Community, Coping with the Challenges

The Needs of the Special Needs Mom

When we found out that our child had some severe developmental delays, it was the beginning of a very long and tearful journey. Is this your reality? Or perhaps you know someone whose dreams for their child have taken an unexpected turn.

Though the world may applaud her for her sacrifices and dedication, in reality the mother of this child has some special needs of her own.

The Needs of the Special Needs Mom

She needs a break.

After homeschooling a child with special needs for the past 7 years, one thing has remained consistent: this kid requires A LOT of breaks. But the mother needs breaks as well. Tension can rise quickly even during the most simple conversations. Hitting the pause button or even switching activities can prove invaluable.

She needs time away from her child.

Sometimes a short break is not enough. Because I spend almost every waking moment with my child, I am physically and mentally exhausted before day’s end. I’m thankful when my husband will sometimes take our son out before we both become completely unglued. On a more extreme case, my husband recently whisked me away to the beach for a couple of days because he knew stress levels were high in the home. Even though I resisted the idea (not because I hate beaches, but because the control freak in me didn’t want to leave my son for that long), it was a necessary time to recharge. If you have a friend in this situation, you can offer to take her kid out or, perhaps, she would appreciate it more if you took her out.

Want to know the story behind this photo? Click here.

She needs a listening, sympathetic, and compassionate ear.

Sometimes this mom needs to let it out, vent if you will. She wants to talk about how daily tasks are a common battleground, how she feels like she’s not doing enough to help her child, how it’s hard to join play groups, and how the frequent meltdowns are enough to keep her from leaving the house. She wants to talk freely without judgment. Though there is a place for a timely word of encouragement, sometimes she just needs a friend who will listen and weep with her.

She needs encouragement.

I’m going to be honest with you. Encouraging words for someone struggling in this are not the easiest things to come by. Should you tell her you can relate even though you don’t have a child with special needs? Should you go the practical route and suggest something from a parenting book you just read? Should you tell her everything will be ok or things aren’t that bad? Though meant well, sometimes these responses can sting the open wounds of an already hurting mother.

But don’t shrink back from reaching out to this mom. She needs you to be a true friend, even if you are not in the same situation as she is. The best encouragement I have received have come in the form of a prayer, a Bible verse, or simply “I love you.”

Do you have a child with special needs? What do you need right now?

Community

To the Ones Who Reached Out to My Child

My son was just trying to make conversation, but it was very one-sided. If he’s passionate about something, he will talk your ear off, regardless of your opinions on the subject. Clearly, the other child on the receiving end of this information overload just didn’t get my son. “There’s something wrong with his brain,” I overheard him say to someone else, and I realized he was talking about my child.

At that moment, I wanted to cry but controlled it to spare myself from being the center of attention at a public place. I wanted to scoop up my child, put my arms around him, and shield him from any hurt, intentional or unintentional, that will come from this world.

But I know putting him in a protective bubble is not what’s best. As cruel as the world can sometimes be, there are people God has placed in my child’s path to reach out to him, and you are one of them. You may be thinking, “Me? What did I do?”

You greeted him.

A simple “hello” goes a long way. Far too many of us are preoccupied with our own world or the world being displayed on the tiny screen in our hands, that we fail to look up and notice the person right in front of us, who could use a simple smile to brighten his day.

You listened to him.

Not only did you say “hi”, but you asked the loaded question, “How are you?” Perhaps, you were not expecting a detailed catalog of all the Minions and their unique characteristics or a list of voice actors from The Lego Movie, but you looked at him and listened to it all.

You hugged him.

I think this assures him of acceptance by you. Isolation is his fear, as is the case with many of us, so a handshake, a hug, or a high-five allow him to experience the human connection that any person seeks after.

You invited him.

He seemed content to be alone, but you went out of your way to invite him to sit with you. Honestly, social situations are still challenging for him, so he probably felt awkward about accepting the invitation. Nonetheless, you took a courageous step with a seemingly simple kind gesture.

You became his friend.

He doesn’t have very many friends. In fact, if you asked him who they are, he would list names of family members … brothers, sisters, mom, and dad. But you … he mentioned you. You became his friend.

Approaching someone who’s “different” can be intimidating. I understand that. After all, if you’re not crossing paths, why take the detour to intentionally go to that person? Why risk the potential awkwardness of the encounter? Would it even make a difference?

Yes, it does … it certainly does.

Community, Coping with the Challenges

Not Just Another Sunday School Class

The Lord is my shepherdThis past Sunday, we were faced with a challenge. We checked in our children in their respective Sunday School classes and joined the rest of the congregation at the worship service. Just when the sermon began, one of Gabriel’s teachers came in and pulled my husband out. I sat there, quietly praying that whatever the issue was, my husband would be able to handle it by God’s grace. He came back a few minutes later and whispered, “It’s okay. He just needed to go to the bathroom and needed some help.” A few more minutes passed, and my husband was called out again. And once more, I prayed silently at my seat. Another usher came back and motioned for me to come with him. Oh no, I thought. This doesn’t look good. When I walked out into the foyer, a few more ushers pointed in the direction where my husband went. He was standing outside the student center with Gabriel, and as I came closer, I noticed he was struggling to keep him still.

It turns out that while Gabriel was in the bathroom, the rest of the class continued with their activities. By the time Gabriel had finished and joined the class, they were doing something completely different from when he first left the room. This was a difficult transition for him. He wanted the class to be the way it was before. We finally had to pull him out of class. Stuck in that specific point in time, we could tell he would be unable to calm down. One of his teachers gave me a reassuring hug before we left and prayed for us. She and her husband have been truly an encouragement to us these past three years that they have had Gabriel in their class. They have never made us feel bad about Gabriel’s meltdowns, though I know they have created quite a stir in the class. The next day, she called to let me know they are praying for us, and they made themselves available for any help that we may need.

How important it is for us to come alongside one another! A hug, a prayer, a timely Bible verse of encouragement. We need each other. It’s easy for us to just turn the other way, limit our involvement, and move on with our own lives. But, God adopted us into His family. He made each of us a member of the body of Christ.

DSC_8457After we left the classroom that Sunday, the three of us walked back to our car. Our emotions were high, and my husband and I needed some time to calm our hearts as much as Gabriel did. After incidents like this, we are usually so prone to discouragement. But while we were in the car, people were praying … the two teachers as well as the children in his class. God heard and answered their intercessions. In the past, Gabriel would be inconsolable, and my husband would have to spend the remainder of the morning in the car with him. But this was not the case on that Sunday morning. The Lord flooded both my husband and I with peace, and our Gabriel, who had been screaming in his classroom just a few minutes prior, was instantly calm and quiet.

We were able to return to the building with our son and hear God’s Word preached. God is good!

 

(Photo credit 1: Tojosan)
(Photo credit 2: caddy_corner)

Community, Trusting God

The Nearness of God

Two Friends, One Beach

I have a friend, who is going through the most difficult trial of her life. A little over a year ago, her husband abandoned her, their marriage covenant, and The Lord. God has given me the privilege of being with her throughout this trial, listening to her, encouraging her, and praying with her. Recently, she said to me, “I’ve never been as close to God as I am now.”

Another sister in Christ shared with me a different kind of trial. This sister is just beginning her marriage, but she has been facing hostility from her husband’s family. They slander her when she is not present and refuse to acknowledge her when she is. With all this mistreatment, she has no idea why they hate her so much. In an email she sent to me, she wrote, “Although it hurts and I wish they wouldn’t be so cruel, a part of me feels closer to God …”

These two women are living examples of James 1:2.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds”

I am sure what they are having to endure is difficult. I am sure they desire a resolution to their trial soon. I am sure they hope and pray for a happy ending: that the husband who left would come to his senses and return to The Lord and his wife, and that the strained family relationships would be reconciled for this newly married woman.

Though they would wish to be under different circumstances, I am sure they would want one thing to remain: their nearness to their God.

The Lord has crafted the trial in each woman’s life in such a way that would give Him the most glory. As they draw close to Him and proclaim His steadfast love, His empowering strength, His abundant goodness, and His sufficient grace, He is glorified!

One coffee?So, here I am, trying to be a good friend to these sisters and help them in their time of need. But I am the one who has been encouraged in my own trial. The Lord has shown me by these women’s lives what true joy in the midst of a storm looks like.

I wish that I knew what exactly is going on with my son, Gabriel. I wish that we didn’t clash so much when we try to communicate with one another. I wish he got along better with his siblings. I wish he would stop all the repetition that masters him. I wish my circumstances were different.

But if, through this trial, God is drawing me closer to Himself, then I will wish no more. Instead, I will hope … I will hope in Him.

From this tangled mess of sin, frustration, doubt, and fear, God is weaving a beautiful tapestry. I can’t see it yet; I must wait … and when He has completed His work, people will behold His masterpiece and say, “To God be the glory!”

 

(Photo credit 1: Damian Gadal)
(Photo credit 2: Sheilasan)

Community

Shelter From the Storm

Typhoon Haiyan Devastates the Philippines

Sometimes I get so caught up in my own problems that I fail to notice what is happening around me. A conversation with someone reminded me that the God who is doing mighty things halfway across the world is doing great things in my own life … even in the midst of suffering. This person I spoke to has travelled back and forth from the United States to the Philippines numerous times to provide help to a church on one of the islands, including the construction of a building that now houses worship services and other ministries. I’m sure you’ve heard countless stories of the havoc left by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. This is one story that you probably have not heard. It is a story offering hope in the midst of devastation.

In one of the regions that was in the direct path of the storm, there stands a building. This building is a place where God’s kingdom is advanced. And during this fierce typhoon, it was no different. Many homes in the area were made of lightweight materials, not able to withstand such a powerful force, like Haiyan. About a hundred people, who have never set foot in this building before (perhaps some have never set foot inside any church building), came there seeking shelter from the coming storm.

And while the people were gathered there with no other place to go, the pastor of that church preached the good news of Jesus Christ. He taught them from Ephesians 2. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, Typhoon Haiyan - Tacloban, Philippineseven when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5)

They thought they found refuge when they entered the building, but they found more than that. There, they were directed to a Person, who is the ultimate refuge and calm in the midst of all the storms of life.

“For You have been a stronghold to the poor,
a stronghold to the needy in his distress,
a shelter from the storm … ” (Isaiah 25:4)

After the typhoon exited the area, three people came back to that building the following Sunday to join the worship service. A seed was planted. May God Almighty cause the growth!

 

(Photo credit 1: UNHCR Photo Download)
(Photo credit 2: Nove foto da Firenze)

Community, Coping with the Challenges

The Pursuit of Peace

Coming home from day 1 of a women’s conference, where the topic was about conflict resolution, it wasn’t long before I was put to the test. Just in my own home, where six sinners reside, conflicts are plentiful. I was giving my son, Gabriel, some instructions for bedtime, the same instructions I give every night.  It’s part of our routine, which is integral for his comfort and assurance. Sometimes, I’ll break off just a little bit from that familiar routine in order to train him to be flexible in situations. But, that little break will often lead to conflict. And, if my mind and heart are not ready to receive and resolve that conflict biblically, sin will multiply.

argument.We live in a sinful idol-worshipping world, where the foremost idol is self. In other words, conflict is inevitable. Every which way you turn, there is a potential for disagreement, quarrels, friction, hostilities, or an all-out feud. And beware … those small conflicts can explode into one chaotic mess or, worse, will often be overlooked and remain unresolved until it has grown into a deep root of bitterness. My conflict with Gabriel was over brushing his teeth! But, within me, I felt the frustration come to a quick boil, and I was tempted to release the steam to quickly resolve that conflict.

How do you resolve conflict? Do you go to The Lord first? Do you consider what His word says about your problem? Do you insist on what you believe to be your rights or do you consider the other person’s interests before your own?

There is so much to share about what I learned during that conference, but it can be summarized into this one amazing truth, which ought to end all disagreements and fights, big or small.

For Christians, our greatest conflict has been settled.

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners,

Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Remember what we once were: enemies of God, objects of His wrath, lovers of darkness. What you perceive to be your biggest conflict at the present time would seem to be merely a squabble in light of the former hostility between us and our Creator. Let us not forget what He did for us. Jesus Christ, through His death on the cross, reconciled us to God. Where there was once conflict, there is now peace.

 

(Photo Credit: smile_kerry)

Community

God’s Will and Prayer

*Jan is like many moms I know. She homeschools her 2 boys and is trying to figure out how to best occupy her very active 2-year old girl when school is in session. She is also a follower of Christ. We attend the same local church, but I don’t know her that well and don’t always have an opportunity to talk with her. Today, God put her in my path. She shared with me that for a long time now, she has had a burden for children with special needs. Before she married, she worked with such children in the educational field. She thought that God would one day give her a child with special needs … that perhaps, all the training and experience she received were to be used for her own child. That was not God’s plan.

But, the burden to serve in that very specific way is still there. So, she prays. She told me she has prayed for Gabriel. She was one of the women who reached out to me on that eventful “Picture Day” a few weeks ago (click here for that story). She also prays for the few other families in our church who are going through the challenges of raising a child with special needs. It is no small thing that she prays for us, and perhaps, it is in God’s plan to entrust her with more.

What encouraged me about this woman is that she is praying. She is communing with God about these desires that He has given her. We can often have a thought about helping the prayer continuedsomeone or filling a need, but we don’t proceed further. We don’t inquire of The Lord. We don’t step out in obedience.

Perhaps we don’t know if something is truly God’s will for us. We have desires, but we wonder if those desires are from The Lord. Let me encourage you. Doing nothing accomplishes nothing. Start with prayer.

“When God aims to do a great work, the first thing he harnesses is the power of prayer. He starts by planting the spark of desire in a few hearts. Then through prayer he fans it into a flame. Then the flame of desire and faith spreads to others. Soon large numbers are on their knees imploring the great work. Then God acts. Then he pours down his blessing. God loves to do great works of redemption. But even more he loves to do it in answer to prayer.” — John Piper, “We Have Not Because We Ask Not

 

(Photo credit: ☻☺)
*Note: Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.