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

Coping with the Challenges

To the Mom of the Child with Special Needs (Part 2)

It was about 5 years ago. I sat in the school’s office with my son, filling out enrollment paperwork. Though I hurried through the process, I wasn’t fast enough to escape an impending meltdown. We weren’t quite done, they told us. He had to take a photo for his school ID card.

What should’ve been a quick point and shoot moment was anything but that. That ID card, with the picture of his tear-stained face, would always remind me that the path ahead would have many obstacles to overcome.

Are you a mother of a child with special needs? Perhaps you can relate well to this story. Maybe you’re just beginning your journey, and you feel paralyzed, afraid to take the next step, not knowing where this road will take you.

In my previous post and in this one, I hope to share some thoughts that will give you courage to press on.

Stay Two Steps Ahead (+ Two More)

Even if you’re the most spontaneous person on the planet, when you become a mom, you will likely become the person, who instinctively prepares ahead.

But if you have a child with special needs, you need to stay two or more steps ahead. There is no such thing as overpreparation. Not only will you have a Plan B, but Plans C, D, and E will also be safely tucked in your mental files. Moreover, you will have to include your child in this preparation, walking him through every step ahead before it happens. Transition from one activity to the next is tough for special needs kids, but it can go more smoothly when you announce what is to come so that he has some time to adjust.

Seek Support From Others

The path you’re on can be a very lonely one. It’s so easy to get into the mindset that no one understands, but that thinking just leads to further isolation. You don’t have to feel alone. I know it can be risky to lay open your heart like that, but God may have prepared that friend to be the one, who will bear this burden with you. And, it doesn’t have to be someone, who has a child with special needs. You can receive great encouragement from those who are willing to listen and be there for you.

Spend Time Reflecting

When faced with the challenges of caring for your child, a number of thoughts spin around in your head … some thoughts are irrational, some depressing, and some even despairing. “Will I ever have a normal life?” That time needed to reflect is not to multiply more thoughts, like these. But rather, it is to intentionally meditate on the complete opposite.

I have spent a lot of time in earnest prayer and reading the Bible, so that I would see my situation, not through the eyes of a tired, frustrated, and inadequate mom, but through the eyes of a powerful, gracious, and all-sufficient God.

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”  (2 Corinthians 12:9)

If you missed Part 1 of this, click here.

Coping with the Challenges

To the Mom of the Child with Special Needs (Part 1)

I never thought I would be on this road, being a mother of a child with special needs. Actually, I take that back. A road is probably not the most accurate description because, often, it feels like a roller coaster. Nonetheless, this path that God has put me on has come with many blessed lessons.

If you are a parent, who has just received the news that your child has and will continue to have some specific, special needs, you may feel as though you’re caught in the rapids, trying to stay afloat, while the raging waters of information from doctors, therapists, specialists, and educators surround you and threaten to engulf you. It doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to be in despair.

Don’t Compare with Others

Ah, the comparison trap! We all do it, whether or not we have a child with special needs. But this is especially detrimental for the mom with the special needs child. “Special needs” implies they are on a completely different page from most kids their age, so comparing is an exercise in futility.

I used to always feel like I needed to get my child “caught up” and felt discouraged at the thought that he will always be “behind”. But caught up to what? Behind in what? Whose standards anyway? Is it in education? Motor skills? Social skills? It was stressful.

Your child’s milestones will be different from his peers and from his own siblings. An unhealthy preoccupation with the progress of others will keep you from focusing on your own child’s development.

Rejoice in the progress (no matter how small)

Sometimes it may feel like there’s no progress at all. It takes a bit of stepping outside of yourself and seeing your child from another vantage point to notice that there are changes. Perhaps recording them in a journal will help you see them and be intentional about searching for them. Don’t limit yourself to the great leaps and bounds. Progress is often seen in the small baby steps. Remember being overjoyed when your baby took his first steps. That doesn’t have to stop now.

Be Your Child’s Special Friend

Making friends will likely not come easy for your child, especially as he gets older. Party invitations might be rare, and play dates will probably be a challenge to arrange. I have wept over my own child’s lack of friends and wept even more when I realized he had matured enough to notice this too. 

I remember that at his own birthday party a few years ago, my son pulled me into one of the rooms away from all the guests, closed the door, and asked if we could play “I Spy” together. As much as I wanted him to be comfortable with everyone else, I was the one he really wanted to be with. I was his special friend.

You may be going through this difficult and emotional season in your parenting journey. Or perhaps you know someone who is. One of the hardest things for me is feeling alone in this. Will you share this with someone who could use the encouragement?

(Click here for Part 2.)

Savoring Simple Moments

Strum

Ukulele 102About 6 years ago, my in-laws came back from a vacation in Hawaii with a special gift for Gabriel, a deep brown, shiny ukulele. At the time, Gabriel was only 2 years old, but it was his grandpa’s desire that he would, one day, learn how to play that beautiful instrument. Of course, at the peak of his Terrible Two’s stage, he was interested in playing with the uke but not exactly as it was intended to be handled. Today, he still likes this stringed instrument but may not be ready to sit through lessons. He prefers to rock out his own way. 🙂

Thanks to those fine people who post tutorials on You Tube, my husband has learned to play the ukulele a bit. Perhaps, after watching his dad play, it may capture Gabriel’s interest enough to want to learn how to play.

Here’s a video that features two of Gabriel’s favorites: the ukulele and Steven Curtis Chapman. Happy Friday and remember to savor the simple moments in life!

 

 

(Photo credit: Edwin M Escobar)

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Prayer & Devotion

Abundantly

sheep grazing

It’s been a few weeks since my last post on Psalm 23. Yesterday, I really needed to dwell on this. If you need it too, click here to see all the previous posts based on my husband’s teaching of this psalm. For now, here are some thoughts on verse 5.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

The Shepherd just took the sheep through the dark valley and has led them to the fresh, green pastures on the higher ground. Shepherds do not lead the sheep through the valley blindly and encounter green pastures by accident. According to W. Phillip Keller (A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23), the shepherds went ahead and prepared the land for their sheep. We can trust that our Good Shepherd goes before us and prepares the way. He gives us the needed nourishment for our souls through His Word. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

But, there are still enemies lurking about. Yet, the sheep can trust in the protection of their Shepherd, so that even in the midst of potential danger, they can eat peacefully. As we walk through the hills and valleys of life, we are surrounded by enemies. The Lord knows how to feed and strengthen us with His timely Word even while we face opposition.

In the second half of the verse, King David writes, “You anoint my head with oil.” In my husband’s study, he discovered that the root of this word, “anoint”, has the meaning of “to be fat.” In this present culture of fad diets and exercise programs, “fat” may not be a very desirable thing, but at the time that this psalm was written, fat was regarded as being prosperous. Moreover, oil was considered an expensive luxury. Now, consider who David was addressing … The Lord Himself is the one anointing our heads to bless and prosper us abundantly.

At the end of the day, before you go to sleep, what is your last thought? Is it a replay of all your mistakes from today? A week ago? 5 years ago? Is it anxiety over the uncertainty of the future? Is it anguish over a present trial that won’t seem to go away? Replace those thoughts and meditate on the truths in Psalm 23 and consider … The Lord of this universe is your soul-satisfying, ever-present, and abundantly generous Shepherd. And before you read the last part of verse 5, take a moment, pause, and remember who your Shepherd is and all He has done and will do for you. Then, you can say with the psalmist …

“My cup overflows.”

 

 

(Photo credit: Sarah Macmillan)

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)

Coping with the Challenges, Trusting God

Falling

Danger sign: Unprotected fall hazardYou’ve heard the saying, “What goes up must come down.” But what about the opposite of that? When something is down, should it get back up? In life, when my mind fills with thoughts of defeat, I really don’t want to get back up. My erroneous logic says, “Why get back up if I’m going to fall again?” It would seem that staying down is the easier option.

Too many times, I’ve been tempted to give up on my son, Gabriel. Feeling inadequate to homeschool him and, moreover, to parent him brings me such despair that I try to convince myself that staying down in the pit is better than climbing halfway only to fall to the bottom over and over again.

Are there things in your life that are bringing you down? Trials that feel too heavy to bear. Perhaps there are sin issues that have not been dealt with that are a cause for your stumbling. What do you do when, in this walk of life, you stumble and fall hard? Maybe you’re one of those that can quickly get back up. In my middle school, many students would hang out in a large open area during the lunch break. Once in a while, someone would run across, lose his footing, and take an embarrassing fall. If he’s not badly hurt, he would quickly get up and run at the same pace as if nothing happened, hoping not to hear all the snickering behind him. And life moves on. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those, especially when it comes to the spiritual falls. It takes a lot to get me up and what inevitably gets me up and walking again is God’s faithful Word.

“… for the righteous falls seven times and rises again,
but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.” (Proverbs 24:16)

Seven is the number of fullness. The falls can reach the maximum, but the righteous gets back up each time. I’ve fallen a lot. Too many to count. And though it may not be immediately after each fall, I have always risen again. Not on my own, though, for I cannot say I’m righteous apart from Jesus Christ. And this I am assured of: I can be in the deepest pit of despair, but Christ’s power will always enable me to get up and start climbing again.

 

(Photo credit: Johnny Surabaya)