Trust The Experts, Because They May Just Save Your Child’s Life

Trust The Experts, Because They May Just Save Your Child’s Life

If my son had made it to his due date, today would be his 5th birthday. He ended up being born 10 week early by emergency cesarean instead.

To this day, I don’t know what my wife’s doctor noticed during the check up that caused her to order an ultrasound. Her instincts led to the discovery of major complications and, ultimately, to his premature birth just a couple of days after that appointment.

We were already aware that he probably had Down syndrome (which he does), but there were major, life-threatening things going on as well. Things like low amniotic fluid causing his heart rate to plummet over and over again. And things like a malformed umbilical chord. And something called neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenia (I’ll spare you the details, but feel free to Google it).

These were things we knew nothing about before the doctor did a seemingly routine check up and sensed that something wasn’t quite right in the course of her non-invasive exam. Whatever she picked up on was so subtle that only an expert would be able to see it.

I will forever be grateful for that doctor. She quite literally saved our son’s life. I remember trying to express my thanks to her after the C-Section as she was giving me an update on her way out the door (she came in to deliver him on her day off because she’s the hero of the story and of course she did). She mostly acted like there wasn’t much need for thanks. Sort of a “just doing my job” kind of response. And of course she was just doing her job. But I continue to marvel at the excellence she brought to her work. The skill and knowledge she possessed. She was competent. She was an expert.

It reminds me of the time I helped a deacon at our church remove a wall in a classroom. It was load-bearing, so a beam was needed. One of the boards he was using to build the beam was a bit warped so it didn’t fit into place when we raised it. I assumed we had to go get a new piece of wood, but he wasn’t concerned about it. I watched in awe as he used a collection of 2X4s and knowhow to shift the board this way and that to make it fit into place so he could secure it with brackets and screws. The man possessed expertise that I did not.

My wife is a nurse, and I usually have little idea what she’s talking about when she recounts parts of her day working in the ICU. She is competent in a field I have never been trained in. She is an expert.

I think it’s worthwhile to take some time every so often to think about the impressive experts we know in the fields that we don’t. Let the awe you have for them humble you. Always keep in mind that we are not experts on most things. Experts don’t know everything, and sometimes they get things wrong. But we should never think we know an expert’s field better than they do.

My wife’s doctor saved my son’s life because she was an expert. That deacon saved us from buying unnecessary lumber because he was an expert. My wife and her colleagues do life-saving work because they are experts. When someone says, “trust the experts,” it’s because that is a reasonable thing to do.

We would all do well to remain humble enough to say “I don’t know” and then defer to someone who perhaps does.

Helen Keller Did Exist, and the Jokes Aren’t Funny

Helen Keller Did Exist, and the Jokes Aren’t Funny

There is an idea that has gained a lot of momentum with young people. Social media platforms like TikTok have given it an environment where it has been able to spread and thrive. It is the ludicrous idea that the late great Helen Keller never really existed.

A post on Medium by Isabella Lahoue from last May that has been making the rounds on Twitter explains the phenomenon well. In the piece, Lahoue tells us why she and so many others from her generation have embraced Helen Keller denialism.

Her article is really about how the internet has made her generation care more about searching for truth than previous generations (I’ll let you evaluate her argument yourself), but she uses Helen Keller as a case study. The young people are puzzled: How could so many previous generations never question this ridiculous story?

She credits the popularity and style of TikTok as the driving force behind the widespread debunking of what Gen Z sees as something of an urban legend:

“In the TikTok fashion, the videos both satirically and seriously question the unbelievable story of Helen Keller’s life.”

I added the emphasis to highlight what I see as the real issue here.

Why does she assume the unbelievability of Keller’s story is a given? Why can she conclude, “We don’t have to believe in Helen Keller, and it shouldn’t be surprising if we don’t”?

She writes with the assumption that it is obvious to everyone reading that it is outrageous to believe someone with disabilities like blindness and deafness could be intelligent and driven enough to accomplish all that Helen Keller did in her incredible life.

Think about what is being communicated here.

Consider the irony in the fact that Lahoue discusses the egregious injustices that plague our world (leading to the younger generation’s trust issues in the first place) while simultaneously expressing the same type of attitude toward the disabled that leads to things like “the injustices committed at the border, against the black community, and against women.”

Injustices committed against marginalized groups come from a collective assumption that my ethnic background, or my social group, or my economic class, or my intelligence, or my gender, or whatever category we are talking about is better or more important than others.

We have become very familiar with terms like xenophobia, sexism, and racism. We know what those words mean. And while we have not successfully eradicated such things from society, we have identified these problems enough to give them names. There is another term that we as a society must bring into our collective vocabulary with more prominence.

The issue here is not that this younger generation cares more about truth than older generations (at least not when it comes to Helen Keller). The issue is that young people are just as prone to ableism as any other generation.

Ableism is the assumption that people with disabilities are inferior in value or importance or capability to the able-bodied. Ableism is the reason why memes and TikToks about Helen Keller being a myth can go viral and win over so many believers. She was blind? She was deaf? There’s no way she accomplished such amazing things!

Back in November, Chris Nikic became the first person with Down syndrome to complete a full Ironman. He swam 2.4 miles, rode his bike for 112 miles, and then ran 26.2 miles. It was an amazing feat, but I think the way that many people reacted to his accomplishment highlights the issue of ableism. Many had the impulse to make his story all about inspiration. If he can accomplish his dreams, so can the rest of us! If he can do an Ironman, so can I!

On the one hand, yes, Chris Nikic is an inspiration. By all means, look up to him and be inspired! On the other hand, be careful not to diminish his accomplishment by thinking, “Hey, if a guy with Down syndrome can do it, so can I!” He’s more than just our inspiration. He’s an athlete. There’s a good chance you and I cannot actually do what he did.

Understand that a man with Down syndrome accomplished something you literally may never be able to do.

Helen Keller was a disabled woman who accomplished incredible things. She’s an inspiration. But she’s more than that. She was an intelligent and driven person. She tapped into her talents and worked hard to exceed the limits the world placed (and continues to place) on her.

She was more capable than a lot of us. That truth may cause you to think that her story is unbelievable, but that’s only because you look down on the disabled.

So as younger generations use the technology available to them to seek out truth, I encourage them to type “Ableism” into that Google search bar. It’s an exercise we should all do, really.

At a time when it has become common coin to hear things like, “𝘖𝘯𝘭𝘺 the vulnerable are at serious risk of dying from Covid,” we need to search our hearts to see if we are prone to diminish the value and dignity of the disabled. Consider the dangerous nature of that insidious thing which may be lurking in your own heart, confront it, and change your attitudes.

And my goodness, let’s make sure that Helen Keller is taught about in schools.

The Blessed Hope for Weary People

Thomas Cole: The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds

One Thursday afternoon this past July, I was asked to officiate a funeral.

Families often don’t have connections to a local church so funeral homes reach out to ministers in the area for help. This was such an occasion. I didn’t know the man who had died, his family, or anyone he knew. He and his loved ones were complete strangers to me.

The funeral home connected me with the man’s sister who was helping make the arrangements. Speaking with her, I learned a little bit about him.

She told about a special man. He was the eldest of 3 kids. A whiz with numbers who worked in finance. A ballroom dancer. An avid reader. A gamer. A man who loved his parents and siblings.

He died tragically the week before at the age of 31.

I was taken aback when I learned his age because I’m 31. He was born less than 3 months before me.

When I was learning to walk, he had probably just started doing the same. When I was struggling with my family’s cross-country move in 7th grade, he was beginning to deal with his own struggles. We graduated from high school the same year. I wonder if we would have been friends.

When I arrived at the funeral home on that Saturday, they had a slide show rolling on monitors throughout the facility with highlights from his life. Pictures of him as a maybe 7 year old going trick or treating with his sister (he went as Raphael the Ninja Turtle). There were pictures of him and his brother and sister at his college graduation. There were family vacation pictures.

As I watched his life play out on the screen, I saw that there was plenty to celebrate about his 31 years. And yet, no one was celebrating that afternoon as we gathered for his funeral. The somber tone of the occasion was amplified by the sudden and tragic nature of his passing. I did not know him or the family, but I was grieved too.

The family took comfort in the fact that the struggles he began facing when he and I were in middle school have been wiped away. They took comfort in the fact that he is safe and whole in the presence of Jesus. And they grieve with the hope of knowing he is not lost forever.

I did my best to reinforce these things as I preached the funeral for this stranger. In my final prayer with the family, I asked for peace for them all. In such circumstances, I can’t help but wonder how peace could be found apart from the hope of the resurrection.

I gave the family my contact information and invited them to reach out if they desired. I never heard from them though. That day was the last time I saw or heard from any of them. They were of course broken that day, and I suspect time will never really heal that wound. But in their brokenness, they demonstrated faith.

And in faith, they entrusted their son and brother to Jesus. And they grieve as those who have hope (1 Thessalonians 4).

Hope that the longing they have to be reunited with this beloved brother and son will be satisfied in the presence of the One who is “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Corinthians 15:20).”

I thought about this man and his family yesterday as I read Evan Welcher’s great piece over at The Gospel Coalition. You should carve out some time to read it once or twice yourself. In a heart-breaking, yet hopeful way, he points us to Advent as “the rusty nail holding us together until resurrection day.”

Here we find ourselves awaiting Christ’s return. And in this “here and now,” Welcher says, “we are sojourners in the valley of the shadow of death, plodding between the two advents of our God and King.” Such a reality is understandably dark and dreary sometimes. Such a reality brings weariness.

As I think about the weariness that the family of this man surely feels even today, I am reminded that there is plenty of weariness to go around.

And I am reminded of the blessed hope. The hope of Christ’s return.

Christ’s first advent was announced by the angel of the Lord to the shepherds as “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people (Luke 2:10).” And of course we know what his life, death, and resurrection brought into the world. When Jesus arrives, he makes it all better.

And so I am grateful for Advent this year, reminding all of us to hold onto that hope which Christ has secured.

Even in the darkest of seasons, we can take heart. Because, as Welcher likes to put it, “Resurrection day approaches.”


Traitors Learning Humility

Traitors Learning Humility

In Luke 22, we find the familiar scene of the Last Supper. In v 21 Jesus says he will be betrayed by one of the people at that table. Understandably, this begins a discussion about who among them could do such a thing. I imagine it probably got pretty heated. After all, guys like Peter were there. In a few hours he would attack a guy with a sword. He was not a meek person.

Interestingly enough, things shift pretty quickly in the text from the question of who among them is the worst kind of person to who among them is the best. Bear in mind, Jesus has just informed them that not only is there a traitor in their midst, but also that he is the target.

But this dire situation of the Messiah being betrayed fades from importance unbelievably fast here. As fingers begin to be pointed around the room at each other, the disciples need to justify themselves. Jesus said one of them was a monster. No one wants to believe it could be them. So it must be one of these other men.

And so it seems that they defend themselves by implementing a simple strategy based upon simple logic: The greatest among us would never do something like betray Jesus, so I just need to prove I am the greatest. And this is where the discussion goes. No longer are the talking about who is the traitor. They have moved on to talking about who is the greatest among them.

Jesus interrupts to remind them of a lesson he’s been teaching for years. They shouldn’t strive for greatness in the Kingdom. They ought to be humble. It’s “first will be last” kind of stuff. He even uses himself as an example. He’s obviously the greatest there is, and yet he serves. Peter responds by saying he is so committed to Jesus that he would go to prison and even death with him.

The back and forth would be comical if it weren’t so sad:

Jesus: “One of you will betray me.”

Disciples: “Who could do such a thing?”…”I’m the greatest”…”No, I am”…

Jesus: “Don’t focus on being the greatest.”

Peter: “Speaking of greatest, I’m so great I would even die by your side!

It’s at this point when Jesus famously warns Peter that he will deny even knowing him before the night is over. A lesser betrayal than the one Judas was doing, but a betrayal nonetheless.

And of course we know how things go. Peter sells Jesus out by that fire in the courtyard. The one convinced he was the greatest among the disciples turns out looking like the least among them (with the exception of Judas, obviously). His desire for self-preservation far outweighed his loyalty to Jesus. You might say that his self-exaltation, his belief that he was the greatest, led to his betrayal of the Lord.

I don’t know what all we should take away from all of that, other than to be warned about assuming we’re the greatest in the Kingdom. As we face the uncertainty of the world around us, it’s easy to point fingers at the brothers and sisters in Christ who are doing everything the wrong way. It’s easy to prop ourselves up as the greatest in the Kingdom. We’re the ones who will never get it wrong. The ones who will never let Jesus down. When that’s our attitude, disaster (betrayal, even) may be just around the corner.

Ironically, Peter would go on to be a very prominent, influential figure (and could considered among the greatest in some ways) in the church. But he continued to make big mistakes long after he was restored by the risen Christ (Galatians 2). Perhaps one way to remain humble is to remember that any of us are capable of betraying the Lord.

And perhaps the best way to remain humble is to recognize our need for a savior. Salvation is a wonderful gift that reminds us that we are far from perfect. We are not the greatest in the Kingdom.

Salvation also reminds us that the One who actually is the greatest stands ready to forgive and restore us again and again.

We needn’t elevate ourselves. He’s holding us up far higher than we would have ever reached on our own. That truth should humble us greatly.

What Jesus Thinks About the Disabled

What Jesus Thinks About the Disabled

In John 9, Jesus and his disciples encounter a man who was born blind. The disciples assume some sin was the cause of his disability. Obviously, someone was to blame for what they saw as a curse. Jesus tells them his blindness was given by God for the purpose of his glory.

That’s it. That’s the only reason he is blind. It’s not a tragedy. It’s not a curse. It’s just how God planned to make him.

Then Jesus gives him sight.

Then Jesus disappears from the text and we follow the man through the aftermath of the miracle. The people he interacts with begin to ask, “Wasn’t he a blind beggar?” Some decide, “Nah, he just looks like him.” John tells us that the man “kept saying, ‘I am the man.’”

The people ask how he now sees so he tells them about Jesus’ miracle. They don’t believe him though. His word is not enough.

He is taken to the Pharisees. Their first observation is that this supposed miracle occurred on the Sabbath so it could not have been God’s doing. They argue with each other and the man about his claim, deciding this miracle business must be a lie.

They bring the man’s parents into the debate to see if he was actually born blind. His mom and dad acknowledge he was, but quickly wash their hands of his claims about Jesus. They were scared the Pharisees would cast them out of the synagogue. He’s on his own.

The man is brought back out and questioned again. He won’t change his story. They don’t believe it, because they don’t believe in Jesus. After some back and forth, the man expresses frustration at the whole debate and explains that it makes no sense for them not to believe in Jesus if he is able to give sight.

His point is logical, if not compelling.

“They answered him, ‘You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?’ And they cast him out.”

He was rejected by the faith community, cast out of the synagogue, because he testified that Jesus had given him sight. They rejected Jesus, so they rejected him. Their response defies reason, but knowing their position on Jesus makes it unsurprising.

But there is more going on here. The man himself is worthless to them, not just because he is with Jesus. He’s worthless because he was born blind. He was “born in utter sin” by their estimation. He is not a man. He is something lesser.

News of his being cast out prompts Jesus to go look for him. I love that. He wasn’t the trash he’d always been told he was. Jesus saw him as worthy of his love, inviting the man to follow him. And the man does. The scene ends with the man worshiping Jesus, and Jesus speaking judgment on the Pharisees.

And then the Pharisees are compared to Jesus, the Good Shepherd, in chapter 10. They are called thieves. They come only to steal, kill, and destroy. Jesus came to give abundant life.

This abundant life is offered to all people. And we see Jesus’ special concern for the marginalized. Especially those marginalized by the religious leaders who abuse their power. We see it clearly here as Jesus extends his love and care to this man born with a disability.

As we enter Down syndrome awareness month, I invite all people who follow Jesus to consider his heart for the marginalized.

My son and the rest of the disability community are often looked down upon, treated as disposable (“the virus only impacts the vulnerable”), and experience discrimination, and it often occurs at the hands of the church. It can be obvious or it can be subtle, but it happens. And it begins with an assumption deep down that the disabled aren’t quite as important as the rest of us.

Jesus had very harsh words for religious people who see and treat people created in his image as lesser.

Let’s examine our hearts to be sure we see people the way Jesus does.

Graduating During a Pandemic


We are living in an unprecedented season.

Typically, this is the time of year when high school seniors are playing in their final season of spring sports. It’s supposed to be a time marked by proms and other pageantry. These students have been in school for 12 long years. They’ve been looking forward to walking across that stage at graduation and celebrating all that they have accomplished. It’s a ceremony that concludes one last year spent learning alongside friends they have known all of their lives. The norms in student life during the spring season are what we expect right now. But that’s not what seniors are getting. They get the unprecedented season.

Given the nature of what is going on in our world right now, this may seem trivial. Someone might point out that missed events are nothing compared to the lives threatened by this virus. And that’s obviously true. The new coronavirus is a very real danger for a lot of people. Between those lives and prom, one is clearly far more important than the other.

The thing is we know that already. That’s why when the choice was between going to school and social distancing to save lives, we chose to stay home. But one thing being more important than another does not mean that both cannot be important. Something as culturally significant as a senior year is certainly important in its own way. And it matters a great deal to the people who are seniors.

To the class of 2020, I want to say how sorry I am that this is happening. As a student pastor (and uncle to a senior), I know quite a few of you. What I wish I could do is give you guys some kind of encouraging word right now and make it all better. I want to be able to make this all feel ok, but this is a bad situation and I can’t change it. It’s not fair that you all are missing out on these things. You didn’t do anything to deserve this. But here we are. What can we do?

I encourage you to embrace what the Bible calls “lament”.

A lament is a feeling or expression of grief. It’s not a word we are very familiar with these days. We are conditioned to pretend like life is great all of the time. When you ask someone how they are doing, you’re usually not prepared for them to respond with something like, “Life is really terrible right now.” We assume they will say that things are going well. That’s what we usually say when people check in on us. Being real and vulnerable about our hurts, fears, and anxieties is not something we are trained to do.

But the Bible is full of laments. If you go and read the book of Lamentations, it’s mostly pretty depressing. If you go to the Psalms, you’ll find that about 42 of them are songs of lament. Nearly a third of that book is a record of people crying out in sorrow. Jesus himself said, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.” Scripture shows that expressing our pain is not only ok, but necessary.

This year did not turn out how any of us thought it would. Seniors did not get the senior year many of them have been dreaming about. Even those who didn’t necessarily have dreams are grieving over the experience that they took for granted. This year is unprecedented. And in this case, “unprecedented” means “not the way it’s supposed to be.” It’s fitting to express grief over such things. We should lament.

Lamenting does not mean distrust toward God, though.

Lamentation in the biblical sense has a very clear order to it:

  • Expressing our grief to God
  • Leaning on God for help
  • Trusting God and praising Him

I invite all of the seniors who are hurting right now to come before God and express that to Him. Be totally honest. In the Psalms, we see some pretty strong language used to convey the grief that is felt. Crying out to God is something that all of His children are invited to do. The Apostle Peter put it this way, “[Cast] all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).” Bring your pain before the one who cares about it the most.

Coming to God with our pain is wise because not only will He give you the time of day, but He loves you and can help you. That does not necessarily mean He will answer your prayer exactly how you want. It does mean that He knows what He is doing and will work “all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).”

Knowing that God cares and is working things out for our ultimate good allows us to trust Him. It puts us in the position to kneel down before Him in the good and the bad and believe that He is going to get us through this.

Lamentations 3 spends 20 verses outlining how unbelievably bad things are for the writer and his people, building up to the devastating statement, “My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me (Lam 3:20).” In other words, he is totally crushed within himself. Hopeless. Defeated.

“But this I call to mind,” he continues, “and therefore have hope…”

What is it that brings hope to someone who is without any semblance of hope?

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him (3:22-24).’”

I don’t know how long we will be at home. I hope that it isn’t for long. I hope that we are able to “flatten the curve” and keep people who are most vulnerable from contracting this virus. I hope that graduations aren’t interrupted. I hope a lot of things.

At the moment, we don’t know what will happen. What we do know is that God is ever present and that He is listening when we cry out. He cares about those who are sick and dying, and He cares about those who are mourning other things. Trust Him with all of it.

He cares for you.

My Son is Worthy

***I would hate to be known as the guy who spoiled “Avengers: Endgame” for someone, so please go watch the movie before reading on. You’ll thank me later.***


Last night, my son tried on his Halloween costume. I needed to make sure it fit (it was a hand-me-down from a friend). Had it not, I was going straight to the store to buy a new one. I’ve been planning his costume since the opening weekend of “Avengers: Endgame”.

For fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there is little doubt that one of the biggest moments in the series happened during that movie as Thor was about to meet his demise. Thanos stood over him, slowly sinking Stormbreaker (Thor’s magical axe) into his chest. Just when it seemed like all hope was lost, Mjolnir (Thor’s enchanted hammer) intervened, knocking Thanos over long enough to save Thor.

As the two turned toward the direction from which Mjolnir had come, they saw Captain America summon the weapon back to his grasp.

Thor verbalized what everyone in the audience was thinking: “I knew it!” It was no shock that Steve Rogers was worthy.

Many years earlier, Steve underwent a dangerous procedure as he received the Super Soldier Serum and became the hero we know as Captain America.

The night before the transformation, Dr. Erskine, the scientist who had chosen Steve for the program, gave him an important challenge:

“Whatever happens tomorrow, you must promise me one thing. That you will stay who you are. Not a perfect soldier, but a good man.”

All those years later, as this mortal lifted and wielded this weapon of the gods, we got to see how special he really was. And it wasn’t because the serum had turned him into a perfect soldier. It was because he had remained a good man.

Watching Cap proceed to deliver blow after blow to the face of the great Titan was so very satisfying. We already knew that he was worthy. Now we got to see just what he was capable of doing.

I chose my son’s costume for a couple of reasons. The first is probably obvious: Cap wielding Mjolnir is what we’ve been waiting our entire lives to see.

The second reason may not be as obvious though.

As a parent to a child with a disability, I have been given a unique perspective. I don’t know what it’s like to be disabled, mind you, but I have become sensitive to the ways that many people talk about and treat those who are.

I’m reminded of the couple who expressed sympathy for me and my wife when our son was born with Down syndrome. And I think about the way that people will sometimes talk about him like he’s a cute pet instead of a human child.

Or I think about the way that the conversations around prenatal diagnoses tend to be framed. Too often, disability is treated like a tragedy.

But I look at my son, and I don’t see a tragedy.

I see a boy who loves his life and brings joy to ours.

A boy with a sense of humor who likes to make people laugh.

He’s a kid who gets frustrated, sad, and scared. He has preferences and dislikes.

He loves music and his Pooh Bear. He loves books. He has a lot of personality. He’s more like his typical peers than he is different from them.

So this year for Halloween, he’s going as Captain America with Mjolnir in hand. Because he’s worthy of the life he’s been given.

He’s worthy because he’s fully human. He may never be a perfect soldier, but one day he’ll be a man. And based on what I’ve seen so far, I suspect he’ll be a good one.

I can’t wait to see what he’s capable of doing.


When Foster Children Go Home

car leaving

We were finally bringing our son home from the hospital.

He came ten weeks early, so he spent the first 44 days of his life in the NICU. I went to get the car while he and my wife rode the elevator with one of his nurses. My wife later told me that his nurse seemed to be holding back tears as she repeatedly said things like, “Make sure you…” while adjusting his car seat straps and ensuring he was warm enough.

She was so maternal.

She wasn’t his mom, but she sure had acted like one. Up until that point she had been responsible for much of his care. She had probably spent more time with him than we had during those six long weeks. I can only imagine the emotions she must have experienced during that elevator ride. This child she had dedicated so much time and effort into caring for was leaving.

She made one last car seat check before we hugged her and said goodbye. She loved him. I doubt that seeing him go was easy for her. But as hard as it may have been, he obviously needed to be at home with his family. He needed his mom and dad.

The NICU isn’t ideal. What’s supposed to happen is your child is born healthy and then you take them home. But things don’t always go as planned. Kids belong at home with their moms and dads, but when things go wrong, the NICU becomes necessary.

In a perfect world, all children would grow up in the safe care of their moms and dads at home. But things aren’t as they should be, and there are currently some 438,000 children in the foster care system who, through no fault of their own, can’t be with their parents. Regardless of what you or I may think about the unfortunate choices which may have led to this, surely we can agree that this is unbelievably tragic. Children need their moms and dads.

Upon learning about the great need for safe homes for these kids, my wife and I decided to become foster parents. Early on in our exploration phase, we assumed fostering was about bringing children into forever homes. We saw it as something of a first stop on the road to adoption. What we came to understand is that the initial primary goal in foster care is not to give children new families, but to reunify them with their biological parents.

Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t always happen. In foster care, the end goal is permanency for the child. A stable, loving, forever home. Many children come into care with no hope of being reunified for various reasons. Or, sometimes what begins as hope for reunification ends up not working out that way. In such cases, I am so thankful that adoption exists. It is a wonderful, beautiful thing. It is a commitment that we are certainly open to making should the time come.

So please don’t misunderstand me, I am not knocking adoption. I am simply saying that ideally, whenever possible, foster care ends with children being reunited with their moms and dads.

And of course that should be the initial hope and goal. Kids belong with their parents. Children are only taken from their families if it is necessary for their safety and well-being. There are very serious reasons for removing a child from the custody of their parents. But once those reasons are resolved (if that is possible), it is time for that child to go back home.

Until that happens, the children are placed into homes with foster moms and dads because they need surrogates who will stand in the gap and love them. Who will let them know that they matter and try to offer some sense of security and normalcy. To try and help with healing. And that’s why we do it. So that children can have a safe place with us until home becomes safe again.

But for many of them, home will never again be deemed safe. Reunification certainly happens, but not always. And because it is not guaranteed, the times when it successfully happens should be celebrated all the more.

Still, when it comes time to give children back to their parents, it’s not necessarily easy. It might be tempting for some to think that the certified foster home is a better place for the child. Some may question the wisdom of giving the parents another chance. Even those who see that this truly is best may have reservations. And they will have difficulty saying “goodbye.”

Letting go of a child you’ve opened your heart to feels about as good as you might expect. Having done that myself, I think I can somewhat relate to how I assume my son’s NICU nurse felt that day. Of course, kids coming into foster care and kids coming into the NICU are not identical situations. In fact, they are altogether different. However, the ideal outcomes of both do somewhat mirror one another.

Like a child being discharged from the NICU, a foster child is being placed back with their parents as care is transferred. This is how it should be, but foster parents will still want to tell that bio parent, “Make sure you…” as they hold back tears, making sure that the child’s car seat is properly adjusted.

Giving a child that you have grown to love as your own back to their parent is so hard.

But if the state has done its due diligence* and determined that the parents are ready to bring their child home, then that child is going to be with parents who have been through the ringer to regain custody. They’ve worked hard to be reunited with that little one they love so much. And the hope is that they are ready to offer a safe and secure home again.

And so we, the foster parents, watch that car pull out and drive away. We may have tears in our eyes because we love that child who is leaving, but we have joy as well. Joy in seeing a family reunited. Joy in knowing that this person we love gets to be with his or her family again. And, I’d imagine similarly to an NICU nurse, we get the satisfaction in seeing the fruits of our (oftentimes difficult) labor. This child is in a better place than when they first came to us.

And now, against all odds, they get to go to the place that is unlike any other: home. It doesn’t always happen this way.

Thank God it did this time.


*Unfortunately, sometimes important things do fall through the cracks and children are released back into unsafe situations. The foster care system is not perfect. Many speak about it being a “broken system”. I don’t believe that it the correct way to frame it, though. What is broken is the world we live in. Foster care exists because things aren’t perfect in the world. It is a necessity, but tragically things don’t always work out as well as the state intends. Generally speaking though, children go home when necessary corrections have been made.

My Son With Down Syndrome Became a Role Model


I remember dropping my son off for day care one day when he was around a year old. He had been in his class there for several months by that point. We walked in like we always did, waving to the facility’s administrator on our way down the hall. I carried him into his classroom, handed him to his teacher, and turned to put his bottles into the refrigerator. Then I heard something that upset me more than it probably should have.

It wasn’t something that you would expect to be troubling. The exact opposite; it should have been heart-warming.

It was the sweet little voice of a child that was just starting to learn to say words. The word that came out of her mouth was certainly innocent. And I’m sure her mother was so proud of the way she was able to identify what was in front of her and articulate her thoughts out loud. Indeed, she affirmed what the child said:

“Yes, that is a baby!”

The little girl was not necessarily wrong. The term baby is kind of broad. And at the time, my son was certainly behaving much more like a baby than she was. She was already walking. She was probably feeding herself to some extent. She was apparently talking. Why was this such a hard thing to hear that day? Because this little girl, like most of my son’s class at the time, was younger than him. He had started in a class that was really intended for kids in a different age range from him due to space limitations and the date of his birth.

The point is he was not the baby in that class.

And yet, he was. It was obvious to not only the adults who came into that room, but to his peers as well.

He was different.

And of course he was. His peers just started talking one day, but he sees a speech therapist weekly. His peers began playing with toys without prompting. He had to learn play skills with the help of an occupational therapist. And his peers took their first steps long before he did. He was over two years old before all the hard work he’d put in with the help of his physical therapist finally paid off.

I had expected for differences to be obvious to his peers at some point, but I didn’t think that would happen so soon.

The whole episode concerned me. Would my son always just be that kid who everyone looks on with some level of condescension?

That concern still hangs in the back of my mind. It’s brought to the forefront each time someone calls him a baby, even though he is almost three. It’s a mistake that’s made by children and adults alike.

Recently, though, something unexpected and exciting happened. My son was playing in a room where another little boy was playing. The second child, who is not quite a year old, moved with fascination toward my son. He wanted to see what toy he had. He wanted to get his attention. He wanted to see what this big kid was doing. And when my son smiled at him, he smiled back.

He wasn’t a baby to that little boy. He wasn’t someone who was seen first and foremost as different. He was someone to look up to. Someone whose attention was worth having. Someone who was doing things that he wanted to do.

As they interacted, my son stood up and walked over to a different toy that was elevated above where they sat. The other boy followed him and pulled himself up to see what was so interesting.

Obviously, my son knew what was worth playing with, and this boy who could barely take a step staggered along with him (admittedly to the eventual annoyance of my son) because he wanted to follow him.

The significance of that moment was not lost on me. My son, who worked so hard to learn play skills and how to walk was encouraging this little boy to develop his own play skills and ability to walk. How was he doing it? By being a cool big kid that this little guy wanted to be like.

My son became a role model.

That little boy found a worthy person to strive to be like. He’s kindhearted, funny, curious, enthusiastic, hard-working, and smart. The more I get to know him, the more I see things about him that I wish I would better emulate.

There is no doubt that having Down syndrome makes my son unique. He is not like most of his peers in a lot of ways. And yet, he is so relatable to those who truly seek to get to know him. One new friend of his figured that out pretty quickly. I pray that everyone he meets throughout his life realizes the same thing.

They’ll be better people for it.