It’s not so much about adoption or special needs, but being open to what God’s calling you to no matter what, no matter what, no matter what. As soon as we open ourselves up to that, He is calling us to things that are a lot riskier than we want to take part in or admit. It’s not about ‘would you consider adopting a child with Down syndrome or special needs,’ it’s about: are you willing to step into God’s will no matter what it looks like?
I recently read Heather Avis’s The Lucky Few which was released this year. I was so moved and encouraged by her story and the way Jesus worked in and through all of the pieces, I invited her for an interview. To my honor, she accepted.
The Avis family consists of Heather and Josh (mom + dad) and their three children: Macyn, Truly, and August. They are a family of adoption and two of their three children have Down syndrome. Heather had their family all planned out perfectly, comfortably. Unable to conceive biologically, God invited them into the wild waters of adoption and stretched them in ways they never would have planned or foreseen. In The Lucky Few, she talks about how no one wakes up and suddenly decides to adopt two children with Down syndrome; she shares vulnerably and transparently about how God invited them into uncomfortable places but that is exactly where she met Him in His fullness.
We talked a lot about having a heart posture towards God, willing to let go of what we deem ideal and comfortable; every single person can do that - it doesn’t take someone special to trust Jesus with their comfort.
In this exclusive interview, we talk about adoption, special needs, getting uncomfortable, race, and Jesus in it all.
I was privileged to ask her a few questions and I hope you enjoy hearing from her:
Me: As a mom by adoption, I am often applauded for adopting like I am some savior or extra special; it makes my tummy twist a bit. I imagine many people do this with you: how do you feel when people treat or talk to you like you're a savior?
Heather: It is super uncomfortable. It is not the truth. I am nothing more special than anyone else. I don’t deny that I have made choices - I didn’t have to choose these children as my own. I count this journey as God’s grace in my life, but not anything amazing about me. Never was my intention or goal in becoming a mother to be treated or seen as a savior. I am average at best and thankful I get to be the mom to my kids.
Me: I imagine people often tell you how they could never choose adoption and then choose children with special needs or Down syndrome or open adoptions. How do you feel/respond when people say “I could never do that”?
Heather: I think if people categorize parents of special needs as heroes or extra special, they are able to distance themselves and feel confident they don’t have to do it. But the thing is, most people can do what I have done.
We are not wealthy or fancy. We are white Americans, which is privilege, but I am usually talking to white Americans. They can do this. People who say they could never, could actually do it and should do it. That is a reality of life - there is always more we can do.
Me: Writer to writer and mom to mom -- as I write my first book, I'm trying to find the balance of sharing beautiful important details of our adoption but find them to not be entirely mine to share : how did you decide what was ok to share? I am thinking about birth family details and whatnot.
Heather: I made my decisions knowing that Macyn and August’s birth family are totally aware of our large social media presence. They were totally okay with pictures on our platform.
I honestly didn’t ask them permission, I just wrote the story from my experience. I changed their names. If they were to write the same story it would look wildly different; this is my account and remembrance. I didn’t feel the need to ask permission because of where we are already pretty open online.
Me: While reading The Lucky Few, I was hoping if you would touch on adopting trans-racially, and you did towards the end! Would you share a bit more about that dynamic? Have you struggled with close friends or family who didn’t fully understand or agree the importance of racial role models, conversations about race and racism, and white privilege?
Heather: I think it is important to recognize for anyone, you can’t know what you don’t know.
As a white woman I cannot begin to know what it is like to be a black person in the US. My experiences and opinions and upbringing do not negate the reality of a black person and the society we are living in. I think it is easy to say white privilege is not a thing and even getting upset and saying, “I am being blamed because I am white, I haven’t done anything to oppress anyone.”
I think when we are uncomfortable we quickly become defensive and don’t even open our heart to listen and really love.
Me and my husband are raising a daughter who is black and are taking a stance of listening. We are shutting up and listening. No matter what is being said and shared, I am listening. I am shutting up and listening. I cannot begin to understand if I don’t stop to listen. The best way to do this is to be in real relationship with people who are different in whatever way. This takes intention; we have to make an effort to be friends with more black people.
We moved to be in a city and a church to be more diverse, solely for our daughter. She is the main reason we are there.
We feel as white people adopting outside of our race, we have a due diligence to offer racial role models and talk about how her experience is different than ours. We have a responsibility to instill in her that she is treasured just as she is; we have to recognize we are raising them in a world and a society that doesn’t do that very well. And we don’t understand fully. This means entering in and being a listener and learner. There is so much more to it. This is a responsibility. These sweet, sweet kids deserve this from us. We cannot control the world they’re growing up in but we can do our best to celebrate who they are.
Colorblindedness is not healthy.
We are all saved by grace equally, but just like you said, 100% I want my child who is Black or has Down syndrome to be first identified as a child of God. But, He made them black and with Down syndrome - He knew at the time our daughter was born there would be racial tension. We cannot ignore these other things that God has done in their lives, making them people of color or special needs. If we ignore these things, we are not able to fully step into God’s will for our children or our lives. We cannot ignore these integral parts of our children's identity.
It’s easy for white people to say, “I’m colorblind” or “It doesn’t matter what race you are” and being able to say these things IS white privilege. That you can say those things is privilege.
Me: If you could say anything to someone on the fence about being open to adopting children with special needs of any sort, what would you say?
Heather: I think it’s not so much about adoption or special needs, but being open to what God is calling you to no matter what, no matter what, no matter what. As soon as we open ourselves up to that, He is calling us to things that are a lot riskier than we want to take part in or admit.
It’s not about “would you consider adopting a child with Down syndrome or special needs,” it’s about: are you willing to step into God’s will no matter what it looks like?
There is a call to take care of orphans and widows. Is that happening in any capacity in your life? If you feel that God is nudging you to adoption or special needs and you are freaking out about it, that is normal and that is okay.
Just because you are uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s not what He has for your life. Take one step at a time, you don’t need to know what the second step looks like. Let your hands be wide open. Let your anthem be, “God, whatever you want is what I want.”
I am so thankful for voices like Heather’s who is working hard to find Jesus in all of the pain filled, unjust, and hard parts of life.
The Lucky Few is so much more than a book about infertility, adoption, and family building...it’s about uncovering more of Jesus and more of His scandalous grace.
In celebration of Heather’s book, we are giving away a copy to one of my subscribers because they are my favorite. Be sure you do so HERE. Shoot me an email if you'd like to be entered into the drawing.
Winner will be announced this weekend on my Facebook page.
WINNER IS: BROOK BAARDA
This post was not endorsed or sponsored by Zondervan.