This summer we added another addition to our family. Miranda, one of the sweetest clients at our farm moved in with us this June. But behind this stunning 21 year old is a long list of hardships. From the demise of her father at a young age, to her step father’s death this summer, she has built a heart of steel that still continues to flourish with inner beauty. She is not bitter, and she fills her surroundings with love.
One of my favorite verses is Ephesians 4:2. It reads:
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
In this chapter of Ephesians, Paul is explaining about how we should act, though Christ is no longer on Earth as our example. The passage is saying that though Jesus isn’t here, we, as followers of Christ can still show Jesus’ legacy through our own lives. Though I try and exhibit Christ in my daily life, I don’t always give 100%. And this is where Miranda steps in.
Like I said, Miranda has not had an easy life. But she is not bitter. In fact she is a prime example of the verse in Ephesians:
Miranda is humble: Our day program is a lot like high school in some ways. Though everyone has their quirks, the clients make their own rankings of who is smarter or more talented in different areas. Truth be told, Miranda is far above average for our day program, but she doesn’t brag about it. She can read and write, she is creative, and she is even learning to drive. And though all of these things place her at the top of the desirable list for the “in crowd”, she continues to be friends with everyone. She has a willingness to help in any way that she can, and she doesn’t need to be praised.
Miranda is gentle: I’ve seen this more and more since Miranda has come to live with us. I think one of the biggest examples is how she works with Eric and Levi. She is conscious about their feelings and she has become one of their friends. One day this summer one of the girls at the farm was flirting with Levi, and they decided that they were dating. Miranda texted me right away. She told me she didn’t want Levi to get hurt, because this girl was also dating two other guys at the farm (again, high school). She didn’t know how to tell him, and she didn’t want to lose a friendship with the other girl either. I talked to my mom, and I’m not entirely sure how but the issue cleared. I had jokingly told Miranda to tell the girl, “be careful, you don’t want to hurt the boss’s son!”
Miranda is patient: I’d say Miranda’s patience shines most clearly with Randi. Randi, my other sister, absolutely adores her. Every time I see Randi all she can do is talk about Miranda. She tries to dress like her and act like her. Randi would spend every second with Miranda if she could. And Miranda adores her just as much.
Miranda is loving: Miranda had dated a guy at the farm for a while. But when he made a bad decision their relationship ended abruptly. Yes Miranda was upset, but unlike other girls, Miranda didn’t sulk and she didn’t try and find a new guy to fill her void. She continued to be her. Now maybe she has learned that things you love, leave. But she doesn’t dwell on it. She still loves life, and she still shows love to everyone around her.
I think every person that God puts in my life helps me learn something. The verse in Ephesians is one of my favorites because I can put it on my daily to-do list. I can’t always say I’m humble or patient. And though Miranda may not meet these goals everyday either, she certainly keeps me in check. See in all of the daily drama of life, the bible says we are in this world but we are not called to be of it. At the farm you may look around and say Miranda is in the “in crowd”, but she is not in the “of crowd”. She doesn’t have to have all the boys. She doesn’t have to prove she is the best. Miranda constantly shows that your beauty is not your image; it is your character.
My brother Levi has quite the imagination. For example, he has about two-hundred figurines, (elephants, cows, power rangers, little cheap kids meal toys, you name it!) On a daily basis he will act out some sort of story with them. Sometimes there is the power ranger that has to save the poor elephant from being tortured by villains, or there is the cat and two dogs that will take their homeward bound trip across our entire front lawn.
Levi also loves his movies. He likes the action movies, The Hulk, Avengers, Fantastic Four, and Power Rangers of course. He likes the teenage dream in High School musical and Camp Rock. When Levi watches a movie, he will watch it over and over and over again. He will watch one particular movie so much that I have them all memorized just from walking in and out of the room! It’s like he studies them so he can memorize every step; so he can be completely engulfed in the story line.
One particular movie, The Chronicles of Narnia, took Levi on a special mission. My dad and Levi were picking some beans in the garden. My best friend Heather and I had just gotten done horseback riding, and mom was watering her garden. I remember our neighbor coming by to talk for a bit. But after a while, we noticed Levi was gone! He wasn’t in the yard. He wasn’t in the pool. He didn’t sneak back to his T.V. Where did he go?!
Here is a bigger glimpse of our setting. Our vegetable garden is right next to a large cornfield owned by one of our neighbors. While the rest of the family continued to search the yard, my friend Heather set foot through the cornfield to see if that was where he wandered to. Finally after about a half hour, Heather came back through the ears of corn with the adventurous Levi. “What were you thinking?!”, we asked. Levi said in a matter of fact tone, “I was looking for Asland!” (Asland is the lion in Narnia, in case you haven’t seen the movie.) He had traveled a quarter of a mile through the cornfield all the way to the tree line, seconds from venturing into the great forest of Narnia.
Though Levi had all of us in a bit of a panic, he taught me another one of his little life lessons that day. Levi may have been completely entranced in a movie, but he had one goal, finding Asland. Though everyday in our household is a bit of an adventure, I thought how often we go through the motions of life. Lucky for us Eric and Levi never leave us without a bit of spice in our lives.
You see, Levi wasn’t running away from home. He wasn’t just going on a nice stroll through the corn snake valley to the forest of coyotes. He had a goal. And he wasn’t going to stop until he achieved it. (Or until Heather set him straight back down the narrow cornfield row.) He showed me that once you have a goal in mind, nothing can keep you from working towards it.
Therefore I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating at the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. –1 Corinthians 9:26-27
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
This blog is a little out of date from when it should have been written, but trust me, it’s still good! On Monday of last week, our family packed up one of our business buses with luggage, kindles, dvds, and whatever else we could find to pass the time on our 12 hour drive to the cheese state. Here are some things that kept our wheels turning on our adventure within our journey through a special world.
Why Wisconsin?–24 years ago my parents left their dairy farm of about 250 cows to move to Ohio. About twice a year we take a trip to the dairy land to see my dad’s seven brothers and sisters, my 22 cousins, my 28 second cousins, and of course my brother, sister-in-law, and my two adorable nephews. (We also saw my mom’s four sisters. And if you think my dad’s side of the family is huge, you should see my mom’s side!)
On the Road Again
The little guys—On this adventure, we picked up a couple of mini hitch-hikers. If you read my previous blogs, you know that I have a brother that passed away about 7 years ago. He also left behind two adorable boys, Sam, age 9, and Seth, age 7. This year we took the little guys to see their giant family that they have no memory of.
The drive alone was a riot! Ok just imagine, four adventurous boys cooped up in a bus for twelve hours. Luckily, I was stuck in the middle of it all… Eric was singing at the top of his lungs because he couldn’t hear how loud he was with his headphones on. Levi was yelling “hi-Ya” every time a power ranger did a roundhouse kick to the villains trapped in his portable dvd player. And the other two played level after level of “Where’s my Perry” on the kindle fire. We had breakfast at McDonalds, lunch at Culvers, Dinner at McDonalds (again), various bathroom breaks and gas fill ups, oh and a couple stops to fill up on Green Bay Packer gear and Duck Dynasty attire. And we finally arrived at my brother’s house.
Just when I took a deep breath from the trip, I realized the adventure had just begun!
Side Note: I haven’t talked a lot about my oldest brother, but let me give you a quick run-through on their journey through a special world. A few years back, my brother and his family moved back to Wisconsin so he could drive his souped up Peterbilt truck for my uncle. (Long story short, when my dad left Wisconsin, the family farm began to focus entirely on grain processing. Now the farm is a multi-million dollar corporation with 11,000 acres of land.) Ok back to their story. My brother and his wife have two adorable sons, Zach, age 12, and Cody, 8, both of which have autism. As far as schooling, these boys are right on track. The oldest is definitely above average when it comes to the finest details in plumbing and electric. Zach has given me an entire run-through of what every pipe in the basement is for, and he has invented an eyeglass washing system that he presented to his class. Oh and both the little guys love music. I stayed with them last summer for a couple weeks and they definitely helped me prepare for my college senior recital. I had to give them a presentation everyday!
The biggest day of our little journey was July 4th. While we were in Wisconsin we used the convenience of everyone being in town for the holiday to have another graduation party for Eric and Levi.
Since we had the boys’ party on the 4th, I couldn’t help but notice the importance of this celebration. Obviously it is Independence Day, the day that we celebrate being a free country. It is a government for the people, by the people. (okay I’m done with the third grade history lesson) But we were also celebrating my little brothers’ graduation. It is a commemoration of their independence from school. And I just have to say I am so glad that I have watched them grow into the strong and independent boys that they are. They have their own apartment together, they do all of their own laundry, they clean, they cook, they are independent, but that still took work.
I also thought about Sam and Seth. This was their first time traveling back to Wisconsin in five years, and they were without their parents. (My sister-in-law has remarried since) They were away from what they knew, in an independent situation from what is their norm. But they still depended on our guidance.
Then there is Zach and Cody. Zach doesn’t need any guidance with creating his unique inventions, and the two of them certainly have no difficulty filling their knowledge with YouTube videos on plumbing and electric. I see them turning into the strong and independent boys that I know are within them. I can see them owning their own engineering business or something because they are so smart! But how much guidance will they need before they can become that independent?
Then there is my Grandma. We celebrated her 95th birthday while we were in Wisconsin. She is a strong and brilliant woman. All of her intelligence is still there. (In fact she can tell you all the names and birthdays of her children and their spouses, grandchildren and their spouses, and great grandchildren!) But she has lost nearly all of her sight, she has trouble walking; she is deteriorating. It has to be difficult to have done so many things that she used to do independently, but now these tasks are slowly sneaking out of her grasp.
The fact is, we can grow our independence in many areas, but we still have little things that we must depend on others for. I depend on the knowledge of my professors so I can complete my business degree. My parents depend on employees to keep our corporation running smoothly. I’m sure you can think of something you depend on too. But there is one thing that we can depend on that will never steer us wrong: God. I can say there are many things where we ask Him, “What were You thinking there?!” But overtime we can see the importance behind his zany yet brilliant plans. Romans 8:28 says, In all things, God works for the good of those who love Him.
And back to July 4th. On that day in 1776, we became an independent nation from Great Britain, and we designed a nation of the people, by the people, but it was also a nation built under God. I think our forefathers were right on key here. No matter what you run from or fight for, you always have something that you must lean on.
Build Your House on the Rock
24 z“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like aa wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” –Matthew 7:24-27.
When you meet Diana, you may think she is a little different. But when you dig deeper you will discover that she has a stronger faith than many can even fathom. Through her entire life, her brother John has been there every step of the way. This is his account of their family’s journey through a special world.
When Diana was very young, she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. But over time her family realized that she was still a little different. Diana’s mother had taken Dilantin while she was pregnant with all of her children, but it affected Diana little differently. She had adopted a defect that affects only 1 in 10,000 people: William’s syndrome*. But this was only the beginning of Diana’s journey. When she was 10, Diana slowly began to lose her appetite, energy, and her smile. When she woke up in the middle of the night, screaming from the pain in her abdomen, her family had had enough with her agony and took her to the local hospital. On August 28, 2008, her MRI revealed more than just your average stomach ache.
Diana was taken straight from her MRI to Children’s hospital for emergency surgery. Her brother John remembers sitting anxiously in the waiting room, crowded with 30 of Diana’s closest friends and family. And after waiting a virtual eternity, the doctor rushed in to explain an agonizing fear. Both of Diana’s ovaries were the size of grapefruits, saturated with Burkett’s lymphoma. The doctor gave the family two options: remove the cancer, leaving Diana without the possibility to ever conceive; or leave the ovaries intact, and wait for the malady to consume her entire ten year-old body. Diana’s mother broke down, unable to answer the doctor’s options; unable to bare the news that her child would never have her own children, or fathom the idea that Diana could die. Without question, John and his father told the doctor to take out the cancer.
Six weeks later, Diana started chemo-therapy. Her cancer was still progressing rapidly, and she was deteriorating quickly. On October 8,2008, she faced the worst surgery of her battle. John got a call from his dad telling him to drive to Children’s hospital, and say goodbye to his sister. He remembered the surreal drive, gripping the steering wheel, and crying out to God. He walked into the room, and there lied Diana, without a hint of hair on her brittle body, and with only God’s will sustaining her. John held her hand and began to cry, when his sister explained confidently, “Don’t cry John. I’ll be fine. Jesus will take care of me.” Diana was taken into emergency-exploratory surgery where the surgeon began to slice and sever anything in her body that appeared to be cancerous. John walked with his little sister, enveloped in IV’s and cords, telling her that he loved her and she would always be with him, no matter what.
Just as she had asserted, Diana survived the surgery. But she spent the next 21 days in an induced coma. John often visited her lifeless body. He would talk to her, knowing there would be no response. Diana’s exhausted body was there but the sister he knew was invisible. She was big—fluid engulfing her body. She was not Diana.
The battle continued. Diana remained strong, and her family supported her through every step. John and every man in the family, and even family friends had shaved their hair, then used shaving cream and a straight razor. Because bald was new normal for Diana, it would be their normal too. (She was mad though and said they all looked funny.) Throughout Diana’s journey she faced rounds and rounds of chemo. Some were fast and aggressive to wipe out the insistent disease. Others were slow and steady to sustain her weak body. Diana endured a surgery every two to three weeks, totaling a lurid haze of thirteen surgeries over the course of nine months. The family spent every one of those nights wondering if Diana would still be alive in the morning. But she remained in good spirits, and kept a smile on her face.
Through the haze of the family’s journey, John said he could feel the presence of God; he could feel Him working. There were churches the family had never heard of, calling to say they were praying for Diana. There were thousands of people who had never even met Diana, and God was healing her through their cries. Then on Saint Patrick’s Day, 2009, John got a call from his dad at one in the morning, “the cancer is gone.” John was in disbelief. He sat with the phone to his ear, speechless, eyes filled with tears. After days of praying to God, “You are the great physician, you can heal any of that”, he was shocked. “God just healed my sister.” Not a hint of cancer was in her body. It was a miracle; it was the healing power of God.
This didn’t end the journey though. During Christmas Diana was home, but she was too weak to leave her bed. They still had trips to Children’s for low blood cell counts and excessive vomiting. She spent the next couple years in a wheel chair because of her weakness. And the family still lived in fear that the cancer could return. Diana visited the doctor for consistent check-ups, and overtime they got farther and farther apart—but most importantly, they all revealed that Diana had still won her cancer battle.
This past year would be Diana’s fourth year of being cancer free. She is now considered a survivor, and she got the chance this year to carry the Relay for Life banner. John explained “looking back, seeing my sister lay lifeless, and now being able to watch her carry that flag is amazing.”
When people say, I can’t overcome that, John says don’t make God so small that you think that He can’t. He had accepted the fact that Diana would die. It was a waiting game to see when. “We had funeral conversations. But that conversation was saying how small God is.” The journey showed that God doesn’t give you anything you can’t overcome. You have to take God out of the box that this is too hard for me, this is too big for me to handle.
People don’t have ovaries size of grapefruit, and live. That goes to show, don’t read over the verse, with God all things are possible. And when you see that in real life, it is so much more meaningful. It proves God is the ultimate healer; He is bigger than all disease and weakness. The journey put me in awe of who God was and what He can overcome. He taught me to trust what He is doing. I leaned on the verse, In all things God works for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28)
Diana and my mom have shared their journey at many churches and events. God is using that story to draw people to Him; to work things together for His good. He has also shown He has a plan. My thoughts are not your thoughts, My ways are not your ways. (Isaiah 55:8) He has a plan and we have to be on board so He can use His plan for His glory.
Diana also shared with me, “When I found out I had cancer, I was devastated. I didn’t know what to do. I just prayed and I waited, and I waited. On August 10, 2009 they told me I was cancer free. And I thanked God for all He had done…When I tell my story at churches they clap, and I say thank you Lord, You are so good.”
On May 18th of this year, Diana turned fifteen and she is still cancer free. She has battled the side effects of hypothyroidism, she has overcome the adversity brought with William’s syndrome, and she has defeated cancer. Diana wasn’t supposed to live past eleven and she gives all of her glory to God.
Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. Matthew 17:20
*Williams syndrome is a genetic condition that is present at birth and can affect anyone. It is characterized by medical problems, including cardiovascular disease, developmental delays, and learning disabilities. These occur side by side with striking verbal abilities, highly social personalities and an affinity for music.
Every day is a contribution to our life matrix—we have numbers representing our daily assignments as we race through our perpetual patterns over and over and over. From the chime of our morning alarm we jump out of bed, grab a cup of coffee, head to work, come home to watch the news while eating our TV dinners, and take a breather before we drift off to repeat it all the next day. But every day we have numbers that make our pattern special. We can have one number that can make a slight change or a drastic change in our environment, and sometimes we can add one number that leaves our matrix without a solution.
At work this past week we all started our daily Friday routine. Our farm always takes a morning trip to McDonald’s on Fridays and we then break off into two groups. From here each group takes a community trip to either do community service, or take part in a public activity that many of our clients may not otherwise get the opportunity to experience.
This past Friday our group took a community service trip to a local nursing home, where we socialized and handed out cookies to the elderly. As I walked with my sister, Randi, she did her usual ‘Randi mannerisms’. Every person that wore an Ohio State shirt, she had to touch the O and make it known that she was a fan, and every time she saw a man with a beard, she would try to caress it to soothe her obsession.
One person added a new emphasis to our day. As we walked past one room where a man was standing outside his humble abode, Randi energetically yet politely said Hi! I looked back to see the man intently staring down my sister as if he seen a blue flamingo with one leg. (In fact his expression was so comical I literally thought he had forged the pose for our amusement!) As we kept walking, I heard the man yelp– You retards! They’re all the same! and then slam his door. I looked at Randi and giggled so she would continue to think it was a joke. But inside I was thinking about how much I wanted to run back there, take the scalpel he had just thrown into my back, and poke out his eyeballs with it.
I was disgusted by the comment, but I did not let it affect my daily matrix; in my mind I knew he was wrong. In the societal rat race, she is just like every other person with special needs. But Randi cannot be replicated. Come on, how many people do you know that have the courage to walk up to a complete stranger and snatch their beard!
Before we left, Randi saw the side profile of a man with a beard who was in a wheel chair. Just as she went up to grab the luxuriant whiskers she got a ping to the sequence. The man had no legs. You could tell by her expression, she was thinking, Whoa! And I thought I had it bad! She too, had met her blue flamingo. But my sister, one that society would put at the back of the starting line, showed that she was wiser than anticipated. She continued her fuzz fondling sequence (well until I told her it was rude). Then she blossomed up a little smile and waved goodbye to the man.
The bible says– since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1) We had witnessed a man engulf the hindrance of observing someone who was different, and it slammed the door on an optimistic sequence. But when Randi hit the same pattern, she took the zap to her matrix and fueled up for the race.
Ok for this to make sense you will have to go back and read part one of this blog. Seriously! It will spoil the whole thing…and that’s not to tempt you to read further, just trust me read that one first!
In the fall of 2006, our new family business was standing at the door of the business realm, days from entering. And then we tripped on the welcome mat, all the way down the stairs behind us, and earned a giant bruise on the butt.
On a Saturday morning in mid October, we got a phone call. My older brother, the one planning all the financial aspects of our business, was killed in a car accident. And freeze. Whoah?! What God?! All the sudden everything became as hazy as the sky was on that October day. And it stayed that way for a while. I remember watching my parents try and function to make the business move forward, otherwise we were gonna starve to death. And I remember holding my brother Eric while he cried. Levi on the other hand pretended it didn’t happen. He just tried to go on admitting it wasn’t true. I did too.
There is a verse in the bible that says, for I know the plans I have for you; Plans to make you prosper and not to harm you; Plans to give you hope and a future. At this point in life this verse seemed like an entire package of really moldy Oscar Meyer Bologna. Our plans were in crash mode; we weren’t prospering emotionally or financially; we had no hope; my brother had no future. God said, your business, your circumstances, your life– those are my plans, not yours.
Recall to the business mission statement: Live, laugh, love, learn, leave a legacy. These were the goals for our future clients, and now they showed us God’s goal for us. My brother had completed all of these goals.(You can skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to hear all of my emoting) Live: he had lived a fruitful life– he had a beautiful wife, two adorable sons, and he was an admirable man of God. Love: First off, he didn’t kiss his wife until their wedding day. That may sound kinda awkward, but if you think about it the fact that he was willing to show his future wife that he loved her with every bone in his body and he didn’t have to prove it physically is a beautiful thing. He also showed his love for me. Every year for my birthday he took me out. Applebee’s, King’s Island, anywhere I wanted to go. And anything I needed advice on he was there for me. Laugh: For our business, laugh meant you could build friendships with someone that you could laugh with. He had some amazing friends that we still keep in touch with today. One of them even made him one of his groomsmen, and this was after he was gone. They just printed his name in the program and the bridesmaid walked solo. Learn: I can’t tell you any life lessons he learned because in my eyes he was perfect. I can tell you he was a genius though! He was salutatorian of his class, he got his undergrad degree in computer science, and his grad degree in business. Pretty smart ehh?
But the most important step was to leave a legacy. And he did that, perfectly. Have you ever been to a funeral where there were only like three people there? That wasn’t this one. There was about one hundred times that, no joke. He had touched that many people with his life and he was only thirty! That folks, is how you leave a legacy.
So back to the bible verse, Life plans. I can’t tell you why the little foster child was killed, I can’t tell you why a business devoted to helping children find loving homes was destroyed, and I can’t tell you why my brother’s life plans ended when they did. But that’s why it says, For I know the plans I have for you, I as in God. And in God’s eyes these lives had finished their plans and left their legacy. Now it was time for us to press forward and do the same.
I know that I’m probably not supposed to write a million blogs on my past and this blog should be more about my present life experiences. But A, I don’t see that rule anywhere in the declassified blog survival guide, and B, if I wrote my entire life up to this point in one giant blog it would be way too long and your eyeballs would be burning from staring at your computer screen all day. So hopefully I’m breaking this up into sections that make sense.
Here is a quick overview of my last few blogs. I am the sister to two awesome little brothers, both of which have Down’s syndrome. I also have a sister that is a year older than me who has Cri Du Chat syndrome. Our family lives in an old farm house in the middle of nowhere and my dad had just left his job as a pastor in a small country church to join in the wonderful world of social work. Phew, now we are up to speed!
Five years after my dad began his job at the foster care agency, the company ran into some problems. There was a young boy that was placed in a home that didn’t get the care that he deserved, and his parents’ neglect cost him his life. When a child loses his life, the news spreads like wildfire (as it probably should).
For the next few days, the company’s door was lined with state auditors in clean cut suits and press snobs waiting to film the latest gossip. After digging deep into the mountains of paperwork, the auditors uncovered some minor flaws. These flaws as well as the demeaning news posts soon led to the demise of the agency.
Living off of the savings account, God devised a plan for our survival. My dad had exceptional experience in three areas. Farming: he had been a dairy farmer for about 20 years; long before I was born. Ministry: he spent 12 years as a pastor at a small country church. And Grace: he had a heart for giving people 72 second chances, particularly to people with special needs. One of my older brothers (this was in the last couple blogs…we have two older brothers that are in their mid-thirties at this point in the story) had just finished his masters degree in business. So my dad and my brother put their heads together to make something unique.
For the next year, my dad and my brother met every Saturday morning for a cup of coffee and planned the new family business. First they looked at demand. There was only one other company in the area that offered job opportunities for people with special needs. Check one. Next, resources. We had a farm house, a few animals, and about three acres of land. Check two. Put one and two together and you get check three: differentiation. It would be a farm, it would be at our house, and it would provide job opportunities for special needs adults, flawless.
All the pieces were coming together. My brother designed the business aspects, my dad wrote the mission statement, my mom programmed the future activities, oh we also had Pearl. Pearl worked with my dad at the foster care agency. There she designed all the forms for the company (applications, emergency contacts, etc.) and researched changing regulations in the world of developmental disabilities. My dad contracted her to do the same for us. We had a business plan, we had our paperwork, and we had our mission statement: Live, laugh, love, and leave a legacy, all of which were our goals for the special needs adults, or our clients, would learn while in the program.
In the fall of 2006, our new family business was standing at the door of the business realm, days from entering. And then we tripped on the welcome mat…
Here’s a recap from my two previous blogs. I’m caught in the middle of four brothers. There are two older. Much older. 16 and 19 years older to be exact. Then there are the two younger, both of which have Down’s syndrome, and my entire focal point so far. We are all children to the country church pastor and his wife, and we probably have the most amazing parents in the world.
In 2001, our family stepped into another new realm of the special needs world. Now I don’t exactly know all the pieces here, but I was ten, how much could I know! I can still lay out the ground work though, no worries.
We were moving; leaving the parsonage home that my younger brothers and I had known all our lives, and that meant my dad was leaving his job. So we packed up and traveled a whopping two roads down to a creaky old farm house with cornfields for neighbors. (It wasn’t too bad though. We all got bigger bedrooms and my brothers and I got to run around and pretend ghosts were chasing us.) The biggest change was my dad’s job though. We were used to him sitting in his in home office, studying God’s word day in and day out. Then Bam! Say hello to the normal family lifestyle where your dad has an actual 9-5 job in the wonderful world of!…social work.
My dad’s social work was through a foster care agency that helped to place many special needs children in loving families. In addition to foster care, there was respite care. (This is so the foster parents can have a break and the foster kids get a mini vacation with other families) Respite care…Hmm…God said. I provided you with a big house and big rooms. Share it! So we did. And just about every week I got a new brother or sister. Some were awesome! Some not so much.
I can particularly remember one little tyrant. In the middle of the night, he poured an entire bottle of earing solution on my face and he threw my guitar out the two story window. Oh and he also dismantled his entire bed and threw that out too. Yep. And he was only seven years old!
Then there was Randi. She was twelve, pretty tall, non verbal, and she talked in screams and shreaks for whatever she wanted; She had what was called Cri Du Chat syndrome. (This is French for cry of the cat) Randi’s respite situation was like any normal one really. She was special needs, she had her little behavioral quirks, yada yada. This is where the cat jumps out of the bag. While her foster parents were on their little retreat, they decided they wanted to extend it, forever.
After some prayer (and paperwork of course), Randi became more than just my weekly sister, and not without struggle. Like I said, every weekly sibling had their special needs, and their behaviors. When your siblings come and go you just have to put up with their past and hope not to get anything less sterile than earring solution on your face. But now I had a new sister with an extended family membership: exclusively including– a lifetime warranty of discipline, love, and trust.
Somehow in the mix I missed the fine print. I got a sister, I got a roommate, and…I got a target on my back. Here’s a clue. When your new sister isn’t used to having her own siblings, the stakes of capturing attention get a little higher. And so begin the cat fights. Almost daily I lost a few hairs from the grip of her hand and about twice a week I gave up a chunk of skin from her feisty fingernails.
Today Randi still lives with us through adult foster care and I am proud to call her my sister. When it comes to sibling rivalries our family is pretty standard. We fight over the tv or who gets to ride in the front seat, but we still love each other. Whatever God has next in store, well, that cat is still in His bag.
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.