Tag Archives: 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

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

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

Feeling Impatient to Become More Patient

Sandra Peoples at Not Alone Minsitry invited me to write a blog sharing tips for improving patience from my book Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving.  You can read that original blog by clicking here, or read the repost below.

“Meditation By Young Women” by tiverylucky couresy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Love is patient; Love is kind.” 1 Corinthians 13: 4a

The irony did not escape me.  Years ago at the first session of a six-week support group I outlined the topics I planned to cover.  Then I offered that if there were other topics folks would like to discuss we could add those as well. I decided to grease the skids of the group’s creative thinking by offering some suggestions, “We could talk about siblings, resilience, patience…”

“Yes! Patience! I need that!” one participant exclaimed.

“Me too!”

“Same here!”

I offered, “Would you like me to rearrange lessons and do that one sooner rather than later?”

I got an enthusiastic, “Yes!” from every participant.

Why so impatient to talk about patience?  Maybe because it is something that is hard for everyone. Virtually every special needs parent I know has commented about how they have more patience than they ever thought possible, but that they also wished they had even more.  Patience encompasses so many aspects of life related to parenting a child with extraordinary needs.  Coping with insurance and the medical minefield, scheduling therapy, the (for some) unending quest for diagnosis, and over-committed schedules all contribute to a losing patience.  Is chronic lack of sleep a familiar companion? Let us not forget the “homework wars” looming large right around the corner with the new school year.  Any one of these reasons, plus many others as well, may push patience to the breaking point if reserves are low.

As Christians, we are meant to strive for patience. It is a virtue to be cultivated. The Apostle Paul writes of patience in several of his letters to churches he founded or planned to visit. In his letter to the churches in Corinth, he expounds on the characteristics of love. The first attribute of love is that “love is patient” (1 Cor. 13:4). Paul writes to the churches in Galatia listing the fruit of the Spirit, the qualities cultivated in your life when living as a follower of Christ filled with the Holy Spirit, “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things” (Gal. 5:22–23). To the Colossians he writes, “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col. 3:12-13).

Paul writes of the importance of cultivating patience because even two thousand years ago people struggled with patience. I suppose some comfort comes in knowing it is a universal area for personal growth, but how do we cultivate it? How do we learn to become more patient people, especially in the midst of long-term stress and difficulties? When I think of what it feels like to lose my patience, there comes a tipping point and beyond that patience is broken.

In my book, Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving, I included a chapter about patience that includes strategies about unlocking each person’s triggers for losing patience.  Here is an excerpt from the book offering a few strategies to combat those triggers:

Breath prayer/mantra. Breath prayer involves picking a word or short phrase and repeating it silently or aloud in conjunction with the pattern of breathing. Breathe in to the thought “Love is patient.” Breathe out to the thought “Love is kind.” Alternate phrases include: “Breathe on me breath of God,” “Create in me a clean heart,” or “Let there be peace.” Any phrase that is peaceful and centering for you is appropriate to use in those moments when patience is at the breaking point.

Exercise. There are physical symptoms that come before a loss of patience: fidgeting, tensed muscles, some describe a tingling sensation. Hard exercise releases pent-up tension. Make regular exercise a part of your routine. In the heat of the moment, if appropriate, do some push-ups, crunches, or lunges. Run around the block. Play racket ball against the garage door. At times I would ask my son to run to his room as fast as he could to get something, and I would time him. I would be very impressed by how fast he was and then ask him if he thought he could do it even faster. By the time he raced up and down the stairs five times, he was tired, his frustration was gone, and he was in a great mood from endorphins and playtime. If running in the house is against the rules where you live, a trip to the car in the garage or the mailbox could serve the same purpose.

Journal. Emotions and tension need expression in order to be processed and released. Some find journaling a great resource for sharing feelings of frustration, resentment, and impatience. Through that process you can gain a deeper understanding of self. If you have concerns about a person reading your journal, use electronic media that can be password protected or secure a written journal in a private place.

Prayer. Never underestimate the power of prayer. It does not have to be a long prayer, and it does not have to be out loud. Simply pray, “Loving God, I am at the end of my patience. I am overwhelmed and I don’t feel I can hold it together right now. I need you to strengthen me. I need you to calm me. I need you to give me peace. Most of all, I need you. Amen.” What a powerful lesson for a child who struggles with behavior to hear you pray a prayer like that, or for you to pray together.

Communicate. Talk to someone about your frustration. It helps! If a person is the source of your frustration, have a conversation with him or her at a time when you are calm and have a clear perspective. Opening channels of communication is likely to help alleviate the strain. If the source of frustration is not a person, but rather a situation, confide in a spouse, good friend, or pastor who can be objective and help you look for solutions or simply provide a sympathetic ear.

Find support. Being part of a community of people on a journey similar to your own is helpful. It provides a forum where you can be easily understood because others live with situations similar to your own. Find a place where you feel that you belong and can connect in a meaningful way that is rejuvenating. Others living your with similar experiences may have resources and helpful tips that will provide a solution to your problem. Even if others cannot offer a solution, it is healing simply to be heard and understood.

There are no perfect parents and everyone will lose their patience at times.  Give yourself permission to be human. With intentional practice and anticipation of situations that will test patience it is possible to improve personal patience.

Patient God, We are so grateful that your capacity for patience far exceeds our own.  Help us find ways to tap into your infinite reserve of calm in those moments when we feel we may lose it. Forgive us our human failings when we fall short and help us find grace  and forgiveness in others.

Rev Doc Lorna

“Meditation By Young Women” by tiverylucky courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

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

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

Eight Ways to Reduce Back to School Anxiety

Back to School

I’m sharing with my readers a guest blog I wrote for Ellen Stumbo.  You can read the original post here.

When I was a child, back to school came with lots of excitement and the good kind of anticipation. For my son on the autism spectrum, it was a very different experience.   Early on, we didn’t have anything close to a smooth transition when the school doors flung wide, welcoming all the little people who had become somewhat bigger people over the summer. As the first few years got off to bumpy starts, I found my son who is on the autism spectrum grew anxious about the start of the school year. I started to worry too. Would my son have a teacher who was a good fit for his needs?  Would he be able to cope with the social strain? Would he handle all the new material he needed to learn? Would he be safe from bullies? Would he make just one friend that year?

Dear God, is it asking too much for the answer to all of those questions to be “yes?”

For both of us, the sense of anxiety about back to school had much to do with the unknown. What happened to the “fun” part of back-to-school that I had known?  I was determined to help him have some happy memories by making what felt unknown become familiar instead.  Here are a few strategies that worked well for my family:

  • Brush up on academic skills. Math skills were always a challenge and hard-won gains eroded quickly over the summer. We found a math tutor who did a two-week intensive, meeting one-on-one an hour a day.
  • Review lists of back to school supplies with your child’s therapists. Check for alternate suggestions that best suit your child’s needs and motor skill abilities. Also, schedule ongoing after school therapy appointments. Therapist’s schedules fill quickly in those coveted afterschool hours. Booking early will help reserve the time slot that best fits the rhythm of your family and minimize disruption.
  • Make a “First Day Plan.” Navigating crowded hallways can be overwhelming to children with sensory issues, especially if he or she already has anxiety about a new routine. Introduce your child to their “go to” people, such as the school nurse, cafeteria monitor, and so forth. We used to arrange a time before school began, apart from the hectic “meet your teacher” night, and find the route to classroom, library, cafeteria, nurse’s office, and restrooms.
  • Avoid unnecessary embarrassment by having a spare change of clothes and underwear tucked away at school, just in case.
  • Help your child connect with other children he or she already knows who will be in the classroom. A familiar face on the first day of school can help alleviate anxiety.
  • Get in the groove ahead of time. Adjust bedtime and waking time to match the back-to-school schedule during the week before school. Experiment with lunch. The first day goes so much better if a picky eater is willing to eat what is packed in their lunchbox. What they ate happily a few months ago may suddenly be less appealing. Try doing a full dress rehearsal of getting ready for the first day and keep it fun rather than rushed.
  • Plan to something simple, but special to your child after the first day. It may take a few weeks to get into a settled routine and that is alright. Celebrate even small victories along the way.
  • Pray for your child each day and give over to God all that is outside of your control.

These are a few ways that my family made back-to-school fun again.  I’d love to hear what works for your family.

Rev Doc Lorna

Photo “Back to School” by Nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net