{Celebrating Beautiful} Navigating The Lonely Days Of Special Needs Parenting, by Mike Berry

In blogging for the last 6 years, I’ve written about many different topics, but one theme that has remained constant has been my focus of sharing about how our family is discovering the beauty in difference and choosing to celebrate the incredible beauty all around us, and how we want to encourage others to do the same. After connecting with so many others with truly amazing stories, I started a guest blog series called Celebrating Beautiful, as it relates to beauty however it can be interpreted: parenthood, faith, your kids, an experience, home, and so much more.
I had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know Mike Berry through an author program we both did in 2016. As Mike and his wife Kristin write about fostering and adopting, we have found so much in common, particularly through the struggles and triumphs of our children with special needs. I was excited to get to write an endorsement of Mike’s new book, Confessions of an Adoptive Parent, and I can’t wait to press a copy into the hands of several of my friends who have adopted! Confessions Of An Adoptive Parent is now available for pre-order…you can grab your copy here (and get some awesome free bonus content when you pre-order before Feb. 6!)
Here is Mike Berry on Celebrating Beautiful…

Defeated. Frustrated. Lonely. Tired. Done.

Like a spin-cycle set on the top speed, those words flashed through my mind all at once. The other kids on the team had accepted the position the coach assigned to them. Joey grinned as he trotted to first base. It wasn’t his ideal position, and certainly not his favorite, but he accepted it because that’s what normal kids do. Same with Trent. He was small for his age and catcher really wasn’t the best position, especially since he couldn’t throw the ball past the pitchers mound, but he complied all the same.

Then there was my son, who stood in center field, stomping his feet, throwing his glove and refusing to play, in his words, ‘that stupid position.’ He wanted to play shortstop. He thought he deserved to be at shortstop. The game nearly had to be delayed while I coaxed him until he trudged to center field.

The assistant coach stared at me with a haughty, judgmental look. I could hear his thoughts echo in my mind. “What’s wrong with your kid? Why can’t you get control of him?” Or worse, “He’s just a kid. Why are you so harsh?”

I fought the urge to say something, explain his behavior, or make excuses. Really though, what was I going to say? “You see he was adopted through foster care and………..” no that wouldn’t work. “He experienced trauma before and after he was born and…….” no, not that one either. “You see, it’s tough to raise a child with a disorder like this because……” nope, just more judgement if I said that!

It was a day I’ll never forget because, although there were a hundred or so parents and siblings gathered for the game, I had never felt more alone.

Been There, Done That.

If you’re raising a child with special needs you probably identify with that scenario. If your child suffers from a disorder like FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder), or Reactive Attachment Disorder, you especially identify. You might even say, “Yep..been there, done that!” You understand the defeat of trying to get your child to cooperate in the middle of a tantrum. You’ve experienced the struggle of being in a public place while your child acts out, throws a tantrum, screams obscenities, or destroys personal property.

Perhaps you’re fostering a child who has gone through significant trauma and it’s caused them to struggle with healthy attachment. You may even find it difficult to face another day because your strength is sucked dry and you’re ready to quit!

We’re right there with you. We understand completely and we want you to know something….you’re not alone!

Not Alone, No Matter What!

Let me say that again: You are not alone. Regardless of your child’s story, the embarrassment you’ve walked through in your neighborhood, the painful moments of trying to explain your child’s behavior, or the awful parent you think you are for wanting to quit, you are not alone. No matter what, we are standing by you because we’ve been there too.

We’ve had teachers tell us that we “just need to parent with more structure,” or “use a behavior chart like she does at school.” (Can we just agree that we’d all like to set fire to the behavior charts?) We’ve stood helplessly on the side of the road while a police officer asks in a demeaning tone, “Well can’t you control your son? I have 3 sons and my wife has no problem controlling them!” We’ve had case managers make judgement calls on our family because they failed to understand the severity of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, attachment issues, extreme trauma, and the reality of this journey.

We understand every tear that drips from your eyes. We know what it’s like to feel done, be at the end of your rope, or think thoughts you never thought you would think when you became a parent. Raising children with autism, brain damage, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, down syndrome, reactive attachment disorder and many others, is an unending battle at times. It’s a battle with your child, for your child, with your school, with professionals, with neighbors, and sometimes even with close friends and family.

There’s a way to find strength, even when you feel too weak to go on!

The Strength You Need.

Sometimes all the strength you need to face another day, is in finding out you’re not alone. There’s incredible healing power in discovering this truth. In fact, it can be more powerful than any seminar, book, or podcast could provide. We’ve found this strength. It’s precisely why we believe so heavily in support communities and leaning on others who are going through the same struggles in raising children with special needs.

It’s why I created my blog, Confessions Of An Adoptive Parent. It’s why I took the title of that blog and turned it into a brand new book. We’re here to listen and help because we know how defeating it can be. But we also know the hope you have. We know how much you love those kiddos of yours. We know how much your heart beats for them. We’re here to encourage you when it gets tough. You are not alone!

Mike Berry is an author, blogger, speaker, adoptive father, and former foster parent. He is the co-creator, along with his wife Kristin, of the award-winning blog www.confessionsofanadoptiveparent.com which has a global audience of more than 100,000 followers monthly. Mike travels extensively throughout the U.S. every year, with a passion to reach hurting and overwhelmed foster and adoptive parents with a message of hope. He is the author of several books including, The Adoptive Parent Toolbox, The Weary Parent’s Guide to Escaping Exhaustion and the soon-to-be released Confessions of An Adoptive Parent: Hope and Help from the Trenches of Foster Care and Adoption. Along with blogging and books, he is also a featured writer on Disney’s babble.com. Mike and Kristin have been married for 18 years and have 8 children, all of whom are adopted. They reside in the suburbs of Indianapolis, Indiana.

{Celebrating Beautiful} Perseverance in Waiting, by Tiffany Smiling

In blogging for the last 6 years, I’ve written about many different topics, but one theme that has remained constant has been my focus of sharing about how our family is discovering the beauty in difference and choosing to celebrate the incredible beauty all around us, and how we want to encourage others to do the same. After connecting with and reading about so many amazing people and families doing so many amazing things, I started a guest blog series called Celebrating Beautiful, as it relates to beauty however it can be interpreted: parenthood, faith, your kids, an experience, home, and so much more.
I “met” Tiffany Smiling when an email dropped in my inbox. She introduced herself and briefly shared her story and her upcoming book, Your Dream. God’s Plan., and then asked if I might be willing to consider writing an endorsement. The deadline was tight but that ended up not mattering because I couldn’t put her book down! Tiffany has a tremendous testimony and a beautiful heart for giving, and her book is a must-read! It moved my heart so much and connecting with her has been an absolute gift.
Here is Tiffany Smiling on Celebrating Beautiful…

“Celebrate her birthday big this year.”

Those were the words from the head neurosurgeon at one of the nation’s leading cancer hospitals spoken to my parents after I’d been asked to leave the room. And as I approached my eleventh birthday, he’d given me ten months to live.

My family and I fought his death sentence. We couldn’t believe his words to be true. Instead, we stood in faith trusting God that the journey to remove the tumor in my brain would soon come to an end.

But if the truth be told, it was just the beginning.

Over the next six years, I was operated on four times — poked and prodded, stitched and stapled — hopeful to hear promising news. But the reports were only worsening. The tumor was only growing. The cancer was still prominent. And most glaring, I was limboing a tight rope fighting to trust God amidst the lack of progress I was seeing in my life. All I could do was wait. Patiently, wait…. and wait…. and wait even longer.

Waiting for God to move on our behalf is a lonely and weary spot to be in. For me, the uncertainty of when God will answer my prayers terrifies me the most.

But here’s what I didn’t know then that I want to share with you now: perseverance is produced when progress isn’t present.

Have you ever been at a place in your life where you are required to wait on the Lord for an answer?

Maybe a child you are believing in.

Or a broken relationship that you hoped would be healed by now.

Perhaps, a breakthrough in that place that has held you in bondage.

Why is it so hard to continue to trust the Lord when we do not see progress in the middle of our trials?

Because we are humans, we are prone to take matters into our own hands. We tend to see a resolution based on our own understanding of the immediate reality right in front of us. And we give up.

Living in a world of immediate results, our self-satisfying society cannot fathom the concept of waiting. But in God’s economy, waiting is never wasted. Instead, it is intended to strengthen us as we become more like Christ. God uses waiting. It is part of our christian journey. He uses it to teach us how to daily trust in Him. He uses it to prepare us for an even bigger purpose He has ahead of us.

When the opportunity arises to continue to believe even when signs of progress are unseen, the Lord is inviting us to persevere based on His word instead of what we see.

I used to believe perseverance was endurance. Boy, was I wrong! While endurance means tolerating or accepting the obstacles in our lives, perseverance is very different.

It means to press on with the certainty that it WILL happen.
Perseverance is moving forward and growing with Christ, despite the difficulty or delay. Perseverance is walking in the assurance that our Lord has already won the battle. And waiting is the soil where perseverance is grown.

If you are in a place today where your prayers have been unanswered, I challenge you to keep on believing God and His promises. Don’t give up! The perseverance being perfected in your challenging days of waiting will soon be the fuel that lights the way to God’s faithfulness in your trials. God has a plan over your life and will use your season of waiting when you offer it to him!

Tiffany Smiling—writer, speaker, and entrepreneur—is changing the kingdom of God around the globe. She’s a cancer survivor, an injustice fighter and, above all else, she is a devoted follower of Christ. In her book, Your Dream. God’s Plan., Tiffany encourages readers to trade in the broken pieces of their life for God’s greater purpose.

With a heart to rescue the unreached children around the world, she founded the With All My Heart Foundation, an organization dedicated to building the global church and caring for vulnerable children. In 2016, she also founded With All Her Heart, an organization equipping woman to fulfill the calling that God has ahead of them. You can connect with Tiffany at www.tiffanysmiling.com or on Instagram!