Category Archives: Special Needs Parenting

Is it Funny Yet?

Laugh or Cry Signpost by Stuart Miles

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh” (Luke 6:21 NRS)

I opened my door to welcome guests coming for dinner on Christmas Day and was greeted by the saddest face.Naughty Russell

“I know this will be funny someday, but I’m not there yet.  You know the dessert I offered to bring? The one that your husband will love and that I spent hours making?”

I looked about and noticed she wasn’t carrying anything…

“Well, the dog jumped on the counter and ate the whole thing while I was drying my hair.”

I found the latest episode of misbehavior by Russell, the large overly-enthusiastic mixed breed puppy, to be quite amusing. She and her husband got there eventually.

A mother of a medically fragile child shared with me that in her home humor has become the gold standard of how well they are coping. “Is it funny yet? If it’s not funny yet, then you know it’s bad.”

Truthfully, humor does surprise us at odd times, times that are so out of sync with whatever is going on at the moment we feel a little, dare I say, nutty. A little twinge of guilt reaches up and tugs your sleeve, “You shouldn’t be laughing,” it whispers, “What’s wrong with you?”

Well, nothing.  Laughter is part of coping. A proverb wisely notes, “Even in laughter the heart is sad, (Proverbs 14:13 NRS). I recall watching Saturday Night Live when it went back on the air after September 11, 2001. The iconic New York City show at the heart of the greatest grief of the nation opened with first responders standing near Paul Simon as he sang The Boxer.  SNL producer Lorne Michaels asked of New York City Mayor Rudolf Guliani, “Can we be funny?” To which the mayor relied, “Why start now?” There is a line between grief and humor. When is it okay to cross it?

Laughter is a healing balm, even when it pops up at odd times. Jesus promises, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” (Luke 6:21 NRS) It is okay to be surprised by humor in the hard places.

One of the dearest memories I have of my grandmother’s final days were of her organizing her own funeral. A detail person to the end, she had everything prepared exactly how she wanted it. She laid back in her hospital bed, a look of contentment spread across her face. “Oh! It will be lovely! When is it going to be?”

Awkward sideways glances passed between my mom and her sister. My mom apparently drew the short straw, “Well, Mom, that is sort of up to you. You know. Whenever you, um, get around to it.”

Everyone burst out laughing.

There are some things in life that will never, ever, ever be funny. But the gift of a little humor in the hard places helps us get through.

Healing God, Thank you for the gift of laughter that surprises us in unexpected ways. Thank you for tears of joy and laughing until our stomachs hurt and we can’t breathe. Thank you for healing us when our hearts hurt and we need relief. Amen.

Rev Doc Lorna

Photo “Laugh or Cry Signpost” by Stuart Miles Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Rhythms of Grace

Rhythms of Grace

When a mom came up to me after worship with tears in her eyes, my first reaction was, “Oh no! What happened?” Far too often I hear stories of worship failures for kids with special needs, but this was different.  We were at Rhythms of Grace, a worship service for families with special needs.  I expected that day to be a big success for everyone and I was not disappointed.

“My son just took Communion for the first time! I never felt I could take him before, but he did it. I’m so proud of him!”

Wow! The tangible presence of God’s grace in the elements of bread and wine with no barriers or road blocks. What a gift!

Celebrating First Communion

Mabel 2 (1)

Rhythms of Grace is an inclusive service that is the shared vision of Lisa Puccio, Coordinator for Special Needs Worship and Rector Jimmy Grace. The two launched the service in November of 2010 at Christ Cathedral Episcopal Church with the vision that it would move among four churches on alternating Sundays. As partner churches left over time, the service was simply held monthly. With a vision for a weekly service in one location, when Rector Jimmy Grace was appointed to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in The Heights in Houston, that vision became a reality. With a strategic mission grant from the archdiocese and enthusiastic support by the local congregation, Lisa made the move to St. Andrew’s as well and the Rhythms of Grace launched weekly on February 1, 2015.

I enjoyed attending on a Sunday afternoon with parents and children from a support group that I lead. Numbers vary from ten up into the forties, with a strong volunteer base to help direct the energy of participants. As worship began with music and story time, one boy got up and pounded on the stair rail. Another felt overwhelmed and moved to the back of the room wearing his ear defenders to reduce sensory input, another got the giggles and scooted in spiraling circles in the middle of the floor among the other worshipers.  No one was bothered by behavior. No one was shushed.  We’d all been there. There was space for all of that energy without sideways glances. How refreshing!

The service flowed from our time gathered in a circle on the floor to a variety of activity stations set up around the room. Painting, coloring, sorting were among several activities that children could choose, selecting activities that matched their strengths and interests.  Each activity tied to the scripture lesson of the day. At the end of the time of exploration we gathered again for music and Communion. Watching Rev. Jimmy Grace go around to each family one by one and offer Communion was a visible reminder that God’s grace is freely given and open to all. We do nothing to earn it, but rather we simply need to accept it.

Rhythms of grace 3

Rhythms of Grace is well-named, matching the worship style to the rhythms of the lives of the participants, all the while celebrating God’s unconditional love for all people. While a few participants are members of St. Andrew’s, this unique style of worship has brought in many people from outside the congregation. It has created an outreach opportunity for what is the most basic of gifts a congregation has to offer, a place to belong while experience God’s unconditional  love in connection with others.

If you would like to learn more about this unique service, visit their website here and get in touch with Lisa Puccio for more information.

Gracious God, thank you for the vision of Lisa and Rev. Grace for offering this unique worship opportunity. Continue to guide their vision for opening the church to families with unique circumstances so that all can be part of a nurturing and supporting community. Thank you for surprising gift of a first Communion that was uniquely times to your rhythm of grace. I pray that all families looking to know you and be part of a faith community find a home as full of blessing as St. Andrew’s. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

When Birthdays Don’t Feel so Happy

“Two Year Old Birthday Party” by Stuart Miles

A group of moms can sure go through the tissues when talking about birthday parties. We gathered on a sweltering Houston day talking about unexpected grief. Parent after parent shared the heartache of birthdays. Wondering if a child will still be here next year. Hoping for developmental milestones that still go unfulfilled as the calendar marches along. Then there are those expected party guests who never arrive.

That last one is really tough.  Birthdays are about who shows up to celebrate with us.

Two thousand years ago a couple traveled to a faraway city for a Roman census.  It was home to the relatives of the man, but no one welcomed them. How can that be when it is his ancestral land? Surely some close kin must have still lived there and would have had some way to squeeze in their relative and his pregnant fiancé, but sometimes even relatives don’t show up when we need them.  Perhaps the scandal of the pregnancy kept folks at bay? Perhaps the couple was so used to rejection they did not even ask? We don’t know why, but we do know they felt their only option was a room for rent, and none were available.

Tradition is clear about who is expected to celebrate the birth of a baby. Family and friends ought to be there. They weren’t present that day, but there were others, unexpected guests who celebrated the good news.

“Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.”

So [the shepherds] went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:15-19 NRS)

Then later there were other unexpected guests who traveled a long way.

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” (Matthew 2:1-2 NRS)

And there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:9-11 NRS)

There were plenty of things about that birthday that must have been disappointing to Mary. Giving birth to her child in the midst of the chaos of no housing certainly wasn’t in her plan, nor when she was so far away from home. The friends and family she pictured simply weren’t there for her that day.

But others were. Even in the midst of what must have been painful disappointments, there were blessings and support from unexpected places. These were the things that Mary treasured.

Loving God, Birthdays can be such a bittersweet mix. They are cause for celebration, and yet can be painful reminders of differences. Help us to celebrate with joy the blessings we have in our children. Open our eyes to the true gifts, those unexpected ones mixed in among wrapping paper, cake and balloons. We give thanks to you for the shepherds and angels you send to us each day who see beyond this world to be the people of your kingdom that you call us to be for each other. Help us follow Mary’s example, treasuring the best and letting go of the rest. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

“Two Year Old Birthday Party” by Stuart Miles COurtesy of FreeDigitalDownloads.net

Sonflower Bakery: A New Vision For Special Needs Adult Ministry

Sonflower Cakepops

The Church of the Resurrection in Leawood Kansas didn’t set out to start a special needs adult day program, but recognition of the needs in the community coupled with a bit of inspiration has given rise to a unique community for adults with cognitive impairments.

More than six years ago, Jennifer Ross, Director of Matthew’s Ministry special needs program, recognized the church needed to create opportunities for adults with cognitive impairments to share their gifts with the church. Young adults were graduating from public education with no job opportunities and no programs in the area uniquely suited to their needs. Mostly they were home all day with little to do. This also meant caregivers had limited respite.  She found ways to support caregivers while putting the gifts and abilities of adults to use at the church collating bulletins, sorting items collected for mission outreach, and more.

Then came the suggestion, “Let’s bake cookies and sell them to the staff at lunch time!”  While this may sound like an impossible task given that the ministry is housed in a church with no kitchen, Jennifer thought outside the box, “There was company selling frozen cookie dough. We bought three cases and the church got a small convection oven for free. Problem solved!”

That oven was never actually used to bake cookies.  When Jennifer shared her plan with a church member, that person knew of a grant that was available and suggested she apply. Within a few weeks, Sonflower Bakery had received a grant that allowed them to purchase everything they needed to create a small warming kitchen and a new ministry was born.

Sonflower Bakery

“Congregations often feel that they can’t offer ministry opportunities due to budget, but there are plenty of grant opportunities available.  Even if we had stayed the original model, the ministry created an opportunity to use the gifts of people who want to give back and help others.”

Sonflower Bakery began by baking cookies to sell in the café on campus, but has also become a vital tool in outreach to the community.  When Church of the Resurrection broke ground for new construction, Sonflower Bakery created 300 gift boxes of cookies and delivered them to local area businesses in order to be good neighbors in the midst of dust and disruption.

Over the past six years, Sonflower Bakery has grown from a few boxes of dough to selling over 100,000 items a year, including cookies, muffins, bread and more. Along the way, it also grew to become a full adult learning program with 23 participants.  Per the budget, there is a nominal fee for participants and the overall church budget covers any shortfall they may have across the year.  Participants bake cookies three days a week.  Other days they have a keyboard music program, ring handbells and perform throughout the community, participate in yoga, partner with the sewing ministry to create fleece pillows and blankets for homeless people in Kansas City, and pack backpacks with food so that under-privileged children have meals for the weekend when they leave school on Fridays. Anywhere from three to ten volunteers per day help keep the program running smoothly, along with Joan Baird, who is the coordinator for this thriving ministry.

Joan Baird

This well-rounded adult day program responds to the social, physical and spiritual needs in the lives of participants.  Most important, the gifts and abilities of everyone are recognized and valued. As an added bonus, caregivers receive some much-needed respite. When lead pastor Adam Hamilton says Matthew Ministry special needs ministry and the Sonflower Bakery are his favorite ministries of his church, it’s easy to tell he is sincere. After experiencing two days as part of the ministry myself, they have a special place in my heart, too.

If your congregation would like more information about starting an adult program, you can learn about Matthew Ministry and Sonflower Bakery by clicking here and here, or contact Jennifer Ross or Joan Baird at COR.org.

Equipping God, Thank you for equipping Jennifer and Joan to respond in creative ways in developing a ministry that recognizes the gifts and abilities of all people.  Bless them with energy and vision for following where you lead. Bless the ministry participants and volunteers in their unique community that blends gifts and service all to your glory. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

Employing Adults with Special Needs: ReAwarding Work

Trophy Master 1

Last week I wrote about advocating for our children with special needs.  If you missed the post, you can read it here. Today I want to share an inspiring story of two parents who are passionate about advocating for employment for adults with special needs.

Two years before their son Mark graduated from high school, Pete and Sharon Meaden had a conversation about his future.  Mark has a great aptitude for computers, but has deficits in other abilities due to cerebral palsy that made it hard to find a job.

“Bagging groceries and stocking shelves are fine jobs, but many of the kids coming through modified educational training have other interests and abilities. Some of the positions that are traditionally thought of for kids like Mark, he just can’t do physically.  At times there are behavioral challenges that require supervision. He worked so hard to acquire technical skills in school. We didn’t want him to lose those by graduating to the couch and playing video games all day.”

Pete and Sharon set about finding alternatives suiting their son’s gifts which led them to start their own business. Revived Glory Awards refurbishes old trophies and creates new ones for a variety of sports events and more.

“I knew so many friends with shelves full of old soccer trophies, basketball, baseball, you name it.  Kids work hard for those treasures and no one wants to throw them away, but eventually they end up just taking up space and collecting dust.  I got to wondering if I could start a business recycling old trophies and creating new ones.”

A bit of market research and emails to a network of friends yielded a basci business plan and plenty of stock to get started. Mark became the first trophy master employed by Revived Glory Awards, disassembling, sorting, and creating an inventory list.  Sharon set about getting orders for new trophies, which Mark assembled, and a new business was born.

Housed in the home garage, Revived Glory Awards now employs six trophy masters, ages 20-50, and a variety of volunteers to assist. “Each trophy master has particular gifts to share. Some are good at assembly, others at engraving. The real gift comes in the sense of community. They care about each other and have a true team spirit. For some, their time at Revived Glory is their main social outlet of the week.” Some trophy masters need one on one supervision and others are more independent. Finding volunteers has never been a problem. “Our volunteers love their time with our trophy masters, even saying it is the highlight of their week and a time when they know they are doing something that truly makes a difference.”

Trophy Master 3

Trophy Masters Celebrate “Bring-your-Sibling-to-Work” Day

Business is booming! In addition to trophies, they create beautiful engraved cutting boards and other products as well. To learn more about Revived Glory Awards click here. The Meadens are looking to expand from their garage into retail space, but that isn’t the end of their vision. “It would be great to become a non-profit and be able to create a residential program so there could be ongoing community. Some trophy masters would still be part of a day program, but others could live on site and have care and companionship, a place to belong.”

I asked Sharon what is one piece of advice she has to offer to parents of adult children who are at risk of falling through the employment crack after graduation. “Our young adults have so much potential. Those who know them best know their gifts. Find what they do best and think outside the box for how they can use their skills. Help them find what suits them or create it yourself. It really wasn’t that hard to do.”

Glorious God, Thank you for blessing Pete and Sharon with the gift of inspiration and vision for creating a place of community and employment for trophy masters.  Bless them in thier growing opportunity to reach out to yet more young adults who are lookng for a job and place to belong. For parents feeling anxious about the future beyond high school, calm their fears and create a fresh vision for possibilites. Open pathways of connections so that the gifts of all of your children are shared in meaningful ways. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

The Advocate: Three Tips for Getting Services for Your Child with Special Needs

Advocate

As I sat listening to the experiences of special needs parents as part of a panel discussion offering resources, I recalled the parable of Jesus:

He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?

(Luke 18:2-7 NRS)

The widow in Jesus’ story was the advocate who would not give up. She returned again and again, asking for what she needed until she received it. How often do we do that as parents? Pretty much continually with insurance, school accommodations, state and federal agencies, and more. I looked out from the panel table at a gathering of earnest advocates seeking advice of how to best advocate for the needs of their children. They received sage advice from Denise Briley of Thru the Roof Ministry at Houston First Baptist Church. She successfully navigated the waters of receiving services for her medically fragile son. Here are some of her insights:

Be persistent! As a family who was an early pioneer in keeping home a medically fragile child rather than institutionalizing, the Brileys fell through the cracks of programs that should have provided support. When denied by an agency she told the person on the other end of the phone, “I just want you to know I am going to call you every day at 1:00. I look forward to talking to you again tomorrow.”  And she did. Every day. For 59 days.  On day 60 her phone rang at 12:59, “Mrs. Briley, I have some wonderful news…”

Be prepared! Do the research. Ask questions. Document everything. If there is more than one local agency office that could provide services, find out which office is the most compassionate and helpful. Show up in person with your child. Denise shared a marvelous story about taking her son to the local agency office and then on to the main office in our state capital. “Oh Mrs. Briley, you didn’t need to bring your son.” “Well, as a matter of fact I did because I have no respite help to care for him and he clearly cannot be left alone.” Her burgeoning bag with medical equipment was an ample testament to his needs, with every machine that beeps set to max volume. Seeing, and hearing, is believing! “Mrs. Briley, clearly there has been a mistake in the respite decision…”

Be patient! It takes time. Prepare to hear ‘no’ many times. If a cover letter was missing, submit again. If a box wasn’t checked, check it and re-submit. Eventually there may be a ‘yes.’ And, while patiently working through the system for a ‘yes’, don’t feel like you have to pretend that you have it all together.  Obviously, don’t berate the person who is there to help you. But if it is a rough day don’t feel the need to hide your discouragement, tears, and anxiety.  Policies often have grey areas of interpretation and real people with real emotions interpret those policies. Let them see that you are human because they are too and it could help build a bridge to the services you need for your child.

Jesus’ parable is of an unjust judge. The good news is that our God is not an unjust God, but rather a God who hears our prayers and has sent The Advocate on our behalf.  Jesus told his disciples in his final evening gathered with them in the upper room:

 I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. (John 14:16-17 NRS)

Truly, as parents we are strengthened as advocates because the ultimate Advocate is with us.

Holy Advocate, thank you for aiding us in seeking justice and services for our children. Strengthen us when we feel weak, renew us when we feel tired, freshen our perspectives when we are discouraged, and soften hearts so that we hear a “yes” for our children who are made in your glorious image. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

Great, New Resource for Churches!

Philo Weatherbee

Jolene Philo and Katie Wetherbee have created a fabulous resource for churches that are interested in starting or improving their ministry to families with special needs.  Written with as a metaphor of preparing for guests comign to a dinner party, Every Child Welcome guides the reader through the process of planing, preparing and implementing a ministry that is flexible and intentionally welcoming.

I had the opportunity to ask Jolene Philo for insights about the creative process and advice for churches seeking to offer a more inclusive welcome to families.

What inspired you to write “Every Child Welcome? How did you come to partner with Katie Wetherbee in the creative process?

Katie and I met at a special needs ministry conference in Des Moines, Iowa the fall of 2010. My first book, A Different Dream for My Child, had been out for about a year, and I was selling it at a book table. Katie was presenting several special needs ministry workshops for Key Ministry. She came up to my book table and said, “I’m Katie Wetherbee. I love your book!” I realized her workshops were the sessions I’d highlighted to attend. I went to them and realized our styles of teaching were very similar. Plus we had so much in common. We were both former public school teachers who’d worked a lot with kids in special education. We were both moms of kids with special needs. And we both blogged about special needs issues.

After the conference, we began to follow one another’s blog and corresponded by email. In one email, she asked if she could call with questions about a book she had in mind. After she explained her idea, I said, “I assumed you wanted to write a book that compiled the great teaching ideas and strategies you’ve posted on your blog.”

“Oh,” she said, “I don’t have a clue about how to write that book.”

I said, “Then let’s write it together.” And so we did.

We had a wonderful time working together. By the time the book was written, revised, and the publisher sent the final proofs, we couldn’t remember who had written what because our writing styles meshed so well.

What changes have you seen over the years in welcoming children with special needs?

When I first started writing about special needs parenting, the topic wasn’t on the radar screen of most Christian publishers, churches and program leaders. That has changed. Special needs ministry is now one of the hot topics in church and ministry circles. The number of formal special needs ministry programs has mushroomed in the past decade, especially in larger churches. Those churches attract a lot of families of kids with special needs, and that is wonderful.

But smaller churches still struggle to raise awareness and to become equipped to welcome kids with special needs. Katie and I wrote Every Child Welcome with those churches and their children’s ministry workers in mind. We hope the book can equip Sunday school teachers and mid-week children’s ministry volunteers to welcome kids even if their church doesn’t have a formal special needs ministry.

What strategies do you suggest for maintaining an inclusive ministry as children become teens?

Basically, when a church begins thinking about special needs ministry, they need to think of it as a whole church ministry, not as just a children’s ministry. They need to create a

welcoming climate for people with disabilities and special needs across church ministries and age groups. Church leaders need to consider special needs ministry a high priority by  making regular worship services inclusive. Greeters, ushers, and parking lot attendants need to be trained to welcome those with special needs. Children’s ministry leaders, youth leaders, and adult program leaders need to seek training to learn how to become more inclusive. Churches that create an inclusive culture throughout the church will find that moving kids from children’s programs to youth programs is easier because the culture is already in place.

What key advice can you offer to a church looking to begin an inclusive ministry for children with special needs?

First, start small by meeting the needs of families already attending your church. If a family has a child with Down syndrome, ask what the child needs to be able to fully participate and work together to make that happen.

Second, educate your church leadership and ministry about the importance of special needs ministry. Read books, attend special needs ministry conferences, or host a special needs ministry training at your church. Create a special needs ministry plan based on what you’ve learned and what your child needs.

Third, educate everyone at your church about the importance of welcoming people with special needs and disabilities. Start creating a church culture, using ideas you’ll find in Every Child Welcome, so your church becomes a place where people with special needs are welcome rather than a church with programs for people who have special needs.

Jolene-and-Katie-300x275

About the Authors:

Jolene taught elementary school for 25 years. She’s author of the Different Dream Parenting series and blogs at her special needs website, DifferentDream.com. She speaks at special needs conferences around the country. Jolene and her husband enjoy their empty nest in Boone, Iowa.

Katie is a former special education teacher. Her educational consulting firm serves families by providing solution-oriented advocacy. She pens the special needs column for Children’s Ministry magazine and blogs at katiewetherbee.wordpress.com. Katie & her husband live in Chagrin Falls, Ohio with their 2 children and their dog, Mitzie.

Jolene and Katie are both parents of kids with special needs.

Gracious God, Thank you for the vision and passion and that Jolene and Katie share for helping congregations welcome all of God’s children. Bless their efforts to help connect families into churches so that all may be nurtured and grow in their love of and knowledge of you. Amen

Special Needs Parent Appreciation!

green watercolor background

For the month August, Sandra Peoples and Carol Flory at Not Alone Ministry launched Special Needs Parent Appreciation Month. Plain moms and dads get a mere day to celebrate their talents as parents.  Special needs parents deserve an entire month!  It’s fitting that they chose “back-to-school” month, undoubtedly the most stressful month of the year for most special needs families.  If there is ever a time when we need a bit of extra appreciation, August is it! For all of those therapy appointments, for juggling a tight budget, for giving tirelessly to those who need it most, for the million ways in which you give and care – Well done!

Earlier this year a parent said to me, “I wish there were a devotion just for special needs parents. I read other devotions. I like them alright. I just wish I could find one that really resonates my experience.”  As a gift to special needs parents, Not Alone Ministry created a 30-day devotional eBook. They tackle hard topics like anger, guilt and fear, as well as the lighter fare of parenting, such as hope, friendship and grace. They invited a variety of disability writers to contribute, including me.  You can read more about the project here: http://bit.ly/1ECJEiU and you can download your copy of the devotion here: http://bit.ly/1My3eTT

On a personal note, many folks have been asking about an eBook version of Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving.  The eBook was released on Amazon on my son’s birthday, which feels perfectly fitting! You can find both the print and electronic versions here: http://amzn.to/1h0kSEy

Renewing God, for the parent who gives constantly and takes little for themselves, provide an opportunity for self-care.  For the parent who yearns to hear their child say thank you, help them feel that appreciation in ways that transcend words.  For the parent who worries maybe they are not enough, remind them we are all more than conquerors through Christ Jesus who strengthens us all. Let all that we do as parents be to your glory. Amen

Blessings!

Rev Doc Lorna

Back-to-School Prayer

Little Boy Holding a Whiteboard by photostock

Here in Texas it is the first day of school. I’m thinking of all the parents and students who are feeling a bit anxious today. Transitions are hard for most, but especially so when for children with developmental differences. One friend is sending her son off for his first day of school ever. Another friend just sent a photo of her son on his first day of middle school and it reminded me of my anxious nerves when that was my son making those big transitions.

Years ago as I met with his helping teacher the week before school started she asked, “Do you just sit home and worry about him all day?”

I tried to shrug it off. “Oh no! I have part-time job I go to at the church while he is at school.”

She looked skeptical.  She knew the truth… that I simply went to work and worried about him there rather than at home.

Was there ever a perfect first day of school? No. Not at our house.  But we all made it home at the end of the day and sorted out the new routine.  Day by day it got better.  So much of that worry was simply a waste of energy.  I probably contributed to making my son yet more anxious.  Ouch!  That is a painful realization.

Jesus offers valuable advice about wasted effort of worry

And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.
(Luke 12:25-27 NRS)

Great advice, but I know it is hard to follow at times. And so I offer this prayer for all the folks feeling anxious about back-to-school.

Nirturing God, grant peace to those who are anxious, big people and little people alike. Bless teachers and thank you for giving them the gifts of nurture, creativity and patience.  Guide them in uderstanding and welcoming students who are unique. As parents we want good things for our children and want to protect them. Help us to let go of the worry we feel at times of transition and trust in what you have in store in the future. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

Photo: “Little Boy Holding a Whiteboard” by photostock courtesy of FreeDigitalPhoto.net

When Compliments Hurt

Lorna and Craig watermarked

“You’ve done such a good job with him.”

I know it was meant as a compliment, but this statement from someone over a year ago has stuck with me for a variety of reasons.  As my baby turns 25 years-old I have to ask myself the question, have I?

Asperger’s is what it is. We’ve taken our son to all variety of therapies and he has gained genuine coping skills. He is a remarkable young man, confident and caring.  He advocates for himself. He understands his limits. A friend said something to him in humor.  It left him confused, so he asked, “Is that sarcasm?  I don’t do well with sarcasm.  I’m very literal.  Could you please explain what you meant?”  Way to go!

There are many things my son does, but one thing he doesn’t do is blend.  A parent recently confided in tears about attending a party with her son and being reminded again that he was different due to autism.  No one was mean. Nothing was wrong. It was just one of those times when the developmental disconnect reached up and slapped her in the face. That innocent comment, “You’ve done a good job with him,” did that to me. Differences had been noted and evaluated without anyone saying a word.

Honestly, it made me defensive. I wanted to ask, “How would you know? What leads you to believe it took extraordinary effort from all of us to get to where we are? How do you know the job we did was “good?”

I let it go. No harm was meant. It was a compliment! It just happened to be one that accidentally poked at a tender place that all special needs parents guard.  We had done a “good job.” Were we perfect parents? Of course not! Perfect is over-rated. We did our best.  A lot of the time we just winged it and prayed. Babies don’t come with owner’s manuals, especially not ours!

I’ve come to learn that blending is over-rated too. We aren’t meant to blend.  We are meant to stand out.  The psalmist writes,

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.” (Psalm 139:14)

How can a person who is fearfully and wonderfully made blend? Wonderful are God’s works in making each and every one of us as unique as fingerprints. Yes, as parents we work hard to equip our children. It is our most sacred privilege in this world. As they mature, let their differences shine. Embrace their strengths, reinforce where they need support.

When I pray for my son I hear the voice of my heavenly father saying, “You’ve done a good job with him.” To which I reply, “Thank you. You gave us great material to work with!”

Creating God, bless your holy name for making us all unique and yet all in your image. Free us from the expectations of this world and help us embrace instead the beauty in not blending. Amen