Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities: A guest post by Kathleen Deyer Bolduc (make a comment and you might win a copy!)

 A new friend of mine and fellow spiritual director, Kathy Bolduc, has recently written a book called The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities. An excerpt is below. As I have read through its pages, I am drawn into a world that I don't know much about personally, but know several friends who do. 

Kathy writes with empathy, wisdom and encouragement as she offers stories and Scripture and provides reflections for parents who are trying to "gather up the broken pieces" and rearrange them in a mosaic that tells their story and searches for God in it. If you have a child with disabilities or know someone who does, read or pass along this book. It will infuse you with hope and teach you about the art of parenting this child.

Make a comment below (by Thursday at 5 pm) and you will have a chance to win a copy of Kathy's book. (A comment will be selected by number through

Applause, everyone. Bravo, bravissimo! Shout God-songs at the top of your lungs!
Psalm 47:1 (The Message)

My son Joel, who has autism, loves to dance. He’s a study in joy on the dance floor—arms flailing, feet shuffling, eyes shining. Joy bubbles up in my veins as I watch him, inviting me to get up and do my own celebratory dance.

I find myself asking, “When was the last time I celebrated? Truly celebrated?”

Celebration brings joy, and joy makes us strong. The prophet Nehemiah reminds us that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Richard Foster writes, “Celebration is central to all the Spiritual Disciplines. Without a joyful spirit of festivity the Disciplines become dull, death-breathing tools in the hands of modern Pharisees. Every Discipline should be characterized by carefree gaity and a sense of thanksgiving.” (Celebration of Discipline, p. 164)

This past weekend my husband Wally and I were scheduled to help out at the monthly dance held at Joel’s home, Safe Haven Farms. We look forward to these dances. Just watching my son dance is a guarantee of entering into a little piece of heaven on earth. But this particular night, for whatever reason, Joel was agitated and anxious, unable to relax. He walked into the brightly decorated multi-purpose room where music was blaring, took one look around and turned on his heel, running for the door. Dan, his one-on-one staff, followed closely behind.

Within five minutes Joel returned. He refused to sit down for dinner, which had just been served. Out the door he ran, again. I continued dishing up food, watching my son run in and out of the building several times over the course of twenty minutes. Finally, Wally whispered in my ear. “Let’s go.”

We gathered up Joel’s backpack and meds, shepherded him to the car, and headed toward our home, where he was scheduled to spend the night.

Just seven o’clock on a beautiful evening, bedtime was still a couple of hours away. We decided to take a cruise on our new pontoon boat, located just up the road from our house. A visual mantle of relaxation settled over Joel the moment he stepped onto the boat. Putzing around the lake at a leisurely pace, we surprised at least ten great blue herons from their rookery in a tree near the bank. We watched in awe as they took off in flight, lifting into the air with great, measured strokes.

We sang Joel’s favorite praise songs—“This is the Day,” “I Love You, Lord,” and “This Little Light of Mine.” After singing Joel hunkered down in a lawn chair on the front of the boat, peering out from under the bill of his baseball cap, relishing the wind in his face. I felt my body and spirit release all tension as his eyes crinkled up with a face-transforming smile. “Thank you, God,” I whispered.

Toward the end of the ride a flash of silver to the right of the boat caught my eye. I turned to see a bald eagle flying past with a fish in his beak. Wally turned off the boat’s engine, and we sat for several minutes, watching with rapt attention as this majestic bird landed in the top of a tree and devoured his catch, white head bobbing up and down as he tore at his prey.

This evening we celebrated. It wasn’t a special occasion. As a matter of fact, we’d narrowly avoided what could have been a major meltdown. It was a perfectly ordinary Saturday evening in the middle of May. The lake reflected receding storm clouds, water and clouds alike fading to lavender in the slanting rays of the lowering sun. Herons continued winging over our heads with effortless beats of their great, wide wings. A beautiful wake streamed out behind the boat—waves that made Joel particularly happy because Joel has always had a love affair with waves. The three of us praised God, praised creation, praised this time with one another.

“The world is filled with reasons to be downcast. But deeper than sorrow thrums the unbroken pulse of God’s joy, a joy that will yet have its eternal day. To set our heart on this joy reminds us that we can choose how we respond to any particular moment. We can search for God in all circumstances, or not. We can seek the pulse of hope and celebration because it is God’s reality. . . . Every small experience of Jesus with us is a taste of the joy that is to come. We are not alone—and that in itself is reason to celebrate.” (Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices that Transform Us)

Reflection Exercise:

Read Zephaniah 3:17:

The Lord your God is in your midst,
  a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
  he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Tense and relax any muscles in your body that are holding on to tension. How do you imagine God rejoicing over you with gladness? Can you envision God quieting you with his love? Exulting over you with loud singing? What feelings does this evoke within you? Take a few moments to journal your experience.

Excerpted from The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities (Judson Press, 2014)
Used with permission

The mother of a 29-year-old son with autism, Kathleen Bolduc is a spiritual director in Oxford, Ohio, and the author of several books on faith and disability, including The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities and Autism & Alleluias. Kathy’s blogs can be found here and at Not Alone

Monday, May 5, 2014

35 Years Ago Today: Little did I know that I was signing up for the adventure of a lifetime!

We stood at the altar, facing one another, our eyes wide open with hope and desire for our future together. And as we look back, 35 years to this day, we both realize how little we knew about each other; about what it would take to be married; and about the adventure that was to ensue.

When I said "I do" to my husband, David, little did I know that I was signing up for the adventure of a lifetime. I didn't know that, through this man, I would be introduced to and develop my greatest loves in life; the love of books and reading, nature, hiking, ideas, all-things-creative, rich conversation, art, music, good wine and food.

I didn't know that our love would procreate and we would give birth, raise and launch into life four beautiful, creative, energetic and compassionate kids--all of whom we are extremely proud and find to this day to be our greatest delight. We certainly had no idea, barely an imagination, for what it would be like to experience becoming parents-in-law and grandparents and being taken hostage by enchanting grandchildren. 

Way back when, with the innocence of young love, I had no idea that I would brave the storms of life with this man.That I would experience his profound and unwavering love and companionship through the loss of our first baby; the loss of both my parents; the loss (for a time) of faith in the church and trust in its leaders; the loss of innocence of life itself.

Little did I know that one day even the honeymoon stage of our marriage would end and we would experience a season of pain, darkness, struggle and misunderstanding. And together, we would wrestle and relentlessly search for one another until we found each other in the darkness; and from there we would rebuild our trust and love and oneness.

And when I said yes to young love; to this brown-eyed young groom who had won my heart forever, I didn't realize what an interesting person I was marrying. I didn't know that I would be invited to walk with him through his many "phases"--as we call them. A phase is when David is totally into something and speaks as though it is his new and forever "thing." And it usually lasts about five weeks or five months. But during that time it comes up in pretty much every conversation he has with just about everyone.

35 years ago today, little did I know that I was signing up for the adventure of a lifetime with the most loving, patient, creative, even-keeled, interesting, curious and supportive man who said "Yes" to me 35 years ago; says "Yes" to me every day; and said "Yes" to me when I had a dream in my heart to move to the city and begin an urban retreat center in an old house in the hood. Our marriage has always been a mutual relationship, yet never have I felt more respected and trusted than when David followed me toward this dream and sunk all we had and all his heart in making it happen.

After 35 years, I can see that we've done a lot of hard work in our marriage and we are experiencing a sweet harvest in the fall of our lives. Yet, most of all, I see 35 years of grace. I see how God has offered so much grace to us who so naively said "Yes" to an adventure we had no idea we were starting. God has been our North Star; our mender of hearts; our humbler and sustain-er and friend. He has been the common ground of our individual being and the quest of our individual lives. He has been the third strand in the cord. And today, 35 years later, we bless God from whom all our blessings over the last 35 years have flowed.