Tag Archives: Lorna Bradley

When a Pedi Goes Wrong, or Does it?

nail polish (practical joke) photographed by Kungfuman

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 NRS)

Can all things really work together for good? Really? Even if you go to get a pedi to get in a little self-care in the midst of raising two children with significant developmental delays and physical disabilities and the person seated next to you comments about wanting to rent a child in a wheelchair so she can skip the lines at Disney? Can God use even that and turn it into something good? Why, yes.  Yes, God can! And here is how.

As my friend Elizabeth’s aforementioned attempt at getting a pedi unfolded, two women near her started talking about an upcoming trip to Disney. Worried about how her children would handle the long waits, one advised she had hired a guide for $150 an hour to bypass the lines (Seriously? This is a thing? And people pay for it?). The second lamented she could not afford that and wondered aloud if she could rent a child in a wheelchair, so that her precious bundles of joy wouldn’t have to wait their turns with the masses.

You know that moment when you are shocked beyond speech, but the words come later? Boy, did they come! Elizabeth shared a “teachable moment” post in a community social media group.

“…I was so stunned I couldn’t say anything. Now with my heart pounding, I wish I spoke up on behalf of my children and every other person with a disability. So if that was you, here is your teachable moment: You don’t “rent” a person. Certainly not for your gain and especially not so your kids can jump on rides faster. I have two kids with special needs, including a daughter with a wheelchair. Your kids are lucky to have legs strong enough to wait in line. I could go on, but think I’ve made my point… remember to be kind. Disabilities are not humorous. They are not convenient, and they most certainly are not to be used for your convenience!”

She didn’t rant or use ugly words, but made it clear that as a family living with the daily reality of wheelchairs the conversation had been both painful and inappropriate.  (And yes, the two “Disney ladies” did see the post!) It was a healing balm to say what she meant to say and help others outside of the world of disability understand a different reality. End of story. Right?

God had other plans.

The post went viral within her community message board.  Support poured in.

And then came the replies from a silent population of special needs moms in her own community, neighbors she had never met. They got it because they lived it. They needed each other and, through intense vulnerability, began introducing themselves and their children.  A few clicks of a keyboard later and a secret group was born creating a safe place for moms to connect, over one hundred and growing.  The post filled a void, creating a network of support, advice, idea exchanges and more.  Their latest adventure? Indoor skydiving at iFly! The activity will be adapted for families of all abilities.

There comes a moment when we need to make a choice. Ignore the pain or face it. Sit in isolation or find community. Sometimes it takes incredible vulnerability to follow where God leads. Thanks be to God that we can trust in God to make all things work together for good.

Healing God, we thank you for community. Give us the courage to be vulnerable enough to find it and the courage to speak up with words that are pleasing to you when we face our own teachable moments. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

Photo “Nail Polish (practical joke)” photographed by Kungfuman courtesy of Wikimedia

Advertisements

From Desolation to Consolation

 

Bluebonnets by Vikki Yost

The last six months has introduced me to a whole other side of disability ministry. It all began with a phone call my mother received within 15 minutes of my arrival for Christmas vacation.  My son hurried down the hall, “Grandma needs you.”

Hands filled with items from my suitcase, I didn’t bother looking up. “Thanks, let her know I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

“You better go now.  She’s crying.”

Thus began the journey with what we now know to be terminal cancer and my time in desolation. It is all too familiar territory. Diagnosis can be devastating for the caregiver whether for a child or for a parent. There is a relief in knowing what it is, finally, even when the news is not good. And there is grief.  Lots of grief. That process muted my voice to the parents whom I try to support.

Dr. Jack Levinson spoke at a clergy breakfast I attended and offered the keys to unlock where I have been trapped. “When in desolation, remember consolation. When in consolation, remember desolation.” My ministry has been one of remembering desolation and offering hope to parents. A voice of experience saying, “Yes, I have been there too. You are going to be alright. More than alright. You can thrive right where you have planted.”

We all move between the spaces of desolation and consolation. Some call it peaks and valleys. How do we breathe, how do we function, whether in the middle, bottom or top?

The key is faith.  In the story of Job, we see a person caught in extreme desolation. He had lost everything, family, wealth, status, health. Even his friends abandoned him, save for a few. (Sound familiar?) His truest friends came and sat with him in the ashes, for a time in silence, sharing his pain. Once they spoke up they didn’t always have the most helpful things to say, but don’t we all fumble for the right words at times?  Their loyalty was a gift in the hardest of times. Job kept the faith despite his hardships and he came out on the other side stronger for it.

In a way, I think the experience of Job helps explain the bond between parents on the journey with special needs.  Our stories are all different, as unique as our children, yet we know at times a sense of desolation. Loss. Grief. But those are balanced with joy of new-found abilities, hope in a future not yet seen, and the peace that surpasses all understanding even in the midst of chaos. The way in which parents reach out to each other offering support and encouragement to one another pours back and forth that cup of consolation, filling in all of the cracks, mending and making us stronger.

When in desolation, remember consolation.

I received a four word text from a friend. I knew instantly that she, too, was in desolation. I immediately  called and shared a long, heart-felt conversation.  Why? As I read her message I told myself, “Remember consolation.” It turns out consolation makes the desolation not quite as bad.

I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. (Psalm 40:1-3 NRS)

Consoling God, Like Job, we praise you in good times and in bad, for you are forever faithful. We thank you for those in our lives who remember consolation. Keep us mindful to return the favor. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

Image “Bluebonnets” courtesy of Vikki Yost

Dr. Jack Levinson is William Joseph Ambrose Power Professor of Biblical Hebrew and Old Testament Interpretation at Perkins School of Theology and author of several books, including his most recent, 40 Days with the Holy Spirit.

Twelve Tips for Special Needs and the Long, Long Summer

“Blank Calendar Shows Plan Appointment Schedule Or Event” by Stuart Miles from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

You have fixed all the bounds of the earth; you made summer and winter. (Psalms 74:17 NRS)

I told a lie. I didn’t mean to, but it just happened. I suppose I wanted to fit in with the other moms. Peer pressure is a powerful force, even for parents.

I was picking my son up from school toward the end of the year in second grade.  He walked home with me each day.  The school bus was too frustrating. The carpool line was long and caused anxiety as he waited to see my car.  So day after day I sweated in the late afternoon Texas heat with a handful of other moms outside the second grade hallway.

One mom gushed about her upcoming summer. “I can’t wait for school to get out. We’ve got swim team coming up. Then a trip to see grandparents. Then the kids are heading to my sister’s with their cousins so my husband and I can get away. After that we have vacation Bible school and then I’m sending them off to a week of camp for the first time.  We are going to try to fit in a trip to Disney if we can, but our summer is so packed it may have to wait until next year.”

Another piped up, “Same here.  I think we signed up for every single activity at the YMCA. Family is coming for a visit. It’s just crazy-busy all summer long.”

That’s when I lied. “Us too!” The second part wasn’t a lie, “It will be a relief when summer is over.”

All I could think of was the painfully blank calendar of non-existent summer activities.  Play dates? Kind of hard when your child has no friends.  Swim team? Ha! The noise, the chaos, that blaring horn and shrill whistle – not for my son on the autism spectrum. Vacation Bible school? I tried that once and, honestly, there were parents in that program who stopped speaking to me because I dared to enroll my son after the lead pastor encouraged me to do so. No way was I trying that again! The team activities at the YMCA? Those were a real challenge and more frustrating than fun to my son. He could have a full-blown meltdown playing BINGO. Siblings extending invitations to give us respite? Nope. We did have a couple of weeks planned to go visit grandparents, but two weeks out of twelve is a drop in the bucket.

This magical and marvelous summer the other moms described was not my world, though I desperately wished that it could be. So I lied and said, “Us too!” and set about erasing that lie by finding things to fill the days.

Here are a few strategies that worked for me:

  • Support groups. Other parents are likely to have kids in need of friends too. Ours was not the only family staring down the barrel of a long and boring summer.
  • “Special needs friendly” events. These were non-existent back when my son was young, but are becoming more and more popular. Check with local children museums, movie theaters, sports stadiums and performing arts venues.  For example, the Houston Ballet Company recently offered their first autism friendly performance, complete with interaction between performers and children afterwards.
  • Congregations with special needs ministries. Faith communities are much more aware and inclusive in summer camp and vacation Bible school. Find a program that fits your family and talk to the staff ahead of time so that they are prepared with volunteers who match the needs of your child. If budget is tight, volunteer your own time to help defray cost.
  • Summer camp for special needs children. There are more and more opportunities for children with special needs to experience summer camp. Some are child specific and some accommodate the whole family.  These often fill early so research registration dates and mark them on your calendar.
  • Check the calendar at local disability friendly non-profits. For example, in the Houston area, Family to Family Network and Easter Seals offer or have information about a variety activities and respite care. There is also Mikey’s Guide, a local publication to a broad variety of local disability friendly services and events.
  • Keep a routine. For many of our kids, structure is key. Set a routine for meals, errands, play time, family chores. Routine helps remove boredom.
  • Focus on therapy and acquiring new skills. Fitting in therapies during the school year can be a real challenge. Take advantage of available time to focus on areas for growth. Consider finding a tutor for challenging subjects to help keep your child from losing hard-won skills in math and reading.
  • Enjoy a less hectic pace for a while. While we live in a culture that glorifies “busy,” it is okay to step off the merry-go-round and enjoy a pace that is slower than the world around you.
  • Explore the outdoors. Children are inside for hours each day at school. Take advantage of summer as a time to get outside and explore parks, beaches, and walking trails. State and local parks in your area may have summer programs, such as guided trail tours, that suit a child’s interest and focus. If mobility is a challenge consider a tag along trailer for a bike. Check your own yard for bird nests and enjoy watching the new family grow.
  • Check out programs at the local library. Libraries are a treasure trove of child friendly activities and resources. The best part? They are free!
  • Water is wonderful in the summer heat. If the community pool is overwhelming, go at off times. No pool in your area? Create your own backyard water fun with sprinklers or an inexpensive wading pool.
  • Remember self-care. Parenting becomes 24/7 when children are home from school. With high needs children this can be especially tiring to the caregiver. Tag team with your spouse or other adult when you need a break. Schedule a night out as often as you can in order to nurture your most important relationships. Take time to do things you enjoy.

I learned that filling the summer isn’t about keeping up with what everyone else is doing.  Rather, it is about finding the pace and activities that best suits my family and flourishing there.

God of all seasons, Let there be renewal of spirit and foundations for friendships that last for all. May the bounty growing in the fields of summer also grow within the hearts and minds of nurturing communities of acceptance. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

“Blank Calendar Shows Plan Appointment Schedule Or Event” by Stuart Miles from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Unsolicited Advice I Need to Take

Teabags

“Be still and know that I am God!” Psalm 46:10 NRSV

My tea encouraged me with advice today. Really! With cedar pollen running rampant in Houston I’ve settled into a constant, dry, allergy cough that irritates my throat.  Throat Coat tea to the rescue, with its wee string tab that offers advice.  I had two cups of it today.  They both said the same thing.

Renew

My tea is right. I’m due for a little “renew.” How about you?

Life gets busy.  We mean to read scripture. We mean to schedule a prayer retreat. We mean to… well, a lot of things. Just like taking care of our physical bodies, spiritual self-care takes an intentional plan. This is especially true for people who have loved ones with special needs. Our lives are busy as caregivers, sometimes extremely so!

As I go through the day this Ash Wednesday with the mark of ashes in the shape of a cross on my forehead, I am making a plan for 40 days of renew, 40 days to draw me closer to God.  My plan:

  1. Read Scripture each day.
  2. Reduce my distractions with intentional meditation on the verse, “Be still and know that I am God.”
  3. Name my blessings daily and thank God for them.

What’s your plan this season of Lent? Have you stopped attending a dearly loved Bible study? Find time for God’s word through something as simple as an email devotional or join with friends and read the Bible together. Do you miss time in prayer? Set aside 10 minutes of quiet time each day to pray. Have you been missing Sundays at church? Be refreshed and renewed by regular worship. There are great options online if caring for your loved one makes it hard to attend in person. You know which spiritual nurture you thirst for the most.  Use the season of Lent to water your spiritual garden and may your Easter bloom with abundance.

Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

Photo: Teabags by Rev Doc Lorna

Peace! Be Still!

 

Candle-flame-and-reflection

“My desire to be informed is currently at odds with my desire to stay sane.”

This funny quote from David Sipress posted by a friend rings true. The evening news seemingly becomes more distressing day by day. When we already feel pushed to the breaking point by busy schedules and demands of caring for family members with exceptional needs, there is little reserve left to cope with added distress. This second week of Advent we celebrate the light of peace, yet peace can be hard to find within our world and within ourselves.

The irony does not escape me that as I was gathering my thoughts to write about peace, my newsfeed was filled with the story of yet another mass shooting. I was setting aside time to write about peace and instead found myself writing about more senseless death.

We cannot isolate ourselves away from the world, yet we can still cultivate peace. Peace within and peace without. Cultivating peace is an important part of the “desire to stay sane” written of by Sipress. We cultivate peace outside of ourselves by engaging peacefully with others, building relationships and displaying kindness to others. It can be as simple as helping someone in a small way. Anything that reduces turmoil ushers in peace.

When Jesus was traveling crossing the Sea of Galilee, he fell asleep and a storm erupted and threatened to sink the boat. When his disciples awakened him, the chaos ceased at his words, “Peace! Be still!”

At times our lives feel like that boat tossed about on the sea. We, too, need a break from chaos to find that quiet center. We, too, can say to the chaos around us, “Peace! Be still!” and claim for ourselves the peace that Christ offers. How do we do that? We can start by taking a short break for quiet meditation. It is an easy pathway to at least a moment of inner peace. When you have a few moments to be quiet and still, sit comfortably, take a few cleansing breaths and read what follows. Engage your senses in the experience of the moment.

Picture yourself lying on a grassy hillside under a night sky.  It is early winter and there is a chill in the air, but you are warm, wrapped in a thick garment with soft layers underneath. Heavy leather boots keep your feet dry and warm, and the weight of them tips your toes outward to the right and left. Your hands are deep inside your pockets, your fingers curled against the soft fabric. The air is just cold enough that the tip of your nose is cool and your cheeks have a rosy flush. There is a soft breeze that rustles the dried grass on the hillside and carries the scent of wood smoke from a hearth in the nearby village. The thick grass underneath you makes a soft pallet that your body has warmed from your lying there. Through the grass, you can feel the solid ground underneath, supporting your body, gently sloping, inviting you to relax your weight fully as you look overhead into the darkness. The evening breeze has blown away all traces of clouds and the night sky sparkles above you, full of wonder and possibilities.

The moon and the stars give just enough light that you can see across the hillside and down to the village and you know that you are safe.  A subtle movement nearby draws your attention and you turn your head, propping up on one elbow to see your flock. A brief count reassures you that they are all there, lying down in the grass with you. They are safe and at peace, gathered close to share their warmth and sleeping because they know they can trust you to keep watch. You look around the hillside and all is well, no movement save for the swaying of the grass.  You settle back once more and turn your attention back to the stars.  They are so bright tonight and you can see them so clearly. You start counting them, just as you do every night. It fills your time on long, silent nights of keeping watch and you have come to know the night sky very well.

But on this night you notice a new star.  It is big and, and it shines directly above you, a beacon. You wonder where it came from, this new star that appeared so suddenly. What does it mean? It must be a sign of some kind. It is so bright, even in its silence you feel it calling you from the night sky. Even as you wonder what it means, somehow when you look at that star you feel a sense of peace, deep and still, and you know that it is a gift.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13 NRS)

God of Peace, bring your peace to the world that longs for reprieve. Where there is violence, let there be peace. Where there is worry and anxiety, let there be peace. Where there is a sense of “There is too much to do and I am never enough” let there be the peace of completeness and satisfaction. In our hearts, in our minds, in our souls, and in our world, let us embrace your message, “Peace. Be still.” Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

Image Candle and Flame Reflection by Richard W.M. Jones (Self-photographed) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The New Normal?

Burning Candle by Sommai

I recall when my father had terminal cancer I would fly out to see him each month. His abilities changed a bit each time when I saw him. There was a constant adjustment to the “new normal,” yet we all longed for a different “normal” than the cards we had been dealt.   My heart hurts today at the news of yet another mass shooting. Somehow this sort of news has become the “new normal” in our nation. Again, I find myself wishing for a very different “normal” from what plays out on the news each day.

The shooting in San Bernardino hits especially close to home because, according to a colleague in disability ministry who lives very close to the epicenter of violence, the office building is mostly for social workers who provide services to individuals with developmental disabilities. When the story broke, my first thought was that the assailants had opened fire directly upon the most vulnerable members of our society. My corrected understanding is little changed from that initial reaction. Death and devastation of innocence is unconscionable in all circumstances. No one, regardless of physical ability, can outrun a bullet.

Thinking of the light of hope that we celebrate this week during Advent, I look forward to a time when the events of San Bernardino, and Sandy Hook, and hundreds upon hundreds of other locations this year alone, are no longer our normal. I pray for it to be so.

What is the purpose of prayer in the midst of such violence? I begin each day with prayer and take a mid-afternoon break to visit the prayer garden at my office. In prayer I share my thoughts with God, become more centered in God’s presence, and then renew my daily efforts in providing social justice and offering hope for families raising children with special needs.  Prayer serves a purpose.  Prayer creates peace and centerdness, and it is also creates action. Prayer is how we communicate with God so that we are listening when God points out to us the way forward. It is then up to us to put our feet on that path one step at a time.

I do not know how our nation got so off track, nor do I care to engage in political finger pointing. That is not helpful.  What I do know is this. Daily mass shootings are not God’s plan. God is lighting a different path and I pray for us to follow it. As a pastor in disability ministry, what action can I take to make a difference?  I can offer words of hope to prompt us to that path.  The Gospel of John tells us, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.” (John 1:5) Darkness cannot win. The Advent wreath lit this week with the candle of hope reminds us that it is so.

Healing God, provide comfort and healing to those directly affected in San Bernardino. Provide peace for those in fear. Light a path forward that leads us from this place of violence and into living as the people you have called us to be. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

Image Burning Candle by Sommai courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.com

Put on Some Red Lipstick and Face the World

Candle-flame-and-reflection

Waiting was never my strong suit as a child. Brightly wrapped packages appeared under the Christmas tree sporadically throughout December. I would flop on the floor by the tree each morning. Shaking the packages, I would ask my Mom, “What did Santa bring?” She always replied with a smile, “Time will tell.”

Nothing makes time go more slowly than when you are waiting for something with great anticipation.

December may feel like the season of hurry, but it is meant to be the season of waiting and anticipation. Advent celebrates the time of waiting for the Christ child. Waiting with the keen sense of urgent anticipation like I had as a child, yearning for all of the answers to be revealed.

I thought I had outgrown that keen sense of yearning, but then I became a mother of a child on the autism spectrum. I found a whole different level of yearning for all of the answers to be revealed as I contemplated an unknown future.  I experience that daily with the parents in my support groups. “When will he …?” “How can I help her …?” “What if they…?” We yearn for answers to calm our fears. The unknown is so much more frightening than the known. Just give it a name, please.

How are we meant to wait? We are meant to wait with hope.  The Apostle Paul wrote the Romans, “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:24-25 NRS)

Long with hope and wait with patience. I tell that to my inner child who still eagerly shakes the metaphorical package and asks, “Why can’t you just tell me now?” At times Paul’s advice is easier said than done.

Today as I collected prayer concerns from parents after a group meeting one mom shared an update.  We’d been praying for her son to conquer four words. After many weeks her therapist offered a possible new diagnosis, apraxia. A real kick in the gut. We all shared her tears and felt her sense of anxiety about an unknown future.

Ultimately, it was her Mom who gave the best advice of all long distance from the UK. How can a mother maintain hope and wait with patience? “Put on some red lipstick and go face the world!”

There are days that are tough, days with news that takes our breath away, days for Kleenex after Kleenex. But all of those days can be defeated by hope. One of my favorite hymns that celebrates the birth of Christ praises what God has done, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” There is hope in Christ in all things, in life, and in death, and even in apraxia. And so while I wait, longing with hope, I am digging through my desk drawer looking for that red lipstick.

God of Hope, thank you for the gift of Christ that fills us with hope. Rekindle the true spirit of the season to help us calm that inner voice of fear and anxiety and instead wait with patience for the glorious future you will one day reveal. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

Image Candle and Flame Reflection by Richard W.M. Jones (Self-photographed) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Give Thanks

Fall Leaves by Vikki LeBlanc Yost

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. (Psalm 9:1 NRS)

Tomorrow will be Thanksgiving and I can’t wait! It’s my favorite holiday. It’s not as glitzy as New Years, nor as huge as Christmas, nor as romantic as Valentine’s Day, nor as sugar-overloaded as Halloween. It’s the simple holiday about sharing a meal and taking time to be thankful.

As a child we had the family tradition of going around the table and sharing what we are grateful for. There were thirteen of us at my grandparent’s home and I slowly moved up the ranks from the kiddy card table to the big table. Now my husband and I share duties from the ends of the table, the living bookends to all of the friends and family who gather in between with us. Some years it is a big gathering with a massive turkey. Other years the group and bird are much smaller. One notable year it was just me with a game hen! Regardless of the number of faces at the table, the tradition remains. What am I thankful for?

I am thankful for the many parents of special needs children who have invited me into their lives and share their children and stories with me. I am thankful for the healing that happens in community. I am thankful for God’s call for me in ministry and my encouragers who help me fulfill it. I am thankful for my family. I am thankful for so many things in my life. In taking the time to be thankful, my challenges feel so much smaller and more manageable.

I’d love to hear what you are thankful for. Feel free to share in the comments below.

Gracious God, thank you. Thank you for the blessings we see and feel and touch, as well as the hidden ones that you orchestrate in the backgrounds of our lives. Our hearts are filled with gratitude for all that you give. Help us reflect and share those blessings to others. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

Photo “Season of Thanks” by Vikki LeBlanc Yost

Review: Not Worth Saving

Not Worth Saving Cover

From the first page of her memoir, Ann Joyner invites the reader into an intimate story of love, triumph and loss as she shares the story of her son, Matthew.  When Ann’s second pregnancy was very different from her first, her mommy instincts told her something was wrong. Her medical journey took her from doctors dismissing her concerns, to a diagnosis in her third trimester that Matthew’s was “not a life worth saving.” Told that Matthew was not likely to survive more than a few days at most after he was born, their post-natal plans included planning a funeral.

Learning that doctors are not God, Ann held on to scripture, Matthew 19:26 “With God, all things are possible.” Matthew proved God had plans for him. While Matthew struggled with fragile health due to a rare genetic abnormality, Ann and Jerry were faced time and again with a haunting question:

“How do you watch your child die? The answer we discovered is, you don’t. You watch your child live, however long that may be.”

Joyner 1This poignant story shares the faith journey of the family discovering God’s grace and everyday angels in the midst of their lives. Page after page shares stories of help just when it was needed, answered prayers, and improbable heroes. Key among them was her battle for medical coverage:

“Your son’s condition was diagnosed in utero, while you were pregnant with him. Therefore, all of his claims have been placed in the category of pre-existing. He had all of these problems before he was born. Your son has no medical coverage.”

Joyner 2Ann has a gift of story-telling, coupled with a strong faith that welcomes the reader into her life as if you are a long-lost friend and she is catching you up on the details. Especially poignant to me is the story of Matthew’s relationship with his older brother Drew. Parents of children with special needs often feel guilt or worry about neglected siblings who are short-changed in the midst of life with special needs. Understanding and appreciating Drew’s unique relationship and fierce loyalty to his brother is a welcome message of hope and love.

 

For any parent looking for a story of inspiration, faith and hope in the midst of the journey with special needs I recommend Ann Joyner’s, Not Worth Saving.

Saving God, Thank you for the Joyner family and their openness in sharing their lives. May otyhers be inspired by their story of unconditional love.  Encourage Ann in her minsitry that makes space for all of God’s children. Amen

annjoynerphoto

Bio: Ann Joyner, author of Not Worth Saving, proved with a two-year secretarial degree that a passionate, determined, and stubborn mother, who asks for God’s help needn’t have an MA, PhD or MD to turn a life “not worth saving” into one that touches and saves thousands of others.  Filled with the desire to show that each life has unlimited value, Ann has delivered the message in several worship services, shared with Book Groups, Sunday School Classes, UMW Gatherings, workshops, and was Keynote Speaker at a luncheon benefiting those with special needs.  Last Spring, Not Worth Saving was named to the 2016 United Methodist Women’s Reading List.

Rev Doc Lorna

Interview: Author Ann Joyner

Not Worth Saving Cover

While presenting workshops at the 2015 Leadership Institute at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood Kansas I had the opportunity to get to know one of my fellow presenters and special needs ministry advocate Ann Joyner, also known as Matthew’s Mom. I had the opportunity to visit with Ann  and learn more about the life of her son and the importance of her faith in the midst of the journey with special needs.

What inspired you to share the story of your son Matthew?

When I was 7 months pregnant, told the baby I was carrying was a life ‘Not Worth Saving’ and would likely be stillborn or die shortly after birth, I was totally devastated.  I searched for an answer to the obvious question: How in the world can I do this?  There was not a guidebook, another parent’s story, a medical paper offering encouraging words – nothing.  There was absolutely nothing which offered insight to how I could deal with what I was facing.  Every step in Matthew’s twenty-one year miraculous journey provided me with a wealth of knowledge and experience which I ultimately felt called to share.  Our story is for people facing overwhelming adversity, people who are in search of hope and joy.

In the midst of raising a child with extreme challenges you also were part of creating special needs ministries at two churches. How did you find the energy to follow through with that vision?

My energy to follow through on visions for ministry was fueled from my belief that I could be a victim or victor, a choice everyone has.  When faced with the option to either leave a church because our family no longer fit, or create an appropriate program for Matthew, God gave me the direction, encouragement and energy I needed to press on.  God showed me that it was not just about my son, it was about all those like him.  When faced years later with helping to begin another ministry for people with special needs at a young start-up church, I was again reminded that it was not just about our son.  Pastor Adam Hamilton felt like Matthew’s arrival and presence was God calling his small, new congregation to minister to all those like him.  Almost twenty-two years later, Church of the Resurrection has one of the largest ministries for people with special needs and I am proud it is called Matthew’s Ministry.

What has your faith community meant to you throughout Matthew’s lifetime and beyond?

My faith community encouraged my family to give to others – to teach, to lead, to minister, to share our gifts.  They encouraged us to look outward.  If we did not, we were destined to drown in a sea of self-pity.  Because my family was engaging and approachable while putting ourselves ‘out there’, we were attractive, even though our family was far from typical.  Our faith community empowered us to live lives filled with meaning while making a difference in other people’s lives.  We were not focused on simply existing.

Joyner 3Matthew continues to touch and change lives today in many ways. Thinking back to when you were the young mom in the midst of the shock of diagnosis, what guidance do you offer families?

When initially faced with the unfathomable diagnosis Matthew had, I turned to the church.  Without God in my life, it would have been impossible to live a life filled with joy.  With Him in my life I found joy abounding, everywhere I turned.  I gave thanks for what I did have with Matthew; not dwelling on what was lost. The most important lesson I learned is that every single day is a gift. I encourage people to try not to worry about too many tomorrows. If you do, you will rob yourself and your family of the joy God has in store for you today.

annjoynerphotoBio

Ann Joyner, author of Not Worth Saving, proved with a two-year secretarial degree that a passionate, determined, and stubborn mother, who asks for God’s help, needn’t have an MA, PhD or MD to turn a life “not worth saving” into one that touches and saves thousands of others.  Filled with the desire to show that each life has unlimited value, Ann has delivered the message in several worship services, shared with book groups, Sunday School classes, UMW gatherings, workshops, and was Keynote Speaker at a luncheon benefiting those with special needs.  Last spring, Not Worth Saving was named to the 2016 United Methodist Women’s Reading List.

Rev Doc Lorna