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October 27, 2020 6:00 am
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We have opportunity. All around after Stephanie faces with people who are different than ethnic intentional way if it can be met.
The app court can be hard yet with hard bad no not always whether Avis knows the joy of having three adopted children and two of those have down syndrome. She's here and focus on the family to shout the worth of every life made in the image of God.
Your hostess books Pres. and Dr. Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller, John. It's so interesting how we naturally gravitate to those who are like ghosts look like us think like us is pretty comfortable to be in that kind of community but we can also get into a boxer pattern in our relationships and mess of learning about how other people think their perspective is.
I know that Jesus did exactly that and he really did think differently than the Pharisees and the scribes the religious leaders of the day, so much so that it created incredible conflict. Our guest today, Heather Avis has a lot to share about this idea broadening our horizons to love and accept others who tend to be marginalized in our society and shall be helping us to see things a little differently as she shares her story and it's a pretty unique and uplifting story I Heather has written about it as she is new book called scoot over and make room creating a space where everyone belongs and I she's in addition to being a writer, a mama speaker, blogger, and a podcast or she's been here before and were so glad to have her back in fact have a link to the previous conversation we had about her adoptions on our website.
Just look for the link in the episode notes Heather, welcome back to focus I think is much happening. It's great to have you back and I just mention that idea of accepting and loving the marginalized is something we talked about often hear folks in the family are owned and foster reduction program etc. get engaged with foster care and wraparound care, and all those wonderful things we can do to be engaged in culture that give us the big picture of how God put this on your heart and what you wanted to accomplish by writing this great book which I love the title. By the way you think. So I I and a lot of things I've done in my life I have fallen into them, and it's been reactionary. It's been God opening up doors and stepping into them, which is my story with all three of my adoptions, my children how my family came to be and as my daughter got my oldest daughter name is Mason and she's 11 and she she came on as an infant. She has down syndrome and as he stepped into spaces that she got older we stepped into dance classes except the church is a step in the schools. I just quickly realized that who she is, is not fully accepted and people don't understand her there. They don't know her as they can't understand her. They can refinance only down syndrome and I'm living life with her and I'm seeing an image of God in her that I don't see anyone else because she's uniquely who she is bearing image of God with down syndrome. Over the years. It was way to second. This is such a gift to my life. My understanding of humanity. My understanding of God. My understanding of his love for humanity has changed so drastically because I get to live with my kids and then stepping out of our front door and knowing that their worth and value is not seen as the second they set out my front door. Let me assure question that maybe some are asking which would be for you and your husband Josh what would compel you to adopt someone who struggles like that now wasn't the normal box you checked.
I'm sure in the adoption process. You must of been okay because they ask you know when you're seeking adoption.
The last few what difficulties are you willing to live with Jean and I've done that through foster care. There's no normal box everybody because these kids are usually emotionally traumatized in some way and at least in the foster system to get lots of no behavioral issues, but I think the question many would ask in our comfort and leisure culture. Why put yourself out like you do this you and Josh while in not to simplify it. It's not simple at all but it really was God. And that's the short answer, but the long answer was we had said no to who she is on paper was in a down syndrome. She also had a lot of health issues he found out about later and that we had said no to all of these things and there, as were saying no opportunity continues to present itself and so I safer as it was one scary step in front of another. Some days lifting are fed up not knowing what would fall and it was we didn't want to say yes we can say no and we were just continually stepping towards this idea of adopting will go down syndrome and I had a moment for me. That felt really holy where I felt that God was giving me a vision of sorts to Fewell where he was presenting me with a beautiful wrapped package and I unwrap it and I'd always like this is what I wanted and asked for this in trying to hand back to God.
The gift that he was giving me time in that moment really solidified my husband and I to say okay yes we can adopt this child and we say with our scariest and our best.
Yes, stepping into saying it to adopting her and bring her into her home, but we were terrified for most of the time which is normal yet effectual and good even even learning that I think a lot of the things in life that household a lot of value are very scary things to say yes to not help the audience give us kind of the birth order what happened you know your adoptions winded. Mason come into your family. Just give us a picture of the share so Mason was three months old. We find out about her. She came home around five is number one, she's number one. Check him out home at four months old.
We live in Southern California and all of our kids were born in Southern California, so she came home she had a congenital heart defect that required open heart surgery which happened a month after coming home and she had this lung condition called pulmonary hypertension was on oxygen 24 seven and multiple medications, so those first few years with her and we just didn't know there are a lot of unknowns in terms of her health. It was pretty wild and I tell people to it was my first child so it was my normal.
I didn't know any different and it all felt pretty normal tasks, even though we knew it wasn't an and then she actually was.
It spent nine years since she was totally healed of her pulmonary hypertension for the last nine years she's had no medication oxygen so we say yes to her and then we get this front row seat to miracles that we would miss out on how to stay comfortable and are in our little comfortable bubble amazing yeah it is amazing and then we are an exit option because got it taught us so much with her and we try to have so much control with our first one.
I next was okay, if you want will take any child we got a phone call for a little girl who was five months old and no disabilities, no health issues no drug exposure in utero, which is unheard of in the foster care system not unheard of, but rare and we said we were to say yes to any kid that Kimberly sets her middle daughter truly star and she is Guatemalan African-American so ever since, truly, truly, and then that's number two in the number three. The number three and just as I'm in a season of life where my two kids are consuming all of me and I think I can do one more thing that this is normal. Yes we got a phone call about a woman who is seven months pregnant and got an in utero diagnosis for down syndrome and he had a congenital heart defect and so that happened in October and in December he was born and came home. August our son so we got to the hospital that he was born and he came home at two days old in August is doing better. He's great. So he had open heart surgery at four months old and is just totally healthy. Okay so your ear in the situation. I mean you've not been the birth mom and you adopt Mason and them truly in the August and did you get into some of this comparison game, which is normal for parents wish to do that because Trent is such a tall kid we should go.
Yeah, he's 110% of the growth chart. You are so right. That's just part of that can occur Sunday, but I mean in that context for you. How did it affect you.
That comparison game with so many parents play yeah and that is the thing. I think it was theater is about that comparison is the thief of all joy and so I found that happening in my life. Just as a mom like you said it with parenting.
You're just thrust into it and even the but there's books like what to expect and you're expecting right.
It's literally a chart of what your child should be doing and then this is normal. This is normal right is what your kids should be doing and so ending. If your kids exceeding that in cycle.
Look how great my kid is compared to write your kid and so it just creates a lot of unhealthy think and then we have a tablet down syndrome. They're not going to fit into those molds. They're not in the land on the chart and so and you start I found myself with my oldest Mason like you had to put the books away and stop comparing her to her neuro- typical peers.
But then you're putting this down syndrome world and in cycle it is like in this kids walking and has down syndrome and in the comparison I felt was magnified in that space and that it was my kid with down syndrome isn't doing these things, but this kid with down syndrome is or how do I fix my kid how to make my kid mind this kid. What would you think in the end, I mean what did the Lord teach you about that specifically because again we can have. Healthy children were still be the comparison game so I'm just curious how did God come your heart and whether you speak to you in terms of the comparison.
I feel like I still fall into it. It's a calling to petitioner that got to really shown me and especially with my oldest daughter Mason is that every person is so uniquely made in God's image and for God's purposes and to just fully embrace who my kids are and appreciate who they are and it's just been a lesson that I continually need to learn and really that recognizing that when I compare my child and the child is stealing the joy for my kids and so if I wanted take away all of the noise around me and all the comparisons happening that all the comparison I could do and look at my daughter Mason and say she's amazing and she's amazing exactly as she is not. If she walks earlier.
Not if she's able to read at a higher level. Not if she's able to run as fast another kid like who she is is incredible. You describe yourself as a mold breaker. So what does that mean it means that I'm a little bit of a challenge, or in certain people to know if any of it means that I am this. I think a lot of the reason is because of my kids and it only means that we live in it. In a society that says there is a best way to be or or maybe three or four and we have systems built around those ideas of this is what is best of the school system. For example, the school system is built from very particular kind of person and if you don't know so it's been molded. There's a mold in which the school systems have been created and if my kids don't fit in that mold, which they don't, then that's unacceptable to them or to blow it up writing.
Have you found that journey in the public education or private, or so Mike is on public education in how a moment. How are the administrators the general right discussion of yes and all of the people at a human level are very lovely and really believe in my children but they're working within a system that's not broken. It wasn't created with my kids at Johnson minded and so we get stuck in the systems and to ask people to really step outside of it in a radical way is a challenge. It's a challenge for people to do so. There's days that I felt like I'm on a battlefield that I'm really fighting hard for my kids to have an equable space within the school systems with in a lot of systems and then there's days when I'm working with administers and teachers have never had a child with down syndrome or disability in the class whose lives have been changed drastically in such a positive way you're coming alongside me making it work so it's it really is a roller coaster. The educational system has been but we've we are in really sweet space right now.
Personally learned a lot. Heather sadly, so many people in the culture have really marginalized this population with down syndrome.
In fact, I know on the news a while back I think was Iceland claimed that they had eradicated down syndrome by basically aborting all children that were diagnosed in utero with down syndrome and you know others come along and they say certain things I'm sure about your kids.
I really want to learn. I want the listeners to learn so we can communicate better in the space. What are those things that are a little more hurtful and maybe some things that are helpful the way people communicate around you. Yeah I don't even know as I've gone on this journey.
It's not even specific phrases or specific incidents. It really is a posture of the heart that is really the message I want to get out to the world and the posture that I want people to approach my children with is that they see them. They see that they have down syndrome and they see as an asset and we live in a world still that sees down to the deficit versus a disability is a deficit or see some significant difference. Sure, at the deficit and to approach my children with wow they've got down syndrome that makes them different, and even say I'm uncomfortable with that.
I'm willing to lean into that because I know that they have something to offer the world and offer myself because that is good and because the fact that they have down syndrome is an asset. So it's more that posture yet which I like but what are some of those things that people have said that a been harmful or hurtful that they don't even know maybe not even realizing that their piercing sure and keep letting people say things and again it's looking at the deficit, like a you know you know there can be with you forever, but not a positively you will never have been and yeah yeah and as if you have about that through right.
They want to be a revelation of knowledge after you work on things that are harmful is to blanket an entire population of people so a blanket statement so people dancing ever so loving and loved love to hug and joke like Lexi Mason doesn't prefer hugs and she can be really bratty and half people with down syndrome action a full range of emotions just like you and me.
So those kinds of comments and ideas are hardly harmful to the stereotype of the stereotyping yeah Heather, one of the even as were describing everything were talking about. I think one of the one of the key things is for people who are not around us. You know they don't have a family member in this place.
It's uncomfortable because we don't want to offend so we can pull back. You know you don't engage, don't lean forward as you said a moment ago and that I really want to hear from you what expectations are there because I think were so afraid that mess up that we don't want to risk it. So we just climb up if I could say it that way. And Johnny probably experiences to you and Dana but what would you say to us able-bodied people with able body children and were engaged in church and there you show up. How do you what you expect from us that it's a big one. I think it yes a critical one because I don't we don't know.
So we pull back and then you feel like I'm alone here even though I'm in this big church. Maybe I and does a few different pieces to this. I think the first is to recognize how important proximity is and inclusion is important because it offers proximity to someone who is different than you, which then leads to relationship, which then leads to the change that we need to see happen. So, the younger you start the better. Like anyone listening who has little kids.
The sooner you can get your child exposed or within proximity. People are different.
The better the author can be because you know if you have kids. Kids are so honest and sweet and innocent in their question asking and accepting an emotional waiting and accepting and the more exposure they have been more accepting to be as they get older. Granted there compared to like a fifth-grader when a fifth-grader meets him for the first time ever, who has a disability. That's talking to them whereas if they grew up with someone's disability then straightening out the answer to, except I think starting will young women any great growth that's can happen in our lives is in a come from risk from taking a risk.
So when you see the person with the disability and your child asking awkward questions, or you have questions or you're feeling uncomfortable thing you do have the two choices you can back off and not have any opportunities for learning and growth in the experience or you can lean in and step closer and be in proximity and asked the questions and you might offend someone.
And that's a risk you're taking, you know, you might feel silly in the way that you approach them. You might uncomfortable but if you don't take that risk, then you don't get to learn and grow as a human being and you don't take it to create a more inclusive world which is God's heart is such a great lesson. Yeah, look at humanity guys. God is a God of inclusion right. I have not met Mason yet but when I do understand she likes hip-hop music, which I'm really gonna take her to task for. But what's is the red hip-hop and she does dance lessons with me solicit poppies love to dance.
So we sit.
She started dance before start walking she would. She skated on her tush. She didn't call. She was a scooter and if music came on. She just stopped in her tracks and start swaying side to side chains are walking to almost 3 years old so she really cute a little dance. Arianna and we put an hip-hop class and he pops her favorite genre I think is more freedom in hip-hop you want to dance a lot of movement high-tech Waterloo yeah and hip-hop has technique to it, but less so than ballet. You know I got a little slow, we tried ballet and she is yeah and all his grace is not her thing and we put an hip-hop class and she is a in the way that I approach things with my kids in the interim to spaces is we show up with an expectation that my child will be welcomed there so I'm not asking permission for my children to be in any space and that site I said hey Mike it is down syndrome give questions you know are they any questions in ways I can help here and the teacher said no that's fine she can join the class and so then Mason started hip-hop and only kit with down syndrome or any disability in her class and she loved it. We saw hearts and lives literally change for the better because of the ways in which they embraced Mason because Mason didn't show up dance like everybody else. She is very different in the way that she dance also and when it came time for the recital. Everybody had to adjust right, everyone had to scoot over make room for Mason to be fully included and accepted and honored as a dancer in this program and it's the first time they've had to do that and they did it. They did it and it was holy. It was one of one of the holiest moments of my life and and who would. Who would've thought dance studio right in the ways that hundreds of people were bending and flexing and making space for her to fully show up as she was. It was it was holy is amazing I like and I want to remind the listeners I like what you're saying there about what she's able to teach those of us who think were normal and the idea of bending and adjusting and seeing things.
She still made in the image of God exactly exactly know she may not fit that mold right right that's beautiful describe describe the holiness that you saw is I'm thinking of recital at her school were studio and I'm not catching the holy part of the longer more details all go there and it was really more at the dress rehearsal and set the dress rehearsal when the kids went out to dance.
She didn't and she really panicked a little bit and everything was new and it was the lights were writer and the music was louder than she thought and she didn't know what to expect and so she really panicked and shut down and as I'm ready to leave we decide to going to watch the dancers and Mason just turns to me and she says all right mom and ready and so were five or six routines passing more and we walked backstage and she taps her teacher and says I'm ready to dance and without stopping or skipping a beat. Her teacher says all right were to pull up the lights and music for uptown funk. That was the song she dance to and were going to need as many dances of the canon who are in this routine can go find them and everyone in her dance class except for her were in 2 to 10 routines. They were like hard-core dancers and so it happened to be that everybody was in her hip-hop class was on deck for the ballet routine so they're all standing there hearing all this and they're wearing.
Unlike these big cream-colored tutus in these fuller lives in a velvet like this velvet vast and there ballet shoes and Masons there in their hip-hop outfit which was like a red crop top and drop crotch arm pants and they go there like what we did that we have to bring a dance in this and then check the turns and says I'm nobody has to do this, but your teams. I expect you to any applicant dance not costume and one little girl raised her hands as I want to dance Mason and they all chime in and so then what precedes was a holy moment of their walk out on stage and then chapter 6 when you get out in the audience. He you watch a girl dance and it was.
I look at the stage and it was oh my gosh.
Here are a dozen or so girls who are in these cream tutus and these full-length gloves and Mason in her cropped red crop top dancing to uptown funk 10 songs too late and it was this hundreds of people that everyone that it affected after bending and flexing and making space for Mason and honoring her.
It was the vision of the kingdom. It was inclusive mine and she didn't need to be just like everybody else. She just needed to be fully who she was a great story, and how that impacts your everyday life.
Let me talk about. Truly, you mention truly a little while ago and I do want to come back to your middle child she is.
You said is African-American adopted her in the course your husband both Caucasian. Have you navigated some of his issues of race with with your daughter and what are some of those interesting moments that pop up like an over different colors right have navigated as best I can and continue to navigate some of some hard work for those of us that don't live in that world. Every day we have an adopted minority child way that what does it look like I mean she's very aware that she's the only person in her home with brown skin and curly hair and so she asks about it a lot and why do I have brown skin, why, why would you choose to have some with brown skin and she's eight years old now and or things like that culture is telling her culture telling all of our children that there is a certain best way to be and it's often not being a little brown growth with curly hair and so she's up against.
That in terms of society but then I'm also a white mom so she's not seeing herself and her family and I don't know what that's gonna look like in her future. But what it looks like for us is being incredibly intentional to be in spaces where she sees people who look like her so that she felt comfortable with who she is incompetent who got me to be that which I think would be your greatest challenge in your husband, Josh, how do we encourage truly to feel confident she is young, regardless of the color of a child skin. All of us parents have the challenge with our children to make them know their identity in Christ and make sure that they are is firmly planted as possible definitely. So that when the winds of life. However that might come from teasing or bullying at a young age that they can weather that how'd what are some practical things done to help truly right and with truly because she is spending a lot of her time around people who don't look like her because she is a minority in her family and we are very intentional. Most of our books, the main characters are people of color with very few books that have the main character every person in the book is white, very, very few her toys and her dolls all or all the kids dolls have always been not white shows that we watch and then we are just intentional ratios to school.
We have tried to school right now that and most of the kids look like her and it's a different school than other two and so be it.
We've chosen to be at a church, people who look different and it's been it's required us to either intentional.
Yeah, I love it. I think that is really smart parenting really when you look at it let me ask you, Heather. I would know you know the last minute here so what's the challenge you would give all of us in our personal interactions in order to discover God's best for our lives about the for question. That's a good one. You're living it does makes it so palpable coming from you, I mean you and your husband Josh. You didn't take the easy way and most people struggle Heather's an angel. Obviously so I could never do that now. I'm sorry sir, people are gonna describe a lot of things to you and your husband that you can do this and we can't but you're going the true everybody can do this if they choose to choose to. So what would be that advice to us to broaden our perspectives to not live in a cocoon and you can fill out the rest sure so and just to clarify my desire are average at best. Average payments and the truth is God is more diverse than we could ever wrap our minds around and we know that God's created all human beings in the image of God and every human being is an image bearer of God and so we have an opportunity to know God more fully to a better appreciation of what it means to be human in the fullness of humanity. Only if we intentionally step in spaces with all the different kinds of humans. If organ it choose to stay in a space that is very much safe and like us right where were around people who are like us in a very homogeneous space the right to miss out on the fullness of God. And that's just the truth. This is the truth and we have opportunities all around us just up in the spaces with people who are different than us in an intentional way. Is it can be messy. Of course, is gonna be hard yes it's hard bad. No, not always. And so it's willing to take those steps into the heart spaces the messy spaces where it that's her Jesus is hanging out. We really can get to know God and all his good, those are words of wisdom Heather, this is been so good. Thank you. Be back with us. Thank you for your great book screwed over and make some room again. I love the title is good and you know for a gift of any amount will send you a copy of Heather's book is our way of saying thank you if you can do that through a monthly support. That's great because it helps us to even out the budget for the year but if it's a one-time gift will do the same if you can afford it, just get in touch with us will trust others will compensate the makeup of ground that we can love gift from us. So thank you again Heather. I hope you know somebody needs this resource get a hold. We will cure Focus on the Family called 800 K in the work-family 800-232-6459 additional details and our website link in the episode on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team. Thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family I'm John Fuller inviting back as we once again, you and your family thrive in