Advice to the Worried Aunt: Down syndrome isn’t a factor

Advice to the Worried Aunt: Down syndrome isn’t a factor

I was scrolling through the depths of the internet and came across a post that caught my eye. It was a Health Boards submission seeking help for a worried aunt. 

Here’s a look at the post titled “How should I behave toward Down nephew?”


This isn’t a criticism of the post. This isn’t a judgment of the aunt who was seeking this help. This is merely an attempt to help others who may be faced with the same question in their lives: “How do I behave around my family member with Down syndrome?”

I’m an uncle. I have been blessed with a niece and a nephew who are the shining lights in my world. My niece (Sadie) just turned three and is growing up right before my eyes. My nephew (Waylon) recently turned two and is doing the same. 

My niece loves toys. She likes to watch all of the same kids shows on repeat. You know the shows- the shows every parent can quote by heart. *Cough* Paw Patrol *Cough* 

My nephew also loves toys. He’s super into Blue’s Clues right now and probably loves Paw Patrol just as much as my niece. 

Both my niece and nephew can probably use my iPhone to do more things than I can, and they definitely know which apps will give them what they’re looking for. 

When I hang out with my niece, I talk to her about the shows I literally know nothing about. We talk about absolutely nothing as she teaches me who she is in the way she interacts with the world. She is always picking up something new that adds to who she is growing to be. 

When I’m with my nephew, I talk to him about the same shows. He uses my glasses as a boomerang, tossing them to the side every time I see him, only to have them magically return to his hands moment later. He does the same with most toys- because that’s what kids like- but I always give them back and we always repeat the cycle until he’s tired of it. He, like my niece, is constantly growing into an individual right before my eyes. (Even when those eyes are blurred because he tossed my glasses somewhere.)

Both kids are loved by my family. Both kids play with the other kids in the family. Both kids are entirely unique and incredibly perfect human beings. (I’m biased. Sue me.)

Which one has Down syndrome? 

You see, unless you knew before reading this, there is nothing about these kids that would indicate that one of them has Down syndrome. And- to get back to the post that started it all- that’s exactly how we behave. Down syndrome isn’t a factor.

Being a family member to a kid with Down syndrome is the same as being a family member to any other kid. There’s no special secret. There’s no specific treatment plan in place. 

You love the kid. You play with the kid. You find out what the kid likes to do and watch as those things help the kid develop into his or her own person. 

You buy the kid gifts from the same toy store as any other kid. You play the kid videos from the same channels as any other kid. And even when the kid seems to do things differently than the way you’re used to, you remember that all kids do that. 

This response isn’t meant for the person who posted the original question. Her question was posted years ago. So, I will choose to believe that she has already found all of this out for herself. I will choose to believe that she now sees that her nephew is just as “perfect” as her own kids. I will choose to believe that her nephew receives the same love and care as mine. 

That’s right. 


Waylon is the kid in my life who has Down syndrome. But that’s not who he is. Not really. Just like Sadie, just like the children of the worried aunt, Waylon is perfect. Because he’s no different. 

But this post IS written for anyone who may be asking themselves the same question this lady was struggling with. Because the sooner you realize the answer, the more time you get to focus on spoiling the kid in your life. 

Murders or Miracles

Murders or Miracles

How often do we overlook the miracles God supplies each day and take notice of only the bad things that happen?

In Matthew 8, Jesus and His followers travel to a land where some men are possessed by demons. Jesus sent the demons out of the men and they entered into nearby swine. The swine all ran into the water and died.

Those who witnessed this went to the nearby town and told others. Everyone returned to face Jesus. Instead of being happy that He healed the men, the people were angry that He killed the swine. They asked Him to leave their community.

We sometimes put ourselves in this same situation. It’s so easy to focus on the horrible things in the world. We easily think about the deaths, murders, diseases, disasters, etc. when we should be looking at the wonders of God’s creation.

God never promised a life without suffering. In fact, just the opposite of that. There are several verses about the tribulations we will face as Christians. (Romans 8:36, 2 Corinthians 11:23, Hebrews 11:25) We should be prepared for those trials in ways that will allow us to glorify the Lord and add to our testimony.

By choosing to focus on the negatives, we begin to live a negative life. Questioning the horrible things in the world, as a way to hold God accountable for all suffering, makes God seem horrible. We should recognize free will and God’s will as we consider the negative paths in life.

God has a plan, and we can’t see it unfold if we keep our eyes on the bad parts. If we are scared to trust God because horrible things happen in the world, a self-fulfilling prophecy can mess with our minds.

Don’t wait on God to change His plans. Ask Him to change the way you view them. Allow yourself to bask in the positive and wonderful acts of God, without becoming like those who asked Jesus to leave their town.

Don’t ask Jesus to leave you because you don’t understand something in your life. Allow the Lord to show you an alternative path, paved by the true love He has for you.

“It just doesn’t feel like Christmas.”

“It just doesn’t feel like Christmas.”

For a while now, it seems that every Christmas season is filled with reasons to say “It doesn’t feel like Christmas.”

 
There can be personal problems interfering with your “Christmas spirit.” There can be 70-degree weather throwing off any dreams of a “white Christmas.” There are always reasons that the season can lack the luster it so often is expected to have.

 
While the environment and personal circumstances can dampen the Christmas state of mind, we should take a step forward and examine the observation that it “doesn’t feel like Christmas.”

 
While this statement is often used to make conversation, and I’ve probably been guilty of saying it myself, it made me wonder. What does Christmas feel like?

 
To many people, Christmas is an escape from everyday life. A day for families to come together, hoping to avoid any drama. A day to show love to each other and make memories.

 
To others, Christmas is often a reminder of loss. Many people hope to avoid the holidays in order to preserve old holiday memories of a loved one who has since passed away.

 
To Mary and Joseph, Christmas started as rejection. The Inn had no room for them, forcing the virgin to give birth in a lowly manger. The King of Kings was denied a proper birth because there was simply no room.

 
To the shepherds who were watching over their flock, Christmas probably felt like an adventure. Christmas started out as a journey to find the Messiah and ended in the shepherds telling the masses what they had encountered.

 
Christmas isn’t about the weather. I sincerely doubt there was a massive amount of snow in Bethlehem during Jesus’ birth.

 
Christmas is not about circumstances. Things happen every day that affect the way we live our lives and the way we perceive other people. That isn’t going to change just because the calendar says it’s Christmas time.

 
Christmas IS about that day in Bethlehem. Christmas IS about the newborn baby who was sent from God. The baby, who was born of a virgin, to bring peace and love to the world. Christmas IS about Jesus.

 
So, to say that it doesn’t feel like Christmas is pretty much saying that it doesn’t feel like God sent His Son to the earth to die for our sins.

 
However you envision Christmas, make sure that you don’t lose sight of the truth. Make sure that even when the weather and the circumstances you’re facing don’t “feel like Christmas,” you give yourself a reminder that will rekindle your spirit.

 

Take your minds away from your search for the “Christmas spirit” and revive your search for the Holy Spirit.

 
If you feel like it isn’t Christmas, go on an adventure. Take a moment to read Luke 1 and 2. Re-visit that day in Bethlehem. Remind yourself there is a reason to rejoice, then tell the masses about it.

 

Merry Christmas!

Fighting for Faith in Football

Fighting for Faith in Football

In our morning worship services, my church has been working through a series titled “Day by Day.” The series deals with our daily walk in the Word and with the Lord. Today, our pastor mentioned a football player who is under fire because of his day by day walk.

The football player in question was penalized for “unsportsmanlike conduct” after throwing his hands up to praise God for a touchdown he had scored. Hearing about this incident reminded me of a similar story I heard earlier this week about a football coach who is being persecuted for praying at the 50-yard line after each game. It’s all too strange for me to think about.

You see, I’m a sports writer. Since I live and work in the “Bible Belt,” it would seem unusual to me if a team didn’t pray before or after a game. It would be even more unusual to see an official throw a flag because one of the players raised his hands to the Lord after making a touchdown. Maybe we’re just lucky. Maybe it’s just a matter of time.

It brings so much to light, hearing that Christian athletes are suffering because they choose to openly share their faith. It shows so much about the direction in which our government is turning. When did it become a problem for an individual to freely express their religious beliefs? When did it become “unsportsmanlike conduct” for someone to give glory to God?

I’m not so naive to think that every person in the stands is going to be a Christian. I do, however, understand that each person is allowed their freedom to choose what they believe in. I just question one thing: What happens when Freedom FROM Religion starts to overshadow our Freedom OF Religion?

When does a football coach who decides to have a conversation with the Lord after a game, or a quarterback who gives God the glory for his touchdown, interfere with another individual’s freedom? It doesn’t. However, when you ask that coach or that quarterback to stifle their praises, you’re taking away the very freedom they are guaranteed.

When did it become okay to stifle one person’s belief in order to support another person’s? Why is it so hard to accept that, to a born again Christian, God is a part of football?

In the movie Facing the Giants, coach Grant Taylor has a conversation with one of his players. The player asks, “So you think that God does care about football?” Coach Taylor replies, “I think He cares about your faith. He cares about where your heart is. And if you can live your faith out on the football field then yes, God cares about football because He cares about you.”

Asking someone not to live out their faith on the football field is the same as asking them not to live it out at all.

Though I can’t imagine covering a football game without seeing these acts of faith, I realize the extremely real possibility of that happening. It’s a giant we must prepare to face.

Second Peter says that there will be people who question the coming of the Lord. Peter warns that Christians will be scoffed at. “…there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying where is the promise of His coming?” (2 Peter 3:3-4)

Christian athletes are given a platform that many others will never have. All eyes are on the players. A stadium full of people is being exposed to the testimony of each player on the field. When the players choose to glorify God, in front of everyone in attendance, it isn’t about “shoving a religion down throats.” It’s simply an act which affirms their relationship with the Savior.

I applaud this coach for standing firm in his faith. I also applaud this football player, and I pray he doesn’t allow the world to stifle his praises.

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:58

When Waylon Came

When Waylon Came

January 8, 2015: My family and I were gathered in a hospital waiting room, waiting for my sister to give birth to my nephew. We all crowded her bedside as long as possible until the medical staff was prepared to deliver her son.

At any point of that day, or the days preceding, you could hear me praying for my unborn nephew. At any point during the time of my sister’s pregnancy, you could have witnessed my praises to the Lord for blessing our abundantly growing family. In the hospital Chapel that January day, you could have seen me on my knees, asking the Lord to take care of her and to bring her a perfect baby boy.

I prayed for the deliverance of a perfect, wonderful, miracle from God. What did I get, you ask?

After the baby was delivered, the medical staff cautioned our family. The nurses told my sister that something was wrong with her child. The staff on call the day of the delivery seemed unsure how to handle the situation and unsure how to deliver the unsettling news to a waiting family.

As the clock ticked, the air in the waiting room began to thicken. Our family sat in the small room, waiting for a small sign, a small answer. At this point, I was on my third or fourth trip to the chapel. “What’s wrong, God?” “Why aren’t they telling us more?” “Please take care of my family.” “Lord, if it be your will…”

After what seemed like hours, we were allowed to visit with my sister. But, unlike the new mothers I had previously visited, she didn’t hold a baby in her arms. My sister and mother had the heaviest eyes I’d ever seen. Tears streamed down the face of every person in the room and I was shocked. The birth of a child is supposed to be a happy thing, right? What aren’t these people telling me?

It was then that I found out the medical staff had informed our family that the child I had been praying for, the child my sister had been preparing for, was in need of immediate attention and needed to be flown out of town. I quickly made my way to my sister and hugged her.

Apparently, a prenatal screening for Down syndrome isn’t always accurate. Apparently, the child I had begged God to take care of was born with an extra chromosome. My newborn nephew was brought into this world with a “disorder” (I’ve never been a fan of that word) that would change his entire life.

I’ve seen the horrors of being different. I’ve heard the myths of people with Down syndrome having developmental issues and not being considered as contributing members of society. Now my nephew is going to grow up with this burden?

So, what did my family get when I asked God for a perfect, wonderful, miracle?

We got a perfect, wonderful, miracle.

The baby I had prayed for, the child my sister and her boyfriend had been preparing for, was the exact child we were given.

Down syndrome is something I had never considered as a possibility. It didn’t seem to run in the family and I didn’t really know anyone who was diagnosed with it. In fact, I didn’t really know anything about Down syndrome when my nephew was born. I did, however, know that the child who was on his way to Louisville, Ky. was the exact child we were going to watch grow. God gave us exactly what we prayed for.

After the initial shock settled and after many days in a Children’s Hospital, my sister was able to come home. And this time, unlike before, she did have a baby in her arms. Waylon Keith Adkins came home to join our family.

It’s been nine months since my nephew was born. It’s been nine months since our family changed forever. It’s been nine months and I am completely obsessed with the little guy God has placed in the middle of our family.

I’ve been given an opportunity to watch this incredible kid as he grows into his own personality and I’m not sure how any medical staff could ever have worried about the extra chromosome he houses. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the importance of knowing when you have a “disorder.” (There it is again.)

My sister has become a super mom and is determined to help in the fight for awareness and acceptance of Down syndrome. I’m witnessing a world where my nephew can and will be accepted for the incredible child he is. I know that the myths I’ve heard about Down syndrome are exactly that: myths.

Of course, it’s scary that we can’t see what lies ahead for him. However, there’s nothing about this child that makes me worry about his future. The little boy I hold in my arms, who screams just to hear himself scream and who tries to grab my non-existent beard, has such an incredible future. I praise The Lord for giving me the opportunity to be a part of his life.

See, Waylon isn’t a diagnosis and he definitely isn’t a disorder. He’s simply our perfect, wonderful, miracle.

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