We are sitting in the kitchen at a modest home in a Memphis, TN, suburb, completely surrounded by vibrantly colored artwork. Familiar Christian symbols are the primary themes—angels, crosses, and heavenly clouds—presented in a way that is childlike and, at the same time, profound.
Lacey Hancock, the 32-year-old artist commissioned to create Love Worth Finding’s 2020 Christmas card, is the artist (literally) in residence. She does most of her work in her “art room,” sometimes getting up in the middle of the night to paint what she says God inspires.
Her mom, Vickie Hancock, 71, is Lacey’s biggest fan and business manager, promoting the artist’s work on Facebook (God’s Hand, Lacey’s Heart).
The ladies have a game plan for today’s interview: Vickie will tell the story of how God planned and continually uses the life of this prolific artist, and Lacey will then describe her artwork. Lacey admits, however, “I may have to say something sometimes.”
That Lacey does, chiming in at all the right moments.
Bobby and Vickie Hancock started their life together with a long wait for children. After seven years without success, they were thrilled in 1980 to adopt their oldest daughter, Leslie, now grown with children of her own.
The Hancocks settled in the Memphis, TN, area in 1986 where Bobby assumed a regional corporate position with Baptist Medical Systems; the Lord later led him into a business ministry.
“We already loved Pastor Adrian Rogers,” Vickie explains, noting that the Hancocks’ relationship with the Rogers was clearly providential from the start—actually, before the start.
“We were visiting Memphis and went to a home show, and who comes walking down the street but Pastor Adrian Rogers and his wife, Joyce.” The two couples chatted, “and we all prayed for God’s decision about a house. We prayed Proverbs 3:5 and 6, and of course God showed us just where to live.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight,” Lacey recites, right on cue, setting up the perfect transition for what happened next.
In 1988, when Vickie was 39—“the year Dr. Rogers was president of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Vickie remembers—“I found out I was pregnant.”
Only a few weeks into the pregnancy, bloodwork showed an early indication of either Down syndrome or Spina bifida. Vickie immediately sought a word with her pastor. “I walked down near the piano and Pastor Rogers was coming down from the pulpit. He stopped right there with hundreds of people walking around us, laid hands on, and prayed for, our baby.”
“We were given a choice to do an amniocentesis. We found out in July that we would have a little girl with Down syndrome. They also did a sonogram and discovered she had a hole in her heart.”
Vickie’s throat catches as she describes the news. “They talked to me about abortion. I remember the words: ‘If you choose to take care of things, we can send you to UT Med (University of Tennessee Medical Center).’”
The couple did not need to discuss what Vickie says was a non-option.
“From July to October, we were given time to get ahold of our emotions and started to pray for God to glorify Himself through this baby.”
Lacey adds an unsolicited but appropriate interjection: “God works in mysterious ways.”
Lacey was due on November 5, but came early on October 18. Bobby, in another state on business, made it to the delivery room at 5 p.m. with just 13 minutes to spare. Four months later, on February 6, 1989, Vickie’s 40th birthday, Lacey entered LeBonheur Children’s Hospital with viral pneumonia. She survived the challenge to her lungs, but her heart would require another miracle.
“We were told in April that they would have to close the hole in her heart,” Vickie says. We went into the hospital on a Sunday afternoon; that night Pastor Rogers had a special prayer for Lacey from the pulpit.” During surgery the next morning, doctors discovered a clot had formed on Lacey’s left leg. More prayers were lifted, and by Thursday, Lacey was recovering well. “The cardiologist said, ‘Well, all that lifting up really helped.’ We found out later the doctor was not a believer; even as a baby, Lacey was witnessing.”
“God’s hand, Lacey’s heart,” Lacey says matter-of-factly, holding up her business card.
Lacey developed well and started special needs preschool at age 3. “Her language, vocabulary and reasoning took off,” Vickie says. She learned quickly throughout elementary and junior high too, giving, as well as taking in, all God had for her.
“She was always telling people about Jesus,” Vickie says. “Her teacher’s husband worked for a company at the World Trade Center. He lost 60 or 70 coworkers on 9/11. Even as a sixth-grader she felt a special call to pray.”
Lacey’s high school program included life skills training in partnership with area hotels, restaurants, and businesses. Lacey learned to cook, stock shelves, clear and re-dress tables, and shop on a budget.
After graduation, “we thought about Wendy’s or Chick-fil-A,” Vickie said. At the same time, Lacey started drawing …and not just any drawing.
“She’d be waiting for me to finish choir practice and she’d draw these inspiring images, so I bought some paints and canvasses…
“I was inspired by the hymns,” Lacey explains animatedly and emphatically, signaling that it’s high time she took over the story. “He’s the One who takes me through the paints.”
Lacey is holding one of her favorite pieces. Here’s how she describes God’s leading: “I was dreaming. It was like being in an airplane and He was taking me on a tour. And when I woke up in the middle of the night I started painting. He told me to name it Dream of Heaven.”
She has similar stories about other works, such as Midnight Cry—“I think you will hear the trumpet sound and this is what you’ll see when you come to the graveyard”—and Close to Time–“I think we are close to time. Can you imagine what that will be like?”
Lacey has a story for every work of art, and talks excitedly too of her seven years performing in the “Singing Christmas Tree,” singing with choir groups at Carnegie Hall in 2016 with Natalie Grant and at the Kennedy Center in 2019 with Sandi Patti, performing in a special needs dance troupe, Company d, for 15 years, through which she met Liza Minnelli in person, and journaling thoughts she says she may one day publish as a book.
All of her creative energy, she says, is a gift from God. As she succinctly states on her Facebook page for anyone who would like to know about this prolific and passionate artist who happens to have Down syndrome:
“I am Christian and God gave me the talents to paint, dance, write, and sing … I love my life.”