Choosing Our Focus

Today we visited the other, more restrictive environment school proposed for Sarah and I thought I was prepared. I have told myself this entire week that this could be the best situation for Sarah, but being there and seeing the kids walk by, it affected me.  There was a child picking and blowing his nose in his hand just like Sarah.  There was another child punching the lockers as she walked by.   I heard a child sitting on a bench making loud strange noises and we saw other autistic issues that are more severe than Sarah’s.  I looked at David and with this new reality hit me hard; tears came streaming down my face.   I could tell David seeing me like this choked him up, too, and he rubbed my back trying his best to reassure me. I tried to gather myself because I didn’t want the social worker who was going to give us the tour of the school see me crying.  I thought I was composed by the time she came but as the woman approached us she said, “Yes, this place can have that affect on parents.  Do you want a Kleenex?  Do you want to sit down before we start?”

Our new reality had begun.

At first, I thought, “What are we doing here?” I saw paraprofessionals/aides wearing finger-less gloves that went up their arms and saw how these gloves protected them from children who pinched them. I saw a child trying to hit his aide and the aide gently redirecting him. I thought of how Sarah, who mimics negative behaviors, would only digress more if she attended here.  But as the tour continued we saw higher functioning kids, higher than Sarah actually, greeting us.    We saw kids learning and rooms especially designed to meet Sarah’s sensory needs. And while seeing some of things were a bit alarming, there was a sense of overall happiness at this school.  I saw autistic children laughing with their teachers.  Students coming up greeting and teasing the social worker and there was truly a sense of contentment.  Most of all, we saw teachers and aides who truly have a heart for these special children and have a desire and the resources to help them.  (While we LOVE her teacher, Sarah’s current program does not have these resources.)

David and I walked out the school knowing that this is the place God is leading us to for Sarah.

My friend, Lucy, gave me a book several years ago called, “Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman’s Guide of Finding Contentment” by Linda Dillow.   I love this quote on page 26 of this book:

“Two women looked through prison bars;

One saw mud, the other saw stars.”


It is so easy to only see the mud.  It’s there; it’s not like only one had mud and the other didn’t.  Likewise, both also had the view of the stars above them, but only one chose to focus upwards.


Hebrews 12:2, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith…”


Choosing our focus….I think I had a change of focus today.  Like a lot of things in life, at first, I saw only the negative and was overwhelmed by it.  Yet, God opened my eyes to see how He is leading us here and how this might be a place that Sarah might truly be happy and successful.


Changing my focus and fixing my eyes on Him; while this is a new reality for us, a common thread of His faithfulness remains fast and true in whatever circumstances we face.


Thank you so much for your on-going prayers!

God Whispering In Our Ears

One of our prayer requests this month was finding the best school option for Sarah.  Currently, she is an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Middle School class at a local middle school.  This is a wonderful program and we have one of the most experienced teachers in this field as her teacher.  Sarah, if cooperating, swims, cooks, does her laundry and other life skills jobs.  When she started this program when she was in the 6th grade, I teased she would never want to come home!  We realized this was the best placement for Sarah as she would lose the social interaction of elementary school and Sarah would not be able to handle the hour class schedules of a typical Middle School setting.

Unfortunately, as you know, Sarah hasn’t been cooperating and her behaviors have gotten in the way of her learning and distracting others.  Last spring, the teacher asked us to complete an application for a school that could handle Sarah’s behaviors.  She said we could decide when the time came if we wanted her to go there, but it would be wise to just get the paperwork started since the school has a year long waitlist.  On Friday I received a phone call that a spot is open for Sarah at this school.  In our hearts we were hoping that by the time this school called, Sarah would be getting better with her behaviors and it would not be needed.  I have nothing against this school; it is just that it is for the more severe, in general.  Also, while not set in stone, if you are severe enough to be at this school, you usually don’t leave it to go back to the other programs, say the ASD High School program.  If she enters this school, she will be there most likely until she is age 26.

Again, I have nothing against this school, they do great things with their kids; various field trips and making crafts to sell, but in many ways it is a death of a dream. It is the most restrictive school for the entire county.  The website states they try if possible to find less restrictive situations before this school is selected.  Basically, it is the last option-just saying that is heartbreaking. Friday night I mourned for the loss of another hope for my child.

I know you are praying and we can tell.  Her behaviors are improving, but her teacher said they would have to be drastically different in order for her to stay at her current program and if we don’t take this spot now it might not be again available for another year.   She said with Sarah’s behaviors she certainly would not be able to go to the ASD high school program next fall. We asked for clear direction and we got one.  David and I will be setting up a time to visit the school and if God continues to confirm His leading we will sign the paperwork to make the switch. I thought of the verse in Isaiah 30:21:

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it.”

God is whispering in our ears for the way to go for Sarah. While I cried for the loss of what we wanted for Sarah, He knows what is best.  Maybe this restrictive program is what she needs and she will be happier here.  Maybe He knows I needed this whisper because I wasn’t willing for her to go here otherwise.  I love how He knows where I am at on this journey and He gently leads.  Like Hosea 11:4, “He leads them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love.”

I am struggling with this, no doubt about it.  I guess I need to stop digging my heels and allow Him to lead us with ties of His love.  He has never left us for one moment on this journey.  All along He has been whispering in our ears, “I’m here, I’ve got this, I love Sarah more than you can imagine, stop resisting, let Me bring peace to your hurting soul and follow Me.”

So I am giving Him my grieving heart and walking this new path.  I will continue to listen for His whisper because He has never let me down yet.

Psalm 14:5-6, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.  I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me!” (Emphasis mine-the verse ends in a period, but I just can’t end that verse without an exclamation point!)  Thank you for your continued prayers for us!

Words That I Say

I am asked often if Sarah talks.  Most of the time when Sarah is in public, she will make noises, cries, occasionally screams, but rarely does she say words.  Even at home, she says very little in the way of communication, but more as repeating words she has heard.  She has a way of repeating us especially if what we said is said with great expression or emotion.   If she really likes the phrase she will keep saying it even months later.  (Oh good!)

An example is when our dog, Pudge, pooped in the house. This dog has very few redeeming qualities.  He looks like a pig, snorts like pig, roots and sniffs around the house like a pig and truly I think sheds his body weight in dog hair each day.  He was named after Pudge Rodriguez, the former Tiger catcher, but now his body shape matches his name.  He is a pudgy pug and I was not too pleased when he had his accident.

“We don’t poop in the house!  Potty outside!!” and with that I sent the dog into the backyard.  Then, a voice mimicking me in exact tone and expression came from across the house,

“We don’t poop in the house!  We don’t poop in the house! Potty outside!”

I found Sarah in the other room and I told her with great inflection so Jack could hear, “Yes, Sarah, Jack’s dog pooped in the house!”

(Jack asked for this dog for his birthday five years ago and we like to tease him that when Pudge does something bad, it is his dog.)

Sure enough, Sarah started chanting, “Jack’s dog pooped in the house!  Jack’s dog pooped in the house!”

Jack with a twinkle in his eye came up to me and said, “Mom, that probably isn’t the best thing to say to Sarah.”  I asked him why and he said teasingly, “I can see the word ‘dog’ being left out of that sentence and that could be very awkward.”

He had a point.  I need to be careful with the words that I say.

When Kendall (and therefore, Sarah, too) turned 13 this year, I had a Blessings Party in her honor.  My sister did this for her daughter when she turned 13 and I wanted to do the same for Kendall.  I asked both sides of our family and ladies from our small group Bible Study to write blessings to Kendall as she entered her teenage years.   I put all the notes into a keepsake book for her to look upon for years to come.  I then surprised Kendall by having all of them waiting for us at a restaurant and I presented her the book.  It was a night of affirmation, welcoming her into becoming a young woman of God and having these women show their support and love for her.  It was just as special for me as it was for her, I think!

The hardest part for me was the words I would say to Kendall.  How can I express all that I wanted to tell my daughter in a few pages of a book?  All my prayers for her, my blessings for her life, my words that when I am gone she will remember me by?  I decided for the last two pages of what I wrote, I would share my favorite Bible verses with her and why they are special to me.

I was trying to find a specific Bible verse and I just couldn’t seem to find it.  I had the “ish” thing going on in my brain.  ‘I think this verse is in Psalms-ish.’ ‘I want to say around Chapter 140-ish.’  I was searching and flipping back and forth through Psalms and instead another verse jumped out at me.  When I read it, it was like I had never seen it before, but it was the perfect verse that summed up exactly what I wanted to say.  I knew it was from the Lord and it became an “instant favorite” and made it into the book.  It was Psalm 141:3.

“Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.”

I told Kendall I want the words that I say to be pleasing to the Lord, not for Him to assign more guards over my mouth!

Such a good and challenging reminder, especially when I have a daughter who repeats the words that I say.  

The Next Step

I want to be careful how I write this. I don’t want to be too graphic, but it looks like today Sarah started a new phase in her maturity. For years, people have asked me, okay, just other women, if men asked that would be creepy, what I would do when this happens and my reply has always been the same: The Lord is already there and in control. I am going to keep going on this path in faith and pray for grace and wisdom when we get to this point on the path.

Growing up, the Wednesday night girl clubs’ theme verse at my church was Psalms 119:105, “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

When I think of ‘a light unto my path’, it reminds me of the time I went on a camping trip with Kendall, Sarah’s twin sister. The planners of this event called it “rustic”; I called it “one night only” and later under my breath, “never again”. The camp was fine during the day, but once the sun set, it got dark. Or, as my kids used to say when they were little it got ‘dark dark’. One of our nighttime activities was to go on a nature walk to see if we can see any nocturnal animals. Sadly, we saw very little, not just because of how dark it was, but the fact that every animal in the entire campground could hear us and stayed clear. The Gregory girls would make terrible ninjas! The path was barely worn and I relied heavily on my flashlight to navigate my way. My flashlight only gave enough light to reveal the few feet ahead of me. I couldn’t walk too fast otherwise I could walk into a tree, or stumble on some rocks and fall or stray off the path without even realizing it. I had to be very intentional in how I walked.

How true for our own lives’ paths!  If I try to run ahead of God’s path for my life, I will make a real mess of it! And while I might want to see the entire path upfront, I might get overwhelmed and discouraged at how long my path is or if there are any twists or turns, if it goes down into deep valleys or climbs high mountains. Maybe that is why the Lord gives us just enough light to take the next step. He knows us too well! He gently leads with one step, then another and then another.

David was out today and he came home to ask me how Sarah had been, if she was any worse today because she had started her period. I told him the usual crying but at one point this afternoon she pointed to our dog, Pudge, and asked, “Can we eat that?” (Times are not that tough yet in the Gregory household!) Surprised when I realized she was talking about the dog, I told her emphatically ‘No!’ and she ran upstairs to her bedroom giggling. I hope this is Sarah’s sense of humor coming through and not that I need to hide all of our knives along with our scissors stash! (We actually hoped her starting might be beneficial because we think her non-stop crying and screaming could be tied to hormonal changes. Maybe this happening will stabilize her hormones a bit. That’s our prayer!!)

On our weddings bands David and I inscribed ‘Proverbs 3:5-6’.  Which says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding.  Acknowledge Him in all your ways and He will direct your path.”  Trust Him, believe Him when it doesn’t make sense to me, acknowledge He is in control and He will direct my path. Hmmm…I guess the Lord knew I needed these verses in my life so He made sure they are always on me! He has been faithful before and He continues to be faithful, so my plan is that we will continue to follow this path with the small light we have before us as He leads us to the next step, then the next, and then the next after that.