Monday, April 29, 2013

Meet Brooks!

Meet Brooks! He is an active first grader who loves to read, sing and perform. As Brooks' mom, Jennifer, tells it, "I am absolutely amazed by his zest for life! It is so fun being Brooks' Mom. It's almost like he realizes deep inside of him somewhere just how fragile life is and, therefore, relishes every minute of it."
Brooks Leebern

Brooks was born 15 weeks prematurely. Due to his early arrival, he is legally blind, has mild cerebral palsy and growth issues. But these challenges do little to slow him down. His curiosity of the world recently led him to request a telescope so that he could see the moon for the first time.

"How many of us, me included, don't stop to think about what a treasure it is just to be able to gaze at the moon on any given night? He had a joyful fit when he saw it!" Jennifer shares. "Brooks has taught me to find the beauty in all things, big or small, and to never take life for granted."

Brooks has also played a pivotal role in his Mom's relationship with Christ, illuminating her path back to Him. And with this strengthened faith, she looks to God to carry her through the struggles she encounters when Brooks faces challenges, knowing that she can lean on Him.
Although his vision is clouded with darkness, for Brooks' friends and family,  he is a shining light of God's love. And Jennifer feels strongly that God has given her family this special child with the duty of glorifying Him. She desires to share her son's story with others, including what God has done through him to change her own life and faith journey. She shares with the hope that it will help them as they face their own personal trials and darkness.   

Finding gratefulness in their situation is the key that has given their family a transformed perspective. This perspective helps them through their journey with their son. "Always look for the silver lining. Always recognize the good things that our children are and that they do. Don't focus on what they can't do," she imparts. "And always be their advocate and let them know every day that they are special and perfect in your eyes!"

Lord, thank you for Brooks. His life is a light unto Your path and a gift from You. The joy in his life, despite his trials and challenges, is Your blessing to him and his family. We praise You for him!

Read more about Brooks in "Unexpected Gifts."

Thursday, April 25, 2013

"Boomer"- The Heart of a Small Town

This week the small town that I live in lost it's "original son," Danny "Boomer" Bishop.


From as early as I can remember, Boomer was a constant fixture in Newnan, Georgia. Walking the streets, visiting the small businesses and speaking to everyone, Boomer didn't know a stranger and didn't have an enemy. His love and friendliness for all was only rivalled by his knowlege of sports statistics. Although simple in mind, Boomer's knowledge of sports was astonishing, a true gift from God. I believe his favorite sports teams were the Braves and Georgia Tech, and somehow he always managed to find a way to make it to many of their games. 

The love of our community for Boomer was overwhelming, evidenced by the care they took of him. Giving him rides, taking him to sports games, buying him a meal and, in the end, taking him to the doctor and visiting him in hospice. Our love for Boomer is a direct result of his love for us and our community. In his life he touched more people than he could ever know simply by ALWAYS being a kind and friendly person, calling us by name and engaging in conversation. As my father said, "Boomer is everyone's friend...Boomer loves everybody."

We were all blessed to know Boomer. This extraordinary and simple man who lived a simple life was so much more. He was an unexpected gift to us and the heart of a community.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Georgia Special Needs Scholarship

This January 31st I had the unique opportunity to deliver a speech on the stairs of the Georgia State Capitol. This was an exciting yet terrifying experience as I faced a crowd of 2000 plus parents, kids and educators all there celebrating National School Choice Week.

Despite the crowds, I felt an overwhelming sense of God's presence. He was with me that day to calm my fears and help me deliver helpful words to many who are looking for educational solutions for their children.

Specifically, I spoke about the Georgia Special Needs
Scholarship. Since many reading this blog have your own special kids, I want to make sure you know about this innovative law that give students with disabilities more educational choices.

The Georgia Special Needs Scholarship was passed in the Georgia legislature five years ago, exactly when we were looking for a school choice for Sara Ashley. It is no surprise to me that God blessed us in that way! Under the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship, parents may choose to send their child with diagnosed disabilities (and with an IEP) to another public or charter school within their county or to a participating private school in the state that will best serve their child's needs.

Most importantly for many, the law provides those who choose private school financial help to offset tuition. The average award per student is $5,917.00 per year (public schools in Georgia spend on average $7,976.00 per year per student).

Our son, a gifted learner, thrives in the public school system and we are very grateful for the education he receives. My husband and I are also products of public school and we support them fully. But we have found that one size does not fit all. With the large volume of students in our public schools it is nearly impossible for even the best teachers to maximize each student's potential. Therefore, we choose to utilize the GSNS in order to send our daughter to The Bedford School, a school for children with learning disabilities. Instead of sending her to a school that was not able to meet her needs (despite everyone's best efforts) we send her to a school that has teachers trained specifically to help children with learning differences.  This school has the latest techniques and technology to help these kids learn their best. The Georgia Special Needs Scholarship has played an integral part in our ability to send Sara Ashley to her school and she is thriving.

As I shared in the speech I had the honor of giving on behalf of my daughter: 

This is what a child's life can be like when they receive the educational options that they need.
This is what parents can expect when they exercise choice and find the school that best meets their child's needs. We can send our kids to a school that serves their strengths and weaknesses, helps them reach their full potential, prepares them to be successful and productive citizens, and encourages them to help others along the way as they have been helped.

Why would we choose anything less for our

For more information about the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship go to

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Where Do You Find Your Pleasure?

There once was a girl who sought all of her pleasure and fulfillment in her accomplishments. From the earliest times she could remember she was always seeking approval. At the tender age of 7 she got up early one morning to scrub the floors like "Cinderella" hoping to gain her parent's praise, only to be told not to scrub too hard lest she would scrub the pattern off the linoleum. She was crushed, but not beaten. She continued on this path through her school days seeking to gain accolades from her academics and dance teachers and anywhere else she could find it. And she was often successful. She was a gifted learner and dancer earning lead roles in recitals and awards for her scholarly success. How did she feel, you ask? She felt good at the moment of success, but that soon faded and then the striving started all over again.

Approval was like a drug to her. She sought it out wherever she could find it. Working to please, striving to gain. But, strangely, with each new achievement, her confidence did not grow. It simply sought more and more praise. Finally, the fear set in. That it would never be enough. There would never be enough praise, enough worldly gain to satisfy her need for approval. And life took on a hazy cast that caused disappointment, depression, anxiety, and loneliness. There has to be more, she thought.  But what?

If you haven't figured it out yet, that girl is me. And I know that I am not alone in this story. Sadly, many of us readily fall into this trap. The world tells us that the more we accomplish and the more we gain, the happier we will be. Well, I'm here to tell you, it's a lie. No amount of fame, fortune, glory or money will ever completely fulfill you.

Have you ever heard the expression "God shaped void"? This is what I had- a God shaped void in my spirit that could never be filled with worldly gain. Praise didn't fill it. Awards were not the right shape. And money left the void empty too. Only God could fill that void.

Paul tells us in Philippians 3:7-9
"Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him..."

Slowly, through the journey of my life, God began to fill my void. He did it gently and with love. Easing me into a new life, helping me overcome my fears and filling my void with His presence. He showed me that I am loved just for who I am, not for what I do or what I accomplish. He allowed me to rest my body and my mind. He lovingly cradled me like a child and allowed me to rest in Him. He also opened my eyes to the important things. Not the trophies, the big salary, the second home and the praises of man. These things feel good at the time, but there is no lasting peace or pleasure in them. He showed me that only through Him and His Son, Jesus Christ, could I find true fulfillment.

It is so easy for me to backslide in this crazy world of ours. But daily, if I am in tune with Him, He continues to show me the farce of seeking worldly praise. His love is unconditional, not based on worldly ways. This need for receiving accolades by man is hard work. We humans are very fickle creatures! Man's love is conditional and selfish.

One of the main ways He has shown me the lie of seeking worldy gain and approval is through my special child and other special children around me. Though many of these kids aren't listed on their school honor roll, aren't the fastest runners or the kids who receive the most awards, they are each winners in God's eyes. No one can tell me that my daughter's best efforts in reading don't mean as much just because she doesn't score at a high-ranking reading level or that the loving hug from a Ds child is any less meaningful than winning a state-championship. These acts and accomplishments, though not often recognized by an award, are just as meaningful to God as the biggest prize known to man. And if they are done in obedience to God or in honor of Him, they are more meaningful than any worldly accomplishment.

God puts life into perspective for us one day at a time. Will we be open to receiving His direction? Seeking to be the "least of these" instead of the first in line? Will we realize that striving for worldly success is NOT what life is all about? Only if we do this will we be able to fill that God-shaped void, allowing Him to bless us with the unexpected but promised gift of His all-consuming love.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Walking by Faith

I woke up this morning like most of the rest of the nation. In disbelief of what happened in Boston yesterday. How can this senseless violence continue to happen in our world? As the old saying goes, why can't we all just learn to get along?

On the way home from taking Sara Ashley to school in Fairburn I heard a song that, once again, brought me to tears. Y'all already know I have a propensity for that and I shouldn't have been surprised at my reaction, but I was. I had been holding it together quite well since I learned of yesterday's bombings. And as I watched the news this morning I maintained my detachment, trying to ward off any emotional attachment to a situation that is truly heartbreaking. Unfortunately, I find that I sometimes become calloused to this world and desensitized to the tragedy it holds. I know it's a defense mechanism and I also know that it's not one that God desires for me. After all, wasn't I the one who just a few weeks ago quoted God's message for me to allow Him to, "Break my heart for what breaks Yours?"

The song I heard finally opened my heart and the flood gates, allowing grief and anger. Gratefully it also allowed comfort. As I listened to it I was reminded of the words of a recent contributor for the book "Unexpected Gifts." When describing her daughter's condition of autism she stated that she found it a "great comfort and gift to know that He can already see the finish line" for her child. The irony of her verbiage was not lost on me and the song I heard this morning was a reminder of this important point.
From Casting Crowns, "Already There":

From where I'm standing
Lord it's so hard for me to see
Where this is going
And where You're leading me
I wish I knew how
All my fears and all my questions
Are gonna play out
In a world I can't control

When I'm lost in the mystery
To You my future is a memory
Cause You're already there
You're already there
Standing at the end of my life
Waiting on the other side
And You're already there
You're already there

From where You're standing
Lord, You see a grand design
That You imagined
When You breathed me into life
And all the chaos
Comes together in Your hands
Like a masterpiece
Of Your picture perfect plan

When I'm lost in the mystery
To You my future is a memory
Cause You're already there
You're already there
Standing at the end of my life
Waiting on the other side
And You're already there
You're already there

One day I'll stand before You
And look back on the life I've lived
I can't wait to enjoy the view
And see how all the pieces fit

One day I'll stand before You
And look back on the life I've lived
Cause You're already there
You're already there
When I'm lost in the mystery
To You my future is a memory
Cause You're already there
You're already there
Standing at the end of my life
Waiting on the other side
And You're already there
You're already there

You are already there

So where was God at yesterday's finish line? How can something so tragic happen in His grand plan? Although I don't know the answer to this question, I do know with certainty that this tragedy was not from Him but from the antithesis of His love, and I can most assuredly say that God was at that finish line. He could be seen in the first responders, the policemen, firemen, and military presence that were on hand for the event. The many marathon volunteers and even everyday citizens who came out to support the runners on this Patriot's Day in Boston. He was heard in the voices of the news media who reported the event, sharing their grief for the tragedy and in the posts from friends on FB and other social media sites as they shared their outrage over this evil crime. He was there showing that His loving presence overpowers an evil that can only come from the enemy and that He is our strength in times of trouble. Over the last 17 hours I have heard many talk about finding and seeing the helpers in this tragedy. He was the face of these helpers, their strength found through His Helper that he sent to empower us as Jesus rose to be with Him in heaven. His is their loving and helping hand that desires to save humanity from itself. And thankfully the number of helpers far outweigh the enemy.

So I will choose to walk by faith, even when I cannot see or understand or make sense of this senseless world. I will walk by faith and accept His comfort and love knowing that our struggles will eventually end in a victory called Christian HOPE. A life of eternal praise and worship for a God that sustains us through our trials, and who is a living presence in our lives, comforting us in our grief, leading and inspiring us to help our fellow man in Christian love.

I will walk by faith, and not fear, knowing that God is with us every step of the way.

My prayers are with every person affected by this senseless tragedy and for our nation as we continue to face evil in this world. May each one of us feel God's love, healing and strength.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Way to Go SA!

This past school year has been a special one for our daughter Sara Ashley, who we lovingly call "SA". Last fall she was given the opportunity to write an essay telling about why her school was the best school for her. This was part of a contest sponsored by the Center for an Educated Georgia, an organization promoting school choice.

Sara Ashley wrote the essay last May. She dictated the words to me and I typed it up and submitted it. I honestly thought little about it until July 1st (the deadline of announcing the winner) came and went. "Oh well," I thought. "Guess she didn't win." But just as our hopes were dashed, we received a phone call on July 9th with the good news. She was the state winner for her age group! Wow! What an honor for Sara Ashley and what an honor for her school, The Bedford School, where Sara Ashley attends.

As I have said before, this school is one of the biggest blessings in our lives. And as you will read below, she feels the same way. The administration, the teachers and the student body have definitely been some of those unexpected gifts that we never counted on finding through this experience. I can truly say that we are all better people for what we are encountering there. They have nurtured and instructed Sara Ashley in ways that are allowing her to reach her full potential and we are so very grateful.

I thought you all might enjoy reading Sara Ashley's winning essay so I have posted it below. I'm a proud mama! :)You can also count on reading more about Sara Ashley and our family's story in the upcoming book, "Unexpected Gifts, God's Blessings for and through Children Facing Life Challenges."

Blessings for a great week!!

Why My School is the Best Choice for Me
By: Sara Ashley Estes, Fifth Grader at The Bedford School, Fairburn, GA

My school is the best school for me because it helps me learn my best. I have adhd and dyslexia. I was diagnosed when I was in kindergarten and I began attending my school, The Bedford School, the summer after kindergarten at their camp called Squirrel Hollow.

The first time I went to Squirrel Hollow I was very nervous. I had trouble learning at my other school because I didn’t understand the instructions. When I got to Squirrel Hollow and met my teachers they made me feel comfortable and they taught me in different ways so that I could understand.

I started First Grade at The Bedford School with three other students in my class. If I did not understand something my teachers would explain it in many different ways until I got it. For example, if I didn’t understand a math problem they would tell me, just use your fingers or the number line in the classroom. They would sit next to me and help me count. And when I got it, I smiled and so did the teacher. I went from being able to count to only 10 to 100 within two weeks!!

In reading, I started out knowing less than ten words and could only write one sentence which was, “I like to play!” Now I write B5S (Basic five sentences) and 328 (3 subjects, 2 sentences for each subject, 8 sentences in all) paragraphs and read chapter books. I have read over 3 chapter books this school year. While I still struggle to read, I am in a smaller reading class so that the teacher can work closer with me on my reading skills. I am on grade level with my reading! I am so proud of how far I have gotten!
We also use the computer to help us with our learning. When we finish our assignment we are allowed to play a computer game as a reward. This game also helps us with our learning. Or we can watch Brain Pop which is a video that will help you learn about different subjects. These are fun activities that help me remember my lessons like multiplication, pronouns and Pi.

I am now going into the Fifth Grade at The Bedford School and I am all the way up to Geometry in Math. I have gone through an amazing life at my school. My school makes me feel at home. All the kids are included in games and in group activities. This year I participated in Intramural Basketball where we won a trophy in a tournament against other schools. It is on display at our school. I feel proud when I see it! I was also in the school play, “Les Miserable” and my picture was in the newspaper. I made a 3.6 grade point average for the year and received a Citizenship Award.

The Bedford School is the best school I could ever ask for!             

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Paying it Forward

Throughout our journey with Sara Ashley and her life challenges we have learned a pretty good bit about what is involved in making sure she gets what she needs to help her maximize her potential. Sometimes it has been through trial and error and sometimes through thorough research. It has also always been through prayer. Needless to say, we've learned a lot! And I am always thankful for those who have shared their knowledge with us to help us through. 

As I have begun sharing our experiences, I often get phone calls, emails and messages from other parents and friends detailing a situation with their own child and asking me for my advice. First, let me say that it is an honor and joy for me to be able to share with them and to listen to their story. You see, I love it when God connects people. And though I may not always have an answer, I believe a listening ear goes a long, long way. I have certainly been blessed by others who have listened to me in my times of worry and fear. Secondly, it gives me an opportunity to share my faith and how I see that God blesses us with our children. Despite, and through, the life challenges that are present, God blesses.

I also believe that it is my responsibility as a Christian to be there for others in their times of trouble.
Scripture tells us that God uses our trials to help us comfort others. This gives me such purpose and peace.

2 Corinthians 1:4 New Living Translation
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

What a wonderful blessing He has shared with us through this scripture! When we go to God with our troubles, He comforts us. Through this comfort that we receive from Him, we are then able to comfort others when they are troubled.
The modern day concept of "Pay it forward" is actually over 2000 years old! And people say the Bible is dead?!? 

So what does this mean for us on a daily basis? First, it means that we MUST GO TO GOD WITH OUR TROUBLES! How can we expect His comfort, if we are not conversing and spending time with Him? Yes, he knows all of our trials, even when we don't take them to Him; but if we aren't willing to pray, listen and spend time with Him, how can He comfort us? If we are too busy running around trying to solve everything ourselves (been there, done that!) or if we are too afraid to even acknowledge the problem (ignorance is bliss??), we WILL miss His comforting. And what a shame that would be! This comforting can come in many forms- other people, circumstances, a beautiful sunrise, a special song, or simply a whisper from Him. No matter the form, we will be blessed if we go to Him with our troubles.

Second, God does not want for us to go it alone in our trials. He did not make us to be loners, completely self-sufficient and without need for Him or others (Hebrews 10:24-25). He wants for us to bring our troubles to Him. He also wants for us to support each other, as a body of believers, providing comfort and love.

Throughout life, the lessons that I continue to learn include more of these unexpected gifts of His love.  I receive them through my experiences with my special child, actually through both of my children, and also through challenges that I face in other circumstances. Though the trials may be heartbreaking at times and the answers and reasons unknown, I will continue to take my problems to God. And His word promises me that my surrender will not come back void. I will receive His comfort, allowing Him to show me His blessings through the pain and the joy. And then it will be my turn to comfort others through His love. What a blessing indeed!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Jehovah Rapha~ the Lord our Healer

Life is not predictable. Especially yesterday. And I'm glad for it because I would not want another day like yesterday any time soon again.

Yesterday I learned that a precious friend has been diagnosed with cancer. This Godly woman, not yet 30 years old, with two sweet girls under the age of 6 and an adoring husband, has a fight in front of her. And she has so much to live for and so many praying for her and pulling for her!

Most of my day was spent in utter disbelief. How could this happen to such a young, strong, Christian woman? A woman who is devoting her life to God and to teaching children about His love. My mind is screaming with outrage as I try to process this information that is completely UN-processable.

And like the tides of the ocean, just as I think I've reached a place of calm, another wave knocks me down again. Each wave that lead to yesterday's storm a piece of the puzzle becoming as clear as the deep blue sea- the months of illness, the indomitable and joyful spirit that she showed as she pushed her way through planning a recent family wedding despite her pain, the striving to fulfill the duties of a new and demanding job taking her home late many evenings, the sheer exhaustion setting in...and now, this sickness, trying to take over her family, her life...I'm knocked down again. Wounds stinging with the salt and sand of each unrelenting wave.

God's love for her is a comfort to me.
Her love for Him is a comfort to me.
Her steadfast faith for His steadfast love.
He is Reliable.
A Strength in times of trouble.
The One who is always the same.
The waves may toss us, but He is and always will be the great I AM.
Jehova Rapha~ the Lord our Healer.

Psalm 46:1-6

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.[c]

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields[d] with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Dear friend, we are all praying for you. I love you!
May God continue to hold you in the palm of His hand. And may you feel His overwhelming and comforting love for you through a peace only He can bring.

"Don't fear, because I am with you; don't be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will surely help you; I will hold you with my righteous strong hand."
Isaiah 41:10

Monday, April 8, 2013


I am not a morning person. No, REALLY, I'm not (ask my husband!). So one morning a couple of weeks ago, when the cat came traipsing over me with her plaintive "meow" 45 minutes before my alarm was supposed to go off, I was irritated. Angel had not gotten the memo. See, Sara Ashley had been sick the day before and I knew she wasn't going to school that morning so I (gleefully) set my alarm clock for 45 minutes later than I usually get up. But, obviously, I forgot to tell the cat.
As I laid there trying to get in the extra sleep time, Angel continued her march, back and forth over me and my husband, meowing and crying for her breakfast along the way. And I was really, really starting to get mad when I remembered this cartoon:

Instead of getting mad, I began to smile, the corners of my mouth turning up instinctively. And as the mind often does, my thoughts began to wander from one thing to the next when I realized, with awe, that God had given my cat Angel an internal time clock that was better than my digital one. "Wake up!" She cried. "I'm hungry!" So I swung my legs over the side of the bed, grinned and started my day.

Life continually gives us these jarring "wake up" moments. And like my situation that morning, it is up to us to choose how we will react to them. We can choose anger. We can choose grief and fear. We can get lost in these choices and walk around bitter and mad. While it is not wrong to have these emotions, to be consumed with them is also not the way to live our lives. When we are suffering with the weight of life, taking these emotions to God can help us find His comfort and love. This comforting can come through our circumstances or it can come in spite of our circumstances. However we find it, we are blessed by Him.

Taking our pain to God for His love and comfort allows us to reach a level of perspective that we never would have found without Him. This changed perspective has become very clear to me through my continuing journey of life with kids who experience life challenges. God has blessed me by connecting me with some incredible people. One of them is a lady who has a beautiful gift with words. Her name is Karen and her daughter is eight years old and has autism. I haven't had the pleasure of meeting Karen in person yet, but I feel like I know her heart from what she has shared with me on her blog, Please take a moment and visit it when you can.

Karen has given me permission to share one of her poems on this blog. It is called Perspective and it reminds us of God's love and promises for us in our circumstances through His Word. He is present in our trials and our triumphs. He is our comforter and our strength. I know that this poem will resonate with all of you.

Perhaps what you read will capture the way you have been feeling too. Please feel free to share your thoughts. I'd love to hear about how you express yourself when faced with trials. We all have them! Or maybe you have a blessing or thought you want to share, something God has placed on your heart.

I continue to thank God for placing me on this journey. Through these last few weeks I have found such peace and happiness in knowing that there are parents out there who, despite the REAL pain and grief of their circumstances, can truly see His blessings moving in their lives. That these parents want to share, support and encourage one another is a gift from Him.

Karen's poem:


I wrote this as a response to this mornings meltdown before school...

autism makes me cry.
The Lord remembers my tears and comforts me.

autism brings a communication barrier to relationship.
The Father shed His own Son's blood so we might have no barrier to relationship with Him.

autism brings language misunderstandings.
The Lord's words bring wisdom, understanding, and clarity.

autism is a challenge within our family.
The Lord uses it to refine our love for one another.

autism wants relationship based on self.
The Lord wants relationship based on His words.

autism is present in our family for a reason.
Only the Lord knows the reasons for allowing a family to struggle. His ways are higher.

autism seems to overshadow so many areas in my life.
The Lord is sovereign over every detail in the universe.

autism is oblivious to social language opinions.
The Lord uses this for uninhibited belief and worship.

autism is not evidence of an imperfectly made person, rather,
the Lord convicts an imperfect person's heart of a sinful response to it. 

autism can make ordinary moments of perfect connection rare, but so joyous!
How much more does the Lord desire to perfectly connect with his own children through His word?

autism amazes me with it's effect on our lives.
The Love that comes from the Jesus Christ affects us indescribably more.

autism still makes me cry.
The Lord keeps on remembering my tears... and comforts me.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bedford's March Dinner & Auction- A Life Changing Experience!

Recently, I had the honor of once again attending The Bedford School March Dinner and Auction. This inspiring evening is held annually at our daughter's school for children with learning differences. It was our fifth year attending and, as always, I was not disappointed.
The theme for this year's event was "Bedford... A Lifechanging Experience."
True to the theme, this school is a life-changing experience for so many kids. These kids come in after struggling in mainstream school environments and they are transformed. Through the instruction, nurturing and teaching of organizational and academic skills the school turns out students who are confident, prepared and academically ready to go back into a mainstream environment. Honestly, I don't know what we would have done without this school. Sara Ashley has been there since the first grade and is now in the fifth. When she started at the school she had just failed to meet the requirements necessary to matriculate from kindergarten to first grade. This despite the fact that she had been in some type of academic environment from the age of three and despite the fact that she had an IEP for kindergarten and received speech services for her expressive language disability during school and after school through a tutor. Rob and I were at our wit's ends trying to figure out how to teach Sara Ashley. This school provided the answers. I consider it a TREMENDOUS unexpected gift from God.

Each year the evening starts with a silent auction. The halls are lined with donated items and opportunities for people to mingle and give their highest bids.


As the bidding ends everyone moves into the gymnasium which has been transformed into a twinkling wonderland. This year I had the honor of designing the table decor. In keeping with the "life changing" theme, I chose to use butterflies as the central decoration. On paper lanterns, we glued hundreds of patterned butterflies. These lanterns were illuminated and placed on each table, surrounded by scrabble chips and votives. It took many, many hands to make these centerpieces and I am grateful for the way it turned out. It was beautiful!
A special thanks to Kim Burgess, who coordinated the entire event from the decor and auction items to the delicious dinner provided by Contemporary Catering



My favorite part of this evening is hearing the student testimonial. Each year a former student shares his or her life experiences and how Bedford has played a part in their success. This year Bradley Eisenberg was the alumni speaker.


I was overjoyed to hear of Bradley's successes since leaving the school. Despite his profound learning differences, Bradley is a college graduate and is now doing an internship with Disney. He has also been chosen by Disney as an intern representative for others hoping to enter their program. After his internship with Disney is completed, he hopes to be offered a full time job with the company. He has also returned to work at Bedford's summer camp, Squirrel Hollow, for the last few years serving as PE instructor.

When kids go to Bedford, their experiences there are usually so profound and nurturing that they never truly leave the school. It is not unusual for me to hear that one of Sara Ashley's teachers is a former student of the school or that an alum has come to visit for the day and share their successes with their former teachers and the current students.

Bradley credits Bedford, which he attended from first through eighth grade, for preparing him to make the strides he has been able to attain. He also thanks his parents for their intuitiveness in recognizing his challenges and making the necessary arrangements to help him. It was a joy to see Bradley speak so highly of the school and his teachers and I felt a certain peace in knowing that our daughter was following in his footsteps.

Another special part of the evening was my opportunity to give the "Make Things Happen" speech. This speech is given in order to raise money for Bedford's Scholarship program.


It's no secret that private school is expensive. But when you have a child who is challenged by learning differences, private school is sometimes the best opportunity to give them the tools they need to succeed. The speech I gave outlined our experiences with our daughter, Sara Ashley, and urged parents and guests of the dinner to contribute to Bedford's scholarship fund. I feel strongly that it's important to give so that those who could not otherwise afford the school can also receive this life-changing opportunity. This school has helped our daughter so very much, I was honored to help in this way.


Rob and I also took this chance to surprise Dr. Box, the founder and director of the school, with a special gift ~a flag flown over the Georgia State Capitol in honor of The Bedford School. This special momento and certificate were given to us by our friend and neighbor, State Representative Lynn Smith, when we attended and spoke at the Georgia School Choice Rally in January of this year. 


Dr. Box is a true visionary. A dyslexic learner herself, she founded the school in 1985 after teaching under Dr. Charles Shedd and then pioneering a special education program at Woodward Academy where she taught for fourteen years. The opening of The Bedford School was the culmination of her life-long dream to help other students overcome the issues that she shares. My heart is continuously thankful for the opportunities and direction Dr. Box has provided to my child and other children with learning difference. She and her school are a tremendous blessing!

The mission of The Bedford School is to maximize the potential of students with learning differences and develop foundations for success.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Break My Heart

There is a contemporary Christian song out now that strongly resonates with me. Hearing it causes my throat to catch and my eyes to well with tears. Music has always had a way of doing that to me. And it's because God wants me that way, so that He can humble me, use me, teach me, mold me.
The line that gets me every time is, "Break my heart for what breaks Yours." If you haven't heard it, take a listen.

Casting Crowns, "Jesus Friend of Sinners"

As I was researching this song so I could write about it for this post, I found a video by lead singer Mark Hall. In it he explains his meaning behind the lyrics. The words he spoke literally blew me away as I realized how God had used the Holy Spirit to lead me to it. Please listen...

Really??? I didn't know. But God did! Spiritual gifts of adhd and dyslexia!?!? In the past I would have thought this coincidence. But not today. These kind of things keep happening to me and I can't possibly keep thinking it's all just a stroke of luck or happenstance. He is continually sending me where I need to go these days. And this leaves me in awe.

Hearing Mark's story of how God loves and uses him despite  and through the world's view of his perceived imperfections of adhd and dyslexia, of how He can take what the world considers foolish to shame the wise, and of how He chooses the weak things of the world to shame the strong, brought a resounding "YES!!" to my heart; a heart that often breaks for the children who embody these perceived "imperfections."

God's glory is ever present through our "weakness", using it to show the world that His unexpected gifts and blessings abound.

Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are weak to shame those who are strong.
1 Corinthians 1:27