Saturday, September 24, 2016

My "Tribe"

I have seen them and I am sure you have too - the posts or blogs about a woman having her "tribe" - the group of friends that she shares life with and who are there in a pinch if needed, go out for a regular girls night, etc. 

Being honest here, I have always been a tad jealous of these posts because honestly I didn't feel like I had a tribe around me. For the better part of our 21 years of marriage, we have moved and transitioned. This makes in depth meaningful relationships H.A.R.D. Yes - I have had women that I have done a ladies night out with - usually as part of women's ministry- and I have had some that are my choir parent buddies, or my Bible Study buddies, or sports parent buddies, etc. Sprinkled in through the years there have been one or two friends that really are meaningful and in depth but never a group...

Recently, as I was struggling through a friendship that has shifted and changed for numerous reasons, I found myself literally crying out to the Lord asking why I didn't have a "tribe" of my own. Where were these friends that were supposed to be there through the good, the bad, and the ugly of life? What was wrong with me that I didn't have this? I know - a tad on the overreacting side but bare with me because I want you understand where I was with this. 

So, in my prayer/crying fest to the Lord mourning the loss of this particular friendship - He clearly reminded me of something that I was not seeing. I DO have a tribe! Many years ago, before Joel and I were married and when I was still in college - God blessed me with four friends with whom I have a close and tight relationship with. You see these gals - we TRULY have walked life together...let me share with you a few of the things that we have walked through together - 

*Dating and Marriage
*Pregnancy Struggles and births of children
*Depression for either ourselves or those close to us
*Loss of a parent, loss of a sibling, and loss of a spouse
*A parent with Alzheimers
*Bankruptcy and recovery from it
*Pain and success in ministry situations
*Broken friendships (other than this group)
*Struggles with our kids
*Second marriage and all that brings

You see, these four - they make up my "tribe"! When I have something exciting to share - they are my go to group, when sorrow or devastation hit they are my go to group, when I am hurting or lost they are my go to group - they are my TRIBE! While I was looking for something different - they have been there all along - we live in four different states, have kids in varying stages of life, but yet we are still as close as though we were all still sitting in one of our dorm rooms or apartments and talking in person. 

I share this with you because maybe you are looking for a tribe. Maybe, like me you think that surely this tribe needs to look like the posts or blogs you read. However, MAYBE like me you have a tribe - it just looks a little different than someone else's. 

It is my firm belief, that we were created for relationships and in person relationships that are deep and meaningful. It is still a prayer of mine that God will open up the door for a local group of friends with whom I can do life with, have fun with, be couple friends with, and be real with - yet, I know with all my being that God blessed me with the best tribe of friends who are so willing to walk through the good the bad and the ugly! 


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Christian Parents Guide to IEP or Special Education Meetings...

If you have been around my blog long or know us at all, you know that I have a heart for kids with Special Needs and their parents. Having both a son and niece with special needs these kiddos and their families are close to my heart and I LOVE being able to encourage them, support them and help them in any way I can.

Any parent of a special needs child who is of school age and in the public school system will tell you that one of the hardest times is that of the school IEP or Individual Education Plan meeting. The basis of these meetings is for your child's educators, therapists, service providers, and you as parent to come together and discuss the needs of your child, where they are at in their academic and social progress, where they are lacking and what supports and helps can be put in place to help them.

For a parent, these meetings can bring feelings of sadness, being overwhelmed, intimidated, frustration, anger and even defensiveness. At times, you feel as though it is you vs a room full of professionals who "think" they know your child better than you but yet you know your child the best. All you have to do is google IEP meetings and images to come up with a WHOLE HOST of memes about angry parents headed to IEP meetings, derogatory remarks about teachers etc, and more. While in some ways, these can be true...I want to propose that they don't have to be true, there can be a different approach and especially as a Christian parent...you have an excellent opportunity to yes be a strong advocate for your child BUT to also be salt and light to their educational team!

In the past 11 years of working with various schools and attending countless IEP meetings, Here are some guidelines that we have discovered for Christian parents in their approach of these meetings....

1.) Prayer. Perhaps this should be the assumed approach but it took me several years before I would regularly bathe my child's IEP meetings in prayer before the throne and even longer before I would regularly reach out to my close team of prayer warriors and ask them to join me in praying over the upcoming meetings. Yet, when this became my habit - I noticed BIG changes in the overall atmosphere of our meetings and most of all in MY attitude approaching them. I pray over my child of course but also for the teachers and service providers and that I would represent Christ well in these meetings! It is also a great reminder to me that the ONE who created my child loves him so much more than me and will go before us!

2.) Open-Mindedness. I had to learn to have an open mind going into the meetings and to not automatically assume that the school is against me or my child.  It is important to not go into these meetings automatically on the defensive but to go in with the idea that you CAN work together WITH the school for your child.

3.) Gentleness. To piggy back on the previous guideline - go into each meeting with a gentle and calm spirit. Approach the team with an attitude that assumes the best not the worst of those working with your child.

4.) Firm Advocate rather than a Defensive Advocate. It has taken time but I have learned that I CAN be a firm and strong advocate for my child without being defensive, abrasive, rude or out of control. I can advocate for my child and his needs with an attitude that brings glory and honor to Christ and is a witness to those around me. Go into your child's IEP with the idea that God has placed you in THIS meeting to be His ambassador and witness. With this in mind, speak truth YES but in love. State what your child needs but in love!

5.) Should you have to change direction - do so with grace. We have found ourselves in a position where we realized that the school simply wasn't going to work with us or our son to meet his needs and for the sake of what was best for our child we had to withdraw him from that educational setting. I wish that I could say that we handled this with 100% grace and love but that wasn't the case. We withdrew him and chose to homeschool him for a time but I was angry and put out to say the least. at a follow-up meeting I did approach it with grace though and it was so much better. Again, I had to remind myself to represent Christ well...as hard as that may be.

6.) Relationship is key. Regardless the situation, as believers we need to remember that the relationship is the key. We need to maintain the relationship even in the midst of advocating for our child. Remember that there really are times that teachers and administrators hands are tied due to resources, laws, etc. This is where we found ourselves when we withdrew our son but to maintain the relationship, we thanked the staff for their efforts and time while still taking the actions that were best for our child.

7.) Even if the previous meeting went south...follow these guidelines every time. In our humanness, sometimes we just mess up or the meeting just takes a bad turn. DO NOT take the baggage from one meeting into the next one - start again with prayer, a fresh mindset, a good attitude. You will get no where if you are carrying a grudge and in most cases, it just gets worse!

8.) If needed - take a friend or another advocate. Many times we really are too emotionally involved to approach an IEP with an open mind or calmness. We need to recognize this and if our spouse is able take them, if not find a friend or advocate that will be the voice of reason, help keep you calm and collected, and still advocate for your child!

To summarize,  as a Christian parent yes you have a responsibility to advocate for your child but you also have a responsibility to represent Christ well in these meetings and to be the hands and feet of Him! You CAN do both. Above all PRAY over your child, their teachers, the meetings, the services, service providers, etc!

Footnote: You may notice that throughout this post I don't use the term "fight for my child" or "do battle on his behalf" but rather advocate. The reason for this is simple - fight or battle automatically put me in a defensive mindset and make me go into the meeting with an us vs them mentality and that is just not correct. I honestly believe that the majority of teachers and administrators DO want to see students excel and succeed, they just have much more to consider than just my child and like I mentioned earlier they are restricted at times.



Sunday, September 11, 2016

We say "We will never forget" and yet....15 years later, WE FORGOT

This morning as I woke up, I heard my son say from the other room to his Dad:

"I think today is the day Dad."
Dad: "What day is that?"
Son: "I think today is 9/11"

As I finished preparing for church, thoughts of 9/11 came to my mind...I DO remember that day, I remember where I was, I remember watching my 4 innocent children play and laugh and wondering what their lives would hold in this now changed America....

Here we are, 15 years removed from that monumental day. A day that is to my generation that Pearl Harbor was to my Grandparents generation. A day in which the war on terrorism was no longer in a far away land but right here on our own soil. Each year I see signs and images that say "Never Forget" or "We will never forget" and yet...I am convinced that we FORGOT.

No, we didn't forget what happened - we forgot how our Nation reacted. On 9/11/2001 there wasn't a single person in America that was disrespecting or criticizing our law enforcement, we weren't a nation with political parties divided and agendas more important than people, we weren't tossing God to the wind and saying everyone believe what you want....

On 9/11/2001 and in the subsequent weeks and months - our nation was UNITED, we respected and loved on one another, we thanked those in any uniform, every kid I knew wanted to grow up and be a policeman or firefighter - bonus if it was NYPD or NYFD. More noticeable than this was the way in which the body of Christ reacted...we were extending love to those in need, being bold in the sharing of the Gospel, knowing that truly the ONLY hope for America was God! Our churches were full and people were seeking...and we as Christians were there with open arms and the Gospel message.

What do I see on 9/11/2016:

* A nation more divided than ever.
* Americans criticizing and bashing one another rather than uniting.
*Our law enforcement is under fire and scrutiny
* Our churches are actually DECLINING and closing doors rather than growing and reaching out
* Political agendas are now the news of the day - no talk of people as the priority
* Christians are more out spoken about politics and patriotism than they are about the Gospel message being shared and lives being changed for eternity.
*Believers walk around in discouragement and hopelessness forgetting that our ONLY hope is in Christ - not a politician, not government, not laws.

So....if you want to say "Never Forget" than I want to boldly challenge you to truly stand behind those words and don't just remember the event - remember the way in which we reacted! We were determined to stand united as a Nation. Christian - we were BOLD with the message of Christ and not a political agenda - we worshiped the Lord over patriotism. We reached out in love and care to one another. We thanked and honored our law enforcement. There was not one race against another - we were ALL Americans reeling with the reality that war was on our soil.

Non-believers saw the hope that we as believers had in the wake of tragedy and we were ready with an answer for the hope that is within us...what do they see in us today when we are faced with a broken nation, a nation divided, uncertain times. Are we living as those with eternal hope that others want?



Christian - this is to you....Pray, Seek His face, Repent and THEN He will forgive and heal.