233. When an Unexpected Phone Call Turns Your Life Upside Down (with Jillian Benfield)

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This podcast episode is one I’d been looking forward to recording — because it is always so special to get to talk to a mom who also has a child with Down syndrome. Author of The Gift of the Unexpected: Discovering Who You Were Meant to Be When Life Goes Off Plan, Jillian Benfield joins me today to share her heartfelt story of getting the very unexpected diagnosis of Down syndrome for her second child, Anderson.

In this conversation, Jillian and I dive into the depths of her experience, beginning with the earth-shattering phone call that changed her life’s trajectory. Jillian recounts the initial shock, the fear, and the grief she felt upon learning about her son’s diagnosis. What follows is a candid conversation about the unlearning and re-earning process she underwent, navigating the unexpected, and the beautiful, inspirational transformation that emerged.

Jillian also shares powerful insights about worthiness and the societal pressures that define what it means to be successful. We explore the misconceptions surrounding Down Syndrome and how her son, Anderson, reshaped her perspective. Jillian’s advocacy for inclusive education shines through as she discusses the importance of embracing differences in both schools and churches, and together, we reflect on the beauty of embracing the unexpected, finding hope in the midst of despair, and discovering the gifts that emerge from life’s unexpected turns.

In This Episode

[0:35] – I have Jillian Benfield, author of The Gift of the Unexpected, on the show today!

[3:09] – Jillian shares how a surprising move to Alamogordo and then a pregnancy test completely disrupted her plans for her life.

[5:47] – In the face of a Down syndrome diagnosis, she re-examined life’s meaning.

[10:40] – Jillian reflects on how society usually links worth to success.

[13:46] – Learn how the unexpected deeply connected Jillian to a vulnerable, suffering Jesus.

[17:23] – Jillian and I discuss how acceptance transforms perceptions; disabilities don’t define worth.

[20:29] – Anderson is thriving in inclusive school, embracing happiness and sibling love.

[21:59] – How her other children have grown with empathy, learning from their brother’s unique journey.

[24:09] – Inclusive education is vital for fully embracing people with disabilities.

[26:45] – We talk about church inclusion, highlighting mutual benefits for all members.

[28:31] – Jillian reflects on the white sands behind her house in New Mexico, emphasizing that new life can emerge from unexpected challenges.