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

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.

Trusting God

On Cliff’s Edge

edge of cliff aheadIn your pilgrim’s journey, do you sometimes sense you are constantly walking on a path that will lead to your end? Do you feel helpless, hopeless, and alone? And you wonder, why is God leading me here?

I read some encouraging verses the other day, and God comforted my heart. It is too good not to share. We are all going through something, aren’t we? A difficult marriage, rebellious children, a friend’s betrayal, failing health, financial problems, and the list goes on.

On the Edge of a Tafoni Cliff

Whatever your circumstances may be, do you feel like your toes are hanging over the edge of the cliff that even the slightest breeze can bring you down? What is holding you up? Or rather, who is holding you up?

“When I thought, ‘My foot slips,’
your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up.
When the cares of my heart are many,
your consolations cheer my soul.”
(Psalm 94:18-19)

 

Photo credit 1: tbone_sandwich
Photo credit 2: Orin Zebest

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)

Heaven, Prayer & Devotion

The Believer’s New Clothes

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Last week, when we had barely begun school, my son Gabriel began to complain that his stomach hurts. I thought, Sure, it hurts. It didn’t hurt a few minutes ago before we cracked open our books. Now I don’t want you to think I’m an insensitive mother. Any parent can testify that children can get pretty creative with their complaints if it means getting out of something like school. I pressed him to continue his work, while, at the same time, observing his behavior concerning his alleged pain. Well, it wasn’t long before the complaining intensified, so I excused Gabriel from the rest of his school work. For the remainder of the day, he was planted on the couch, with a cup of water and a vomit bowl next to him.

The next day, I didn’t want to take any chances. The thought of him throwing up all over his school books was enough for me to announce a non-student day. Gabriel was certainly happy about not having to do school, but though he still felt weak, he wanted to change out of his pajamas. Thinking he would be more comfortable in his PJ’s, I told him to wait. I know when I’m sick, I want to live in my pajamas and curl up under my blanket. But Gabriel insisted because for him, pajamas are for night time only. It was a new day, and it was time to change into new clothes.

Princess Diana's Wedding dress, 1981One day, we will awaken to a new day, when we will forever cast off our old clothes of flesh completely. No more fight with sin. No more war waging within. Free at long last from this body of death. Our filthy rags of this life will be no more, and we will be arrayed in white robes, not made with hands. The finest clothes worn by kings and queens cannot compare with our new garments in heaven. Fellow believers, one fine day, we will be royally dressed because of the sacrifice of Christ.

“They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14)

But as we wait, we need not despair. For even now, if you have received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are already covered with His righteousness. We may battle with our flesh day in and day out, but we can be confident that the work to redeem us from our slavery to sin was finished on the cross. And when we finally see Him face to face, our transformation will be complete.

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)

 

(Photo credit: thefoxling)

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Trusting God

Found: Joy

Some time last year, I was chatting with a woman from my church. She had said to me, “I don’t know you well. And, forgive me if I’m wrong, but I saw you the other day, and it seemed by your face that there’s just something heavy on your heart.” She really took a risk by saying that. Like she said, we didn’t know each other well, and I could’ve just given her a canned “Everything is fine” answer and avoided crossing her path in the future. But, in her words, she was attempting to reach out when my facial expression that she had noticed before probably said, “Please leave me alone.” I praise God that this sister in The Lord was willing to step out of her comfort zone in order to be used by Him.

Thank you, Target.This conversation got me thinking. What do I look like when I’m out and about, doing what I usually do? Do I look sad? Mad? Distressed? What does my countenance say to the outside world? Moreover, what does my countenance say about the state of my heart? Is the external an accurate reflection of the internal?

I have to admit that at the time that this woman approached me, I was going through a great deal of inner turmoil. In other words, I had no joy.

What is joy? It is not merely a giggly, happy, smiley demeanor. Although true joy can result in these outward manifestations, it must be rooted in something far deeper.

“You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

(Psalm 16:11)

According to this verse, complete and perfect joy is found in The Lord. There was my answer. Joy had seemed out of my reach because I was not spending time with my Lord.

Even though I was reading the Word and teaching the Bible to my kids, serving in my church and praying for others, meeting with other women and offering biblical counsel . . . even though I was doing all these spiritual activities, I know I was not in the presence of my God. I know because when trials came, I was in despair. I know because when conflicts arose, I responded in my flesh. I know because I had no joy.

Do you have true joy today? Are you busy with “church” but feel far from the Head of the church? He has invited you. He has torn the veil in two so that you may boldly enter in. Come and approach the throne of grace, where joy and pleasures have no end.

 

(Photo credit: Jennifer Gaillard)

Prayer & Devotion

The Privilege of Prayer

Prayer vitral

What does prayer do? The sovereign and omniscient God knows what we need before we ask Him. “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether” (Psalm 139:4). So why pray?

Earlier this month, I received an email requesting prayer for someone, who was soon to undergo major surgery. A number of emails were going back and forth with updates on her condition, what doctors were saying, and when they would schedule the surgery. One of the emails contained the date and time that the procedure was to take place. I kept this in mind, with the intention of praying at the exact time that the doctors were going to perform the surgery. One night, when I opened my inbox, it was flooded with several emails. “Praise The Lord!” “He answered our prayers.” “She’s doing well in the recovery room.” Wait a minute, I thought. Did they change the time of the surgery? Or, did I forget to pray?

I looked through my old emails and found the one that contained the time of the surgery. They didn’t change it. But, what I failed to realize was that this operation took place in a different country, in a completely different time zone. I felt stupid for my careless oversight. As I read through all the emails from those who were praising God for this answer to prayer, I felt a bit left out. Don’t get me wrong. I was rejoicing in The Lord too. But, there is a certain level of excited praise that happens after being part of the intercession that occurred prior to that worshipful response.

“You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.” (2 Corinthians 1:11)

Has something like this ever happened to you? Have you ever told someone you would pray for them and forgot? And, when they told you later how God demonstrated His faithfulness, you felt ashamed of your faithlessness in prayer.

Yes, God knows before we even ask. And no, He doesn’t need us to do what He wills. But, according to His kindness, He has chosen to work through the prayers of His people. Don’t think of prayer as a chore you have to do. Rather it is a mission we get to partake in. What an awesome and humbling privilege He has bestowed on us!

“The utterly amazing thing is that [God] has ordained to include us in running the universe. He really does respond to our prayers. They are woven into the fabric of causes that God wills to be moved by.” ~ John Piper

 

(Photo credit: S. Reachers)

Blogging

A Year Ago

Point & ClickOne year ago today, I clicked “Publish” on my first post for this site. Before that day, I had been thinking about starting a blog like this for a while, but like I’m sure many of you have felt, I honestly didn’t think anyone would read it. Moreover, I didn’t know how much time I could really commit to writing. Was this going to be just another project I couldn’t finish? So, imagine my delight when I realized that this little piece of cyberspace actually reached its first anniversary!

I have wrestled with so many things, especially in the area of parenting my son, Gabriel. And I needed a place to write down what God was teaching me, not only through Gabriel but through other people and circumstances in my life. Prone to forgetfulness, writing has helped me to remember God’s Word better. It has caused me to think more deeply about what was happening in my life as part of God’s providential plan to bring glory to His name. In short, The Lord has been showing me it’s not all about me.

I could’ve just written all this down in a personal journal, but The Lord has placed in my heart a desire to share His lessons with others. They are not mine to keep and hide away anyway. Through blogging, God has provided another instrument to use for the exaltation of Jesus Christ.

I know not everyone who comes by and reads this blog is a mother of a child with special needs or even a parent or a Christian. But for whatever reason, you came. I believe God brought you here. I have prayed for you, not by name, but I have asked The Lord to use this site for His glory and bring whoever He wills. From the very beginning, it has been my hope that others would read, not merely stories and testimonies of a mother and her child, but an account of God’s goodness, faithfulness, and love.

“Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!”  (Psalm 115:1)

 

(Photo credit: PaT)

Trusting God

Comforting Light

LightWhen our son Gabriel was younger and began expressing fears of the dark, we bought a night light. It was fine for a few days, but then, he began to notice that the night light would cast some ominous-looking shadows on the walls and ceiling. So, we got rid of the night light. Then, the tiny red light from the smoke detector above the doorway began to scare him. So, we had to put a few layers of masking tape over the red light. We decided to leave the bedroom door slightly ajar and left the hallway light on. This allowed just enough light into the room without producing any strange shadows.

One very memorable night, I woke up with a sudden jolt by a chorus of screaming. In the midst of the panic, I could hear my daughter shouting at the top of her lungs, “I can’t see! I can’t see!” With no time to battle with sleepiness, I jumped out of bed, and upon opening my door, I saw what my children saw: complete darkness. It was a blackout. Usually, I could still make out things in the dark, but this night was different. It was an eerie darkness that could be felt. I literally could not see my hand in front of my face, and it was strange, trying to make my way in a pitch black room to where my children were crying out for comfort. What horror they must’ve felt to awaken and only see darkness!

What is desirable about the darkness? Yet, the Bible says that people love the darkness.

“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” (John 3:19-20)

Steep TrailBut for those of us who have seen and received the light, who no longer grope about or try to hide in the shadows … for those of us whose path has been illuminated by Jesus Christ, there is no longer any fear. We take each step confidently because we see clearly. Even when we are walking on a treacherous path, where one wrong step could mean our ultimate ruin, He is the lamp to show us the way.

Do you still have fears of some dark shadows in your heart? Perhaps some unconfessed sin. Or maybe a situation that you need to surrender to Him. The Lord wants us to cast them on Him. He is light, and He dispels all darkness. Will you find rest and peace in the comfort of His light?

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
(Psalm 139: 11-12)

 

(Photo credit 1: Aidan O’Sullivan)
(Photo credit 2: herzogbr)

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)