Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Remembering 2013


We continually recall before God our Father the things you have done because of your faith and the work you have done because of your love. And we thank him that you continue to be strong because of your hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
~ 1 Thessalonians 1:3, NCV ~

What a year for Snappin' Ministries!   God was on the move in so many ways this year on behalf of parents raising children with special needs.  His infinite love has been expressed through so many people, with a wide variety of talents. Incredibly, hundreds of parents have ministered to other parents through the conduit of Snappin' Ministries.  To bring you encouragement and motivation for the New Year, we thought we would recap 2013 for you.

This Year's TOP Blog Posts

6.  Does a Baby With Brain Damage Have Value?
     by Barb Dittrich, November 29, 2013

5.  For The Dad Who Takes No Delight In Father’s Day
     by John P. Knight, June 14, 2013

4.  Am I Doing Enough For My Child?
     by Barb Dittrich, September 6, 2013

3.  A Christmas Letter to Mom
     by Jeff Davidson, December 9, 2013

2.  Offering My Cheap Imitations
     by Barb Dittrich, April 15, 2013

1.  U ASKED 4 IT: 5 Ways to Love the "Unlovable"
     by Barb Dittrich, July 26, 2013


This blog has become more dynamic since our new group of bloggers came on board with a regular rotation on November 1, 2013.  These wonderful writers capture the full age-range and continuum of parenting a child with physical challenges, rare disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorders, or mental health difficulties.  Step-parenting and living as an adult with a disability are also some unique perspectives that are covered.

*************************************************************

Annual Impact

January 19, 2013 – Family Bowling Party held at AMC Lanes in Waukesha, WI.  Attendance increased by 21% with 58 people enjoying food, fun and door prizes.
February 15, 2013 – New volunteers joyfully joined us for our Valentine’s Respite Date Night held at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Delafield, WI.  We entertained 19 children, so that 9 couples could enjoy a sweet evening out.
February 27, 2013 – World Rare Disease Day was observed by our participants, many sharing photos and stories of their children’s rare diagnoses via our Facebook page.  The mutual support was heartwarming.
March 19, 2013 – SNAPPIN’ MINISTRIES was declared the 1st runner up in the About.com Reader’s Choice Awards for Favorite Regional Special Needs Resource.  We were in the running against some other remarkable organizations, so this was a great privilege.
April 19-20, 2013 – It was our great privilege to present a workshop on best practices in parent-to-parent mentoring at one of the nation’s largest disability ministry conferences, the McLean Bible Church Accessibility Summit in Tyson's Corner, Virginia.  We had a wonderful opportunity to chat with many parents and colleagues at our booth at the 2 day summit.
April 28, 2013 – Approximately 60 people soared to new heights with us at The Gift of Wings on Milwaukee’s Lakefront.  Families enjoyed lunch, personal kite making, a trick kite demonstration, and a guest presentation from Shepherd’s College on their post-secondary school programming.
May, 2013 – We had the honor of rolling out the SNAPPIN’ App for both Apple and Android devices, so that parents can access comfort, prayers and help from anywhere they find themselves.
May 17, 2013 – Our respite program was launched with a spring rebranding as “Recess:  A break from your regularly scheduled life”.  Volunteers served 20 children while their parents enjoyed one last break before school adjourned for the summer.
May 19, 2013 – Through the generosity of one of our benefactors, an intimate, relaxing day was provided to 8 mothers at our Mother’s Day Mini-Getaway.  Massages, lovely food, art projects, and a boat cruise all offered a welcome break for these women.
July 21, 2013 – Country Springs Water Park provided an outstanding picnic lunch and unique entertainment to 50 of our participants for our annual Family Picnic.  Most of these families would never otherwise be able to afford an afternoon at this venue, so it was a remarkable, refreshing treat for all.
August 12-16, 2013 – Once again we collaborated with Mission Bells Ministries on their Christian Disciple Farm special needs day camp.  This year Autism Solution Pieces of Racine joined us in leading the 30 women participating in the Moms Group.
August 13, 2013 – It was our great privilege to be a Silver Sponsor of the Oconomowoc KidsFest this year.  We quickly found ourselves wiped clean of the 300 sensory hand-outs we arrived at the event with.  Kids and their parents loved the activities we were able to offer.
August 15, 2013 – Ocomicon brought thousands of comic book fans to the downtown of Oconomowoc, and SNAPPIN’ MINISTRIES was there to greet them.  As children enjoyed the bouncy house we provided, volunteers took the opportunity to share our mission with the community.
August 23, 2013 – End of Summer “Recess” brought additional new volunteers to Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Delafield, WI, as our team entertained 10 children whose parents received a much-needed break.
September 28, 2013 – “All-In” volunteers from Crosspoint Community Church assemble 60 gift baskets for mother and fathers in need of encouragement and support.
November 9, 2013 – 1st Annual Christmas Mini-Mall to benefit SNAPPIN’ MINISTRIES offered home-based businesses and crafters opportunities to sell their wares, while also earning charitable funds and building awareness of our organization.
November 22, 2013 – Holiday Drop & Shop “Recess” provides parents an opportunity to do a little Christmas shopping while our volunteers watch the kids and teach them about the birth of Jesus.
December 4, 2013 — Snappin’ was announced as 1 of 16 charities in Wisconsin to earn Great Non-Profits’ 2013 Top-Rated Awards.  This accomplishment was achieved through the positive reviews of volunteers, donors and participants in our programs. 

Aside from these specific events, this year our organization provided $1,155 in gift cards, 66 gift baskets, $450 in direct aid as well as the daily devotional blog posts, information distributed through Pinterest, Flickr, Twitter, and Facebook all for thousands parents nationwide connected to SNAPPIN' living with the challenge of raising a child with special needs.

*************************************************************

 *************************************************************
 WEBSITE UPGRADE
(With Testimonials!)
 Come give us another look!
www.snappin.org

PRAY:  Jehovah Jireh, THANK YOU for showing Your love to parents raising children with special needs through the work of Snappin' Ministries in 2013.  We parents can't take care of these precious children apart from Your help.  Guide us, strengthen us, and encourage us as we venture into 2014.


Top 2 photo images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Prisoners, Parents, and Prayers

Hebrews 13:3a  “Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself”.   NLT

You may think this is an odd verse to be included for parent's of special needs kids. If you read on you'll see that it can be quite relevant when severe mental illness is involved.  I was as guilty as the next person to prejudge and convict criminals without much thought to them or the families they come from. Frankly, I used to skim over this verse and just give it a “quick” read without much contemplation.  Or I would think of those in the Bible that shouldn’t have been in prison.  But this verse really doesn’t distinguish the prisoner.   Then I got a taste from a parent's perspective of jail.  I now look at all prisoners differently, but for today I am going to touch on the special needs prisoner and their families.  

I made the call to the police department right after David got on the plane to come home after fleeing the country.  It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do as a mother.  I had reported him and now he was going to be arrested when the plane landed.  That indeed happened and he was taken to jail.  As a mother you must know that I did imagine what it was like for him.  In the few days that he was there he was on suicide watch for half the time. We were fortunate enough to be able to video talk with him almost every day and the pain in his voice and on his face was almost unbearable.  We couldn’t just give him a hug over the monitor or tell him everything was going to be o.k.  We knew he had to be held accountable for his actions, but we also knew that much of his trouble was due to his illness.   This is a dilemma too many parents of grown kids with severe mental illness have to deal with.  We knew it was the best possible place for him at that time which was a hard thing to swallow. It was heart wrenching to say the least.  

Because of this, I now had a new appreciation for prison ministries and understood a little of the toll it puts on families when a loved one goes to jail or prison.  I can't even describe the varying emotions I went through and was shocked to find out the financial toll a family can go through if they want to stay in communication with their loved one.  

The really big thing that I came to realize is that many inmates in both jails and prisons suffer from mental illness.  I strongly encourage you to read the article I have linked below about prisons being the new asylums (an institution for the maintenance and care of the mentally ill).  Because of this experience, I could now read this verse and really start to relate to it and understand it much better.  I was no longer apathetic about it.  I also realized that however undeserving I might think someone is in prison that only God knows their heart.  

My son was a Christian with a mental illness that he didn't have enough insight into.  The illness was untreated, undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, and mistreated for so long that it was taking it's toll on his mind and his very life.  As a parent, I was helpless to force treatment on him.  I knew it was the best place for him, which in itself is quite a sad statement of how our society has fallen short in helping those with severe mental illness.  It's a terrible place for a parent to be put in.  I couldn't call a hospital and get him admitted for care.  I knew I was not alone.  

Unfortunately, my experience as a parent of a special needs prisoner was all too typical.  There are many such parents out there that would love some encouragement and prayer.  My challenge to you is to regularly pray for these prisoners and their families to be comforted by the ultimate comforter, Jesus.

Prayer:  Lord, help us to put ourselves in the “shoes” of those that we may not believe are deserving of remembering.  Help us to remember their families who suffer with them and lastly remind us to pray for them and their families.

Photo credit UK Telegraph

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323455104579012664245550546

Friday, December 27, 2013

Now What?

So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:
They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.
None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.
~ Romans 8:31-39, MSG ~

It's the phrase that every decent parent dreads on Christmas Day after all of the presents have been opened and pretty papers litter the floor:  "Now what?  Is this all there is?"  Yet, something sinfully instinctual deep in our adult core whispers those same dangerous questions right along with the children.  Christmas has come and gone.  Despite how we have focused on just surviving -- Trying to stay out of the hospital -- Trying to manage all the complicated nuances around our child's diagnosis.  Merely trying to financially afford this holiday has been tough.  Oh, if we can just make it to Christmas! 

We've spent weeks, sometimes even months preparing for the crescendo of this day...  And it's over.  And our hearts can still wrestle with a deep unrest and sense of dissatisfaction that we thought all of the "stuff" of Christmas would assuage.  We thought Christmas might bring peace, contentment, or even relief that it is over.  Yet there is still that empty, disturbed space inside of us.

So where do we go from here?  What do we have to look forward to now that Christmas is over?  How do we face the rest of this long, cold, dark winter with joy?

After all, these months are not always a friend to those with mobility issues.  Have you ever tried to maneuver a wheelchair or walker in snow?  Isolation can insufferably flood into the empty space left after the speedy departure of the holidays.  And if it isn't a mobility issue, it is that non-stop child who wants us to spend hours out in the freezing weather playing when we just want to nestle.  Now comes the time where we bump into one another with a cabin fever crankiness that has no twinkling lights or magical expectations lifting us out.
Christmas is gone!  What let down!  What emptiness!

But we shouldn't be empty.  We should be transformed because Christmas came, never to leave again.   The holiday season should only mean a fresh start at rekindling the memory of God's faithfulness.  It should be a celebration that He has seen us through another year, even if that year did batter and bully us.  Christmas is the promise, the annual rejoicing as we remember that we are never alone.  He is here seeing us through.  We can face the cold, unrelenting winter ahead with joyful warmth, endurance and confidence, because He has arrived on the scene to fill us up with all we need for the days ahead.

Jesus lived a dynamic, not a static, life.  The Babe humbly born did not remain in a manger, but went forward, fully experiencing the ups and downs of this difficult life.  He understands our trials, our isolation, our pain.  And because He understands, we find hope.  He is not detached from our troubles, but cared enough to leave His perfect glory and go behind enemy lines to live as we do in brokenness.  His birth was just the start of His rescue mission to bring us out of that territory, relieved and rejoicing.

Pause in wonder.  Hang onto the joy and hope Christ has delivered to your door during the holidays.  Don't cast it aside like another opened gift that will remain unused.  Because with Jesus on our side, what can keep us down?

PRAY:  Precious Jesus, you are not a detached God who stands far away from our troubles.  You got down in the mud, rolled up Your sleeves and labored through our suffering alongside us.  You have proved that You are a God who cares and can be trusted.  Let our family cling to this amazing confidence and carry Christmas in our hearts throughout the year ahead.

~ Barb Dittrich

Thursday, December 26, 2013

...And Mom and Dad Can Hardly Wait For School to Start Again!

Image Courtesy of 123RF
When I am in trouble,
    don't turn away from me!
Listen to me,
    and answer me quickly when I call!
~ Psalm 102:2, GNT ~ 

I hear the quarreling explode just as I reach the dryer to fold the next load of warm, clean clothes.  Little Miss Aspie, looking for a constructive way to channel her hyperactivity and relate to another person in the household, grabs the exercise balls and hand weights away from Mr. Hemophilia, who needs to follow through on a regular exercise plan for good joint health.  His anxiety escalates as she continues to push him to work-out with her.  He wants privacy and had the equipment first.  The shouting gets louder as sibling tension escalates.

"God," I whisper as I begin to pair socks,"Please let there be peace in this house during the Christmas break."


Is it any wonder we parents with kids who have a variety of diagnoses find ourselves conflicted over having the children home for the holidays?  There are so many moving parts to the Christmas season.  We long to love on our families, bring our chicks under our wings and cuddle in the wonder of this winter pause.

Creating memories together...
Drawing close to teach the miracle of the Christ child...
A cozy fire...
Twinkling lights in a darkened night...
Aren't these all the things that make this time of year meaningful? 

Instead, there are sleepless nights from excited children who have limited executive functioning.  Guests walk in on home therapies that aren't quite following the course they should be.  Typical siblings reach their maximum coping abilities with those who exhibit challenging behavior.  It all crashes into each other as you are still trying to figure out if you will accepting your friend's invitation to yet another celebration this weekend.


Even if you have to lock yourself in a bathroom to do it...  TAKE A DEEP BREATH.


Sometimes the best celebrations, the sweetest time together as a family comes when we set aside expectations, to-do lists, and lean into the open space of unstructured time.  


Exercise your "No, thank you" muscle with those putting designs on your free days.

(Check out the many previous posts we have on the topic of "boundaries".)

You are not alone...  Don't feel guilty!  So many of us experience these overwhelmed, conflicted feelings during the holiday break.  It doesn't make you a bad parent or a bad son/daughter or a selfish brother/sister.  It's merely another piece of all the moving parts that are Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year.


Just anticipate this type of stress to rear its ugly head this time of year, and plan accordingly.  Be deliberate, intentional in carving out special time as a family, doing what might be most appealing to your own children.  You know them best.  You will never get a second chance at their childhood, so do your best to focus on just one thing that you can give to your child in the way of time together or family experience.  After all, if we spend this season marching to everyone else's beat, succumbing to the demands of others, then we haven't been Christ's image-bearers to the ones who are our primary duty and closest to our hearts.

As for meltdowns and medical malfunctions, be open to changing plans.  As one entry in my devotional Bible states, "Happy Are the Adaptable"*.  Flexibility with the unique needs of our kids makes all the difference.  Despite best efforts, you will never be able to completely control your child's health, their behavior, their medical emergencies, so why fight it? 


Even if you have to get up early to do it, make certain you carve out some time alone as well.  Take a walk to clear your head.  Spend 15 minutes reading, praying, making a puzzle.  This will fortify you to go back in there when it's time to don the referee shirt and break up the cabin fever brawls.  It gives you those little moments of clarity to realize each day that it is what it is.  You will survive.  This is like being stuck in an overcrowded elevator, but you're almost to your floor.


Abandon perfection for the only Perfect One who we celebrate this time of year.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, friend!


PRAY:  Lord, help me to keep my expectations in check this Christmas vacation.  Exchange my anxiety and irritability for a loving embrace of what and who really matters.  Let us look back on this season with joy in knowing that we focused on what is most important.


~ Barb Dittrich

*From the entry "Happy Are the Adaptable" by Colleen Townsend Evans, NIV Womens Devotional Bible 2, 2nd Edition, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI 49530, p 1061

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

What Immanuel Means to Special Needs Parents

All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’). Isaiah 7:14 (NLT)

It’s Christmas Day. I have spent the past two months dealing with a child having sensory meltdowns, more-than-normal levels of anxiety of the ASD type, lack of sleep, and illness. I’m exhausted. So when the big day finally arrives, the wrapping paper is cleared from the floor, the gift anxiety finally abates, and I can sit and think for a few minutes, I desperately need time to reflect on the Christ child whose birthday we’re celebrating.

I remember all the Advent devotionals we have read this month and the verses we have studied. And the one word that sticks out to me as I sit, weary, trying to begin the recovery process from this holiday season is Immanuel.


God is with us.


What does this mean for me? What does it mean for this day? This year?


Immanuel, God is with us, means that God has been with me through everything. Every meltdown, every struggle with the insurance company, every question I was asked by some well-meaning (or not-so-well-meaning) person, every tear I cried, every time I thought I would never make it until bedtime. Every therapy goal met, every moment of eye contact, every smile, every time she wrapped her little arms around my neck.


God was with me. He is with me still. Immanuel.


We can rest in His presence today and in the days to come.


Merry Christmas!

PRAY: Father, thank you for sending your Son to us. Help us to focus on you today and your constant presence with us. Amen.

~ Jennifer A. Janes

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Regifting

Preach the Word of God. Preach it when it is easy and people want to listen and when it is hard and people do not want to listen. Preach it all the time. Use the Word of God to show people they are wrong. Use the Word of God to help them do right. You must be willing to wait for people to understand what you teach as you teach them.
~ 2 Timothy 4:2, NLV ~ 

That awkward moment when you realize a Christmas present  has no return receipt because it has been regifted…

If it hasn’t happened to you yet, you’re sure to experience it at some point in your life.  In fact, this passing on of an unwanted gift is so common that I heard two radio personalities casually discussing it yesterday afternoon.  Amidst their bantering, the two men agreed that regifting is permissible as long as there is "six-degrees of separation" between the new recipient and the original gift-giver.  You wouldn't want either of them to be offended now, would you?

My own extended family has shared uproarious laughter as we have opened regifted presents from a certain sibling each year.  While there were some incredible treasures like a warm Green Bay Packer blanket or special candy, there were even more that had everyone chuckling because they were a little "off", like the wooden moose dispenser that pooped candied chocolates, or the elaborately embellished Jesus clock.  The merriment of watching and wondering who would be the lucky recipient of the best regifting each year made for irreplaceable memories.

As I cherish these recollections, the smirks subside and I marvel in wonder that there is a gift we can pass on which those we love will never forget.  Incredibly, we still possess this prize even after we regift it to another.  You may have received this Treasure recently or you may have held it close for years.

The intimate, fortifying love of Jesus is too precious of a jewel to keep to oneself! 


That same Immanuel, "God with us", who rubbed your back as you wearily leaned over your child's hospital bed or who walked beside you as you marched into that brutal IEP meeting is the Gift who keeps on giving.

When people marvel, commenting, “I don’t know how you do it,” it is time for regifting!  These are the times where the door is flung wide open for people to hear about a Savior who is bigger than our worst parental nightmares.  During the holidays we are so close to others who don’t often get to see what life is like raising a child on the Autism Spectrum, or how challenging it is to maneuver with a child who has Cerebral Palsy, or the dietary juggling required with a child fighting Diabetes.  These people get a peek inside our daily lives.  It quickly becomes apparent to them that our high calling as parents to these children can never be answered without some serious help, and the opportunity for a conversation suddenly opens.  Hearts softened by the story of the Babe in a manger suddenly get to hear of the difference that same Miracle Child makes in our perseverance.  And we need not worry about offending the other person by sounding like a pushy evangelist, because we are merely sharing the story of our own personal encounter.

The Hope that makes all of our suffering pregnant with meaning; the One who bears all of our sorrows, when we can’t make sense of our child’s circumstances; the Savior come to earth, dying that we might live is the rich, understated gift that can permeate all of our gatherings throughout Christmas and New Year.  What an awesome regifting to lift another heavy heart out of the bottomless muck where they’ve been spinning their wheels for years!  This is Love – passing on THE eternal treasure that starts here and now, and can never be stolen from us.

The warranty is sealed in the blood of that Immense Power who cares enough about each of us to have contained and humbled Himself in the form of a homeless newborn.

Although, we might find ourselves worn and cash-strapped as the parent of a challenged child, our richness lays in Who fills us.  When the Giver of every good and perfect gift is our life-line, we can be sure that our divine regifting occurs before we have even spoken our first word.  His presence radiates from within us.

God bless you with a Christmas glowing with the glory of knowing that you belong to Jesus!  Be sure to share the gift!

PRAY:  Jesus, You gave more than we could ever repay.  Your love is greater than our minds can even fully comprehend.  Yet, some hearts walk needlessly in the deep pain of not knowing You.  Help me to pass on the gift of Your hope this Christmas, whether it be in word or deed.

~ Barb Dittrich ~


Monday, December 23, 2013

The Perfect Gift

 "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change"- James 1:17 (ESV)

The frustration grew and the futility mounted with every year.

We would spend hours online and in stores searching for the perfect Christmas gifts for our son.

But what in the world do you get for a child who is both mentally and physically challenged? What gift seems right for a boy afflicted by cerebral palsy, autism, and seizures, who even though he is a year older every year, is still a toddler in so many ways?

Finding toys to engage him that he would actually play with seemed futile. And believe me, we tried everything. I turned our basement into an indoor carnival in our efforts.  I think I vicariously relived my own childhood by purchasing for him everything I imagined I would have wanted as a little boy.

Christmas is hard on special needs families in so many ways. One of the ways we don’t talk about much, but we despair over so often, is in finding appropriate gifts for our kids with profound special needs.

My son has watched the same” Wiggly Safari” video featuring The Wiggles and the late Steve Irwin every day before dinner for eleven years. Every time it is as if he is seeing it for the first time- he laughs, he cackles, he roars.

From him I have learned that true joy can be found in the simple things. True contentment can be found with just a few things. And happiness can be found in the little things.

But the one thing he really needs, the one thing he has to have- he has already received.

Every morning his mother gets him up, cleans him up, fixes his breakfast, and dresses him. Then she takes him to school before heading off to work herself. After work she cooks his meals, washes his clothes, changes his sheets, bathes him, and prepares him for bed.

Because of his needs and limitations, he requires 24/7 care for everything in his life. He is not capable of taking care of himself, and never will be.

She is his world. She is his lifeline. She is his everything.

She is also exhausted. She is weary. She is overwhelmed and teetering on the edge half the time.

There is too much to do and too little time and resources to do it all.

Sometimes she muffles her tears in her pillow at night and wonders where the strength will come to get up in the morning and do it all over again.

She doesn’t realize it, but she has given her child the perfect gift already. The only gift really that would work.

She has given herself.

She gets up every day and lays down her life for her child. Her dreams, her plans, her needs, and her life- she lays them down for his sake.

Because the only way he lives, is if she dies... to herself….every day.

Each and every one of you caring for an individual with special needs is doing the same thing.

And by doing so you are embodying the essence of Christmas, without realizing it.

The essence of Christmas is God giving us Himself.

God’s perfect gift to us was the gift of Himself in the form of Jesus.

No other gift was suitable. No other gift could give us what we needed, which was life.

God gave us Himself in the form of Jesus, who would give up His own life to save ours.

And you as a special needs parent give your life up in a different way, but for the same reason, to save your child.

Don’t beat yourself up trying to find the perfect gifts for your special needs children this Christmas.

You have already given it to them.

Every day.