I will never forget that summer day. A friend and I had been swimming in the pool to escape the heat, and when we came inside, we heard the wonderful news on the answering machine: Tyler had been born. My friend and I started jumping up and down and squealing (which made her 3-month-old cry). Then I asked, “What do I do?”
She suggested I call my husband, Randy.
Getting on the A-List
See, we couldn’t have biological children. Randy had made some decisions in his first marriage that made pregnancy an impossibility, so we chose adoption. We checked several Christian-oriented places, but all doors were closed — all lists were full. We were heart-broken, but we trusted God knew best. We asked Him to help us accept His will.
One day, out of the blue, we received a letter from one of the adoption agencies. They were reconstructing their lists. If we were still interested, we could be placed on a very long adoption list. But after three years on that list, Randy’s job transferred us out of state.
It turns out there are differences in how adoption lists work in each state. In Alabama at that time, adoptive parents waited until their number came up. But in our new home state, Tennessee, the adoption process was open. Birth parents could choose, and I wasn’t sure how to feel about that.
We went through a home study and were approved, which eased my fears and helped me see the benefits of open adoption. Randy and I completed our portfolio, but we never needed it. God had already chosen our child for us.
I received a call from a new friend I met shortly after our move to Tennessee. She had met a lady who planned to give her baby up for adoption, and she wanted a Christian couple to adopt her child. We met with her, and in August 1995, just five months after our home study approval, Tyler came into this world. I cannot express my gratitude to his birth mother. She wanted more for her child than she could give, and God had brought us to that exact place, at the exact time, for this exact child.
For years I had prayed for a child and to be a stay-at-home mom, and now the time had come. It still gives me chills to see the mighty hand of God at work.
On the way to the hospital, I tried to prepare Randy by reminding him how ugly some newborn babies are. But, oh my goodness! The sight of that little boy, our son, took my breath away. We had the nursery to ourselves because the other babies were in their mothers’ hospital rooms. We held him and fed him and changed him, and he had our hearts instantly.
We brought him home from the hospital the next day.
There were some complications with the adoption. The birth father did not want to sign the surrender forms, even though he and the birth mother were not married, and they had broken up. But through the uncertainty, we knew God would work everything out. We became foster adoptive parents until January, when we finally adopted our sweet baby boy.
Life with a child is different. (That is an understatement!) We were struggling with many changes, and it really put a strain on our relationship. I was overwhelmed and tired. Tyler was a very fussy baby and had frequent ear infections and high fevers. I was lonely and felt useless in my walk with God. I had been so involved in ministry in Alabama, but in Tennessee I had nothing. God convicted me that I needed to get into a Bible study, but I was scared. What would I do if Tyler cried during the study? I talked to his pediatrician, a godly man. He explained that I had baby blues — postpartum depression — even though I hadn’t given birth to Tyler. And he reminded me that babies cry. So I took a leap of faith and got involved in ladies’ Bible study.
I remember seeing the homework I was required to do every week and thinking, “How in the world do I have time for this?” God told me that if I gave up my soap operas, I would have plenty of time. Oh my! It was a huge sacrifice for me, but I realized how I had been allowing these soap operas to dictate my days.
I also took on an additional Bible study. God told me during this time that I had been so busy doing for Him, I had neglected my time being with Him. He wanted my time. He wanted me. I grew more spiritually than ever before. I learned that when God is all you have, you realize God is all you need.
Not Quite Right
At 8 months old, doctors put tubes in Tyler’s ears. They made a huge difference in his health, but things were still not quite right. By his first birthday, we realized he was not meeting his milestones. He couldn’t sit up from a laying down position. He wasn’t crawling, and he couldn’t pick up Cheerios. At first we thought he was just a little slow.
At 15 months, his pediatrician wanted to do some blood tests to check for several different potential problems. One possibility was Fragile X syndrome (FXS). I remember going home and reading about it, and I knew in my heart that was what my son had.
Fragile X is a genetic disorder passed from the mother to her child. In this syndrome, the X chromosome has a break. Because boys only have one X chromosome and girls have two, boys are more seriously affected. With fragile X, the body can’t make enough of a protein it needs for the brain to grow and develop correctly. When doctor gave me the results of the tests, I broke down and cried. I cried all night. But then I looked at my sweet, precious little boy and realized he was the same little boy he was yesterday.
My resolve kicked in. I was determined he would be the best he could be.
Years earlier, when we filled out our adoption paperwork, there was a specific area we were sure to mark — the non-special needs placement. We believed there was no way we could raise a special-needs child.
But God’s ways are not our ways. Our pastor from Alabama shared Jeremiah 29:11 with me after we learned Tyler’s diagnosis.
For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Randy’s boss gave me a book called Trusting God. It talked about how God doesn’t make mistakes, how everyone has a purpose. I claimed those promises that day. Tyler had fragile X for a purpose. God had a plan for his life. I held on to that.
Tennessee Early Intervention Services (TEIS) became a part of our life. My case worker was a gift from God. She gave me great council for Tyler’s needs, and she gave me step-by-step directions for all the places I had to go. I am directionally challenged, so I greatly appreciated that! Tyler had all sorts of evaluations and recommendations. Occupational therapy was a big need, and we were advised he begin right away. But Vanderbilt Hospital had a long waiting list, and I was told it could take months.
I remember leaving there that day and telling God, “I know You love Tyler and know what he needs.” I would trust Him.
The very next week, a woman called and said,”You are not going to believe this, but we have an opening for occupational therapy. Your son can start next week.”
“Yes, I do believe it,” I responded, “because that is what God has in store for him!”
Tyler started occupational therapy when he was 15 months old and speech therapy at 19 months. He also received physical therapy, and we were involved in the Milieu project, which helped with his communication skills.
The road has been hard. There have been disappointments, dreams we had to accept would never come true. But I continue to grow more and more thankful for the gift of my son. I am thankful for his birth mother. She had been ridiculed for placing her child — told she was just giving him away. I am thankful that when she was told to have an abortion, she instead chose life for her son. Tyler is a blessing from God, one I certainly don’t deserve. Instead of disability, I saw a blessing and a gift.
Tyler is a breath of fresh air. God shows Himself to Randy and me every day through our son’s life. Tyler loves with no conditions. He holds no grudges. He has no worries, except maybe what he is going to eat! He is innocent. He is happy and joyful all the time. And he loves music! He can often be seen charismatically directing the choir from his pew at church. Oh, if we could all be more like him!
Through a series of events only God could orchestrate, Randy’s job was moved back home to Alabama in 2008. Now, Tyler is a senior, and he will graduate from the same high school I graduated from many years ago. He attends a life skills program at the technical school. We have plans for him to start a job this summer. We love the Lord, and we are thankful for what he has done in our lives.
I have many spiritual markers in my life. The first was surrendering myself to Christ. My next mile marker was my move to Tennessee and being stripped of all my busyness. I learned to spend time with God. That is the most important thing I can do for Him. Another marker was becoming a mother to a child with disabilities. God used my hard, stern personality to help me advocate for my son. Most of all, I learned that God’s ways are not my ways. I don’t always understand, but I know I can do all things through Him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).