Tag Archives: special needs parenting

When Family Has More Issues than TV Guide

Man Holding a Book and Looking Askance from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Collecting prayer concerns near the holidays is always interesting. Everyone has added excitement and stress, and it seems much of that revolves around family.

A roomful of special needs moms all nodded knowingly when one requested, “Prayers appreciated. They’re all coming to town and my family has more issues than TV guide.”

It is great to see extended family, but what happens when they just really don’t understand the reality of life with special needs?  Distance allows for prolonged time dwelling in the land of denial. Unrealistic expectations about development or chronic health concerns can take some of the happy out of the holidays.

Wouldn’t it be great to be that perfect, harmonious family? But then again, where do we see examples of that? They are few and far between in the Bible. There has been dysfunction from the beginning. There was that whole issue about deflecting blame and finger pointing when it came to eating an apple, “She made me do it.” “The snake tricked me.” The stakes were raised when jealousy began between their children, ending with murder. There are stories of stealing a birthright, incest, a king having his general murdered in order to steal his wife.  These are Biblical values? Not so much, but these are the families in the story of the history of salvation.

Our own families are shining brightly right now, aren’t they? What’s a little misunderstanding in the politically correct terms of disability in comparison? It’s an opportunity for education and conversation.

All relationships are about choices. How do we choose to be together with one another? It is love that wins. Love is a choice. We see it in our actions.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17 NRS)

This fourth week of Advent as we celebrate love  and we can see how God’s action in love toward us shows us the way forward.  When we make mistakes, God loves us anyway. So much so that he sent his Son so that we could be reconciled and have that example of perfect love. Putting love into action is God’s choice for us, too.

“My in-laws are coming and I’m planning to kill them (a pause just a tad long) with kindness.”

Well chosen, my friend. Love always wins.

Loving God, thank you for the example of perfect love. We fall short. We are human, yet you love us anyway. Help us, too, to offer that grace to others and keep the fun in dysfunction. Amen

Image “Man Holding Book and Looking Askance” by Imagerymajestic from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Rev Doc Lorna

 

 

 

The Joy of Baking

Ginger Cookies

When they had heard the king, they set out; 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.  (Matthew 2:9-10 NRS)

My holiday memories as a child are filled with family gatherings, lots of food, lots of cousins, lots of fun. I remember wishing it could be Christmas, or Thanksgiving, or Easter every day.  As an adult, I’m relieved they are a bit more spread out.  There is so much to do to get ready for those gatherings! Maybe a little too much? Sometimes the sense of “busy” robs the joy.

This third week of Advent we celebrate joy. To help make my season more joyous I’m embracing some advice a good friend shared years ago.  Simply do what makes it feel like Christmas and let go of the rest. What makes Christmas feel like Christmas for each member of my family?  For my son, it is a batch of his favorite cookies and eggnog.  For my husband it is putting up the holiday lights. For me, it’s time in the kitchen baking.  Flour and butter are like therapy for me. I get tremendous satisfaction out of creating yummy goodness out of a cup of this and a dash of that. For years my father would fly out to visit me near Christmas and we would spend hours in the kitchen together, including making about 15 dozen of great-grandfather Bisaux’s cookie recipe two at a time on his antique cookie press. I’ve not had the courage to break out the galette iron since my father passed away, but this year is the year I will retrieve it from its hiding place behind the stock pot under the stove. There is joy in butter and brown sugar memories.

It used to be that everything we did at Christmas had to be added in as part of the tradition.  We had to have the gingerbread house, and the music, and the lights, and the perfect tree, and garland draped from the banisters, and the mantle decorated just right, and a wonderfully witty Christmas letter, and … It was overwhelming and exhausting.  Now we pick and choose, and in the process got our joy back.  One year the letter did not go out.  Our friends still like us anyway. A few years there hasn’t been a tree, including this year. The world continues to spin on its axis.

There is one more thing that is the central “must have” for Christmas.  Our nativity scene sits on the front lawn sharing the good news, lit with spotlights on a lawn that my husband has meticulously outlined with white lights. It serves as a reminder that Christmas is not about doing, but rather about being. It’s not about who we are, but whose we are.  There is great joy in that gift.

Joyful God, thank you for the gift of the Christ child. Fill us once more with the joy of knowing that we are yours, forever. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

Photo: Ginger Lace by Lorna Bradley

 

 

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

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

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

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

Rhythms of Grace

Rhythms of Grace

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

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

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

Celebrating First Communion

Mabel 2 (1)

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

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

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

Rhythms of grace 3

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

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

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

Rev Doc Lorna

When Birthdays Don’t Feel so Happy

“Two Year Old Birthday Party” by Stuart Miles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rev Doc Lorna

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

Sonflower Bakery: A New Vision For Special Needs Adult Ministry

Sonflower Cakepops

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

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

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

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

Sonflower Bakery

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

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

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

Joan Baird

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

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

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

Rev Doc Lorna