Tag Archive | Prayer

Change–Blast From the Past

This song just keeps popping in my head…check out the YouTube site for detailed info on the song & musicians if you’re interested here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJMUugMQeIg&list=PL8Z7cWD-PWoDhiXoOJx3ypcSSW90YLyNO&index=7  

I couldn’t even remember the artists who did this song so looked up some of the lyrics online to find it was done by “The Archers“, a Christian group from “back in the day”.  I found this album, Fresh Surrender, at another family’s house, I was there babysitting their kids, & used to play it sometimes on their record player after the kids went to bed.  At that time I remember thinking that those parents were pretty cool to have some (seemingly) Christian Rock Music choices in their home.

This family has stayed pretty closely connected to my family over the years.  The parents & my parents have been part of a local “Prayer Group” of Christian couples that has been meeting regularly since the 1970s.  Several members of this Prayer Group have since gone on to their reward & the Prayer Warriors are now more likely to meet separately as a Men’s Group & a Women’s Group than their former Couples-focused Prayer Group.

Many of these Prayer Group Prayer Warriors have been an integral part of Prayer Support for my family over the years.  Jon & Judy, whose kids I was babysitting, were also heavily involved in praying for my son, Josiah, & our family during his Liver Transplant process over the years…What a Blessing!

It’s funny how a song from decades past can pop into your head & grab hold of you.  Here are the lyrics, from another site: http://greatgreatjoy.com/2014/11/19/change/

Change
Don’t come easy sometimes
I’m a stubborn girl
I just want to be alone
Sometimes

Maybe You’ve been showin’ me
Just how nowhere
My own will has been
As far as You’re concerned
And You really love me

Lord I need Your love, I need Your care

And I welcome Your change
Like I welcome the rain
After nothing’s grown in a long, long time

Sometimes
Any change is better
Than staying where you are
When you’ve been there too long
Already

All the changes you’ve been bringin’
Only seem to heal me deep inside
And I don’t wanna be alone
Without You

Lord I need Your love, I need Your care
I find my rest in knowing that You’re there

And I welcome Your change
Like I welcome the rain
After nothing’s grown in a long, long time

Ah, ah ah ah, ah ah ah

And I welcome Your change
Like I welcome the rain after a long, long time
Been a long, long time

La la la la
La la la la
La la la la
La la la

I’m so thankful for the ongoing fellowship of faith that is available to all of us.  The Lord is permeating the world around us & is calling to us always, if only we have eyes to see & ears to hear, we can connect on a deeply personal level with the Eternal God.  In encountering this song again the line “Only seem to heal me deep inside” is the one bringing those misty eyes.  I’m so thankful for the tender loving touch of the Master’s Hand!  Thank you, Lord, for showing forth Your Love & Grace to me, to us all, always.

Blessings,

Valerie

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from a Bing.com image search for Bible healing

If you are interested in learning about our experiences with Josiah’s Liver Transplant, I’ve “encapsulated” some of that journey here:

https://specialconnections.wordpress.com/2017/07/30/four-years-ago-today-a-transplant-tale/

I’ve also archived our journey (including messages, like those from Jon & Judy mentioned above), as recorded in my CarePages blog, JournalingForTheJazzman here:

https://jazzmanjournal.wordpress.com/about/

I’m still developing the JazzmanJournal site so it’s easiest to navigate from the About page currently, or to do a search.

If you might be interested in following along further on the journey with Josiah here is where I’m continuing to blog about his medical situation & prayer requests & happenings with him & the family, since CarePages is ending.  God Bless YOU!

https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/josiahcurren

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Shorthand Hospital Run…

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from a Bing.com image search for “U of M Hospital”

So my son, Josiah, and I returned to the University of Michigan Hospital today because I’d rescheduled his MRI of the head (aka Brain Scan) from yesterday afternoon to this morning, so he could participate in a special needs social event last night.  We rarely have back to back hospital runs so this was kind of “fun”…

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from a Bing.com image search for “U of M Hospital”

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  • Up late, running late, getting to the hospital “on time” cause we left a cushion!
  • No traffic “cops” at the parking structure entrance like yesterday (when a screaming motorist & screaming parking lot “enforcement” personnel made me think someone just might pull a weapon–it’s Detroit area, after-all–& for once Josiah decided to Not escalate an already tense situation!)
  • Doing loop-de-loops in the parking structure looking for a space…and Josiah feels some dizziness coming on (he’d already complained how he got dizzy at his recent Liver MRI & was concerned about dizziness from the procedure)
  • Offering to drop J off near the entrance we might use (depending on what level I actually get to park on) & he finally takes me up on the offer–so hoping he actually follows instructions & waits in the right place–praying all the way…
  • making our way through the various “buildings” (interconnected) of the hospital complex to the appropriate elevators & descending to sub-basement B-2
  • walking the halls to the Adult MRI department (his Liver MRI was in the Mott Pediatric part of the hospital the other day) with Josiah getting spooked (it looks older & less kid friendly here) and saying that it looks like we’re going to the morgue (where we’ve never been but maybe he has in video games or shows?)
  • filling out the “abbreviated” pre-procedure forms (3 pages)–thankfully they don’t ask about All Organ Systems, like the pre-op paperwork, for that level of recall is really exhausting
  • Josiah wants to fill out his own forms (which is great)–I finish page one & give him page 2 and he gets stumped right out of the gate when descriptions of prior heart surgeries/devices are needed–sigh–I want to support his independence, but I know these things better, can write in an adult hand (his printing is large & grade-schoolish), and he’s already said he doesn’t want talking so wouldn’t appreciate the amount of verbiage needed to “coach” him here…I complete p 2 & he refuses p 3…
  • no problems in changing, getting a locker (I keep the key for him), nor getting an IV–I’m not allowed back with him (he’d requested me to accompany him at the Liver MRI) and he actually goes along with the staff without issue!
  • I remind the technician that he got dizzy when they moved him in and out of the other MRI machine & she says she can accommodate him there…since he didn’t complain of dizziness afterward it appeared like things went OK!
  • sitting in the waiting room working on a book (I finished), a sudoku puzzle, and a word search…then perusing a number of photo based magazines where I’m bombarded with guilt-trips of the leftist agenda ad nauseum–sigh…no napping…a TV blasts out of sight while trying to sleep & I recognize Chip & Joanna Gaine’s voices from the Fixer Upper TV show…but too tired to attempt to watch this
  • he’s done & we depart without issues & decide to swing by the “interfaith” chapel that’s just outside the elevator on our return trip to the 2nd floor
  • We are alone in the “chapel” so we search for any signs that Christianity is even one of the faiths that might be represented in that room…there’s no cross visible, but prominent Islamic paraphernalia, slightly reserved Judaism items, and eventually a “New Testament with Psalms” Josiah unearths under one of the seats
  • Josiah reads a Psalm from the lectern (we’re in full view of some security camera–yikes, does it have audio?), I sing a version of the 23rd Psalm aloud.  Josiah and I both pray aloud for many things/people “in Jesus’ name”.  Josiah begins singing “How Great Thou Art”–a song that always reminds me of my father & the first church of my childhood–solo (he asks me to Not join in) when a swarthy looking young man enters & sits adjacent to the Islamic prayer rug; J voluntarily stops singing & we decide to leave to give the other person privacy
  • Traversing 3 different buildings to get to the Family Resource Center, where we use the computers & partake of complementary snacks/drinks
  • strike up a conversation with Cameron & his mom about Cameron’s medical needs (brain tumor found 4/30, two surgeries, stroke, etc)–he’s wearing some type of helmet to cover his missing skull…I offer to post his prayer needs on my CarePages medical blog & they agree…we give pointers about living at the hospital etc.
  • J & I both work on both CarePages.com and on WordPress.com blog accounts and attend to some email business at adjacent computers
  • I decide to use one of the consult rooms to call my husband (I don’t have a cell phone) & they are now locked, a new development since my last usage
  • get a staff person to let me in and complimenting her on her new hairstyle leads to an in-depth discussion about her recent Cancer & Heart Attack scare.  We share various stories about medical issues, hospital employment (in my former life), and dealing with overwhelming emotions.  We go on a bit about Transplant issues, me from the family perspective & her from working as staff in an organ procurement organization.  She tells of a family that she turned down as a transplant donor because they didn’t want any of their son’s organs going to any N-words–Wow!
  • we’re interrupted by a volunteer & later an MSW co-worker so we never “finish” our conversation…are those discussions ever really done?
  • Quick phone call with my husband, who’s still at work
  • J & I wrap up computer work & head up to the 12th floor for Skyline Cafe, the Thursday evening complementary meal & music offering sponsored by Delta Airlines & managed by Bob (musician) & Byron (social worker)
  • We assist two different families with in-patient kids on IVs in the elevator
  • We enjoy nearly an hour of acoustic guitar & vocal music as we eat pizza, etc
  • after the event wraps up we speak with Bob & his wife Tracy about my husband’s band, The Lively Pelts, possibly participating musically sometime–I’d cleared this planned discussion with my husband previously–(Bob says Skyline happens Every Thursday of the year, except Thanksgiving)…
  • discover that Tracy & I met before as she’s actually the Pastor at the church kitty-corner from our own church–wow–small world (& I’d almost applied for a recent job opening there)…
  • Josiah tells some tales from transplant & beyond & several eyes tear up…
  • we finally head home during a rainstorm with just enough time to spare to take care of one errand before that business’ closing time; I get soaked to the skin…
  • I send Bob the promised email about the Pelts…and we await to see if God might open yet another door in our lives…

As you can see, even a “simple” day at the hospital can get pretty involved…and exhausting.  Josiah & I both did decently and had an overall good time, which was capped off by the blessing of Skyline Cafe, a pretty rare treat for us nowadays…

Well thanks for stopping by and sharing a bit of our experiences.  Blessings, Valerie

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from a Bing.com image search for “who heals you of all your diseases scripture”

PS Please consider keeping Cameron & his family in your prayers as they travel a new special needs pathway…I’ve written more about their situation here if you’d like more details:

http://www.carepages.com/carepages/JournalingForTheJazzman/updates/3856615

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Commenting on a Transplant Tale

I’m still coming to grips with a sea of emotions in relation to my son’s Liver Transplant (among many other medical, educational, and interpersonal issues surrounding his life and my intense involvement in caring for his myriad needs) so it is always with a bit of trepidation that I approach other’s stories about the Transplant Journey.  This arena represents a potential emotional hand grenade for me personally & it’s never certain what might cause the pin’s removal leading to potentially devastating internal destruction.

The article below was impacting enough that I just felt compelled to write a comment afterwards, which I wanted to document here and share with my readers and also give myself a known repository of this particular topic in case I want to return to this article again…like for inspiration to gear up for when we finally contact the “Gift of Life” organ registry to attempt a contact with the donor family to express our deepest gratitude.

Such a contact has thus far remained beyond my personal ability to approach except in the most theoretical terms.  It’s hard to know where to begin in expressing the deep gratitude for the life-giving sacrificial gift this other family has provided.  We spent so much time while waiting for the Transplant in prayer for the family and the donor, asking that the Lord would be involved in all their lives, that they would each have a saving knowledge of Him, that there would be such wonderful memories made and no regrets for things left unsaid or undone with the donor.  Contemplating the eventual loss of such a loved one was almost more than I could bear.  What do you say when the Liver Transplant doctor says that your son’s “ideal candidate would be a 12 year old gun shot victim”.  I was more overwhelmed by  the other family’s impending loss than I was by our own upheaval as we awaited this amazing and generous Gift of Life.

Complicating such contemplations is the nature of my son’s complex medical status.  Some staff on the Transplant Team mentioned that in some locales they wouldn’t even offer a transplant to someone as complex as my son (the implication being that his autism or other atypicalities, not necessarily medical in nature, may have lead to a form of disability discrimination against him).  How will this other family feel when they discover that their child’s Liver Recipient is disabled in myriad ways?  What if God has yet to have answered some of the prayers noted above and this family is in a spiritual desert and cannot grasp the value of my son’s life because of his disabilities?  What if learning about who has received their child’s liver they are even more devastated by who/what he is and this adds immeasurably to their grief, pain, and loss?  Should I spearhead the effort to contact them and generate conversations periodically within our family, or at Liver Transplant Clinic Visits (we have another bi-annual one next week), to help prepare us, or should I wait for God to so move on my son, husband, or other family members?  Should I be the one to make the contact or should my son (who has various communication challenges but is incredibly gifted in spiritual insight and compassion) attempt this solo?

Just writing some of these lingering questions down reminds me that this is a process that needs to be bathed in prayer.  I need to reach some place of peace and serenity so that regardless of the donor family’s experience/reception we will feel “persuaded” in our ultimate approach in contacting them.

Any of you reading this that know the Lord please lift us up in prayer as we continue to process and prepare to eventually make contact via Gift of Life and express our Thanksgiving for this family’s Gift of Life to our son!  We don’t want to be among the 9 lepers who didn’t return to thank the Lord for the healing…

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image from bing.com image search original from blogspot.com

Please consider reading the original story of this group of Transplant Recipients meeting the mother of the Gift of Life donor…what testimonies!

Here is the link to the original article:

https://gma.yahoo.com/face-transplant-organ-recipients-meet-donors-mother-first-181313919.html

Face Transplant and Organ Recipients Meet Donor’s Mother for the First Time (ABC News)

Here are my comments left at the above article’s website:

This story is profoundly moving to me as the mother of a liver transplant recipient. My son was a teenager while going through the transplant process and as a strong Christian was prepared to possibly die if the surgery was unsuccessful. (Before his transplant operation he wanted to tell the surgical team “If I die during the surgery don’t be sad because I’m ready to go home and be with Jesus”–wow). As a young man on the Autism Spectrum he had a hard time understanding that for him to receive the needed whole liver a donor would have to die, so he initially thought he would be murdering someone to get their liver. We had to reassure him that it was ultimately God who would decide who lives and dies and it would all be in His hands…we were not causing the other family’s desperate scenario…

One way my son was comforted in being the recipient of the Gift of Life from someone whose life was cut short was that we agreed before his procedure that if he didn’t survive we would be sure to donate all of his usable organs and tissues so that others would also receive such life-sustaining gifts from him. In fact, while we were waiting for “his” liver we were contacted by the Liver Transplant Team to be prepared as a back-up recipient for another “perfect liver”, a seemingly unprecedented event. At that time another child was higher up on the Transplant List but was so ill that it was possible that they wouldn’t survive the procedure and my son who was to be “waiting on deck” would then get that other liver. This situation was just so unbearable for me personally, thinking that already one family was losing a child for my son to receive a liver was already overwhelming, and it would be incredibly devastating that TWO people would die so that my son would benefit. We called family together and beseeched the Lord in fervent prayer on behalf of this other child…and thankfully they (apparently) survived the surgery and were still doing well more than a year later when my son finally received his transplant. Being involved in a Transplant situation is deeply moving, challenging, and ultimately a lifelong journey of discovery.

Thank the Lord for those brave and generous families who choose to give the Gift of Life during their own season of heartbreaking loss and bereavement!

After checking back at the original article here is a reply to my comment that may have been written by someone who is professionally involved with transplants, and this is such an encouragement to me as it may be representative of other’s perspectives:

  • Avatar
  • these are the stories that make participating in an organ harvest so rewarding. One family’s loss can lead to so many benefits for other families, it is unfathomable. However, the pain, the heartache the loss is so palpable, during our surgical timeout the donor identified…the directed donations are identified as well as research donations. These are huge and incredible gifts

 

 

 

 

Commenting on “Caught in the Act of Bad Parenting”

“Now I’m a single mom who feels emotionally and financially tapped out raising a kid with a rare medical condition. Adding to the stress, my child has ADHD and ODD, which can’t be solved with a pill…”

This  quote is from the below posting (check it out)

https://lipstickandplaydates.wordpress.com/2016/09/11/caught-in-the-act-of-bad-parenting/

where a mom bares her heart.  It’s not easy to be this transparent with our struggles, so I really wanted to encourage her.  I’ve personally felt such tremendous isolation so many times in the process of trying to raise a special needs child and that’s while having an intact marriage and supportive husband backing and shoring me up along the way.  Either way I can’t imagine enduring such a challenging journey alone and how incredibly painful and overwhelming that  process likely is.

COMFORT IN SUFFERING? O yes! I hope you will share my joy over this precious scripture and make it one of your favorites too. I know it seems hard to feel like God gives comfort in suffering, but He promises to do so, and I have felt the comfort before, so I know He will give it again.:

The scripture image above comes from this site:

 

I hope (and pray) that the Lord is making Himself tangibly available to her and that she (& all of us bearing the burden of Special Needs Parenting) are experiencing that “Peace that passes understanding” and the “comfort in [our] suffering” that only the Lord provides.

Blessings to All,

Valerie

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Thanks for being so real here. May God give you Grace & Strength…and glimmers of Hope when you most need them. I don’t know if parents without special needs kids will ever really “get” what all of us in the (typically un-chosen by us but Chosen by God) club of Special Needs Parenting have learned, what pretty much goes without saying. There aren’t really enough words to come close to articulating the loss, despair, terror, anger, confusion, frustration, triumphs, hopes, dreams, persevereance, faith, and even Joy in the Midst of Sorrow that seem ubiquitous to our experience.

I have many times found comfort, encouragement, and inspiration in the writings and stories of other special needs families…here’s one place where I have personally found such special sustenance again & again…

http://specialneedsparenting.net/

Please Hang in There–You are NOT Alone! Blessinegs, Valerie Curren

I just realized the date you originally posted this, 9/11–the 15th Anniversary of that tragic turning point of a day. Not everyone outside of NYC has forgotten (some of us Never will!)…my special son in particular is very mindful of the tragedy of that brutal assault of a day. We continue to Remember, Reflect, and Revisit those events so that we can honor the memories of the lost, exalt (and hope to emulate) the heroism of the brave, and continue to pray for Comfort, Peace, and Closure (if that’s even possible) for the bitter, bereaved, and broken…in Christ, Valerie Curren

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The image above is from this site:

http://www.crosscards.com/cards/patriotic/9-11-memoriam/

 

 

Thoughts on Faith Crisis

Wounded and Doubting: How to Respond to Your Child’s Crisis of Faith

“Watching your child doubt is painful, and it tests parental faith.  Our first inclination might be to panic, but the best option is to pray, wait, trust, and walk alongside our children.”

How timely the email inbox can be.  I’ve been “avoiding” wading through the myriad communications in my email inbox as this process can take strength that is not readily accessible (and the bulk of these missives are “impersonal” and therefore on no real timetable).  Lately what strength I can muster has in large part been dedicated to helping my special son, Josiah, wrestle with his own crisis of faith…and reading the article above has now inspired this writing…

It started some time back with a seemingly random conversation with Josiah’s Respite Care Worker that Josiah overheard.  This Worker is a Muslim that has claimed to have been raised by both Muslims and Christians…he said one of his grandmothers was a “Christian Evangelist”.  Anyway the Worker and I were discussing the changing of faith of his father and stepmother, in that he claimed that both were “raised as Christians” but later converted to Islam…I had questioned whether or not either of these relatives had truly been “Christian” at all if they could alter their viewpoint of Jesus so much that He would go (in their minds) from Lord & Savior to just a “good man” and a “prophet”…

Anyway, overhearing this conversation seemed to start a spiral in Josiah’s heart/mind that if his Worker’s relations could abandon Jesus he too could be at risk of loosing his Faith…

My husband and I have each spent hours in counseling and prayer with our son as we attempt (with the Lord’s help) to assist him in navigating these treacherous waters.  It’s truly wondrous to see the depths of despair that assail our son as he wrestles with his sorrow and shame at even the possibility of ever turning away from Our Lord.  His pure heart has been laid bare in conversation and prayer and his unveiled desire for a deeper rekindling of his zeal for the Lord is remarkable in someone so young! (or anyone, for that matter!)

So we’ve been encouraging him in Scripture memorization and meditation, prayer, worship, and in carrying out the edicts of scripture…like taking “into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (from BibleGateway.com)

2 Corinthians 10:5 King James Version (KJV)

Now we continue to encourage Josiah to work on this process of “taking into captivity” his thoughts that seem to want to stray into the arena of his fears.  As a person on the Autism Spectrum with tendencies toward “perseveration” (getting stuck on a topic) and with a known history of Anxiety and Depression and even OCD this situation has seemed to have created a bit of a Perfect Storm which our son must learn to weather and still Trust God, not allowing his anxieties to overwhelm and overshadow his knowledge of Truth, nor his relationship with the Lord…

Although it is difficult to see how he struggles and the pain this brings him, it is also glorious to see the Kingdom Work being done in his heart.  It is a privilege as a Christian parent to be able to share in the spiritual journey with our children and to find how our own historical struggles and wounds have uniquely prepared us to minister to them during these times of upheaval in our loved one’s lives.  We truly believe that this “crisis of faith” is actually part of his spiritual “manhood training” whereby he learns how to go beyond the milk of the Word and how to feed himself spiritual meat.

We’re also trying to help him internalize how we live by faith and Not emotions…in fact, I don’t know of one place in scripture where the Lord instructs us to consult our feelings and based on them decide what truth/reality is!  We’re assisting our son to lay that firm foundation on the Rock that is Christ Jesus, that is based on Scriptural Truth, and which can provide a safe harbor in Any Storm, because it is never dependent upon our fleeting emotions aligning with it to validate it as immutable Truth.

So unlike the article above’s trajectory, we are Not dealing with someone who doubts their faith, but rather someone who is incredibly broken by even the possibility that at any time he could become so deceived that he would be tempted to turn his back on the Lover of his Soul.  Hearing his heart cry out in prayer, expressing his hunger and thirst for God, and the articulate way (completely different that his human interactions) he communicates with the Lord has been such a sorrowful joy for my own soul too.  In the Kingdom of God my son has No Disability!  Perhaps, in some aspect of God’s plan, He sent us a “broken” (in this world’s eyes) child that we could see how in the arms of a loving God there is no (spiritual) brokenness in him!  In fact, hearing him pour out his aching heart to our Heavenly Father really serves to highlight how “disabled” is my own spiritual fervor in comparison!

What if in God’s Kingdom we seemingly “normal” people are the ones who are truly disabled and our “challenging children” are sent to help us not only to grow in grace and strength in the Lord, but to set an example of how we should live with “childlike” faith?

Peace & Joy, in Our Lord Jesus Christ,

Valerie

And in my current CD mix, as I’m “polishing” this up comes John Elefante’s “Pass the Flame” song, which always speaks to me, especially about Josiah.  The lyrics below from

http://www.metrolyrics.com/pass-the-flame-lyrics-john-elefante.html

and hopefully another link below to the music…Enjoy!

JOHN ELEFANTE LYRICS

OVERVIEW / LYRICS (SEE ALL) / PHOTOS / VIDEOS / NEWS

Pass The Flame Lyrics

from Defying Gravity

John Elefante - lyrics

Three a.m. – a baby boy; a new life began
I held him in my arms and
knew one day he’d be a man
And soon I’d have to tell
him that this world is not our home
We must give our lives to Jesus;
we are not our own

But for now just let me hold you,
a little while
Let me adore you while you sleep
Thank You, Lord, for such an angel
Make him Yours to keep
And then I whispered in his ear
There is something you must hear

Chorus:
Any way the wind blows
Don’t you think that God knows
We must pass the flame
We must pass the flame
We are the light in a darkened world
We are the fire on the arrow
We must pass the flame
We must pass the flame

She was a portrait of innocence
I took her by the hand
For better or for worse we vowed
that with Jesus we’d stand
We would instill upon our children
that this world is not our home
We would tell them that our
treasure is the promise that we own

But for now just
let me hold you a little while
Let me adore you while you sleep
Thank You, Lord, for such an angel
Make them Yours to keep
So let me whisper in your ear
There is something you must hear

Chorus

And Lord, help us teach Your children well
And turn embers in to fire
Make Your love their soul desire

The doctors came into the room;
the news was not too good I said,
“Daddy, if I could take your place,
you know that I would.”
He said, “Son, please don’t worry
go and be there for your wife
You know we’ll be together in
an everlasting life.”

Then I said, “Dad, I want to hold
you a little while
Let me adore you while you sleep.”
Thank You, Lord, for such an angel
Take him home to keep
And then he whispered in my ear
There is something you must hear

Chorus

Chorus

Songwriters
DINO ELEFANTE, JOHN ELEFANTE, GEORGE MARINELLI JR, GEORGE MARINELLI

Published by
Lyrics © BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

Read more: John Elefante – Pass The Flame Lyrics | MetroLyrics

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

 

Righteous Anger

I just read an inspiring article at American Thinker.com, here:

http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2016/02/why_rightwing_pundits_assail_the_righteous_anger_of_patriots.html

“Anger is among the first emotions in life.  A newborn baby, eyes still swollen and shut, asserts: I exist, I feel, if you hurt me (or not), you’ll hear my anger.  Anger provides vital energy for protection and survival.  It is the emotional state induced by the life-sustaining impulse to protect, to defend against or attack a perceived threat.  Healthy anger is hardwired into the nervous system as a reaction to pain and suffering.  Righteous anger is the highest form of healthy anger.  It is the beneficial force for good that forms in the self-respecting hearts of principled people who have been lied to and who are suffering because of it.  Righteous anger forms under conditions of oppression when moral, legal, or personal contracts are broken.  It is the force that impels, sustains, and advances political freedom.  In the fullness of time, it is the righteousness of anger that determines if it is creative or destructive.”

While this article is primarily dealing with anger as a motivator to action in the political arena…I am taking solace in the more personal applicability of using anger in a healthy response to injustice and abuse…at least in trying to find an avenue to channel the (understandable, at least to me) fury that still seethes just beneath the surface following the brutality and ineffectiveness of our recent foray into protecting our disabled son’s rights via a Special Education Due Process Hearing Request…

Josiah is by nature a warrior at heart.  He is a True Survivor and has Overcome many battles both medically and interpersonally.  Sometimes his passion can exceed his common sense and it is at those times of increased intensity that I often encourage him to do the bulk of his warfare on his knees.  His prayers are truly effective and focusing his effort on the spiritual battle is the way that we are most likely to see the walls come down.

In recent days when both my son and I have been so upset, and even enraged, by what has (or has not) happened in the legal arena it has been necessary to remind us both of what scripture says about anger.

Ephesians 4:26-27 New International Version (NIV)

26 “In your anger do not sin”[a]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.

Footnotes:

  1. Ephesians 4:26 Psalm 4:4 (see Septuagint)
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

The above quote is from here:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians+4:25-27&version=NIV

In my conversations with my son I’ve been referring to the scriptural principle without actually looking up the passage in context.  I’ve been focusing on the “be angry and sin not” version from the King James of my childhood, and did not realize the passage was followed closely by the “don’t let the sun go down on your wrath” passage.  That had always seemed a good practice in relationships, to not go to bed angry (especially with people you live with), but clearly the scripture provides no such relational limitation.

This is going to require me to rethink my approach to action going forward, in relation to the “special education case” that remains entirely unresolved currently.  I’ve been so upset with the trajectory of what happened that I haven’t yet been able to formulate a comprehensive course of action for moving forward toward some degree of resolution.  Also the intensity of the anger and disappointment has been such that calling or writing or meeting with people to discuss and strategize over this situation has needed to remain on the back burner for a while.  Now it appears, based on this scripture, that allowing the anger to unaddressed/unresolved could create a danger point in one’s soul.

Focusing on the injustice can seem an easy formula for getting caught up in bitterness in addition to disappointment and deep soulful hurts.  This is a hard place to be.  Moving forward in some type of action that can at least theoretically be effective for something as complex as our “case” is no simple straightforward task.  It requires reasoned regrouping and potentially some degree of research for other avenues of action.  As such it is unlikely to be something achieved before the sun goes down.  Can it be possible to retain the motivation that the extreme energy of anger provides without getting ensnared in the “devil’s foothold” of sustained rage?  How would God want us to address this?

These are matters that for me personally will require some prayer and contemplation.  If proceeding on a course of action, acting in “righteous anger”, it would seem counter productive to do so in a manner that manifestly violates scriptural teachings–especially if one espouses a Biblical Worldview, as I try to do, albeit imperfectly!

Perhaps there can be room for some degree of regrouping, such as happened with the prophet of old.  Following a tremendous victory he ran off and hid in fear and was so unable to care for his own needs that the Lord sent ministering angels to him for a period of time before he was sufficiently rested and refreshed to be able to continue on his way.

1 Kings 19: 3-9 New International Version (NIV)

Elijah was afraid[a] and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.

All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.

The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.There he went into a cave and spent the night.

Footnotes:

  1. 1 Kings 19:3 Or Elijah saw
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

The above passage is from this site:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Kings+19&version=NIV

 

Although this depiction seems more in keeping with being overcome by depression and anxiety it could indirectly apply to anger, I guess, in that I’ve read descriptions of depression as “anger turned inward”.  God knows how we are made/wired and certainly understands our weaknesses.  If He has given us a standard to live by then He will also give us the ability to live by it, even if it is only by strength that comes through Him.

One part of the above passage that is a great comfort to me is that God acknowledged, via his angel, that “the journey is too much for you” and He directly supplied what was needed to enable Elijah to then be prepared to undertake that significant journey ahead.  Although the passage may be somewhat ambiguous it is at least possible that this divinely provided physical sustenance is what enabled him to travel 40 days & 40 nights, as in possibly without any other food during that time.  Regardless, God Himself, via his angel, provided just what Elijah needed in order to continue on his important journey.  Won’t He do no less for us if we truly seek Him?

Lord, please give us wisdom as to how to proceed with the issues surrounding our “case”. May our words and actions be pleasing to you and in accordance with your will.  Would you please make a way, where there seems to be no way, that we may see Josiah’s needs met and our many issues and concerns addressed.  Please lead us to the right people, information, scriptures, organizations, and actions to have these complex situations sorted out in a manner that Glorifies You and is also for Josiah’s (and our family’s) greatest good.  I ask these things in the Mighty, Matchless, & Glorious Name of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Amen