What happens when things don’t go as planned? How do you handle storms you face that are completely out of your control? Do you trust God in the face of adversity? How can God turn tragic circumstances into something beautiful for his glory and cause you to love more, complain less, and see God at work in the most unlikely of places?
Bible Gateway interviewed Lacey Buchanan (@LaceyNBuchanan) about her book, Through the Eyes of Hope: Love More, Worry Less, and See God in the Midst of Your Adversity (Charisma House, 2017).
What is Tessier cleft lip and palate syndrome?
Lacey Buchanan: A Tessier cleft lip and palate is actually not a syndrome at all. It’s a condition that affects the face, similarly to a typical cleft lip and palate. The difference is that Tessier clefts can have classifications ranging from 0 to 14. The number classification correlates to the place on the face that the cleft affects. For example, Christian’s classification of Tessier cleft is 3, 4, and 5. Each number represents a place on his face where the cleft is. The 5 indicates the clefting of his eyes.
Describe the challenges your son, Christian, faced at birth.
Lacey Buchanan: His biggest challenge, honestly, is social. I’m sure you’d expect me to say something about his disability here, but sadly no. That isn’t the biggest obstacle he faces. We live in a world where it’s acceptable to discard children like Christian. That carries over into how our society views people like Christian as a whole. People sometimes look at Christian and they feel sorry for him, or they think that he must be miserable or suffering. They think that he must have such a difficult life. They also sometimes think that he doesn’t deserve the same treatment as everyone else.
Christian, first and foremost, is a person just like the rest of us. Sure, he has some challenges that he has to face, but don’t we all? Christian’s challenges are just a little more obvious than some. Physically, Christian also has the challenge of figuring out how to navigate a world where everyone else has vision and he doesn’t. That’ll be a challenge, but not something he can’t handle! The social challenges are much more daunting.
Before Christian was born, ultrasounds foretold some of his challenges. After his birth you were hit with more. Through blow after blow, how did you hold on to faith? Did you ever doubt God’s love?
Lacey Buchanan: I definitely went through a time of doubting God’s love. I think it’s only normal when we go through something that shakes us to our core to really examine ourselves and figure out where we stand. The refining fires can be painful, but they can also make something beautiful out of us!
I spent a lot of time in prayer during those hard days, and I spent a lot of time questioning God. I believe there’s no point in withholding our questions from God because he already knows what our hearts are feeling anyway. I also believe he’s definitely big enough to handle any of our concerns or questions. I asked God hard questions and poured my heart out to him. I asked him why my innocent child had to go through these things. I asked him why he would allow me to hurt so much that some days I wasn’t sure I could stand it any longer.
But, isn’t God good, in all his sovereignty, that he would see fit to hold me close and stay by my side while I was busy questioning his authority, blaming him, and dealing with the hurt in my heart? I didn’t have to hold onto my faith in God during these trials because he was holding onto me. He’s good, and I have never seen it more clearly than when Christian was born.
What role did the Bible play in how you dealt with your situation?
Lacey Buchanan: The Bible was my lifeline during the difficult times. When I hurt the most, I’d open my Bible and beg to hear from God. The Scriptures constantly reminded me of the truth when my circumstances tempted to convince me otherwise.
How did these challenges affect you and your husband? What advice do you have for couples in similar circumstances?
Lacey Buchanan: Anytime something rocks your world, it’s most likely going to rock your marriage, too. We definitely went through a hard time in our marriage right along with the challenges we were facing with Christian. My advice to couples would be to cling to Jesus and always put him first. Build a solid foundation in Christ before the hard times come. Build your house on the rock, so to speak, so that when the storm comes, you’ll be ready.
In response to Internet cruelty you experience, you posted a video on YouTube with music and statement cards, and you showed Christian to the world. Why do you think your video drew six million views?
Lacey Buchanan: I think the video drew so many viewers because the story behind the video is relatable. Not that everyone could relate to our unique challenges, but they could relate to the love of a mother and a child. They could relate to the struggles, too, because we’ve all faced challenges in our lives. And that’s what I was hoping for! I was hoping people would see the video and not make a knee-jerk presumption about Christian and about his disability, but see a mother and a child, a person.
Christian can’t see people’s responses to him, but he can hear or sense them. What do you tell him about how to manage the ignorance or well-intentioned missteps of people he meets?
Lacey Buchanan: As of yet, we haven’t really had to explain much to Christian. He’s just now getting to an age where he can understand what people are saying about him. I hope to teach him about his value and worth now, and build him up so much, that when people do respond in a negative way to him, they can’t tear him down. I also hope to mirror for him how he can respond to people and teach him healthy ways to cope. I want him to always be sensitive to other people and realize when someone is being genuine, even if they weren’t being tactful. I want him to know how to respond gracefully and to give people the benefit of the doubt. I don’t want him to instantly become defensive and angry. I hope that I am doing that now so that I am an example for him to follow.
How is Christian now and what is he up to?
Lacey Buchanan: Christian is fantastic! He’ll be 6 years old next month! He’s in kindergarten now, doing really well. He takes karate and recently successfully tested for his first belt! He’s officially a yellow striped belt in karate, so watch out! 🙂 Every day is a joy and a gift and I couldn’t be more thankful that I get to fill my days with his vibrant personality and the beauty he brings to this world!
This far down a most unusual road, how do you define disability?
Lacey Buchanan: There’s a quote in Chicken Soup for the Soul Children with Special Needs that I love and would be appropriate here: “A disability means the loss of part or all functional ability of certain parts of one’s body. Handicaps are the roadblocks other people, and in some cases our own minds, put in the way of people with disabilities who are trying to live normal lives.” I love to tell people that Christian is differently abled, not disabled. He can do anything anyone else can do, he just may have to do it differently; and different doesn’t equal less!
What do families of people with special needs wish other people knew?
Lacey Buchanan: In my opinion, families who have members with special needs want other people to know that the stigma needs to go. There’s this stigma around special needs: it must be so hard, so difficult to live with day to day, that somehow, people with disabilities aren’t as happy as everyone else because, how could they be? And yes, sometimes disabilities can create extra challenges and obstacles for people to overcome, but that just serves to make them stronger. We’re stronger for what we’ve been through. We’re better people than we were before it. To us, Christian is just Christian and his disability is just a part of that. We aren’t miserable. Far from it. We are, in a small way, thankful, that we’ve faced adversity and come out stronger; and we are, in a huge way, thankful for Christian. Sure, some days are hard, but who doesn’t have hard days? We have so many more happy days than hard ones. We’re just a regular family, loving life and dealing with what’s thrown our way.
What two or three things do you know now about life, love, differences, God, difficulties, and family that you didn’t know before Christian arrived?
Lacey Buchanan: I think before Christian was born, I didn’t fully grasp God’s love for me. The love a parent has for a child is almost too large to comprehend until you have a child of your own. When God blessed me with Christian, I think I understood a little more how God loves me as his child. It was probably still only a small grasp of the unconditional and unfathomable love he has for his children, but it was at least a little deeper glimpse!
After having Christian, I also began to understand even more just how trustworthy God is. I had always heard it in church, but I had never experienced it personally, or been in a situation where I had to depend on God with my all. With Christian, I got to see God’s faithfulness, steadfastness, and just exactly how trustworthy he really is because I was in a place where he was all I had to hold onto. I was able to fully take him at his word and see every promise come to be, and see how perfectly God keeps his promises!
What do you most want readers to come away with from Through the Eyes of Hope?
Lacey Buchanan: I hope that when people read Through the Eyes of Hope, they’ll come away knowing that sometimes what we might perceive as the death of a dream is, in God’s hands, really the beginning of a beautiful journey.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?
Lacey Buchanan: I LOVE Bible Gateway! I use it at least a few times a week when I’m looking up verses or going along in my studies. I also have the app on my phone and love all the ways to use it! I specifically enjoy the audio function so I can listen to Scripture and Christian can follow along! The Bible Gateway App is unique, user friendly, and convenient for anyone who wants to study the Bible!
Bio: Lacey Buchanan is a middle Tennessee native who, with her husband, Chris, enjoys raising two rambunctious boys named Christian and Chandler. She has also earned her Juris Doctor. Lacey travels the country, sharing her family’s story and spreading a message of hope in God. An avid runner, lover of books, and follower of Christ, she plans to use her law degree to educate and advocate for the disabled.
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