Community

Why My Path is Different From Yours

I know better than to compare my son to his peers, who have no special needs. But the desire for affirmation, to know that we’re ok (because most days, it honestly feels like we are all but ok), has often led me to the comparison trap, even comparing my child and myself to other special needs families. Though some of us, who have children with special needs, seem to walk side by side, we each have our own path to follow. And even though I might know what it’s like to walk in your shoes, it’s good to know we are hiking along different trails.

At a time when you don’t want to feel alone in your hardship, why is this a good thing?

Special Needs Mom, Don't compare.

Because We Are Different

I’m a checklist-dependent, time-obsessed, overly organized control freak. But that all changed when I had children. The constant changes that come from having children in your life fought against every part of my Type A personality. And the way I handle my son’s special needs may be different from the way you respond to yours. But that difference could be useful. When I face the same battles day in and day out, my reactions can sometimes be on auto-pilot. But seeing how a friend handles her special needs child allows me to see these challenges from a different angle and perhaps change my responses for the better.

Because Our Children Are Different

The world of special needs covers such a wide spectrum of disabilities and challenges. Some are physically exhausting, while others zap your mental energy. Some disabilities are visible, while others are only apparent to those who get close enough to notice. Some children are high-functioning with the potential to be more independent, while others will likely need assistance for the rest of their lives. We can find hope, encouragement, and inspiration from each other’s stories, but it makes no sense to compare our children’s progress. Their successes will occur at different times and to different degrees, and we will celebrate them all.

Because God Works in a Variety of Ways

It had been a while since I checked my social media feed, but something gripped me, pierced me right in the center of the most tender part of my emotions. Not at all prepared for the sudden outpouring of tears, I strained to hold them back until I relocated to another room, away from any possible inquiry from my children.

What I read was a brief account of a child with special needs, who had made leaps and bounds beyond what others expected. The post was full of hope and rejoicing and did not warrant the sorrowful reaction I gave it. But for that moment, I grieved. I grieved for the mountains that my own child had not scaled, the doors that were not opened for him, and the obstacles that remained in his path.

But my husband wouldn’t let me dwell too long on the comparisons, knowing it’s an exercise in futility. He reminded me that God is working in that family as He is in ours. It won’t look exactly the same.

We are different.

Our children are different.

But we have the same God, working in a variety of ways to bring about the same glorious outcome.

“On earth, the underside of the tapestry was tangled and unclear; but in heaven, we will stand amazed to see the topside of the tapestry and how God beautifully embroidered each circumstance into a pattern for our good and His glory.”
~ Joni Erickson Tada

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!

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.)

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.

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)

Gospel

A Thanksgiving Memory

One of my most memorable Thanksgivings happened about 15 years ago.

In my family, Thanksgiving was always a quiet celebration. Long distances separated us from most of our extended family, so holiday gatherings usually consisted of my parents, my two siblings, and me. On this particular Thanksgiving, it was the first time we actually went around the dinner table, taking turns sharing with everyone what we were thankful for. Strange that we never participated in this very common tradition before. But, on that night, we truly had something to be thankful for. We had sat together at that table numerous times as a family, but on that day, we gathered as part of a different family, God’s family.

It didn’t happen all at once. The Lord saved me first. It was lonely. My mother accused me of trying to break up the family, and breathed threats of disowning me. A couple of years later, when my brother expressed a desire to come to church with me, I was hesitant. Surprisingly, my parents didn’t protest, but I could tell they were watchful. My brother soon came to know The Lord, and my sister followed. Certainly I was thankful that God saved me and my siblings, but my heart continued to ache for my parents. Fearful of another heated confrontation with them if I brought up spiritual things, I decided to write them a letter.

25/366I wrote the letter, intending for them to read it during the last days … something like “If you’re reading this and you’re wondering where I am and why the world is the way it is, go to the book of Revelation.” They were so against Christianity that I didn’t think I would see the day when God would soften their hearts. In my lack of faith, I just fast-forwarded to the end, thinking they may never turn to Christ. I sealed the letter, wrote “To Mom and Dad” on it, and placed it in between some of my books. A few days letter, I had second thoughts about the letter and decided to tear it up. I looked between books and between pages, but that letter was nowhere to be found. I panicked, wondering if my parents found it. They made no mention of it, and eventually, I forgot about it.

At this special Thanksgiving dinner, when it was my turn to share, I told my family how thankful I was that God had mercy on each and every one of us. From the day I was saved, I prayed everyday for each of them, and sitting at that table with me were four answers to my prayers. I told them about the letter that I wrote, and expressed how grateful I was that God saved my parents before the end times. “I lost the letter, but it doesn’t matter now anyway.”

To my surprise, my mom told me she found the letter on the floor while she was cleaning. By God’s providence, it fell out from between the books. They read it and were fearful. They thought I had been brainwashed by my church. But, they wanted to remain calm about it, so instead of ordering me to stop going to church, they decided to come with me … to check it out and make sure I was ok. Sunday after Sunday, they came. They were there to try and rescue me, but God had other plans. He rescued them.

Is there someone that you’re praying for? Someone that you are longing to see the fruit of salvation manifested in their life? Perhaps you’ve been praying for a long time. Don’t grow weary in praying. We have a great and merciful God, “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

Perhaps you are the one running from God, the object of someone else’s fervent prayers. Don’t wait another minute. Turn from the broad path that leads to destruction, and He will show you the narrow path that leads to life.

“Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2)

 

(Photo credit 1: Sgt. Pepperedjane)
(Photo credit 2: Freckled Moon)

Family Life

When No One is Watching

We recently had some minor remodeling done on our living room and hallways. Though it displaced some of our normal activities, it wasn’t enough that we had to completely stay out of the house. So, on and off for about 2 weeks, we had a brother in the Lord, who works as a general contractor, come in during the day to work on the repairs. He would arrive early in the morning, and I tried to keep the kids busy and undistracted by the construction activity and noise. Movement around the house was limited, so the children had to stay engaged with each activity I gave them. At times, they complained or got bored, especially when they had to stay in their room for long periods of time. I can’t blame them. But what I realized is that as soon as our friend left in the afternoon, my countenance and tone of voice drastically changed. With no one else within earshot, the patience I maintained all day was completely gone.

"Reserved for Parents with Screaming Kids" Parking SpotThis really ought to be no surprise since I’ve exercised this selective self-control before. Countless times, I have gone to the store with the kids, kept my composure while they acted up, and let out all my fury once we got inside the car. My self-control in public can be selfishly motivated, primarily desiring to keep myself, rather than my children, from embarrassment.

This desire to look good in front of others my pastor calls the “Facebook life”. Whether it’s Facebook, or blogging, or our own homes, when we invite someone in, we show them a window into our world. But, we tend to present just the cleaner, nicer windows that look into the well-kept living room with the parents and children sitting happily together. I’m sure there are those precious moments, but we all know it’s not always like that. Of course, we need to exercise discretion. It’s not necessary for us to air all our dirty laundry. But it is necessary to consider if we are being one way towards certain people (usually those closest to us) and another way towards everyone else. How awful if my children ever said to me, “Mommy, how come you’re so nice to us when other people come to our house?”

Do I fear man more than God? Do I desire to please man more than God? Do I seek glory from man rather than the glory of God?

Who are we? Children of God. Servants of Christ. Then, let us “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which [we] have been called” (Ephesians 4:1). Let us be to all men who He made us to be, so that He would receive all the glory.

 

(Photo credit: Enokson)

Family Life, Savoring Simple Moments

Enjoy the Show

Near our house, nestled between a baseball field and a cemetery lays an empty field. For those who have lived in our city within the last 20 years, they may not have a clue what this place used to be. But I have many fond memories of this place as it was a destination for me, my siblings, and my parents on many family nights. It used to be full of people and activity. If you were to explore this desolate area, you would notice metal poles in the ground evenly spaced throughout and a couple of huge white walls towering over the vast openness of this place. This used to be the home of our local drive-in movie theater. Thousands of these establishments were found throughout the United States, but sadly, many have gone extinct, making way for the more luxurious stadium-style seating of multiplex cinemas and IMAX theaters.

Buena Vista: Abandoned Comanche Drive-In Movie Theater

Fraser Valley Pulse Spotlight - Twilight Drive-In Movie TheatreWe are so fortunate to have a drive-in theater still near us … only about a 15-minute drive. And this summer, it has become a family favorite. What’s not to love about the drive-in movie theater? You can bring your own snacks, recline in your seat, or have a little tail-gate party before the sun sets and the feature presentation begins. With the back seats removed, we laid out blankets on the floor of our van and enjoyed the experience of an outdoor movie theater on a beautiful, warm summer night. The only down side is that the movie let out so late. We made do by dressing the kids in their pajamas, and they fell fast asleep on the way home. We’ll definitely be coming back.

If you have one nearby, I hope you get a chance to go before it eventually ends up in the drive-in graveyard.

 

(Photo credit 1: eliduke)
(Photo credit 2: Fraser Valley Pulse & Metro Vancouver Pulse)