Taking kids to church is hard.
Taking a sensory-sensitive kid to church is no exception. The music and echoes are just so overwhelming. Not to mention the big statues and crowd of people. We had tried the family room -- the speaker was louder than the main area! It was crowded and messy and not comfortable. So we resigned ourselves to limiting his attendance to the main holidays when we HAD to go as a family, but hubby had to go out with him almost right away. We were anxious parents. No one wants to make a scene in church. It was just a hard situation.
I confess-- it was a battle I had stopped fighting. For the sake of our family sanity, I have been just going by myself. It was just less stressful that way. I need church to fill me up for the week and a whole ordeal with an overwhelmed child was not cup-filling. I just tried to bring enough grace home each week for the whole family.
A visiting family member recently asked why I don't take him with me. "It's complicated," I said.
But I know that was a prompting. I had even recently given encouragement to another person in a similar situation about bringing their special-needs child to church. It is funny how sometimes we resist taking our own advice even if we hand it out so easily.
I used to go to church and sit with my Grandma. Some of the most tender memories I have of my grandma were from sitting next to her holding her hand in church. She'd give me a piece of candy -- Werther's -- during the sermon which I thought was so special, but realize now was so I would stay quiet, lol. At this past Sunday's mass I witnessed a young girl and her Grandma and memories came flooding back to me. The closing hymn was also her favorite hymn. Another prompting.
Last night there was an evening healing mass and I am so in awe of that and I wanted to be there. It was at a time of day where I wouldn't easily be able to do a handoff to hubby to watch my son and I felt called to try anyway.
He did so great being quiet. Since it was the "daily mass" format, there was no singing and he commented that he was okay with it because there was no singing. When the priest sang the Alleluia he said "when will he be done singing?" lol. He had an iPad and sat on my lap and kept himself as calm as he could which I know was a gift from God. He was starting to get restless after the homily and I said "this is the important part coming up: when they turn that bread and wine into Jesus" You guys! You should have seen the wonder in his eyes. He sure did pay attention. And when they rang the bells I told him, "It's becoming Jesus." He focused right in on that trying to get that wonderful mystery figured out, along with the rest of us. ❤️
He started getting wiggly; there's a lot of up and down and crowd responses during this point in the Mass. Then we started the Lord's prayer and I just watched this peace come over him as he began to recognize the familiar words and he beamed as he told me "Mama this is OUR prayer!"
We were probably disruptive with our whispering and his game music (which we negotiated to keep at level 1 so he could still hear it). He didn't sit perfectly and politely next to me and rise and fall with the motions of the crowd the way I see other 5 year-olds do in Sunday Mass. It was not perfect from the outside, but to me, it was perfect. He received the wonder and grace and joy of the presence of the Eucharist--probably to a greater extent that night than most of the parishioners who habitually do the motions. He gained confidence in his ability to handle an unfamiliar and uncomfortable situation. And so did I.
Not sure if you're the same as me but I get caught thinking it has to be a certain way. That people think something about me. That if I can't do it the RIGHT WAY, then I should be ashamed, or that I shouldn't try because we don't fit.
But the truth is, Jesus is for everyone. I know this but sometimes I get tricked into not believing that to be true for my circumstances. The readings yesterday and today happen to be about children, the faith of a child. Of course they were! Because Jesus wanted us there! He wanted us to receive the gifts that He had waiting for us last night.
There is no shame in bringing children to church. It is hard, no matter what, but it is so good. It is so important. I have a renewed courage to make this a priority. It's definitely not Jesus who makes us feel shame or embarrassment or fear about our children's behavior in church-- it is the enemy. Even though I know the scriptures and know that we will receive grace, it can just feel so heavy and hard to fight that spiritual battle. But He makes a way for us if we seek it. I am so grateful that way was made for us last night and that I could tell you about it so that I may encourage others of you who can identify with this. Tuesday night mass might just be our new routine. See you there?
The listening program is going well! Already seeing some exciting results. I’m journaling the process and promise a full report later on my blog for those of you that care!
But for now I’ll just say:
1) I’m so glad we are doing this as a family 💕
2) Even just at day 1 I could feel the changes happening physically to myself and catch myself actually making eye contact with people in situations where I never have in the past. 🙌 We are seeing that with M too along with more confident conversations with neighbors and friends! I am soo enjoying what it is doing for me too. It’s so nice to know what he is experiencing too so I can support him fully as we go through it together. So much of what causes healing is love and connection and this process has been so full of that so far.
3) We have a few days left of the first protocol. Today is supposed to be our “tired day” and so far that is on point. So glad I have all my arsenal to support us. I’ve been using a lot of things from my bag of tricks to help reinforce the changes happening and help our bodies and brains do the hard work of transformation. Deep Relief this morning, chugging Ningxia, Omegagize, Sulfurzyme, and so many oils to support brain and nervous system, I’ll make a longer post about the oils but I’ll just say now that I hadn’t used more than 10 drops of this full bottle of Clarity that I got free last summer and it’s only day 3 and we are flying through it, my body is just cravvving that and it is pouring out of the bottle.
Soo glad we are doing this. ✨
PS - Since I've gotten some inquiries -- we are doing the integrated Listenjng Systems (now Unyte) Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) & Focus Home Programs with Brain Harmony.
This post contains an affiliate link to Brain Harmony, whom we chose as the home provider for the listening system. We have been loving working with Brain Harmony, and this home program is such a great fit for us. They are the largest provider of home program ILS systems in the country and I feel very secure in knowing that they have expertise in this, much more than the original provider who initially exposed us to the ILS systems.
it is a delicate dance with this boy. mustering courage to lead him where i am not confident myself, but also listening for him to lead me too; to show me what is too far, what is too much, and then taking the feedback and attempting to strike a compromise between fear and growth, not heeding too much of one or the other. in other ways he is racing ahead and i feel i am not enough to keep up with his interests and energy and high level of need. this is the daily push and pull and nuance with which our gifts beseech us. it is literally as if a new person is being birthed in me and i continue to labor - the expansion ever occurring in fits and starts over and over again.
it's a challenge to feel understood. he feel things more intensely than it seems others do, and in this rebirth, i am (re)discovering and learning to accept my sensitivities and the impact that his have on me as well, whether it is by empathetic exchange or epigenetics or just an awakening to something that has always been, it is real to me now as it is for him. regular activities need a great deal of planning, energy, and modulation. transitions are ripe with anxiety of anticipating and planning the next scene as i work to reassure him and answer for myself: do i know what to expect? have i been through this before? will the stimuli be too overwhelming? will i have a safe place? what will i do if it gets too hard? will i be accepted? will anyone understand me? why is this so hard for me? on the converse his passion and focus are unparalleled. he is an excellent communicator and he is exploring topics well above age-level.
in this journey i am being refined. i am being called to examine how outside opinions or perceptions affect my behavior and the choices i make. i am being challenged to be an advocate for myself and my family. to stand tall in my own circumstances and not look side to side. i must determine what we need and take action. make sacrifices. be courageous. no one else can do this for me. these are my lifelong weaknesses that are now in the spotlight. those are the things that my motherhood brings.
i find myself wishing for easier circumstances and envious of an alternate reality; feeling 'not enough' for this one. but that's not really the truth. of course there is no mistake in the way things are and we are given what we are given for a perfect purpose. i am blessed with this reality and just like labor, i shall ride the waves of expansion (contractions) and wait for a moment of rest before the next wave. in my "mindful birthing" training i was reminded that each moment in itself is tolerable, it is only overwhelming or scary or painful when we look too broadly. therefore, i shall follow each breath and call upon the spirit for guidance in each moment. and look back over the growth that we all are going through as the clock ticks by.
I am the mom of a Gifted 4 year old with Sensory Processing Disorder. we've known since birth that there was something special about him but it's been a journey of understanding and acceptance and navigating a challenging system where it's hard to get answers, hard to be believed, and hard to find support, and our life is unfolding with lots of grace from God as we are led just where we need to be, step by step. we don't have it all figured out and we don't need to but we are doing our best, and let that be enough.
Resources and more info:
Warning: Parenting a Gifted Child May Be Hazardous to your (Mental) Health Grayson School
It’s not just in your head: Self-care for moms of gifted children Not So Formulaic
I had a 15-month-old, I had just started a job and my mother-in-law was staying with us to help with childcare because I was starting the job. I know now that the job was a blessing for that season because it gave me time to rest, it brought my MIL here help to us, and it gave me as purpose while I was struggling.
I had been in denial about how bad it was. I spent months in pain, not going to a GI which I was referred. Meanwhile I was losing weight, spending most days in bed, and was becoming more and more unwell emotionally and physically.
I finally got myself to the GI. He was very arrogant and quick with me and walked out the door while I was still talking to him. He was disrespectful about the fact that I was breastfeeding. It was going to be a month wait for an endoscopy/colonoscopy and I muttered a curse word under my breath because I didn’t think I could make it much longer without some help. The receptionist scolded me but gave me an earlier appointment.
I was so weak at that point. I was so scared. After the scope the doctor quickly and curtly delivered the news that I had Crohn’s, prescribed a bunch of steroids and sent me home with a pack of papers. As I was processing it and crying, and angel of a nurse spoke some kind hopeful words. Ones that I could barely hold on to, but they were a tiny beacon of light among all of the other scary things swirling around.
The steroids worked and helped take the pain away and helped bring my appetite back. I could pretend that I wasn’t so sick, but I wasn’t really able to process anything. All I knew was that I didn’t trust that doctor because he didn’t respect me.
I had continued breastfeeding my son through all of this, 15 pounds down from my regular weight, probably a drop of 25 pounds from a year prior. I clung to nursing because I had had to relinquish so much of the parenting and home-making and mothering to my MIL, which was heartbreaking. My son at this point was learning to talk and he was speaking exclusively Hakka because he spent all his time with his grandma. I know it was an absolute blessing that she was here, but it was so humbling to have to let go of so much control and to not be able to be present for my son and my husband because I spent so much time in bed in pain.
Breastfeeding was a major point of contention with my GI (and so many others). People were so inconvenienced by the fact that I was continuing to breastfeed, and I was incredibly defensive and combative about it. I did not want to give that up because it was all I had left, I felt. It was something I could provide my son that no one else could and I desperately needed that. And I believe my son did too.
Finally, he referred me to the Crohn’s and Colitis GI Center at University of Miami, saying that they could advise me on what treatment I could undergo while continuing to nurse. I am proud of myself for standing firm on this. There is such a lack of education and awareness in the medical community about breastfeeding safety and they are all prone to advise and even bully into weaning even when it’s not necessary because it is in the institution’s best interest, not the mother’s/baby’s.
My new GI was a good match. He was kind and patient and understanding. I needed a gentle voice. I felt so broken and scared and in denial. I was very intimidated by the treatment options. I had my guards up. It was easier to continue to suffer than to jump into the unknown of the scary injections, infusions, anti-tumor-necrosis-factor biologic and chemotherapy drugs. He listened and helped me begin to accept my disease.
I underwent 3 iron infusions, 4 months of biologic injections, daily steroids, and ongoing chemotherapy drug use as well as 2 MRIs, 2 X-Rays, and 2 more endoscopies and colonoscopies. Every time I would taper off the steroids, the pain would come back. After a year since the initial diagnosis we determined that there was a portion of my bowel that was too diseased to heal and it needed to be removed.
I was referred to surgery and the peace finally came over me. I had felt so tossed about by the sea of this disease. While I was suffering I felt so desperate for God, calling out to him, knowing he was present but not being able to feel much of his presence. I know he was with me and was provisioning for me during this time. I know that this suffering was necessary for a greater purpose. I know it was meant to draw me closer to Him. I was being conditioned to let others help me. I was being conditioned to trust in other people. I was being conditioned to let go of control. I was learning what it is like to suffer so that I have compassion on those who are suffering. I was learning how to sacrifice. I was learning how to advocate for myself.
I am still learning these things.
I was 29 and frustrated with an employment situation that just wouldn’t budge. I was feeling so much urgency for ‘more,’ and I was going at full-speed trying to get something to change but just banging up against walls in all directions. I wanted control. I was frustrated. An ember inside of me was glowing -- I was meant for more, but I wasn’t able to grasp it! I felt called to join the catholic church nearby and had taken steps to start the RCIA program. In a message on a particularly frustrated Sunday the priest mentioned that when you are feeling really agitated or unsettled, explore the things that are getting you out of sorts. God is trying to speak to you. So one day not too far after, in a desperate prayer I was pouring this frustration out to God (you know you can be angry with God? It’s actually very productive!). I asked God— “I have so much to offer, I want to be set free from this box I am in. What do you want me to do? What can I do?” You know what his answer was? Baby.
I had been kicking that can down the road. I wanted a little more career growth first. I wanted ‘more’ before I “settled” for being a mom. Oh boy. (I know now it’s the opposite of settling!) I’m not even sure that I fully said yes to God in that conversation. But you know what happened? I got a new job and got pregnant 2 weeks later. Neither were in my view during that frustrated prayer.
I was really happy about the job change. It satisfied me. God threw me a bone with that while I adjusted to the idea of being a mom. I had always wanted children but I needed some time to process! But, I enjoyed my pregnancy and was surrounded by so many loving positive people and it was a really fun experience. I was also going through RCIA during my pregnancy. I felt really cradled and cared for in those 9 months.
Another thing I didn’t see coming. My husband got a job offer out of the blue (at least from my perspective!) in Florida. When I was 36 weeks pregnant. It happened really fast. We had been talking for years about wanting to live elsewhere, wanting to change scenery. We had met while traveling and I hoped we could continue to explore new frontiers together. The dream was in our hearts, but I wouldn’t say this was a dream I was urgent about! But it found us! I talk a lot about “following The Peace”: In many of the Big Changes in my life, God has provided a sense of peace surrounding me. The transitions in my life in which I didn’t feel the peace, I always determined later that it wasn’t where I was being led. So, when this opportunity was unfolding, I felt such strong peace that I couldn’t help but go along with it!
It was a Friday afternoon. I was 38 weeks pregnant. We had just given notice at our jobs. I had just packed my desk because my husband was picking me up for a Friday night dinner and movie rental (I usually rode the bus). As soon as that box was packed, my first contraction started. I had no idea at the time what it was. We had our dinner, it started to dawn on me that I was in early labor. We headed home and watched a movie. And we also had received Happiest Baby on the Block in the mail from M’s Godfather and we watched that which was a wonderful preparation for what was ahead of us. I had M at noon the next day.
We moved when M was 6 weeks old. In all of that transition and the early newborn days and the months of getting settled, The Peace was wrapping warmly around me.
In those first months living here I would rock my baby on a balcony and sing him songs and pray. I was close to God. God told me over and over, I have brought you to Florida for a purpose. I didn’t know what it was but I felt it.
Somewhere along the way, things got hard and the peace lifted and was replaced by fear. I was overwhelmed, I was overextended, I wasn’t helping myself. I was trying to do everything myself. To be a competent daughter-in-law, mother, friend, and not let any weakness or any fault be shown. I wanted to make sure no one thought I couldn’t do it all by myself. Probably because I knew I couldn’t. I felt if I was just better at this or that everything would be good. I was wearing the weight of the world.
I became sick. First it was allergies, then it was digestive. We were also searching for a new home and my baby and my anxiety were growing, and I started to feel alone, isolated, without help, without support. I started to drown.
God doesn’t promise that things don’t get hard. Being close to God doesn’t make you bulletproof from hard things or bad things. Life is full of them. We are not perfect.
After about 6 months of pain and denial, I finally got myself to a GI and was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
Stay tuned for part 2 of the story to come soon!
I'm Lisa Yau, thanks for stopping by!