I have had another one of those moments where God has spoken to me through scripture and it has about knocked me off my feet! I know that sounds awfully dramatic but it is so refreshing to hear God speak and know that it is time to change. I did not even realize I was thinking incorrectly. This morning I was reading Psalms 100:1-3. It says:
Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.
Serving the Lord with gladness: come before Him with joyful singing.
Know that the Lord Himself is God; it is He who has made us and we not ourselves.
When I was reading these verses, I immediately thought of Nate “come before Him with joyful singing”. I thought of him running up to the front row at children’s church singing wholeheartedly like he does each Sunday. Then I got to the next verse, “Know that the Lord Himself is God; it is He who has made us and not we ourselves”. I know that God made Nate. I wrote a post 4 years ago, “The Question that Ended My Question” that explains how I finally was able to get past the idea that maybe I somehow messed up Nate. God speaking to me then, changed everything.
Today, it was like a reminder. ”Know that the Lord Himself is God; it is He who has made us and we not ourselves.” There are many times that I find myself thinking about what if Nate were a “normal” 9 year old. What would our life look like then? I also have looked at those thoughts as though they were standards to see how he is lacking or even has developed towards. God was so sweet, it was as though He said, “You know I made Him this way, now stop looking at him through that perspective. I made him! Appreciate him right where he is and love him. Do that with EVERYONE. See them for who they are, right where they are and love them. I made them!”
I do not know why God made Nate the way he did. I have at many times looked at him having autism as being a flaw. That was not in my plans for my son. God keeps sweetly leading me to see that it is all part of how He wonderfully and beautifully made Nate. So I bow out and say, “The way God made Nate is good!”
Four years ago, I flew out to Washington DC to visit my sister and to speak to a wonderful group of ladies who make up Mom2Mom. I was there to speak about how autism has affected our lives and how to come alongside families with special needs in order to support them. Towards the close of the meeting an elderly woman came up to me and spoke to me about what she had learned through raising her now grown son who has Down Syndrome. I was ready to listen to any wisdom she had to share.
I do not remember her name but I will never forget what she said. She told me that with everything that I was doing to help Nathaniel that I should not forget to teach my son about God. I had listened to her but always wondered if Nate could really grasp God’s love for him. At that point in time, Nathaniel was 5 years old and could not even speak which made it difficult for him to have a relationship with anyone.
Lately, God has taken me back to those words of wisdom that wonderful woman shared with me. Ryan and my heart have grown so much for special needs families. I have been meeting more people who recognize the need to share God’s word with those with special needs. One of those people is Pastor Joel Sonnenberg who is the Special Needs Minister at Calvary Chapel of Ft. Lauderdale.
At many times, I have questioned God’s ability to reach someone like my son. Wondering if the words we speak and the life we live penetrates him? Why would I question God’s ability to reach one person over another?
I remember listening to a young couple who was about to be sent off to Nepal to become missionaries. I could not help but start remembering all the different missionary books I had read when going through a missions coarse in college. I started thinking about the book “Bruchko” where a young man named Bruce Olson felt that the Lord had led him to the very violent Molitone Indians in South America. The missionary had spent the first part of being a missionary trying to not be killed by the very Indians he was trying to reach and then later trying to live with them and learn their language. It was a lot of work and he did learn their language but he was not able to help them to understand God and how much God loved them.
The Molitone Indians had a story that had been passed down through generations about how they would be saved from a man who would come out of a banana plant in the jungle. Bruce Olson could not get them to let go of this long told story and realize that God loved them. Then one day an unripe banana fell from a tree. When the unripe bananas would fall they would break open and they looked like the very fine pages of a book. It was from this that Bruce Olson was able to introduce them to Jesus from the pages of his Bible. The whole tribe came to know Jesus.
I couldn’t help but think of all the other books like “The Peace Child” and “The End of the Spear”. Each missionary story shows how God reaches each group of people right where they are at. He uses their traditions and their passed down stories. He is able to bridge any cultural or communication barrier in an amazing and sweet way. And then it hit me right between the eyes and I could not get Isaiah 55:11 out of my head. ”So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper [in the thing] for which I sent it.”
The wise lady & the special needs minister are absolutely right. God’s word will not return void! Reaching people with special needs is a lot like missions. There are many barriers that must be crossed such as communication barriers. I am confident that God will cross those barriers as He has repeatedly done with me and with others and it will be done in such a sweet and amazing way. Though their stories may never be written in books, I am confident we will hear many untold stories in heaven!
Our Son Rise program is in the beginning of its fourth year! Amazing how time has flown since those first few uncertain weeks. God has been so incredibly good to us in these past years. Right now we are down to a small crew for the summer, but are ready to rock and roll once the school semester starts soon. We have taken this time to carefully reevaluate where Nate is and what we want the next year to bring with regards to his progress.
Speaking of progress, we have seen such amazing progress in our little man lately. We are constantly pinching ourselves to be sure we didn’t just dream that clear sentence we just heard, or the contextually correct statement. He is starting to read facial expressions and react in what can only be called a “normal” way. His tolerance for highly stimulating environments is at an unprecedented level as well. He’s even moving from tolerating them to enjoying some places that used to terrify him.
Starting now and continuing into the next year we are going to be really stretching our Nate in the area of imaginative open-ended play and some foundational cognitive basics leading to his eventual reading, writing and practicing simple arithmetic. There were times we didn’t think he would ever know who we were, let alone learn to read!
Nate is coming out of the fog of his Autism and we are so privileged to get to be a part. Please let your energetic, free and loving friends know that we are recruiting for our Fall Son Rise Team!
ACME Rhythm & Blues will be providing the music!!!!!!
There will be complimentary desserts, a silent auction and a Chinese raffle.
If you are looking for babysitting services, contact Seminole Sitters. Many of their staff have worked with children with autism. Come out and have a good time while knowing your children whether they have special needs or not are in good hands. http://www.seminolesitters.com/
As a father of four boys, one of my many goals is to spend as much one-on-one time with each of them as possible. I do not want any of my boys to feel like they were the forgotten son. This “forgotten son” scenario is, sadly, a common story as cares and worries eat up hour after hour, leaving many important relationships left unattended. As I spent a delightful afternoon with my oldest son Nate, I realized that my experiences with him are somewhat unique and worth sharing.
Let me say a few things first. I have always liked Nate, not just loved him. Dealing with some of his eccentricities has been a real trial for Rachel and I, but I have always had a sense that it was not his fault and that it’s our problem, not his. Also, I am fully aware that the time we spent together yesterday was made possible by God’s Grace shown to us through our Son Rise team of volunteers, both past and present. Truth is, a couple years ago it would simply not have been possible. I tried and failed many times as I realized that he was happiest at home where life was predictable and safe. Now, through all the hard work, he looks outward for fun and adventure. I am humbled to know our team and to be Rachel’s husband.
I wanted to give “you”, whoever is interested and whoever keeps reading, a glimpse into what a Daddy and Nate afternoon looks like.
First is the announcement that he and I are going to the store. He’s jumping and shouting “Can you come with me?!?”, which is his way of asking if he can come with me. When he understands that he and I are going together he is so happy. Understand that Nate often goes where he does not want to go and does what he does not want to do. With his Autism, many activities are completely uninteresting, uncomfortable or flat-out painful. Those of you who know Nate can guess his favorite store. A land where sliding doors reveal a wonderland of fans and sprinklers. A place where bathrooms echo and toilets flush at just the right pitch. That’s right; The Home Depot.
The first order of business was the garden center where there are lots of fans and sprinklers ready to spin and spray. They were all off, but that did not stop Nate. He quickly followed the conduit and found the switch. Relying on the old adage “better to get forgiveness then to ask permission”, I allowed it. With all the fans spinning he now wanted to run around and count them all, which we did. When one fan appeared broken he asked several puzzled customers if they could fix it. We then moved on to the fan section. It was here I thought to record a bit for fun as seen here:
After HD we headed to Pets Mart where they had puppies and kitties to pet. I also needed some crickets for the lizard, but that was only a brief distraction from the dogs and cats. After lots of petting and after repeating to Nate that we could not “Get a tiny puppy for us and for Nate”, we headed on to Wal-Mart.
This one is neat to me because Nate used to be scared to death of Wal-Mart. (He was scared of Home Depot at first, for that matter, but all fears melted away with the news of fans and sprinklers inside.) Understand that in these stores, it is not; “Hold my hand, Nate. Stop that, Nate. Come here, Nate. Put that down, Nate”. We just have fun. He’ll lay on the floor and look at the cool lights. He’ll take some pins wheels and run to make them spin.
Passing one lady he reached out and just quickly and gently grabbed her hand for a second. She melted. I heard “Oh my, he is so adorable!” from behind us. I patted his blond head and said “You are one handsome little dude!” The comments I hear are not all friendly, but we don’t care. We’re not here for the old guy that thinks I should discipline him more, or the lady in whose way we are in. On our way to the van he stopped to find and adjust the sprinkler heads he could find. I had to fight the “eww gross don’t touch that” instinct, but hey, there’s always soap and water.
“I love you, Nate”. (Nate) “I love you”.
As a black Escalade zooms past the slow minivan, our window rolled down and his pinwheel in the wind, I remember the day I relaxed with Nate. I took him to Publix a couple years ago. He really wanted to lie on the floor and look at the lights. My self-centered soul said “No! They’re all going think he’s weird…and that you’re a bad father” but I just smiled and said “Cool Nate! You’re on the floor! Neat lights!” Since then I just smile at the looks we get from people. They don’t understand, nor should they. It makes no difference to us. We are having fun together. We are making memories of love and fun, not of suppression and control. He knows that I really like him, not just love and put-up with him.
It would be a lie to say that I do not look forward to some of the “classic” son-father stuff with Nate. Truth is we are getting closer and closer every day to camping, fishing and things like that. He’s already enjoying hiking now. I can say with all honesty that I will miss our silly adventures in Home Depot and Wal-Mart when he’s beyond this stage. Perhaps then we will be visiting irrigation systems at huge farms and wind farms in the mid-west. You never know. However, I will always remember running with pinwheels and finding baby fans at Home Depot.
Yesterday I was baking cookies for Isaac’s first grade class cookie exchange. As I was adding all the sugar cookie ingredients to the bowl, childhood memories flooded my mind. I had baked these same cookies with my mother for Christmas as a kid. Even as a child, I looked forward to making Christmas cookies with my children. Instead my stomach was in knots. I was trying to make these cookies without letting Nathaniel get in the kitchen and taste them since he is on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. All those ideas of baking sugar cookies with my kids flew out the window.
That is not my family.
I see families all around me going out to dinner at restaurants or going grocery shopping together. It is those everyday mundane activities that you never thought would be so challenging. What has gotten me choked up before are those Disney World commercials. (I don’t know why because I am not particularly a big fan of Disney World. We also do not have TV but I saw a commercial once and it is branded on my brain.) It is just the contrast of other families as they show their family videos of them breaking the news to their kids that they are going to Disney World and they just pack-up and go.
That is not my family.
I can easily get caught up in the “that is not my family” syndrome. Believe me, I allow this to happen more than I would like. We recently were at our annual church family retreat. Every year the whole church goes to Lake Swan Camp and we have Bible studies and fun activities for everyone over a coarse of 3 days and 3 nights. It is here that I struggle a lot with “that is not my family” syndrome. I was pregnant with many of the women when I was expecting Nathaniel. I had daydreamed about our children growing up together and playing with each other. Many times I end up in tears about the “what if’s” and feeling sorry for myself because that is not my family.
This time at the retreat God spoke to me. I had a vision of me standing at a fence looking out, desperately wanting and thinking I should be on the other side. He told me, “That is not your family. Stop looking out and turn around and see how free you are.” It was like a heavy weight had been taken off my shoulders.
Do not get me wrong, I LOVE my family. I am proud to be Ryan’s wife and Nathaniel, Isaac, Noah & Joseph’s mother. It is just that I had ideas of family activities we would do and how we would function together as a family. I had determined what my family was going to look like long before I even had a family. How silly of me. God is defining my family. Each member was specifically placed in this family to help build each other up and to help us to become who Christ is calling us to be.
So let me tell you about my family.
We are figuring out what works for us. I am not exactly sure what our family will look like in the years to come but time will tell. While we may not be baking sugar cookies together for Christmas, we are baking pecan flour cookies. Ryan mentioned of roasting marshmallows in the fireplace with the boys so I will be making SCD marshmallows! We are setting up family traditions that work for our family rather than trying to keep the traditions that are not practical for the WHOLE family.
You will not catch us at Disney World anytime soon. That is not the “happiest place on earth” for us. It would be quite the opposite. You will probably catch us playing the Kinect on the weekends as a family instead. That way we can all go bowling or do track & field and have a good time. All of this is to say, I am trying to look around and see what works for our family rather than have our family fit a particular mold. This is love for my whole family.
I continually see stories about mother’s helping their children with autism. They truly are making a difference; there is no doubt about it! What I do not see often enough are stories about all the amazing dad’s out there. So I thought I would tell you about an amazing dad that I happen to know very well.
Ryan has been such a wonderful support to our family & me. His loving support pushes me on to trying new things to help Nate. WE are recovering our son from autism. There is no way I could not do it all on my own.
There are times that I feel beat down. Those days that Nate is very OCD (circle sprinkler, fan sprinkler, system sprinkler…you get my point) and it seems like progress is moving like molasses. (This is mostly due to being with him all the time and forgetting how far he has come.) Ryan understands this and he immediately offers to watch the kids so I can get out of the house. I know that may sound like a little thing but it is HUGE. Before you know it I am ready to hear about sprinklers all day long and Ryan (after a long day at work) is building sprinkler systems just for Nate in the backyard.
When Nate bangs his head at night, Ryan, will get up and rub his head and pray for him. (Nate does not bang his head as much as he used to but it still happens every now and then. We still do not know why.) He never is upset to be woken in the middle of the night but is more concerned about Nate’s well being.
If I read some research on autism and think we should try something or go a particular direction then he supports me. He wants to learn why and wants to get educated himself. I still love it when he explains how the Specific Carbohydrate Diet works. Don’t even get me started on when he talks about the difference between mono-saccharides and polysaccharides. (I know, I am a dork.)
One of the best things about Ryan is that he continually is reminding me of the BIG picture. This is just a season. Today he may be stuck on “sprinklers” but tomorrow it may be “fans”. ( Haha!) He has made me laugh no matter what the day has brought and he has helped me to dream when I was afraid to dream. He has been a wonderful husband, father (of soon to be 4 boys!), lover, friend and teammate that I could have ever asked for.
Thank you, Ryan, for all that you have done for our family. You still continue to amaze me. I love you. Happy Father’s Day!
We recently did another 96 food panel IgG Food Sensitivity Test (www.foodallergy.com). The first test was done back in May of 2009. So it has been close to 2 years since we retested and have had Nathaniel on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. Before I give you the results, let me explain why we did the IgG Food Sensitivity Test.
There are several different types of allergic reactions. Many people are aware of IgE allergies. IgE is responsible for the classic response for allergens. (Itchy nose and eyes, cough and for more severe cases can lead to anaphalatic shock.) IgG allergic reactions can immediately occur after eating offending foods but can also occur 2 to 3 days later making it difficult to determine which foods are affecting you or your child. Your body can actually make IgG antibodies to different offending foods. So every time you consume that food you may get headaches, brain fogginess, diarrhea, stomach aches….you name it!
Nathaniel is affected by food! There is no doubt. I always refer to the movie “Gremlins”. If he gets the wrong foods he becomes a different boy. He will start head banging, climbing walls, running in circles all while making very interesting noises. We especially noticed this with eggs. The crazy thing is he CRAVED eggs! If he craves anything I am now more cautious to seeing how he reacts after eating those foods.
So here are the results: ( 3 star (very sensitive) to 1 star (low sensitivity). OLD 2009 Results in RED & 2011 Results in BLACK.
Cottage Cheese *
Swiss Cheese *
Egg White ***
Egg Yoke ***
Black Pepper *
Baker’s Yeast *
Brewer’s Yeast *
Cow Yogurt *
Cow’s Milk **
Black Pepper *
Baker’s Yeast *
Brewer’s Yeast *
As you can see, he has a lot less food allergies than he used to have. If you have not performed an IgG Food Sensitivity Test on your child then I would highly recommend it! It is quite inexpensive even if it is not covered by your health insurance. It generally costs around ~$100 when done through www.foodallergy.com . Shop around and find the best price! It also only requires a small sample of blood.
Hope this helps and encourages you and your family as you are on the road to recovery for your loved one!