Oh my goodness! Is your family as busy as ours is right now? Those of you with children know the craziness of back-to-school time with shopping for clothes, gathering school supplies, finding buried backpacks and lunch boxes and shoes, and hoping desperately that you remembered to actually sign your child up for classes---not that that's ever happened to me, you understand…!
Our school year should be "easier" this year because we are down to just three kids in school, now that both Amanda and Katie have graduated. This means a lower curriculum bill, one less lunch to make each day, and less money going out for school activities. But I still have the same number of people in the van because Katie has been hired on staff! She now has the dubious title of "Lunch Lady" as well as "Janitor." She plans the weekly school lunch menu, cooks and serves the food, and orders the stock regularly; then, after school and on weekends, she cleans the gymnasium (where our classrooms are). She searched for a job all summer, putting in applications and getting her resume out there. Finally, in August, Round Table Pizza hired her for a few hours a week. One week later she received the offer to do lunches and clean the gym! Now she has so many hours at school that she has had to give notice at Round Table. Praise the Lord!!
Dale is actually in two classes this year! He is completing PACES in Algebra I, Bible, and English, but he gets to be in science and consumer math class. He is also taking Spanish this year using Rosetta Stone, so he's in the computer classroom but working at his own speed. He seems to be doing well enough with his grades, passing his courses and studying hard. His walking though is getting harder, I think. He exercises regularly, but it's just so hard for him to simply take steps. On a recent outing, my husband bought Dale some new tennis shoes. He's been wanting and needing some, and these are awesome. They're bright and colorful---he's so tired of basic black!---and they fit well. They don't necessarily improve his gait, but they don't hinder it either (something I was seriously concerned about). And they have special shoelaces that just require pulling to tighten, rather than tying. Those are nice! I think, unless God chooses to again show His might and reconnect Dale's brain patterns fully, we might be seeing Dale's best walking ability right now. Still, he's alive and well, and we are soooo thankful.
It has been borne in upon us since Dale's accident four years ago that we truly don't understand another's situation until we are actually in their shoes. Before we raced frantically to the hospital, before we hovered over Dale's bedside, praying for life, before we spent literally weeks in different hospitals, before we considered a good day one in which Dale had managed to swallow properly---we honestly had no idea the struggles a family with a disabled child goes through. I have always considered myself to be a compassionate person, one who is ever ready to listen sympathetically or give a hug or spend time in prayer for someone going through a rough time. But for me to say that I "knew" what those families were going through would have been a gross understatement. I had no idea how each minute could be an eternity, how normal activities could become insurmountable tasks, how daily life could be so overwhelming that sometimes you just want to stop. Just stop. Close the door, don't leave the house, turn off your phone, and pull your family close and never let go.
People were so understanding those first few weeks and months. We had complete strangers come up to us in the store and tell us they were praying for us. Our church family was absolutely wonderful with prayers, meals, tears, help, and love. I took a year off teaching school to tutor Dale and take him to doctor and therapy appointments; Chad worked hard but spent every moment he could at home. Life was hard, but it was also bathed in the very real knowledge that God was working daily in our lives. We could feel His presence. It took us a while to adjust our schedules to accommodate Dale's needs, which meant we had to step down from a lot of ministries we'd been involved in (nursery, choir, soul winning, etc.), simply because someone had to be with Dale at all times. I remember being so appreciative of folks understanding that we didn't stop these ministries because we wanted to but because we had to cut things out of our schedule and rewrite a new daily plan.
But it's been four years now. It's been four years since Dale's accident, three years since he had twice-weekly physical therapy sessions and weekly speech therapy. He now sees a doctor only about every six months, and he's really doing very well. We've been able to gradually add things back into our schedule so that now we are just about as busy as before, just not doing the same things. We go visiting on our bus route each Saturday morning; I rejoined the choir and conduct Children's Choir each Sunday evening; I also conduct Buttons and Bows (a club for girls) twice a month; Chad drives the bus for teen soul winning on Wednesdays (when his job allows), and Ashley goes out too; Emily is involved with Children's Challenge every Saturday morning; Katie and Ashley work in the nurseries; Chad leads singing in Sunday school and baptizes new converts. See what I mean? All this is in addition to school each day during the week and all that entails.
I list these things to make a point. To a casual observer, it looks like we are overwhelmingly busy with church activities---and they'd be right! It requires continual effort on our part to make sure our activity is not for men's applause, but for God's. We do these things because we should be involved in our local church, but our hearts' attitude is one of service. We do these things because we love God and want to be of service to Him. We want Him to use us daily. This, I believe, is the attitude of most Christians.
But it's so easy to slip from this attitude of service to one of judgment. "If I can do all this for God with a handicapped child, why aren't you doing more?" or "Why should I volunteer for that function when I have a disabled son to care for?" We have to be so careful not to assign motives to people who don't volunteer when we simply do not know what they are dealing with in their personal lives. Dale's disability is very visible; someone else's disability may be hidden but just as debilitating. Oh, Father, please guard my tongue and my thoughts that I do not hurt one of Your children because of my selfish, sinful desire to compare myself with them.
As well, I would hope that no one judges me or my family. "It's been four years. How much longer are they going to use Dale's accident as an excuse not to _____?" or "I realize they have a lot to handle, but I still think they should be faithful to ______." I've been upset for a while now about that last one. My family feels the sting of thinly veiled suggestions that we are letting others down by not attending, say, bus meeting on Saturday mornings. We do make it after the meeting ends and get our assignments for visitation that day, but we do not often make it to the meeting itself. On the one hand, I understand that this is an announced meeting designed to challenge people to do their best out visiting that day. I realize that sometimes prizes are given out for the route with the most workers in attendance. I know that a bus captain's heart is set at ease when he sees his workers at the meeting, knowing he does not have to visit the entire route by himself! On the other hand, five days a week I am punching a time-clock, waking my family up early, helping my son into the bathroom, trying to awaken my youngest who absolutely hates getting up in the morning, walking backwards down the stairs in front of Dale who usually gets shaky on the stairs and has to sit down every two or three steps, urging him to get up and keep going because we have to be at school on time, hating the fact that I know it's making it harder on him to have to try to hurry, knowing that he really would benefit physically by another hour or two of sleep---but we don't have that choice. School starts at 8:25 a.m., Monday through Friday, regardless of Dale's physical condition. So when given the chance to slow things down a bit, we do. When given the option to slow down on the stairs and not push Dale to keep going, I let him sit down and relax for a minute. Since I'm not docked for missing bus meeting and the kids aren't considered tardy, I choose not make an issue of it. After all, we get there in time to send Emily out on Children's Challenge and get our visitation assignments, so I feel we're doing our part.
I'm going to go a bit farther. Sometimes, on a Sunday morning, if Dale is struggling with the stairs extra or just plain old struggling, I have no problem skipping Sunday school. I know, I know---the horror!!! Again, I'm thankful not to have to punch a time-clock for Sunday school, so if I have a few extra minutes I can take without the world coming to a screeching halt, I'll take them. It's not that I consider my job more important than God's work; after all, my job is part of my service to God. It's not that I think earning a dollar more important than earning God's favor; I think He honestly understands that sometimes it's nice not to be forced to rush. I would rather miss bus meeting or be late for Sunday school than cause my son to have a seizure because I'm pushing him harder than he can handle. Especially if I'm pushing him to get out the door just so someone doesn't criticize me for not being on time.
It all goes back to "Judge not, lest ye be judged." I don't want people to be judgmental towards me and my family, as if we're using Dale's accident and subsequent handicap to get out of doing stuff. So I'd better be sure I'm not judging others based on my ideas of what they should be able to do. We all have our own trials and difficulties to overcome. I certainly wouldn't want someone thinking, "If I were in her shoes, I would still be able to ______," so I'd better be careful not to assume that of others either. We each need to be more aware of our own faults and shortcomings than we are someone else's. God doesn't expect us to change others; He expects us to change ourselves.
I love you people; you have been our cheerleaders and prayer warriors for quite some time now, and we appreciate every word spoken. Let's lift each other up with our thoughts and prayers and glances, so that God might be so very pleased with our service.
Galatians 6:2 "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."