You guys I’m a reader… But I can’t think of a time I read a book in a single day. Two sittings, about 12 hours later and I had this book devoured. I would admit that the topic of adoption is of high interest to me, but even beyond that this family’s story is what was truly fascinating. Heather Avis writes about how her family came to be, but more than that it’s a story about how she came to see Down syndrome as just another part of her child and an important one at that. She sees the disability as a gift, a gift that makes them as parents “the lucky few.” Avis references her children’s health problems like heart defects and incurable lung diseases as “illness” but the part of them that gives them an extra chromosome and the disability called Down syndrome she just sees as another part of who they are, a critical part. A beautiful one at that.
Heather and Josh Avis adopted three children, two of them have Down syndrome. Truthfully, the story is for everyone. Even if adoption is not in your future learning from the Avis family adventure can be. Should be. ( PS I hate when I’m told I “should” read a particular story, but if I could place a book in your hands so far this year this would be the one!
It’s not every day that a personal memoir such as this can captivate my attention so fully. The story was easy to read, and on countless occasions I felt that lump in my throat growing or tears welling up in my eyes. Avis had absolutely no intention of adopting in fact she had expectations of comfort and ease, plans of traditional fertility that included baby showers, a growing belly, and bonding time at birth. All those things were not part of her story but the transformation she undergoes as she becomes a mom is one any mother can relate to. What is truly priceless about this book is that Avis is so raw and honest about how her heart was transformed. In the most humble of ways she shares that her expectation of comfort and ease was simply wrong. It’s not what life promises us, nor is it was God promises us, or frankly what we deserve.
Ultimately my greatest takeaway was that while comfort shouldn’t be the expectation, discomfort actually should be. Especially as a follower of Jesus Christ my reality should be one of discomfort. It is in that place that I can learn the most, be grown, serve God fully, and potentially impact others.
As a growing family of six we have only, thus far, grown our family in a biological “natural” way. While this is our reality as of now it may not always be this way. God is constantly at work in our hearts and minds and each and every day He is growing our view of family and really of what our roles in the world are. I believe this book was a part of our process.
The story also made me examine other circumstances in my life and made me want to lean into discomfort and struggle and suffering. While Avis never presents her family situation as suffering my recent reading of “And Still She Laughs” is also still fresh on my heart. I look at our family and as I imagine it growing I see us expanding our family, our hearts and our minds through adoption.
It is scary to even admit that here on my blog, but if I took anything away from Avis’s book it would be that doing scary things, often, is the right or best thing. So heck there it is – I believe that someday our family will adopt.
And in the meantime I’m grateful for the authenticity and vulnerability of Heather Avis in the pages of this book. She challenged those of us in the beginning stages of the process to really have our hearts and minds open to what God may have for us. I will also say that reading the book led me to several other podcasts and pieces of work by Avis that have also expanded my views. For many years I worked with people with disabilities in the swimming pool in a partnership program, I’ve also worked at recreation centers for people with disabilities and spent a lot of my college days dedicating my time to activities that brought together “differently abled” people. It’s always been part of my heart, and as Avis shares, it really wasn’t about me “helping them” but in the end it was about them teaching me. So at the end of this incredible story I find myself asking big questions and also wanting to help spread awareness about Ableism and the struggles that face people with disabilities and their loved ones.
I hope you’ll snag the book! And then share it with a friend. My whole family will be reading it, and I will certainly be sharing my copy with many friends!
So grateful to blogging for books for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.