Hey everyone! No, I have not confused my days of the week. I know it’s Friday and I normally post this on Saturday, but this installment of the “Isn’t She Beautiful” series is time-sensitive so it’s going up today.
The sweet girl I am introducing you to today, I have actually introduced in a past post. Long time readers may remember this sweet face:
I first wrote about Ashlyn on my blog about this time last year. Ashlyn is the daughter of very dear friends of mine, Troy and Shari. Ashlyn was also born with Down Syndrome.
I am going to let her mama share here, in her own words, some of what they have experienced since having Ashlyn about 3 1/2 years ago.
“When Ashlyn was born I was filled with a sadness and a fear I had never felt before. I literally felt like my world was falling apart all around me. No one ever thinks they will have a child born with a disability and then when you do, the future seems so dark. All I could think about was how permanent it was. There is nothing you can do to change a diagnosis of Down Syndrome. No medicine, no surgery….it is there to stay. I agonized over what she would look like, how she would talk, if she would be able to talk, would people make fun of her, would she live with us forever and the list could go on and on. I worried about our older daughter, Kyla, and all the ways this could potentially change her life. In the days following Ashlyn’s birth it literally felt like a death…..the death of the child we thought we would have, grieving that, and somehow trying to face the future with the child we had been given.
The odd thing is that even in the midst of the deepest grief, I had a deep love for Ashlyn. She was my child, my baby….I am her mother. There was no denying that even though I was so scared, I knew I loved her. I spent months questioning how it happened, why God allowed it and wrestling through questions of my faith in ways I had never had before. But even in those dark months, God was beginning to show us in little ways what a gift we had been given.
Fast forward three years later and the gift is on full display. Ashlyn is a complete joy. She brings so much light and love into our family. Yes, there are challenges that come with Down Syndrome. At every step along the way it has required extra patience on our part. It took Ashlyn longer to crawl, walk, talk, and feed herself. It took us a year and a half to teach her to drink through a straw and we are still working on potty training and could be for awhile. Those things do require patience, but all of the strides she is making far outweigh the delays. She loves to look at books, sing and play with her big sister. She dances anytime music is on and talks up a storm. She is in her first year of preschool and thriving. She gives the very best hugs and has the best laugh you have ever heard.
It is a very strange and absolutely beautiful thing to watch how something that you thought would literally break your heart in two transforms into something that brings you some of the deepest joy you have known. Only God can do that and our family will forever be grateful.
I remember the first time I met Troy and Shari. I was on the board of our church at the time and we were interviewing candidates for a new pastor. It seems silly to say it like this, but with Troy and Shari it was like love at first sight…in a totally normal, non-creepy way of course. I have honestly never met two more open and genuine people in my whole life. By the time the interview was over, Shari was giving me a big hug and I just KNEW this was the family God has brought to lead our church.
Thankfully, the rest of the church agreed with me!
Ashlyn was born less than a year after Troy and Shari came to lead our church. Everything was still knew. Much like the position we are in now-they were still adjusting and making friends and getting settled and missing home. And then they got the news that rocked their world. They did not know prior to Ashlyn’s birth that she had Down Syndrome, so it came as quite a shock to them and our entire church family. It was such a raw and vulnerable time in their lives and they had to live it out loud in front of a congregation of people, many of whom were virtual strangers, who were depending on them to lead us.
Reading Shari’s words that she wrote about that time in their lives just brings tears to my eyes. The thing about what she wrote is that she lived all of that for all of us to see. I can’t tell you the number of times they just shared their journey openly and honestly with all of us. They were questioning, perhaps for the first time in their lives, where God was in the middle of all of it As hard as it was to see our pastor and his wife-our friends-hurt and struggle…it was also breathtakingly beautiful.
And like Shari said-there is no cure for Down Syndrome. While the initial shock of Ashlyn’s diagnosis has faded to the background, there are still so many uncertainties and Troy and Shari need to exercise an insane amount of trust to care for their sweet girl. They have to trust speech therapists and physical therapists and a whole parade of people that are now involved in their lives in ways they never would have imagined. They have to trust their friends and family to provide a safe place for them to share from the heart-even if what they share isn’t neat and tidy and pretty. Most of all, they have to trust, that ultimately God has them and God has their girls and He knows what He is doing, even if they can’t quite see it or don’t quite understand it.
And living life that way…is nothing less than beautiful.
This Saturday, October 13, Troy, Shari, Kyla, Ashlyn and several of their friends and family are participating in Down Syndrome Indiana’s (DSI) 15th Annual Buddy Walk. The kids and I were able to participate last year and help raise funds and awareness for DSI. Unfortunately, that is not possible for us this year, so I figured the least I could do would be to use my blog’s platform to raise awareness for this year’s Buddy Walk (<<< my re-cap of last year’s walk-with some more Ashlyn cuteness thrown in!).
The Buddy Walk exists to promote acceptance, raise funds and enhance the position of the Down Syndrome community. Proceeds from the walk help fund Down Syndrome Indiana programs and services that help individuals with Down Syndrome and their families, like Troy and Shari.
I would love it if you would consider donating to Troy and Shari’s Buddy Walk fund. All you need to do to donate is click here to go directly to Troy and Shari’s personal donation page. All donations made through the site are totally secure. I would also love to have you share this on Facebook and Twitter or e-mail this post to anyone who you think might want to support this sweet family and DSI.
Guys, I know this is something unorthodox for me to do on this blog. I do not make any money off of this blog, nor do I have any plans to. Though I did want to make a career out of this at one time, after much prayer and consideration I have decided against that because I was afraid having this be my “job” would take away from my message. You will never see advertisements on my blog and you will never see me try to sell you something. But I will share about causes I support and this one is near and dear to my heart. I simply ask that you carefully consider any donation, no matter the amount, to help support this sweet family. I’d give anything to be able to be there with them this year. In place of that, I am hoping and praying that you guys will flood them with love.instead. No donation is too small.
And aren’t they beautiful.