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The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful

on July 4, 2011

This last week my son and I embarked on a journey called Vacation Bible School (VBS) at my awesome church. Because this could get really long, it’s important that I give you a little background perspective before I begin:

1)      My church does not have a special needs children’s ministry (though there is one for a few adults). I do my best not to begrudge them this, because I know there are so many important ministries out there, and right now – as our church is growing and thriving – we have to take care of one thing at a time. (Of course, my son is important enough to *me* to want them to start a special needs children’s ministry, but let’s be realistic here, Sunday school ain’t what it used to be.) I say that simply because Sunday school leaders are unpaid and understaffed for even typically developing kids, because everyone has busy lives! Unfortunately, the kids with ADD and Autism, and other somewhat less visible disabilities are in a class with the other kids, which doesn’t always work out. Ah, but that’s a whole other blog entry…

 

2)      I have attended special needs events at other churches, and I am tired of doing so. I have ached for so long to have my son be a part of the amazing children’s ministry at our home church, and so I took steps to include him in VBS this year. I worked with the staff to try to include him in what I was hoping might be a fulfilling experience for him

 

3)      My church doesn’t do anything “small” when it comes to our kids…our VBS transforms our entire building and the surrounding outside areas into whatever theme VBS happens to be that year. For 3 years, (excluding 2009 & 2010, when I was attending Alex’s needs at home), I was a member of the Praise team leading VBS music. By praise team, I mean a bunch of singing and dancing adults singing fun songs and acting silly on stage to make the kids’ experience that much better! This year, the theme was “Pandamania!” So, of course, I was be-bopping around in Panda ears and makeup 😉

Now that you have some background information, let me just say that our experience at VBS was sort of like a wedding – it never goes perfectly, as the bride planned it, but there are always good parts! The plan was to attempt a 3-day-out-of-5 VBS experience, with personal assistance provided by us. I made a social story, hoping to get Alex acquainted with the schedule; I prepared the staff and Ileanna (“Illy”), his personal teenage friend/sitter, for what might happen, what could happen, and what would happen, and I put the rest in God’s hands. To simplify, so as this post doesn’t end up being 40 pages long, here is the breakdown of Alex’s VBS experience:

The Good: Alex loved coming to the church at night time and playing with Illy. Though most of his time was spent playing games with the older kids, running around the church, or playing on the playground, he ADORED the music and dancing, which made my “singer-heart” very happy! While on the playground, he saw the bigger kids come and he actually enjoyed playing games with them very much.

The Bad: Alex did not enjoy being with the Preschool class during VBS, and especially did not do well when there were small spaces, where he was supposed to be quiet and tame. Seriously, the other Preschoolers were amazingly quiet and well-mannered! I also discovered that some of them were new 3-year-olds just entering the program, while some of Alex’s peers were in the bigger kid crews (maybe I underestimated him?).

It also poured down rain the first day he was there, so my whole take-him-to-the-playground if things get too rough plan did not prove to be the most sound. This made things difficult. When he was forced to come inside, but he wanted either the music or the playground, neither of which were an option (we begin and end VBS with the music). So of course we entered “meltdown mode” almost instantly. After 3 major tantrums, we finally got him off to Illy’s car to drive around for a while, where he calmed down. (The second day, of course, the weather was beautiful, so plan A – playground/outside time – was in perfect order.) Though I knew in my heart that it might not, VBS was not the success I had hoped it would be, and it hurt.

The Beautiful:  As we drove home that first night after VBS, I felt defeated. Between Alex’s tear-stained face and dirty shirt, not to mention the rain that was still rolling off my car, I had doubts about bringing him back. At that moment, the VBS music happened to be playing in the car (I had been practicing for weeks). All of the sudden, I noticed some motion in my rearview mirror. When I looked up, I saw Alex doing motions, and, eventually singing, to “How Great Thou Art.” When those sweet little arms came up in the air for the chorus, and I heard his voice singing strong, clear, and even on-pitch, my spirit soared. He *had* been touched, he *had* been reached, by the message of VBS that day, if only through the music. He continues to enjoy the music, and even sings along with me in the car sometimes.

My point, dear readers, is to appreciate the small things. Did VBS go successfully? Did Alex make it to every station and come home with cute crafts, reciting bible memory verses and enjoying quality time with his peers? No, not really. But God gave him a gift through the experience. God gave ME an even bigger gift. My son was able to go to my beautiful church’s celebration for kids, which has been the desire of my heart for some time.

Instead of “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” I chose the word “Beautiful” to end with, because of the way my son touched my heart singing with me in the car on our way home. There is a place for him at my church, and that is what I long for. Have we found the perfect place? Not yet. But it’s a start. The staff at my church is willing, and I’m ready to work hard to make things happen there for special needs kids.

Beauty from Ashes. That’s what God showed me through this experience. Joy even in sadness, triumphs even in a situation that was, at times, turbulent.

Audrey Hepburn said: “For Attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run their fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.
People, more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed. Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of each of your arms.
As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself and the other for helping others.”

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One response to “The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful

  1. Joseph Lowry says:

    Very well written Kristi 🙂

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