I’m a bit eccentric when it comes to doing tasks.  Most of the time, my eccentrics is extremely beneficial.  Other times, it is a great hindrance.  In my mind, I keep a series of tasks that need to be done.  Often, they are arranged in their order of importance.  Other times, they are organized by a time schedule.

When I was in an automobile accident a couple of months ago, I decided to do the traffic school route rather than lose points on my license.  It was far down on my list of things to do until the week before the deadline to complete it. I had planned part of my week around doing this task on-line.  I’d done a bit of research and figured out where to go and the amount of time it would take me. 

Unfortunately, my schedule became a bit unraveled by my husband’s health and I was stuck doing the on-line course after a day of traveling to DeLand for our monthly program.  Additionally, I had underestimated the amount of time the course work would take.  (Actually I had correctly estimated the amount of time it would take me to do the course.  However, I wasn’t allowed to move on to the next section until the time allotted had expired.  Which meant that the course had to be completed in four hours or more–not less.)  I started at 8:45pm and ended at 12:45am. 

I had in my mind a long list of things I would do that week, but the on-line course was on top.  I was traveling at warp speed the rest of the week knowing I had to complete my self-inflicted tasks.  At the end of the week, when I’d completed the last issue on my list, I was exceedingly happy.

My happiness didn’t come merely from the satisfaction of completing a task but that my last task had been the completion of making arrangements for the graduation of boot camp at the end of March for our grandson.  Completion in this case means a great deal to everyone in our family. 

Like every teen I’ve known over my lifetime, my grandson has struggled the last couple of years.  Knowing his great potential and loving him a great deal, I’ve struggled with him in prayer.  This week marks the completion of his childhood and he has finished gloriously.  None of us in his family are surprised.  All of us are happy.

We will attend his graduation and laugh and cry with him.  Today is his day.  Congratulations, SeaBass.  We are all proud of you.

Through the wonder of the Internet, I can be in Washington DC celebrating my daughter’s birthday while you read this.  Because it’s Christmas Eve and you are probably not working, you may indulge me as I tell about my best Christmas gift.

It happened exactly 36 years ago in mid-morning when Carol Christa was born.  She was by far the best Christmas gift I’ve ever received.  From the moment of her conception, God spoke to my heart and the my husband’s that this child was his gift to us.  We felt she would be a boy and we planned on naming him, Matthew.  When we realized that Matthew means “a gift from God,”  we were convinced that our gift would be a boy.

We had two amazing children–a boy and a girl.  We thought our family was complete.  After all, our nine-year-old son was dark, strong and handsome.   Our daughter was six.  She was petite, beautiful and blonde.  What more could you want?

On Christmas Eve when our daughter was born, we weren’t disappointed but delightfully surprised.  Carol is now a pastor serving the Lord in Washington DC.  She is the author of the book, Tribal Church, which is selling like hot cakes.  She has a great blog TribalChurch.  While some of our theology doesn’t exactly match, she has truly been a wonderful gift. 

I learned from that experience that God not only knows how to give good gifts but he also knows how to make a gift expected for nine month be a surprise.  He is, after all, God.

Happy Birthday, Carol.  You have blessed us more than you know.

As a program director of a ministry within the mentally challenged community, I have a different perspective from the professionals I know when it comes to family.

Often family is looked upon as an intrusion or necessary distraction.  However, an involved family is seen by The Special Gathering staff as one of the greatest assets one of our members can have. 

Karla lives in a group home and works at a day program.  Karla is a member of SpG who has three or four sisters.  Two of them are actively involved in her life.  Karla is much older than the other women.  It is no secret that they spoil her. 

These sisters are a constant irritant for the professionals who work with Karla.  They report, “We just get Karla straightened out and working with us and she spends a week or two with her sisters and they spoil her rotten.  They cater to her and wait on her and pamper her.  She comes home and expects us to do the same.”

I usually try to show the proper amount of concern and care for these folks who have to live with Karla on a day to day basis.  But inside, I have to admit, I’m jumping up and down, clapping and cheering the sisters onward in their quest to spoil the living day lights out of Karla.

You see, I figure that the roles have reversed for these women.  I believe to engender that much endearing love, Karla probably taught her younger siblings servanthood through her example of loving care toward them.  Now they are returning the love. 

 When a parent spoils a family member, it’s expected.  When siblings spoil their sister or brother, it’s usually pay back for the love they received from their Karla as children.  In this case, pay back is a wonderful thing.

Few people spoil our members.  Often professionals come into this field determined to wholly give of themselves to a needy population.  Within a few years, the warts, unpleasant smells and bad table manners wear thin.  When the ice finally breaks, the under-paid professional staff  is left cynical and jaded. 

However, family members, especially siblings,  have lived with the warts, unpleasant odors and loud chewing noises all their lives, yet they choose to ignore them and show love in the areas that can be emphasized.  They know first hand that almost no one has worked hard at spoiling their sister or brother.  Parents must be concerned with appropriate behaviors and societal norms as their child with a disability is maturing.  They can’t afford to spend much time spoiling. 

Some exceptional siblings make the decision to do for their Karla what everyone should have on occasion, hold a spoiling fest.  Personally, I think it’s a good thing. 

Do you find that siblings or parents are better at spoiling?  What do you think?  Is it a good thing or not?

It has been an exciting  journey to see how family dynamics grow and evolve.  I met a delightful family this week.  They came to Special Gathering to introduce their sister who is developmentally delayed to our program.  We are a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  We do church.  We evangelize and disciple persons who are developmentally disabled. 

Yes.  The entire family came to check us out.  We were all surprised to see five people walk into worship on Sunday morning. 

I’d expected a new member and one sister, but not the conclave that came to insure that their sister would be all right with Special Gathering.  All of our volunteers and members were pleasantly surprised with their presence.  They came and became involved.  Asking questions and answering our questions, the family intermingled sharing their easy manner with us.

For about an hour, I couldn’t figure out which sister would be our new member.  It became a pleasant guessing game for me.  The sisters and their husbands laughed with their family member who had a disability.  They were receptive and attentive to her needs without being overly protective or condescending. 

When I asked which sister wanted to be put down as the primary family for our records, their was a bit of tension because both sisters wanted to be equally involved in her life.  At that moment, I struggled to not have my growing delight become giggly enthusiasm. 

Within the church, there are people who find value in what we do for several reasons.  This family found value in us because they valued their sister so highly.  I was pleased.  I’m excited to get to know our new member.  And I’m excited to get to know the sisters.

Family is a good thing.  Good families are an amazing  gift from God. 

What are some of the family dynamics that you have found in your years of ministry?  What are some things which are good?  What are some things that you wish would not happen?

Yesterday, I went back to the hospital.  Sam had been transferred to a rehabilitation center.  After visiting Sam, I found that his sister, Willa, had called me.  She explained that she had not been notified that Sam was in the hospital. 

I had been surprised that Willa had not returned my call last Saturday. In the past, she would respond immediately.  Her brother, Sam, is in his 80’s and mentally challenged.  Sam is a part of Special Gathering in Vero.  We are a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  Our mission is to evangelize and disciple people who are developmentally disabled.  

Sam is spry for any age.  Until about five years ago, he was a mainstay on the back streets of Vero Beach, Florida, maneuvering his bicycle around town. He relished the independance his own transportation gave him.  “Bowling is only four miles away,” he would tell me. Or “I can easily ride my bike to church.  It’s only five or six miles from my home.”  At that time he was living with his mother in an adult living facility.  After his mother died, his sisters moved him to a nursing home.  That was when he stopped riding his bike. 

I had gone by to pick him up for Special Gathering on Saturday.  The group home staff told me, “You just missed him.  He was taken to the hospital a few minutes ago.  We expect him to be back home in a few hours.”  Because I transport a man from Melbourne with me and I couldn’t leave him in my car while I went to the hospital after Special Gathering, I did not get to see Sam that day.  In fact, the next week when I called, he was still in the hospital.  That is when I called his sister.

“We had no idea that Sam was in the hospital.  I was out of town and didn’t visit him this week.  The nursing home didn’t call me,” she said in frustration.  “If you had not called, we wouldn’t have known Sam was in the hospital.” 

Family is important to everyone who is sick.  That may be especially true for our members with intellectual disabilities.  As a program director, I’ve learned to always include the family in decisions and concerns.  My phone calls with Willa have only re-enforced my concerns regarding the well-being of our members in regard to health issues. 

Sam’s family is extremely involved in his life.  They are there for him.  But somehow in the overload of work schedules, the nursing home had forgotten to call the family members.  “Thank you for calling,” Willa said.  “Sometimes you are our only real link to Sam.”

Have you seen times that your members’ families are not valued or left out of the planning process?  Are you proactive to include families?  What do you do to include them?