Night to Shine 2019

Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain

(and the autistic can understand…..)

My heart is very full by the love and kindness that was shown tonight at the Tim Tebow Night to Shine Event hosted by Life Bridge Church and Northline Church in Taylor. When I think of all the people who were there tonight, who donated their gifts and talents to give my daughter a wonderful prom, I am humbled.

Sarah was so excited for tonight! We went to the Salvation Army last week to find a dress. When we walked in the store it was very busy and my heart sank.

Please, Lord, I don’t want a repeat of last year! I thought.

(If you missed that fiasco, here is that blog: Defender of the Defenseless)

Actually, Sarah did great in the store and we found a dress that was the perfect size for her.

Here she is with her brother Jack. She is ready to go to prom!

When we arrived at Life Bridge Church, Sarah knew the drill. She walked back to the hair and make-up station and waited her turn. I found out that it was two local salons that shut down their businesses early to come and volunteer their services. These ladies made each girl feel special. Her stylist Sarah curled her hair and pinned it back. She then finished it off with glitter hairspray. The look of pride on Sarah’s face was undeniable.

Then Sarah went to the make-up table. Bless Emily, the make-up artist, for trying to put make-up on Sarah! Sarah put her head down or squinted her eyes tightly. Emily was so patient with her. At the end, Sarah was very pleased with the final product! It was so cute!

Sarah was then given a corsage and had her picture professionally taken. She went down the red carpet with the “paparazzi” (church volunteers) cheering for her. To think these people spent their Friday night so that the 80+ special needs people each felt special is amazing! Each person was introduced as a queen or king and received the cheers and applause as if they were the only ones that came to the event.

We were so blessed to have the same volunteer aide we had last year. What a comfort for us to have her again! She knows Sarah and knows what she likes. I found out that Emily hired a babysitter for her own kids so she could spend the evening giving Sarah a special prom. I am floored that someone would do this for us! What a gift!

Emily certainly does know Sarah. They danced, took photos in the photo booth, took a ride in the limo, ate lots of food and Sarah’s favorite, sang karaoke.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For us parents, once again, Life Bridge and Northline gave us the royal treatment. We had a goodie bag (soooo excited to see they did the Tim Horton’s gift card again! Woohoo for Momma!), catered dinner, chocolate fountain and new this year….a massage therapist giving chair massages. (We never got to do it…it was very popular with the parents!) They also had raffles for gift card to restaurants. AMAZING!

The note on the goodie bag reads: “Whether you were strong to begin with or had strength thrust upon you by necessity. You’re one strong parent. One strong person.”  ❤

At the end of the prom, Tim Tebow spoke via video about how God has a purpose and a plan for each one and they are Kings and Queens of the prom because that is how God sees them.

The crowd erupted in cheers! Each one was given a crown. Tears flowed from my eyes as I saw their faces; such pride, such excitement!

Sarah was given her own goodie bag of the professional picture and frame:

Here is the picture, frame, photo booth photos, a key chain and photo, and a glow in the dark stick. Sarah took all of her items to her room right away. There is a nice blue glow in her room from the glow stick, but she is fast asleep. I was worried she would have trouble going down tonight because she was so happy but I think all the dancing wore her out!

We are so thankful for the Tim Tebow Foundation and Life Bridge Church and Northline Church for giving our Sarah a night that she and her parents cherish. Sarah was not different tonight; the one people stare at when we walk into a store or restaurant. No, tonight she was celebrated and loved as the person God created her to be. Thank you Life Bridge and Northline churches, and especially Sarah’s aide Emily, for being the hands and feet of Christ as a response for the love you have received from Christ. You shined Christ tonight and we are so deeply, deeply grateful!

For Christ’s love compels us..We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors.”  (II Corinthians 5:14, 20)

 

Saying Goodbye to our Jethros

“The store is closing today, Jill. I went up there to pick up our prescriptions and she told me to tell you how much she will miss you. If you can go up there, I think it would be good for you to say goodbye in person.”

Yes, I need to say goodbye, I thought.  My night was busy, but I needed to do this.

When I walked into our Rite Aid store, I saw both pharmacists and the pharmacy technician behind the counter. There stood my friends busy working. I made eye contact with one of the pharmacists and she said, “Don’t make me cry!”

It was too late for me. Tears began to flow as each one came out behind from the pharmacy counter so I could say goodbye to each one personally. We hugged and exchanged cell phones numbers to stay in touch. As the one pharmacist began to type my name into her cell phone, I started to spell my last name. She looked at me and we both started to laugh. This woman knows more about me than a lot of people and certainly knows how to spell my name!

This might sound so strange to be upset about my pharmacy closing, but these people have been with us the entire time of our autism journey. David and I have felt like we are stumbling our way on this journey and these wonderful people have been our counselors.

It reminds me of Moses and his father-in-law, Jethro. Moses was overloaded with work and he was weary from the daily demands placed on him.

Jethro listened to Moses and replies in Exodus 18:18-19a, “You…will only wear yourself out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you.

Like Moses, we can’t do this alone. Autism is too big and heavy. We need help.

These wonderful ladies have been our ‘Jethros’. They have answered our countless questions, given us emergency refills when we ran out, or called doctor offices on our behalf. They have gone above and beyond what I would expect a pharmacy to do to help us. When I think of all the doctors, specialists, teachers that have helped us with Sarah, these wonderful ladies are right up there as part of our ‘Sarah team’.

When I was leaving the pharmacy tech told me, “I hope you know that the Gregorys are family to us!”

They have been family to us, too.

Today I said goodbye to a vital part of the ‘Sarah team’, but I am so deeply humbled and amazed how God has placed such special people in our lives. I am grateful that people truly care for Sarah and want the best for her, too.

This journey is wearisome, but I am thankful for these ‘Jethros’ that came alongside us in our time of need.  I pray God will be with them in this new chapter.

Imitator

Sarah has been fixated on 3 hole punching paper. At first I found all these round paper hole “chads” on the kitchen counter and on the dining room table. I wondered where they were coming from. Was Sarah making confetti at school?

Later in the evening I found her sitting at the dining room table 3-hole punching all of my leftover Christmas letter paper. By the time I saw what was happening, it was too late. She had just finished punching out the last stash of paper.

“Yeah, she has been doing that a lot lately.” David said as I held up my Christmas newsletter paper.

“Where did she find it?”  I shook my head that it was one more thing she has gotten into.

I had no idea what this fixation was all about until I saw old binders that Kendall left behind on the computer desk. They were placed with Jack’s school notebooks and binders.

“Jill, she made her own binders so she could be like Jack.” David said.

Sure enough, I opened up the binders and there was the Christmas paper she punched out as well as all the extra loose leaf paper we had in the house. She had used all of Kendall’s old binders, then made her own binding by taking string and lacing it through the paper holes.

It was so sweet that she wanted to be like her brother!

It reminds me of the time when Kendall was 10 years old and got her ears pierced. When we came home from the mall, Sarah was fascinated by Kendall’s new earrings. Kendall, who was not too happy about the pain, let Sarah examine her ears. She showed her the earrings we bought as well. The fascination didn’t stop. It was obvious that Sarah wanted her ears pierced, too.

But could she handle it? Would she pull out the earrings? Could she keep the post earrings in her ears for the 6 weeks required? Would she understand the pain that getting your ears pierced causes? After trying our best to explain it to her, we let her get her ears pierced too.

We went after school one day and Sarah was extremely giddy when we got to the store. She picked out the studs she wanted and eagerly sat in the chair. When the technician examined and prepped her ears she looked at me in bewilderment. She said that Sarah had marks on her earlobes. She said it looked like Sarah tried to pierce her own ears.

It broke my heart that Sarah wanted so desperately to be like her sister and imitate her that she tried to pierce her ears herself.

It makes me think of Ephesians 5:1, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Sarah’s imitation comes from fascination and fixation of what she is trying to emulate. She studies and copies what she sees.

How this needs to be true in my own life! If I am to be an imitator of God, I need to study His Word intently, follow it so closely that it becomes second nature to me. What a challenging thought to live a life that it is a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God! How would my thoughts and actions change?

I want to keep one sheet of the Christmas newsletter paper as a reminder that I am called to be an imitator of Christ! I want to study Him closely so I emulate the heart and mind of Christ in my daily actions and conversations.

Thank you, Sarah, for your example! You continue to challenge and inspire me!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Last Night of Childhood

Tonight is the last night my girls are together at home. Tomorrow Kendall leaves for college and while she will return for breaks and possibly next summer (unless a summer job prevents her), it will be different. Kendall will return as a college student and adult. This, in many ways, is the last night of her childhood.

I am taking this hard. Kendall has been ‘my girl’. God has given me such a gem in her! I enjoy her friendship! I enjoy being together and just talking. She has been such a help to me by starting dinner for me many times while I was still at work. She also helps me care for Sarah. If I can’t give Sarah a shower, she will or she helps me by getting Sarah ready for bed on nights when I am too tired.

More importantly, I wonder how Sarah will deal with Kendall leaving for college. Sarah adores her sister!

Kendall has promised to FaceTime with us so Sarah can see her. I do not know how much Sarah will understand, but this day was bound to come.  My girl has grown up and is ready to fly. Kendall is almost done packing her things. We have boxes by the door ready to go and I wonder what Sarah thinks of all of this.

Even when I was pregnant with the girls, Sarah liked to be close to her. Kendall likes to see my reaction when she says, “Mom, of course we are close! We were womb-mates!” (That made-up word grosses me out!)

But it’s true! Each time I had an ultrasound to make sure the girls were developing on schedule, poor Kendall was squished in the corner. The ultrasound would show her with her head pinned down to her shoulder. She looked so uncomfortable. It was no wonder Kendall went breach at 36 weeks, she was looking for room! Then there was Sarah. Sarah spread herself out like she was doing a spread eagle. More than once when the technician was looking at Kendall (Baby A) a leg would float by, then an arm. I asked if that was Baby A’s leg and she laughed and said, “No, that is Baby B. She is hogging all the room! She doesn’t want to stay on her side.”

When we came home from the hospital with the girls, we thought they would want to sleep together. They had been together for so long, we thought they would miss each other. That great idea lasted two nights. Once again, Sarah hogged all the room. She wiggled and kicked until she was free of her blanket that she was swaddled in and continued to wiggle until she was almost on top of Kendall. Kendall would cry and we would race in. After moving Sarah back, she would do it again…and again. We finally gave up and we separated them.

Now they are being separated by 155 miles. While it is not too far, it feels like 155,000,000 miles to my heart. This is one of those times my heart and head are disagreeing with each other!

This summer, Kendall found a spot near our vacation home with the least amount of light pollution. We went out around midnight as a family to star gaze. It was amazing! We saw shooting stars and the Milky Way. It reminded me of Isaiah 40:26, “Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength not one of them is missing.”

The same God who calls out the stars by name is the same God looking over my girls. Life is just going to be different now. This phase of our lives is ending, but I know in His great power and mighty strength He is in control. While this might be the last night of Kendall’s childhood, there is a bond between them that will always keep them in each other’s hearts that 155 miles cannot weaken. ❤