I wear many hats. I’m a wife, a mother, a daughter and an ordained clergywoman in the United Methodist Church. I also wear the hat of a parent raising a child with special needs. My son, Craig, is 24 and copes beautifully with Asperger’s Syndrome. My hat for that is embroidered with “interpreter, filter, cheerleader, advocate, boundary enforcer, short-order cook to a picky eater, and ‘slightly’ overwhelmed at times.” They had to use a small font to fit all that. My life has been profoundly touched by ASD. It has made me a different person, a different parent, and a different pastor than I would have been otherwise. I think I am better at all three for the journey I have been on, but I have experienced no other life than the one, wonderful life I have lived. How would I begin to compare?
Along the way as clergy, I received another hat. A doctoral hat, which was red and shaped like a stop sign. I got the message loud and clear. My academic education had reached its end, but my journey in special needs ministry as my full-time life commitment was just beginning. My research focused on how churches can offer a holistic welcome to families raising children with special needs. That is, how can the church make the entire family feel welcome, addressing each person’s unique needs as part of a unique family. Having led parent support groups for five years, I have come to understand better the deep need for emotional and spiritual nurture on a journey that is at times overwhelming, yet balanced with poignant moments of hope and healing, even when there is “no cure.” I look for how we encounter God on the journey with special needs, connecting those sacred moments in the midst of a community of others who really “get” what it is like to be on this path. While the special needs in our lives are all as unique as our children, the needs for connection, understanding, and God are universal.
In addition to the hats mentioned above, I enjoy travel and my philosophy is that all vacations need to include a “helmet and a waiver” activity, one for which I must sign a waiver and wear a helmet or I am a non-starter. I also enjoy running half marathons, scuba diving, entertaining in my home, and hanging out for family time, including our kitty Coco, for a good read-aloud family book or a fun show on TV.