Tag Archives: Special needs

Three Strategies for a Smooth IEP Meeting

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“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” (Matthew 7:7 NRS)

Now that school is well-underway, some of us are in the midst of follow up IEP meetings (Individualized Education Program) to adjust education plans. A new school year may mean it’s time to update goals now that your child is established in a routine. One of the most frequent prayer requests I get is for IEP meetings.  How can parents reduce the anxiety level when everyone sits down around that table?

  1. Know your rights. Being informed helps instill a sense of preparation. Check out wrightslaw.com for information about special education rights.  In particular, their IEP basics tab here is a good place to start.
  2. Understand your own goals. What are your expectations? Are they reasonable? How will you be part of the process? Looking back at my own IEP meetings in early elementary school, I think I had in the back of my mind that the school’s interventions would somehow make up all of the deficits in my child’s development.  I think that came, in part, from the term “developmental delay.” It left me with the expectation that someday he would catch up all the way across the board. That unreasonable expectation added to my sense of anxiety when that goal remained unachievable year after year.
  3. Bring grace to the process, and maybe a few goodies. Teachers and administrators often end up with IEPs scheduled over break time. Light refreshments are often a welcome addition and set a good tone for the meeting. A positive attitude goes a really long way in smoothing out communication. It is possible to advocate by way of appreciation rather than anger. That philosophy worked well for me. Every six-week grading period I dropped off a note or small treat to each person who worked with my child letting them know how much I appreciated their efforts.

It’s great knowing that our children go to school and are taught by people who have chosen the profession of teaching. They have gifts and talents for what they do and they genuinely care about young people or they would have chosen another profession. They are experts in what they do, and the IEP helps them learn to be an expert in our children’s unique requirements. Sometimes neither side of the table is exactly sure what is needed for a particular child, especially at first. Parent and staff alike can be on a steep learning curve in discerning the best way to help each child with their education goals. Understanding that education is a team effort with many players goes a long way in creating the right plan.

God of Peace, help there to be peace throughout the IEP process. Calm the fears of parents, reduce the anxiety of teachers and administrators. Let your glory and gifts shine through in the process of helping to equip children to grow to be the best prepared and most content versions of themselves.  Place love of children at the center of the hopes and plans of all who gather around the IEP table. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

 

Take Ten. Really, It’s Okay!

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“O that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.” (Psalm 55:6 NRS)

One of the greatest gifts of back-to-school is that parents have just a bit more time for themselves.  Gone are the long days of summer, which may be pretty empty for families with special needs.  All of that time and creative energy put into filling a child’s day can leave Mom and Dad with little time for themselves.

Yes, we are all still busy this time of year, but everyone can find ten minutes a day for a bit of self-care.  But can ten minutes really make any difference?

Yes!

Ten minutes a day in meditation can improve sleep, increase willpower and reduce anxiety according to health psychologist Dr. Kelly McGonigal of Stanford University.

Ten minutes a day of exercise improves cardiovascular fitness and reduces stress, per Dr. Timothy Church, director of the Laboratory of Preventative Research.

Ten minutes a day invested in talking with your spouse improves satisfaction with your relationship per American Psychological Association.

Clutter driving you crazy? Setting aside just ten minutes for some quick organization can go a long way in reducing perceived chaos, which in turn can improve mood, sleep and health, per Darby E. Saxbe and Rena Repetti in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Ten minutes engaged in a favorite hobby relieves stress and nurtures creativity, with the added benefit of reduced blood pressure and lower levels of depression, per a study by National Center for Biotechnology Information. Plus another study shows it helps improve problem solving, a skill we all need when dealing with challenges.

What is the power of ten minutes? How about a better marriage, better sleep, less stress, better organization, and improved mental and physical health.

Be intentional and find ten minutes for yourself.  I’d love to hear back what you did and how it helped in the comments.

Restoring God, thank you for the gift of renewal. Even as we care for others, remind us to care for ourselves.

Rev Doc Lorna

Photo courtesy of unsplash.com via Pexels

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.

Peace! Be Still!

 

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“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

Navigating the Mine Field of, “Don’t!”

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I try to be sensitive to the differences and needs of others.  Truly I do!  Yet it is seemingly so easy to say or do the wrong thing.  As I read various articles pretty much daily about how best to be in ministry with my community, it feels as though I am constantly told, “Don’t.”  Is it just me?

  • Five Things You Should Never Say
  • Four Things People Need to Stop Doing
  • Ten Assumptions that are Plain Wrong!

I get the point.  These article create awareness and help break bad habits that are sometimes hurtful to others.  I would like to think after exposure to the barrage of directions I could get it right.  Truthfully, it just makes me anxious that I will cause offense because of their negative perspectives.  Sure enough, the very thing I try not to do, I do.

I was helping out at the registration area for a recent conference and was asked to take on the task of escorting people from the housing area, to the dining area, to the conference center and back again.  Simple enough.  I made my way through the lobby inviting folks to come and see where we would be meeting the next day.

A man called to me as I went by, “Where is everyone going?”

I called back, “I’m taking folks on a tour of the campus. Would you like to come and see it?”

There was a pause.  I turned to look, checking if he had heard me. That’s when I noticed I was addressing a person with a visual impairment.  And I’d just invited him to “come and see.” Every “don’t” list I’d ever read overwhelmed me with instant embarrassment.

He just laughed, “I’d love to see it!”

His graciousness stopped me from becoming a blundering fool of tangled, backtracking words. No offense was intended. He knew that. Thankfully none was taken.

I know I’m not alone in the anxiety of “don’t.” A colleague this past week called me feeling “mortified” by something she had said, worried it had caused offense. Again, it was clear none was intended and none was taken! When we experience a world other than our own, there is a steep learning curve. It’s best to let others guide us positively rather than treading on the eggshells of “don’t.”

I once carefully guided a person with visual impairment through a complex series of stairs, connecting rooms and elevators, always trying explain what I thought she needed to know: changes in flooring, impediments, and elevation.  Her request at the end of the journey? It had nothing to do with safety. “Tell me about the room we are in. I like the way it sounds.”

“We are in a very traditional chapel with massive stone walls held up by high, beautifully carved arches.  There are stained glass windows all along the sides and the light pouring in from the windows at the west has painted the room in a kaleidoscope of colors. The swaying tree branches outside create movement in a tapestry of light dancing on the walls.  The altar in the front is a heavy mahogany piece with an embroidered white altar cloth that reads, ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’ Communion elements are waiting for us there.”

“I see it now.  Thank you.”

In helping her see the room, I saw it myself for the first time and truly appreciated where I was. After the service, our journey back to where we started had an entirely different dialogue.

I think at times the long lists of “don’ts” keep people from connecting in meaningful ways. Twice in the Gospel of John Jesus’ disciples invite others to “Come and see.”  Nathanael is skeptical of what he can learn from Jesus based on where Jesus is from:

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” (John 1:45-46 NRS)

After a long talk next to a well in the hot afternoon sun a Samaritan woman abandoned her water jug and ran to invite the very people who ostracized her, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” (John 4:29 NRS)

Both Nathanael and the woman at the well had to get past a list of “don’ts” to talk with Jesus.  Nathaneal assumed there was nothing he could learn from someone from a tiny, backwoods town. The woman at the well fought cultural biases about interactions between men and women, Jews and Samaritans.

Just as these two people of the Bible discovered, we lose out when we give too much power to the word “don’t.”  It is so much more enlightening to accept the invitation to step into the world of another and be blessed by the opportunity to “come and see.”

Living God, Help us encounter each other with open hearts and learn from others who are far better guides than we can ever be. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

Photo: Jacob van Oost (II) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Unforgettable Gift

“Knowledge Concept” by Supertrooper from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. (Psalms 63:1-3 NRS)

I was not raised in the church, yet I found God drew me toward the church throughout my life.  It remained for me a place of holy mystery and peace, a place with answers, and a place with people who had something that I needed in my life too. The church was a beacon, drawing me to find what I was missing.

That can pose a challenge when you show up on Sunday with a child with differences.

When we moved to Texas twenty years ago the church we attended was growing quickly.  There were tons of children, but no special needs ministry. Frankly, I was not even aware that a special needs ministry was something  my family needed.  I just knew that we had a child with way too much energy, a child with behavioral challenges, a child who frustrated easily and needed order and structure. I felt overwhelmed at times, looking for answers that remained elusive.

I needed sanctuary in the true sense of the word. I needed a holy dwelling place and a place of refuge. I needed respite and spiritual nurture.

I received all of those week after week, attending the worship service that corresponded with children’s Sunday school. Our son had activities and lessons suited to his age, attention and energy. My husband and I received the spiritual nurture that we craved. The service we attended was the smallest one.  Most other adults went to Sunday school at the same time as their children and then attended worship as a family. There was no way our energetic wiggle worm could hold it together for two hours. Maybe someday, but not then.

No one ever complained about our son and his challenges. At the end of the school year I found out why as the Sunday school teachers prepared the students for “promotion Sunday” to the next grade level.

I was in conversation with one of his teachers, Kathy. “I’ve so enjoyed being with your son this year.  He is such a charming boy and so curious about everything. I’m going to miss him when he moves up a grade, but it will be nice getting back to my own Sunday school class.”

A few more questions revealed the whole story.  Kathy normally volunteered one Sunday a month with the preschool children, maybe a bit extra if a substitute was needed. She gave up her own time with her Sunday school class of ten years to be with our son. She never said a word about it, she just did it because she sensed that was what our family needed.

“He’s a child that does better working one on one with the same person each week. He likes consistency. Sometimes we take a break and go out in the hall where it is quiet. He likes that better than the busy classroom.”

Kathy was the one who offered the gift of sanctuary to me and my family. She gave me the opportunity to be formed spiritually while in worship. She also gave me a true example of Christian caring.

The discernment process within churches creating and equipping special needs ministries often include many steps: prayer, task force formation, focus groups and surveys, recruiting and training volunteers, and more. All doable. All necessary in the long run.  However, we find the true heart of special needs ministry in people like Kathy who are welcoming, who focus on what a child can do rather than what they can’t do, and who use their gifts and graces in a way that brings glory to God and creates disciples by example. In this season of teacher appreciation, I am especially grateful to Kathy and her unforgettable gift.

Nurturing God, Thank you for Kathy and all the teachers who nurture and welcome and make a place for all of your children. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

Image: “Knowledge Concept” by Supertrooper from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When Every Day is Autism Awareness Day

Autism Awareness Day

Is it already World Autism Awareness Day? The year just flew by, but then again it is autism awareness day everyday at my house. Last year my grand experiment in building awareness got me a little more than I bargained for…

On Wednesday, April 2 2014, I joined in with celebrating World Autism Awareness Day. The tagline of the day was “Light it up blue!” and so I did.  I updated Facebook with a blue cover photo and profile pic, all promoting autism awareness. I also dressed in blue, celebrating the many people in my life impacted by autism, including my son.

Figuring out what to wear was a bit of a challenge.  I discovered at the last minute that I do not have much blue in my professional wardrobe, but one royal blue cardigan peeked out among a rack of long sleeves. Putting it on, I recalled something else I own that went perfectly with that royal blue sweater, a magnificent fascinator filled with feathers and tulle. I bought it for a trip to the Kentucky Derby that never happened. Just the perfect thing to add a bit of whimsy to a day of celebration for friends whose lives could use to be celebrated publicly much more often. Upon arrival at the office, I clipped on the fascinator at the oh-so-perfect, jaunty angle (no small task that!), snapped a selfie, posted it and tagged my many friends whose lives are touched by ASD.

Originally, I meant to remove my hat after the selfie. I felt a bit self-conscious in the office.  I thought, “If I wear this hat, I’m going to get funny looks and have to explain it all day long.” Then again, isn’t that what an AWARENESS day is for? Creating awareness?  If I just wore blue, I reasoned no one would think that was out of the ordinary. But sporting a headful of feathers and tulle? That’s a whole other matter!

What started as my grand social experiment in creating awareness became something else entirely by the end of the day. At first, it was kind of novel. I encountered the anticipated funny looks and immediately explained to each person why I was wearing a hat. By the time I had done it, five times, ten times, the novelty faded.  It got to the point that I skipped over a few opportunities for explanation and just walked on by, accepting the funny looks and occasional humorous comment.  By noon I found myself almost hiding in my office, knowing that another trip down the hall would be another encounter.  It grew old getting odd stares.  I debated removing my hat. It would have been so easy to just take it off and be “normal.”

I wonder how often people with autism wish they could simply take it off. Wouldn’t it be nice not to get the quizzical looks for behavior that isn’t what others expect? Even just for a while? As a parent of a son with Asperger’s, I’ve felt those stares weighing on me and on my son, especially when he was younger. That repeated question from those who don’t understand, “Why can’t he just (fill in the blank – behave, be quiet, eat what everyone else is eating, etc.)? Well, the answer is he can’t, at least not on that day.  It’s not a choice.  Asperger’s, like other special needs, is not something that can be taken off. My hiding in the office and avoiding the break room reminded me of times when my son was young and I longed to take him to the playground, but knew that was not a place where he met with much success. I would gaze out my dining room window toward the playground. If there were other children and parents there, and it had been a challenging day, I knew we just couldn’t go that day.

In the parent support groups that I lead, we’ve all experienced times when we get tired of receiving “the look” and choose to withdraw. It’s easier to be alone, or so we tell ourselves.  It is really isn’t. We are made for community. It reminds me of the story in the Gospel of John.  Jesus was walking through Samaritan territory and he stopped at a well in the middle of the day while it was hot and no one else was around.  Soon a woman came, one who chose to isolate herself from stares and whispers, coming to the well in the hot afternoon sun when others were at home. It was easier for her to be alone, too. But it really wasn’t. And Jesus knew it. By the end of her conversation with Jesus, she was restored to community. So eager was she to get back to her people, that she left her water jug by the well and ran all the way back to her village, inviting others to come and see Jesus for themselves. That is what Christ does for us. He restores us and calls us out of isolation and into community.  Yes, even us with lives touched by special needs.

This reminds me of the amazing story of a church that embraced Max and Emily Colson. Emily posted a blog that went viral sharing her experience of a cruel movie audience that heckled, jeered and mocked, driving Emily and her son Max out of the theater due to Max’s autism. Their church stood beside them and rented out an entire theater so that 500 people could attend Movie with Max.  Their church celebrated autism awareness, not with a splash of blue, but by embracing and including.

Our need for inclusion and understanding is part of the fabric of our beings of which we are wonderfully woven by God. Living into inclusion involves creating awareness in whatever way we can, whether at a movie theater with 500 of our closest friends, or wearing a silly hat to the office. When we stay engaged, even when it is hard, it is one more chance to shine the light of Christ for the ones in our lives who put the “awesome” in autism.

 Lorna Bradley

Confusion About Inclusion

Help And Care For Disabled Person by Teerapun

People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. (Mark 10:13-14 NRSV)

I wish Jesus had been more specific in his command, “Let the little children come to me.” For some reason it seems to cause a lot of confusion.

That’s right. There is confusion about inclusion.

For some, inclusion means there is a space and activity offered that is appropriate to a particular person’s needs.  For others, inclusion means being in the same room with everyone else doing what they are doing alongside them. The way that individual participates may be different from everyone else, but they are still part of the bigger group.  To my way of thinking, those are both examples of inclusion.  It all depends on the perspective of the individual.

Inclusion is whatever feels welcoming and comfortable to the person who wishes to be included. For some, that means having  a separate space and activities geared to their unique needs.  For others it means jumping in with everyone else and feeling welcomed to do so. If they don’t feel welcome and wanted, then it isn’t inclusive.

Surprisingly, folks can be rather divided on this topic, which I find puzzling. Thinking of my own experiences raising a child with special needs there were times when what others decided was inclusive didn’t feel at all inclusive to us. My son is greatly bothered by loud noise due to life on the autism spectrum. His time in student ministry when they gathered and listened to loud praise music for fifteen minutes prior to breaking into small groups was stimulatory torture.  In his case, being inclusive by saying “just come be part of the group, you are welcome to join us,” didn’t work.  From his perspective, it was like a weekly invitation to listen to fingernails on a chalkboard.  It also triggered obsessive thoughts about hearing damage that were only relieved by taking him for hearing screening. Following the example of Jesus each Sunday morning he went away to a quiet place alone, though in his case it had more to do with sanity than piety. He was welcome as part of the group, but he couldn’t tolerate being there. It really didn’t feel very welcoming despite good intentions. This was a great group of folks. I know they meant well, but…

Wouldn’t it have been nice for him to have company when he left the gathering? Wouldn’t it have been nice to have an alternate activity planned for him and others who share the same spectrum? Wouldn’t it have been nice to have a “non-loud” Sunday every once in a while so that everyone could be welcome as part of the larger group?  Any of those things would have felt much more inclusive and welcoming.

The best way to know what feels inclusive to those we wish to include in the church is to have a conversation and ask them. Then actually takes steps to make the needed modifications so that everyone feels welcomed and included.

This week Key Ministry is hosting Inclusion Fusion. It’s a chance to learn more from leaders in special needs ministry about how to offer inclusive ministries.  Check out this link to get the schedule of free webinars and to register:  www.inclusionfusion.tv. I’m looking forward to this opportunity to get fresh ideas and connect with others who love kids like ours.

Holy God, help us to hear those who ask for change and truly make a place for everyone. Amen.

“Help and Care for Diasbled Person”  Image courtesy of Teerapun at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Caring for God’s Holy Temple

Young Woman Relaxing At Mountain View by Feelart

My lungs were burning, longing to take a breath, but I couldn’t.  I was taking part of in exercise in a room full of people and we were told to hold our breath, so hold it I would.  I started seeing little dots!

At recent retreat spiritual director Cindy Serio of MOSAIC Ministry had us sit quietly and practice a deep breathing exercise she learned from Joyce Rupp.  We began breathing at the rhythm that she dictated. Breathing in and holding, breathing out and holding.  She led us into longer and deeper breaths with longer periods of time in between. At first the exercise was soothing, but as the pauses between breaths got longer and longer, I began to grow uncomfortable.  As a runner, I have pretty good lung capacity, but I found it challenging to exhale and keep my lungs empty for as long as she required.  As the pauses grew ever more exaggerated my oxygen-starved body grew very uncomfortable. Try as I might, I just needed air. I chalked it up to a recent round of the flu and pneumonia, so I cheated and inhaled just a little. Who would know? Then I had to do it again. I marveled at Cindy’s lung capacity and felt like a failure as we finished the activity.  Afterwards, Cindy asked who needed to breathe in before she prompted us.  Everyone in the room raised their hand. Cindy said, “Good. You each showed compassion to yourself. It is hard to offer compassion to others when you cannot offer it to yourself.”

Isn’t it interesting that I felt like a failure for needing air?  Air!  A basic bodily need and I denied it to myself simply to keep up with everyone else. Taking care of our bodies is one of the most basic of needs we have and yet all too often we shove it to the back burner.  There is just too much going on in our lives.  Maybe when things are less hectic… Consider Paul’s words to the church in Corinth.

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body. (1Co 6:19-20 NRS)

We glorify God when we take care of ourselves!  When I look it that way, taking time to care for my physical well-being isn’t an indulgence. It’s a gift to God.  I can’t keep up with the pace God sets for me in ministry if I am sick and run down.

So what are some basic ways to care for our bodies?  Below I have a brief list of options.  Look it over and note down the ones you already do, the ones you would like to start, and the ones in which you have no interest.  The goal here is not to make you feel guilty. Rather the goal here is to find where your interests are and focus your energy there:

  • Get adequate sleep
    • I will go to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual three nights this week
    • I will schedule one sleep-in day once a week
    • I will take a nap or lie down while my child naps
    • I will remove distractions from the bedroom (TV, iPads, laptops, pets, etc.)
  • Eat a balanced diet
    • I will keep a healthy snack in my car, purse, desk, etc.
    • I will read an article on nutrition and make one change in my diet
    • I will drink less soda
    • I will try a new food
    • I will reduce caffeine intake
  • Drink plenty of water
    • I will grab a travel cup of water every time I head out the door to run errands
    • I will try a caffeine free tea or mineral water (no sugar, no caffeine)
  • Exercise
    • I will walk one mile three times this week
    • I will sign up for a class (yoga, pilates, walking or running group, Crossfit, etc.)
    • I will do some stretching on weeknight evenings before I go to bed
    • I will sign up to run/walk the local Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning and then train to do it between now and then
    • I will do 25 sit ups every day
  • Take time to relax
    • I will soak in a hot bath for 20 minutes after the kids are in bed
    • I will put my feet up and read a magazine
    • I will sit outside and enjoy the sounds of nature when I need a break
    • I will lie down and rest for 10 minutes
  • Seek Medical Help as Needed
    • I will get an annual flu shot
    • I will see the dentist
    • I will get an annual physical
    • I will get a mammogram
    • I will see a doctor as needed

These are just a few suggestions.  I’m sure you can think of others that are the right fit for you.  Looking over the list, the ones that you marked that you already do, give yourself a pat on the back for doing those.  Look over the list of ones in which you have no interest.  Perhaps consider those for another time, but if they aren’t a fit for you don’t beat yourself up about it.  Now look at the list that are things you would like to do.  Pick one and make an intentional plan for the week.  Write it down and post where you will see it as a reminder. Maybe this week you will choose to walk a mile three days of the week. Perhaps next week you will choose to schedule a sleep in day.  Whatever it is that appeals to you, make an intentional plan each week to do something that takes care of your physical well-being. Learn to take care of God’s holy temple by building it up with one brick at a time. You’ll be stronger for the journey ahead.

Check back next Wednesday for the next part of this wellness series, emotional self-care.

Holy God, what a gift it is that you live inside of each of us, filling us with your strength and peace.  Help us find the time and energy to care for our bodies which are wonderfully made by you. Let our bodies be your temple, your holy dwelling place giving honor to you. Amen.

Young Woman Relaxing At Mountain View

Image courtesy of Feelart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just the Right Teacher

Back to School

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Back to School by nuttakit from FreeDigitalPhotos.net