Tag Archives: acceptance

I Can and I Will!

Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us… (Hebrews 12:1 NRS)

Family hikingA few months ago I introduced my readers to Elizabeth Elder and how her journey of self-discovery and acceptance in the midst of raising kids with special needs inspired her to run a marathon.  You can read that original post by clicking here to learn more about Elizabeth’s story.

After just a few months of training in the heat and humidity of a record-breaking Houston summer, this Sunday, November 1 Elizabeth will tackle the NYC Marathon in honor of her children Blaire and Annabelle. She is also raising awareness and funds for Achilles International, an organization that enables people of all ages with disabilities to participate in athletic events.   Here is the latest from Elizabeth:

Hard to believe, but the countdown is officially on…. 4 days until I cross the finish line in NYC! First of all, I just want to thank all of you for your support and words of encouragement. I can’t tell you how much that has fueled me throughout my training! I recently ran my peak run of 23 miles and felt great! I am feeling confident and able to now focus on the last minute (fabulous) details!


As you may recall, I originally pledged $3,000, but because of YOU, we blew right past that and now have $16,000 on the horizon!!! OMGGM (Oh my goodness grateful me)! Now for the fun part, you know I can’t resist adding a little extra flair! During my training, I relied so much on what became my mantra “I CAN and I WILL” that I decided it would be neat to have the words “I CAN” on the top of my left hand and the words “I WILL” on the top of my right hand so I could have my own little inspirational words right there when I needed them. Only problem is even a brand new black sharpie wouldn’t outlive 5 hours of blood (hope not), sweat, and tears of joy. So I needed tattoos (take a breath, Mom. They’re temporary). Long story short, I now have 500 sets of “I CAN” and “I WILL.” 

I Can and I WillWhat to do with 500 sets of tattoos? I’m giving them to other Achilles athletes and supporters to wear with me on November 1st. Arms crossed over the chest is an international symbol of love. It’s also how Annabelle and Blair first learned to say “I Love You.” With tattoos in place, and arms crossed, we can share the lesson I have learned…. Say “I CAN” and you inspire yourself. Say “I WILL” and you inspire others.

Once again, thank you for being in my corner. My family is truly blessed to have such an amazing, strong, beautiful group of people cheering us on!

I and a group of courageous moms from Elizabeth’s Tuesday morning parent connection will be sporting our “I can” and “I will” tattoos on Sunday while we use technology to track Elizabeth on her 26.2 mile journey. If you want to track her progress along with us, here is a link explaining how you can download the NYC Marathon runner tracking app.

I hope my readers will join me in wishing her well and prayers for a successful journey, both physically and emotionally. You can learn more about Achilles International, a charity for children with disabilities and war veterans, here: Achilles International

Enduring God, Bless Elizabeth and the whole Elder family on their journey. For Elizabeth, and all parents running their own personal marathon with special needs, offer your strength when there is fatigue, guidance when the way is unclear, and hope in all things. We can and we will, because through you all things are possible. Amen

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Hope and Acceptance

 

 Special Needs Parenting Cover

 

Recently I published the first in what I plan to be a series of books providing suport to special needs parents.  Today I am sharing an excerpt from the final chapter.

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Jeremiah 29:11

In my own parenting experience I live the tension between encouraging my son Craig to reach out for new developmental milestones and to accept the reality of life with autism. It is a fine line. Embracing a new hope for him, dreaming different dreams, comes out of acceptance of the reality of autism. What are his limits? Even as I encourage him toward new skills, are they beyond his capacity? Do I push for too much? Academically, my son has achieved levels far beyond what diagnostic testing indicated as his capacity. He has gained levels of independence we never thought possible. One of his Craig’s greatest gifts to me was a simple statement he made after he graduated high school. “Thanks for pushing me to try so hard. I did things I never thought I could do. You believed in me when I did not believe in myself.”

Temple Grandin, a popular speaker with autism, recently said at a conference that the best things parents can do for their kids with autism is push their abilities and keep striving for that next milestone. How much is enough? Where is the line between acceptance and hope versus denial of real limitations?

A parent recently told me that she struggled with acceptance because it feels like giving up. I can understand that. It can be hard to say, “It is what it is and cannot be changed,” because that involves letting go of parts of an anticipated future that feel very real. Hope in tension with acceptance embraces the new and different reality of special needs and seeks the new possibilities within it. The words of the serenity prayer are very wise:

God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.

 It is okay to accept a diagnosis of autism and okay to hope for, and actively work toward, relief from a particular behavior or acquiring a new skill. One cannot be changed, the other can. The line between acceptance and hope versus living in denial comes with the wisdom of understanding the difference between what can be changed and what cannot. Craig has dysgraphia. Pushing my son to acquire handwriting skills that are beyond the abilities of his brain would be cruel. Encouraging him to learn his assistive technology and find creative ways to communicate empowers him to succeed within his capabilities.

That is an example of hope and acceptance in the midst of my everyday life with two steps forward and one step back. That’s a dance we special needs parents know very well. That place of hope and acceptance exists even in the hardest of parenting experiences. Recently I traveled to experience Rev. Leslie Neugent’s boundary-breaking special needs worship service “Parables” at Wayzata Community Church in Wayzata, Minnesota. It is a worship service with, and led by, families with special needs. Leslie offered a poignant message of hope in the midst of acceptance.

Her son J.J. is extremely impacted by Down syndrome and has fragile health. One of the many times her son’s life balanced on the edge of this world and the next, she asked her doctor, “Will he make it through the night?”

The doctor shuffled his feet uncomfortably, “He is a very, very sick little boy. He shouldn’t.” He thought a bit more, “But he probably will. That has nothing to do with me and nothing to do with you. We are out of the equation. This is between him and God.”

While there is always hope in Christ in all things, the acceptance of God’s love for J.J. and the need to give the control over to God brought peace in the midst of yet another bedside vigil through the darkest of nights. Acceptance of God’s sovereignty brought peace. Now for the rest of the story. Today J.J. is a delightful young man who loves to shake hands and is quite the flirt, though that may be reserved for pastors who bring him blueberry pancakes.

Perfection is Over-rated

Ours is not a perfect family and for that I can truly praise God. In Japan there is a beautiful style of art called Kintsugi, broken pottery repaired with seams of gold, as seen on the cover of Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving. Through its brokenness the pottery is made stronger, more interesting, and more beautiful. I think that is what God does through us. God pours his gold into our broken places, making us whole, making us stronger, making us interesting and beautiful in a way that surpasses what others would call perfect.

My hope is that through this book and the suggested tools readers find a new sense of wholeness as parents. They are tools to revisit again and again. Becoming a resilient parent takes intentional focus and it takes time. I pray that special needs parents feel the equipping power of God walking beside them on the journey ahead.

Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving is available at Huff Publishing.

 

 

Pick Anthony!

Hand Reach To Sky by samuiblue

The reason we never sit in the front row of a show is the inevitable request to the audience, “I’m looking for a volunteer.”

The reaction of virtually everyone was the same… Look away… Don’t make eye contact… Sit completely still and don’t appear that you can be separated from the herd…

Everyone except Anthony.  Anthony’s hand shot in the air with all the enthusiasm of Arnold Horshak on a re-run of Welcome Back Kotter. “Oh! Oh! Oh!”

I was sitting up in the balcony well out of the “accidental volunteer zone,” and it seemed everyone around me knew Anthony.

“Look at Anthony.”

“Anthony wants to volunteer.”

“I don’t think the juggler sees Anthony.”

Thus began the cheer from the cheap seats.  “Pick Anthony! Pick Anthony!”

I never actually met Anthony, but I knew of Anthony almost immediately when my husband and I took a recent fall New England cruise. Whether it was our fellow dinner companions, casual conversations in the gym, or chatting with fellow passengers on tours, it seemed everyone knew Anthony.

“Have you met Anthony yet? “

“No.”

“Oh, you will!”

I’m sure there are many things Anthony can’t do.  Frankly, I don’t care about those things. There are plenty of things I can’t do either so that just makes us even. A young adult in his mid-twenties, he was gregarious, friendly and everyone who talked about him thought he was great and had a funny story to tell. He sat in the front row at every show, always starting a standing ovation and blowing kisses to the dancers. Anthony was a unifier. Anthony was a cheerleader. Anthony was everyone’s friend. Our tablemates hung out with Anthony a good bit since their cabin was close to his and I always enjoyed hearing the stories that started, “Guess what Anthony did today.”

I suppose one of the favorite things about my vacation was that I got to experience a place called acceptance. No one focused on what was different about Anthony, but rather what was great about him.  It reminds me of Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth where they played favorites and he reminded him that we are all in it together.

As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. (1Corinthians 12:20-26 NRSV)

Paul reminds us how to get it right. Everyone belongs. Everyone has a gift to share. It was a pleasure to see that lived out among my fellow passengers. The trip would have been less without Anthony. I’m glad God picked us to be on his ship.

Holy God, thank you for Anthony and the way that you have gifted him. May all those who share his unique abilities find a place called acceptance. Amen.

Image courtesy of “Hand Reach to Sky” by samuiblue at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just the Right Teacher

Back to School

We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching … (Romans 12:6-7 NRS)

Meet-the-teacher night is always exciting, nerve-wracking, and hope-filled. Thinking back to when my son was young, at the start of a new school year, I would get anxious butterflies thinking about whether or not a teacher would “get” my son.  His behaviors could be challenging. He took up a lot of extra time due to his learning differences.  I would try to fill the gap a bit for his teachers each year by taking things off their plate where I could.  I figured teaching my son ought to come with some perks. I volunteered to help in the workroom, moving my teacher’s requests to the top the pile and doing them first. Every month I’d leave a small appreciation gift in their mailbox just to let them know how much it meant to me that they were helping my son learn despite his challenges.  A small packet of home-baked cookies, a giant chocolate bar, a gift card to a coffee shop or movie theater were just simple ways of saying thanks. My gifts were so small in comparison to the gifts they gave to Craig.

Teaching children is not a gift I have.  You know how some folks can walk into a room, snap the lights off and on and everyone gets quiet and pays attention?  When I try that I have five kids racing to the light switch, “Let me do it!” Math facts? Forget it! Oh I know them.  I just can’t teach them without someone ending up in tears. Often it’s me! Teaching truly is a gift and some have it and some don’t.  Since I don’t, I really appreciate those who do.

One of the greatest gifts I ever received came from my son’s helping teacher in first grade.  She had a great heart for special needs and could see past diagnosis to my son as a child of God, loving what she saw there. Toward the end of first grade we were talking after school one day when I picked up Craig. She was hoping for a child of her own, which was not coming as easily as it does for some.  She told me that she wished she had a boy just like mine.  I commented something about raising a boy is a lot of fun.  She said, “No. You aren’t hearing me.” Choking back tears, “I want a boy exactly like him. He’s amazing!” It was a healing balm for a hurting mother’s heart to know this woman who spent all day every day with my child was undaunted by behaviors and learning differences. Of all the kids she knew and helped she wanted one just like mine. In a way, her acceptance helped me with my acceptance.  I always accepted my child, but autism? It takes a while to make peace with that.  Having just the right teacher taught me a thing or two.

Prayer: Teaching God, We thank you for those who have the gift of teaching. They bless our families in powerful ways. Each child has a teacher who can unlock their abilities.  We pray your blessings on them as they prepare for a new school year. Amen.

Photo: Back to School by nuttakit from FreeDigitalPhotos.net