Family Life

5 Lessons My Children Are Learning From Their Brother’s Special Needs

I have 5 children, but only one of them has special needs. Sometimes I’ve wondered what life would have been like if we only had our son. Perhaps, I would’ve been able to focus on certain aspects of his needs if he was our only child. But then, I consider that each member of our family has had an integral part in the growth and development of our son. And as I ponder this even more, my children have been able to glean important life lessons because of their brother’s special needs.

Lessons on Patience

This is probably the big one. As children get older, effective oral communication becomes more vital in relationship building. Communication being one of my son’s weaknesses, you can imagine that friendships with his peers are rare. If you stick him in a playground full of kids of all ages, you will likely find him running around with the toddlers.

When other children his age can simply ignore him, his siblings can’t do that and still live under the same roof. But to do that peaceably, they have to learn patience. Patience when he can’t fully express what he wants. Patience when he misunderstands them. Patience when he repeats his questions multiple times and expects them to go along with it.

Lessons on Sympathy

Tied to patience, my children are learning how to sympathize. Without sympathy, the appearance of patience is, in reality, like a covered pot that can boil over at any second if left over the heat too long. True patience is motivated by a genuine sympathy for the challenges of another. When a child has a difficult time asking me a question at the dinner table because of too much chatter from the others, it’s an opportunity to remind them that their brother faces that struggle everyday but at ten times the volume.

Lessons on Impartiality

I love how our 2-year-old girl claims no favorites among her siblings. She spends time with each and every one of them without partiality. When the world can be so cruel to the ones who dance to a different beat, I’m thankful for the acceptance and love that my son can receive from his sister. Little ones don’t struggle with this. They have no perception of “differentness” in people. It’s a valuable lesson my older children are learning when they realize that sometimes they may have to forego playing with 5 friends in order to come alongside their brother in need of one friend.

Lessons on Prayer

We face challenges daily, multiple times each day. This is not a runny nose that lasts only a few days. This is our life. And though our son thrives on repetition and requires predictable routines, changes in his anxieties and obsessions abound. And we are all affected. No amount of expert help can sufficiently ease the burden that this has presented for our family. Our children must learn that as often as we are met with these trials, so should our meetings with God be.

Lessons on Love

Shortly after an especially upsetting confrontation with their brother, one of my kids tearfully expressed, “How could I love someone who is being mean to me?” And though my heart ached for my child’s frustration, the Lord gave me the perfect opportunity to give the perfect answer.

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” ~ Romans 5:8

My children may manifest patience, possess sympathy, display impartiality, and utter prayers for their brother, but he can still hurt their feelings. How difficult it is to love someone who is most unlovely! But on the cross, Jesus did.

Does your special needs child have siblings? What lessons do you want them to learn?

5 Lessons My Children are Learning from Their Brother's Special Needs

Family Life, Savoring Simple Moments

7 Amazing Powers of a SuperMom

We’ve all heard the term: “SuperMom”. What exactly makes her “super”? Can you really put her in the same category as Captain America, WonderWoman, or Superman? Perhaps you’ve cringed at being addressed as a SuperMom. You wonder how you could rightfully claim such a title, being well aware of your non-kryptonite-induced weaknesses and failures.

But even though Mommy may not feel like the superhero the world makes her out to be, her children see through different lenses. And I think upon closer observation, they will notice Mommy has some rather amazing powers.

7 Amazing Powers of a SuperMom

1. Her kisses make the booboo’s go away.

There’s just something about Mama’s kisses and cuddles that make all owies better. But even if a cut needs a little more TLC, Mommy seems to have a magical way of cleaning the wound and applying the perfect bandage.

2. She can produce a sweet treat at lightning speed.

Who can resist chocolate chip cookies? But how does she make them so fast? Little do her children know that she’s got tubes of dough stored in the freezer. But wait till she becomes a grandma … she’ll have the power to pull out all kinds of sweet stuff out of her purse to spoil any crying kid.

3. She can see from the back of her head.

She’s at the sink, washing dishes. So how did she know her little angel was trying to sneak a cookie out of the jar? Somewhere behind that tangled updo, she’s got a pair of eyes that never sleep.

4. She makes books come to life.

When she opens a book and reads, she transports her children to another world, where rhyming is normal, animals talk, and happy endings are guaranteed.

5. She knows. Before they can come up with an answer, she knows.

Don’t get caught in a mind game with her. She knows what her kids will do before they do it. And I would warn against any attempts of falsification. She’s a walking lie detector!

6. With one look, she can make her kids do what she wants.

Is there some invisible force behind those eyes? Maybe the secret is in that one raised eyebrow, hypnotically bringing her kids under her control.

7. Her tickling fingers have the power to render her kids helpless.

No, not the fingers! Must get away from them! They are worse than Kryptonite! And when she starts dispensing zerberts (aka, raspberries) on the tummies, it’s all over for these kids!

If you’re a SuperMom, what’s your favorite super power?

Perhaps you may not feel very super on some days, but I bet you, your littles think you have some pretty cool powers. Wishing all you SuperMamas a wonderful Mother’s Day!

Family Life

Love Lessons

It was one of those days, where I felt like no matter which way I turned, I was hitting a wall. There seemed to be obstacles everywhere that kept me from going where I wanted to go and doing what I wanted to do. There were challenges with my children: it seemed my voice could not be heard, my directives could not be understood, and my efforts could not be appreciated. So, our homeschool day ended on a sour note. The pity party began.

I give, give, give to this family and get nothing in return.

So, here is where The Lord took me in the midst of my complaining.

“… train the young women to love their husbands and children” (Titus 2:4)

But I do love them, my heart would protest. It is apparent in the time, energy, efforts, and sleep that I sacrifice for them. I am practicing sacrificial (agape) love for them. And, I know I’m not alone in this. Without a doubt, many wives and mothers love their families in this way.

But the Titus verse is a command for women, not to agape love, but to phileo love, meaning to love with affection.

I have been so busy loving my family with sacrifice, I have failed to love them with affection.

My love falls short.

On his way home from work, my husband called, “Let’s take the kids to the park.” My first thought was to respond, “You can take them. I have other things to do.” I looked at the kids, and they were playing happily together on the floor. They don’t have to go to the park; they’re just fine over there. How could I possibly take any time to go out and play with them when the sink was full of dishes, dinner had to be prepared, and the tower of laundry was about to topple over? Thank The Lord for holding my tongue.

We went to the park. I pushed my 2-year-old on the swing while we sang one of his favorite nursery rhymes together. I watched with delight at my 5-year-old boy climb up the hill, diligently looking for the best rocks for his collection. I hugged and kissed my only daughter after she fell and scraped her knee and then ran off to play again. And, I supported Gabriel’s legs as he excitedly swung his arms across the monkey bars.

Before this day, I was missing out on a lot by not phileo loving my children. Praise The Lord that in His kindness, He didn’t let me miss out this time.

Family Life, Savoring Simple Moments, Trusting God

The Day He Rode Without Training Wheels

“Mommy, I did it! I rode my bike!” Though I could not see his face, the enthusiasm in my son’s voice came through loud and clear over the phone. Doctors had told us early on that delays in Gabriel’s speech development could also mean delays in other areas, such as motor skills. Play dates at the park confirmed this, as I watched my son struggle to climb the jungle gym, while his younger sister whizzed passed him. Eventually, he improved, and he could climb as well as any 8-year-old. But, one thing that he was still not able to do was ride his bike without training wheels.

Even as a preschooler, he had a difficult time riding his tricycle, preferring to move that thing around with his feet, like the Flintstones. Graduating to a bicycle was another huge hurdle for Gabriel to overcome, but training wheels gave him confidence. He had the biggest bike with training wheels at the park, and I wondered if we would ever be able to remove them.

DSC_0010.JPGYesterday, my husband took him out to go bike riding. By God’s providence, one of the training wheels came off as he was riding. My husband decided to leave it off and encouraged our son to keep riding. When he could tell that Gabriel’s confidence was growing, my husband told him, “Son, I’m going to remove the other wheel. Just give it a try.” After a few minor falls, Gabriel was riding around the parking lot with no training wheels. A couple of bystanders watched and cheered on both father and son. One of them, an older gentleman, said to my husband, “Now that’s something to remember!” And after that parking lot ride, I received the phone call from Gabriel. I wish I could’ve recorded his voice and play it back for you all to hear. He was gushing with excitement. I could not contain the tears of joy, for Gabriel’s accomplishment reached deep into my heart.

I’m just like Gabriel. Timid, anxious, and afraid to fall. I want my training wheels because they keep me steady, but God knows when to remove them. He will keep me steady. And as I entrust myself to Him, I will discover that all along, He has always been holding me up.

 

(Photo credit 1: Lotus Carroll)
(Photo credit 2: billjank)

Coping with the Challenges, Family Life

Guard My Mouth

Since he was a toddler, Gabriel’s world consisted of a great deal of repetition. When he was diagnosed at 3 years old with a speech and language disorder, one of the most common manifestations was what professionals called echolalia. If you greeted him with “Hi, Gabriel, how are you today?”, my little parrot would reply, “Hi, Gabriel, how are you today?” Many children engage in this sort of behavior, but they soon grow out of it once they are able to get a handle on communicating more independently. Advised by the speech therapist not to discourage the echolalia, we allowed the repeating to help Gabriel process information before he was ready to respond appropriately.

Though there were still significant delays in his development, he progressed. As predicted, he gained some proficiency in everyday conversation, and the echolalia began to disappear. Well, not completely.

Today he will still repeat, but not during conversations. He is selective and will focus on a certain sound or phrase he hears and repeat it, almost without thinking. His choice, however, seems to almost always be his sister. Is this intentional? I don’t know. But, imagine the child who plays that cruel game of repeating-everything-she-says. “Stop copying me.” “Stop copying me.” “I’m going to tell Mommy.” “I’m going to tell Mommy.” But in this case, Gabriel is not trying to play a game.

silenceAs you can imagine, homeschool has been quite challenging for both of them because he is mimicking every word and sound his sister makes. But I could tell this is just as frustrating for him. One day, he came up to me and said, “Mommy, could you just put tape on my mouth and I will stop copying my sister?”

How many times have I approached God the Father with a similar request? “God, please put a guard over my mouth. Let my words be a blessing, not a curse, to others.” We have been warned that the tongue is more difficult to tame than the fiercest animal. Oh, how true that is!

There have been so many careless words that have spewed from my mouth, mostly directed towards those dearest to me … my husband and children. No amount of remorse can give me back that time and allow me to take back those hurtful words. And many of us know how much deeper the cuts of unkind words are because we have both inflicted and received them.

“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” (Proverbs 10:19)

“Could you just put tape on my mouth?” Oh, I wish it was that easy both for me and my son. With our mouths, God has given us an amazing privilege of blessing, encouraging, and edifying others. Tight lips would forfeit that privilege. So, our wise Father gives us some very practical instruction concerning godly speech. Less is more. With fewer words, we can be more intentional with them … only speaking when there is real purpose and only saying what is truly needed.

Let us exercise great care in choosing our words. May our words leave behind, not an intolerable stench, but a lasting, fragrant aroma of blessing.

 

(Photo credit: RebeccaBarray)

Family Life

Out from Hiding

Bagarre / FightGabriel was angry at his brother, so he hit him. Typical sibling squabble. Gabriel knew what he did was wrong and that his actions would have consequences. As I sat across from him on the floor of his bedroom, it was obvious he did not want to be there. He knew what he had to do when we were done. He had to go to his brother and ask him for forgiveness. That, he was willing to do. But when I told him that our sin against others is first a sin against God, he became uncomfortable. Bowing his head and asking God for forgiveness for his actions was the more difficult task for Gabriel. He agonized over it for quite some time before he finally prayed. But Gabriel is not alone in this struggle. This happens to many of us, doesn’t it?

I have been in Gabriel’s shoes many times before. I have gone to great lengths to reconcile relationships damaged by my sinful actions, but come short of mending the break in fellowship I have with The Lord. How foolish to think that I could avoid facing God! Yet still, I attempt to cover my shame with fig leaves and hide among the trees, as Adam and Eve did. “What is it that you have done?” (Genesis 3:13). The Lord’s question is clear. He is not asking why. He is not requiring an explanation of motives and reasoning behind the disobedience. Wouldn’t that be a complicated web for us to unravel? God is simply asking what. He wants us to stop hiding, confess our sins, and He will be faithful to cleanse us (1 John 1:9).

Clearly, Gabriel was afraid of going to God. So I reminded him that He is a loving God who wants to forgive us. There is no need to turn the other way. Our efforts to conceal our transgressions would be futile, but His all-sufficient grace covers them all. He is always ready with open arms to receive us when we go humbly before Him. Oh, how I would rather be in His arms than in the mire of my sin!

“But while he [the prodigal son] was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)

 

(Photo credit: Remy Saglier)

Family Life, Savoring Simple Moments

Reading to Children

Picture BooksAt a very young age, I was an avid reader. I would come home from the library with an armload of books. My love of books continued through high school, and it was not unusual for my parents to find me sitting in the living room in the middle of the night, lost in the pages of a novel.

After my children were born, the time to read became more and more scarce. I read to Gabriel a lot up until he was around 2 years old. Though I still had a desire to instill in my children a love of books, I found myself reading less and less to them. I’ve heard from other moms that reading aloud to your children above their level is good for them, but Gabriel’s challenges with language and attention span were enough to keep me from pressing on. I almost gave up.

After recommendations from a couple of friends, I bought a book called Little Pilgrim’s Progress by Helen L. Taylor. I had read John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress before, and I wondered if my children can handle sitting through this timeless tale. Upon closer inspection, I learned that Helen Taylor’s book is actually an adaptation of Bunyan’s classic, written from a child’s perspective.

“If John Bunyan were alive at the present time, I think he would forgive me for the liberty I have taken in attempting to unlock his treasury and to bring ‘that gold, those pearls, and precious stones’ a little nearer to the childish hands, which are always so ready to receive such gifts.” — Helen L. Taylor (Preface to “Little Pilgrim’s Progress”)

I looked at the sample pages online. It’s a chapter book with very little pictures. I had been wanting to graduate my children from the big picture story books, but I didn’t know if they were ready. Would they just tune me out when I read aloud to them? To their ears, would I just sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher? “Wah wah woh. Wah wah.”

I decided to take the plunge and began reading the book to them in the beginning of this year. What a wonderful treasure this book has been to me and to my children! During our lunch, I read to them a chapter from the book, and then discuss it over our PB & J’s. Even Gabriel, who still has difficulty with reading comprehension, is recalling many details from the chapters that we read each day. What I am most thankful for is that this book has opened up so many opportunities for me to share the gospel. Our conversations about the book has not been reserved for meal times only because the story has sparked so many questions in their minds about the Bible and Jesus Christ.

What began as a quest to get my children to love books more has enlarged to a heartfelt desire for them to love Jesus more. I had some plans, but God’s plans were greater.

 

Note: Remember that I was about ready to give up, but I was convicted by Ephesians 5:16 to make “the best use of the time” that God has given me with my children. He also used the following blog post to inspire me to take up this task once more. Perhaps it may spur you on as well.
How To Get Your Children Excited About Read-Alouds

 

(Photo credit: nickyfairless)

Coping with the Challenges, Family Life

Be Slow

Car Race on Champs ElyséesIn many cases, slow is good. Slow is better than fast. But, look around, and you would think otherwise. Driving behind a slow car can be annoying. Waiting for customer service on the phone for more than a few minutes seems like eternity. Watching the little hourglass on your computer screen while you wait for a website to appear is a huge waste of your time. For many of us, fast is better. The faster things are, the more time we have to do even more things … until we reach the end of our day and feel like we still have so much more to do.

When I began applying for jobs after graduation, my resume highlighted my fast-learning, multi-tasking, type A work ethic. At the time, I suppose I prided myself with such “productive” qualities. But now, the fast-paced, get-it-done, no-nonsense attitude has not led me to fare so well in life.

Today was an uphill battle to get homeschooling done with the children. Nearly at the point of throwing in the towel, I sat there, trying to replay every event and conversation that led up to this downfall. And what The Lord revealed to me is that I was moving too fast. Instead of shepherding my children gently, I impatiently moved ahead of them and became frustrated when they could not keep up.

God spoke to me …

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” (James 1:19)

When my words begin to multiply, and I find myself essentially saying the same things over and over again to someone, I’m in the danger zone. It won’t be long before those many words explode into an outburst of anger. And my hearers (in this case, my children) are sadly caught in the blazing fire (James 3:5-6).

There is one thing, though, that God instructs me to be quick about: “quick to hear”. Have you ever witnessed an irate customer while shopping at the store? That person gets louder and louder about their complaints, and the manager’s explanation of store policy falls on deaf ears. As a bystander, I actually feel embarrassed for that customer because they look rather foolish. But that’s me. I was the irate customer today, not willing to hear my children and not willing to listen to God’s Word because I wanted my words to be heard.

In this fast-paced, breakneck, lightning speed world, it is good to be reminded to slow down.

 

(Photo credit: SaZeOd)

Family Life

Lessons from a Box of Tissues

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14-15).

The children’s ministries at our church are having all the children memorize the book of Philippians. Last week’s verse was above. “Now that’s a good one for my kids to hide in their hearts,” I thought. Complaints in my house run the whole spectrum. “I hate spinach. School is boring. We never get to do anything fun.”

But it soon became apparent that many of the gripes were coming from my own heart. “I’m tired of being disrespected. I wish homeschooling is easier. My children never listen to me.” And the verse that I thought was just perfect for my grumbling children was the very one that needed to pierce my heart this week.

19/365 - My head is hot and my feet are cold. Ha...Hee...Hachoo!“It’s that time of year,” everyone seems to say. Tis the season of colds, coughs, flu, and other sicknesses. And, our household was hit with all of the above this past week. I wish I could say I’m such a devoted wife and mother, who nursed her family back to health, even at the sacrifice of her own. Sadly, I have a lot of selfishness that needs to be dealt with. And, The Lord saw fit to purge it out of me by allowing our whole family, myself included, to get sick.

here comes the rain againTowards the end of our week of quarantine, God mercifully granted me ears to hear myself complaining, and my whining bore a strong resemblance to the complaints of my own children, the very ones I have rebuked them about over and over again. Thankfully, before I saw the bottom of the box of tissues, The Lord gave me eyes to see the immense log obstructing my own view, while I thought I was doing well, removing the microscopic specks out of my children’s eyes. I did not treat my children with the grace that I have been given. The Lord Himself did not roll His eyes in exasperation at my failures. While my patience towards my children was reduced to tiny droplets, I experienced the abundant showers of God’s patience towards me.

During this most challenging week, The Lord has multiplied His tender mercies and lovingkindness towards me. From my self-made pedestal of supermom, God brought me low, showing me I needed to learn the same lessons as my children.

Now I can say, it was a good week.

 

(Photo credit 1: Micah Taylor)
(Photo credit 2: rosipaw)

Family Life, Trusting God

What is True Love?

No one would disagree that love is the subject of countless poems, stories, and songs. But how many of these truly capture the essence of love?

One person’s definition of love may differ from another’s. Some would say love is found in family, where each member comes home to comfort, acceptance, and familiarity. The love between a husband and wife, committed under any and all circumstances … others would claim that’s true love. There’s also a mother’s love, which drives her to unimaginable sacrifices without the reward of recognition.

But what business do I have in writing about love when I fail so much in it? Oh, I know how to love. I love my husband. I love my children. I love my parents. I love my church family. Certainly, I know how to love when I am loved back. But, there will be many moments when love is not reciprocated or, at least, it doesn’t feel like it. So sometimes I’ll react by withholding my love. But this ought not to be so for the person who has been given a new heart and made alive again after being dead in sin. Withholding love for others will soon pain my own heart and eat me up inside. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

A few days ago, I struggled with this. My son Gabriel was being difficult to love, and I’m sure I was not the object of his deepest affections either. The day seemed to drag. I felt like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, but it was not cute. I was stubborn enough to think I could take this until the end of the day, but The Lord got me up. What is the answer, Lord? How do I get through this? One word: LOVE.

What is love? Do I even know what that means? I thought I did. But my love was conditional. “I will love you if you respect me, if you cause me no distress, and if you love me back.” God showed me otherwise. He showed me, through His Word, what true love is.

“In this act we see what real love is: it is not our love for God but his love for us when he sent his Son to satisfy God’s anger against our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us as much as that, we surely ought to love each other too.” (1 John 4:10-11, TLB)

True love originates from God.  God is love.  On the other hand, I did not love God. Moreover, I turned the other way and placed my love on things that were in complete opposition to Him. But, He loved me in my unloveliness. He gave me a new heart to love Him and to love others. I have no excuse. The strength to love, even when it’s hard, will come from Him.

 

(Photo Credit: laihiu)