Carla is not adjusting well to this time.  It is an end of an era for her.  Carla  is a high functioning person with intellectual disabilities.   Both parents have died.  She became too ill to live in her own apartment any longer.  For health and safety reasons, Carla has been moved into a group home where she can receive medical attention and help with personal care.

Joseph is experiencing the opposite.  It is also an end of an era for him.  His mother’s health has forced his family to make a hard decision.  He, too, has been moved into a group home.  While living at home, Joseph was never allowed to dress, shave or clean himself.  He was told where to go and what to do.  At the group home, he is required to clean, dress and shave himself.  He must take part in the chores and activities of the household.  He is required to do his own laundry and clean his own room.

Carla’s personality is softly pleasant.  Her manners are tender and appealing.  Joseph’s manner is gruff and abrasive.  He never walks.  He struts, giving the impression that he thinks more highly of himself than he ought.

unhappy catWhile Carla finds group home living restrictive and oppressive, Joseph has never had more freedom.  Carla has fewer chores and responsibilities now that she no longer lives in her own apartment. Someone cooks her meals, helps her with her household chores when necessary.   Without even informing her, the staff completes the paperwork required by the government which she often hid rather than traverse through the unintelligible maze of questions.  Carla resents the assistance she receives.

The demands on Joseph have multiplied but his finds increasing freedom in this new arrangement even though it is wrapped tightly with chores and requirements.  Of course, Joseph has never been one to complain.  He takes life as it come; and he trusts the Lord to work things out for his benefit.  Joseph often prays out loud, seriously or happily asking God to help him.

Carla admits that she almost never prays.  The requirements of “religion” are much too difficult and confining.  Carla cannot grasp the concept of God being a friend–her friend.

Joseph’s cognitive level is far below Carla’s but his faith quotient soars far above most other people.  He prays and expects an answer “because God loves me.”  He believes that “all things work” for his good because “God said it in the Bible.  Therefore, it’s true.”

In short, Carla is miserable and has been for years.  Joseph is joyous. Each day is a welcomed adventure.

sitting on a porchEach of us come to times in our lives when things radically change.  We graduate from college.  We get married.  Our first baby is born.  The first child enters kindergarten.  Then poof.   In a few short days, she is entering college.  The children leave home.  The children come back home.  A spouse dies.

Our IQ does not determine the position of our misery barometer.  Through prayer and fellowship with our Heavenly Father and Savior, Redeemer, Friend Jesus our barometers are adjusting.  They determine the joy and love into which we motivate through life.  I am praying that my life will follow the example set by Joseph.  Even though, he is a young man with a lousy personality and low IQ.  Joseph has tapped into the life-giving force of the Lord Jesus.  His example gives my hope and joy.

Advertisements

I write down my dreams.  And, yes, I agree with Joseph who told Pharoah that God gives the interpretations to our dreams.  Several years ago I had a dream that completely confused me.  The essence of it was that my husband and I moved into a large new house in Denver, Colorado.  The house was beautiful, large and expensive.  We even owned a shopping center in our lower floor.  I loved the house but at the end of the dream, I burst into tears, saying, “I miss my old home.” 

The dream completely confused me.  The question loomed in my brain, How could I be so unhappy about such a great and beneficial move?  Last week I reread the dream.  This time the meaning was totally clear to me.  Ten years ago, my life took a radical and violent detour.  As a result, everything was turned upside down.  I felt I would lose my ministry and perhaps even my family.  Even though none of that happened, I grieved my loss for three years.  As the years have slipped away, however, the result of this radical change for me has been that I have a great deal more freedom and stability than I’d ever imagined I would have.   

The Special Gathering is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  We do classic ministry, evangelizing and discipleship.  As a result, we are the pastors of many people who don’t even attend our weekly programs.  In a conversation with a family member last week, a father confided, “The birth of Marvin was the best and worst thing that ever happened to our family.”  Marvin is a man in his thirties.  Handsome and energetic, Marvin is also developmentally disabled.  Like all our families, his mental retardation has been a source of great grief for the family over the years.  However, as Marvin has developed and matured, he has become his parents greatest source of joy.  This is also true in almost all of our families.

The famous disability lawyer and my good friend, Dolores Norley died about two years ago. When she realized that she was terminally ill, Dolores put her son in a group home .  One afternoon as we sat on her screened porch, she laughingly told me, “I’m going to be really mad at God if I don’t die soon. ” It had been a difficult decision to not continue to live with her son in their lovely garden cottage.   “I’ve had two husbands and several roommates but my son is the best companion I’ve ever had.”  Her laughter stopped and tears formed as her voice cracked, “I cannot tell you how much I miss him.” 

This sentiment is echoed in the families who make up our small subculture again and again.  God’s economy and ways are not like our ways.  His economy is often too upside down for my tastes. But over the years, we learn that he is correct and often the greatest, most brutal experiences of grief become our greatest blessing.

How many times have your heard the same sentiment from other parents whose children are intellectually delayed?  Do you see that same sentiment expressed by the siblings of the family?  What makes the difference between sibling who resent their disabled brother or sister and who love them?  Or is that the subject of another blog?