Don’t Accept Me, Expect Me

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One Red Fish Surrounded By Blue Fish.

I did it once. I gave in to my disability. I was struggling in college: juggling a double major, a part-time job, a sorority, and track season was right around the corner. My schedule was a breeze when going through manic mode. But when dealing with the low side of bi-polar, the battle was uphill and the finish line looked a lot farther than the 400m sprint I was used to training for.  So I gave in.

It was the end of my 8 am class and I went to my professor. It was just a general education course and I was only a semester away from graduation. I did what I had never done for any class. I told the professor about my disability. I chalked it up for all it was worth. I explained that I was dealing with med changes and my schedule was full. None of it was really a lie.

I don’t regret telling my professor that I have bi-polar disorder, but I do regret why I told him. I was looking for a way out; a way to make the day easier. The class didn’t really matter. It was just a nuisance class I had to take to graduate. I wanted an easy A and I knew that by gaining a little sympathy it would be possible.

Just to be clear, the one perk of having a disability is to use sympathy for our advantage. But taking that one gesture toward sympathy sets us two steps back in our abilities. That day when I told the professor about my disability, I was screaming for the professor to accept me for my differences. What he really did was even better; he expected me for being the same.

It’s not difficult to spin into the acceptance trend. Short or tall, red or blue, we want people to take us how we are. But when it comes to rising up to a challenge, we can be quick to remind others of our faults and excuse ourselves from rising to the top. We are no longer expected and we sink ourselves back down to the minority that is comfortable and safe.

As we gear up for the back to school season, I want to encourage all parents and teachers to not provide students with a letter of acceptance, but with an impression of expectance. There are many times that we say as novices that “we can’t” when the fact is that “we won’t”. When we decide that we won’t do something because our disabilities hold us back, then we will never really reach our full potential.

I got an A in that class. Though I told the professor about my disability for the wrong reasons, he was gracious in letting me take my time to learn in a way that was right for me. I didn’t go to class every day, but I studied, and I felt as though I earned the A.

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In The Orphan’s Eyes

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If you read a few of my other blogs you will get to know Eric (Try the Chronicles of Eric or When Life Gives You Lemons…). He is my nineteen year old brother with a spunky personality, a few freckles, and an adorable smile. Everyday Eric surprises me with a new twist in our journey.

A couple days ago I picked Eric up from his drum lessons and we went to Buffalo Wild Wings to hang out with a few of my friends. (He is so much fun to hang out with! He always adds a little comedy to our mix.) But on our way home we had a little heart to heart. He started talking about how he has bad dreams. Eric says that a lot. Finally I had the courage to ask him, “Do you dream about your family before you were adopted?” He said yeah. Eric started off naming a bunch of names of his old family members. And he said I have two moms and two dads! I honestly had never asked him before. I mean he was adopted when he was four, how much could he really remember?! He quickly changed the subject to talk about his day and his drum lessons.

Then today. We went to a worship night where our high school church band played an amazing hour and a half of crying out to the Lord. (Now hold up! I know you might be thinking, “Great. Another Jesus Freak blog.” Just bare with me here!) After my talk with Eric the other night, the worship service added an entire new dimension. You see, Eric has always loved music. He played drums in his high school band and he loves to sing. But today it really hit me. His cries to Jesus during worship weren’t an act to get attention. It was raw emotion.

In front of the entire gathering of about a hundred people, Eric laid hands and knees in front of the band, crying out to God. He didn’t care what anyone in front or behind him thought. It was his moment with God. We were just singing the words, “I believe You are my healer. I believe You are all I need.” Eric sunk in every word.

Going through struggles, I empathize with Eric. You get in situations where you think, “What are you doing God?” or “Just let me do what I want. Don’t give me the challenges. Just let me have fun. I don’t need you.” I’ve been there, trust me. But there was Eric. Laying down before God, with more baggage in nineteen years than some people experience in a lifetime. But he gets it! He sees God is his healer.

After that night I talked with Eric, I thought, “How many times have I said, God just let me do my own thing. I want to be like everyone else around me! I want to go to college parties or date different people. I don’t want your dumb life lessons. I want to live my life!” My mind went back to Eric. He was taken from his family, passed from foster home to foster home before he was four. Now he was in our family. We had love…tough love. I am so selfish: I go through every different experience in life thinking, “my way is the best way”. But I realize now, I am blessed to have wonderful parents. Sometimes we have disagreements, but they always know what’s best. Sometimes they give me challenges, but they make me stronger.

It is difficult to understand the concept that God is our father. But my brother gave me a bigger picture. Our world and all of the exciting adventures are so inviting. It is so easy to drop everything and say, “I want that, not what God wants.” I realized, it might be difficult to listen to that nagging voice that says don’t do that. But in the end I would much rather go through life listening to the encouraging words of my dad. Eric knows. He knows what it is like to walk through the world as an orphan. He knows what it is like to experience life without someone to say they are disappointed. He knows that behind disappointment is love. The orphan that was trapped inside my little brother sees that you can do all of those inviting little temptations, but none of them are as rewarding as the security of love from a father. 

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke,  because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. –Proverbs 3:11-12

When Life Gives You Lemons, Sometimes They Squirt You in the Eye

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So if you read the previous post, you are awesome! Gold Star!! If not, here’s a really really quick run through…I’m the daughter of a pastor in Ohio. I have two older brothers (that are both old enough to be my father) and our newest family addition, is my adorable little brother, Levi,  who was born with Down’s syndrome.

I guess before this point you could say we made lemonade out of a lemon. Having a child with Down’s syndrome (or in my case, brother) isn’t exactly the easiest chore, but you have to take what you have and make it sweet. Now that my family had gotten over the initial shock of being introduced to the world of raising a child with special needs, God said ahh, I see you have made lemonade; Share it! And that we did, with a new addition to the family. You are probably saying, whoa seriously, your parents are 47, they’re gonna raise more kids? Don’t worry, it was all in God’s plan and adoption spared the poor old lady’s womb.

In 1997, my parents were getting all kinds of magazines, pamphlets, etc. on how to raise a child with special needs. One of those monthly pamphlets exhibited children with disabilities that were up for adoption. And on the right inside fold was the picture of the lemony little dynamo, Eric. He was a cute little blonde, glasses, a quirky smirk, a few freckles. Yep, God said, he’ll do. It was a brilliant idea! Levi was getting older, and what better for him than to have a lifelong companion! So the family jumped in the 1987 AstroVan and took a four hour drive to Northeast Ohio to get my new little brother! Ok well, there was the paperwork, the background checks, the interviews with stuck-up state people in their golf polos, the court dates…you get the picture.

So we shared the lemonade with our new little addition.  You might even say we were experts at making at making it by now. But God brought a new lemon that put a giant squirt of humility in our corneas.

Our family soon learned an important proverb: don’t judge a book by its cover…or in our case, don’t judge a picture by its pamphlet. Eric was adorable, yes. But I was convinced the four year old had to be criminally insane, and that’s an understatement! No he didn’t make you pull your hair out, don’t worry. He did it for you! My mom told me a few years back that when he first came, she was literally afraid of him. Let me give you a clue. Eric came with a hospital crib. Like the one they use for babies that have the little lock up door. We literally had to lock him in the crib at night so he wouldn’t destroy our house. Levi and I used to run around our house pretending that he was the boogieman. (There are plenty more stories and I could probably write at least three different blogs on them.)

Speaking of blogs, in the last one, remember when I said the pastor stereotype is that he is the man known for giving 72 second chances? Well my dad fits that stereotype crystal clear. My dad saw past Eric’s terror to his broken heart. Coming from a home of drugs where he was left in a crib for days there was no question that the four year old brought more emotional baggage than he did toys. He probably had more history than the WWI, and he was four! Every time Eric went on a terrible tyrant, he would get punished, but my dad told Eric he loved him. Every night before he went to bed and every morning he woke up, my dad told him he loved him. Soon we all started to love him, and he started to love us too.

Lemonade anyone?