June 2011

This was one of the first posts published more than four years ago.  It was also today’s entry at A Simple Life, my BeliefNet Blog.  

Shelly is a young woman in her early 30’s.  She is an avid writer.  Some of her articles appear in our monthly newsletter, Connecting Point, her own webpage and as a guest writer for this blog.  Terry’s passion is kitchen duty.  Anything that involves dirty dishes or grimy pots and pans presents a welcome contest for her.  Steve is stingy to a fault but he loves unconditionally.  When his girlfriend became sick, rather than dropping her, he became even more devoted to her and her growing needs.  Larry’s girlfriend has been faithful for almost 20 year.  Larry can muster up faithfulness for about 20 minutes, if she is in the room.

People within the mentally challenged community are sometimes lumped together as though they have one personality.  But they are individuals with individual needs and desires.

There are actually three personality types usually designated to our population.  The first is the congenial “Downs Forever Child.”  She is petite and wears an eternal smile.  Our Downs Forever Child (DFC) is compliant to a fault and loved by everyone.  She never gives anyone any trouble and is the perfect little person.

The second personality is similar to the DFC.  He is Forrest Gump (FG).  FG is tall and strong but shy and unable to effectively communicate with people but he is a sage with wisdom beyond his IQ.  He can be greatly misunderstood but things seem to happen for him that are wonderful because he is such a good, wise and kind person.  He is as gentle as a kitty cat and though people don’t understand him, in the end, everyone loves and admires him from afar.

The third personality is the Mice Killer.  He was made famous by the book, Of Mice and Men. MK is similar to Forrest Gump except he cannot control his emotions and therefore you never know when he might snap off the head of his pet mice or a pretty young woman he greatly admires.

Like all stereotypes, none of them are real.  People with Downs can be cranky and stubborn.  Forrest Gump isn’t a great fountain of wisdom hidden in the body of a mentally challenged individual.  And our population is seldom involved in crime, mass murder or mayhem.

The wonder of this population is that they are not phonies.  They don’t wear masks to hide their imperfections.  Henri Nouwen wrote about his experiences within the developmentally disabled community and in doing so, dared the church to become authentic in our relationship with the Lord.  We love to quote and read Henri Nouwen and his famous book, In the Name of Jesus. However, there are a few people I know who dare to live the Nouwen experience.  There is a family in our community who opened a group home in their house.  As their corporation grew, young couples moved into the different group homes and became a part of the mentally challenged community 24 hours a day.

Henri NouwenAnd there are others.  We have many faithful volunteers who come and live four days out of the year within this exciting cloistered, sub-culture at our Camp/Retreat held once a year.  Usually they come from curiosity or concern.  Some teenagers come, dragged there by their parents.  But they almost always come back year after year.  They work and play and clean messes and receive abundant love.  They learn the rich variety of personalities within the mentally challenged community and they come back for more.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have met?
Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/simplelife/#ixzz1QfWrDUiE

Friends have been concerned about my well-being since my husband died.  “How will you get along without someone in the house?” is the most common question.  In reality, I think they are asking, “How will you survive the quiet?”

Even though the Bible tells believers to “Be still,” at least eight times, we seem to think that noise is more holy than quietness.  We love to sing and quote, “Be still and know that I am God.”  Yet, our modern-day living screams another message.  Too often, we do not teach the truth of the benefits of a quiet, spirit life.

From the hum of traffic that seeps through our windows to the murmur of our TV’s which continually stimulates our minds, we are almost never bathed by quiet.  While peace is not the same thing as quiet, it is perhaps impossible to be quiet without God’s inner peace reigning in our spirits.

Here are a couple of things that I’ve learned from others in my pursuit of practicing quiet.

  1. Set aside a time each day to listen to the Lord.  Prayer and listening are different dispciplines from quietness.  While God usually speaks to an active mind, waiting for the Lord in a quiet setting prepares us to hear from the Lord.
  2. Start with small bites of times.  Thirty minutes are much too long.  Don’t even attempt it.  Begin with one minute.  That minute will seem like an eternity at first.  But you will find that progressing to 5 minutes will be easier than that initial 60 seconds.  After you develop a set-aside time and you faithfully follow it, you will crave a quiet time.
  3. During the day, eliminate as much background noise as you can.  Turn off the TV, if you aren’t watching a specific program.
  4. Don’t let praise and worship music become a distraction from your quiet times.  Again, praise and worship are different from being still and quiet.
  5. During these times, harness your thoughts.  Be sure that thoughts of the Lord’s goodness and thankfulness are immersing your mind.
I read The Practice of the Presence of God as a young wife and mother.   The teachings found in this thesis captured my spirit.  It was written in the 17th century by the monk, Brother Lawrence, who was a cook and dishwasher in a monastery in Paris.  The disciplines practiced by this monk have been amazing stress relievers for me and thousands of others seeking to know God more completely.

Often our advocacy page is Florida centric.  However, this is a special need scholarship that has national reach.

jkl hopechest


a higher education scholarship for students who are adopted and/or have special needs.

2010-2011 ~ one $1000 scholarship to be awarded fall 2010

previous scholarships:
2009-2010 (1st year): $1000 scholarship awarded to heather yoder, fairmont state university

how to apply

to apply, email a one to two page letter to connect@onewholeworld.comcontaining the following:

  1. your name, dob, address
  2. your school name, address, and accounting department contact information
  3. two references with e-contact information: one of a pastor and another that can verify your adoption and/or special needs
  4. a paragraph or two sharing what you are studying and why
  5. no photos please

the chole’s children (jonathan, keona, and louie) will read the applications and select a recipient by december 10th.

the check will be issued directly to the college toward tuition.


Keeping You Informed -Disability Awareness

(727) 841-8943


With Bryan Vaughan

Acting Director of APD

(Agency For Persons With Disabilities)

Watch the Video to hear the answers to these questions and more.


1.  With cost plans frozen what happens when somebody desperately require additional supports?

2.  Can you explain Ibudget and when will that roll out?

3.  Can you explain the new paperless system, APD connects, and when will that roll out?

4.  Why does it take anywhere from 6 months to a year or more to get a provider number?

5.  Can providers take trainings online rather than traveling to district?

6.  Can any or all providers can use checklists in lue of writing notes for their documentation?

7.  APD asked people for possible ways to cut the budget.  Which suggestions will you use?

8.  What is being done to address the waiting list?

9.  Is there a priority checklist for getting on the waiver faster?

10.  What about managed care?  Do you think APD will go to managed care?

Disability Expo 2011


Saturday, July 30th 2011


At The Miami-Dade County Fair Expo Center,

In The Grand Ballroom (Free Event & Free Parking)

10901 SW 24 St Miami, FL 33165



This is an opportunity for people who have disabilities and their families to meet providers, to learn about community resources, and to speak with staff from The Agency For Persons With Disabilities. (read more)


If you are a provider and need a table at this important event, call (727) 841-8943, and ask for Aaron Nangle.

(727) 841-8943



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News / Marketing / Advocacy

Recently, I was reminded that God called Moses.  Then God deliberately hindered Moses’ efforts to succeed.  You remember the story, Moses came from his 40 year respite in the desert to lead the people of Israel out of bondage.

However, the Bible says that God hardened Pharoah’s heart at every turn.  Rather than God cooperating with Moses, God fought his success.  After his baptism, Jesus was driven into the wilderness for 40 days to be tempted by the devil.

With so much scriptural evidence of God’s determination to strengthen his Chosen Ones through hardship, resistance and persecution, we still are captured by the illusion that our journey will be different. Somehow we believe that we will be able to mount the wings of the Holy Spirit and sail over the hardships of life and ministry only touched by the gently caressing breezes of God’s grace and mercy.

The truth is that none of us escape.  Each is buffeted though the winds and storms of life valiantly clinging to the cross for our strength.  You see, it is the cross and the resurrection that is the center of our experience with Christ.  We must never forget that each time resurrection occurs, there has been a crucifixion of self.

Is there joy?  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  Is there peace.  Yes, unspeakable peace.  Is there life without conflict and hurt.  No.  But we survive the rebukes and discouragements and pain and walk out of the fire refined.  Johnnie Lord, wife of Peter Lord, once said, “God isn’t interested in my performance but in my obedience.”  In your Christian life and especially in ministry, performance and even success doesn’t count.  Obedience does.

What about you?  Have you been going through fire this past week or year?  Have you been able to seek Christ through the pain and hurt?

photo by lgh


Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/simplelife/#ixzz1QTYwpI1C

This is the third entry I’ve written about Special Gathering group homes over the past four years.  Often, there is a Google search requesting to view Special Gathering Group Homes.  There are no Special Gathering group homes.

On Saturday, someone googled at last 30 times some variation of  Linda Howard Group Homes.  There are no Linda Howard Group Homes.  Five different times, the searcher pulled up one entry which explained why we don’t have group homes.

Several months ago, I was faced down by a lady who seemed to believe that I somehow had my hand in the financial pie of some group home or another.  I was finally able to convince her that neither Special Gathering nor I have any monetary interest in any group home.

Please understand this interest is a fascinating curiosity to me.  Group homes are almost never a profitable business venture.  In addition, I have a very full-time position pastoring and ministering to the mentally challenged community in three counties in Florida.  I also have the primary responsiblity for writing, typesetting and proofing our 12-page, monthly newsletter.  I’m not looking for another job.

My basic interest is that the developmentally disabled community has the opportunity to hear and understand the good news that Jesus is their Lord and Savior.  I cannot imagine a more fulfilling  job.  True, the pay may not be that great but since I intend to do this in some form until I die, my retirement plan is fabulous.

Decades  ago, when there was a campaign for Billy Graham to run for president of the United States, Rev. Graham said that he absolutely would not take a demotion to run for president because he was doing the most important job in the world.  I have to heartily agree with Rev. Graham.

Success Comes when We Stand for Right

Matthew 14:29

Central Theme:  God gives us success when we stand up for Him.

Introduction–I wanted to show you all my medals and trophies so you could see how successful I have been.  Bring out an empty bag.  Look into it and try to pull out.  Turn it inside out.  The truth is I have no medals in the bag but I want you to know that God gives me success and I want to share how He does that for me.


I.     Have a member Read Matthew 14:29.

A. Peter and the disciples were in a boat.  Jesus had gone away to rest.  They saw a man walking on the water.  Was it a ghost?  Then Jesus called to them from the water.  Peter wanted to get out of the boat and meet with Jesus.  He did but then he doubted and he began to go under.  Jesus saved him.

              1. Peter was successful–because he acted to stand with Jesus.

2.  Jesus made him successful even though he couldn’t do it in his own faith.

3.  The point is that Peter want to standed for Jesus and so he got out of the boat.

II.     He was the only disciple who got out of the boat.

A. Peter wanted to walk on the water–maybe for several reasons.

1.  To show the other disciples that he was better?

2.  To show Jesus how much faith he had?

3.  To show himself that he had great faith?

B. No matter why he got out–he did get out and he walked.

III.     God will give each of us something to be successful in.

A. Perhaps it is that you are able to smile even though things are bad–Jack’s and Kevin’s smile.

B. First we must say as Peter did, “Jesus save me.”

C. Ask Jesus into your heart if you have not done it and he will save you so you can be successful.

Conclusion–Jesus will help us to be successful.

Click here to view information about Mr P’s Penguins

SF MR P’s Penguins flyer

Click here to view the video of an amazing little boy born without arms, please go to my other blog site, A Simple Life.   You won’t be disappointed.

My daughter-in-law, Ae Howard

My daughter-in-law, Ae Howard

Yesterday, I spent 9 hours at DisneyWorld’s Magic Kingdom with my son and daughter-in-law.  The thermometer was set at 100 degrees by early morning but the shops and rides were air-conditioned.  A 7PM rain storm cooled everything down for the evening.

While others were doing their thrill rides, I sat and “people watched. ” As long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by people who boldly travel with children or adults with disabilities.  Because we didn’t arrive until 3pm, there were fewer parents with children in wheelchairs but the Brave Endurers were there, wiping brows through the heat and dodging the drops of rain.

These parents and their adolescents are seldom grumpy and irritated.  The accompanying adults continue their normal caregiving routines in the middle of bustling children and whining adults.  They wipe faces and hands with the care and precision practiced and perfected in their tiny apartments or spacious homes, while keenly observing the world that whirls around them. The parents laugh with amusement and try to comfort.

Within the disability community there is a soothing pulse of normalcy when everything about their lives seems to shout the abnormal has careened madly out of control.

Perhaps that is the wonder and beauty which so easily and firmly captures the hearts of those of us who dare to live and learn within the mentally challenged/disability community.  It’s not the need to be caregivers–but the arresting marvel of personally knowing these self-less wipers of hands and faces.  It’s not the pitiful state of a broken or warped body; but the overbearing  beauty of a human spirit that valiantly radiates beyond the brokenness into the heart of those who will dare to stop and examine.

Of course the Jungle Ride was great.  Fireworks lit up the skies with beauty beyond my imagination.  The Electric Parade passed with precision and grace.  But it was the small boy in a chair whose rhythmic, constant and spastic movements kept his chair pulsing, who smiled at his mom as she touched his cheek that sent a thrill up my spine.  It was the caregiver who frantically pushed a young lady out of the rain who touched my heart.

But my greatest joy-filled moment was watching two giggling girls tease each other.  The able-bodied  friend rushed for shelter, leaving her wheelchair-bound companion soaking in the rain.  Because of their shared laughter, the young woman in the chair could not push herself  hard enough to keep from getting drenched by the pelting drops.  I marveled at the young woman who stood safely under the shelter loving her friend enough to tease her in the same way she would her able-bodied friends.

I thank God for these valiant men, women and children who embrace their adventures at Disney.  Yet, I praise the Lord even more for the people who look beyond the difficulties of their disabilities to enjoy their unique journey of life.

Sense of Humor? Get one

There may be nothing that is as potent in leadership than a sense of humor, especially when you allow yourself to become the joke.

I’ve watched gifted leaders turn some of their greatest blunders into a time of learning for everyone.   Here are some helpful hints that I’ve gleaned from these men and women.

  1. Taking yourself too seriously is deadly for a leader.
  2. Begin to examine your attitudes and actions with a critical eye which searches for what others may find humorous.
  3. Dispel anger by openly letting others know that you get the joke.
  4. Allow your co-workers and volunteers to become part of this humorous experience.
  5. Don’t ever laugh at the person who may criticize you.  But actively laugh at yourself when criticism is leveled at you.

Each year, Special Gathering takes 200 or more people on a retreat.  We are responsible for the safety and health of our members who are mentally challenged.  Most of them have an additional, secondary physical disability.  Tensions run high during the times we are transporting these people and setting up the retreat.

About five years ago, our executive director began to break down some of the tension by laughing at himself.  Those of us in leadership positions took up his banner by finding humor in our mistakes and stern attitude.  Our most valued volunteers and staff pushed the theme.  It has changed the sternness of this tense time into a much more relaxed atmosphere for everyone.

Finding the things at which others can laugh enhances–rather than diminishes–your leadership skills. If you don’t have a sense of humor, get one.

Photo by LadyBugPhotography
Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/simplelife/2011/06/leadership-sense-of-humor-get-one.html#ixzz1Pv3QGftr

Several times each week, I would take one or all of my children on foot, crossing the busy five-lane A1A Highway to the ocean.  Each time, I would instruct them.  “Stop.  Look both ways.  Listen.   And do not EVER run across a busy highway.”

Once we had gotten through the traffic; and we were safely on the other side, I would explain.  “If you run, you may fall.  If you fall, you will not be able get up; and a car will hit you.  Before you begin to cross the highway, always be certain that there is enough room between the cars that you don’t have to run.”

These were the same instructions my mother and father had given to my sister, brother and me when we had to navigate across the bustling Dorchester Road in Charleston Heights, SC.  My parents owned an ice cream parlor in a small strip mall; and we often had to walk to their work.  Mother’s instructions echoed in our minds so accurately that when we were old enough to walk with my older sister and without our parents, we would tell each other how to cross before we stepped off the curb onto the buzzing street.

Now, many decades later, it was such good advice that I’m still giving myself the same instructions about many areas in my life.  In more detail, here are steps you can take to eliminate many stressful situations.

  1. Stop!  Take a break.  Whether you are pressing too hard to complete a garden project, preparing to host a social event or trying to meet a pending deadline, taking a break will enhance your productivity and increase your ability to concentrate.  Thereby, your stress level will be reduced.
  2. Look far beyond the immediate situation.  Continually look at your life and at your goals.  To cross a bustling highway, you must understand the patterns of traffic.  This takes times of examination.  To understand what God has planned for you.  Daily evaluation and observations is essential.
  3. Listen!  Observing the flow of traffic for a highway and in your life takes all your senses.  Listen to the Lord, your critics and your friends.
  4. Don’t run.  Only people who are insecure about their ability to cross a busy highway attempt to run across the street.  Running dramatically elevates your chance of failure.  You increase your stress level–not lower it–when you are in a hurry.  Be sure that you have the time needed to complete tasks.  Then and only then, proceed.  Tripping and falling in the middle of a project spells disaster and increases the strain on your body and mind.
Years ago when I was learning to hear the voice of the Lord, a respected teacher and older friend told me, “Linda, God has an eternity to accomplish His good work in you.  He doesn’t push us.  If I feel extreme inner pressure, I stop.  Then I seek God to truly hear from Him.  God isn’t in a hurry.”  That day my stress level decreased sustantially.  Each time I remember her wisdom, I’m blessed by lower stress levels and God’s peace.

Johann Sebastian Bach

Bach called music, “Recreation of the mind.”  Modern scientific research tell us that your mother was right–again. Learning to play a musical instrument as a child and continuing to practice into adulthood sharpens your mind and keeps your thinking clear for decades.

Music is one of the best stress relievers that God has given to us.  Shower singing remains a time-honored and valued national pass time.  It is accompanied by rolling up the windows of your car, turning on the A/C and conducting a private sing-along with your favorite CD or the radio.

The beat of the music has long been known to relieve tension.  Mothers from the dawn on time have known that singing to a restless infant or toddler calms and soothes their bodies and minds.

Vocalizing allows your brain to go on a mini-vacation free from the stress of your daily concerns.  In Central Florida, we have two of the best Christian radio stations in the US.  No matter what my mood, desires or worries, I have an easy, readily available answer to stress and worry.

I can immediately take a break from the day and relax. By simply singing a Christ-honoring song, I glorify God, reinforce Christian principles in my heart and destroy harmful stress-building chemicals in my brain and body.

Some of my best memories were singing with my mother as a child.  Doing the dishes with Mother was always a joy because we would sing together.  Her last years, she lost her ability to speak and she could not longer sing; but her smiles grew large and vibrant when she was sitting in the presence of music.  

Many people say, “I can’t sing.”  That is a misnomer.  Not everyone can sing well.    However, unless there is a physical disability, everyone can sing.

Want to relieve the stress of everyday life?  Want to take a break from the concerns of the day?  It costs nothing to sing a song and the benefits are monumental.

When I first began writing to meet a deadline, I found that I could sit at the computer for only a limited number of hours.  Every 15 minutes or so, I would walk around the house or yard.  I might get a glass of iced tea or stroll through the yard.  After a couple of hours, I had to completely stop and take a walk.  Armed with my 30 to 40 sheets of manuscript and a sharp pencil, I would slowly meander through our neighborhood while rereading and re-editing the document I’d just written.

I learned from this experience that taking a walk is different from other exercises.  Walking is a low impact, uncomplicated pathway to greater health.  As simple as it is, taking a walk can be an amazing stress reliever.  Stress is a fact of life.  No matter what your occupation or avocation, you are hit with harmful stress if you don’t watch your step.  Some of the most beneficial steps are taken while you walk.

Walking relieves stress levels because it increases our levels of endorphins.  These are the hormones which medical professionals tell us make us happy.  One reason is that endorphins help you to feel good about yourself.

Of course, you can get the endorphin jolt from ordinary exercise.  So why walk instead?

Walking allows you to slow down enough to enjoy the wonders of your natural surroundings.  It’s almost impossible to walk and not find something that is fascinating and interesting.

Wild flowers inching between the cracks in the sidewalk, a bug scurrying away to feed her young, your neighbor’s willow tree swinging in the wind can become moment of exquisite pleasure.   By alerting your mind to become involved in the adventure, you can experience a delightful, stress-defeating break.

The best walks happen along the shore of a lake, river or ocean.  The rhythmic sounds of moving water adds additional stress relieving benefits.  However, for many people, this isn’t possible.  Nevertheless, if you are one of the fortunate folks who can walk near a body of water, this excursion produces a significant calming affect.

If you have a raincoat and an umbrella, don’t be afraid to walk in the rain.   Take off your shoes and socks.  Roll up your pant legs. Splash in the puddles.  Take pleasure and benefit from the textures and coolness of the water.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus and his disciples walked continually.  In fact, in those days, everyone walked several miles a day.  Times have changed.  Modern transportation can easily take us thousands of miles in one day.  However, some of the greatest stress-relieving benefits can be found through the healthy and simple exercise of walking.

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