Joy In The Unexpected

March 21, 2016  - By Gretchen Saffles

I was on the phone with a friend the day I received a text that flipped our family’s world upside down. My sister was in her first trimester of pregnancy and was at her routine check-up when the nurse noticed something abnormal in her ultrasound – several markers for Down Syndrome. I remember reading her words, each one of them hitting my heart like a freight train. Down Syndrome doesn’t run in our family, this can’t be true, I began begging God to spare my sister of any potential heartache. She and her husband had been trying to have another child for years – this couldn’t be the way God would answer their longing.

And yet, it was exactly the way God would sovereignly bless the fruit of my sister’s womb. On October 29th, 2015, Alisa Jane Holmes was born into this world, fearfully and wonderfully made. Alisa has Down Syndrome, but that is not what defines her. What defines her is the unique thumbprint of creativity God has stamped on her life, just like He does every person. Her smile lights up a room. Her coos will melt your heart. Her fingers and toes are perfectly made by the hands of Almighty God. Though Alisa’s diagnosis was unexpected to our family, so was the joy that she would bring to our lives. 

 Photo by Jess Barfield

Photo by Jess Barfield

Before having a family member with Down Syndrome, I knew very little about what it meant to have an extra chromosome known as Trisomy 21. God has given our family a responsibility now to speak out and speak up for the precious lives of those who have Down Syndrome, as well as to encourage their family members and caregivers. Even an extra chromosome is a trust from God, a unique gift from Him to point us to Jesus. Alisa Jane has already done this in our own life as we have run to the shelter of our Father’s wings for answers, comfort, and hope. And in the midst of our running, He has given us joy in the unexpected. 

My sister, Kara Holmes, has written about her journey on her blog Chasing Genuine. Below are the posts in chronological order. I pray that you will be blessed as you read her story and that you will walk away with a deeper understanding of God’s sovereignty, love, and pursuit of our hearts. He is faithful, He is a creative God, and He is good, even in the unexpected.

 Photo by Jess Barfield from

Photo by Jess Barfield from

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  1. Lynn R Elko says:

    I am a scope follower and heard you mention this today. We too have been abundantly, overwhelmingly blessed with a fearfully and wonderfully made daughter, Emma, who was born with multiple disabilities. She has taught every single person who takes the time to learn from her more than each could have imagined, myself the most. She has shown us the love of God, as He loves us unconditionally with our flaws, sins, and unseen *dis*abilities. Emma will be 14 soon; she took her first independent steps at age 10 and we are hanging on to the promise of verbal communication someday. Every day shares love like we never knew existed… <3 From our family of three, we send much love to your family and extra smooches to Alisa from Emma. There are more blessings and richness in store for your sister and your family than you could possibly imagine. {There will be hard times too, but we are not made for this world. Praise God! Someday we will dance and laugh and sing together… what a day that will be!}

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