The Lord tests the heart

“Fire tests the purity of silver and gold,
but the Lord tests the heart.” Proverbs 17:3

The fire of the crucible is never meant to destroy the silver. The intense heat of the furnace will not destroy the gold. Fire improves upon precious metals, refining and purifying them. Likewise, the Lord tests our heart.

He allows the heat of our trials to refine our character and purify our heart. Will You test our hearts, Lord?

A wrong has been done against our child and we are in the midst of a battle for justice.  We are his protectors. We are the voice for our special needs child when he is unable to speak for himself.

The world fights injustice by productive means, but its justice also has the tendency to act out with vengeance or silly lawsuits. We cannot get caught up in the actions of the world. On the contrary, we are vessels of Christ and He desires to shine His light into this darkness.

I am very certain He has a larger purpose in mind for the situation we find our family in. We are just along for the wild ride. In the pain and discouragement of events exposed, we are willing to do what He wants us to do.

The problem is we don’t know exactly what He wants to do with all of the details of the event. But we do know the Lord will direct our steps. And when He does make clear to us what actions to take then we act with bold faith. No matter how personally uncomfortable it is to tread upon unfamiliar territory, the discomfort cannot be our guide.

So please Lord, keep our hearts in check. We acknowledge our hearts can deceive us. When injustice is carried out against our flesh and blood mankind has the potential to go overboard in response. We have no desire to push people to their breaking point in the name of justice. And we absolutely have no desire to shrink back, sweeping the injustice under the carpet.

Help us act in just and purposeful ways which reflect Your heart and honor You without our flesh messing it up!  Test our hearts O Lord, and refine them for good.

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How Great is the love of the Father

Father and son


“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are” I John 3:1

Meditating on the Father’s great love for us, this picture comes to mind. A.J. missed his Daddy so much while he was away for a week serving in Mexico, that he ran quickly into his arms as soon as he saw his Dad return.  “Daddy! Daddy!” I was able to click my cell phone camera in time, because the strong embrace lasted so long. How great is the love of this father and son.

I have been a little wound-up lately.  My heart is racing as though I have consumed a tank of caffeine. It has been a difficult “Special Needs Month” as we deal with battles and situations beyond our control. The aching in my heart pulls me to crawl under the covers and sink into my sadness. But the Lord keeps giving me this picture of my child running into the arms of his father.

Is that the kind of love You have for me, Lord? Is that the kind of love You have for my child?

I choose not to hide under my covers in despair. Instead, the love of the Father draws me to His embrace with these comforting words from Psalm 121:

“I look up to the mountains—
does my help come from there?
 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth!

He will not let you stumble;
the one who watches over you will not slumber” NLT

It isn’t easy being vulnerable, but I have finally learned to allow the body of Christ to bear with me in my burdens. I am entrusting my special requests to trustworthy friends who pray on our behalf.

This is when I cry, when I let the walls of self-preservation drop and allow others to come along side us. Augh, this isn’t fun.

As anxiety rises up within me, my mind plays certain ugly scenarios over and over. The Lord interrupts my anxious thoughts, “Be still”  He says, “And know that I am God”.

I ignore Him, “Wait a minute Lord, I need to finish this thought”.

“Be Still” my Father interrupts me again, “And know that I am God.”

I took my thoughts captive and rested in the God who knows all, who loves my son and who will tend to His needs as the Loving Shepherd He is.

Today I choose to rest in the arms of our Father. How great is the love the Father has lavished on us!

“You hem me in, behind and before,

and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

It is high; I cannot attain to it

If I ride the wings of the morning,

if I dwell by the farthest oceans,

even there your hand will guide me,

and your strength will support me.”  Psalm 139:5 & 10

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Operation: Button your pants continues

Time slips through our fingers. It has been almost 3 months since we began Operation: Button Your Pants! To refresh your memory regarding our special challenge to teach our 17 year-old son how to button his pants, you can read about it here:

Because the days do pass so quickly, I am more deliberate in setting practical goals for our growing young man. Teaching a new skill to a child with physical or developmental challenges requires breaking the skill into small steps. Each step is carefully approached with patience. The time it takes to acquire the step is not as important as keeping each goal in mind.

I am happy to say A.J. has passed each of these first steps:

Operation: Button your Pants

  • Work on pincer skills by playing “Feed the Dog” every day. Celebrate every attempt!                   Check!
  • Breakdown the steps to buttoning. Practice one step every day. Celebrate every attempt!         Check!
  • Progressively practice smaller button holes.           Check!
  • Practice on a pair of pants.           Check!

What a surprise to see A.J. enjoying the process so much. He is so pleased with his new accomplishments that he initiates the “Feed the Dog” game and button cards. Without any prompts from us, he practices daily.

The Motivating Factors

Personal pride for his accomplishments is not his only motivating factor for working on the buttons. I have to admit, he has become a little sneaky.

He knows he cannot access gummy treats whenever he wants, so he has learned to zip through his button games and exercises and go directly to the treat cupboard to get his gummies–multiple times a day! It took me a couple of weeks to catch on to my sly boy. I guess that means he has trained Mom pretty well.

I was not thrilled with the notion of introducing sweet snacks as a reward, but the fact is treats are highly motivating. When a skill needs to be taught to a highly frustrated or stubborn individual, I tell you, a reward that works is worth it!  But, because the new skill  became so easy, its time to create the next step of challenges toward buttoning his own pants.  This means he will have to really work for those gummies again!

A.J. Hits a Roadblock

Whenever I have the opportunity to interface with Occupational Therapists or Behavior Management Consultants, I tap their brains for any resources they have for teaching pant buttoning. One of the most important tidbits of advise I received was to place a pair of pants on his lap as though they were on his body. This way he will not learn the button skill backwards!  Backwards buttoning had never crossed my mind.

I found the largest and oldest (softest) pair of jeans in my husband’s closet and placed them on A.J.’s lap. First I sat behind him on the floor and placed my hands on his hands, trying to guide the button through the hole. That did not work well.

A.J. had his own idea to  place his hands on my hands as I slipped the button through the hole.  That was a good idea, because he could feel the way my wrists turned and how fingers have to move behind and beside and in front of the button.  Did you realize you move your fingers and wrist that much when you button your pants?!

Finally, I sat beside him as he attempted to slip the metal button through the stiff little hole. Frustration mounted. He grunted and motioned for me to help. I kept my hands away but sat closely to encourage his efforts. He must wonder why this button will  not cooperate as easily as the buttons he has been practicing on.

Disappointment set in for both of us. Eventually, I placed my hands on the waistband, giving him a sense of support. A week or so went by without any success.  Both of us have ignored those jeans lately. Feeling a little defeated myself, I have not taken any further steps toward getting those jeans buttoned.

I have my finger and hand issues due to arthritis and am aware of adaptive tools for everyday tasks. After a little online research, I discovered a handy tool to help with buttoning pants. I stared at the picture and considered what it would mean for A.J. on a daily basis. Not only would he have to carry the tool on his person daily, but it would be very difficult to get him motivated to button his own pants after using the tool. Any adaptive tools at this point will be our last resort.

Give him every opportunity to excel

Our philosophy since his infancy has been to give him every opportunity to excel, and then let him show us what he can do. If I resort to the tool so soon, I would be cutting the process short.  Through his willingness to continue buttoning  he is still showing us a desire to develop.

So, I called on the school Occupational Therapist. She agreed it is best to stay away from the adaptive tool at this time. She suggested cutting into the buttonhole–a little skill I know about from my earliest days of learning to sew. Then I got the idea to cut up the waistbands from a few pair of old jeans and make a new button board. This will be my project for the week.

Operation: Button your pants–Step 2

  • Create a button board made from jeans.
  • Clearly mark the Top of the board to be closest to the body.
  • Practice short amounts of time to limit frustration. Celebrate every attempt.
  • Do not give gummies until at least 3 attempts are made on the denim board. Celebrate attempts!
  • Practice every day.

Cross your fingers!  Well, that would mean I believe in luck. I don’t. Through prayer and hard work we will keep taking steps towards success!  I will let you know how it goes.


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Bacon Jalapeno Appetizers

Whenever I have the opportunity to bring a potluck dish, I like to make goodies which are naturally gluten-free. No fussy gluten-free flours or special products are required, just natural ingredients everyone enjoys. Bacon Jalapeno Appetizers are a big hit!

I tripled this recipe, because I knew half of these goodies wouldn’t make it out the door! The recipe is simple with just 3 ingredients.

Bacon Jalapeno Appetizers

15 jalapeno peppers

2 (15 oz) packages of cream cheese

1 package of bacon

Makes 30 appetizers

Directions: Clean the jalapenos. Cut the stems, slice the jalapenos in half, and scrape out the seeds. (Remember to wear  plastic gloves to protect your hands from the burning oils)

Fill each jalapeno half with 1-2 teaspoons of cream cheese

Cut bacon in half, and wrap 1 half of bacon around each cream cheese filled jalapeno

Secure each appetizer with a toothpick.

Bake at 350. Place on a broiler rack coated with cooking spray for 25 minutes, or until crispy.

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Operation: Button your pants

It is easy to take certain developmental milestones for granted when you have typically developed children. I never had to teach my second and third child how to use their pincer grasp. I may have tilted their wrist a time or two when teaching them how to use their knives correctly, but they were able to grasp the knife and complete the task successfully on their own. I know I never had to teach them how to button.

Things are different with a child who has low-muscle tone issues. Knife work, shoe-tying and slipping buttons through tight little holes are skills our 17-year-old son does not yet have. With ten stubby fingers and limited dexterity, A.J. has weak fine motor skills. I confess we haven’t required a lot of detailed work from those stubby fingers. Instead, we have spent the last 17 years working largely on speech acquisition, writing and reading skills, behavior management and social skills.

I began teaching A.J. how to read as soon as he could sit up. I consumed every book I could find on the subject of teaching children with Down’s Syndrome how to read. He learned to spell both phonetically and by sight. A.J. presently reads at a third grade level and has a great interest in sounding out words and writing each day. His interest in words is exciting! But, teaching him how to button his pants, is a different story.

Thankfully, Land’s End has cargo pants, denim and khakis with elastic waist-bands. Land’s End receives an order from me twice each year. However, A.J. will soon grow out of their big boy pants and he will be left to wear sweats every day if we do not soon get this buttoning skill achieved.

Each year I request the Occupational Therapist at school to help him with his fine motor skills. He has received minimal assistance. We consider the ability to button his own pants a key independent living skill. So, it is time for me to get to work! Last week I purchased the fine motor game, “Feed the Dog”. It has a large pair of tweezers–just the right size for A.J. to try to manipulate without frustration. Whenever we attempt a new task, it is always helpful to find items with a Disney or dog theme: two of A.J.’s favorite interests. I also purchased a game board to practice large button skills. Now it is time to create a plan for our family to attempt together, “Operation: Button your Pants”.

Operation: Button your Pants

  • Work on pincer skills by playing “Feed the Dog” every day. Celebrate every attempt!
  • Breakdown the steps to buttoning. Practice one step every day. Celebrate every attempt!
  • Progressively practice smaller button holes.
  • Practice on a pair of pants.

Week One Success

Excited to see what I brought him, A.J. pulls the doggie game out of the bag. We placed 30 plastic bones in the doggie bowl, and I model the use of the tweezers. A.J. takes his turn, and is unable to pinch the tweezers closed. Frustrated, he grunts at me several times. I ignore the grunts, and he quickly ceases the resistant sounds. Placing my hand over his, I attempt to place his fingers in the proper formation for pinching. Quietly, I  grunt with my frustration! His fingers are confused. The two of us fumble with the tweezers until finally he is able to pinch them and pick up a bone.

Each step of the game (designed for 3-year-old children), is met with frustration. The game requires him to continue the pinch in order to get the bone to the doggie’s mouth. Then the tweezers have to turn just-so, in order to get the bone into the doggie’s mouth. Alas, he is able to do it. After 10 bones, I cheer and invite him to stop the game. He presses on.

Willingly, he opens the game and enjoys feeding the doggie the plastic bones each day. His pincer grasp is strengthening and he is enjoying the new skill!

Have you ever tried to break down the steps to placing a button in a button-hole? It is a long and challenging process! Operation: Button your Pants may take us some time. I’ll let you know how it progresses.

What skill comes after the ability to button his own jeans? I am afraid it will be teaching our young man how to shave. Oh boy, talk about a challenge!



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Two brothers and a doctor

Cade hangs with his brother in the waiting room


You can count on one hand the amount of times I take my kids out of school for reasons other than illness.  Today it may appear I had no good reason to take Cade out of school.

His older brother, Anker, had a doctor appointment with the Pediatric Cardiologist.  Anker doesn’t often do well at doctor appointments.  He equates doctors with poking, prodding, and the need to fight for his life.  Growing anxiety is the way he prepares for the doctor.  The last time we visited Dr. Van Gundy, Anker was too anxious to sit on the doctor’s table.  So, the 6-foot something doctor bent his knees as he sat on the bare floor and invited Anker to lay down beside him.  Anker responded to this gentle giant, and lay on the floor, allowing the doctor to examine his heart.

I was touched by a doctor who understood our son’s increasing anxiety. Try as he may, Anker could not utilize the resources to successfully express his fear.  Dr. Van Gundy communicated compassion to our son, while offering us a great sense of relief. After all, it is no easy task taking a growing boy to intrusive doctor appointments…we have the bruises and bite marks to prove it.


There are two things about Cade which prompted me to take him along to this appointment.  Cade adores his older brother. In the fifteen years of his young life, he has loved his special needs brother with a depth of understanding and strength which blows any observant onlooker away. He gently guides Anker to try the things the O.T. or speech therapist, or optometrist request Anker to do. He models the task, and playfully and patiently invites Anker to follow his lead. Down Syndrome individuals respond well to peer role models, and with gratitude, we have a wonderful role model sharing life beside his brother.  Anker felt relief today, with his brother beside him.

We have experienced many doctors in our special needs journey: doctors who have little sense of compassion, those who lack understanding of our child’s specific needs, and those who are absolutely outstanding.  These outstanding doctors are the ones who speak with compassion as they offer respect and care to our child.  They are acutely aware of the specific special physical needs of our child, and are the very doctors we remain faithful to. Since Cade desires to be a doctor himself, we find great value in exposing him to the characteristics of these outstanding doctors. I knew Cade would offer support to his brother, while gaining an education himself.

Cade sat closely as the nurse examined his brother.  Anker began to shout with anxiety, and Cade talked gently to his brother.  Anker calmed down.  Dr. Van Gundy entered the room and carried on a conversation with Anker,  “You are growing whiskers, aren’t you, Anker?” He took time to visit with our boy. He took time to ask questions, and he gently examined Anker while sitting beside him, this time on the examination table.

Heart problems are prevalent in individuals with Down Syndrome.  Many are born with heart defects and require heart surgery. This is one statistic we have not had to bear.  But, Anker does have a murmur, which we must continue to watch closely. Dr. Van Gundy referred us to a Pulmonary Specialist to rule out sleep apnea issues, and blood tests to check for Leukemia, Diabetes, and thyroid–all medical issues which have a higher occurrence rate in individuals with Down Syndrome.

So, we take the yearly tests, and we continue on with life. We stop for a special milkshake topped with whipped cream and a cherry, then head back to school.  Anker asks to stay home with me–feeling a little too stressed to return to his afternoon classes.  Cade returns to his texts and tests; having gained a little more knowledge from experiencing a life lesson on character with his brother and an extra-ordinary doctor.

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“I will even make a roadway in the wilderness”

I used to consider raising our child with special needs emotionally and physically manageable. But the “easier” early years slowly turned into years that felt like we were living in the wilderness. In spite of the love and frequent happiness we had with our boy, there came very difficult moments which turned into weeks, months, years. Behaviors and sickness developed in him; exhausting our every resource and emotional reservoir.

Attending school IEP meetings are a necessity for a parent who has a child with any kind of special need. Anker and I approach the meetings with much prayer cover, and walk away from them feeling a little successful and a little beaten down. A good portion in the history of our annual meetings include experiences of anxiety, school politics, frustration, and the inner pressure to keep our cool. I have often thought we should create, “I survived our child’s IEP meeting” t-shirts.

Today’s meeting was different. Within the opening minutes I had already burst into tears. I held A.J.’s 11th grade school picture up to the IEP team; his eyes crinkled from his huge smile. His teachers and therapists around the table swooned at his handsome happy image. This is how they perceive him every day at school.

“He is so happy, polite, and a leader. None of the previous behavior concerns have been an issue for months. We want to develop him as a teacher assistant: making copies, picking up and delivering mail, greeting office staff,” Miss June told the IEP team.

More encouraging words were announced as we were told his long-term substitute teacher has officially been offered the teaching position. June is a dynamic teacher. She is a rare gem in a pool of special education teachers. She instinctively understands our kids, expects great things from the students every day, and gets tremendous growth from them in return.

Through a series of bumps, politics, and teacher turn-over, our kids have suffered from the lack of consistent quality teaching. When our kids suffer at school, boy do we suffer at home! So, we have been praying specifically for June. Last year when she was released from the substitute position, we continued to pray the Lord would make a way for her in the classroom. Our special kids deserve such a gem in their lives.

We wrote letters to school officials, put her on our prayer lists, and we waited…waited…waited. At the moment I heard the words, “The position is June’s if she will accept it”, my tears flowed without warning. My lips quivered as I attempted to express our joy. One of the educational officials, always professional in her demeanor, fought back her own tears as she listened to our gratitude. “What a testimony,” the speech therapist added.

I was surprised a bit by the instant flow of tears on display. Deep within my spirit, I was praising and bowing to the Lord. The tears continue to drop as I reflect upon today’s meeting. In my absolute trust of the Lord, I knew I could ask Him specifically for a request, and trust that He could provide. At the same time, He gave me faith that all would be well. All would be well, even if A.J. had to experience another change of teachers. But I would keep on knocking on God’s door; asking specifically for June.

Now God, in His perfect way, has provided a beautiful gift for us. We have one less obstacle to maneuver and one less change to endure. He knows what is best for us and He knows when we need a break! Thank you, Jesus, for providing our family relief!

I mentioned earlier that raising our boy with special needs used to be somewhat easy, and then it became difficult… very difficult. As I reflect on the growth of our boy over the last two years, I can now say we are living with a new “easy.” God has made a roadway in our wilderness. He does provide rivers in our dessert.

This new place of living is where we have gained new coping tools, and effective behavior management. We have found contentment in our unexpected lifestyle. This is a refreshing place.

“Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the dessert” Isaiah 43:18-19

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Dog’s best friend

Unconditional love is reciprocated, mutual odors are endured, and a depth of communication is shared between our boy and his dog. A deep bond between the two has developed, and this dog has the world’s best friend.

A.J. was one year old when we bought a puppy for our growing family. I was hugely pregnant with our second child, and it wasn’t the greatest time for me to learn how to train a dog. But, I read how dogs help build communication skills in children with developmental disabilities, so there was no time to waist!

Our Golden Retriever, Riley, quickly became a part of the family. Even though I grew up with the love and companionship of family pets, I did not yet understand the depth to which a dog would enrich our son’s life. He and A.J. attached to one another and put up with each others antics like no one else could.

Riley helped A.J. develop physically and socially. The various physical movements required to pet the dog, feed him, brush him, and walk him; all helped provide the trunk movement and daily exercise we needed to fit into A.J.’s developmental routine. When raising a child with special needs, it is crucial to fit specific movement and tactile experiences into their daily lives. These physical interactions with a loving dog came naturally.

A.J. had a bad habit of pulling Riley’s tail. Due to the mild manner of our Golden Retriever, Riley never tried to bite him when his tail was yanked. In fact, we still laugh at the day we saw Riley back his rear-end up to A.J. as if to offer his boy his tail. There they stood in our backyard, boy holding dog’s tail, both with a goofy look of contentment on their faces.

Our dear Riley became ridden with tumors at the age of 12. We were concerned about the toll Riley’s death would take upon A.J., so we began looking for a new puppy to train alongside Riley. The family took a day trip to a woman’s farm where she bred Golden Retrievers. Parked in her driveway, we took a moment to pray together, asking Jesus to help us find the right puppy for our family.

Several adorable puppies played around our feet, and each of us had our eye on a different one to bring home. I told the woman our concern about A.J.’s reaction to the impending death of his reliable companion. She stepped inside her home and came out with her favorite puppy in her arms.

“Take this one, I was going to keep him for myself.” she said.

We trusted her and brought home her favorite puppy. We named him, “Petra”, which means “The Rock”. He is named after our all-time favorite Christian rock band.

A.J. and his brothers fell in love with Petra. Riley welcomed the puppy and nurtured him for a couple of months before his death. A.J. emotionally handled his passing better than we expected. How loving our Heavenly Father is, to take care of these details and concerns in our lives.

“Petra, you are home! I came back!”, AJ walks off the school bus and routinely heads directly to greet his companion.

“Look Petra, your boy is home,” I add.

They greet each other with sloppy kisses and a long hug. A.J.’s speech and language skills increase with his interactions with Petra.

“You are okay. Go outside boy. You go potty.”

“Okay, come on in now. You are a good boy.”

Recently A.J. told me a story about his Auntie’s beloved dogs playing with their friend Petra. He told me, “Maize and Jax and Petra are chasing outside.”

“What are they chasing?” I ask.

“He, Maize and Jax and Petra are chasing a squirrel.”

It has taken our son 15 years to answer a “What” or “Why” question with a full sentence. His story about chasing a squirrel required putting several words together with a little creativity and recall. I was thrilled. The doggie adventures and interactions are constantly helping develop his communication skills.

Petra keeps pace with A.J.’s needs as they walk. Together they walk, run, and rest in the shade. It can take quite a while for these two to make it around the block!

A.J. and Petra often have a chat under the kitchen desk. AJ shares special pictures of his Aunt’s dogs with Petra. Petra obliges and enjoys the pictures with his boy.

Always available, willing to listen, patient when the words take a while to form a complete thought; Petra is an unconditional friend. And his boy is the best friend a dog could ever dream of having.

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Did anybody see him?

It was one of those hectic afternoons when we were rushing between appointments and practices and I was driving on a busy thoroughfare to get to our next destination. We sat in the middle of traffic waiting for the green light when we viewed a man on the sidewalk struggling with his motorized scooter-like wheelchair. His body was hunched over and his feeble knees buckled together as he grasped the back of the scooter. He was clearly in distress.

Sandwiched between cars and unable to turn right, I drove along with the traffic once the light turned green. My boys and I were each disturbed by what we just saw. What can we do? What will we do? We drove 3 blocks ahead, hitting every red light in the heavy traffic, before we were able to make a U-turn and drive back to the man in need of help. It was taking so long to backtrack over three more blocks of heavy traffic and red lights.

My boys exchanged their thoughts, “I think someone else has seen him and helped him by now.”

Finally we came to the last stop at the top of the hill, where we could see the man still struggling on the sidewalk. The hot sun was beating down on him and he had barely made any progress with his scooter.

The boys continued their discussion, but this time with surprise, “A few hundred people must have passed this man and no one has stopped to help him.” Did anybody see him?

We turned into a fast food parking lot and the boys piled out of the car. My oldest son, with special needs himself, threw his little Cars backpack over his shoulders and struggled down the small but steep hill to the sidewalk. He didn’t know what this new adventure would entail, but he was more than willing to find out.

“Can we help you, sir?” we asked the young man as he stood along the busy stretch of street.

“Yes”, his words slurred as he explained, “the batteries in my scooter have died and I need to get them recharged. If I bring it to that restaurant over there, they have a special plug I can use to charge my scooter”.

Staggering around the scooter, the gentleman sat down in the seat with a breath of relief. His forehead and red shirt were both dripping with sweat as he took in deep breaths of air. He had exerted so much energy in the hot afternoon sun.

Two of my boys grabbed the sides of the scooter and began to push. The scooter resisted, lacking any mobility without the battery power. Anker peeled off his Cars backpack and shoved it at me. He was compelled to push the scooter alongside his brothers.

Slowly we walked down the sidewalk, three boys pushing with all their might to mobilize a stubborn scooter and its determined owner. Taking small steps, I walked alongside them holding a little Cars backpack stuffed with snacks and small treasures belonging to my own special son. “This is what matters most in our lives”, I thought. No schedule or practice or hustle and bustle can replace my boys investing in the life of someone in need.

I held the door of the restaurant open as my young men figured out how to push this scooter and its precious cargo over the door’s frame. My 14-year old rearranged a table and chair as the young man directed him how to plug in the scooter to get its much-needed juice. The boys backed the scooter in to the corner, shook the man’s hand, and we quietly left the busy restaurant.

There was no applause that day, there was no ribbon for their effort, there was no money raised or meetings necessary to perform a mission just blocks away from our home. I challenged our boys to tell no one but their Dad about their activities that summer afternoon.

The boys showed no concern about showing up late for practice when we finally arrived at the field. They had just experienced first-hand the deep sense of joy and satisfaction that comes from placing someones needs before their own.

Oh, that our kids would not strive for success or applause by jumping through the hoops and demands of our culture! Instead, may they pursue the heart of God and love people as though they were serving Jesus Himself.

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A new day: Our special need’s summer vacation, pt.2

Hume Lake 2011. The Lord is Good!

“Yes, boat”, our oldest boy said with a huge grin.  His eyes scanned each of ours as he awaited our response.

A glimmer of hope rose up in me, “Do you want to go on the boat this morning?”

“Yes, boat”, he said a second time.  It was our third day of summer vacation, and our boy with special needs was beginning to drop his guard.  He was slowly adjusting to the change in environment and opening himself up to fun activities.

We barely finished breakfast, but we all intuitively knew to take advantage of the situation.  No one bothered to put on their bathing suits or sandals, instead we scurried off to the boat house.  This time we avoided the creaky wooden dock and the rowboat which rocked so much it shook his footing.   I stopped to pick up paddles and life jackets while the boys walked straight to the kayaks—the red ones, because red is AJ’s favorite color.  It made him equally happy to adorn the red life jacket.

AJ cautiously walked through the muddy path, weaving in between the other boats, then awkwardly swung his leg into the kayak.  Dad held the boat steady while brother helped AJ sit down.  The kayak was a good choice.  He was able to sit securely on stable land while his Dad gently slipped the kayak into the lake.

The rest of us stood on paddle boards and glided alongside the kayak.  He was not protesting with the anxiety he displayed yesterday.  Quietly grunting to express his discomfort, he suddenly changed his tune. “Yea!” he yelled and then applauded his own accomplishment.   I dug my paddle through the water as my toes dug into the board.  Our other two boys stood beside me gliding through the lake on their own boards.

My youngest boy teased me and reached his paddle out to nudge my board.  My feet changed positions to regain balance, but down I went.  I crashed into the water with my skirt flowing up around me.  Thankfully, most of the campers were still eating breakfast and there were no other boaters on the lake.  With little grace, I crawled and slipped my way back on the board.  What a great morning.  We floated and laughed and enjoyed each other for a couple of hours.

This is a rare occasion.  Do you know how often some of us special needs families are able to enjoy adventures together?  Often times either my husband or I hang out in the hotel room watching Lion King with AJ while the other parent takes the siblings out for fun.  What a gift we experienced this morning; two parents together with all of our children enjoying the lake.

Carefree in the kayak

We pulled our boards and the red kayak ashore after a great morning of water fun.  The boys stripped off their life jackets when AJ requested, “more boat ride”.  So, out went he and his brother on a second adventure.  This time he was done after 10 minutes, but he was able to build one success upon a previous success.  The praise and the high fives and the gummy bears were flourished upon our boy for the happy choices he made.

The family was encouraged with progress while the heart gives credit and gratitude to our Lord. Thank you Jesus, for a carefree spirit in our boy today.  Please give us more. 

I’m going to pray this prayer relentlessly.

AJ enjoyed many moments of relaxation on vacation

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