better support foster & adoptive families.
  • You would like to be more involved in caring for foster & adoptive families.
  • You want to provide financially for adoptive families AND do some Christmas shopping.
  • You have been touched by adoption or foster care in any way.

And if you don’t fit the above criteria, well, that’s fine. I’ll just be over here putting on my bossypants and telling you to read on anyway because there’s some good stuff here. 

Below is a list of resources that have encouraged and provided practical support for birth families, adoptees, and many foster & adoptive families. I’ve done the research and compilation for you. So, grab a cup of coffee, unless tea is your thing. Or soda. Whatever. Go on. I’ll wait…


Now, have a seat at your desk or curl up in your favorite chair with your laptop or phone (not the flip kind). All you have to do is scroll down and read. See? Isn’t that easy? The bulk of the work is already done for you.



  • Lifesong: “Seeks to mobilize the Church, where each member can provide a unique and special service [related to orphan care]: some to adopt, some to care, some to give.” Lifesong was instrumental in helping us to bring Sam home. They provided matching two grants—one personal matching grant and one through our church. They are an amazing, generous organization.
  • Adopt US Kids: “A national project that supports child welfare systems and connects children in foster care with families.” Provides great information for starting the domestic adoption process.
  • National Down Syndrome Adoption Network: Led by the kind and fearless Stephanie Thompson, the NDSAN seeks to provide a loving home for kids with Down syndrome. This is the organization that connected us with Sam’s birth family. Stephanie continues to be a part of our lives and we feel privileged to call her ‘friend.’
  • Reece’s Rainbow: “The mission of Reece’s Rainbow is to advocate and find families for orphans with Down syndrome and other special needs by raising funds for adoption grants and promoting awareness through an online community, media communications, and other events.” This is an international organization that informed me of the desperate need for kids with special needs to be adopted. If they don’t get adopted, many will age out of their orphanages and often get lost on the streets or are left to languish in poorly run institutions.
  • Empowered to Connect: ETC is a ministry that works to connect, encourage and equip families and churches by providing a supportive and authentic community that encourages families on their adoption/foster journey.
  • The Post Institute: This is a place where parents and professionals involved in the lives of our most vulnerable and challenging children can find effective solutions, education, and support. They offer educational materials and support services to help parents lead their families on a journey of healing the wounds of complex trauma.


  • Cherideejohnson.com. Adoptive parent and writer, Cheri Johnson offers wisdom and encouragement to non-biological moms. She candidly shares her experiences and the hard truths of adoption while graciously offering hope in the midst of the tough seasons. She also provides practical suggestions for how the local Church can be proactive in relating to non-biological parents and offer ongoing support for them and their children. (Side note: Cheri has become a dear friend to me, a clear voice that I trust to point me to the Truth. She’s a real gem.)
  • Confessionsofanadoptiveparent.com. Mike & Kristin Berry’s passion is to encourage adoptive families “in the trenches”. They share and speak on a wide range of topics with the goal to offer hope and solidarity to adoptive and foster families.
  • SherrieEldridge.com. Author Sherrie Eldridge frequently writes from an adoptee perspective. She talks openly about her life and her wounds, reminding her readers of God’s deep love and acceptance, while offering practical ways to support adoptees. 
  • www.theadoptedlife.com. This is one of my favorites, especially as it relates to the topic of transracial adoption. Angela Tucker, an adoptee, is the heartbeat of this informative, thought-provoking space, where she endeavors to give adoptees a bigger voice in our culture. Angela & her husband filmed the documentary, Closure, in which Angela shares her quest to find her birth family. It aired on Netflix and is available through purchase at https://www.amazon.com/Closure-Angela-Tucker/dp/B00H8B87ZE.


  • The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child by Nancy Newton Verrier
  • Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge
  • Under His Wings Adoption Workbook: Truths to Heal Adopted, Orphaned, and Waiting Children’s Hearts by Sherrie Eldridge & Beth Willis Miller (both adoptees)
  • The Connected Child: Bring Hope & Healing to Your Adoptive Family by Dr. Karen Purvis
  • From Fear to Love by Bryan Post
  • Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self by Brodzinksy, Schecter, & Henig
  • Adoption Nation: How the Adoption Revolution is Transforming Our Families—and America by Adam Pertman
  • Talking With Young Children About Adoption by Mary Watkins & Dr. Susan Fischer
  • Beneath the Mask: Understanding Adopted Teens by Debbie Riley & John Meeks
  • Real Parents, Real Children: Parenting the Adopted Child by Holly Van-Gulden & Lisa M. Bartels-Rabb (a bit dated but chock-full of solid research and relevant material)
  • Inside Transracial Adoption: Strength-based, Culture-sensitizing Parenting Strategies for Inter-country or Domestic Adoptive Families That Don’t “Match” by Beth Hall & Gail Steinberg


  • I’ll Never Let You Go by Smriti Prasadam-Halls & Allison Brown
  • Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis & Laura Cornell
  • When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner (not technically an adoption-specific book but contains major themes of belonging, worth, & the thoughtfulness of God in creating us)
  • A Mother for Coco by Keiko Kasza
  • I Don’t Have Your Eyes by Carrie A. Kitze
  • Not Quite Narwal by Jessie Sima
  • Wonderful You: An Adoption Story by Lauren McLaughlin & Meilo So


  • Randi Harper joined the business of Monat as a way to help other families with the financial piece of adoption. As an adoptive parent to a little guy with an extra chromosome, Randi says, “We understand the grueling task of fundraising and wanted to bless others now that we’re on ‘the other side.’” She sells naturally-based, vegan, gluten-free, certified cruelty-free hair products. Randi’s work allows you to purchase high quality, eco-friendly hair products while giving toward adoption. Contact her here to learn more: http://combing4cause.mymonat.com/influencer and IG @curlyimpact.


  • Cady Driver is an adoptive mom, one of the fiercest adoption advocates I know, and a professional artist. She serves the adoptive community through her artwork as a way to raise funds for adoptive families. Consider purchasing Cady’s artwork or purchase art lessons as a unique gift this holiday season. Your giving will help adoptive families bring their children home. Learn more about Cady’s incredible work and art classes at www.artbycady.com and on Instagram @cady.driver_artist.


  • Open Hearts for Orphans. Adoptive mom, Lisa Murphy, started this non-profit after bringing 5 children home from China. Through various programs, OHFO seeks to minister to the needs of orphans worldwide. Lisa and her team provide opportunities to give financially toward medical expenses, adoption grants, and orphan sponsorship. If you are looking to purchase meaningful gifts that will also support global orphan care, please consider what OHFO has to offer, especially this holiday season. Note specifically their beautiful jewelry, their ‘downright loveable’ merchandise (which supports Down syndrome adoption), and Lisa’s book, With An Open Heart. All merchandise is listed in the store section of their website at www.openheartsfororphans.org. You can also find them on Instagram @openheartsfororphansorg.


  • Tapestry’s Empowered to Connect: For parents, professionals, ministry leaders who want more authentic, deeper connections with the children they are serving.
  • Adoptees On: Adoptees discuss the adoption experience.
  • Who Am I Really? Real-life stories from adoptees as they search & find their biological family members.
  • The Adoption & Fostering Podcast: Conversations & discussion on contemporary adoption & foster care.
  • NPR Episode 10/13/2018. Code Switch: Transracial Adoptees On Their Racial Identity & Sense of Self. Click here to listen: https://www.npr.org/2018/10/13/657201204/code-switch-transracial-adoptees-on-their-racial-identity-and-sense-of-self

INSTAGRAM: There are countless adoption-related Instagrammers. My favorites are listed below. From birth moms to adoptees to other adoptive parents, I am encouraged, challenged, humbled, humored, informed, and inspired by these beautiful voices:

  • joinbravelove
  • cherideejohnson
  • adoptionshare
  • theluckyfewofficial
  • angieadoptee
  • bigtoughgirl
  • lifetimehealing
  • kindredand.co
  • carissayoder
  • sherrieeldridgeadoption
  • ndsan321
  • adoptionsupportnow
  • adopttogether
  • adoption
  • transracialadoption

You know, of course, that this is not an exhaustive list but I trust it will get you started or lead you to consider some new voices. With the excessive noise online, I struggle to know where to focus my time when I’m exploring adoption resources. I hope my work can spare you a few hours. And if you think this post might serve someone you know, please share. Thanks!

What adoption and/or foster care resources have been helpful to you and your family?

3 Ways to Connect with the Down Syndrome Community

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Let’s build bridges, not walls.” His words offer a challenge worthy to be considered.

For many years, walls were built to keep people with Down syndrome separate from their families and communities. Those with an extra chromosome were seen as immoral, the result of sin, a burden on the entire family.

Medical walls were built by surgeons who refused to provide life-saving surgeries for newborns diagnosed with Down syndrome.

Domestic walls were built by ‘experts’ who strongly encouraged institutionalization and forced sterilization of children with Ds.

Verbal walls were built by degrading language used to describe people with Ds.

Vocational walls were built by employers paying less than minimum wage for employees with Ds.

Educational walls were built by schools that will not include or provide appropriate services for students with Ds.

How sad that we humans have used our time, energy, and resources to stack bricks rather than dismantle them.

In the U.S., the walls of institutions and other social barriers continue to fall but there are still (less obvious) walls that need removed in order to include and build relationships with people who have Down syndrome. Sometimes these walls look more like fear, ignorance, or apathy:

  • Fear: “I don’t want to inadvertently say something wrong or offensive so I’ll just not say anything.”
  • Ignorance: “I don’t know how to relate to those people. I just don’t know what to say.”
  • Apathy: “I don’t feel like connecting. And why should I? It’s not my job.”

If we’re honest, each of us has some resistance or even aversion toward certain people who are unfamiliar or seem annoying to us. Avoidance is an emotionally safe response, the default that keeps us from risking a few splinters and laying down planks to bridge the divide. In church culture this avoidance might be couched in religious language, “I just don’t think I’m called to serve those kinds of people.”

I’m not suggesting that everyone in a church community should work exclusively with those who have disabilities. I am however, suggesting that those of us in church culture may be guilty of using religious language as an excuse to distance ourselves from those we’re called to engage. Serving with an ‘us-them’ perspective in any capacity isn’t effective for wall removal and bridge building–nor does it reflect the character and work of Jesus, the One many of us claim to follow.

So, how can we break down walls and build bridges to connect with those who live outside our socio-cultural circle? How can we move from knowing about Down syndrome to actually knowing people with Down syndrome, especially if they’re not a part of our daily life?

I offer these simple steps.

3 Steps to Connect with those who have Down syndrome:

1. Initiate. When you’re out in public and see someone with Down syndrome, make eye contact, smile, and say ‘hello.’ This simple gesture reminds the person with Ds and the parent of a child with Ds that they are worth your attention. If you really want to go bananas, you might even introduce yourself (gasp!). Take a moment to chat. Look to the parent or caregiver for cues, if needed. Ask about their day, the purpose of their outing, school, work, etc., (any topic you’d chat about with a typical family). Most parents appreciate when people make the time and effort to introduce themselves and get to know their kids. Don’t let fear, previously awkward meetings, or apathy squelch an opportunity to engage. You’ll likely leave that brief encounter encouraged and inspired–but even more, you’ll assure a family that they matter.

2. Invite. If you know of someone with Ds, a parent raising a child with Ds, or your child has a classmate with Ds, include them whenever you can. Whether you’re hosting a birthday party or a gathering in your home or meeting friends for a playdate, extend the invitation, even if you don’t know them well.

Sam and I recently attended a birthday party for a kid in his class at school. I was nervous as we knocked on the door of an unfamiliar home, where I wondered if he would be included. I silently chastised myself, as one of Sam’s classmates greeted us at the door and welcomed him with great enthusiasm and a gentle hug, “Hi, Sam! Hi! Wow! Sam, I didn’t know you were going to be here! Yay! Sam, you’re here!” This 5 year-old boy was so genuinely thrilled to see Sam that I dropped my purse and stood by the door for a minute, struggling to swallow the lump in my throat. I didn’t realize how much I wanted him to be included, to be seen and valued by his peers.

Be like Sam’s classmate and send the invite. You’ll leave a grateful parent speechless.

3. Volunteer. This third step in connecting with people who have Ds seems most effective with specific, consistent work over time. Your faithful presence in local organizations and programs and/or in a church setting provides opportunities for you to regularly connect with the Down syndrome community.

Our non-denominational church has worked hard to specifically include those with different abilities. They provide a buddy for Sam (and several other kids) every Sunday. Once a month, they host a family respite night, as well as a parent group for those raising kids with different abilities. Free childcare is provided at each monthly gig for all of the kiddos. Yep, you read that right. ALL of our kids. For free. I get all verklempt just writing about it.

This inclusive approach works well with committed volunteers (like you) and a compassionate community whose leadership not only values people with different abilities but also provides support, resources, and encouragement to their families.

For those of us who have minimal, if any, contact with people who have Down syndrome, we would do well to initiate, invite, and volunteer wherever and whenever we can. Choosing to do so will help dismantle walls and build bridges that connect us to a community full of wonder, where we can love the oft excluded, learn from each other, and find our lives enriched.

If you’re interested in connecting and developing relationships with those who have Down syndrome or finding organizations that specifically serve those with intellectual disabilities, here are a few options to get you started. Check your local area for more details.

  • National Down Syndrome Society: The leading human rights organization for all people with Down syndrome. Click here to learn more: https://www.ndss.org
  • Buddy Walks: Annual walks held throughout the country, with the goal of promoting education and acceptance of people with Ds. Click here to learn more: https://www.ndss.org/play/national-buddy-walk-program/buddy-walk-faqs
  • Special Olympics: This is the world’s largest sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities. A variety of volunteer positions are available to help serve and support athletes and their families. Click here to learn more: https://www.specialolympics.org
  • Gigi’s Playhouse: An organization that seeks to “change the way the world views Down syndrome through national campaigns, educational programs, and by empowering individuals with Down syndrome, their families and the community. We offer free therapeutic and educational programming to individuals with Down syndrome and their families.” Click here to learn more: https://gigisplayhouse.org
  • Night to Shine: Sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, Night to Shine is an annual global event where people with disabilities participate in prom. From the limos and red-carpet entrances to professional photographers, karaoke, and dancing, this night was created to remind participants of their inherent worth. Click here to learn more: https://www.timtebowfoundation.org/ministries/night-to-shine

If you want to diversify your social media contacts by including people with Down syndrome, I recommend Instagram to follow these educational and entertaining accounts:
















Where do you see walls in your community and how can you help dismantle them?

Where do bridges need built instead?

What would it look like for you to initiate, invite, or volunteer?

*Bridge photos by Arcaion at pixabay.

How Down Syndrome Typically Affects Typical Siblings: An Interview with The Big Kids

When Glendon & I shared with The Big Kids that we were planning to adopt a child with Down syndrome, they didn’t fully understand the implications. At ages 5 and 3, how could they? In their young minds, a new baby with Down syndrome was simply a new baby to them and they were thrilled.

Many families who’ve received a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome wonder how a child with Ds will impact their typical kids. I recently read a story of expectant parents who worried that a child with Ds would lead to resentment and future estrangement from their older children. This troublesome thought became their main reason for termination. I grieve that they were left alone in their fears, with no one really available or willing to listen, support, and possibly offer a bit of hope.

While I certainly want to listen and be present for others in their fear and pain of a new and shocking diagnosis, I also want to provide them with a more complete picture. What these dear parents might not have known is that the extra care, time, and resources required to meet the needs of a child with Ds will impact typical siblings–but not to their detriment. In fact, research shows that compared to their peers, kids who have a sibling with Ds demonstrate a higher level of maturity, compassion, empathy, and a deeper understanding of what really matters in life. Of course, every sibling handles familial adjustments differently but these outcomes seem to more accurately reflect reality.

Several families in the Down syndrome community tell me that their typical children adore their sibling(s) with Ds. Of course, there may be medical hurdles to jump, social-emotional issues to manage, and delays to navigate but numerous studies indicate these are minor issues for typical siblings. The meaningful experiences and valuable lessons seem to far outweigh the *perceived* negatives.

For further evidence on this matter, I went straight to the source(s) to get their perspective on Down syndrome.

I close with a recent interview (done separately) with 10 year-old, Selah, and 8 year-old, Jude. As with every conversation in our home, they were encouraged to be honest without fear of my response. I recorded their answers exactly as they shared them–with no editing.

What did you think when we told you we were planning to adopt a baby with Down syndrome?

J: I remember I was real happy.

S: Excited.

How did you feel when you first met Sam at the hospital?

J: Happy. It was awesome to have a little brother. I thought his tubes were cool.

S: Kinda weird because he was attached to all those cords. He was really tiny.

What do you remember most about Sam during his time in the NICU?

J: The tubes that came out of his mouth, like when he breathed out all the bad stuff. I was happy to hold him.

S: He smiled when we held him. He made funny faces when we fed him the bottle.

What was your favorite thing about Sam when he was a baby?

J: I could easily hold him.

S: His laugh–that’s still one of my favorite things.

What was the hardest part for you with adopting Sam?

J: When I learned about racism and his brown skin.

S: It was a long time away from our home.

What do you enjoy most about being a big brother/sister to Sam?

J: He tackles me. I get to cuddle with him.

S: He hangs out with us. He wants to be with us–he plays games and tag with us.

What does Down syndrome mean to you?

J: It means you will be slowed down in some things like being potty trained. It means you might not be able to speak up to bullies because you have a hard time speaking. I feel like Down syndrome makes Sam Sam. He wouldn’t be himself if he didn’t have Down syndrome.

S: It’s like an extra gift. Some people think it’s an issue but it’s like a prize–like you win Down syndrome.

What is it like having a brother with Down syndrome?

J: I like it. Down syndrome makes Sam cuter. It makes me happy. And if Sam didn’t have Down syndrome, I might not know what it’s about or what it’s like for others.

S: Two things: One, it’s awesome. But two, it can be scary because of low muscle tone and Sam’s breathing sometimes.

What is the most challenging part of having a brother with Down syndrome?

J: Sometimes he needs extra care and attention. And I have to share my room.

S: People staring or getting annoyed with Sam because they don’t understand he needs extra support sometimes.

What is your wish for Sam?

J: That when he grows up he’ll have friends and a good job.

S: I have so many! That he’ll be able to do what he wants and Down syndrome won’t–and shouldn’t–affect that. That he’ll be able to stand up for himself. And that he’ll tell us when he has problems, that he won’t keep it to himself so we can help him.

For further reading on this topic, check out these resources:





How has Down syndrome made a difference in your life? Your kids’ lives?

Would love to hear from you!

When A Diagnosis Determines Your Worth

If you Google ‘Down syndrome’, you’ll find pages of online organizations and dictionaries that provide both general and specific definitions. Most will include something like this:  

“A congenital condition characterized especially by developmental delays, usually mild to moderate impairment in cognitive functioning, short stature, relatively small head, upward slanting eyes, a flattened nasal bridge, broad hands with short fingers, decreased muscle tone, and by trisomy of the human chromosome numbered 21.”

~Merriam-Webster English Dictionary

As one who seeks to communicate clearly through written words, I understand the need to provide adequate information and appropriate descriptors but as the parent of a child with Down syndrome, seeing his diagnosis in print is difficult. Those definitions simply do not capture the wonder that is Sam but, to be fair, they’re not designed to do that.

Sam, 1 month old–fresh from the NICU

I know that my son’s value is not determined by his diagnosis but sometimes our world tells a different story. The history of how American culture defined, perceived, and treated people with Down syndrome is quite dark. Here’s a brief timeline:

  • 1773. First insane asylum opens in Williamsburg, VA. In the next 200 years, thousands of people with intellectual disabilities were funneled through various state-wide institutions.
  • 1838. First document to ever record people with intellectual disabilities as ‘idiots’ (to distinguish from those who were classified as ‘insane.’)
  • 1866. John Langdon Down, who discovered Ds, refers to the collective traits he discovered as ‘Mongoloid’ because their facial characteristics resembled those from Mongolia.
  • 1883. Sir Francis Galton first uses the word ‘eugenics’ to describe how Americans must assign value to those with intellectual disabilities. As a result, laws were passed, demanding forced institutionalization and sterilization of those with disabilities.
  • 1912. The Kallikak Family, a best-selling book is released by Henry H. Goddard. The book builds and perpetuates the false premise that intellectual disabilities are connected with immorality. Mass social hysteria ensues, calling for forced sterilization and institutionalization.
  • 1939. Hitler demands the extermination of 200,000 people with intellectual disabilities–many with Ds.
  • 1946. Parenting guru, Benjamin Spock, states in his popular book, Baby and Child Care,If [the infant] merely exists at a level that is hardly human, it is much better for the other children and the parents to have him cared for elsewhere.” (p. 478)

Not until the 1960’s and 70’s did the U.S. begin to shift its perspective, thanks in part to President John F. Kennedy. S L O W L Y, public outcry led to the closing of institutions and the passage of human rights laws as parents, caregivers, educators, and people in power demanded equality for people with disabilities. Their tireless efforts and stubborn voices blazed trails for the rest of us to follow. The trail has widened as more of us speak up for and seek to empower those with Ds, while educating the general public on the benefits of inclusive spaces.

Sam, 2.5 months old

Humanity. Equality. Rights. Inclusion. These speak to progress, yet within the highly educated medical community, most doctors and geneticists continue to apologize to women when disclosing a prenatal diagnosis of Ds, often just moments before they suggest termination as a solution. Despite their ‘smarts,’ many medical professionals are quick to provide a dark and limited option for expectant mothers, “Either your life will be really hard or you can abort.” (Actual words spoken to a friend.) In a world where we can choose from 15 different kinds of toothpaste, this either-or nonsense seems like a cruel irony.

As I write, many European countries are inching their way toward eradicating Down syndrome. With prenatal testing considered normative (and I’m not at all judging the tests), the number of abortions continues to rise. If we believe that a baby in a mother’s uterus is a human, this would be genocide, no?  

Cognitively impaired.







Hardly human.

Really hard life.

Words like these make it easier to justify the extermination and ongoing exclusion of a vulnerable people group and the mothers trying to decide whether it’s worth the lifelong risk of birthing them. Why bring them into a world that doesn’t value them in or out of the womb? It seems we’ve failed both women and children.

Sam, 1 year old

I wonder, is this really the kind of culture we want to sustain? To refuse to stand with women who need support (financial, emotional/mental, medical)?

To leave pregnant women with limited options at a crucial time?

To offer an apology when she’s given a prenatal diagnosis?

To end life because of a possible diagnosis?

To vote for the traditionally *pro-life* political party, even when those candidates won’t sign bills that provide equal opportunities and fair wages for people with Ds? (I’m looking at you, Republicans.)

To maintain the status quo by keeping people with Ds out of classrooms and work spaces and airplanes?  

To associate only with people who look like us by hosting parties and gatherings in which we don’t invite those who have Ds?

To refuse to consider the authenticity of our ‘seeker friendly’ churches, which don’t really create space or provide resources for those with Ds?      

If we claim to be pro-life advocates, we need to rethink the issues of diagnosis and worth and inclusion and what they mean for both mothers and their children with Down syndrome. 

Sam, 2.5 years old

We must provide ongoing support and updated, accurate information when expectant mothers receives a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. If we really value women, we must work to improve employee maternity leave and insurance coverage. (In related news, Down syndrome is considered a ‘pre-existing condition’–which means ‘limited/no coverage’ with most private insurance companies.)

We must use appropriate language and terms and offer more than one option for expectant moms.

We must remember that a baby in the womb deserves a chance to be born.

We must be graciously present for women no matter what they decide.

We must show up for new moms and their families, embrace the gift of their friendship, join them in Buddy Walks, vote for candidates who advocate for the differently-abled, and find other ways to engage this new community.

Children with Down syndrome are more than limited definitions, their mothers more than mere recipients of a diagnosis. Both bear Divine fingerprints, offering beauty, joy, and delight to our world–if we’re willing to see. We must endeavor to become a society that takes their hands and says,

“You are seen. You are loved. You belong.”

What Down Syndrome Can Teach Us Now

When I married nearly 16 years ago, I never dreamed I’d be parenting four kids, one with Down syndrome. I had no intention of managing what feels like a circus most days–not that I was opposed to circus life or extra chromosomes–I just wasn’t thinking about motherhood in any form when it chased me down.

After birthing my two oldest and struggling with post-partum depression, I waved the proverbial white towel, calling a truce with my mind and body. I needed mental space and rest to find my sanity (and sleep) with two Littles.




But, dear readers, babies just don’t keep. Eventually, diapers morphed into undies, sleepless nights rolled into sweet dreams, and my once helpless cherubs began to feed and dress themselves. ThankyaJesus.

I shed the zombie look (sort of) and my capacity to form coherent thoughts returned at last (still debatable). This was the season in which I sensed a holy nudge, a gentle Voice asking, “Are you willing to let My dreams become yours? Are you willing to rethink your own ideas about your family and future?”

As many of you know, that nudge led to prayers and conversations and new dreams and eventually, a baby boy with Down syndrome–our Sam.

Prior to Sam’s arrival, I read all I could about Ds, sought advice from experienced parents and professionals, and grew in my awareness of potential issues related to this diagnosis. I researched possible medical complications, physical care, therapies and education, finances, future work, state and federal policies, and our culture as it relates to people with different abilities. Even with all my experience working with people who have Ds, months of personal education, and now 4+ years of parenting Sam, I’m still discovering new truths and learning important lessons.

In a time of divisive politics, hateful rhetoric, and social media outrage, I want to highlight this truth as we celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Month:

Choosing to believe stereotypes creates distance between ‘us’ and ‘them.’

While Ds is its own culture with a handful of common traits, those with Ds are individuals. Each person brings his own genetics, personality, family, life experiences, needs, preferences, education, and more. Just because we might know a few people with Ds who have sunny dispositions doesn’t mean all people with Ds do. (This is probably the most common stereotype.)

Like any social group, people with Down syndrome cannot be put into a ‘one-size-fits-all’ category. When we do that, we miss the unique gifts found in each person. 

This idea goes beyond the community of Ds to other neighbors who don’t typically fit the majority profile, whether immigrants, refugees, Muslims, people of color (POC), folks with disabilities, the incarcerated, those who identify as LGBTQI, or anyone else who might be considered the ‘other.’ 

Choosing to believe stereotypes can actually prevent us from learning from people who differ from us, who have very different experiences, who look at life through a lens other than our own. We take one conversation or experience or person and craft stories about what we think is true of an entire group and as a result, fail to see the Divine imprint on each human.

In our pride and ignorance, we may write another narrative, one that pens an incomplete, often negative story. Confident we have the whole truth, we often assign motive and value to groups of people we haven’t taken the time to know. Instead of graciously moving toward individuals, we use our limited knowledge and assumptions to determine whether to engage ‘the other.’ I wonder who we miss connecting with when we do this? 


Photo by gerault at pixabay.com

I’ve noticed people writing a limited story about Sam. In social settings, I watch as kids and parents determine his physical differences. Most observe that he doesn’t engage like a typical peer, his mannerisms more juvenile, his marked delays perceived as a nuisance. I witness the furrowed brows, rolled eyes, heavy sighs, and the turning away to avoid him–my son, the ‘other.’ With imaginary pen in hand, they hastily make note, “This kid is so annoying. I don’t know how to relate to him. I’m uncomfortable. I’m going to find someone who’s more like me.” 

I grieve not only for what this incomplete storytelling means for Sam as he begins to understand his differences but also for what those kids and their parents are missing by choosing to ignore him. 

I wonder what we might be missing, too, when we don’t acknowledge the image of God in the ‘other’, when we refuse to find ways to connect with those who differ from us.

Sam’s life reminds me to resist the easy route of stereotyping, to lean in and listen to those whose perspectives and lifestyles don’t mirror my own. Down syndrome spurs me on to move closer to others so I can more clearly see the Imago Dei in each person and love them as I’ve been loved. 


Who might you be avoiding because of your assumptions or limited perspective?

What is one step you can take this month to move toward someone (or a particular group) you consider ‘the other?’


On Bullying and Boundaries and Belonging

I don’t know what your life looks like these days but mine is bursting with the colorful personalities of four kids who bring a variety of preferences, peculiarities, and pet peeves.

One gets slightly enraged at the sound of chewing (pretty sure that’s genetic), the other oblivious to flapping molars.

One gets irritated with all the singing and dancing while the other enthusiastically belts out every lyric of The Greatest Showman.

One is meticulous about good hygiene while the other needs encouraged to wash off the funk.

One hustles out of bed in the morning and speed dresses (is that a thing?) while the other burrows deeper under the covers, savoring those last few minutes of shuteye.

And two certain cherubs are consistently L.O.U.D. and early risers. I’m not namin’ names but thankfully, they’re still contained in their tiny baby jails.

With all the differences wrapped up in each kiddo however, I have found one common thread woven through their diverse DNA: All four want to belong.

Photo by Becca Neufeld Photography at www.beccaneufeldphotography.com

Last year, our family experienced bullying for the first time. (I refer to the person who bullied as “Bee” in this post.)

Bee was in our home.

Bee sat at our table and enjoyed meals with us.

Bee played in our yard, twirled on our tire swing, and made slime with our kids.

We offered her encouragement and time and compassion. We wanted Bee to feel a sense of belonging with us, especially when conversations revealed that her home was not often a place of warmth and welcome. Despite some of our concerns with her occasional meanness toward Selah, both at school and in our home, we prayed to be hospitable and kind (and sometimes struggled to do both).

Perhaps in our naivete, we thought our open home would lead to a changed Bee–a Bee that could work through unresolved anger and begin to soften toward a Love far greater than our own.

A couple of months into 2018 however, we learned that her emotional needs exceeded our abilities and we made a difficult decision that wracked me with (false) guilt. After weeks of prayer, wise counsel, and ongoing conversations with school personnel, we set a boundary: Bee would no longer be welcome in our home until she provided a sincere apology and Selah came home with zero complaints about Bee’s aggression.

For our oldest, school no longer felt like a safe place where she could focus on subjects and friendships without wondering what Bee might do to her. Despite the many ‘tools’ we gave Selah to help build her resilience as she related to Bee, the attacks continued. While Selah felt supported by a few adults at school, her ongoing concerns fell silent on the ones who had the ultimate authority. As a result, home became her main place of belonging and we would do whatever necessary to ensure that remained so.

A few days after we set this boundary, Bee showed up at our front door, wanting to come in and play.

After consistently, aggressively, physically hurting Selah.

After writing hateful notes about Selah and passing them around to other girls.

After threatening to seriously injure Selah and another student.

After lying to teachers, faculty, and us about the extent of her behavior.

Bee still expected to join us in our home, as if her bullying had no effect on our relationship with her.

My response to her that day could be summed up in the words of Simon Cowell, “Um, that’s a ‘no’ for me.”  

I told her that we cared about her and wanted to have her in our home. I also gave her a choice to admit and apologize for the ways she had hurt Selah. (She yelled, denied any guilt, and stomped off the porch.)  

Some might think our boundary too strict.

Some might think our family unforgiving.

Some might think our family unloving.

To these I would say:

Love often sets healthy boundaries for the good of others even when others refuse to see the good.

Sometimes the best way to love those who bully is to set a boundary and offer them an alternative–an opportunity for them to own their actions–not another invitation for them to treat you with contempt.  

Bee was not allowed to hurt, taunt, and degrade Selah at school and then expect connection with us in our home. Our permission only enabled her to bully in our home, albeit more subtly. As the drama at school increased, maintaining status quo in our home seemed to communicate to Bee that we were okay with the bullying. We were inadvertently teaching her that she could intentionally hurt others and never be required to endure the relational consequences of her behavior. She could use and abuse people as she pleased and still enjoy the benefits of their company whenever she wished.

By allowing our relationship with Bee to remain unchanged, we risked emotionally disconnecting from Selah and breaking a sacred trust we’d spent a decade building. Refusing to set a boundary would have said to our daughter, “Your needs are trivial. Don’t speak up–even when someone relentlessly hurts you. No one will listen to you, anyway–not even your parents.” That was not the kind of message we ever intended to communicate.  

We care about Bee.

We pray for Bee.  

We choose to forgive Bee.

We want to see redemption and restoration in the life of Bee.

We love Bee.

Boundaries don’t make those statements less true. Boundaries don’t make us unkind. Boundaries aren’t rejection. Boundaries (in this case) offer protection and clear expectations for both girls. 

Until Bee is ready to confess and seek forgiveness, Wisdom tells us that our boundary must remain so that our home can remain a place of refuge and belonging, especially for the four we’ve been given to train and lead and raise.

Was there ever a time you set a boundary for the good of others? What was the response? How did you handle the situation?

Would be so good to hear from you! Your story might encourage another reader.


***I realize that bullying is a difficult topic that can elicit strong, complex emotions. Many families have endured far worse than we have, with tragic, devastating results. I have learned that even with all the anti-bullying campaigns and zero-tolerance zones, kids who bully get away with more than any well-meaning slogan aims to prevent. I highly recommend that parents continue to engage teachers and administrators, document every incident, contact the school superintendent and/or lawyer and/or law enforcement for advice, support, and resolutions, consider alternative schooling, and stay emotionally connected as much as possible with your kids, while keeping your home a safe place where they know they belong.

***Featured photo credit goes to Wokandapix at pixabay.

Two Words To Remember This School Year

I find myself talking to The Big Kids quite a bit these days. At 10 and 8 years old, they’re in my favorite stage so far–willing to ask me anything about anything. Topics range from Why Hair Grows There to How Systemic Racism Began & Continues.

Strange body odors? Check.

American politics? Check.

Atomic wedgies? Check.

Adoption and different abilities? Check. Check.

Jesus and healing and death? Check. Check. Check.

I’ve looked into their innocent brown eyes and assured them that no question is off-limits, even when I have to contort my face to keep from laughing at times.

I’m a big fan of this stage of parenting my pre-tween and tween. Their endless wonder leads to so many interesting conversations and I’m grateful to be present in the dialogue, to help them find the answers, or to simply say, “I don’t know” when they ask me things like, “Will Sam have Down syndrome in heaven?”

Sometimes I worry that my answers are too detailed, that I’m offering too many words, overloading their growing minds in my earnest attempts to educate or inform or encourage.

But they seem undeterred, eager for more.

My hope is that they absorb all the good words that I endeavor to use: the red letters of Jesus, the truths of Scripture, the reality of history, the meaningful song lyrics, the beautiful stories, and profound poems written by countless men and women all over the world. I want their tender hearts and minds to be so full of the truth that lies can’t find any space to burrow inside. I want to protect their impressionable ears from the hateful and divisive words that seem to greet each of us more frequently in our polarized society.

While I believe that the words my kids are absorbing here at home are good and meaningful and true, I don’t want these humans entrusted to me to be tight-fisted consumers. I want them to take what they’re learning here and share it with their neighbors and classmates and teachers and yes, even (perhaps, especially those most difficult to love.)

I want them to tell the truth and treat others with respect.

I want them to stand with the bullied and include the ones who wonder if they matter.

I want them to encourage others and make at least one true friend.

I want them to work hard and listen well and make the most of their educational opportunities.  

With all of the possibilities, I found it a bit challenging to choose just one phrase for them to consider and apply this year. But I finally did and it’s this:


Photo cred: reneebigelow at Pixabay

That’s it. Nothing new or deeply profound.

When you meet a new classmate: Be kind.

When you see a kid quietly upset: Be kind.

When a student appears left out on the playground: Be kind.

When a student forgets her lunch: Be kind.

When a teacher seems in a bad mood: Be kind.

When a kid on the bus is being teased: Be kind.

When a kid seems different from the cultural norm: Be kind.

When you disagree with a classmate: Be kind.

When another student is rude: Be kind.

There are countless scenarios both in and out of the classroom where my kiddos can apply these two simple words with potentially powerful implications. Choosing to be kind will require different responses, depending on the need of the moment and the people present. Of course, I want them to learn and excel in school but I also want them to be aware of how they can include and encourage others, even when the easier choice would be to ignore, retreat, or retaliate.

And sometimes, these two kiddos are the ones who most need a good dose of their own kindness.

The Big Kids have a strong tendency to be self-critical. When they don’t meet their own expectations in some way, they tend to think negatively about themselves and once they move in that direction, they struggle to find their way back to the truth. I’m learning to give them ample time to process life, while offering heaps of encouragement and grace and love notes under their pillows to help chase away the dark thoughts. So, in their efforts to be kind to others, I also want them to remember to be kind to themselves–to extend grace to themselves, to rest in the love of God.

There’s a song by Andrew Peterson that speaks to this–one that I’ve played for them on the really rough days when music and lyrics offer more than I can. You can click here to listen.

Be kind, Kids. To others. To yourselves. That’s it.  


How about you? What is one idea/phrase/truth you want your kid(s) to hold on to for this school year?