Exceptionally Forward

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There are times in my life when my boldness has been completely out of character for the personality I was born into.

I am currently in the process of writing a grant application for my church. Our church building is over 50 years old. First, the sanctuary was built with classrooms in the basement. Then the family center with additional classrooms and a gym was added later, at the bottom of a hill,  with a connection through the basement of the sanctuary. There was an intention to build an elevator at a later date. However, that congregation dissolved before it could be done.

We have an emotional connection to this church building. We met and were married in this church building. Our kids were all in the nursery. That church dissolved a year after we moved to a different area of the city. It was very upsetting and sad. Several small congregations occupied the building without much success after that. When we moved back to the area, we discovered that there was a new congregation there and the church parking lot was full on Sundays. So we decided to check it out. We have been attending since June and have noticed some very wonderful things about this congregation.

This church has had a strong ministry to orphans – particularly those who are medically fragile.  Many of their families have adopted.  And several others are consistently providing foster care for children in need.  This is an under-served and often neglected population.  This project would allow those with disabilities to access classrooms for Bible study and fully enter into the life of the church.  They have also partnered with Olivia’s Gift – a local home for developmentally disabled adults.  Our congregation serves there on Thursday evenings by playing music, reading to the residents, etc.  They have tried to bring the residents to our facility for Sunday services but accessibility has been a challenge.

Our church also has an African Refugee Church that meets at around 1:00 pm. There are many Chinese students who come. There is an English as a second language ministry. And several members work with New Creation Ministries doing Bible correspondence courses with prisoners.

Before we came, our church had been planning to build an elevator to the classroom areas and family center, along with a broader foyer and wider stairs. As it stands now, a person in a wheelchair or using a cane would have to go back to their car and be driven down the hill to get to the classroom area of the church. Or be carried down the stairs. These options are cumbersome and embarrassing. Many newcomers would just give up. The gospel is for everyone, not just those who can navigate the stairs.

I have witnessed church members carrying the wheelchair of a young man down the stairs.

So the pastor of the church ask if I would be willing to explore grant possibilities. I said yes. That is exceptionally forward of me.

It is not like me to go to strangers and try to convince them to hand over money even for a good cause. I was never much good at selling girl scout cookies, even though they practically sell themselves. I am not a sales person; I take after my dad in that regard. He has had many side careers over the years, none of which were successful, and some of which cost him quite a bit of money with lackluster return at best.

I was extremely shy when I went away to college. When a boy came to sit at my table with my friends, I would shake; I was so nervous. I wish I had been braver when I was in college. Maybe I would have been able to raise money from organizations to attend a semester in England. Nah. I would have been shaking in my boots.

However, there have been moments in my life that defy my natural tendencies.

After I graduated from college, I decided to attend this church which was halfway between my job and my parents’ house because the services were earlier. The first Sunday, my husband’s friend introduced himself to me, and then introduced me to my future husband. After church, the crowd was so thick that we were stuck at the back, and had to talk to each other until the crowd dispersed. He was shy. So was I. But here is the exceptionally forward part. That Wednesday night, this shy person went to prayer meeting and noticed that he was sitting alone. By himself. I inexplicably walked up to him and asked if the seat next to him was empty. He said yes. I sat down. He didn’t look at me the entire meeting. But afterward we went out for cokes at the local baptist college. (There wasn’t much available at that time near the church). And the rest, as they say, is history.

After our kids were placed in special education, I also did some things I probably wouldn’t have done if not for autism. If not for my kids.

I went to a board meeting to speak up for the kindergarten teacher who was going to be reduced to part-time. I was shaking, but I said, looking at one of the board members who also had a son in kindergarten, “My son has special needs and is very disruptive in his classrooms. Do you think it’s a good idea to put a child like him in a class of 30 kindergartners? Or would it be less expensive to put him in a specialized class in another district.” That was exceptionally forward of me. The teacher kept her full time job…and was an excellent teacher to my son.

I spoke at public comment sessions for special education, I went to conferences. I spoke to rooms full of day care providers on taking care of children with special needs. I spoke to college students in child development classes regarding what it was like to raise a child with autism.

I didn’t know what was going to happen. But I did it anyway. For the kids. And by the grace and power of God, who helped me speak to groups of people.

So I am feeling like this venture of writing for grants is also exceptionally forward of me. But it is for others.   And I am having a bit of writer’s block about it. But I have been collecting the attachments. And writing out my thoughts. Hoping to come up with a theme to make our request more powerful. Would you pray for me in this.

Ann

 

 

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If Not For Autism….

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There would have been no horses in our lives. Despite extended effort, Will and Patty were not able to learn to ride bikes due to motor skill impairments. Instead, they rode Fred and Bill once a week for five years. 

Getting Used to It…

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“I’m going out with work friends after work. They will bring me back to work so you can pick me up.” Marie’s text message on Friday afternoon to Ralph and I.

I paused before replying.  Not asking us. Just informing us.

Marie is the oldest and last of our children to move toward independence. Both Will and Patty are living together in another city. In the first part of 2016, we strongly urged Marie to move out of our house and find an apartment or a condo. We looked up apartment complexes and visited several. Ralph met a real estate agent/nurse at his cardiac rehab program and Marie and I looked at condos with her. Twice we were at the stage of signing papers; one to buy a one bedroom condo, one to rent an apartment. Only to back away at the last moment.

We went to Ohio for a weekend to pick up Patty from  grad school, leaving Marie at home alone. Marie cannot drive and had no friends that we knew of to hang around with. She was lonely and bored. After we got back, she informed us that she did not want to live alone. She then went up to her room and used half of the money she had saved for the down payment on a condo to pay off some of her student loans.

So much for our efforts to push her toward independence.

Then Ralph was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer in June. Our doctor made an appointment for him to be evaluated by a bone marrow transplant team in July.

I realized that we had to move out of our 100 year old house due to his immune deficiency, especially if he was going to get a bone marrow transplant.

To be honest, I had long talked about moving. I felt overwhelmed by all the stuff in our house, by the maintenance work that we could not keep up with, by the outside chores. Ralph had been ill since the fall of 2014. When I talked about moving, he said, “We can’t move until I have fixed it up.” But he wasn’t strong enough to do the work. And I didn’t have the time or the skill.

So I suggested helping Marie with a down payment on a condo, and having her get a mortgage with her job and her stellar credit. She had savings and no debt except her remaining student loan payments. And I believe God prepared this condo for this situation in our lives. This was the only property we looked at. We took a tour on July 3, 2016. Marie signed the mortgage on August 11, 2016. We moved in on August 20.

Instead of Marie living with us in our house, we are now living with Marie in her condo.

So yesterday, she let us know she was going out after work with Friends. With people we don’t know. Friends she had made at the job that God supplied. The first time she has ever done this alone. We have always supervised her outings or made sure she was with people that we knew and trusted. For me, it was almost as hard as the day that Will got on a plane by himself and flew to California for a week. I was nervous. But I couldn’t say no.

At eight, I texted her to see how it was going.

“We are walking around Rockford. We are having a good time,” she replied.

As the evening wore on, I said to Ralph, “You can start texting her at 10 to see when she is coming home.”

At 10, Ralph didn’t get any response. Texting or calling.

I messaged my younger daughter, Patty – Well, Marie is out with friends. I have never met these friends.

Patty – So? You don’t get to be protective like that forever. Let it go.

I texted Marie, and asked her to please call me. She called me at 11:00 and said she was on her way. I could hear the voice of the young man who was bringing her back home in the car. I asked if he was going to bring her home.

When she came home, we didn’t say anything about our concerns. We asked her what she did and did she have a good time. She had a wonderful time. They laughed a lot. Went to a restaurant that several different kinds of locally brewed root beers. They ate fried mushrooms, fried pickles, and chili dogs. We did mention that we would like it in the future if when she went out with her friends to have them drop her off at the condo. That way we wouldn’t have to go out in our car to get her late at night.

Patty is right. We can’t protect her forever. She will have a life of her own even while we live together. 80% of the employees at her job are required to have some sort of disability or health condition that is a barrier to employment. The young man who organized this outing is about 28 and just got his license last year. Four of them went out. Two young women and two young men. It’s normal for some of them to never be able to drive. And they took care of each other.

I’m not sure, but this might have been a date.

I guess I’ll have to get used to it…

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Vulnerability

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Patty has been living with her brother, Will, since February. On Wednesday evening, she she messaged me on Facebook.

Can I ask you something

And can you promise not to tell Dad?

Yes.

Will was conned by a young woman asking for money.

Cash?

Of course.

How?

So, she claimed to have fled an abusive relationship in Alabama…. She was at the grocery store. Will went shopping Monday.

Alone.

I was not there. Otherwise, this probably wouldn’t have happened.

How much did he give her?

Quite a bit.

Does she know where you live?

I’m not sure the total amount.

No.

Good.

We kind of know where she is supposed to live.

How do you know he was conned?

I think we need to call the police. Weeell. He went and saw her tonight (she was asking for help again.)

How much?

And she claimed to have lost her wallet. That’s tonight.

She has his contact information?

She asked for $300 more.

Oh no.

Unfortunately, yes.

He gave it to her?

Block her.

Yeah. I know. Sigh. People prey on those with obvious disabilities.

At this point, I began messaging Will. I found out he had been approached by a young African America woman who claimed to be escaping from an abusive relationship. She asked Will for money to pay her rent. She was crying, he said. She told him she would pay him back, and asked for his phone number so she could pay him back when she got the money. However, over the course of three days, she never paid him back. She only pleaded for more money. Over the course of three days, he gave her $1,600.

I asked him if she knew where he lives or his last name.

He said, No. I hope not.

Do you know where she lives? Did you go to her house? Did you take her to your house?

No. I don’t know where she lives.

Block her. Don’t talk to her ever again.

I’ll give her another week to pay back the money.

No. Block her. Consider the money lost, and this an expensive lesson.

Okay.

I knew that he was still unconvinced. He is independent. He is an adult. He’ll say one thing and then do what he wants anyway. After all, he is an adult (29) and doesn’t want to argue with me, his mother. I understand that.

The next morning I received a frantic phone call from Patty. “Mom, that woman called Will and is asking him to buy her food because she is hungry.”

“Go and tell Will to hang up. Right now.”

I heard her hurrying down the stairs. “Mom, said to hang up. Right now!”

Will hung up. Patty handed him her phone.

“Will, don’t talk to her anymore. That money is gone. You will not be able to get it back no matter how much she says she will pay you back. She will only plead with you for more.”

“I know.”

“Block her.” Then I thought, her friends would still be able to call, or she could get a different number. “Change your phone number. Right now.”

“Okay. I will.”

A few minutes later he sent me a Facebook message with the new phone number. Later, he told me that he was relieved that she couldn’t contact him anymore. We went to visit him and Patty yesterday. Privately, I asked him how she could have gotten $1,600 from him in three days. He said, “She just kept tricking me.” I told him that he had a good heart, that he wanted to help a woman in distress. But she took him advantage of that good heart in him. I know, he said.

Oh Lord. How I want to keep him and his sisters safe. I did not think to prepare him for this. Fortunately, Patty who is living with him, tried to stop him. And when he snuck out to give this woman even more money, Patty enlisted me in the effort to stop him. I hate to think what would have happened had Patty not been living with him.

I hope that he will not give into the desire to try to get his money back. That he will not contact her with his new phone number. Oh Lord. Keep him safe.

Adults with autism who are functioning in the adult world may be more vulnerable to scams. Our Will wants to believe good in others. This experience will hopefully make him more wary in the future. He is usually very careful with his money. And the loss of this money did not endanger his ability to pay his bills.

 

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Catching My Breath

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For the third year in a row, I am taking a vacation during the first week in January. In January, I get a new supply of vacation days. This year, it’s four weeks, thank God. My husband has been ill since October 2014, when he had a tumor on his bowel that caused a total blockage. He had surgery, but recovery has been slow due to his other health conditions.  I have been his caregiver since then. He has been feeling relatively well the last year. He does some household chores and drives our daughter to work.

This summer he was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer. We have spent time going to University of Michigan to be evaluated for a bone marrow transplant. He doesn’t qualify due to his other health conditions, overall weakness, and struggle with malnutrition.

Since October 2014, I have spent most of my vacation time on appointments for him. So it may seem lavish for me to spend some of it on myself. Because that’s what this is. A break from work. A chance to regroup. To do some fun stuff like go to the theater and watch a movie, crochet, scrapbook, and organize our condo.

Last summer, after his diagnosis, we decided (we were led, really) to go ahead and help our 30-year-old daughter buy a condo with the idea that we would move in with her and pay rent to her. She had been paying rent to us for several years. She was enthusiastic about this idea. We started talking about it on July 3. She signed the mortgage papers on August 11 and we moved on August 20. Six weeks. We put our house on the market in October. We sold it in four days, and closed two weeks later. It has been an amazing how God’s hand was evident in this move. God’s people helped us move, and helped us throw away or give away more than half of our stuff. What a weight off of our shoulders.

Late summer, Ralph had to have two transfusions. This is a sign of his cancer progressing. However, his doctor has adjusted his chemo so that he stays just above transfusion level while controlling his platelet level to some extent. Too many transfusions and blood letting has to happen or medication to take down iron level. Two weeks ago, he had an abdominal CT scan to check for Crohn’s disease because of digestive issues that are robbing him of nutrition. No Crohn’s, but the radiologist did note that his liver had a small lesion. His GI doctor told him it was nothing to worry about. I asked his PCP to send me a copy of the test results. It notes that the lesion/liver should be watched for metastasis, and the PCP said he should have another test. I keep this information to myself. It may be nothing. But the fact that he has bone marrow cancer indicates it needs watching.

As I think about 2017, I wonder how soon chaos will enter our lives. Yet the thing that I must do is trust God. In the midst of our storm, He has been faithful to us. Faithful.

May you have a blessed new year!

Ann

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
And whose hope is the Lord.
For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear[a] when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit.

Jeremiah 17:7-8

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