Posted in Beauty For Ashes, Faith, In The News

We All Have Our 9/11: This Is Mine

I sat at the kitchen table discussing with my husband, Steve, our busy day. It was Tuesday, September 11, 2001. I asked Steve what time his meeting started. He said, nine. I turned to look at the clock behind me. It was 8:45. American Airlines flight 11 was thundering toward New York City. We were 60 seconds away from unimaginable turmoil and devastation.  

My son, DJ, was an infant. He started fussing. Intending to calm him with a video, I flipped the TV on. The image of the North Tower on fire filled the screen. First reports indicated a small commuter plane accidently crashed into the tower.  It made little sense, but how else could we explain it?  This is America.  Terror doesn’t come to our soil. Everything we thought we knew was wrong.  And what we could never imagine was bearing down on us.   

As a former EMT, my brain assessed the scene on TV, while I stood flipping through options of to save the most lives. I saw a plane on the right side of the TV screen.  I actually gave a sigh of relief.  A rescue.  They could get people off the roof.  Then it happened.

United Airlines Flight 175 plowed into the South Tower. An enormous fireball erupted.  That plane hit the building. That plane just flew into that building.  On purpose!  I couldn’t form any other thought. I don’t know how long I stood there. When the process of thought returned, I realized DJ stopped fussing the minute the TV came on.  As if his only reason for fussing was to alert me to the attack.

I left the room briefly.  When I returned, I saw a split TV screen, on one side the towers burned, on the other the Pentagon.  I gasped.  What is happening?  I felt God impress upon my heart to pray. Despondency cascaded over me.  God, I don’t even know what to pray for. I felt God’s   response. “Pray for my people I’m bringing out.” I dropped to my knees.  I intended to pray aloud.  I choked on words and just wept.

When Steve returned from his meeting, I went to our older sons’s school. Steve and I decided taking them out of school may scare them too much. The only target for terrorists in Kentucky is Fort Knox. We’re far from there.  But I wanted to be the one to explain the attack to them.  I wanted to reassure them.  Pray with them.

In the school office, the secretary called for the boys.  I did my best to explain things to them.  We prayed and when I raised my head, I realized prayer re-entered public school.  A small group of people gathered around us and bowed their heads, joining us in prayer.

Back at home, details of United Flight 93 came in.  Those passengers took back their liberty.  They voted on a plan to storm the cockpit.  Even in the face of certain death, they upheld democracy. Americans to the end.

The reaming hours of 9/11 unfolded with shock, horror, and heroism.  It was the worst day for America, but never was she more beautiful. Flags unfurled across the country. Our government sang “God Bless America” on the steps of Capitol. People flocked to churches, gave blood, and made plans to enlist in the military.  I’ve never been more proud to be American as I was on 9/11.  From the ashes we rose as one.  May God forever bless the U.S.A.  

Posted in Faith, Healthcare, parenting, The DJ Journey

20 Years of Loving DJ

A doctor, we’ll call Dr. S, said awful things about DJ. Things no one should ever say about a child let alone a patient. She felt compelled to perversely tell me how inadequate my baby was. She ended with words I never let permeate my heart. “He’s a blob. He’ll always be a blob. That’s all he’ll ever be.” Dr. S lives today because my husband physically restrained me long enough for her to scuttle from the hospital room never to be seen again.

Each candle added to DJ’s birthday cake serves as a tangible reminder of an invisible faith manifested through the most unlikely of people and circumstances. So, on his 20th birthday, I want to bring Dr. S up to speed on her dire predictions. And remind her that while she looked into this little face and saw doom and hopelessness I saw potential, love, and hope incarnate.  382819_2066102232110_512707139_n

DJ demands personal growth. You can’t be too cowardly to look boldly within. You must forget what you want, expect, and plan. Me holding onto expectations and comparing us to others propelled us nowhere. So, when public school and DJ weren’t a love match I became what I never wanted to be – a teacher! No offense to teachers. I just never fancied being one. As a little girl, I was the only one on our street who preferred being the student when we played school.

It took us a couple of years to find our groove but DJ thrived in homeschool. Shock to me, but I enjoyed teaching him. The fuel to higher learning is individualization. Crafting lessons to his needs, incorporating sensory-rich field trips, and teaching by a grasp of subject matter rather than a perceived grade level, proved to be the ladder to his higher learning window.

 

With education came books. Books taught me as much about DJ as they did him about the world. Through books, DJ told me how he loved Kentucky history and opened a path for me into his nonverbal world.

 

DJ views history as a learning tool. Dr. S viewed history, at least medical history, as an inescapable future. Dr. S’s encapsulating DJ into a sports-less world only made us determined to try it all. It should be mentioned that Dr. S did not include sack racing in her list of sports DJ couldn’t do. DJ and his Daddy just threw that in as a show-off manner for Aunt Neen and Maggie.

 

He also learned to swim, ride a bike, and even find his way around a kitchen.

 

It didn’t take long to figure out that the best things for DJ, cost us the most. Giving DJ basic life experiences we all take for granted, means expending physical stamina, mental stress, and emotional shifting. Yet, it’s menial compared to love. The more experiences DJ has the more he learns. The more he learns the more he grows. The more he grows the more he overcomes. And the more he overcomes the more hope he infuses into our crazy world. So, we do the things Dr. S said couldn’t be done;  eating out, camping, peaceful public outings, air travel, and even a journey across the Purple People Bridge.

 

It all matters; dressing up and turning his wagon into part of his Halloween costume, riding a scooter board, carving a pumpkin, reaching higher for the elusive Easter egg, training a service dog for him, building therapy tools like a platform swing for him to chill on, it’s all relative. Nothing is too much. Dr. S’s medical knowledge may have been correct. She didn’t factor in how life-altering unadulterated love is.

 

Of all Dr. S’s wrongs, her greatest was predicting I’d never hear I love you from DJ. Granted, I’ve never heard it verbally. But what I’ve learned is that the deepest of love isn’t said, it’s shown. And no one shows his love better than the little boy who supposedly never could.

 

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Posted in Autism Spectrum Disorder, Faith, parenting, Winchester Sun Columns

Disciplined with a Shake in His Stride

Many employers suffer a grave loss of which they are unaware. They shy away from hiring prospective employees because they are on the autism spectrum. The mere words autism spectrum conjures images of inept social skills, stark refusal to follow instructions, bursts of fury, refusal to take correction or responsibility and more. Amid, such a tsunami of negativity it is no wonder they drown out the positives. Yet, even as toddlers, there is a lot we can do to help our kids secure a job. We need to learn to recognize and respond to the potential.

Prior to Annie Sullivan’s arrival, Helen Keller had no discipline. She prowled her family home, doing as she pleased and responded to attempts of refusal with violent outbursts. Her parents labored under the misconception that allowing Helen’s atrocious behavior expressed love. Lucky for Helen a fiercely determined, courageous, half-blind teacher understood the roots of love begin in discipline. And discipline blooms from the small things.

IMG-2425I was nervous about my son Colton’s first involvement with STRIDE (Supporting Therapeutic Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities every day. I knew it was a fantastic program, but it forced me out of my comfort zone. It challenged me to face my fears even as I sought to still Colton’s. I had to swallow my pride, accept I wasn’t the only one able to care for my son and get myself out of his way. He was evolving. Pandering to my fears placed me between the kid he was and the man he’d someday be

This week, Colton started his first job. It’s a goal he’s pursued for several years. He has worked for family, friends, and neighbors but has been unsuccessful in the traditional job market. Until now.

Like most on the spectrum, Colton excels at repetitive tasks. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t advise the fast-paced and often stressful environment of restaurant work. However, food prep at Steak and Shake is ideal. Colton’s job is to remain in one station and chop, weigh, bag and otherwise prepare food for use the next day. He is able to work at his pace, somewhat segregated from other employees, spared from the hustle and bustle of peak hours, does the same thing daily and works off a list. An Asperger kid’s dream!

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STRIDE members encouraging Colton at work

One of the greatest hindrances to kids on the spectrum is fear of the unknown. Doing things for the first time is scary for most but debilitating for some on the spectrum. Colton didn’t have that hurdle. He had an idea of what to expect because STRIDE taught him the basics of food preparation years ago. When we faced our fears and trudged the painful path of discipline and self-discovery in STRIDE, we had no inkling of what it would bring. The dividends of that years old investment are evident today. Colton loves his job at Steak and Shake. His self-esteem has grown exponentially because his coworkers lavish him with praise, kindness, and encouragement.

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Colton explaining his job & encouraging his friends.

Times have changed a lot since the days of Helen Keller. But a child’s need for discipline has not. The world’s expectations of our kids tend to be low. It’s our responsibility to be the Annie Sullivan our kids deserve. We must love them through our pain so they may be a valuable productive member of the workforce and the community at large.

 

Visit http://www.winchestersun.com for more of Joan’s columns

Posted in Church, Faith, Healthcare, parenting, Special Needs Kids, The DJ Journey

Even Wonder Women Needs An Oxygen Mask

Moms of special needs children tend to downplay or outright ignore their health. The needs of the child are so great we master the art of caring for them even when our needs are greater. We become so adept at neglecting ourselves for our child we do it without thought. It’s not an attention seeking action it’s survival mode.

Several months ago, I had the unsettling notion something was not right with my health. At first, I had no symptoms. By the time the symptoms arrived, I was in the middle of writing, directing, and choreographing our church Easter play.  I love working with the kids and doing dramas.

This one was extra special because it was the first one in which DJ participated.

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In God’s providence scheduling conflicts led to the play being done a week before Easter.  Any other day and the play would have been canceled.

By performance night, my body screamed for attention.  My health refused to be ignored any longer.  In a span of about 36 hours, I went from feeling like I might have the flu to unable to get out of bed. IMG_9242

What began as me ignoring a typical kidney infection morphed into a full-blown medical crisis.  Words like platelets, blood cancer, leukemia, heart attack, stroke, and premature death engulfed my conversations.

Restricted from any activity, I had ample time to contemplate how I landed on this crudely constructed road.  How did I become so violently ill?  It didn’t just happen.  The answer was clear.  I sacrificed my health in the name of being a strong, nurturing mother giving all and taking nothing for myself. Then came the day when the tatters of my Wonder Woman mentality were strewn about my sick bed.  Everything changed.

There is a reason airline stewardess instruct us that in the event of an emergency we put our oxygen mask on before putting one on our child.  On the surface, the command contradicts the mommy code of putting the child first.  However, the point on the plane should be the same in our everyday lives.  If we do not take care of ourselves, we will be unable to care for our child.   Ignoring our health increases the risk of prolonging or intensifying our illness.  By seeking medical care at the first sign of illness we significantly increase our chances of surviving the monster seeking to destroy us.

I’ve not yet fully recovered.  Don’t know I ever will.

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What I do know is that for ever how many days God gives me upon this earth, I want to encourage others through my mistakes and accomplishments.  So, get that mole checked, stop making excuses for the lump in your breast, don’t assume it is a cold that won’t go away and get a physical every year.  We take the best care of our kids when we take care of us.  Cause to soar as high as she does, even Wonder Woman needs oxygen.

An earlier version of this blog appeared in the Winchester Sun.

Posted in Faith, parenting

What it Really Takes to be a Good Dad

My husband is a phenomenal human being. That is not an exaggeration. It is, in fact, an inadequate description. He’s not perfect, none of us are. But when he makes mistakes he will not only apologize but brainstorm about how to avoid them in the future. When I met him, he was beaten down about a failed marriage and stressed about the best course of action most beneficial to his kids. Repeatedly he took the road of significant heartache in order to do right by his sons.

In the past 20 years, I have stood mesmerized by his love and lack of retaliation. He never harped on what others said to his kids about him or their judgment. I, however, am not that mature. I’ve committed seven hundred different kinds of sins trying to defend him and provide what he longed for. Bad idea. As sin always does it bred more sin.

In one heated exchange with a person, I said, “I don’t need my husband to take up for me.” The response was, “Because your husband can’t.” At that moment it became a funny sadness. Our world wants us to believe retaliation, anger, and even violence is how to solve problems. It’s how we demonstrate our strength right? Wrong! There is no strength, love, or integrity found in allowing our emotions to dictate our actions.
True strength is found in restraint. When you sacrifice your desires and emotions to better your child, you hit a pinnacle of parenting seldom achieved. True, love is buried in sacrifice. We must be willing to not only hurt for our kids but allow them their missteps. That is the epitome of my husband.

He loves his kids enough to not force his will upon them. He lovingly allows them space to grow, respects their decisions even if he disagrees, and knows, under God’s watchful eye, he has trained them up in the way they should go so they will not stray from it. (Proverbs 22:6) Kids cannot cope with the world if they have not learned how to grow from mistakes and overcome loss. It’s a heart-piercing truth my husband knows well. And one I am trying to achieve.

On this Father’s Day, as in all others, I celebrate my husband and his ability to put himself on the emotional cross for his boys. Outsiders may see his lack of helicopter parenting as standoffish, or uncaring. Nothing could be further from the truth.

He falls to his knees multiple times a day trusting God to mold him into the father his kids need.  Some may perceive him as weak for following the God he is sold out to. And that’s okay with him. He will forever be the parent God wants him to be and reject the misconstrued parenting of the world. Why? Because he loves his children more than himself. My prayer is that someday I will be half the parent he is today.

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Posted in Church, Faith, In The News, Politics

Is a Vote for Trump a Mockery of Jesus

Recently, an article posted on Facebook declared any Christian who voted for Trump was “making a mockery of Jesus Christ.” The article beats the same worn drum. Trump disrespects women.  A womanizer should not be in the White House.  Really?  Bill Clinton turned the Oval Office into a whorehouse!  Hillary re-victimized the women by attacking them. Clinton’s accusers came forward on their own while attorney Lisa Bloom sought to pay women $700,000 to accuse Trump. Neither Republicans nor Democrats get a trophy for their treatment of women.

The nerve center of the article isn’t political. It is spiritual. It takes unmitigated gall of catastrophic proportions to measure a person’s faith by the ballot box. Moses was a murderer used by God. David was an adulterer and orchestrated a murder yet God called him a man after God’s heart. Rahab was a prostitute but was in the direct lineage of Christ. God’s power and grace are on full display when he uses unfit, unwanted and imperfect people to do great things.

The “good” people in the Bible were the Pharisees and Sadducees, those termed Teachers of the Law.  They were in charge in Jesus’ day.  They set themselves as the moral compass and the beacon of all that was right.  Jesus, however, referred to them as hypocrites, a brood of vipers, snakes, phonies, and oppressive.  Jesus set Himself up against the holier-than-thou even as He reclined with sinners.

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The mockery of Jesus comes when we promote our vote as the only Christian one.  Or when we use faith as a weapon of mass destruction.  It’s a pitfall Jesus warned us about and fought against.  He left no question as to our inability to judge one another.

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A person who uses a vote as a measuring stick of faith only invites questions about himself.  One of the foundational beliefs of Christianity is that God works good through bad situations.  Shaming someone for their vote defies that core belief.  Our shoulders are not the ones of which the weight of the government rests.  That is Jesus’ job.  God makes our job equally clear.

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That verse prohibits the Christian from saying, “not my president.”  It makes no difference whether or not you like the president.  God expects His people to act according to His Word and do right even if the government is wrong.  It is the responsibility of every minister in America to bring that point home to their congregations.

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When you see people on social media promoting such outrageous claims of mockery ask yourself why.  Humans have personal agendas but God has an agenda for humanity.  More often than not, God will enter from an unexpected avenue through the least capable person.  So, is a vote for Trump a mockery of Jesus?  No!  It is a surrender that we’ve done all we can and depend on a loving and just God to do what we can’t.  It speaks to a deep knowing that regardless of what the world says, it’s the sinner who has a true heart for God.

Posted in Faith, Uncategorized

Where Was God on 9/11?

A vision popped into my head of a finger dipped in a pot of water and twirling. With each motion, ripples scattered in all directions. It seemed important to note how what began in the middle of the pot impacted everything in it. I had no doubt it was a message from God. I told my husband, Steve, that God was working in ways we didn’t yet see. It was September 10, 2001.

The morning of September 11 found my husband Steve and I sitting at the kitchen table discussing plans for the day.  Steve said he had a meeting at 9:00. I turned to look at the clock. It was 8:45. I told Steve he should get going, but he said it was an approximate time not a firm one.

Once Steve left I prepared to get into the shower.  Our infant son, DJ, became very restless. Every other day, he was content to lie on a blanket while I showered. But in tandem with the day I didn’t know I was about to have, DJ was being anything but normal. I turned on the tv intending to start a video for him.

The moment I flipped on the tv the burning North Tower filled the screen. DJ quieted. As wtca former EMT (emergency medical technician) my brain kicked to rescue mode. While I mentally calculated possible rescue scenarios, I saw a plane enter from the right. I sighed with a bit of relief thinking it was a rescue plane. When the plane flew into the other tower, I stood in stark disbelief. “It flew into the building. That plane just flew into the building.” I said the words aloud as if that would help my brain process them.

For the next 30 minutes, I stood rooted to a spot in the middle of my living room, staring at the tv. I left only to use the restroom. When I returned to the tv, it was a split screen; burning towers on the left, the burning Pentagon on the right. I immediately cried out. “What is happening, God?”

pentagonA response echoed back from my heart. “Pray.”

“I don’t even know how!” I yelled. But God’s response was that single word. Pray. Without any idea how to pray over a situation like this, I fell to my knees. With closed eyes, clasped hands, and tears rolling, I reiterated to God that I had no clue how to pray over such a catastrophe.

“Pray for my people I’m bringing out.” Though God’s voice was speaking inside me, His words were as clear as if spoken aloud. I began praying, and a vision appeared. I saw countless people being led by angels from a massive pile of rubble. The towers had yet to collapse.

I didn’t understand what was happening. I was scared, shocked and angry. But I knew that if God was with me in those moments, He would also be with many others.  As personal stories emerged, many attributed God’s miraculous intervention with their survival.

As bad as 9/11 was it could have been worse. On an average day, approximately 50,000 crosspeople worked at the World Trade Center with another 140,000 visiting. That means nearly 200,000 lives were on the line in New York alone. The planes turned into weapons that day was only half full. The Pentagon was hit on the only side that had recently been reinforced. Had they hit any other area we would have likely lost more than the 125 lives we did. Then there are the heroes of United 93 who saved countless lives by forcing the crash in an empty field rather than a building.

Accompanying the statistics are the eyewitness accounts of angels. A police officer saw a ring of angels at the United 93 crash site. A man followed a voice to escape the Pentagon only to exit and realize there was no one in front of him. People told about being grabbed or pulled toward safety only to have the person vanish once they were safe. Many tell about feeling a presence prod them emotionally or give them physical strength when they wanted to give up. It was my vision incarnate; angels led people out.

On 9/11 God was where He is every day, with His children. As we reflect on 9/11 and mourn those lost, we should also find hope in the faithfulness of God. We don’t have the capacity to understand the ways of God or why we couldn’t avoid 9/11 altogether. But when from the rubble of tragedy a cross remained, we’re reminded that not even His own Son is too much for God to sacrifice for each of us.

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Posted in Beauty For Ashes, Faith, The History of Me

Do Not Touch That Bible

The living room of our house was there for show not use.  My family stayed in the den so everything in the living room was off limits to me. The roll top piano to the Bible on the coffee table, they were all hands off.  For a precocious five-year-old that was an engraved invitation.

When Mom thought I was in my room I was often in the forbidden room.  I would swing the pendulum on the grandfather clock, walk my fingers silently across the piano keys, and hide inside one of the end tables.  The Bible, situated perfectly to command attention from any angle, was like a beacon flashing red, calling me to come touch.

Although I was reading above my age level the King James Bible was confusing to me. Since I couldn’t make sense of the words I perused the pictures.  There were glossy pages filled with pictures that quite frankly scared the bejeebers out of me. IMG_2294

The angels were especially frightening.  One was trying to talk a man into stabbing a little boy and another fighting with a man.  Then there was the woman trying to get a snake to bite a baby and a guy nailed to a cross. With the exception of the last, none of these were a true depiction of what was happening.  It was only what my child’s eye interpreted.  Yet, as much as they scared me I couldn’t get enough.

My visits to the living room increased so it was only a matter of time until I was caught.  When my day of reckoning came I was so engrossed in examining the details of the pictures I didn’t even hear Mom’s approach.  When finished reprimanding me I took advantage of her attention and asked about the Bible.  She seemed surprised I didn’t know what a Bible was. I wondered if she didn’t tell me how she thought I’d know.

FullSizeRender (5)None-the-less, she said the Bible was about God.  And God was always watching me to see if I minded.  If I did I could go to heaven if not I was doomed to hell.  Wait, what?  There’s some guy I can’t see but who sees me all the time?  And He is just waiting for me to mess up so He can send me to hell?  As much as that freaked me out it didn’t stop my stealthily peeks of the Bible.  It was an addiction. Scared or not, and believe me I was terrified, I could not stop returning to that Bible.

Sometime after Mom’s ill-worded God introduction, I was playing hide-and-go-seek with my friends. From my hiding spot, I looked up at the night sky and saw the shape of a man. I stood stock still too terrified to move. Without a doubt that had to be God watching me. Since I had only moments ago been looking at the Bible, when told to leave it alone, I was certain He had come to throw me into hell. I ran into my house without taking the time to tell my friends.  I felt safer with a roof over my head.

Two things happened after that night. First, a reoccurring dream started. In the dream, I was alone in a room I didn’t recognize.  A voice would call out telling me God wants to talk to me. In fear of God, I would run into another room with people.  As long as I was among these strangers God didn’t try to talk to me.

When I wasn’t dreaming that I began having a nightmare.  Mom kept a yellow light bulbFullSizeRender (6) in my closet.  At night, she would crack the closet door to allow a little light in case we had to run from Daddy.  The yellow light was soft making it easier to sleep.  In my nightmare, I was in my bed looking at that yellow bulb when suddenly these winged, grotesque looking creatures would fly out of it straight towards me.

If it wasn’t Daddy disrupting my sleep with a drunken rant, it was demon bugs flying at me, or God wanting to talk.  I was just a little girl and ill-equipped to deal with any of it.  Yet, deep within I had a firm knowing that the answers were connected to that Bible.

I don’t recall how long all of that went on.  In sheer desperation, I stopped caring about punishment for disobedience.  Instead, I snatched that Bible off the table and retreating to my room where I would examine it for hours.  Tucked between those glossy photos I found my answer; the Lord’s Prayer.

Though I didn’t understand words like hallowed and thought kingdom come was an actual place (since my Dad frequently threatened to knock me there) I knew this was my key.  Blessed with the ability to memorize quickly I had that prayer down pat in no time. Then whenever the dreams came, whether God wanted to talk or the demon bugs attacked I put an end to it by softly reciting the Lord’s Prayer. It was my first introduction to the power of prayer.

Posted in Church, Faith, parenting, Special Needs Kids, The DJ Diariers, The DJ Journey

The Vision of God

The vision was as clear as it was murky. The image was of DJ walking to the front of the church toward the pulpit. I could make out nothing more than the church had two aisles leading to a step up to the platform where the podium stood. That made sense because it was the exact layout of the church we were attending. What made little sense was that even at two-years-old DJ could not walk.

That vision, like most of the others pertaining to DJ, was given to me when DJ was the sickest. He was in and out of the hospital sometimes multiple times in a month. It was terrifying, stressful, and more than a little taxing on my faith. Yet, whenever I was about to crash God always came through with a vision of hope. He always showed me something that seemed impossible with my current circumstances but instilled profound hope that kept me pressing forward.

I have no explanation for why or when God chose to show me these future events. Not one of them occurred in the midst of fervent prayer. Instead, they came out of the blue. Sometimes I hadn’t even prayed specifically for what God showed me but the vision was an extension of my heart’s desire. That was the case with this vision.

I was busy trying to keep DJ alive. His inability to walk was a low priority. Obviously, it was something I wanted for him but in the big scheme of things, I just wanted my baby to live. I had the vision twice, first at home and then a few days later at church. Me being me; I came up with a reason for it. I determined that one day DJ would walk to the front of our church and reveal to us what God had been doing inside his nonverbal heart and mind.

Fast forward about 15 years. We’ve moved to a different city and no longer attend that church. DJ is walking, but he is still nonverbal. Though the vision was anything but forgotten, there was certainly no evidence that it was about to be fulfilled. But isn’t that just like God?

This past Sunday we were at a church we had only been to once. No one in that church had an inkling as to the vision I had so many years ago. But this church was one of the most loving churches toward DJ I have ever encountered. I’ve had pastors and others love and accept DJ. But the entire congregation at this church has such genuine love and acceptance it stands above all others. Knowing that I was still unprepared for what was about to happen.

Just before he was about to deliver his message, Pastor Rick approached Steve and me. He asked if it would be okay for him to take DJ to the pulpit with him. I’m not sure exactly what he said but something that indicated this was not his original plan. Though we had no idea how DJ would respond we consented. Rick turned to DJ and asked him if he wanted to go to the pulpit with him and DJ agreed. It was when Rick took DJ’s hand in his and they started toward the front that it happened.

IMG_1727In the blink of an eye that long ago vision came to life. What I had failed to notice before, was how much the sanctuary at Bethlehem Christian Church resembles the one at Hill-n-Dale where we attended when I had the vision. They are practically identical. I suppose since it had been so long since I had been to Hill-n-Dale I missed the similarities. But at that moment, it became clear.

The vision wasn’t of the aisle at Hill-n-Dale. It was Bethlehem. And DJ didn’t have to speak his testimony he was living proof of it. I don’t know why God made me DJ’s Mommy. I’m certainly undeserving of the task. I understand even less why God gives to me these glimpses of the future. The only thing I know for certain is that DJ is God’s instrument to reach an often cold, hopeless, and cynical world. But in the process of doing so, he gives me what I need to carry on each day. No matter how hard and painful it is sometimes to parent DJ, God provides me the exact measure of hope I need to carry on. And more love than I can fathom.

Pastors like Rick are far and few between. They may love the Lord, but understandably they are leery of anything that may disrupt their message. Rick invited DJ up with him not knowing how DJ would respond but accepting that if DJ took the limelight from him, it would, in fact, be Jesus stealing the show. IMG_1736

Posted in Faith, Healthcare, In The News, Politics

What Prince Wants Us To Talk About

Maybe it’s because my most tumultuous years were spent in the 80’s. Maybe it’s because my friend and I sang little blue Chevette instead of Little Red Corvette because that’s what she drove. Or perhaps it’s the fact that When Doves Cry perfectly described an abusive relationship I was in. Or maybe it’s because I feel that Purple Rain described the difficult relationship I had with my mother and would have been more relevant at her funeral that the Christian songs selected.  Perhaps it’s because I wish Prince wouldn’t have let the elevator bring him down and he’d punched a higher floor, just like he taught me to do.  But if I’m perfectly honest it’s likely that if  he did indeed die of a drug overdose it could have  been me any number of times. Whatever the reason, Prince’s death has left me with a myriad of unwanted emotions.

Rather than talk about his fame, fortune, and iconic status I want to talk about what I truly believe Prince would want us to be talking about – chronic pain. His death is shaping up to point to a Percocet overdose. How can that be when he spent the majority of his life living clean, no drugs or alcohol, citing his faith as the reason? Something happened to Prince that was stronger than his faith. I can easily imagine the mental battles he had with himself before his death. It makes me shudder because I understand them.

I don’t classify Prince as just another drug addicted celebrity. No, understanding his faith, the life he lived for the majority and his hip replacement leave me thinking Prince wanted only what the majority of people take for granted; a life that is pain-free. I know this because I live with chronic pain. It’s like a migraine – no one understands it until they have endured it.  It’s a constant battle between what’s right, what’s wrong, where faith will take you and the overwhelming desire to simply not hurt anymore.

Chronic pain is a silent thief of life, mental balance and sometimes even faith. It’s the devil itself, come to steal and maim. It’s the unrecognizable disability and more needs to be done to address it. How many must die before we stand up and say ENOUGH? What those in chronic pain need the most is a physician daring enough to try new procedures, willing to prescribe pain medication if needed but diligent enough to micromanage those medications, regardless of who the patient is. We need doctors committed to patients, not revenue or government. We need a strong government committed to doctors and patients. Where are these men and women of courage?

More than his musical talent Prince should be remembered for shining a light on chronic pain. He should not be thought less of if his death is due to a drug overdose. Instead,it should inspire conversation in government, the medical community and ordinary citizens about what can be done about chronic pain. How do we help and protect the silently suffering?  How do we simultaneously remove the stigma of narcotic pain management while preventing those in need from abusing? It’s a conversation worth having.

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