Monday, July 31, 2017

5 Reasons to Take Your (family) Show on the Road This Summer

Nick meeting a wallaby in Australia 
“Sing to God a brand-new song. He’s made a world of wonders!” 
Psalm 98:1 MSG

Bending over to put shoes on the feet of my 6-foot tall special needs son is never graceful. Much less in the middle of the security cleared zone of an International Airport. I must say that every step of TSA is an adventure: explaining why he doesn’t have ID at the age of 17, convincing the supervisor that he can’t go through the Advanced Imaging machine, assuring Nick that his iPad will be fine if he leaves it on the conveyor belt as it disappears inside the x-ray machine. It’s all a lot of organized chaos.

But it’s summer vacation, and we promised our oldest son that upon his High School Graduation he could take a trip of his choosing anywhere in the world.  We travel by air frequently, and when son #1 decided on Australia, I didn’t bat an eye. I’ve done the TSA dance before. And the cram two giant people into the airplane bathroom dance before too. But as I fastened Nick’s shoes this time in the TSA line and promised for the 900th time since we arrived at the airport “Yes, we will be in Syndey after the plane ride,” I noticed more than one person looking at me like I was crazy.    

I have never been phased by the curious or concerned looks of others. But at that moment, as we prepared to board our 14-hour flight, I actually wondered if they were right. Am I crazy? Is this a bad parenting decision? I’m about to subject this giant child to grueling travel conditions that keep most typical adults from venturing to exotic lands. And for what? So he can miss his dog, miss summer camp and friends, and worry obsessively about every step along the way. Is this a vacation? Or am I voluntarily signing-up for a two-week torture fest?

If this question has hampered your summer travel decisions, let me tell you why it was all worth every struggle.  

  1. We were all on vacation together. We have always made a point to prioritize togetherness. Not even disability should get priority over togetherness. The benefit of time spent as a family unit outweighs the negative every time. 
  2. New experiences are priceless for all. My oldest son experienced a place and a people that most will never know. Nick got to pet kangaroos and see the inside of the Sydney Opera House, both of which he has no concept of how unique the experience is, but he enjoyed it in his own way. We all tasted new foods and appreciated a completely different world and culture.
  3. A change of pace is good, even if it’s a more difficult pace. My caregiver job had a new view for a little while, at least I was out of the house and didn’t have to cook or wash for a while. It was still work, but the change of pace did my heart and soul good. As I modeled for my son a peaceful and enjoyable attitude on our vacation, he felt more at peace himself.
  4. Melt-downs happen! Although there were melt-downs due to the new environment, the truth is that if we’d stayed home safe and sound, following our routine to the T, there would’ve surely been melt-downs about something or the other. So what’s the difference if the source is something old or something new?
  5. Experiencing God’s handiwork is something that we all need, whether we are aware of the need, can express it or not. Seeing more of creation, nature, and the wonders of this world increase us mentally and spiritually. This is true for everyone.
It took a while for me to make peace with the fact that whatever Nick is getting out of his vacation – even though it isn’t what the typical tourist gets out of it – is valuable to him. Years ago I knew a man who went to a cabin up North with his entire family every summer. His medically complex son had so many needs that they literally pulled a U-Haul filled with supplies for 1,000 miles each way. I couldn’t understand why go through the trouble. Now I get it.

Let me encourage you, by the mere fact that we survived, to try something new and different this summer. Whether it’s a trip to the local water park, or a flight around the world, the benefits will surely outweigh the cost. This “world of wonders” that the Lord has made, was made to be enjoyed by all. I can testify that the Lord was so good to us and kept his eye on Nick the entire trip. Many tiny miracles occurred to make the trip much better than I could’ve imagined. 

A Prayer for the Journey:
Lord, give me the courage to provide opportunities for my children to grow and learn, even if that seems hard. I trust you to provide new mercies each morning, and I believe that you will be with us as we go.  Show me the pleasures along the way, open my eyes to your beauty, rather than to my own chores and challenges.  Let me always be finding a New Song of joy through you.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

A True Friend ~ #SacredSunday

There is nothing like a true friend to cut through the pain of isolation. Be that friend to someone. God made us for relationship. Everyone needs another person who is willing to step into their reality. 
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Friday, July 28, 2017

Mom, There is a Tooth in My Eggroll - and Other Sensory Issues

"A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones,"
Proverbs 17:22, NASB

Sensory issues. They have the ability to drive us crazy. We had a recent trip to the mall food court where I gave the children the option of eating wherever they wanted. Thinking this would be a great idea, it backfired as it usually does when kids have food sensory issues. 

My child with the issues desired one of those large slices of pepperoni pizza--those slices almost as large as your head.  She was so excited. I left her to take my other child to get Chinese. Upon my return, my pizza kid was so upset. There were burnt flaky pieces on the bottom of the tip of her pizza. She had taken a bite and it ruined it for her forever even though they could be easily brushed off.

She started staring at the Chinese, desiring it. While we were discussing and negotiating the thought of switching, she gets up and throws away the pizza. A perfectly good pizza any one else at the table would have eaten...My other child cuts her egg roll in half to split and finds a very hard thing in it that they are convinced is a tooth! It all went downhill from there. However, there was still a need to eat, so I let them eat Chick-fil-a, the "normal" place we usually resort to and all was fine. This adventure cost me more than I was hoping! But it was worth a try because I tried to challenge them to try something different.

One thing that God has taught me through the issues of sensory problems is laughter. The ability to have a joyful heart which is good medicine. I used to be sad by the differences and lack of ability to eat whatever or wherever we wanted but God has used it to help me be thankful for what is important. This time, it is just another story of living with sensory issues. We can joke about it and it makes our heart glad.

If we let negativity overcome us, it will sap us of strength and dry up our bones. We must be trained by these experiences. For when we are, we can be thankful and find true and lasting joy in them. And remember, there is always Chick-fil-a.

Father, help us to be thankful for the little things, including the weird surprises. Thank you for laughter and turning our mourning to joy. Help us to trust you with the difficult things like sensory issues. Help us to learn and grow from them. In Christ. Amen.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Luscious Lies We're Fed

But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 
Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; 
and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. 
James 1:14-15, NKJV

Dear Mom and/or Dad, 

You're being fed a lie.  
Pinterest tells us:
  • When it's real, you can't walk away.
  • Do something today that your future self will thank you for.
  • Maybe it's not about trying to fix something broken.  Maybe it's about starting over and creating something better.
  • Do your things and don't care if they like it.  (This quote is actually credited to Tina Fey)
  • If it makes you happy, no one else's opinion should matter.
These lovely quotes fall under the category of INSPIRATION or MOTIVATION when you search your favorite social media sites.
You're being fed a lie.
What those lines should actually be categorized as is: Easiest ways to destroy your life, Narcissism 101, or 5 ways to ensure you are unsatisfied with your current situation.
You're being fed a lie.
The TRUTH is: even if "it's real," you could walk away if you chose to. Doing something today just because it feels good to YOU could hurt everyone you love. Walking away from something broken and "starting over to create something better"...well, you tell me what that sounds like when you apply it to certain situations in your "broken" life.


and I'm sick of it.

I'm sick of seeing families fall apart because we are being told that we should go make ourselves happy and do what feels good. 
I'm sick of excuses we make to stay on social media because it is our "escape" from our stressful lives as parents of children and adults with special needs. 
I'm sick of convincing myself that I was too busy to read my Bible but somehow found 15 minutes for Twitter, 30 minutes for Facebook, and 30 minutes of Instagram.

We are warned countless times in the Bible that one of Satan's greatest weapons is distraction. And, oh boy, has he landed himself a doozy with the Internet!  

And, gosh, we just manage to find ways to justify our time spent there day after day while our spouse feels alone and neglected and our children get talked about on social media, but not played with because we're responding to a comment on Facebook.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not telling you to remove a splinter from your eye while I sit with a log in mine. I'm dealing with my log EVERY DAY.  

I started by removing the Facebook app from my phone, because going through Safari makes it less convenient. It has helped tremendously, but it's still a no-brainer, scrolling through, time waster if I don't watch myself.

I set a timer now when I'm scrolling through Instagram because I get totally sucked into looking at pictures of my friends and their families. Yes, it can be fun! But why wouldn't I spend time with MY kid and MY family when I'm able to?

And, I NEVER look for motivational quotes outside of scripture because I do NOT need someone else's lies to feed mine.  

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? - Romans 8:31

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8: 38-39

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. - 2 Corinthians 4: 16-18 
Isn't God's Word motivating enough?  
It is the TRUTH in the midst of so, SOOOO many LIES out there.  

And yet we return to BIG, FAT VAT of LUSCIOUS LIES every day...we read them, we pin them, we tweet them and we share now all of our friends can experience the same insatiable search for 'happiness' that we do, and yet they call us "inspirational."

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. 
No one comes to the Father except through Me."  
John 14:6 NKJV

Pray:  Heavenly Father, forgive me for the time I have wasted...YOUR TIME. I've stolen it from you and ONLY to make myself happy. Help me, Holy Spirit, to quit believing the lies, and to quit sharing the lies with others. Father God, YOU ARE THE ONLY way to eternal life. I need your Holy Spirit to fill me with a loathing of the lies and a thirst for your TRUTH. Amen.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Why I Believe

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
Jeremiah 17:7-8, NIV

Sometimes, in the middle of the storm, in the quiet of the loneliness, in the depths of despair...I search for the things that remind me...

Why I believe.

I believe because my momma told me about Jesus.

I believe because I watched my daddy read his Bible and sit on the front pew, singing along with the choir of our little church.

I believe because I was taught to, because people cared enough to teach me when I was little and as I grew.

They were all drops upon drops of water, they strengthened me and caused my roots to grow deep into the ground firmly anchoring me into the soil.

I believe because I have read my Bible, and in reading it I saw my life, and felt God's presence.

I believe because God answers prayers and He lives in the smallest details of my life.

I believe because I have seen and I have seen because I believe.

These experiences are drops upon drops of water and my faith is growing stronger. I am firmly planted with branches reaching out.

I believe because when your children ask you to go to church, you go.

I believe because there is nothing more important I can do for my children than to keep my eyes on Jesus.

I believe because the world has nothing better to offer, than the peace of knowing God. I hold on to that peace through every twist and turn of life.

When I hear my child's diagnosis.

When I fight for needed services.

When our lives are uprooted and relocated.

I believe.

I believe because I have found myself surrounded by broken pieces and known, I was not alone and  my value was not in those broken pieces.

I believe because I have seen God restore what was broken.

I believe because there were drops upon drops and I was watered.

I believe because one day a veil was torn and there was nothing standing between God and me, but me.

I believe because that is why God created me, like a tree planted by the water. A tree with deep well watered roots and strong branches, bearing fruit.

That is what I hold on to, a God who does that.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭17:7-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

My prayer:

God I come before you today, to pray for every soul that is searching for something to hold onto in the storm, anchor them. I pray for those whose roots are shallow and weak, begging for strength and  water, God water them, drops upon drops until their roots are deep and strong. Amen.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Wait Summer Break...Don't Go!!

A happy heart makes the face cheerful,
but heartache crushes the spirit.
The discerning heart seeks knowledge,
    but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.
All the days of the oppressed are wretched,
    but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.
Proverbs 15:13-15 NIV
In less than a month, school will be starting back for my children. This is about the time during the summer when I start to get antsy.
Summer break starts with weeks of opportunities for fun, new experiences, and family time. I start the summer with a mental list of exciting things we can do to fill in those days. We can do a mini vacation! We can go swimming! We can go to a theme park! We can go to the summer special at the movie theaters! We can go camping! This will be the year we finally go to the splash park!
With summer break winding down, I start to make an inventory of the things we’ve accomplished. The fun factor assessment usually ends with this synopsis: Where has the summer gone? Why haven’t we had more time for fun?! We still haven't done this or that. 
This summer has been usual for us. My daughter had a surgery that pretty much halted life for 3 precious weeks of summer. At one point my son even said, “We can’t do anything fun because sissy isn’t well yet.”
Of course, a surgery steals summer time, but general things like work, mowing, chores, and doctor’s appointments make some days busy. I mean, everyday can’t be fun filled. Or can it?
Why does real “fun” equate to big experiences for me? If that’s the bar for fun, then no doubt I won’t be able to reach it realistically with a child with special and medical needs.
If I commit myself to being cheerful and satisfied in small things, then my heart can have a continual feast no matter what.  
Through that perspective, I see new things worth mentioning from the summer. The times we went fishing around the house was surely a good memory for our family. Our short drives on the golf cart around the neighborhood are simple but fun. America’s Got Talent episodes bring out the opinions of my son and I as we make predictions about who will go far in the show. Singing Beauty and the Beast songs with Jaycee in the van has brought a smile to both of our faces.
Maybe summer hasn’t been as unproductive for fun as I first thought.
What about you? What are some special things your family did this summer? Don't discount the small stuff!
Let’s pray:
God, I thank you for the special times summer break brings for our family. Help me to cherish the time we have left before school starts. Give me new ideas and a new perspective for making memories with my children. Let me set the example for "fun" you want them to keep all their lives. Help us all to have cheerful hearts to appreciate all experiences small and big. Amen! 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Patiently Creating Art

For a long time now—to this very day—you have not deserted your fellow Israelites but have carried out the mission the Lord your God gave you.
Joshua 22:3 (NIV)

Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.
Hebrews 10:36 (NLT)

Sometimes, things take a long time to happen. And when it's taking a long time, you might wonder if it's going to happen at all. Things like getting a child to sleep in their own bed at night, or be reliably potty trained, or be able to tie the laces on sneakers. I confess that there have been many such things that I just gave up on. I stopped hoping, stopped trying, stopped engaging. This milestone just won't be met. Why extend the effort if change isn't going to happen?

Sometimes, things just take a long time to happen. Like the passage of millions of moments in a pit, in slavery, in jail, in anguish and despair. Like the transition of a boy to a man, through sheep rearing and lion slaying and bear dominating. Like the pathway to being second in command in one of the most influential nations in the then world. Like the evolution of a king. Sometimes things just take a long time.

When we sit in this moment of time, we are submerged within the minutes on the clock, and it's difficult to have the perspective of a wide angle lens. You know those lenses, right? The ones that zoom out really far into a panorama, that bring consecutive, distant segments into clear focus? What if we could see our moments that way, as part of a continuous stream of breathtaking beauty? Sliced and diced into tiny segments of time, it's hard to see the beauty, the masterpiece unfolding.

My family and I had the extreme privilege of participating in a tour of Italy earlier this month. Everywhere we went, we saw these really old buildings. In Florence, we heard about the construction of the Cathedral of Santa Maria. The building is breathtaking, but what was even more remarkable, was the almost 600 year period of construction, the starts and stops, deaths and politics, all working together to create the structure we could see in 2017. This meant that many, many people worked on this building, each doing their part until they stopped, and someone else took over. And, last week, I got to stand beside this structure and take a picture, and bask in a monument to things taking a long time.

Perhaps to help us prepare to appreciate these incredible works of art and architecture, the tour guides ushered us through teaming crowds and many checkpoints, telling us "today's word is patience." That word echoes all over my heart and mind. The Holy Spirit whispers, "Patience. Some things take time." He whispers, "Faith."

Today, see with the eyes of faith, the work of art that you get to participate in, as artisan, as custodian, as tour guide and scent, and enthusiast and advocate. May you remain and be overwhelmed by the breathtaking artistry of the Eternal One, as He reveals His work of art in your special person. And be prepared. As you see what He's doing, and how intentional He's being with His masterpiece, be prepared for your breath to be taken away. His work does that to you.

Dear Lord, we stand in awe of your masterpiece, represented in our loved ones. Fill our hearts with patience and anticipation as we wait, and watch you work.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Who Moved? ~ #SacredSunday

 When we feel hungry for God's voice or lonely for His presence, we need to remember that it's not the Lord who has moved. Take some time today to draw closer to Him and soak in His presence.

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Second Look Saturday

My family and I just returned home from a 3 week trip to visit our family and friends in Minnesota and Wisconsin. We drove; having decided it would be fun to take it slow, and not rush through airports, TSA and all that "good stuff."

It took us three days of driving to reach my mom's house in Minnesota. Each day we drove between 8-10 hours. When we left Wisconsin a couple weeks later, we followed a similar path home.

Do you know what I enjoyed the most about our trip?  
Going slow, and taking it all in.  
I started to remember that this world isn't quite as big and chaotic as social media, the internet and television makes it seem. I was able to learn about the places we were driving through (rather than flying over). I saw antelope, wild horses, free range cattle, and bald eagles. We counted the trains that we saw as they clacked alongside the buttes in Wyoming and I read up on the history of some mining towns we passed through.

You can't do that when you fly. When you are LITERALLY FLYING over all the beauty down below. The world is racing by you, and you have no time to stop and enjoy it.

This thought made me reflect on my friend Barb's post from March of this year. Rooted. You see, we kept our feet on the ground and took our time to savor the world God created for us~in return, I was ultimately blessed with the ability to relax and feel Him surround us and care for us.  

As Barb said:  When life gets crazy it can be far too easy for our eyes, minds, and emotions to get fixated on our circumstances. But God taught me years ago that if I am looking for security in this world, I will always be disappointed.

I love to be rooted in God's love for us and our ultimate victory. I HAVE to be rooted in that promise because this world tends to distract us and pull us away from that security.  

Take a moment to read about being Rooted, and then see how you can answer these questions:

  • When have you tried to control things with your child or your family and have felt your security slipping away?
  • Have you ever "let go" and just let God do His thing? How did it turn out?
  • When have you been in such a difficult circumstance that you have had no choice to but to quit trying to control it? How did it go when you "let go" and just trusted God?

Pray:  Father God, it is such a blessing to slow down and remember your promises to us and your love for us. Help me to DO THAT! This world, this culture in which we live, is in such a hurry and there is always something to pull me away from you. I want to stay ROOTED. Amen.

~Tammie Hefty

Friday, July 21, 2017

Tippy Wheelchairs

Copyright: wavebreakmediamicro / 123RF Stock Photo
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him… 
Romans 8:28 NIV

Have you ever tipped your child over in his wheelchair? I haven’t just tipped my Liam over once. I have done it several times. You'd think that I would have learned the first time that his chair is tippy, but I guess I am a slow learner. To be very specific, I let Liam tip forward twice and sideways once. He wasn’t hurt in any of the falls, but they have made me realize how tippy his chair is and also how quickly a chair can gain momentum even on a very slight grade. Liam doesn’t self-propel or fasten the brakes on his own, so all wheelchair responsibility falls to the person who is pushing him. His tippy chair makes me extremely nervous and hesitant to let others push it. I think about all of the injuries that he could have had in his previous falls and how easy it was for the accidents to happen. I feel so stressful about Liam’s tippy chair that I try not to send him outside in it. He has a stroller that I prefer he uses for outside. 

This week we are on vacation with my husband’s family. A few nights ago, we had Liam in his wheelchair for dinner at the hotel restaurant. After dinner, everyone decided to take a walk to a little playground. The playground was down the road and then up on a big, grassy hill.  (Wheelchairs and big, grassy hills aren’t very good combos.) My husband was pushing Liam up the hillside, sort of tipping him back to get over the grass and I was a nervous wreck. My heart was racing. I was sweating. I was running after them trying to coach my husband on how to be safe (which you can imagine is not good for my marriage). I’m sure the whole family thought I was acting crazy. When Liam started to cry and gave me a reason to leave early it was a blessing. Of course, I was a complete wreck as my husband wheeled him back down the hill. Once we got inside the hotel, though, I sighed with utter relief. My boy was right side up and uninjured!

My concern about tippy wheelchairs has some legitimate basis, but I am not sure that the level of anxiety that I have over this is worthwhile. I have a fear that other people underestimate how tippy wheelchairs can be (because I did) and because of this will put Liam in danger. From a cognitive perspective, I know that I should warn the trusted people in our life that the chair can be tippy and then let them care for Liam. This feels impossible for me to do though. I end up watching them and wincing and getting short of breath with stress as they maneuver his chair. These are people who love Liam and care for Liam, yet I struggle to let go of control. Often I insist on pushing him myself.

When I think about chasing my husband and son around the park as I huff and puff with anxiety and yell out helpful hints about wheelchair maneuvering, I know it is ridiculous. The interesting thing is that it is a picture of how I can be with God. He is in control of my life and has promised that his plans are for my eternal good. Yet I chase after him grasping at the handles and trying to control things. My heart pounds with anxiety as I huff and puff and yell out my own ideas and desires. I know God’s love, but I struggle to let go of control of my life (or my children’s). In the case of the wheelchair, its tippy nature is a legitimate reason for me to worry and lack trust. The wheelchair has proven that it can cause harm and be dangerous. God’s perfect, good, and constant nature has given me no reason to worry or lack trust. He has always provided. His plans are always for my eternal good and he does not let his children come to harm. He provided for my deepest need when he sent his Son as my savior. Even when the hills are steep and the grass makes them hard to maneuver, God is with me. I can always trust him to keep me from danger.

Dear Heavenly Father,
When I feel anxious and overwhelmed please reassure me and give me your peace. When I want to control my own life or the lives of those I love, please help me to trust in you. Please remind me of your presence and your good plans for my eternal life. Amen.

Wendy Heyn

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Pastor's Prayer

Then I heard the Lord asking, ‘Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?’ I said, ‘Here I am. Send me.’” 
Isaiah 6:8 NLT

Five years ago, I was introduced into the world of disability ministry through Joni and Friends. Although I had been in full-time vocational ministry since 1997, I admit that I was nervous, confused, and even wondered if God might have made a mistake. Since then, I have been privileged to gain so many friends across the country who are affected by disability and who serve people affected by disability. Having just returned home from Family Retreat, the prayer below is what God has shown me and continues to show me over the years. May my prayer provide blessing and encouragement to you.

Dear Lord,

Help me to see the world through Your eyes.

Help me to live with compassion and grace, treating others as You treat me.

Teach me Your Word and provide insight to Your truth.

May I see all people as created in Your image without exception.

Lord, help me to make space for peoples’ abilities, rather than build obstacles for their disabilities.

I confess that I get busy, tired, exhausted and impatient…and then treat people poorly.

May I surrender to Your strength and rest in Your presence every day.

Lord, my head understands that we all are affected by disability due to sin, but I confess that my heart does not always respond accordingly.

Teach me how to love people Your way, to include people Your way and to serve people Your way.

Keep my heart tender and open – available to love, learn, and lead as Jesus did.

Thank You, Lord, for introducing me to disability ministry…my life will never be the same.


Lord God, I am so blessed to serve and befriend people affected by disability. Thank You for calling me into this area of ministry. My life has truly never been the same and I am transformed daily. I pray that You would continue to draw more pastors into the world of disability, not merely as spectators, but as active participants creating space for people affected to fully belong. Strengthen, encourage, and equip each one of us as we continue to simply say “here I am, send me.” Amen!
~ Mike

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Summer Camp for Families and Kids with Special Needs

For I am about to do something new… 
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. 
Isaiah 43:16,19 NLT 

I was 8 years old when my mom and dad let me go to Summer Church Camp. I still vividly remember falling to my knees with my camp counselor and asking Jesus to come in and fill my heart. Summer Church Camp continued to make an immense impact in my journey as a Christ follower.

Our other children also enjoyed camp, youth retreats, and mission trips -- all except our last child, Bethany. Bethany just turned 17 and has Down Syndrome. What was an adventure and growing opportunity for our other children, didn’t work for with Bethany's special needs and maturity level.

But God doesn't make our lives out of a spiritual cookie cutter! He is a God of new beginnings, new ways, new paths, new solutions -- if I will just let go of the past and look for how He is guiding. He makes a way when there seems to be no way.

Oftentimes, parenting a child with special needs can feel isolating, lonely, and similar to a “wilderness” or "desert place". While everyone seems to be enjoying “normal” summer vacations and camps, we search/pray/wish for something that will work for our children. Something where they can flourish, be confident and comfortable, and be accepted just as God created them.

How does a parent of a child with special needs provide a glorious summer time experience that is common to most typical kids?  
I’ve looked into Camps for kids with special needs, and while they look amazing, Bethany hasn’t really been around lots of kids with special needs and has never spent more than 2 nights at a time away from us. I’ve contemplated sending her to a typical Christian camp but realized she would either need someone to help keep her up to speed or I would need to go and be her counselor.

This year, a wonderful opportunity presented itself in the “medium” Bethany is most accustomed to: A Christian Family Inter-generational Camp.

We just got back from a Christian Family Camp and I have to encourage you to check out this option if you’re nervous or if they're nervous to go to camp alone. (Just google it and you'll be amazed how many places are offering a camp experience for the whole family!)

The absolute beauty was this: Bethany got to experience camp but in the context of her comfort zone -- Family.
3 Reasons Christian Family Camp Worked For Us 

  1. Family Support  - While developing community and common experiences with other families, Bethany was surrounded by 4 nieces, a nephew, a sister, a brother-in-love, and her parents! This camp was open to any conglomeration of family; blended family, grandparents, single parents, cousins and any combination. Family was the starting point, the launch pad, and the end place of camp. (But the flip side was our family wasn't in charge of orchestrating the fun, the food, or the fellowship times!) The games, devotions, crafts, swimming, archery, horse back riding, and obstacle course were the commonality that was shared by the whole community.                             
  2. Structured/Unstructured - The days and evenings were structured with plenty of personal space intermixed and all activities were optional and scheduled by the individual family. Bethany, Cadence and I took a 2 hour nap Saturday afternoon (which met our needs), while Sarah, Finley, Jeff, and Cohen did the obstacle course and archery. We all met up later to swim before dinner. The camp directors provided an hour of activities for all the kids while there was a time of encouragement and respite for the parents/grandparents.                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
  3. Warm and Accepting Community - We didn’t have to worry about behavior or oddity or not fitting in. Everyone was friendly -- each family was different. There were crying children, clingy children, whiny children, uncooperative children. Everyone just took it in stride. I reveled in the relaxing, accepting attitude. There were no dirty looks or snide comments, just warm community.
sign at our camp!
I know that Family Camp isn't for everyone. Some parents enjoy the respite and the break it provides when their child is at camp, knowing their child is well cared for and having fun! 

Other parents feel camp is a rite of passage and another step into independence.  

While this is true, the point is that God can and will make a way for each of our children. One that fits their needs and ours.  

I'm thankful our daughter, Sarah, found this family camp and invited us to join in with their family. It was the perfect answer for our family and Bethany this summer.  

Be encouraged, even if you can't do the exact same experiences for your children with special needs, God will make a way -- create a path in the wilderness for you and your child. I'm learning to keep my eyes and heart open to new things He might want to do in our lives, while letting go of what worked in the past.  

Prayer: Wonderful Way-Maker, You are a God of making a way when there seems to be no way. You delight in bringing water to the desert places of our lives. I pray that we would seek you to open up ways for our children to experience You and enjoy life. Thank you for Your care and creativity in our lives. In Jesus Name Amen. 

Cindy Barclay