When They Say, "I Don't Know How You Do It."

boy-child-childhood-346796-768x512.jpg

“I just don’t know how you do it.”

I get this a lot. It is usually accompanied by a very sympathetic shake of the head with wrinkled brow. Or “I couldn’t do what you do.” Insert here an overwhelmed and far off look.

These things are frequently shared with me by friends and family who know our story and who have a front row seat to our autism journey. But before you offer up these familiar phrases, here are three things you should know…

1. I can’t do this on my own. We parents of high needs children don’t have some sort of hidden superhero cape. There is no extra dose of strength or stamina that the Lord has measured out to us. I have to daily depend on the Lord and ask for His strength.

There are times when I become so completely overwhelmed as a special needs parent. I have had my own meltdowns and breaking points. There are times when my heart feels so completely broken for the struggles of our child that I just cry and feel helpless…and that’s when I usually realize I’ve been doing life on my own, in my own strength. I’ve been forgetting to give each day, thought, and moment to God. Once I remember that God is in control and completely sovereign and that He has a perfect plan and purpose for my life and the life of my child, I can operate out of a much more confident and peace-filled place. It doesn’t mean life becomes easier, but it does mean that I don’t have to face struggles alone. So, the next time you see me rocking along on this journey of having a child with severe autism and you think, I just don’t know how you do it…I don’t. I don’t do it. It’s a me and Jesus thing and without Him, I’m a mess. Thankfully, we were never meant to shoulder the weight of this world on our own. 

2. Others make all the difference. Parenting a child with autism is never a one-person job. I am not equipped to meet my autistic child’s every need. I am, however, equipped to do my very best to diligently seek out those who can help me meet his needs in the best way possible.

Ever since our son was two years old and received his diagnosis, he has had a team, also known to us as “Ezra’s entourage” if you will. There have been therapists and educators all along the way who have partnered with us in helping our son to reach his full potential. When educators crossed our path who did not truly believe in our son, he regressed and it was heartbreaking. When educators crossed our path who believed in him and pushed him to do more, he rose to the occasion every time. There have been therapists in our home for years who have shown Ezra love and care. These people helped us to not feel so alone. Ezra has a team built around him who are there to challenge him and cheer him on. When educators, therapists, and the family work together, it’s a beautiful thing.

There have also been family members and friends who have come alongside of us on this autism journey. A simple meal brought, someone to help you with groceries, or just a text to check in can brighten a special needs parent’s day. For those who have poured themselves out to support and love our family, you have made all the difference.

3. You can and would do what I do. Many times people say, “I couldn’t do what you do.” But the truth is, yes, you would. There is no manual for this special needs parenting life. I didn’t go to college for this, wasn’t prepped or prepared for this. But every day the sun rises and we make sure to the best of our ability that we do the very best we can. We love and care, we fight for our child’s rights, we push him to do his best, we surround him with those who believe in him, and we pray. We pray big, God sized prayers. You just never know what you are capable of doing until it’s the very thing you are given to do.

We don’t operate out of some sort of special needs expertise, but rather out of a place of unconditional love. We depend heavily on the Lord to see us through and others to encourage and support us along the way. It is because of these things that we are able to walk this autism journey. We are not alone.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” –Isaiah 41:10

First published for my partners at Joni &Friends and Irresistible Church at

https://irresistiblechurch.org/say-dont-know/

Families in Hiding

IMG_4269.jpg

The CDC recently reported that 1 in 59 children are living with autism.* For some, this may seem like a surprisingly staggering result. This news may even seem far removed; these children must not be here, in this town, where we live. But families like ours know better.

It’s true, children living with autism actually live near you. However, it’s also true that you may not have seen them. Because for many families of children “on the spectrum,” we are families in hiding.

We try to come out and join your ranks. We muster up our courage and attempt a store from time to time. Some days our children are successful with the stimuli of town and we are able to enjoy a taste of what it is like to take part in a family outing. Other times, we are less successful resulting in behaviors that cause others to stare as our courage quickly diminishes with every sideways glance and comments muttered under breath from people who simply do not understand.

One disastrous attempt to be a part of society can cause a special needs family to give up for a while. It’s all so real and all so raw. It’s just easier to stay home and find our normal and our happy away from the masses who are less than forgiving.

There are families in hiding in your community. They have almost forgotten what it is to be a part of a group of friends. Their children aren’t invited to parties. They cannot eat at restaurants. And with every failed attempt at finding a place within society, they shrink back and begin to wonder if it’s worth the heartache to try to belong.

Please understand, it’s not that we are trying to hide our special needs child away from the world. Our children are incredible and we would so love for you to see them as we do. It’s that often times, the world hides itself away from us. The world offers us glimpses of what it might be like to join in and even offers an obligatory invitation, but the world does not stand ready or equipped for families like ours.

So with every joke made at the expense of our child, with every parent who nudges their child to “go play with someone else,” with every school administrator who isn’t willing to believe in our child, with every church who has to apologize because they just “don’t have anywhere for your child to go,” and every store employee who stares and shows frustration when our children struggle in public…we shrink back into the safety of our homes.

What is the average person to do? How can you possibly reach out to special needs families who are in hiding?

When we can’t come to you, come to us.Our children are most successful in their own environment. They thrive on schedule, routine, and familiarity. You must understand that disability ebbs and flows. There have been times over the last eight years that our son is doing extremely well and there have been times where for his safety and the safety of others, we cannot leave the house. Trust us as parents to know these limitations.

It is because of this “ebb and flow” that our dearest friends come to us. We have bible study, we fellowship, we eat together, we laugh, and we cry together. It’s not flashy, but it’s so very fulfilling. They meet us right where we are at. They get down in the trenches of life with us.

Family members, don’t allow your feelings to be hurt when we cannot come to your family dinner or if we do not visit often. We would love for you to come join the beautiful mess that is often our home. It’s not that we don’t care or that we don’t desire connection, it’s that we can’t. Please come to us.

A little means more than you will ever know.You have no idea what an encouraging note, text message, phone call, or dinner made will mean to a family of a special needs child. Let them know that you are thinking of them. Share something about your day with them. Give us a connection to the outside world. Let us know we have not been left behind in your mind.

We have a nephew who periodically will draw a picture or write a letter to our son who has autism. Every time this happens I get choked up. They remembered us. They remembered our son. Our son proudly places the letter next to him while he plays with his trains. He knows and it’s important to him.

Let a special needs family know that you care, you notice them, and that their family has value.

It’s our job as special needs parents to never give up. We must keep trying to make a way for our children in the world. But the truth is, we could use your encouragement, understanding, and your friendship. That is what gives us the courage to come out of hiding to try again and again, until the world is ready to accept us.

*CDC Data: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html

 

First Written for My Partners at Joni and Friends and Irresistible Church http://irresistiblechurch.org/families-in-hiding/

 

 

The Power of a Positive Word: Children with Special Needs

I’m sure I stared at her with a deer-in-the-headlights sort of look as she spoke. “Your son is just awesome! He is talking so much and is so smart!” Of course, these are all things that I know to be true about my son, but hearing these words from another human being about my son who has autism is definitely rare. I fought back tears as the therapist helped my son into the car after a long day at the clinic—I’m not even sure I responded appropriately to her kind words.

You see, I’m not used to these comments. I have seen frustrated glances and shoulder shrugs. I have had multiple conversations with educators about all the things my son can’t do. The most cutting remark was a therapist who blankly said, “I just can’t do anything else with your son until you medicate him.”

Unfortunately, these are the things that most parents who have a child with special needs are used to hearing. There is a constant dialogue between parents and caretakers regarding their children with special needs, and sadly, the conversation is often centered on areas of difficulty.  Parents become beaten down and discouraged. That’s why I was so shocked when my son’s new therapist complimented him. She saw his strengths and made sure to let me know—it meant the world to me.

This is such an important thing to keep in mind for anyone working with those who have special needs. You need to understand what families like mine are used to. Most of all, you need to understand the power of a positive word.

Positivity is Powerful: If you are working in a special needs ministry or just happen to have the joy of knowing a child who has special needs, you need never underestimate the power of positivity. Every child has a set of God-given gifts and strengths. Look for ways to delight in the wonderful things they can do! In a world of negativity, this will fuel the hearts of both the child and their parents. In a case such as ours, it gives hope that others see glimpses of what we see when we look at our son.

“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” Proverbs 12:25

Positivity is Contagious: This summer my son began therapy at a new school where he is surrounded by people who cheer him on and celebrate his strengths. And guess what? He rises to the occasion. Certainly, he still has struggles, but in an atmosphere of encouragement he works hard to overcome the obstacles of autism. We must remember that children who have special needs, although they may not verbally acknowledge other’s comments, still understand what others say about them and even how they feel about working with them. Your positivity will greatly influence the trust and relationship you build with a special needs child and their family. Positivity is contagious; spreading from child to family with your ministry as its source!

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 1 Thess. 5:11

Positivity Does Not Mean Masking the Truth: When working with those who have special needs, truth and trust go hand in hand. Just because you encourage and focus on the positive aspects of a child, it does not mean that you should neglect to share with a parent any problems that arise. Often, parents are trying to work on medication changes or therapy changes for their child. Your input is important if there is an area of trouble. Sharing hard truths in love, covered by the positive things you see in their child, will make all the difference.

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” Ephesians 4:25

Positivity is powerful and can be one of your greatest tools when working with those who have special needs. It makes a difference in the life of a child. It makes a difference to families just like mine!

 

First Published at http://irresistiblechurch.org/power-positive-word-children-special-needs/

Alone in a Crowd

It can happen to any of us, and it does. It can threaten our grasp on reality, and it will. It makes us feel overwhelmingly unique in our struggles, though many times we’re not. It has the ability to suck the joy right out of our lives, and we let it. It’s the feeling of “Alone”.

I will be the first to say that I have allowed the feeling of “Alone” to take control of my life at times. The trouble is that when we allow “Alone” to take the wheel of life, it can be a very dangerous ride. “Alone” gives us a false sense of reality. Although our natural desire is to connect, we begin to build walls of protection around ourselves as “Alone” whispers, “No one else would understand”, “No one wants to hear about this struggle”, “What would people think about you if you told them?” , “Yes, you are completely alone.” So with each lie that “Alone” whispers, we add another brick to the wall of protection we are building around ourselves until we become trapped in a self-made fortress of loneliness, feeling cut off from the rest of the world, and longing for connection outside of its towering walls.

Yep, that’s me. As a little girl who grew up in a broken home, I built walls. As the victim of abuse, I built walls. As a young girl with an eating disorder, I built walls. My college years were a time of healing and a time to discover who I truly was in Christ. The Lord gave me strength to tear down some of those bricks that I had worked so hard to put up (my “hedge of protection” that in reality was a fortress of isolation).

I have found that in adulthood “Alone” still offers its fair share of opportunities for wall building. Financial struggle? Put up some bricks. Trouble at work? Put up some bricks. Struggle in a relationship? Put up some bricks. Job relocation? Put up some bricks. Health problems? Put up some bricks. Because surely “I am the only one going through this right now” and “No one wants to hear about this” and “No one would understand.”

I admit to you that just as quickly as I have found the strength to tear down walls of protection, I have just as quickly re-built them with new bricks handed to me by lies from “Alone”. Maybe you struggle with this as well?

But then something happened. Something forced me to decide whether I was going to allow myself to suffocate in self-built walls of protection and the feeling of “Alone” or to break down walls of loneliness and come to grips with the fact that we are all in some way struggling with something- I am not alone.

Our son was diagnosed with Autism two years ago. I cannot begin to describe the loneliness a parent can feel as the parent of a special needs child. I instantly began to build walls of protection with bricks handed to me by lies from “Alone.”

Who could possibly understand what it is like to hear your child’s unsettling screams deep into the night? To have the constant fear that he might elope? Fear of self-harm? Fear of him never being accepted? Fear of what his future might hold- or might not hold? Who could possibly understand how much effort and hard work it took you to change his diaper, brush his teeth, get clothes on him, keep clothes on him, and go somewhere? To watch him struggle? Who else has felt judgmental glances? Who else must try to filter through rude whispers about their child?

Who could understand the overwhelming joy you have when your child makes eye contact with you? Who could possibly comprehend the excitement of holding hands, the triumph of playing appropriately with a toy, or the praise that floods your soul when you make a connection with your child-no matter how small. There are tremendous blessings, joys, and triumphs of being the parent of a special needs child, but who else would understand or want to know about them?

And so the wall building began…I was very busy about appearing to have it all together while building walls of protection and buying into the lie that I was completely alone.

What’s sad is that in a world of social mediocrity, we can get away with this. It’s not hard to look fine, feel completely alone, and get away with it-without someone taking the time to ask, truly care, or invest. It seems we all have full plates, are too self-absorbed, and are too busy building our own walls to stop and ask how the other person is doing.

A friend of mine, who also happens to be the parent of a special needs child, recently wrote this after attending a Sunday morning church service, “So, it is possible to feel completely alone in a room full of people.”

Ever felt that way? Alone in a crowd? I sure have. But my friend’s comment got me to thinking… if she felt alone in her struggles that day, and I felt alone in my struggles that day, is it possible that there were hundreds of other people who felt alone in their struggles that day as well? Thousands? Millions?

And just before I let the walls of “Alone” overtake me, I decided to break free. Having a special needs child has been one of the hardest, most beautiful things that has ever happened to me. You see I finally realized, after a life full of wall building and buying into the lies of “Alone”, that the fact of the matter is: I am not alone.

Each of us have struggles, a past, wounds, triumphs, and joys. None of us are alone. But we are buying into the lie from the enemy that we are “Alone”. It’s the same enemy that the bible says is out to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10).  Do not let the lies of “Alone” steal your joy or your hope.

Maybe we could all stand to do some “demolition work” in our lives. To break down our walls of loneliness. To invest ourselves in other people’s lives. To have real conversations about real things with real people. I believe what we would find is that, in fact, we are not so unique in our struggles.

Maybe the church, as a body of believers, could stand to do some “demolition work” in the midst of its people.  To break down walls that “Alone” has worked so hard to build up. To unmask the hearts of its people and invest itself in authenticity. Because truly, the church was never meant to be a place for perfect people, with perfect lives, who handle life’s curves perfectly. I believe what we would find is revival.

Friends, do not buy into the lies of “Alone.”  You see, not only are you not alone in the fact that we all are trying to make it through this thing called life together, but I want you to know that God promises to never leave you or reject you! He goes before you. He wants to walk with you on this journey. The greatest desire of His heart is for you to have a relationship with Him, to talk to Him, to lean on Him, and to ask for His strength as you break down life-long walls of protection you have built around yourself. He so desires you that He felt it was worth giving His Son’s life for you.

God pursues us with His love and longs to fill up those holes in our heart that we mistake for opportunities to build walls with bricks handed to us by an enemy who’s goal is to destroy us.

Do not buy into the lies of the enemy! Do not lose your hope or your joy!  Stay strong in your faith. Take some time to invest in others, be authentic, be willing to share, and be open to accepting others just as they are. Dear friend, you are not alone!

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6

We took Ezra with us to Kids Camp last week. They were great about letting Ezra be "one of the kids" as much as he possibly could...including going down the water slide with his daddy!

We took Ezra with us to Kids Camp last week. They were great about letting Ezra be "one of the kids" as much as he possibly could...including going down the water slide with his daddy!

Little Victories are Never Little

Our family loves Mexican food. LOVES IT. Like, probably in unhealthy proportions. Interestingly enough, one of the very few restaurants that Ezra will “allow” us to go to is a Mexican food restaurant. Of course, Ezra brings his toy trains along for our fine dining experience and will keep them lined up perfectly during our meal! 

We have been working very hard with Ezra to teach him to feed himself. It has not been easy and we still have a lot of work ahead of us…but we have come so far! We took this video of Ezra last week. Notice that he is not only feeding himself tortillas, but he is dipping them in guacamole dip! He doesn't like to get his fingers messy, so every time he does you will see that he wipes his fingers on either his shirt or in his hair...a mess I am more than happy to clean up later if it means that he is learning to eat independently!

Little victories are never little! We thought we would celebrate this BIG “little victory” with you all. Go Ezra Go!

Talk About Us Behind Our Back

I love to watch people. Not in a super-creepy-stalker kind of way, but I do love to observe people; how they relate to others, their mannerisms, and I like to ponder over what their story might be. Now that I have a child with special needs, I cannot help but carry this interest over into our own life. It is just a natural inclination of mine to watch. I watch how people look at my Autistic child, how they respond to him, ignore him, make faces over him, smile at him…there are so many different reactions. Some people’s reactions offer such comfort and put a smile in my heart. Other times, people’s reactions can leave me feeling very alone, very vulnerable, sometimes angry, and sometimes sad.

There is one particular day out of each week that is very hard. It’s the day that my little girl, Grace, goes to dance. So much of what our family does or doesn’t do revolves around Ezra. I wanted Grace to get to participate in one “something” that she would greatly enjoy that is just for her, and she chose dance! So, once a week, I pack Grace’s dance bag and then I pack Ezra’s survival bag for the Survival of the Dance Studio Waiting Room. I smile. I act excited. My excitement is for Grace. I want her to feel super special because this is her special day. Inside, my stomach churns because honestly, waiting rooms are a brutal place for my Autistic child.

First, in a waiting room, you must wait. Waiting is not yet a concept that my sweet boy fully understands. He may be able to wait for a very short time, but for an hour and fifteen minutes, it is a huge feat. Also, in this particular waiting room you have noise, it is very crowded, and there are lots of people. Let me tell you, this is the perfect set up for sensory overload! So, I pack Ezra’s survival bag each week and say a prayer over him as we take our little ballerina to her class. 

The owner of this dance studio has met Ezra and is so very gracious and understanding to our situation. We take up a good chunk of her waiting room each week. Ezra sits strapped into a stroller, we bring snacks, toys, a DVD player, and the IPAD. Sometimes I end up sitting on the waiting room floor with my head in Ezra’s lap. Sometimes Ezra spits on her floor. Sometimes Ezra chunks a train through the waiting room air…it’s never a dull moment, that’s for sure!

As I sit through these dance sessions, I watch people. You see, my child does not sit in a wheel chair. My child does not have braces on his legs or need special medical equipment. My child does not look any different from any other “typical” kid. That’s right; my child has an invisible disorder that is manifested through behavior. So, instead of people smiling and understandingly looking on, I usually am met with looks of disgust (why can’t that mom control her child?), disapproval (that child is out of control) and even just curiosity (what’s wrong with that kiddo?).

In my Survival of the Dance Studio Waiting Room saga, I have observed something very interesting: the younger children smile at Ezra, they watch his Thomas Train movie with him for a short time, they say “hi”, and they are very accepting. It is about half way through our waiting time that a group of older girls arrive for their class. What a difference there is! Don’t get me wrong, some of these girls have been very sweet, but many have snickered at Ezra’s odd head movements and many have made comments. One that I remember specifically came from the precious looking girl with the purple bow and braces, “That kid is weird!”  Not so precious. I believe I have mentioned before that I am used to comments by now (read  1 in 50: My Supermarket Story), but that doesn’t mean that they don’t sting a little.

After my dance studio observations, my question is this: At what age does this disconnect of acceptance happen? Is this a learned behavior from an adult figure? What are we teaching our children, not just by words, but by example?

I have conviction now more than ever to teach my own daughter to love and accept, to be nice to everyone, to include and not to exclude, to look past handicaps and to look straight to the heart of a person.

In fact, yesterday morning as I dropped Grace off at school, this was our conversation:

Me: “Grace, don’t forget to be nice to everyone!”

Grace: “I know momma!”

Me: “And if you see someone sitting alone….”

Grace: “I should ask them to come sit with me.”

Me: “And if other kids  are laughing at someone…”

Grace: “Don’t laugh and go be their friend. Momma, I know!”

Me: “Because God made everyone special and…”

Grace: “And he loves them very much!”

(Yes, thank you to Veggie Tales for that last bit!)

I don’t care if Grace gets tired of this. It is something that I teach her with a deep passion. It comes from a deeper passion than I ever had before I had my sweet Ezra. I know that I cannot just teach her in words, but I must teach her through my own actions.

What are you teaching your children? Do your actions display a different message than your words? Did you invest the time to teach your child these life lessons but as they have gotten older you have forgotten to remind them of such things?

It is so important. It is important to families like ours. It is important to children like my Ezra.

There is one particular little boy at our church, who is in Ezra’s Sunday School class, whose Mamma is teaching him about Ezra. She explains bits and pieces of my blog to him. She has told him that God makes everyone special and everyone different and that that’s ok. She asks me questions about Ezra so that she can better understand him, and she shares that information with her son. And you know what? Her son rocks! He takes such consideration of Ezra. He says “hi” to him, tries to share toys with him, obviously wants to understand him, and treats him as another classmate. I am so thankful for this sweet boy who treats Ezra like a friend, instead of ignoring, laughing, or making faces.

So, you have my permission to talk about our family! I truly believe that these inconsiderate “looks” and “comments” come from not knowing; from a lack of understanding. If you want to, tell your children about us. Tell them about Ezra. Help them to understand. You have my full permission to talk about us behind our back!

See Ezra's Smile! He loves to play with his big sister!

See Ezra's Smile! He loves to play with his big sister!

1 in 50: My Supermarket Story

Florescent lights, squeaky shopping carts, noisy people, long lines, crowded isles, crying babies, loud announcements…that’s right, I’m talking about the Supermarket Experience. Even a short trip to the supermarket can cause the average person’s blood pressure to rise, but what about a person who has a Sensory Disorder? What about a person with Autism?

Grocery shopping is absolutely one of the very hardest things to do (for us) with an Autistic child. In fact, we are currently at a point in our lives were we have stopped trying it all together. I can’t tell you the last time we took Ezra to the grocery store. Well, there was that one time a few weeks ago but we literally set one foot in the door and he began to scream and cry and we walked straight back out (That doesn’t really count, right?) I cannot begin to image what the store is like for my little boy. What I do know is that it is obviously so very overwhelming to him that he sometimes must cover his ears, cry, scream, rock his head from side to side, and he spits everywhere (a very common reaction for Autistic kids-a way to release frustration-as he has no way to communicate what he is feeling).

I do not want this post to become Nichole’s “Supermarket Sob Story”. That is not my intent. My hope is to offer some insight into the world of our special needs family and what it is like to venture into public places.

I have some numbers for you. One in fifty. That is 1 in 50 people.  In March of 2013 the CDC released new statistics stating that one in fifty kids in America have Autism.

Just to give some perspective, based on this statistic, this means…

-When you are out to eat- there is probably at least one person with Autism eating at the same place as you.

- You probably have at least one person living with Autism near your home.

-If you have kids, they have several children who have Autism in their school.

-And yes, if you go grocery shopping, there are probably a few people in the supermarket who have Autism as well.

I hope you understand that for every family like ours that is venturing into town with an Autistic child, there was a lot of preparation, apprehension, and a lot of prayers that went in to it.

Honestly, what has been one of the hardest things is not necessarily my child’s reaction to public places, but the reaction of other people in those public places to my child.

We have received dirty looks, snide comments, and ugly stares. We have received comments such as “You should really learn to discipline your child” and overheard “Did you see that kid over there? He is out-of-control.”  Ouch!

Then, there was that one day. The day that caused me to want to take my little family and go into hibernation for a few years… I had just about completed my shopping. It hadn’t been a trip of ease but we had survived thus far and Ezra had just about decided that he had had enough-I imagine he had reached a point of being severely over sensitized. He began to spit (not just a little shower of spit…more like a torrential downpour).  A lady wheeled her cart straight over to mine and declared “Did you realize that your child is spitting? Do you know how unsanitary that is?”

I lost it. I wish I could tell you that I remained composed and gave a very godly answer with a sweet explanation for why my child was infecting the store with his “unsanitary” saliva.  I am used to giving explanations by now. I am not generally one to fly off the handle.  BUT, this was my response…

“Yes, I do see that my child is spitting and WE LIKE IT!”  Then, I turned my cart –with spitting child in tow- and walked as fast as I could to the checkout counter. We. Were. Done.

“We like it”? What on earth does that mean? Have Mercy, Lord!

Ladies and Gentlemen, one in fifty. 1 in 50. Families like ours are everywhere. Precious children just like my little boy are everywhere. The next time you see a child acting out in public or having a complete meltdown, it is very possible that they need a good ol’ fashioned spanking OR it is very possible that they could have something else going on altogether. Please don’t judge. Please don’t stare. And for heaven’s sake, don’t offer up criticism and rude remarks.

Let me tell you, there have been a few precious souls that have come along side of us while in public and have been such an encouragement. I would love to tell you about the lady who took a rag out of her own purse to help clean up the detergent that was running down the front of my shirt when Ezra knocked the entire bottle off of the shelf. I would love to tell you about the lady who helped me bag up my groceries at the checkout counter so that I could get out of the door a little quicker while my sweet baby was having a meltdown. I would love to tell you about the store manager at one of our local Christian bookstores that was sure to tell me that my child was “always welcome there any time” even after my child had screamed just about the entire time while I was there to pick up my book order. Thank you Lord, for these precious people!

Please note that not EVERY venture in to town is a complete disaster. We steer clear of grocery shopping right now but we have been able to successfully go out to eat as a family at Ezra’s favorite restaurants and will occasionally attempt a small store every once in a while. These successes may look different than the average dinning family, but they are huge for us and we are thankful for these times.

When we do get brave and make an effort to go in to public places, I am so thankful for those who do not look at us with scornful looks. I am so thankful for those who smile or offer up words of encouragement.  You can make such a huge impact on a mom like me and a family like ours with just a little bit of compassion and understanding.

Would you please be one of those people? One of those people who are able to see beyond what is considered “normal”? One of those people who are intentional about building others up?

It would make such a difference to people like us. It would make such a difference to the 1 in 50 and their families.

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11