10.30.2012

Encouraged...

We had an amazing experience this weekend.
Amazing.
On Saturday morning, my mom called to tell me she had done something a little boldly - though not at all out of character.
If you know my mom (Lovie), you won't be surprised in the least.
When one of her kids (or grandkids) is hurting, Lovie will do anything she can to make it better.
We've had some hurt around here - stress of upcoming surgeries and dealing with kids staring and questioning and a five year old who struggles to accept that he is different and great just how he is lately.  

Upon opening their paper, they learned of a man coming to our town to speak and perform with his band at our local Salvation Army.
The man, Jon Sheptock, has a prison ministry as well as a band and travels all over the USA performing.
He also happens to have been born without arms and with a shortened leg.
My mom used her available resources and called Jon.  At home.
She left a message explaining that we have a little boy with limb differences and we would so love to meet him if at all possible while he was in town.

While she was at it, she called the Salvation Army Major and left him a similar message explaining our unique circumstances.  

When the Major called my mom back, he said that he thought they were bringing Jon here to reach some of the people the Salvation Army serves.  He went on to say that just maybe, they were bringing Jon here to meet Will.
(I love how open he was to God's orchestrating of events.)
(More to come on how we are getting involved with the Salvation Army - it was all Will's idea!)

Jon called my mom back almost immediately.  He told her he would have given anything to have another man with limb differences in his childhood to help encourage and mentor him.  He then agreed to make sure a meeting could happen.

So yesterday after church, we headed to my parents' and Jon along with some of his friends joined us for lunch.  

Though Jon's differences are different from Will's, they each have limb differences affecting most or all of their limbs and therefore different ways of functioning and managing basic daily tasks.
Both make their adaptive methods appear simple and fluid and organic.  Both have mastered their own techniques so much so that one hardly notices they are doing it differently.

Will uses both wrists to hold a spoon or fork and he manages to somehow twist the utensil in mid air to get it aimed the correct direction.

Jon uses his left foot.  It was such a natural thing for him that it wasn't until later that I realized he was eating stew and salad with his toes holding a utensil.  It was incredible yet completely normal.

Poor guy could hardly get a bite in - I had lots of questions (lots and lots) about how to encourage our son and help him through these difficult transition times.  Will had questions too.  

At one point early in the meal, Will asked if he could sing.  Will proceeded to sing four songs - all Thanksgiving related.  He was so at ease with Jon!

 Then the day got even better!
Jon and his friends were able to hang out all afternoon!  
He played with Will -pushing him on the swing.

He chased Will.  
(Will laughed nonstop.)
Jon has three little girls, including a 5 year old, so chasing a kid was right up his alley.


 Jon coaches soccer and he and Will played some hard core soccer.
Will kept changing the rules - kind of a problem.




Ellie watching the boys & practicing her walking:
(Jon scooted too until age 4 when he took his first steps!)





Sometimes, Will seems to carry a sense of loneliness.  He has remarked recently that no one else in our family looks like him.
He has noticed that no one else in our city has hand and feet differences like him.
He has noticed that even at hand camp, he was the only one there that had feet differences in addition to bilateral hand differences.  He is the only one at his school with limb differences and he has noticed this.
At this point in his life, it's hard to always stand out.  He struggles with always being different.

Once a month, we skype with a man far away who has reached out to Will & invested time in his life.  Once a month, I see Will's face light up as he high fives the computer screen to a man whose hand looks just like Will's.  They high five a lot and it is awesome. Will can ask him questions and he gets Will in a way I can't sometimes.
It's been a huge blessing in Will's life.  It's been an incredible blessing in all of our lives, really.

I saw Will's face light up this weekend.  I saw him spend time with someone who knows what it is like to be teased for looking different.  I saw him spend time and open up to a man who gets it.  And I watched as this man encouraged my son.  I watched as he suggested that sometime we get together - that Will could be friends with his daughters.  Will asked him to move here and also if he could take Jon to West Texas to meet the other side of his family.  He also asked if they could skype sometimes.  I loved Will's boldness - he knows he needs guys in his life he can ask questions of - practical how to questions and spiritual questions and just life questions.

R and I were so appreciative of the time Jon spent hanging out with Will.  
After lunch and playing outside, we put Will down for a short nap.  He was wiped out!
When he woke up, he asked Jon to play some more soccer!
Then, Jon graciously agreed to head down the street with us for an annual neighborhood pumpkin carving party.  It was so fun to introduce him to many of our friends.  

Eventually, Jon had to head up to prepare with his band for their evening show.  Will, R, & I were able to go watch.  Will wanted to sit on the front row and was worried that Jon might not see him.  He kept asking if he could yell to him.
Will worshipped God - waving his hands in the air and even dancing to some of the fun music!
Towards the end of the show, Jon nodded at Will and Will raced to sit by him during the guitar solo.  I think Will felt like a superstar.


When the show was over, Jon signed a cd for Will and Will was just elated.  

He had a hard day at school today - some kids asking him questions about his hands while he was trying to wash them in the bathroom - and I was so thankful for having just met Jon.  I felt encouraged - like I had some fresh ideas of how to help my kiddo.  And I loved that I could reference him to Will and remind him of some of the things Jon told us.  

I told Jon that we were so grateful to have had the opportunity to get to know him.  Spiritually, we are all on the same page as to how we view disability and God's role in that.  We know that Will's character will be greater for having gone through life with differences.  We are confident that God desires good for Will - and that He will use his differences for His glory & Will's good.  We claim Psalm 139 - Will was fearfully and wonderfully made.  Will is not a mistake.  Will was purposefully designed by God and is exactly who he was meant to be.  
I was so thankful to soak up truth from someone who has been there.  I was encouraged that even on the hard, dark days... even during times of intense bullies and awful experiences, Jon grew from those and celebrates who he is.  I felt validated - the staring is always challenging - it's a part of life but it doesn't ever become okay.  He validated my son's feelings of lonliness and the heartache of always being different - of that being what people notice first.  But then he encouraged him in ways I can't even begin to describe.  
Mostly, I just felt so grateful.  Because Jon was able to step in the gap - to meet Will where he is at in a way that R & I can't.
Jon's motto is:  Making Life's Challenges God's Victories.
I love that.

I'm so thankful my mom "stalked" him and that we got the chance to know him this weekend.  I look forward to a long friendship for Jon and Will!

(By the way - his music is great!  You can listen here at www.jonsheptock.com )
(Also - he has a speaking ministry and is involved in prison ministries.  If you are looking for a speaker for your group - go here.)

God has been so good to us.  I need to remember that on my hard days - He is faithful and His mercies are new every morning.
As our hearts have struggled with upcoming surgeries and fear and heartache as our child has hurt, He has continually sent us reminders of His sovereignty.
Coming soon - what came in the mail for Will last week from another child across the country. :)




5 thoughts:

ywilbur said...

Makes me wish I had such a Lovie! Twice now I've chickened out of making contact with another parents. A local girl won a handwriting award (she has no hands) and a boy at soccer is LAE.

I think around 5-6 is a hard year not just with Kindergarten but in that other kids can get to Will alone now (in bathroom or such) and while the questions are often ones he heard before there is no adult close. A typical 1-4 year old will comment no matter what but a lot of 5-7 year olds 'know better' (as in, know or think they will get in trouble if over heard asking) and so these kids 5-7 will never ask in front of you or may not even ask their own parents in private.

The are still young enough to not really understand why Will (or Kharan) are SO different. They are still young enough to not have that filter to be discrete but just old enough to sort of know they shouldn't ask.

At first JK was annoyed then very hurt and angry when he really started to notice it EVERYWHERE. Now at 7 he is more afronted by older kids but really tolerant of 'babies under 4'. He lectures kids 5-9 who question him about 'how rude they are' and scrowls at them. Although, sometimes they still get to him at which point he pouts and sulks.

Hopefully it will get better for Will. Well, the questions, pointing and comments have never stopped for JK but he seems to be less 'depressive' and angry now and more amused by it all.

Mike and Christie said...

That is just awesome!

Laurie said...

Oh my goodness! I didn't see this before I emailed you. That is so wonderful you got to spend time with him - what an inspiring man, and how awesome for Will to have a new friend! In first grade, most kids don't pay much attention to Hayden being "different", but once in a while he comes home saying he passed a kid in the hall or played with another class on the playground and someone made fun of him. This is why I feel like it's so important for them to have friends who are just like them. I want to get the boys together so much now!

Laurie said...

Oh my goodness! I didn't see this before I emailed you. That is so wonderful you got to spend time with him - what an inspiring man, and how awesome for Will to have a new friend! In first grade, most kids don't pay much attention to Hayden being "different", but once in a while he comes home saying he passed a kid in the hall or played with another class on the playground and someone made fun of him. This is why I feel like it's so important for them to have friends who are just like them. I want to get the boys together so much now!

Laurie said...

Oh my goodness! I didn't see this before I emailed you. That is so wonderful you got to spend time with him - what an inspiring man, and how awesome for Will to have a new friend! In first grade, most kids don't pay much attention to Hayden being "different", but once in a while he comes home saying he passed a kid in the hall or played with another class on the playground and someone made fun of him. This is why I feel like it's so important for them to have friends who are just like them. I want to get the boys together so much now!

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