Community … (Not the TV show, but kindof that too, I guess?)

Community.  I’m starting to see God’s purpose in it.  And I wasn’t thinking of the TV show Community when I started this, but yeah, they are dead on when it comes to what I’m talking about here too.  It’s a quirky take on a group of friends doing life together.   Sometimes life gets messy.  But the mess is always worth the community.

I’ve been seeking and learning from some other special needs moms.  I’ve said before, this doesn’t always come naturally to me.  So I’m not talking about tons of women knowing all my stuff.  I mean it’s one, maybe two other people.  Because we all know how women can behave.  (Women.  And their behavior.  Just look at reality TV shows.  You don’t see any “Men Behaving Badly”, “Dance Dads”, or “Real Husbands of Atlanta/Nashville/Whoville.  Holy cow, I think I found my next blog post …) Back to reaching out ~ It’s not that I really had to reach out, our lives are kindof on display of late so I don’t need to say much.  But one conversation leads to another and before you know it we realize we are all dealing with a little of the same thing with our special needs kids.  Different but the same.  Who knew?!  Funny how that happens in community.  Sometimes we are able to help give each other answers.  Sometimes every one’s answer is a little bit different for their family.  And that’s okay.  But what it ends with is this.  I’ll pray for you and you pray for me.  Community.

We’ve been searching for our son’s place in church.  With his special needs and being a teenager we are finding it’s becoming more and more isolating for him and us.  We’ve never been the game night, group potluck, kind of family that was over-involved anyway.  But we miss the little we did.  We want it for our sons.  Disability is difficult on our own.  But so is cancer, losing a job, divorce, aging parents, wayward children, pornography, alcoholism … the list is never-ending.  I think God made us to come together in our time of need, our time of celebration, whatever the season of life.  We need Community.

As Christians we can have a tendency to retreat from the things of this world.  We can get caught up in our own little world and want nothing to do with those things that might stretch us, scare us or even hurt us a little.  But I don’t think that’s how Jesus saw us living this life.  That’s not how he lived life.  He lived life speaking with the messy people.  Sinners just like me.  John 1:14 says, “He made his dwelling among us…”  I wonder if he would have been out amongst the trick or treaters?  desiringGod put out a blog that addresses just that regarding Halloween.  I love this.  So many times our churches say Halloween is EVIIIIL.  And yes, it can be just that.  And creepy.  And something I shelter my children’s eyes from.  (Believe me, The Exorcist & Amityville Horror movies still haunt me both day and night!)  But the fun, dressing up like a cute little puppy, going door-to-door, candy-collecting in the neighborhood kind of Halloween?  Man, that’s the stuff of memories!  Some of my favorite childhood memories are of Halloween fun with my brother and sister.  There was nothing more exciting than dumping our candy haul on the kitchen table after walking all over the neighborhood with each other and our friends.  I want my kids to experience the excitement of getting the “good” candy.  I want them to feel the disappointment of receiving the “healthy snack”.  They should know the consequence of the terrible costume choice they made is wearing the mask that is smothering for at least a little while.  I want them to cherish every one of those memories someday.  

And I really want them to know what it means to be involved in a Community.

Bible Verse I’m Loving Today:
John 1:14

On second thought, if you are dressing your children like my brother & I are dressed here then maybe you should be staying in the house after all.  

I don’t even know what I am supposed to be.  A witch? A clown? A witchy clown?  And my brother, well, he is just darn cute in this picture.  But the thing is, he wasn’t really into “cute”.  He was more the “shoot your sister with a BB gun cowboy” type.  

Both of us remember this Halloween.  We both have big smiles on our crazy faces.  So we must have had enjoyed ourselves and had a pretty good candy haul that night.


Are You In To Hire?

Unless you have a child with special needs I’m betting you haven’t heard of the new campaign titled I’m In To Hire

You’ve heard of the Kennedy family – you know, ‘THE’ Kennedy Family – Whatever your political standings or religious and moral beliefs, leave that out of it, the Kennedy’s have done more for the special needs community than anyone I know.  Their various foundations have created and support Special Olympics, The R-Word/Spread the Word to End the Word,  Best Buddies and now, I’m In To Hire.  The I’m In To Hire campaign is a branch of Best Buddies International.  Which is a program I so badly wish we had in our area.  It’s a volunteer program that teams up people, typically other teens and college-age friends, with those with disabilities in one-on-one friendships and in workplaces.  It is such an awesome program.  When our special needs kids are young friendships aren’t that difficult to find.  It isn’t odd to have other mom’s involved all throughout elementary school, even in the middle school years.  But once high school hits, kids start gaining independence.  Even in church youth group no one wants the mom hanging around while the other boys open up about struggles they may be going through.  So forging friendships becomes really difficult for our special needs kids.  Besides mom hanging around, the intellectual differences have become really noticeable at this point.  So finding true friendships and job placement becomes really difficult.

I’m In To Hire … It’s a campaign that is promoting the business benefits of hiring people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  There are a LOT of people in this world that don’t see those benefits.  People that are more concerned with the almighty dollar?  They may see some increased liability?  It takes more time, manpower, more heart?  I don’t know all the reasons for not hiring those with disabilities, but what I do know is there is a boatload of us out in the world with kids that need a place to work once they leave high school … and no place to go.  Many of us aren’t blind to the risks employers would be taking and are even willing to volunteer along with our kids just to get them out in the world.

So what are we doing you ask?  Well, some rely on local sheltered workshops.  They are great options for those that can make that setting work.  Our local workshop is not-for-profit and commensurate wage based.  Huh?  That basically means their pay is based on their output.  However many nuts/bolts they put together is what they get paid for.  My Evan HAAAAATES this kind of work.  Did I mention he hates this?  He will sit in a chair for hours

on end and put three of these things together, if forced, and come home with a paycheck for about $1.16 for four days.  Yep. How many people do you know that like to screw nuts & bolts together?  All day long.  Day after day.  In the same chair.  At the same table. In the same cold room.  In the same 100 year old barn, turned warehouse, turned sheltered workshop.  I think you get my point.  I know it’s a place filled with wonderful people, with their hearts in the right place, trying to do the right thing, with what resources they have been given.  But I just can’t make my son sit in a place he absolutely detests for the rest of his life.  The rest of the world has job options, choices.  What’s the saying, “Do what you love & you’ll love what you do.”?  So the opposite has got to be, “Do what you hate & you’ll hate what you do.”

So we won’t be setting our son up for failure, for hate.  We are in search of something more.  We don’t have oodles of money laying around, no special needs family does.  Special needs is expensive – doctors, therapies, surgeries, special schools, so many ER visits, gas to get there, extra insurances, etc. (This really explained it well.)  But when the only other option for your son is sitting around the house for the rest of his life, you have to start thinking about possibly starting your own business.  Lots of special needs parents are doing just that.  These parents bought a coffee house for their son’s workplace.  This Georgia cupcake bakery is my favorite story and one I would love to emulate.  (But not the actual baking cupcakes part because no one would eat what I bake.  Gag!)  They know there is a bigger purpose in the lives of our special needs kids.  A purpose that Christ is fulfilling.

I am not quite sure what direction God is leading our family in the business world.  We pray every day about this.  Sometimes we pray a lot, depending on how bad that day may be going.  But, if what I’m starting to see happen actually happens … 

Yes, I will be worried about the almighty dollar … all of the special needs people that work in my business will be earning a wage based on so much more than output.  Just being a smile at the door can make my day better in ways no daily total output can equal. They are valuable members of our society and deserve to earn more than pennies a day.  I will welcome those that want to volunteer along side a ‘Buddy’, maybe that’s a parent, and I will strive to find that thing that gives each person joy, validation and a way to share with others their God-given gifts.  

And I will definitely be In To Hire …

Bible Verse I’m Loving Today:
Ecclesiastes 3:15
God seeks what has been driven away.

I’m Done!

She’s done.
This is kindof how I feel sometimes.

We get some of our best sayings from our kids.  But Evan has had some really good ones that have stuck with us through the years.  There’s “Mom’s a punk.”, said in jest I think, I hope.  And “Mommy’s beautiful!”, if he’s trying to get something he wants.  But our favorite and the longest lasting is “Beat your butt”.  Now if you don’t know Evan, I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that his speech can be a challenge for many to understand.  But for whatever reason, this comes out clear as a bell every single time he says it.  EVERYONE understands him when he says this; pastors, school principals, grandmas and aunts.  And he loves to tell people that he is going to Beat Your Butt.  Those that know Evan have fun with it.  We know it is, believe it or not, a term of endearment.  But try and explain that to the grocery check-out girl.

Lately, his new saying is “I’m Done!”  As in, “I’m done with haircuts!”, “I’m done with school!” “I’m done with doctor!” and my personal favorite, “I’m done with Luke Bryan!”.  (Aren’t we all?)  Anytime he doesn’t want to do something, anything, most things of late, he informs us, “I’m done!”  And like I eluded to, he is done with most things that involve any kind of work, stress … or the music of Luke Bryan.  

And you know what? Lately, I’m done too.  I want to put myself in timeout, lock myself in the bathroom.  I want to stick my fingers in my ears and sing “La-la-la! I can’t hear you!”  I want a permanent vacation.  I want to be the ostrich with her head stuck in the sand.  But unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way.  

I want to be done with those things that hurt my baby who isn’t so much of a baby or anywhere close to it anymore.  It’s painful to see your child that was once stared at with smiles because his disabilities were cute now being stared at with trepidation and given a wide berth.  Is it because they don’t want to risk speaking with someone they don’t completely understand?  Maybe it’s the struggle of how to explain special needs to their own gawking kids?  Or maybe they’ve seen the more unpredictable side of growing into an adult with special needs and don’t want to be near that either?  It has been a pleasant surprise to see a couple of unexpected people connect with us.  I wonder if they’re more understanding because they may have experienced the strain of finding a place of acceptance … And it’s a disappointment to see others become silent when I thought they would be my son’s biggest champions.

So yes, I want to be done.  Done with the pain of seeing my son rejected.  Done with seeing him in physical pain.  Done with the pain that comes from those that I hoped knew better.

And as usual, God has something bigger for me to learn from the trials of this world …  I am reminded of Christ’s battle before and on the cross.  God the Father is very familiar with seeing his son rejected, in great physical pain and seeing those who fell away when the going got tough.  And if he didn’t let Christ out of it, if he saw it was for the better good, (duh, Christ saved us with that big plan!) he must be seeing our much more minor trial is somehow for our betterment as well.  And Christ, after knowing it was his Father’s will to continue to his sinless death, offered forgiveness to others.

I’ve said it before, I know God’s plan is way better that whatever scheme I could set up. So, while I so badly want to be done, I guess I may as well settle in and let him do his work.  

Bible Verse I’m Loving Today:
Luke 22:42
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
Song I’m Loving Today:
Done by The Band Perry  (Please enjoy the Perry brothers haircuts – or lack there of.)