Sunday, September 9, 2012

Parenting a Child with Special Needs

Medical appointments, prescription trials, multiple surgeries, therapy sessions, school meetings, behaviour plans, physical care, sleep deprivation and lack of available special needs childcare.

Tears, fears and lots of heartache.

Whatever the diagnosis, raising a child with special needs is not easy.
But if you’re raising a child with special needs, what you do matters.
With my youngest niece, The Princess
What you do matters to your child.
Even if your child's special needs are so severe she doesn't have the ability to say so, what you do for her matters. In more ways than you and I will ever imagine, what you do matters to your child.

What you do for your child with special needs matters to your typically-developing children.
Stephen Covey said the security of everyone in the family rests on how the weakest family member is treated. When you love and cherish your child with special needs, even on the darkest, most difficult days, your typically-developing children know they too are worthy of your unconditional love. They can live in the security that, no matter what, they too will be loved and cared for.

What you do for your child with special needs matters to your church.
The Church in North America needs a reminder that people with challenges are worthy of love and care, and that the Lord commands us to care for them. When you visibly, consistently display your love for your child, the Church hears the reminder it so badly needs.

It may be hard on you to be the one giving this message, but when you do, it matters.
What you do for your child with special needs matters to your community and your country.

In Canada, several years ago, a father killed his teenage daughter who had cerebral palsy. His lawyer called it a "mercy killing", but more accurate information showed the family felt they could no longer care for her. My heart goes out to this family, so beleaguered they planned and carried out the killing of their own child. However, I'm even more grieved they received so much public support for doing so.
When you care for, and love, and cherish your child with special needs, even on the days you're sure you have no caring left, you declare to your community and your country that you value all human life. You silently, powerfully shout that the life of a person with special needs is also worthwhile.

What you do for your child with special needs matters to God.
God didn’t give you this challenging task – raising a child with special needs -- because “you’re so special”.

Nor did He place you in this role as a punishment.
But according to His own wisdom and goodness, for reasons we don’t fully understand, He did orchestrate the events of your life so you’re raising a child with special needs.

He who called you to this task treasures your child... and He treasures you.
He asks you to be faithful in caring for him or her. (Not perfect, faithful.) He also cares for you.

He understands how hard it is for you...and for your child.
And when you show tender-loving care to your child with special needs, He is honored by your faithfulness.

Whatever we do for someone in need, we are doing for Jesus Himself.

That doesn’t just apply to caring for poor and hungry strangers.

It is for you, caring for your own child within your own family.
What you do, on the front lines and in the shadows, in the public moments and the unknown corners of your child’s life... all matters.

Please remember... what you do matters.

-- Reenie
*From  Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families

Friday, September 7, 2012

Justin Hines: Say What You Will

Let me introduce Justin Hines, a composer, musician and Canadian.
Justin Hines

Two years ago, Justin performed in Calgary, to a packed auditorium at Centre Street Church. I was thrilled to be part of that awed and cheering crowd. It’s an experience I won’t soon forget.
Justin was a hit with people of all ages, including my family members, who are teenagers and middle-aged adults. They were still raving about him the next day.

That night, Justin performed his song Say What You Will, reminding us to say the words our loved ones need to hear -- before it’s too late.

Justin has performed throughout the States, across Canada, and in numerous countries around the world, growing more fans everywhere.
Some of his youngest fans, a Grade 4 class in Indianapolis, created their own video of Say What You Will.
They posted it online and sent Justin hand-written letters, inviting him to come and visit.
Justin thanked them for the letters and the video, but didn’t respond to the invitation -- at least not right away.
A few months later, Justin went to Indianapolis for another event. This is what happened the next morning. (Before you click, make sure you have Kleenex nearby.)
I wanted you to meet Justin today, because I love the story of what Justin did for those children and their teacher. (I love it especially because I'm a teacher, but you don't have to be a teacher or a student to appreciate it.)
I also wanted to introduce Justin so I could tell you some great news:
Justin Hines is coming to Calgary this fall!
He's coming back to Centre Street Church on October 12, to perform in Courage: A Concert with Justin Hines and Tony Melendez.
I promise, you don’t want to miss it. Get your tickets here.
See you at the concert October 12!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What I Wish Young Women Knew About Unjust Criticism

It took me way too long to learn some key life lessons. I haven't learned them the easy way, but it makes a big difference for me to understand these things now.

I wish the younger women I care about could learn these principles earlier than I did. It would save them so much heartache.

The greatest lesson I Wish Young Women Knew came from a wise older lady with whom I worked.

One of our colleagues was telling the older lady and me that, at a former place of employment, they'd told her all kinds of nasty things about herself. Having worked with our colleague, the older lady and I both knew those accusations weren't true. Our colleague probably knew it too. Yet, years later, those criticisms still hurt.

Then our wise friend said, "When they said those things, they were saying nothing about you and everything about themselves."

They're saying nothing about you
and everything about themselves.

My dear young woman, when people subject you to cutting words, snobbish behaviour, and unfair's because those people are insecure, and are trying to build themselves up by tearing you down. Most often, their words and behaviour have nothing whatsoever to do with you. And certainly, they're not giving an accurate picture of what you're really like.

When someone says "You'll never be good enough to date that kind of guy" or "You're not as pretty as she is," it doesn't mean it's true.

When someone points out that you're a few pounds overweight or aren't as organized as your sister, it doesn't mean those are the most important things about you.

When someone you care about doesn't affirm you for being creative or compassionate or intelligent or courageous, it doesn't mean those strengths don't exist. It doesn't mean your strengths don't matter.

When someone doesn't give you the approval or the position or the invitation you've worked for, it doesn't mean you're not worthy of that recognition.

Your worth isn't based on what other people think or say about you.

Your quality as a human being doesn't vary according to whether or not someone expresses it aloud.

Your value is based on your beginning -- that God created you. He made you in His image.

When people speak harshly of you, look at you with condescension, or don't look at you at all... most often, it has nothing to do with you.

Those people are telling you nothing about what's in your heart, your mind and your future... but they're saying a lot about their own.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Lennette Randall: God's Faithfulness -- The Place Where Courage Grows

When a foolhardy wasp dove into Lennette Randall’s salad, her fingers dove in right after it and plucked it out. Eight of us had been shooing away wasps as we ate, but only Lennette was brave enough to nab one with her bare hands.

That wasp-catching episode is a picture of Lennette`s courage in facing life’s greater challenges.

Born in Sierra Leone, Lennette moved to the U.S. when she was 14. After high school, she went to live with her dad in England, and finished a communications degree. In 2006, she heard of Rosebud School of the Arts – a tiny school in a faraway Canadian village -- where they offered performing arts training with a Christian worldview.
But “all Heaven broke loose” and family and financial issues got in the way of her attending.

Two years later, Lennette considered Rosebud again, but the obstacles still seemed insurmountable – until suddenly they disappeared. A visa that should have taken 6-8 weeks arrived in 7 days. Lennette found a ridiculously-cheap plane ticket for £199 ($400 Canadian). She was on her way to Canada.

She arrived in Rosebud with enough money for one semester, hoping she could stay a year. Four years later, she’s still here -- and is about to graduate.
Lennette cherishes the high degree of investment her instructors have given her, but she emphasizes she hasn’t been “babied”. Living in a tiny village has also been an education, as she’s observed how people relate to each other and how each person finds a place.

Most of all, she says, it’s required “a lot of work and trust” day by day, year by year, to watch God provide – through scholarships, jobs, and an ability to work.
This summer, for example, Lennette worked three different jobs, in addition to playing Mrs. Spencer in Rosebud’s Anne of Green Gables, all while writing and developing her final student project Under the Mango Tree. Since she describes herself as a person who “needs to know what’s happening every day”, it hasn’t been easy.
Two years ago when her aunt died, Lennette went to Sierra Leone for the funeral, using money she’d saved for school. She returned to Rosebud with no way to pay tuition – until she discovered that generous friends had collected and donated money on her behalf.
She has learned to “trust every day” that God will provide.

During the past three years, Lennette has lost her grandparents*, as well as her aunt, so when she began her final project she wanted to honor them by retelling the stories they’d told.
But the project didn’t come together smoothly or quickly. Lennette started with the idea of an eight-member cast and a back-up choir. Early in her drafts, an unexpected male character “appeared”.
As Lennette worked with Kelsey Krogman, her dramaturge**, Under the Mango Tree gradually evolved, keeping the male character but leaving out the choir. The final version includes Lennette and Conrad Belau, who make audience members laugh and cry as they perform outside under a graceful, old, easy-to-climb tree.

Under the Mango Tree’s universal themes of cultural and family conflict; sorrow and loss; friendship, forgiveness and loyalty resonate deeply with viewers. I hope this play’s life extends far beyond the planned performances that took place this weekend.
In the meantime, Lennette will complete two more written projects and an oral exam before graduation at the end of September. Then, after she’s had REST, she’d like to look for work with a company -- perhaps in Canada, perhaps in England -- that uses performing arts as a communications tool.

It’s my prayer that Lennette will continue to use her remarkable writing and performing abilities and convey her keen insights into human nature by telling stories that express our unfailing need for God, and remind us of His unfailing faithfulness.
*Under the Mango Tree is dedicated to the memory of Lennette’s aunt and grandparents.

**A dramaturge supports a playwright, ensuring the play maintains a plotline, stays true to characters, etc.

-- Reenie

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Lennette Randall: Graduate, Rosebud School of the Arts

I've changed the title of this post because spam-commenters were attracted by the name of the tree in the title of the play. The rest of the post is unchanged.

Childhood stories told under an African mango tree are reborn and retold in Lennette Randall’s play Under the Mango Tree.

Directed by Nathan Schmidt, Lennette stars with Conrad Belau -- both of them graduating students at Rosebud School of the Arts -- in Under the Mango Tree this weekend, culminating Lennette's four years of study.

Twyla traps Danny under the Mango Tree (photo credit: Neil Bousquet)
Hilarious-then-heart-rending, the story is of two college students, Twyla (Lennette) and Danny (Conrad), vying for a private place under their favorite tree, where they like to play, work, and process life.

From Twyla’s making siren noises while cycling onto the outdoor set, to catching Danny in a trap, to Danny’s rooster re-enactment and mimicking of African dance, these two display a knack for making people laugh. We audience members giggled and chuckled throughout the first act. Then the story turns serious, for Lennette’s memories of Africa are not all happy ones.

Through dance and music, laughter and tears, Under the Mango Tree shows us the antagonism-turned-friendship between Twyla and Danny. But its message goes deeper – challenging us to trust God and keep praying, even when He doesn’t answer in the way we think He should.
I hope some of you will get to see the remaining performance of Under the Mango Tree – Sunday, September 2 at 1 pm in Rosebud, Alberta, under the labyrinth tree behind Rosebud Church. (Rosebud is a small community. Ask anyone in the village for directions.) Tickets are $12. Additional donations are accepted for the tuition of students in Sierra Leone and The Gambia.

I’m honored to watch Lennette Randall and Conrad Belau perform early in their careers, and I look forward to seeing God work in and through them in the years to come.

With Conrad Belau, Lennette Randall and my friend Brenda (on right)
My next post, on Sunday, September 2, 2012, will tell you more about Lennette herself.

-- Reenie