Tag Archive | complex

Textbook Freneticism, Part Deux

So my daughter’s Freshman year of college has concluded and it’s time to return the rented textbooks.  This is making me re-visit the textbook acquisition process, to some degree, by way of a bit of a “de-brief” to avoid some of the pitfalls of this year’s search scenario to assist in streamlining future endeavors…

The winter semester began with an exhaustive & exhausting search for the best possible prices in hopes of not needing to reinvent this wheel in the future and to be able to better advise my other college friends in their own book searches…

The final source of this semester’s purchases was a bit of an inadvertent find.  I had already run several searches for Individual books at the website when I noticed an ability to search for Multiple Books simultaneously!  Here’s what we found initially at DirectTextbook.com:

Lowest Combined Price (All Bookstores)

*Click the book’s price to go to the bookstore

New Used Ebook Rental
9780393340730 – The Lifespan of a Fact TextbookRush MarketTextbookRush Market + $4.58 +
9781285436500 – Writing Analytically KnetbooksKnetbooks + + + $23.41
9780872206335 – Five Dialogues : Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, Phaedo Half.comHalf.com + $2.20 + +
9780872206410 – God KnetbooksKnetbooks + + $13.94
9780205863792 – The DK Handbook : Researching, Desigining, Documenting, Proofreading, Arguing, Writing, Editing, Revising AlibrisAlibris $8.00 + + +
(1 new and 2 used and 2 rental) $51.01
Shipping and Handling: $10.47

Lowest Total (All Bookstores) $61.48

Applicable Coupons

http://www.directtextbook.com/multiprices/14243

I don’t remember if I actually clicked on the individual coupon links from the above table.  I may have done so to also compare those coupons to ones available from this helpful site:

https://www.retailmenot.com/coupons/books?c=8441883

By the way, I read about the RetailMeNot.com website from one of the many articles perused to enlighten this year’s textbook search process.  Those articles were found by searching for best or cheap and textbook in various search engines, I believe.  Some of those articles were what inspired the original “Textbook Freneticism” posting, hoping that My Post may assist others, and be a good reference for me/us again, when needed…

Based on our experiences with the Fall Semester, we still began looking at the college campus’ bookstore, Barnes & Noble.  We input my daughter’s class schedule at the campus B & N site to get a listing of required materials for each of her classes.  We discussed them to determine which ones she actually Needed.  I created an electronic document containing all of the info on her schedule, and the course requirements.  This helped to document the baseline data from which we would then work.  We discussed my daughter’s preferences for material style based on her first college semester (hard/soft-cover vs binder style vs electronic, etc.) including whether she would prefer to own an item.  Since my daughter has ADHD her learning style needs were also considered along with the knowledge that she was late in returning some rental books last semester and ended up being penalized financially here.  The formatting choice and B & N price then became our baseline with which to compare all the search results…

Armed with the pared down preferential list, and including the results in the electronic doc we returned to online searching.  This searching was facilitated by the fact that the Fall semester’s Barnes & Noble “low price guarantee” fiasco meant that I already had a substantial list of websites to review…I had hoped to analyze the veracity of the info available on some of the aggregating sites by confirming details at the source site, but I never was able to wade that  far into the weeds.  A relatively cursory view of the sites makes them appear to offer reasonably similar results, at least as far as pricing and vendors go.  Some include potential coupons and some calculate total cost with shipping.  I didn’t notice any overtly stating “free” returns though at least one site took into consideration the “buy back” (by them presumably) discount in their net pricing…

Several sites allowed for keeping multiple items within their system though I don’t believe any of the  others did the same type of overall low-price comparison like DirectTextbook.com did…So this DT site is still my planned Go-To site going forward.

SlugBooks.com shows several options in a table manner and I believe it can line up multiple books visually in its table/column format.  It also has several articles that discuss discount shopping for textbooks that can be helpful (a number of sites have articles, but that’s not the focus here).  Here’s a view of the results choices the columns/table includes:

List Price Amazon AbeBooks ValoreBooks Purchase Chegg ValoreBooks Rental Amazon Rental
You currently have no books on your list. Please search using the bar above!

 

BooksPrice.com keeps multiple searches on internal tabs within its webpage.  This allows for easy flipping between your choices.  It also allows you to choose among formats for textbooks and to exclude particular vendors to narrow the results available to some degree.  Here’s an example of the first three results from a recent search:

Store Name Condition Availability Term Price Shipping Total Price Go to Store
ebay
Exclude / Preferred
Used [+] Available $4.16 Free $ 4.16 Go to
ebay
Thriftbooks.com
Exclude / Preferred
Used [+] In Stock $3.79 $0.99 $ 4.78 Go to
Thriftbooks.com
Abebooks
Exclude / Preferred
Used Available $5.23 Free $ 5.23 Go to
Abebooks

 

CheapestTextbooks.com orders results by price; it also contains internal tabs, but these are for different format options on an individual book.  They do provide a column for coupons and deals and give sufficient info there to make informed choices.  You can  click directly on the choice to be taken to the vendor to complete your purchase, but this is a feature that most of the sites seem to have.  Here is an example of the page’s formatting showing a couple of results:

Used New Rent eBook Sell Back

Best Buying and Renting Options – Total includes shipping

Store  Condition Coupons & Deals  Price Shipping  Total
Barnes & Noble.com
(Marketplace)
Used $2.00
as of 1 second ago
$3.99
Amazon
(Marketplace)
Used $3.98
as of 1 second ago
$3.99

 

DealOz.com lays out many options in columns and highlights certain features in red to draw one’s attention to the best price within a format or other helpful info.  Here’s an example of what a search at this site would return:

Sort by

Price

Condition

Shipping

Coupons

Cash Back

Total

Store

10  Used
Marketplace
+$3.99

Standard: 4-14
Amazon Marketplace
 
Featured
10  New
Marketplace
+$3.99

Standard: 4-14
Amazon Marketplace
 
Featured
10  Used
Marketplace
+$2.64

Standard: 5-14

 

Unfortunately the DealOz.com copy/paste  above doesn’t show how well formatted the page is…check out the actual site to get a better idea of how this site may work for you…

 

BigWords.com calls itself the “uber-marketplace” and does have a wide ranging search capability.  It offers internal pop-up clickable links on the results to give extra helpful info for decision-making.  Here’s an example of their results:

  • TYPE
  • PRICE
  • S/H
  • BUYBACK/DEALS
  • TOTAL
  • Abebooks

    Details

    USED$5.84$2.64

    $0.58

    $7.90

  • Amazon Marketplace

    Details

    USED$3.98$3.99 $7.97

Like the copy/paste previously, this doesn’t accurately reflect the BigWords.com ease of usage…so please visit the site to see its format.

 

I was just visiting the DirectTextbook.com site and couldn’t easily find the Multiple Book Search function.  So please use this below site and change the ISBNs to include the books you want to search for!  It was apparently God’s mercy that I ever found this multiple book search at all!!!!

http://www.directtextbook.com/multiprices/14243

Use the box on the upper left of the page to input the desired books’ ISBNs and then click the “update results” link near the top of the page.  I really hope this works for you as well as it worked for us!  Blessings…

BookFinder4U.com also searches a large marketplace for many options.  It shows the country of origin and user’s ratings of various sellers to assist in your choices.   Another nice feature is that is shows the shipping times on the results page, which can aid in selections when time is of the essence.  Here’s an example of some of their results:

Store Name Book Type Price Shipping [?] Total [?] Availability [?] Tax Store Rating  
usa
<Marketplace>
Used
2.00
USD
3.89
4-14 days
Best Price
5.89
You save 98%
In Stock
usa
<Marketplace>
Used
2.00
USD
3.99
4-14 days
In Stock
usa
<Marketplace>
Used
3.15
USD
3.49
4-14 days
In Stock PA

 

AbeBooks.com was recommended in one of the articles that I read initially.  It also came up in many of the marketplace searches within aggregating websites and seems to have its own marketplace capability.  It has the distinction of also searching “rare books”.  I went there to verify pricing/terms when selecting to purchase from there based on a multi-search from DirectTextbook.com.  I believe the results lined up OK…

ValoreBooks.com was referenced in several of the aggregate search sites and seems to also do some aggregate searching itself.  It chunks the details in just a few columns so it’s not as easy to lose your place visually on the page compared to some sites with many columns, a bonus with attentional challenges in play…

Chegg.com also comes up frequently in aggregate searches.  It was the go-to textbook site for my currently-in-college son for a while (I think he prefers Amazon.com now with an Amazon Prime student membership giving free shipping) …I believe this is also the site that offered a free preview of a textbook which could really help when waiting on a shipment (details in my previous “Freneticism” posting).  I went here to check out prices mentioned on other sites.  It also came up as one of the top 3 least cost vendors when only wanting to purchase from one source in the DirectTextbook.com multisearch I ran…

Here is the free preview from Chegg, which appears to offer viewing, and perhaps testing of etext features…and I encountered no other vendor offering this service!

http://reader.chegg.com/reader/book.php?id=PR_9781305161726&cart-params=Trackid%3D29bcebde%26instacc_cart%3D1%26ii%3D

 

Textbooks.com is another searchable site by ISBN and it also showed up in some of the aggregate site searches…

Half.com was a highly recommended site by one of the articles I read on textbook searching online.  I went to this site because one of the books we wanted was cheapest there.  I set up the purchase but for some reason it was cancelled by the seller.  I had been leery of going through an eBay company, for no rational reason, so that order cancel reinforced my baseless distaste.  I ended up getting the book for twice the half.com cost from another source after running a secondary book search for items that weren’t known before classes started…which meant I ultimately had several items to data crunch in another multi-search at DT…

Bookbyte.com occasionally shows up in aggregate searches.  I believe it was also referenced in one of the articles I read.

BookScouter.com clearly lines up many sellers making it easy to see the price and condition gradients.  It also looks like it recruits books to buy so it may be a good source for getting some money back on unneeded books.

TextbookRentals.com may have been another site recommended by some of the articles that I read.  I went there to verify pricing from an aggregate site, I believe.  It shows clearly and easily the differences in prices and rental times and seems easy to skim through for details.  It has a slot to show buyback offers as well as purchase pricing all on one page for convenience.

ECampus.com was a source of a couple of our rentals, I believe, though we actually got the items through KNetBooks.com.  Perhaps ECampus operates under many names or has subsidiaries?  It seems to have some degree of a marketplace feature but many of the vendors were from one locale…It also has a clear “sell” capability.

BookFinder.com provides a lot of info in a relatively small space with relatively small print, which can be a bit overwhelming from an ADHD perspective.  It does make it pretty easy to compare details and appears to order items based on price.  Here’s an example of what you might see there:

New books: 1 – 25 of 28

 

TextSurf.com shows basically the same vendors as SlugBooks.com.  It is pretty easy to compare these choices it a glance and uses a descent amount of white space in its presentation which may be easier on the eyes and mind for those with attentional issues.  I didn’t do a deeper analysis to see if TextSurf & Slug prices were comparable…It clearly marks selling options on its search page.  It doesn’t obviously include shipping which impacts cost.  Here’s how results might look:

Buying Options
Amazon $3.98
Save $103.42!
AbeBooks $4.31
Save $103.09!
ValoreBooks $4.72
Save $102.68!
Booksrun N/A
Renting Options
Chegg $21.99
Save $85.41!
ValoreBooks N/A
Booksrun N/A
Digital Options
RedShelf $42.67
Ebook rental (180 days) Save $64.73!

 

BookFace.com shows it’s results alphabetically by vendor, at least while searching.  It also has an easy “sell your copy” feature that likely also searches the marketplace for offers…

AffordABook.com has a very easy on the eyes for someone with ADHD results page.  It appears to list just the one best priced item in a category and shows shipping charges but not coupons.  It may be a good starting search page for someone who doesn’t want to be overwhelmed with too much info but other sites offer more details, so may need consultation.  Here’s how the results might look:

Search Results:

Retailer
Price
Shipping
Final Price
Buy/Rent
$3.98
$3.99
$7.97
(lowest price!)
$4.72
$3.95
$8.67
$21.99
$21.99
$25.00
$3.99
$28.99

Well, this shows the INFO but Not the Appearance of that page…hmm

 

TextbookRush.com is another site from which we made a purchase, though I thinks the deal was found through TextbookDirect and verified at Rush.  The site also offers a “get Cash” button that presumably includes selling back textbooks owned, and based on one page it appears that there is free shipping on the books You sell to them…It appears to also do its own marketplace type searches and offers helpful details like book condition and shipping .

Both BarnesAndNoble.com and Amazon.com were necessary searches according to the B & N Campus bookstore “low price guarantee” where the on-campus store would match pricing from either online vendor, but not their marketplace options unless they were “fulfilled by” the actual store…I don’t believe either store ever offered the best price…though there was a .ca (Canada) stored that seemed to have a best price but we could not actually purchase from them to be shipped to our US address–at least as far as I could tell.

This is a link to the B & N Price Match…

https://bnc.pgtb.me/0X3s0B

I wanted to comment on the only rental we got that included the mailer (packaging & shipping label–all for free!) in the shipment of the textbook.  The return label goes to Campus Book Rentals, but looking that up online suggests using  TextbookUnderground.com.  We apparently rented items from both vendors but only CampusBookRentals.com provided the mailing packaging.  The item from TextbookUnderground offered free return shipping via a printed label, but you have to provide the packaging (we reused some items from book shipments to us)…

The CampusBookRentals.com site offers a “search all at once” option, but don’t know how that actually works out so we’ll need to check that out next semester…

This is about all I’ve got currently on this topic…I don’t have any saved searches on CBR &/or TextbookUnderground so cannot easily describe the results.  I’m considering a third installment on this topic to address the selling the books back option as we have a couple to possibly sell & using those ISBNs may allow a mock search on those other sites…and I may see from the original “Freneticism” posting if there were any other sites I used during the process but didn’t end up recapping here to potentially include in the concluding post.  Also, that possible 3rd posting (theoretical currently) may include an order of usage or preference shorthand to become my/our go-to approach going forward in this domain.

Hopefully someone besides myself or my family finds some useful info here.  I hope to Never need to dive so deeply into textbook searching in the future as this was a complex and confusing process.  The first semester’s searches were especially overwhelming in that some had so many choices (new, used rental, hard/soft/binder,electronic, international, older/cheaper editions, etc), each of which had their own price points, it became incredibly tedious to even attempt to find the best overall pricing.  That’s part of what made the DirectTextbook.com multisearch feature such a Literal Godsend!  Having specified desired formats with my daughter (like no instructor’s versions) and narrowing down the choices to only what was actually needed for her classes we could commence a comprehensive multi-search and get the results within minutes.

Being of both a thorough and penny-pinching nature, I still checked most of these items against the actual source website (not just clicking through) and also reviewed vendors’ coupons from several sources to verify the quality of the actual chosen deals.  These extra measures helped me to feel reasonably confidant that we had gotten near to the best deals we could possibly get on the searched items available at that time from a very active marketplace.

Well, best wishes and God’s Best Blessings to you as you endeavor to also be a good steward of the material resources and time bestowed upon you.  Hopefully I haven’t “squandered” my time, but rather heavily “invested” it in this pretty comprehensive searching process so as to facilitate our (and perhaps your) future textbook explorations, acquisitions, and “exportations”.  –Valerie

Christianity & Judaism–“One in the Olive Tree!”

I recently read a provocative posting about the conversion of a well known atheistic Jew to Christianity…a criticism of the book bearing the testimony of this faith discovery written by a learned Rabbi, who periodically writes for PJMedia.com.  Within the the lively and unfortunately contentious comments section was the below gem…worth further pondering, in my opinion…

I believe this is an historical symbol used by Jewish believers in Jesus…image is from:

http://www.israeltoday.co.il/NewsItem/tabid/178/nid/29231/Default.aspx

This person’s analysis and perspective on the early genesis (excuse the pun!) of Christianity is well thought out and respectfully presented.  I do not have direct personal knowledge of many of the “facts” presented here but I share this person’s writings so that further dialogue, research, and introspection could follow on from this.

As such, to briefly state my current perspective on this topic, I think the very best version of a faith heritage would (likely) be someone who was raised in the traditional Jewish faith and later on came to the “completed” knowledge of Jesus and their personal Lord. Savior, AND Messiah!  I guess even better would be to be raised in a Messianic Jewish household replete with the beauty of the Historical Traditions of Judaism and the fullness of the knowledge of the completeness of the work of the Cross by our King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  It is truly an extreme historical irony that the early leaders of “The Way”–which later became known as Christianity–argued amongst themselves as to whether or not one had to first become a Jew before becoming a Christian…as in being a Christian (in their minds) actually required someone to be a Jew first.  Now the opposite distortion seems to be in play, in order to accept that Jesus is the (Jewish) Messiah you cannot be a Jew, for such a belief negates your very Jewishness–Wow!

In my personal history there is a loose degree of connection to this topic, at least from a theoretical perspective; my own mother was adopted as an infant and the desire to learn about that unknown heritage was (and continues to be) a key motivating factor in my initial interest in Genealogy (before this pastime’s unique additive tendencies took over!).  It is still my hope that eventually my genealogical endeavors will unearth factual Jewish blood in my background (among many other as yet uncovered inherited enhancements of genetic/cultural/historical/racial/geographical etc facets)…even if I never am blessed with that overt cultural biological heritage.  I am so thankful to have been “grafted” into the vine and to be a child of Abraham, by virtue of Faith, if not also by flesh…

I have on several occasions enjoyed teachings by Messianic Rabbis both on the radio and in person.  The richness of the cultural heritage of the Jews is something many of us raised in the Gentile Christian faith cannot really come close to fathoming.  I’ve even said on a number of occasions that it would be amazing for someone as a believer in Yeshua (Jesus) to be able to be fully immersed in some aspects of Jewish cultural tradition, like Hebrew school.  Having attended a Seder (Passover) event hosted by Messianic Jews I found the experience incredibly faith enriching…especially as the host was unashamed to draw our attention to the clear parallels/foreshadowing of traditional Christian beliefs hidden within so many aspects of this treasured historical and traditional observance.

In an ideal world All believers in the One True God of Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob as well as Moses, David, Solomon, Job, and the Biblical Prophets would recognize the Way, the Truth, and the Life that is available for ALL in Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

So enjoy the comment below…and feel free to check out the original article (at the link below) too…The comment was copied in its entirety with no editing on my part…and please if anyone chooses to comment here on this posting be considerate of others in how your phrase things since this is an obviously complex & controversial topic…

https://pjmedia.com/faith/2016/09/21/andrew-klavans-great-good-thing/?singlepage=true

Rabbi Zarmi,

Respectfully, one ought not say that “Christianity is based upon the three synoptic gospels.” That is very much like saying that “Judaism is based upon Leviticus.”

Christianity is based upon the teaching given by Jesus to those “apostles” upon whom Jesus conferred authority, divine assistance, and an explicit mission, to:

1. spread his teaching; and,
2. welcome persons of every nation and tribe into his “kingdom”

To “The Twelve” (with a companion named Matthias replacing Judas Iscariot who betrayed him after the latter died), Jesus promised divine assistance, such that “what [they] bound on earth was bound in heaven, and what they loosed on earth was loosed in heaven.”

He also gave them a liturgical act to be performed as a kind of Temple service parallel to that of priests serving in the Temple. The early Jewish Christians called it the todah or Thanksgiving Offering; the later Greek Christians translated this as “Eucharist.” This act was, all at once, supposed to be Jesus’ reworking of the pascha and a todah and even the korbanot ofYom Kippur and Sukkot, remodeled into a single sacrifice in which the death of Jesus himself was to be endlessly re-encountered through the ages “in an unbloody way.”

In creating this liturgical act, Jesus washed the feet of Simon Peter and the others that they might “have a share in [him],” after the fashion of the Levites whose “share” is G_d. And Jesus commanded them to do this sacrifice “in remembrance” (Gk: anamnesis; Hb: azkarah/zikkaron). In this way Jesus intended to culminate all the sacrificial life of Israel in himself, and to make it the center of the life of the Messianic Kingdom.

Furthermore, although Jesus claimed that he came for “the lost sheep of Israel” (not, mind you, merely Judah; but all Israel), he then told his authorized teachers (the Twelve and the Seventy Two) that he had made them judges in his expanding “tribe of G_d” and royal stewards for his “kingdom of G_d” and told them: “Go into all the world making disciples of all the nations, teaching them whatever I have commanded you, and baptizing them” — the latter being his selected “adoption rite” for entering the covenant people of G_d, parallel to circumcision for the Jew.

Now, none of that involved writing anything down.

Christians call the body of teaching which Jesus gave to those whom he sent out (“apostles”) the “Apostolic Deposit of Faith.”

The 27 books which early Christians called “the memoirs of the apostles” and modern Christians call “the New Testament” are, for Christians, writings which bear witness to the life of Jesus and the initial giving of the Apostolic Deposit of Faith.

I apologize for the length of this (I’m almost done!).

I offer you this clarifying information, Rabbi Zarmi, because I think you and I have corresponded previously here in the comboxes on PJmedia, and I remember you as someone willing to make an effort to not mis-characterize things.

For Christians, Christianity is the Apostolic Deposit of Faith. When Christians divide amongst themselves and disagree on religious matters it is because one group is asking, “Is Doctrine XYZ really part of the deposit of faith?” and another is saying, “Yes” and then the two are disagreeing about who, if anyone, has authority to say that it is or isn’t.

Serious, “orthodox” Christians all hold that Paul of Tarsus and Matthew and Luke and John and James and Peter were allteaching exactly the same deposit, whether by spoken witness or in writing. But all their writings differ in flavor because they were written…
(a.) by different persons,
(b.) in different genres,
(c.) for different audiences,
(d.) to address different needs and topics.

Therefore, it would be an error to (for example) hold that John’s gospel was teaching a different thing from those of Matthew, Mark or Luke; or that Paul’s writings teach a different thing from the gospels; or that the letter of James represented some kind of contrary teaching to Paul.

And consequently one can’t really say Christianity is “based on” a subset of these books, or even all of them together. For the Christian, those books are “based on” the person of Jesus and the teaching he wanted transmitted.

I think the dialogue between Rabbi Jacob Neusner and the Catholic Josef Ratzinger who became Pope (now Pope Emeritus) Benedict XVI is the most instructive on this topic.

See: http://chiesa.espresso.repubbl…

Hopefully I”ll be able to locate the lyrics and music to a very appropriate song…

Jew and Gentile
by Joel Chernoff

Album: The Restoration of Israel
by Joel Chernoff


Jew and Gentile, one in Messiah,
One in Yeshua, one in the olive tree.
Jew and Gentile, one in Messiah,
One in Yeshua’s love.

Help us Father, to love one another,
With humble hearts, Forgiving each other,
Heal our wounds, bind us together,
So the world might believe.

One in Yeshua’s love,
One in Yeshua’s love,
One in Yeshua’s love,
Sing it all together.

These lyrics are from this site (we have this song on a CD “The Road to Jerusalem”):

http://www.invubu.com/music/show/song/Joel-Chernoff/Jew-and-Gentile.html

and this should lead to the music on youtube, hopefully…Enjoy!

Special Needs & Church

I just read the post at the below site about the challenges one family faced surrounding church attendance…that seemed to be generated, in particular, by one church staff person being inflexible and unaccepting of their child’s unique quirkiness…

http://supportforspecialneeds.com/2016/02/10/when-church-special-needs-do-no-mix/  “…we were so tired of fighting for the kids that our hearts weren’t in it to fight for this place; a place we should feel welcome no matter what. It’s exhausting fighting educationally, medically, mentally and socially and top that …We just couldn’t fight to stay in church. It shouldn’t have been, nor should it be that hard. As their parent, I take full responsibility for giving up that fight. I just couldn’t do it.”

I agree with the exhaustion statement above .  Families facing complex special needs scenarios can be overwhelmed and even burned out because of the day-in and day-out battles they face on multiple fronts.  Church should (theoretically) be a place where we can go and be accepted “warts and all” and where our children can be especially embraced in spite of, or even because of, their differences.

But, oftentimes church can be a battleground.  There are a couple of posts at SpecialNeedsParenting.net that outline a pretty ideal scenario of love and acceptance of a very unique autistic young man in a church.  Please see this story at these two links:  http://specialneedsparenting.net/autism-church/  http://specialneedsparenting.net/autism-church-its-a-good-thing-part-ii/

Our family’s experience has been a bit more uneven than this.  When our son with special needs was born we lived in Northern Michigan, about 3 1/2 hours North of the birth hospital.  At that time I was staying with my parents in Metro Detroit with our just 2 year old son after having seen a high risk pregnancy doctor and being told of my twin pregnancy “we’ve got to get the little guy out before he dies” on a Friday, and being scheduled for a premature delivery on the Monday following.  Both twins were needing to stay in the NICU before coming home.  The basically “normal” baby (Brandon) came “home” (to my parents’ home) after 10 days in the NICU, but Josiah remained there for about 2 months before being transferred to the University of Michigan Hospital for Open Heart surgery.

My husband and I had been quite involved in our Northern Michigan church before becoming parents.  We had been the youth leaders/pastors for a period of time and also both very active in the worship ministry.  When it became known that Josiah would be having heart surgery both pastors traveled South to visit with him (and me) in his birth hospital.  It was a fairly awkward visit as the senior pastor was visibly uncomfortable in the presence of this very small (about 4 pounds then, having been 2# 6oz at birth, a condition called IUGR–Intra-Uterine Growth Retardation, very small for gestational age) and sickly premature infant.  They did ask how they could help our family and offered to stay with us at U of M during Josiah’s upcoming heart surgery, but I did not feel “safe” in their presence so declined this “service”.  I suggested that they could have some families in the church either provide meals for my husband, or invite him over for a meal as he was living alone (in order to work) and coming downstate to be with his family each weekend.  This resulted in one dinner invitation for my husband during that extended time of extreme stress and isolation.

Years later we ended up discussing that early time and how uncomfortable we were with how the senior pastor, in particular, handled us and our situation.  There was something about things that never really sat right, though it was hard to pinpoint.  Our friends had also been attending our church during that time and were quite close with my husband in particular (he and our oldest son had both participated in their wedding).  They provided some needed perspective about how our “heart surgery baby” was being handled by our then pastor at that time.  According to them he would brag about the small sick baby from his congregation, kind of like a feather in his cap about how he/the church were doing so much to “meet our needs”.  Apart from that hospital visit (which was a significant drive and Not requested by us) and that one meal for my husband there was nothing done for us by our church…including during multiple surgeries and intensive home interventions from government program workers for about the next two years before we left the area.  I forgot, the Senior Pastor did visit me and the boys in our home at one point, I’m not sure when, and asked what I needed.  When I said that I could really use a friend he exclaimed (in seeming outrage) “I can’t get you friends!”, which wasn’t what I was actually saying.  Needless to say, talking to pastors about “issues” has never been very high on my priority list (and perhaps I’m too picky in this arena given my background in Christian Counseling)…

In the early days after the twins’ birth, when we were finally all back in our own home I heard a very moving story on the local Christian Radio Station.  There was a family that had given birth to a very medically fragile child and they had been surrounded by love and support from their natural and local church family.  This involvement rose to the level of round the clock shifts to provide extra assistance during the early weeks, and perhaps even months, of intensive neediness.  What was portrayed seemed so ideal and so far apart from our own experience that I was very saddened at that time by how unsupported we ended up feeling from our local church family (our natural family being hundreds of miles away and helping us with housing/babysitting during medically based visits).

Because of our son’s complex medical needs, which were all being treated and followed at U of M, a good 3 hours South of our then home, we began to explore the possibility of moving closer to this needed ongoing medical care.  Ultimately my husband went through a job change that allowed him to work downstate and live in my parents’ home for about a year, commuting to our home for the weekends, while I stayed North with our three sons so that we could sell our home ourselves (For Sale By Owner).  The boys and I would head South with their dad for any weeks where Josiah had medical appointments and return home the following weekend.  This situation was extremely stressful for all involved and for the most part we had no support from our local church.  I lived in extreme isolation during the weekdays, rarely leaving the house because of Josiah’s fragility and risk of infection, etc.  In fact I was shocked to find out that the woman I considered my closest friend from that church had been attending a weekly bible study a few houses from my own, but she had never stopped in to see me or the kids nor to check on why we attended church so sporadically, if at all.  That lack of attendance was due to the fact that Josiah contracted life-threatening RSV (Respiratory Synsichial Virus) and required lengthy hospitalizations for it twice in the first year of life–basically taking him out in public was risking his life.

When we finally accomplished moving the entire family downstate and got situated in our “new” home, we began searching for another church home.  As the twins were now toddlers (2), our oldest son 4, and our daughter an infant this was an extremely challenging process.  If we found a church that had sufficient nursery capacity they rarely, if ever, were able to handle the magnitude of Josiah’s behavioral or emotional needs for the duration of a worship service and either I or my husband would need to intervene with him, sometimes multiple times in one service (this was before we knew about “autism”, but even after such a diagnosis we had minimal autism treatment so it was more just an “ah ha” explanation for us about what was going on with him).  This really meant very sporadic church attendance overall as it was very difficult to “get anything” out of a service being so distracted by Josiah’s needs.  The magnitude of those needs was also a major reason why we sought the support and sustenance of a local church “family”, as a way to cope with the massive pressures of the special needs family’s life.

It was a number of years before we began attending our present church and we ultimately went there because it had a bit of a “comfortable old shoe” component to its ambiance for us.  During Clarissa’s infancy I had attended a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) program at that particular church and felt that it had a pretty welcoming atmosphere.  Because of that positive MOPS experience, and because the church was pretty local and seemed relatively welcoming we eventually began attending more and more frequently.

Since our children were then mostly in their elementary years we were no longer battling the nursery situation.  Also, this church has a fairly limited “Sunday School” type programming, so we often just kept Josiah with us during the service in order to minimize some of the upheaval.  Josiah has always had a true worshiper’s heart for the Lord!  This means that either in church or during times of spiritual meaningfulness (family devotions and/or communion, etc.) he was more attentive and/or more behaviorally appropriate than he might otherwise typically have been.  That meant that at least sometimes he was appropriate to attend the kid’s programming, and having him included in some musical kids productions was a definite blessing.

Even though our current church home is relatively “special” friendly there are still glaring times of insensitivity that can be on display.  A couple years back our daughter was nearly moved to tears while at a youth event when she observed how her special brother was not at all appropriately included in a physical activity.  His processing challenges and  poor coordination meant that he was rather bowled over and disregarded during a sporting event.  Clarissa was very sad that the attending leaders were either unaware or unconcerned about how Josiah (and his sister) was being hurt by not being appropriately accommodated.  It would be great if either of them would have been assertive enough to speak up and seek help during such difficult experiences, but that is unlikely to happen.  That means that people in leadership need to develop increased observational skills and sensitivity and perhaps creativity in how they reach out to people and families that are “different” and who may need extra help, patience, or understanding…

Being able to reach out and embrace kids/adults with special needs and their families really should become a primary mission of virtually any local church.  The uniqueness of the needs represented would mean that staff and parishioners would need to be especially sensitive to where a given family was in multiple domains.  There could be great opportunities to reach out in service to such families who often face more than their “fair share” of crises and upheavals.  Having a ministry targeting special needs families could mean a much more vibrant style of community outreach and Christian witness.  The love and compassion, gentleness and patience, joy and peace, kindness and self-control that Should accompany the Christian life would be the ideal characteristics for people reaching out to special families to possess.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Lord would lay such a burden on the hearts of so many in ministry?

Until such a time as that ideal scenario presents itself, those of us who know the Lord need to allow Him to move in and through us in developing eyes, ears, and hearts of compassion toward one another…and especially to people and families that are often broken and hurting.  And if you come from a special needs family it is almost certain that you bear burdens and wounds and need the love and tender mercy of the Lord poured out into your life.  The author referenced at the beginning of this post took a long hiatus from church and didn’t really raise her kids much in the faith.  Although she herself is attempting a return to church now, it is unclear what spiritual relationship her kids have–and those losses are at least partially attributable to an incredibly insensitive church leader who by her demeanor may have inflicted permanent damage on a vulnerable family…How Tragic!

May the Lord give His wisdom to His people that they/we as individuals and as local church bodies may open their/our eyes to the many needs around them/us represented by special needs families.  May they/we choose to see and to give of themselves/ourselves in time, prayer, emotional support, or tangible means of assistance and so reach out to so many of the vulnerable, lonely, hurting, and fragile within our communities.  Consider the Randy Stonehill song () below which beautifully portrays the need for each of us to be Christ’s hands and feet to a hurting world…Blessings to All, Valerie

RANDY STONEHILL
Who Will Save The Children Lyrics

Cry for all the innocent ones
Born into a world that’s lost its heart
For those who never learn to dream
Because their hope is crushed before it can start
And we shake our fists at the air
And say “If God is love, how can this be fair?”

But we are his hands, we are his voice
We are the ones who must make the choice
And if it isn’t now, tell me when?
If it isn’t you, then tell me who
Will save the children?
Who will save the children?

We count our blessings one by one
Yet we have forgotten how to give
It seems that we don’t want to face
All the hungry and homeless who struggle to live
But heaven is watching tonight
Tugging at our hearts to do what’s right

And we are his hands, we are his voice
We are the ones who must make the choice
And if it isn’t now, tell me when?
If it isn’t you, then tell me who
Will save the children?
Who will save the children?

As we observe then through our T.V. screens
They seem so distant and unreal
But they bleed like we bleed
And they feel what we feel

Oh, save the children
Save the children
Save the children

Now we decide that nothing can change
And throw up our hands in numb despair
And we lose a piece of our souls
By teaching ourselves just how not to care
But Christ would have gone to the cross
Just to save one child from being lost

And we are his hands, we are his voice
We are the ones who must make the choice
And it must be now
There’s no time to waste
it must be you
No one can take your place
Can’t you see that only we
Can save the children
Save the children
Save the children
Please, save the children
Will save the children?
Who will save the children?

Lyrics taken from:   http://www.elyrics.net/read/r/randy-stonehill-lyrics/who-will-save-the-children-lyrics.html