church and our kids – 2

[a follow-up to yesterday’s post, by Sandra Wood Peoples]

I sat in the waiting room while James was in the back for his speech therapy. Most weeks, the other moms, siblings, and I all stay busy with the variety of electronic devices we bring. That day, however, I decided to be brave and start some discussions. We talked schools, doctors, and finally, church.

“I’ve read 90% of families with special needs kids don’t go to church. Do you guys think that’s true?” I asked.

The others moms nodded their heads. They all talked about how hard it is to go to church. One tries to have her son sit with her in the service, but he makes lots of noise and she’s afraid of disrupting others. Another mom said her church has a very loud children’s service and her girls can’t handle all that sensory input. Every one of the moms in the room had reasons not to go.

Let’s be honest—it’s not easy for families like ours to go to church. Most families have a list of excuses why they can’t make it to a worship service, but special needs families have legitimate reasons. But the New Testament talks about the importance of meeting together. The book of Acts gives stories of early churches, the Epistles are written to churches, and even the book of Revelation has praise and warnings for churches. The Christian life is to be lived in community. If we stay home, we are not only hurting ourselves and our families, but we’re also hurting the church, who needs families like ours to be complete.

When we first got James’s autism diagnosis, he was the only special needs child at our church. Because my husband is a pastor, we couldn’t just stay home each Sunday. We also couldn’t shop around for a megachurch that already had an established special needs ministry. We knew God had us at our church for a reason, and that reason included introducing them to the world of special needs.

Now, over two years after his diagnosis, we have a strong special needs ministry. Our church has an occupational therapist and a special ed teacher who stepped up to head the ministry. We offer respite nights every two months for kids with special needs and their siblings. We integrate kids with special needs into our Sunday school classes, Awana program, and Vacation Bible School. We continue to train volunteers to ask about food allergies, know the signs of a seizure, and modify lessons so every child can participate.

It hasn’t been an easy two years. It took a lot of patience on our part. It took a lot of prayer. As James grows, I know we will face more challenges. But I also know God wants us at church, so He will continue to help us find ways to make it happen.

Sandra Peoples is a pastor’s wife and mom to three boys (one with autism and one they are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia). She is the author of Speechless: Finding God’s Grace in My Son’s Autism (available on Amazon). You can connect with her at sandrapeoples.com

church and our kids – 1

We walked up to the registration area for the children’s classes last Sunday at the church we were visiting with our boys. The woman there asked questions to figure out where the boys should go and typed the answers into her computer.

“What are their names? When are their birthdays? Do they have any allergies?”

The questions were easy to answer for our oldest son, but our younger son took more explanation. His birthday does not represent his developmental stage. The computer doesn’t take into account all the variables that would tell the woman where he should go. “Can I type in that he was born in a different year? Would that work?” she asked.

I’ve read that based on the 2000 census, two out of every seven families in the US have a family member with special needs (ranging from autism to Alzheimer’s). I’ve also read that 90% of families with a member with special needs do not attend church. That is a huge “people group” who aren’t being reached.Churches must be able to meet the special needs these families have before they will be able to address the spiritual needs. From what I’m seeing and hearing in the special needs community, churches are working hard to make sure people with special needs are comfortable and safe. I’m thankful for websites like The Works of God Displayed  and The Inclusive Church that are equipping churches of all sizes to be more inclusive.

Churches have a responsibility to meet the special needs of families, and these families also need to take steps to let churches know how they can help.

Here are a few steps we take when visiting a new church so it’s easy for everyone:

  • Call or email the church ahead of time to find out who is in charge of children’s ministry. I use language like, “We will be visiting your church Sunday and have a child with special needs. Who can we contact to make sure our visit is as comfortable as possible for him?”
  • Contact that person directly to let him/her know your family is coming and what your needs are. It allows that person to contact the teachers or volunteers who will be with your child so they can prepare. For example, if your child has an wheat allergy, they can get the pretzel snacks out of the room before you arrive. Also, if your child is older, he may not want to hear his special needs explained in front of him to multiple people. Doing this ahead of time will save him embarrassment.
  • Get to church early enough to know where to go and meet with the person you contacted, if necessary.
  • Bring anything your child will need, including special snacks or sensory toys. I packed James’s back-pack with diapers, extra clothes, and his chewy-tubes.
  • Be honest. Don’t let embarrassment or nervousness keep you from telling those who will be caring for your children what they need to know.

The church we visited did a wonderful job making us feel comfortable and taking care of James. When I picked him up after the service, the teacher in his class asked, “He loves to be tickled, doesn’t he?” I appreciated that they got to know him and weren’t afraid of his lack of communication or special needs!

Sandra Peoples is a pastor’s wife and mom to three boys (one with autism and one they are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia). She is the author of Speechless: Finding God’s Grace in My Son’s Autism (available on Amazon). You can connect with her at sandrapeoples.com

He guides every step

There are days on this journey of special needs motherhood that my heart is plagued by worries and doubts.

My daughter is almost nine, but my mind is still flooded with memories from the early years of her life.  As I think back on those years, guilt washes over me and I begin to question what I could have done differently.

What if I’d known this?  Or done that? Are thoughts that replay often in my mind.

I feel as if I’ve been learning as I go.

And I have.

Because no one handed me a manual explaining how it was going to be, mapping out the path I was supposed to follow.

But there was always Someone, guiding every step.
Looking back I ponder
Questions plague my heart
Did I fight my hardest
Did I do my part?
The days in the beginning
Have grown into a blur
“What ifs” and “should haves”
Make me feel unsure
Dwelling on the past
Causes too much pain
If I could start over
Would I do the same?
But hindsight’s twenty-twenty
When viewing from today
Through worries of tomorrow
Doubts also try to sway
It’s dangerous to wallow
Allowing fears to win
Because it’s now we’re living
Not in the might have been
And then I pause to thank Him
For leading all the way
He’s guided every moment
Of every yesterday

“This is what the LORD says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.”   Isaiah 48:17

~Rachel

Rachel is a child of God, blessed wife and stay-at-home mom to three, the oldest of whom has a variety of needs surrounding her visual impairment (resulting from her severe prematurity) and mild intellectual disability.  She blogs at This Journey Our Life, to share her personal journey of special needs parenting, encouraging others who find themselves on a similar path.

home

from Kaylee Page this morning for you, mammas…

blessings to you and yours today

To you, mommas who face foreign lands daily:

Details aside, it’s been a long week.

And so….My mom (bless her heart!), came up to spend the weekend with me as my husband travels to Israel for his MBA study abroad. Her car was parked behind mine so when needing to run an errand I hopped in her car and heard:

Hold on… to me as we go

As we roll down this unfamiliar road

And although this wave is stringing us along

Just know you’re not alone…Cause I’m going to make this place your home

Settle down, it’ll all be clear

Don’t pay no mind to the demons, They fill you with fear

The trouble it might drag you down

If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you’re not alone….Cause I’m going to make this place your home

I wept. The entire way to the store. (Granted, this is only 2 miles).  But still. I wept.

I’m going to make this place your home. For several years now I have had this deep longing for home, for even a glimpse or sense of home.

Foreign land. That’s where I hang out these days (these years!). In a very foreign land. It’s not all due to being a mom of a daughter with special dietary needs.  Some of it does. Not all though. Life as an adult continuously changes — I grew up in the same home from age 2-18. In the past 10 years I’ve lived in 10 different homes, gotten married, had a baby, changed jobs, my husband changed jobs (he also spent 18 months getting his MBA – which was change to our routine) and we’ve found a new church. Then a miscarriage. Then progesterone to try to get pregnant. Then no baby. And the day to day of caring for Bella and the special ways she needs to eat.

As a kid, home was all around me. Things didn’t change much back then. But things change all the time these days!

And it’s hard for me to find home. IT ALL FEELS SO FOREIGN.

I feel like time is passing but I’m not anywhere to be found – at least not fully found. I’m ok. It’s just that I’m just blowing around in the wind.  And as I blow around it’s all dusty, dry and unclear.  I don’t know the upside from the downside, no idea where the ground is to place my feet, no idea how to look up, no idea how long I’ve been blowing around and no idea when this wind blowing me will cease.

I’ve wished and prayed the fog would lift, that I could just make sense of it all and move on into the next season – IMMA LEAVE THIS HARD SEASON BEHIND.

But…I keep waiting for the next season.  I want the next season, because this season doesn’t make sense. This season has me confused. OYE! THIS SEASON ISN’T PART OF MY PLAN…

So I want to be somewhere where it does make sense and I get to write the story.

Please & Thanks!

As I wept… in the quiet of my heart, God assured and reassured me that this place I find myself…. It, too, can be home.  So of course, I wept some more. Grief went all up on me and got itself some hope.

And through wet cheeks I (for some reason, because I am really bad at recalling Biblical folks who’ve trenched the roads and navigated the journey before us) thought of other women (and an animal?) who have faced the challenge of venturing and living in a foreign land:

How not to find home: Sarah (Lot’s wife)… she so badly wanted to feel home that she turned around (poor thing turned to salt!)  Lesson noted, God. He calls us to stop looking back, stop looking for what it is we want, but look to where He has lead and where he is leading. He calls us to his presence where home resides.  We seek him, lest we turn to a PILE. OF. SALT.

How to find home:  Ruth (eventual wife of Boaz)…. shows ultimate family loyalty which results in her leaving home.  Lands her in a totally foreign place. Eventually she winds up wed to Boaz, but instead of running from where she is supposed to be, she endures it. It was probably difficult, confusing, and most-certainly uncertain.  But she sticks it out. She even proactively does what she can, then waits on God for the rest. She found home in an unfamiliar land.

How home finds us:  The sheep…. We’re told the Shepherd leaves 99 to find 1. We’re not told why the sheep “wanders” off.  I think the church usually plays it up like the sheep ran away like a bandit, in complete defiance of the Shepherd. But what if the sheep just got lost – plain lost. And we always imagine the sheep hanging over a cliff with the Shepherd quickly saving it’s life with a candycane shaped staff. While that’s true in some journeys, I wonder if sometimes the Shepherd is okay with a sheep being away from the herd for a bit – maybe it’s necessary? I don’t know.  WHO KNOWS! Maybe there are countless reasons and maybe those reasons don’t even all make sense to us as the sheep. All we know is that if a sheep gets lost, it will be found… and it’s found in the presence of the Shepherd, not the location of the sheep.

Home. It’s where our heart is. Home isn’t found in routine, certainty, and familiarity (though we try really hard to make this home).  Home is found in the determination to stick it out and in the believing in the unbelievable, and trusting that the unanswerable will be made clear (or survivable) and that if nothing changes the way we want it to, that our God is for us and with us. With us on the journey leaving home behind (like Sarah), with us as we work our foreign fields of life (like Ruth) and in those moments where we are lost (or maybe it’s just we can’t tell anyone where we are).  

We can be home.

Home can be in the fog. 

Home can be in the uncertain. 

To those of you feeling lost and a bit blurry —- Welcome home!