Pocket Full Of Sunshine
Meet Mercedes. This woman made an impact on me the moment I met her 5 years ago at church. Her huge smile and bouncing curls accentuate her easy laugh and completely lovable nature. I always tease her that I want to fold her up and put her in my pocket. Maybe that way her contagious joy would drub off on me. The term 'pocket full of sunshine' is perfectly fitting for Mercedes and all the more as you get to know her darling daughter and Instagram mini-star...Sunflower Mae.
Since I began Of Beauty & Grace I knew I wanted to create a series featuring inspiring woman whom I admire. Women who radiate beauty in the truest sense of the word and whose whole lives reflect the loveliness of their character and soul. Lets face it: our world is in desperate need of some new role models. I cringe when thinking of the shady icons that pop culture would have our daughter Isla Rose emmanate. Um, No thank you. Thankfully, there's a lot of truth and goodness amidst the darkness. Here's to the women who seeking a life of true Beauty & Grace.
I dare you to not fall in love with Mercedes as she opened up with me in the following interview.
The FIRST Woman of Beauty & Grace: Mercedes Lara
Q. When did you decide you wanted to adopt a baby with Downs Syndrome?
A. Adoption was on my mind at the age of 10. Not sure why or how but it was. For me adoption was never would I? The question was always when? Adopting a child with Down Syndrome well... that part was God! At the age of 19 I began volunteering at a youth group for teens and adults who have mental and physical disabilities. It was the BEST!!! Little did I know God was shaping me already for my Sunflower😍 Well...Fast forward Andy ( my husband) and I are two years into our marriage and we are knee deep in hard life stuff it was a year of loss and disappointment. We decided to go on a two week missions trip to Haiti. We spent two weeks at an orphanage holding, playing, feeding, and changing sweet beautiful kiddos with different disabilities. The Holy Spirit was speaking to me so clearly. I found myself constantly thinking I could easily take home any one of theses babies and be their mama forever. Why not? I should do it! Andy and I should adopt a baby now! Why wait? After coming home I could not shake that desire! A baby with Down Syndrome was placed on my heart. A baby with Down Syndrome is what we needed ☺️
Q. Was Andy on board right away or did he need some time to process?
A. Golly! In my mind Andy is just so perfect!!! After asking him," Can we adopt?" he said yes" right away. Then seconds later I asked, "Can we adopt a baby with Down Syndrome?" He said give me a day, but yes I think that we should." The next day it was a yes. With no hesitation a yes😍🎉 Cue the romcom music I just fell in love all over again!!!
Q. What prompted you both to want to adopt before trying for any children of your own first?
A.So, we actually got pregnant by surprise and lost the baby. So we have a little one in heaven who I believe is a girl and I have named her Georgia. Gee wiz I love that name and I can't wait to meet her. And if she turns out to be a boy I love the name George too! Lol. I think about my baby in heaven often. Well our story continues we had a miscarriage which felt awful to say the least. We began trying after that, as though to redeem the baby we had lost but nothing. Just more tears. So we took a break and shelved the baby making idea. After shelving that idea, adoption, a planted seed from my youth was getting watered and fed blossoming and growing with deep roots in my mind. Girl I am telling you God has never been more clear
And this baby would not grow in my belly, but this baby grew in my mind and deeply in my heart.
To me! He had a baby for me and Andy. That was a promise. And this baby would not grow in my belly, but this baby grew in my mind and deeply in my heart. I love this verse in Esther because God dares me (in a fatherly I've got you😉) kind of way, to do big things. Some of those dares I might have written off as crazy ideas, but this one He triple dog dared me and I was up for some fun! "perhaps you were made for such a time as this..." Esther 4:14
Q. How has life with Sunny changed since the birth of Rhodes?
A. As to be expected with having your second lol! It's a whirl wind! Haha! No sleep, a messier house, I'm often late to things, I am overwhelmed, and I wonder if I'm giving them each my attention. All the while I am head over heels for my babies, I go above and beyond for them, seeing them play together and love on each other makes me want more! I love having two full arms of chaos😂 lol!
Q.. How would you define living a life of Beauty & Grace?
A. When you see yourself and others as beautiful no matter their looks it transforms your heart and mind. Grace is then the action of your heart and mind.
Q. You (and your family) have such amazing personal style, where do you find your inspiration?
A. Second hand stores, Target, H&M, Anthropologie, plus movies from the 80's and 90's. I love layering, playing with colors, mismatch patterns, plus my fave urban mixed with classy look. Not to mention whatever is clean and in arms reach! I love starting with one piece
Then continually adding. I love stand out pieces like a hat, vest or shoes that amplify an outfit or give it just the right edge to make you look and feel styled.
"perhaps you were made for such a time as this..." Esther 4:14
Q. Tell me about Little Messengers?
A. LM was birthed from our need to raise funds for adopting Sunflower. We started with baby head wraps and onesies. After raising the funds and becoming pregnant with Rhodes our second I took a break. I restarted with a friend and could not be more pleased! We have come back with a creative idea that is fashionable, stylish for mom and comfy for babies. Our Serape baby blanket is chic, on trend, adventurous and practical. We are currently in two stores Toes on the nose Laguna Beach and in 4 Hobie Southern Orange County locations. We have an etsy shop and have more actively ventured into the Craft Market world.
Q. Who designs the product?
A.My business partner Paige and I do.
Q. Your Hooray for Sunny Instagram account is the sweetest thing I have ever seen. What prompted you guys to begin it? How has the success of this account impacted your lives?
A. Hooray4sunny has brought connection, friendships, and support to our family. Sunflower was born with a rich testimony the very second she entered this world. Sunflower has Down Syndrome and was lovingly given up for adoption. We ( Andy and I) get to help Sunflower shape her life story as well as tell it in a positive inspirational way. We want Sunflowers life story to be viewed as BEAUTIFUL. And we feel Instagram is one really rad way to do it! I mean come on she's gorgeous and the camera loves her!
Q. One of my favorite things has been seeing how you celebrate Sunny’s individuality all the while bringing a positive light to Downs Syndrome. How would you encourage other moms, such as myself who have children that stand apart from the crowd and may struggle with different developmental delays etc?
A. Hmmm I am still learning this. But what I have learned for myself that as a mom I am so sensitive when it comes to my kiddos. I feel it so deeply when they hurt themselves or another child hurts them. I cringe and become defensive if an adult has a rude/ nonsensesicle comment about Sunny and her having a disability. My flesh becomes instant mama bear! But I have also found that when I am clear headed and not clouded by my emotions I can gracefully be Sunny's advocate, I can clearly articulate her needs or explain why she is doing whatever she is or isn't doing that is not "normal" to society. The way we handle positive or negative situations as parents of children with disabilities is so crucial! The way we treat our children in public for other people to see is so crucial! It's hard to be on All the time. I know. It's also our calling, whether we asked for it or not. For example I try to dress Sunny in cute clothes like her peers, Sunny wears foot braces I don't try and hide them I incorporate them into her look. Kids ask me about them and I answer in a positive upbeat way that these are foot braces that help Sunny to walk, run and jump better. I explain that Sunny has week ankles that are getting stronger everyday by exercise and her foot braces. I even ask if they would like to help Sunny walk up the playground stares or help her get on the slide. I have found kids LOVE to help and be in charge. They crave it! I give them different words to use when talking about the foot braces instead of weird I say aren't they cool. Isn't it rad that Sunny can wear these and now be able to play with you. I let them touch her braces and as best as possible take away the awkwardness. Another Example that's not so easy or pretty haha. Sunny has a constant runny nose and her tongue out which at times can cause a drooly boogery mess. I've had kiddos say "ew!" "She's dirty and messy!" I clean her up and explain to them that Sunny is still learning how to talk and how to help herself. I often turn it around and ask the concerned kid to please let me know if boogies start to come out again. I give them a job and ownership about how to handle the situation should it happen again. Taking personal sensitivity out of my knee jerk reaction to come to the defense of my "helpless" child, I am able to give others the more appropriate and kind way to approach a peer with special needs or a family member of a child with special needs. Breaking the awkward is one of our biggest battles. From ages 2-100 years old everyone is wondering how they should approach our kiddos and how they should approach as the parents. Let's try and give them a road map one conversation at a time. Don't shy away from awkward.
Q. You live an extraordinary life, what motivates you?
A. The pursuit of God's will in my life, not missing a blessing, not being ordinary, and the joy in helping others.
Q. Who has been your greatest inspiration?
A. Easy! Jesus, Andy, Sunflower and my mom!
Q. Favorite Musician?
A. Golly this is hard! Tay-Swif (lol!) and James Taylor
Q. Coffee or Tea?
Q.How would you define your style?
A.Versatile, comfortable and welcoming. I strive to be
approachable and relatable. I hope whatever I am wearing sparks positive conversation and shows that I enjoy life :)
Q. What are your hopes for the Lara Family in 2016?
A. First that our faith in the Lord deepens. Second our bond as a family deepens. Thirdly, I hope we each individually grow in a new and scary way. And lastly travel, I love to see a trip whether big or small on the calendar.
I mean honestly....are we all not in love with Mercedes Lara now? I love how her cheery persona is felt throughout this interview. The girl is pure JOY! Follow her journey @hoorayforsunny and @thatmrslara on Instagram. Support her by shopping Little Messengers.