One of our biggest hurdles has been finding a church home. Again, I expected that to be easy. With so many wonderful churches in the area (we are in Texas after all) I wanted to walk into our first pick and feel at home. When that didn't happen and continued to not happen after going to at least a half a dozen churches, I felt defeated. I sat in the car and cried after being turned away one Sunday. "I just want to feel welcome" I told Micah.
I know our family is different. Believe me, I understand how overwhelming it can feel for me to explain that my almost two year old is terminally ill or that my four year old isn't potty trained. I get it. I live it.
As Micah and I have hashed out our frustrations to each other, he also wrote this. With his permission, here is Daddy's perspective...
Readers of my wife's blog are very familiar with our situation as she tends to wear her heart on her sleeve. I tend to keep my cards closer to the chest and vent my frustrations to a select few.
We have been on the church hunt since we got to the metroplex in December. This past month alone, we got fed up with one church and received depressing emails and voicemails from two others we had visited.
It is always interesting watching people react to the information about my kids diagnosis'. It used to bother me. People like to tell me that my kids aren't that different, but they are. And that's ok. I know my family is an anomaly and I know a lot of people don't know how to handle our situation. I've seen a lot of moms pull their kids closer to them and dads turn their kids heads away from Alexis when they hear her cough. I'd do the same thing; I get it. I grew up with scoliosis, wore a full body back brace for three years and know the looks people give you when they find out something is wrong.
We were established in a great little church in East Texas when we got the news about Ben. It shook us up, but the church we were in really rallied around us and supported us in ways I was not really expecting. When we went back to Florida, Amber found another very supportive church and people rallied around us. We were in the same church back in East Texas when we found out about Alexis. Once again, people were there to support us.
Parenting is tiring, in fact it's straight up exhausting. Alexis takes a little extra work every day; there's a lot of hand washing and, yeah, we pay extra attention to that sneeze or those sniffles. Ben needs a little extra time with most things because he is delayed. He just turned 4 and he's not potty trained.
I'm not discounting any parents. It is exhausting for everyone. As I've gotten older and other friends have kids, I have seen how much living closer to family can be such a help, but we've never had that luxury.
There are some weeks where the only break we get is on morning. I know we are not alone in that, but it has been especially true this move. Coming to DFW was the first move we'd made where we didn't have a lot established friendships close by. With my job, I don't make it to church every week so Amber is left to shuffle the kids in and out of church.
Coming into the area we were very excited to attend a certain church. Alexis' school teacher was a respiratory therapist. It seemed perfect. After multiple attempts to get plugged into a small group we were told there was simply not a group available to us and that there wouldn't be in the near future. After having our kids turned away from the nursery several times and not being able to get plugged in, we got fed up with it all and moved on to other churches.
We found another church that had a special needs ministry and they even advertised hosting free babysitting on certain nights to give parents of special needs kids a night out. We excitedly emailed the contact person that very afternoon hoping to get in on the babysitting that . Five months later, I got a response asking if I was still interested.
We visited another church, did a welcome class with the pastor and some elders. After the intro class, we talked to some very nice ladies who asked about the kiddos. We got a voicemail today from the head of their children's ministry telling us that they did not have the resources to deal with our children and they could refer us to some other churches in the area if we were interested. Thanks. But no thanks. "It's not like you're not welcome, but you're not welcome."
Then we went to what we're hoping is our new church home and here's why. Dropping the kids off and explaining to the teachers that Ben has Down syndrome and is still in diapers didn't phase the teacher. Dropping Alexis off with her bag with the laminated explanation of what CF is and what to do with her was not an issue. We got invited to several small groups our first day there. I knew the songs, there was a good mix in the sound, they had a real drum set, the pastor was great and they gave away coffee in the foyer instead of posting a giant sign next to a trash can telling me to keep God's house clean. See? It's nothing earth shattering.
There are a lot of families like mine. Feeling alone, different, and just barely hanging on some days. I know Jesus said to take care of the fatherless and the widow, but where do we fit in? Special needs families are there in your community and whether or not you realize it, a lot of us feel ostracized at a time where we are questioning all aspects of life, God and Christianity.
We just need your support.
I know there are bound to be a lot of reactions toward this post. My (or Micah's) intent was not to hate on you, Church. Our intent was to tell you what we see as visitors, as parents, as a family and as people who are different than you. Many of you are good at what you do. But many of you probably needed to hear this.
See us. Love us. Welcome us. Be there. That's all we want. That's all any of us want.