Hi Grace City families, I am so excited to share with you guys today! My family and I have been a part of Grace City from the very beginning and I honestly can’t imagine our lives without this community, we have been supported in the most amazing ways since day one. 

Diving in with a little about my family, my , my name is Kirstin and I have been married to my wonderful husband Tomas for 12 years. We have three beautiful children; Mia (5), Kai (4), and Aria (2). We adopted Mia and Kai from Foster Care about 4 years ago. They are biological siblings and have truly changed our life in so many ways, I can’t imagine our life without them. Our youngest daughter Aria, has Down syndrome and is the joy of our lives and has taught us so much since finding out about her diagnosis. This brings me to what I want to share with you all today!
I got Aria’s Down syndrome diagnosis when I was 20 weeks pregnant. At first, it was difficult to accept. I grieved the child that I thought I was having and really struggled with the idea of what our future was going to look like. Having a child with special needs was never on my radar so it took time to accept. I went through the hard steps of processing our new reality and eventually, a couple months later, through God’s grace, I was able to fully wrap my mind around it all and see how God was working through all of it. 

While I was pregnant with Aria I joined a lot of groups of moms with kids with Down syndrome and all of the time I would read posts of moms really struggling with the delays their kid’s were having in reaching milestones. They would talk about hanging out with friends who are similar in ages to their child with special needs and would leave devastated and frustrated with the cards they had been dealt. You could just hear the tone through what they wrote that they felt so depressed, sad, and defeated in the words they typed. Comparison is a thief of joy and it absolutely robs of us the joy of mothering our children individually, when when we compare. 
I read several of these posts and decided very early on I was not going to live in that place when it came to Aria. I have empathy for them and why they feel that way, those feelings are real and I could easily put myself there, but I didn’t want to, not for me but especially not for Aria. So I remember being pregnant and deciding right then, with hands laid on my belly, that I would not compare her, I would only enjoy her and I would do everything in my power to help her be as successful in reaching those milestone as possible but not for me, for her. 
Once Aria was born I owned this mindset. We stayed in our lane and I only compared her to her. I was constantly in tune to her challenges to inform medical professionals and therapists but always even more in tune with her strengths. From day one, I could easily see everything she had to offer to the world that was built into her Down syndrome diagnosis. She’s set apart, there is no denying that to me or anyone else, and I want to do everything I can to foster that unique finger print God has placed on her.
Now I am not naive, I know Aria will face things that most kids won’t because she has special needs and that comes with challenges physically, mentally, and socially and I am not going to deny any of those realities but it can’t and won’t be my focus when it comes to being her mom. I can’t parent her best out of that place. I need to parent her out of a place of freedom.
So I don’t know if some of you have been struggling with comparison when it comes to your child or children but I challenge you to let those comparisons drift to the side so joy can surface and be the guiding motive of your motherhood journey. We are meant to enjoy motherhood and be free within it but we have to fight for our minds and keep our thought-life in check, to be successful in this.

I think one of the biggest ways to fight comparison is to feel safe and secure within your community. Being surrounded by people who lift you up and also people who understand what you are going through. There is safety in shared experiences. For these reasons, I am so excited about Grace City’s launch of their special needs program, RISE. We have already been directly impacted  by the program because of the buddy system they have put into effect. Aria has a buddy with her at church each Sunday that helps her feel more comfortable in getting attached to one person. As a special needs mom, finding environments that are willing to go our of their way to accommodate your child that has additional needs means everything and Grace City has done this for us. Being a part of a community that values individuals with special needs and makes them a priority is beautiful and I am so excited for all that is ahead for RISE and the families apart of it.

-Kirsten Czernek