Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I have called you by name; you are Mine.

 I have called you by name; you are Mine.  Isaiah 43:1

As I was rocking Jack to sleep last night, I glanced over at the picture frame that was given to me from a friend that had the above verse written on it.  I came to realize that this was the same exact verse I had read early that afternoon in a devotional.

I have called you by name; you are Mine.

The devotional was emphasizing that each of us were created with a purpose and when we fullfil that purpose we are bringing glory to God.  Reading this verse yesterday afternoon and then again last night while listening to Jack breathe in and out, feeling his chubby cheek against mine, such soft skin, I couldn't help but thank God that Jack is our child and most importantly that God knew his name and who he was before we did.

Jack William Carroll.

I think that naming a child is a very hard task.  It seems especially hard if you are a teacher and a coach.  Many names are off limits as past students or athletes make a name definitely out of the question.  With both of our pregnancies we wanted to see the boys before naming them.  I really didn't know if we would actually name our children because Chris and I couldn't agree on one.  I would write in my journal...what will your name be?  I hope we can come up with one.

I am surprised it wouldn't be easier as I have been writing down names of kids since I started playing the game MASH as a child or when I met Chris.  What name goes well with Carroll? Come on girls, it's not like you haven't thought it.  After putting your own name with his and agreeing it sounds perfect, you move onto...and what kid names would go well once we have a family. :)

We agreed that the middle name of the options that were in the running would be matched with a family name.  Luke's middle name is Henry after my paternal Grandfather.  He was a very special man in my life.  We knew the minute we saw Luke's long fingers and toes that he had displayed the Nieuwboer genes and it reminded me of my Grandpa Henry.

After the emergency delivery and finding out that Jack had Down syndrome, initially we had a hard time naming him.  To be honest, I envisioned that Jack would look more like Luke.  I thought he would have blonde hair like Luke, and he came out with dark hair like Chris.  When I was told that he had Down syndrome based on his physical features, I thought there was no way he could look like our family.  Which made me think the name I thought I was confident in would not be fair to him because that was not the baby I had envisioned.  This name that I was sold on was not fitting for him.  That night we went to sleep and he was Baby Carroll.

Throughout the next morning I would look over at Chris and ask him, "What are we going to name him?" Every time we talked about him, it was Baby boy, or Baby Carroll.  I said to Chris, "We need to name our son, he deserves a name.  I don't think it's fair to him that we don't know his name."  But God knew him by name.

We went through the list of the four we were considering and when I said to him, "Jack William Carroll" it just felt right, just perfect.  William is after Chris' father, a caring, compassionate man.  Jack is a name that I have loved and felt like it also went well with Luke.  Another strong traditional name.  Immediately after naming Jack, I could feel this sense of pride, the stress lifted off of me, and I could look at him with a sense of ownership.  This is my baby, Jack.  You are mine.  You are Mine.

The first Nurse that came into our room that called him by his name I knew that it fit him perfectly.  When we told our parents his name you could see the excitement in the news.  Just a proud moment.  It was so great to see the loving response and tearful expression after Bill heard what Jack's full name was.

I absolutely love his name.  I know that he will be a strong boy that will be caring and compassionate, just like his Grandpa.  But mostly I know that he is mine and more importantly he is God's.

I have only known him for eight weeks and I have loved learning and watching him grow.  This little boy has helped me realize what my purpose is in life and with that, God will be glorified.  What gives me peace is that God knew Jack before he was even thought of, as he was being perfectly knit in my womb, before he was named, and he knows what Jack will do in his life, and in all of our lives.

My heart hurts to know the reality that some babies that are created with Jack's extra special chromosome are not given a chance at life.  There is a startling statistic that 92% of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in utero are terminated.  92%.  Three of my friends were told that they would more than likely deliver a baby with Down syndrome based on measurements, indicators on ultrasounds, and additional tests.  None of those three families delivered babies with Down syndrome. The surprise of Jack having Down syndrome was hard, but just a change of course for us.  It wasn't a surprise to God that Jack had Down syndrome.  A friend of mine shared a devotional she had read when we were going through the emotions and the shock of the news.
The "Trust in Him" thought for the day: What are you afraid of? No matter what you are going through, it's no surprise to God. He's not unsure of what's around the corner or unprepared for whatever you're going through. Put your trust in Him and be confident in His plans for your life.

I know there will be challenges at times but what parent doesn't experience challenges raising children?  I have never questioned God, asking Him, "Why us?"  We have been equipped to give him the best life and we rely on strength and guidance from God daily.  Each day Jack reminds me more and more of what Luke was like as a baby.  Oh how I was so wrong that things would be remarkably different.

I do know that Jack is a gift to me, to our family, and he WILL change the world.  Jack's name means God is gracious.  I am so thankful He has been gracious to us in giving such a blessing in Jack and I can call him mine.

Here is the link for the slideshow of Jack's newborn pictures and our family.

I GET to be the one to raise this sweet baby boy...Jack William Carroll.


PSALM 139:13-14

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Siblings & 47 strings

Six weeks ago, Jack joined our family.  He is such a good baby.  He is so content and a great sleeper at night.  I am still holding my breath that he could surprise us...as he was keeping a secret from us for 9 months :)...he could become a needy baby...but so far...a rockstar!

I thought it would be fun to fill you in on how Jack's big brother, Luke, has been and while on the topic of siblings share just how much Jack has impacted our siblings and fill you in on the best sisters slumber party ever!!

While I was pregnant with Jack I was literally chasing Luke around.   I would bring him up to the rink to see the hockey guys, watch the games, and see Dad coach.  I don't think he stood still for one second to watch the game.  He loved climbing the bleachers and running the stands at least four or five times throughout a game.  I really wondered how I would keep up with two boys!  One thing that did stop Luke in his tracks...the Zamboni!  He loves the Zamboni...I mean what kid doesn't?  Well not only does he love it, he asks us to pray for it!  At our meals, we ask him what who we should pray for and he responds, "Zamboni".  If we don't pray for it, he reminds us that we should!

One of the first things I thought of when we were told Jack had Down syndrome was how this was going to impact Luke.  While I was pregnant, I envisioned the two of them sharing a room, playing and competing in everything, and being best friends.  How would this change things?  How would Luke respond to his brother?  What will it be like when they grow up and when people say unkind things to Jack or about him?  Will he be proud of him, protect him, love him, and be patient with him?  I cried thinking of what I wanted for Luke.  But what I have come to realize is that Luke will never know anything different.  He will always know Jack for Jack.  I told Chris that I had cried thinking about how I had been so excited that they would be two years apart and all the things I thought they could do together.  I asked, "With having a younger brother, do you hurt for Luke that he won't have the same experience you had of having your younger brother to push you, motivate and encourage you, and be your best friend?"  Chris explained to me that his feelings were different.  He said, "God might have designed Luke to not need that type of motivation but to realize that he can be motivated to do those things FOR his younger brother.  That might encourage him to work hard because if Jack can't do those things, he can do it for him.  This might teach Luke to not take things for granted and understand that Jack will have to work harder to accomplish things that are easier for him."  When I had asked Chris if he had cried since leaving the hospital he told me that he had not.  He continued to say that he tries to focus on the fact that Jack is our baby first, and that he is not going to underestimate anything that he can or wants to do.  "I am not going to limit him to anything just because he has Down syndrome.  If he wants to try something, let's give him every opportunity to help him."  Just this week, Jack rolled over and gave me a smile.  Guess Dad's perspective is just what we all need.  

Thank you God for giving me such a strong man.


Luke will wake up and ask where baby Jack is, help him with his pacifier (even when it's not needed), show him his cars, give him hugs, and try to play catch.  He even has tried to give him a high five, not so much on the hand but on the head, (nice way of putting it) and Jack isn't so fond of it.  The transition has gone pretty well but Luke is definitely showing us his need for a little more attention.  :)

I was thinking of the conversation that we will have with Luke someday, explaining how his brother was born with an extra special chromosome.  How do you explain that in the best way?  I know it will be a hard conversation to have with him but I am thankful to a Mom that created the best children's book explaining to her older son that his sister was born with a 'special code'.  I absolutely love this book and so grateful for a tender way of explaining to others how our precious gifts were created.

47 strings: Tessa's special code.

On the topic of siblings...Chris and I have the best ones!  I can just imagine Uncle Andrew in the backyard yelling and hollering at Jack to run to first base as he hits a bomb over the bushes and watches it sail!  If you know Andrew, he's a kid himself.  He has a love for kids like no one else.  He can outlast any kid in a wiffle ball tournament, basketball shoot out, card game, kick ball, bags, anything...he will play until the Mom of the house says, "Andrew, you need to go home."  I know that both Luke and Jack will be taught the best lessons in play, competition, fun, compassion and craziness from Uncle Andrew!

After we had Jack, my brother, Jon, told my sister that Jack is exactly what our family needed.  "He is going to teach us so much and bring us even closer as a family."  My brother and his family live in TN and we only get a chance to see him a couple times a year.  Jon is one of the most loyal people I know and has a heart of gold.  He cares deeply and I have seen that in the phone calls and texts and his desire to know how I am doing, daily.  At times when Jon has experienced difficulty I have tried to be an encouragement to him, but honestly he has encouraged me through his perseverance, hard work, and love for others.  I know that Jack will have a special relationship with Uncle Jon, wrestling with him, cracking jokes, and admiring his work ethic.

My sister is 9 years older than me and although that's almost a decade, we are very close.  She is my best friend and one of my biggest encouragers.  Most of my life I have followed exactly in her footsteps.  We shared a room together until she moved to college when I was in 4th grade.  We would stay up late, I would listen to her conversations with friends about boys, tag along to sporting events, and was in awe of her ability to braid my hair, her blue eyeliner, and big bangs.  She is so beautiful, inside and out.  Of all the memories as kids, the best slumber party happened three nights after Jack was born.  Suite 3 at St. John's hospital.  I called her and told her I needed her to come up and stay with me.  She laid next to me and heard my fears, prayed and cried with me, and loved on Jack.  She told me that God was going to do amazing things through this baby boy and reassured me that He has a plan.  I just reread her texts that she sent me and it said, "Psalm 34:4 I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.  Your baby Jack has changed us all."

Even when I couldn't feel it about myself, her confidence in me and encouragement meant the world to me.

One of my friends shared the cutest video of a little girl named Ace and her brother Archie.  Archie has Down syndrome and his proud sister wanted the world to see just how special he was.  Dressed in their best, Ace explains to the world on Down syndrome day how much she loves her brother Archie.  If you have a chance check out this cute video...don't forget to watch it to the end...and grab your kleenex.

I know that Luke will be the best big brother to Jack.  Just what God planned for him.


Friday, May 3, 2013

if You want me to...

Ginny Owens titled a song, If you want me to.  I remember listening to this song in college and desired it to be my heart and life...one that said, "If you want this for my life, then lead me through the valley."


Growing up in an alcoholic home, I thought that would be my story.  That would be a part of my testimony of how God led us through the valley and heartache of how alcohol stole years of my Dad's life and caused deep pain.  But how God continues to restore, forgive, and heal, how He always provides, and how He continues to show how that pathway has lead to so much more.  And I would never, ever change it.  I love my family and so thankful for the lessons I have learned through the tears, joys, valleys, and peaks.  It led me closer to Him and I was never alone.  So...I thought that was my story.

Now my story is being a mother of a child with Down syndrome.  Do I truly believe what my heart longs to desire?  Do I really mean, "If you want me to, lead me through this valley."  When I see a baby boy that is one week younger than Jack and is so much more alert, stronger, and a typical infant do I feel that way?  Even when other infants will be starting to sit up, walk, talk, and feed themselves...will I say, "If you want me to."

Honestly, I can't tell you how much I am clinging to the parents and families of those that have children with Down syndrome.  I called the family I babysat in college who has a daughter with Down syndrome and told them I had Jack.  Yes, God was preparing me in college as K was four years old when I started working with their family.  K's mom said she wouldn't trade it for a million dollars.  She told me that in ten to fifteen years I would look back and laugh at how sad I was.  She said, "Carissa, you've got this!  There will be hard moments but you will be blessed in so many ways."  Another mother said, "Welcome to the best adventure you never knew you wanted to be a part of."  This mother said goodbye to her sweet 18 month old one year ago, and is now in the process of adopting a baby with Down syndrome.  These families are so encouraging to me and give me hope.

And here I am trusting that God has a plan for this pathway.  As I mentioned before, I have never trusted more and relied more on God for direction because I am scared.  I know that many of the fears come from my ignorance of what I do not know about children with Down syndrome.  As I have had a chance to learn more and hear from these families, this pathway may not be the valley I had thought it was really going to be.  But I do know that He promises I'd never go alone.

So I say, "If You want me to..."

Ginny Owens-If You want me to...

The pathway is broken and the signs are unclearAnd I don't know the reason why You brought me hereBut just because You love me the way that You doI'm gonna walk through the valley if You want me to
'Cause I'm not who I was when I took my first stepAnd I'm clinging to the promise You're not through with me yetSo if all of these trials bring me closer to YouThen I will go through the fire if You want me to
It may not be the way I would have chosenWhen You lead me through a world that's not my homeBut You never said it would be easyYou only said I'd never go alone
So when the whole world turns against me and I'm all by myselfAnd I can't hear You answer my cries for helpI'll remember the suffering Your love put You throughAnd I will go through the darkness if You want me to
When I cross over Jordan, I'm gonna sing, gonna shoutI'm gonna look into Your eyes and see, You never let me downSo take me on the pathway that will lead me home to YouAnd I will walk through the valley if You want me to

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About Me

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The name of this blog was inspired by Kristin Armstrong's devotional book, Strength for the Climb. I am a midwest girl married to a handsome, hardworking, God-fearing man and the mother of two boys. My eldest son, a social butterfly that has enough energy and excitement to make anyone tired and a personality that will make you giggle with laughter. My youngest son, can cuddle like no other, and his eyes will speak right to your soul. Both of my sons have taught me more about God's grace and goodness. We are blessed to have an extra chromosome in our family as our sweet Jack was diagnosed at birth with Down syndrome. With that, I am reminded daily to trust and rely on God's perfect plan on this journey called life. I am a child of God and grateful to my Heavenly Father for His continued blessings, guidance, wisdom, and most importantly for saving my soul.