February 1, 2019

Fab Friday Female – Mandy

It is my extreme pleasure to introduce you to my amazing friend, Mandy. Her story instantly sparked my attention, and I have no doubt that she will not only inspire you, but she will also win over your heart. I asked her the following questions about her family’s incredible journey:

With four kids in your family, what brought you to the decision to adopt a fifth child?

Motherhood didn’t come easily to me, and as a young married couple my husband and I struggled with years of infertility.  It felt defeating. We experienced pregnancy loss. We clung to one another and prayed for God to deliver us from such a lonely valley.  I remember vividly praying that, if God’s plan for my life wasn’t motherhood, that he would take it from me! That he would remove the deep longing on my heart for children.  It was the hardest season I’ve ever walked through, and yet it was also the most defining. He never took the desire; rather, He strengthened it. He refined me in ways I didn’t know I needed refinement.  I describe it now by saying it was like God took me on a honeymoon – He invited me to know Him deeper, to trust Him more, and to find my identity in who HE says I am. I share all of that to circle back to the belief that God is the author of our dreams.  I absolutely believe it to be true! He makes no mistakes, and His calling on your life is your mission field.  For me, adoption was always a dream. My family is the most important mission field I will ever have, and those simple moments inside the walls of my home – loving my people and serving them well – those are the ones that change the world.  I have always wanted a big family and it was never about the number for me. Instead, it has always been about the call. We’ve been called to adopt, and so we go.

 What went into your decision to adopt from China?

This is a two-part answer that includes a plot twist in our own family, but let me first answer the question as it stands:

There is an orphan crisis around the world – specifically for children with down syndrome.  China has an unprecedented need for families willing to adopt these little ones – in fact, many adoption agencies have special programs that specifically advocate for and target families willing to adopt a waiting child with down syndrome in China.  The sad truth is that down syndrome is slowly disappearing from Chinese society as prenatal screenings become more advanced and babies who will be born with down syndrome are identified in the womb. A few years ago, I read an article originally published in the magazine China Health, which talked about this trend in Chinese society.  What hit me like a gut-punch was the statistic quoted in the article that stated around 95% of women in China choose to abort their baby after learning of a down syndrome diagnosis. That devastated me, and I’ve never forgotten.  We believe these lives are worthy.

As for our family, we’ve had a bit of a plot twist.  

A few weeks ago, we were made aware of three little girls who were awaiting adoption in Armenia.  One of these girls was an eight month old with down syndrome. We were asked if we would consider pursuing her in adoption.

This was absolutely not on our radar.  I had to google Armenia, because I literally knew not one thing about this tiny country on the other side of the world.  We learned that Armenia is a landlocked country bordering Turkey and Georgia with a population of just under 3 million. It’s not much larger than my home state of Oregon.  The country is very poor. We were given very little information about this little one, really all we still know about her is that she is 8 months old and has down syndrome.  Because of the way Armenia structures their adoption program, that’s likely all we’ll know until we travel to Armenia to meet her for the first time. We won’t be able to see her face or officially match to her until months into this process.  It feels like we’re going in blind, and my husband said it felt like jumping off a cliff without seeing the landing spot. He wasn’t wrong.

We did all we know to do when the questions seem to outweigh the answers; we prayed.  We got on our knees and prayed for wisdom. For discernment. For protection over this little girl no matter what decision we made in this moment.  And ultimately, well…this week we jumped off that cliff. We are pursuing this baby girl with FIERCE intention. We know so little about her, we will not see her face for months, and we have no guarantee she’ll be ours…but we want her.  We will fight to get to her.

We are stepping out in bold faith and in brave love.  This timeline is expedited because this is a waiting baby girl—there’s no time to build up finances or slowly work our way through a mound of paperwork.  There’s a baby girl waiting in Armenia, and we go NOW.

In the next three weeks, we need to raise $8000.  That seems insurmountable, but nothing is impossible with God.  In the last 48 hours, $2500 has been contributed to our adoption fund. Right now, God is gathering an army of His people – to make a way for us in this season, to join with us in fighting for His little girl!  We believe that He will light the path, and we’ll walk it in joy to bring our girl home.

How did you decide on a child with Down’s Syndrome? What was the “sign” from God that led you down this path?

We decided on down syndrome because God literally tethered it to our soul.  I don’t know how to explain it any other way. As Lainey often tells people, “an extra chromosome is just one more to love!”  Amen, sister. If only we all had the faith of a five year old.

There is a stigma surrounding down syndrome, and I believe a lot of it stems from a fear of the unknown.  What will it be like to raise this child? Parenting is a hard gig no matter what, and every day is a decision to enter into the unknown alongside a little person you love more than life.  It’s just brave love. We choose to love with blinders, because we have no idea what the next moment could hold. We choose it for our kids because they are so worthy of being loved that way.  We believe this is true for EVERY child, and our family believes that EVERY life holds immeasurable value and purpose. I often describe each of my kids as a one-of-a-kind, living Mona Lisa designed by the creator of the Universe.  A literal piece of living, breathing artwork! That’s an incredible promise and an incredible truth. All children are blessings, and God doesn’t make mistakes. Every life is worthy, and we desire to proclaim that purpose and truth over these precious orphans.  

There is absolutely nothing to fear in down syndrome.  Different doesn’t mean scary, and to us, the decision to pursue a down syndrome adoption is no more significant than any other type of adoption.  These are kids worthy of being chosen, and we want to love them the way Jesus loves them—bravely. There is no fear in love, because perfect love drives out fear.

How did your sweet daughter Lainey come up with the idea to make farmhouse beads to raise money to help with all the adoption fees?

This all started one afternoon after school, when I discovered a bag of wooden beads in my (very large, very unorganized) stash of craft supplies in our garage.  I was redoing the open shelving in my kitchen and thought I’d use them to make a bead garland. I literally googled how to do it, and as I sat on the floor stringing beads, Lainey sat next to me.  She kept asking if she could try, so I gave her some string and my leftover beads and let her have at it. I showed her how to make the tassel and was literally shocked when she nailed it on her own the first time she tried.  At the time, we had just begun to talk to the kids about our desire to adopt and explain the lengthy process and the financial stewardship that it would require of us as a family.

The next morning, Lainey found me in the kitchen and just laid out her heart to me.  She told me she wanted to contribute to our adoption fund, and that she knew how to do it.  She was holding the bead garland she’d made the night before.

At first I was pretty hesitant.  I praised her for the desire to contribute to her baby sister’s homecoming, I told her how proud I was of her heart of servant hood, but I told her that she didn’t need to worry about the adoption finances.  I didn’t want my five year old feeling the burden of our finances.

But she wouldn’t let up.  She kept asking me, every day, if she could sell her garlands.  She told me she wanted to help because she already loved this baby and we’d get her here faster if we worked together.  She’s a pretty convincing little thing! Eventually, we agreed to let her make some garlands to sell to our friends and family, which she did with crazy success!  Today, she’s sold over 100 garlands through social media and in our hometown. Her older brother (Blake) helps her with them most days after school, and together they can produce about 40 garlands a week dedicating about ten minutes a day.  We are very protective over her time as a five year old, so what she gets done in those ten minutes after school is all she does for the day. I adjust her shipping estimates on Etsy to reflect that timeline, and so far it’s worked well!

I love the personal touch of the little heart on each strand of Lainey’s beads. How did she decide to do that?

Once we had agreed to let Lainey sell her beads, I took her to the craft store and let her pick out a pack of wooden beads to get her started.  She found those little round discs and insisted we buy them – at the time, I wasn’t on board because I couldn’t see how she would be able to use them.  But she insisted, and I reluctantly trusted in the creative process (ha!) and bought her the pack. She made her first bead garland that night, and when she pulled out a Sharpie and drew that tiny heart in the corner of the wooden disc….I got goose bumps.  It was the perfect touch, and it was like she had always known it belonged there.

You mentioned that the beads are called Saylor Beads, which is what name you plan to give the newly adopted member of your family. What is the significance of the name Saylor?

We picked the name Saylor just because we liked it.  We tend to gravitate towards gender-neutral names – Tucker and Charli are our two youngest and would have been Tucker and Charli regardless of gender – and we just really loved Saylor.  We had told the kids about this name choice and they also liked it, and were aware it was probably going to be the winning name for a little sib.

As to why the beads are named after our Saylor — that one was all Lainey.  She was working on a couple bead garlands before school one morning, and as I passed through the playroom I complimented her on the design.  She looked up at me, smiled, and said “Thanks mom! I’m going to be calling these Saylor Beads from now on.” I told her I loved the new name for her beads, and since that’s the name we had been talking about for this adoption, I wasn’t too surprised.  

But a little while later, I was sitting at the computer printing out shipping labels on her Etsy shop, and I paused wondering if I should change the name on her shop to reflect what she wanted it to be called.  And then I googled the meaning of the name “Saylor”.

Saylor literally means, ‘rope-maker’ or ‘tether’

I sat at my computer with tears pouring down my face.  A tether. In that moment, Lainey’s beads became a metaphor for literally EVERYTHING about our adoption journey.  Our hearts are tethered to a tiny baby, living half a world away. We’re tethered by the promise of what’s to come, by the permanence that God has already spoken over our family and the intention with which He’s chosen us for one another.  We’re already connected. Lainey’s little hand-drawn heart anchored to the end of her garland is a sweet detail that now serves as a powerful reminder of that truth. It’s what tethers us to one another; it’s that brave love <3

Will you take the whole family to bring home Saylor?

We hope so!  We will be traveling to Armenia at least twice, possibly three times.  The first trip is short, just about a week to meet our girl and take her for medical appointments.  After meeting her we officially accept the referral, and then return home to wait for the Armenian court to invite us to return.  The time it takes for them to process all that paperwork determines if we’ll need to return one more time before we get to bring her home.  Our plan right now is to take our oldest two with us for the first trip, and then to bring the whole family for the lengthy stay in country – when we get to bring her home.  We want to experience the country of her birth as a family, because her heritage is now a part of ours, and I want my kids to celebrate that with us. Saylor will be too young to remember Armenia, and I hope as she grows her older siblings will be able to tell her stories of her country and of the time we traveled across the world to bring her home.  

Are your other kids as excited as Lainey about their new sibling?

Oh heck yes!  They can hardly contain themselves.  If up to them, we’d adopt ten more. Ha!  I always say I feel like God designed my kids uniquely for this moment, and I believe that with my whole heart.  They are servants. Truly. I can’t and won’t take credit for that, because it’s just a spiritual gift they have been blessed with.  They are compassionate and kind, tender and loving, and love to serve. They were made for their roles as big (and little) sibs. They cannot wait for Saylor to come home.  Tucker (who is 3) has no concept of time, and every morning he wakes up and throws his hands in the air, proclaiming “TODAY IS THE DAY WE GET SAYLOR!” It’s always such a letdown when I have to tell him it’s not 😉

What challenges/obstacles do you anticipate in raising a child with special needs?

I don’t.  Not because I don’t think there will be any, but because I don’t believe in anticipating them.  That’s true for all my kids! I don’t know what the future holds and I don’t believe in worrying about it.  It’s that brave love again 😉 We will love Saylor with everything we’ve got, and whatever she needs we will provide.   We will be her biggest fans and champion her through anything life throws her way, and we will do our very best to show her Jesus – our biggest prayer for ALL our kids is that they will choose this Jesus life for themselves and desire Him above all else.  If we get everything else wrong, but we do that right, then I’m not afraid for them.

What advice would you give to other families who are considering adoption?

Do the hardest thing; jump.

I know it’s terrifying.  It will feel hard and unknown and overwhelming – probably multiple times a day.  But don’t be overtaken by the tidal wave of any one moment. I always tell my three year old, as he’s running around the house at lightning speed with his eyes on the floor, “LOOK UP! Look up, so you can see where you’re going”

Just look up.  Fix your eyes on the One who adopted us ALL into His family as orphans, and don’t be afraid.  Adoption is our HERITAGE. Step out in brave love; do the hard thing and jump knowing He will catch you.  

He WILL.  

If you would like to purchase a set of Lainey’s farmhouse beads, here is the link to her Etsy shop:

Saylor Beads

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