Saturday, March 25, 2017

It Takes a Village to Raise a Special Needs Child

The last two weeks have been utterly horrific and ones that I pray we will never have to repeat.  Josh came completely unglued emotionally leading to terrible and horrifying behaviors.  It was like reliving the unstable days of years past when his bipolar was not well controlled.  He has been stable for the last 3 years, but since we decided to do a family missions trip because Josh was so stable, it seems as if Satan is pulling out all of the stops to get us to change our mind.

We spent the last week and a half deliberating about whether or not to hospitalize Josh.  It was the most agonizing decision to make knowing he was completely out of control and out of our ability to control yet knowing that if we send him back to the hospital, it will be yet another traumatic experience for him complicated by the fact that the hospital simply drugs the kids to make them calm, keeps them in front of a TV screen all day to keep them under control, and feeds them all of kinds of food that we do not put into our bodies not to mention the gluten and refined sugars that would be served that are huge triggers for Josh and his mood/behaviors.  It was a no-win situation, but we were quickly running out of other options.

Throughout this struggle, we had dear friends from church who regularly checked in with us, sent me encouraging texts including reminders of helpful Scripture passages, and who came at a last minute's notice to allow us to get out of the chaos for a quick breath of fresh air and a chance to celebrate Tim's passing of his Certified Financial Planner exam.  I was encouraged by a phone conversation I had with one of Josh's youth leaders who was concerned about Josh and his behaviors and wanting to know how the youth leaders can help him be more successful in youth group then praying with me that God would help Josh through this difficult time and return to stability.  David's Christian counselor who had done a joint session with the boys the last week and could tell Josh was coming undone sent me an email to check in and see how we were doing and see if she can help in anyway.  Josh's school was extremely concerned and offered their help and support to us and did all that was necessary to help keep him under control as much as it was possible.  Josh's psychiatrist saw Josh on an emergency basis then gave me her cell phone number so that I could contact her at any time (and she walked with us through the battle of whether or not to hospitalize several different days over the last two weeks).  She is also a blessing in that she doesn't always see medication as the answer to problems.  Josh's nutritionist responded to my email asking if she had any suggestions for ways we can help Josh by offering her chiropractor husband's services before his office hours began to do some specialized neurological adjustments to help Josh, and as he did so, he spoke the Gospel to him.  The nutritionist then offered to squeeze Josh into her busy schedule to see if anything from a nutritional and supplemental standpoint could be done to help him.  We had another friend who still willingly came in the midst of the chaos to watch the boys so we didn't have to cancel our plans to go to a concert in Philly that we had bought tickets for back in December.  I had another friend who deals with similar drama in her household come alongside of me and check in with me all while being an encouragement just through her mutual understanding.  We also had many friends and family members praying for Josh and for us, and prayer is just what all of us needed!

I can't imagine having to do these last two weeks alone!  I am thankful for the village God has built up around us to stand with us in trials and support and encourage us.  Had it not been for the support of those faithful villagers, I am not sure what things would be looking like right now.  God through His goodness and providence has helped us have all that we needed to walk through this fire.

With the sudden return to stability Josh experienced yesterday (most likely due to the prayers, neurological adjustment, and supplement changes), we are more than ready to take deep breaths of fresh air.  However as I do so, I am praising God for our village and the way He used dear people to help us get to the other side.  Raising a child with special needs is not for the faint of heart, but it's also impossible to do alone.  It truly does take a village to raise a special needs child, and I am grateful that God has not left us alone!


Friday, March 10, 2017

Letting Faith Rest in the Power of God

As our date of departure for our family missions trip draws ever nearer, and the final plans are made, I found myself feeling more and more nervous about bringing our oldest on the trip with us due to his continued mood instability.  I feared for his safety with the way he was acting not to mention that I worried about how his behavior would be looked upon by the people in that culture.  I was praying that God would help him to become stable again, but it seemed that each day, there were only more problems rather than fewer.  I began doubting our decision and whether or not God wanted us to bring our son with us.  On top of that, I wrestled with the fact that the country we were headed to had fewer than 1% of the population who were Christians and there really wasn't a model for what a Christian family should look like in that culture except what the pastors and their families are presenting as they blaze the trail raising Christian families.  Part of my vision for the trip was that we could let the people there see what an American Christian family looks like.  However, with the way our oldest was behaving, that idea would be a disaster because we'd only show them how truly broken we really are.  I worried about showing that side.

I expressed my concern in a discussion with Tim who stated that it's not our mission to present to them a "perfect" Christian family.  It's our mission to be with them in body and Spirit encouraging and ministering to each other.  That's what a partnership is all about.  Through the ministry of one another, God builds His Church.  I was thankful for Tim's insight, input, and decision that we are going as a complete family no matter what.

The next day, in reading an excerpt from a meditations book written by missionaries with Josh, I had to smile at God's providence at the passage of Scripture and following reflection about that passage because it was just what I needed to read and meditate upon in my heart.
I Corinthians 2:1-5:  And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
God has this trip already worked out.  He has my son's stability under His control.  He's the one who called us to do this trip as a family, and He's the one doing amazing things to make this trip possible.  He has called us to be lights and bring the Gospel to all peoples making disciples.  We do that by presenting Christ in our brokenness.  We don't want to be making converts of the Russell Kingdom.  We want to make converts of Christ's Kingdom.  What better way to do that but through our own brokenness and desperate need for a Savior.  May these dear people we fellowship with see Christ and Christ alone in our broken lives and may all of the honor and glory go to Him who sustains us and gives us the strength to finish each day through His great and mighty power.

Interestingly enough, as soon as I embraced this new way of thinking, things calmed down in our household, and our son has seen the most stability yet since things got rough in December.  Perhaps God just needed to get my attention and teach me a lesson and grow my faith!  To God be the glory!


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Encouraging Thoughts to Help You Carry On

Being a caregiver for a special needs person is not for the faint of heart.  It can be exhausting, emotionally draining, and often, it can seem repetitive and rewardless.  It's been twelve years since we started on our special needs journey with our first son and 10 years with our second son.  While we have seen remarkable changes over all of those years, when we are in the day in and day out toil, it often feels as if our efforts are in vain.  The day to day progress seems nonexistent and the step back for every two steps forward is disheartening.

Of late, I have become weary of the same conversations over and over again helping our son with Autism know how to appropriately act in various social situations and when given non-preferred directives.  I feel like a broken record on a daily basis, and it seems no matter what I say or do or how encouraged I am after a conversation, my time and energy spent in helping my son is in vain because either the same day or the next, he ends up doing exactly what we discussed he shouldn't do.  It can be infuriating to say the least.

It is times like these that I am so grateful that I am not on this journey alone but that I have my great God and Savior right there with me encouraging me forward, strengthening me to finish each day, and carrying me when I can no longer walk on my own.  Time spent in God's Word and in prayer  refreshes and nourishes me daily.  God-centered music daily ministers to my heart speaking God's truth into my mind.  Conversations with people who love and accept me and my family the way we are, who are willing to walk with us in our not-so-pretty daily lives, and treat us without judgment help my burdens to not be so unbearable and help me to not feel so alone.

If you know someone who cares for someone with special needs, I encourage you to reach out and be a blessing.  Don't judge.  Get involved in their messy, daily lives and love them with God's love.  Send an encouraging note with an encouraging Scripture verse or passage.  Don't ask "How can I help?" but instead ask "When can I come over and help with housework or care for the kids or bring over a meal?"

Sometimes, when struggles pile up, it's easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged.  Necessary daily tasks become repetitive and meaningless.  Sometimes we need a reminder that the mundane is not for nothing and that we are involved in Kingdom work.  After all, a large part of Jesus' ministry on this earth was ministering to those with special needs.

Some encouraging Scripture passages that help me keep going include:

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights" - Habakkuk 3:17-19.

"The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail" - Isaiah 58:11

"I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord." - Lamentations 3:19-26

Some songs that have really ministered to me in my hardest of days include:

"Blessings" by Laura Story

"He Will Hold Me Fast" by Keith & Kristyn Getty

"Grace" by Carolyn Hamlin

"Day by Day" a hymn written by Lina Sandell and translated by A. L. Skoog; music by: Oscar Ahnfeldt

No matter how hopeless a situation, our hope rests in God alone.  He is our strength and salvation.  He is our sovereign designer who is working all things together for our good and His glory!