I Had No Idea

Connor and his new friends

“I had no idea what they were going through.” “I just didn’t know.” These are the statements I hear over and over again when advocating for special needs from pastors, organizations, people, humanitarian groups and the list goes on. How is it that special needs has been around forever and yet the challenges are still a mystery to most of society.

I’m sure there are many reasons that one could debate is the cause behind the lack of awareness. If it’s not the hot topic at that time in society it is easy to get overlooked. If families are so busy taking care of their child 24/7, shut in at their house, it’s easy to be forgotten. When it’s so challenging and it becomes an “event” just to go out from our house into the community it can be so exhausting and difficult. Some have it much harder than others. My heart many times aches for them.

Yet, the flip side is that when we stay shut in because it’s too exhausting and were not out in the community it’s easy for someone to say “I had no idea.” I understand those cases where you are dealing with serious medical challenges which does not allow you to do what you would like for the sake of a special needs person’s health. My heart is not to say who has it harder or who has it easier this is what they should do. I guess what I am saying is how can we bridge the gap that brings more awareness where more people can understand and more people can connect in a positive way.

One thing that I’ve tried not to do in the journey with our son is let fear and obstacles stop us from living life and sharing about our sons amazing gifts and challenges. But it’s not always been easy. One day all of the kids were playing out in the front of our street like neighborhood kids do. We had always been protective of Connor and I have to admit a little afraid of how others might treat him with his challenges. But that day Connor looked out the window and before I knew it he was outside running and jumping around the other kids yelling “Yahoo!” My first inclination was to go out and bring him in so they wouldn’t stare at him like any child would who didn’t understand. But I waited. It was the spirit of God prompting me not to intervene. Under my breath I’m praying “please let them go on playing or please let one of the kids be nice to him.” It was wishful thinking because the next thing I knew every ball dropped to the ground, everyone stopped what they were doing, and every one with a weird look on their face just stared. My heart sunk. Immediately my emotions were to go out and bring Connor in so he can be safe and protected. But then I heard God speak to me and say, “who are you protecting, Connor or your feelings?” Wow! God knows how to ask the questions that we don’t always want to hear.

So instead of walking out there to take my son in I walked out there, put my arm around my son, and asked the kids if they knew what autism was? Everyone shook their heads no. So I began to explain to them about Connor and why he reacts differently and what makes him so unique with having autism. Then something beautiful happened. One of the more popular girls on the block asked if she could play with Connor. Surprised, I said sure. And for the next 30 minutes they played in Connors clubhouse and she observed Connor and interacted with him. The next week I came home from work and I hear in the backyard Connor counting down “5-4-3-2-1- Blast Off!” And here is Connor holding hands with 3 girls on one side and 3 girls on the other side jumping into the pool. Every boy in the neighborhood would have probably liked to be Connor at that point. Ha! He was having a blast!

Now all the kids in our neighborhood understand what Connor has but don’t look at him the same way they did before we came out of the house and shared his life with them. Sometimes people don’t know because were to protective or afraid to let them know. It’s safer in protective areas like our house. But if we really want to see our kids grow and bring awareness sometimes we have to take a chance and go outside.

When I moved from sunny Southern California to Seattle Washington it was a big change. When it rained in California we would usually always go inside. That’s what you did. So the first six months while living in Seattle because it was raining most of the time we almost became shut in’s. We hardly ever went out to play or interact with people. It got depressing from basically moving from one building to the next. Then one day I talked to a Seattle native and I said don’t you ever get depressed staying in because it’s so cloudy and raining all the time. He said, “we don’t stay in. We golf in the rain, play in the rain, we do all sorts of things in the rain. It rains here 260+ days out of the year. If you don’t get out in the rain you don’t live life fully.”

Those of us who are special needs families can feel the same way. More days than not we can feel like it’s always overcast, always raining (figuratively speaking). So instead of pushing through we stay shut in most of the time. We hardly ever get out and interact with people. Maybe people don’t know about us because people rarely see us. It’s not until we decide to go out even in the rain (challenges) that we can live life to the fullest. My son would have never made that connection with those boys and girls if we would have kept him “protected” in the house.

Maybe the more out and about people see us the more conversations and awareness can take place so that one day instead of hearing people say “I had no idea,” they will say…..”I know them!”

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Children Destined For Greatness

greatness

I don’t think in the beginning when someone looks at child with special needs the first thought that comes to mind is “Greatness” I mean how can something that on the outside some people would assume deficient have the best chance for greatness? This is how the human finite mind works. If it doesn’t appear to have promise how can it be promising? If it doesn’t appear to be beautiful how can it be beautiful? I’m glad God doesn’t look at things the way some people do. How many miracles would we have missed if God didn’t help us see the possibility? One of the greatest gifts God gives to us is by helping us understand that potential is not realized because someone started out with all the perfect ingredients. Potential is realized when someone sees the flower in the seed. No one is ever born great, they develop greatness. Somebody saw the potential of the destiny before the destiny was realized. They had to look deeper than the circumstance. They had to live in the vision and not the circumstance.

In the Old Testament if the people of Israel were to compare the strapping stoic King Saul to scrawny no count David from the outside, it wouldn’t have even been a contest. Saul would win in a landslide. He would have been the peoples pick to be King. No one would have seen the possibility of David being king. Even David’s own father showed the prophet Samuel everyone of his other son’s before he presented David. Why? Because David didn’t look like a King from the outside. Yet, I have found who we think should be king may not be who God thinks should be king. The enemy will try to cover up greatness. The enemy will put up weeds to choke the seed of greatness. He wants to blind us from what could be so we will accept what we have. When we reflect on God’s view of people and we see the world from His perspective, we are removing the weeds that choke out what’s possible. When our hearts are ready, we are able to see the destiny seeds in others.

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.” Man looks on the outside but God looks deep with in and looks at the heart. Where it really becomes powerful is when he gets us to believe there is something great inside someone else even when no one else sees it. Who would have ever seen greatness in Helen Keller from the outside. She was blind, deaf, and mute…Three strikes against greatness. Her destiny would seem to be just to survive. Especially in the era she lived in with far less medical advances, far less tools and understanding to develop multiple special needs. Yet her teacher (     ) saw a destiny seed of greatness that God had planted. She saw an amazing flower that could blossom in the midst of what others would call barren seed. She called forth greatness when others would have gotten frustrated and given up. Helen Keller became a great American hero in spite of her challenges because someone watered what God had already sown. The greatest legacy is not what we leave for people, it’s what we leave in people.

Sometimes you cannot just hope for greatness you have to call it forth. With our kids we may have to speak it over them everyday and call forth the greatness of the destiny seed God has planted inside of them. Speaking everyday over them…My child is talented, my child is creative, my child is healed, my child is a masterpiece, my child will do great things. God is not moved by our circumstance, He is moved by our faith. He understands, he is compassionate, he loves us but what he is really moved by is our belief that He can do anything. When it looks impossible do we still believe?

We may not get help from our friends. We may not even get support from our family. They may be too busy looking at reality to realize the possibility. But I have found this to be true…sometimes to do something great you may have to stand alone. The good thing is when you take that step of faith for your child you will find God’s sovereign presence surrounding you like a hedge of protection.

I declare the seeds of greatness that God has placed inside of your children are coming to life. They are going to do things that others said they would never do. They are going to rise up and become all God has destined them to become. Speak forth those seeds of greatness over them. Don’t let reality or peoples opinion steal the promise God has for our children. It’s not what we know it’s what He knows. Sometimes we are educated way beyond our obedience and faith. Let God’s love compel us to believe even when it looks impossible. Our children are destined for Greatness.

Craig Johnson

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Rising Above The Storms Of Life

 


 

Living in Houston I’ve experienced a few storms. In 2004 when we first moved here from California first came Hurricane Katrina, which just missed us then next came Hurricane Rita which was headed straight for us. There are some interesting dynamics to a hurricane. It can cover a large mass of land and sea, very overwhelming. When it hits the wind and rain are so strong that debris is flying everywhere, the rain feels like getting hit with pellets, and it’s tough to see your way out of it because it seems it just keeps on coming.

Life with a special needs child can feel like a hurricane. I remember a week before I moved to Houston my father who was only 59 years old had a massive heart attack and passed away. The moving vans were already packed up and gone to move us from California to Houston and all of a sudden I lost one of my heroes. He passed on a Monday, we did his funeral on a Friday, and I did my farewell at the church we were at on Saturday and Sunday, which happened to be fathers day weekend. Then on Monday my family left for Houston. Six months after arriving in Houston we begin noticing changes in our son and found out not to long after, he was diagnosed with Autism. It was like Hurricane Katrina hit first, and then right after that came Hurricane Rita.

We were overwhelmed. It seemed like a large mass of overwhelming thoughts and feelings. The wind of our storms were raging and pelting us with one challenge after another. The debris of our lives were everywhere and we didn’t feel like we could see a way out. Have you been there?

God doesn’t always deliver us from the storm. There may be one battle after another. For us, God could have given us the victory for our son the first day we prayed. He is God. But his ways are not always our ways. He may have a bigger plan. During that time my wife and I learned to trust God unlike ever before. I heard someone say, some things you can only learn in the storm, when the battles raging, when you don’t know how your going to make it, that’s when you will experience the faithfulness of God like you’ve never experienced it before.

One of the ways my pastor taught us when we were going through the storm is to be good to someone else when your going through your storm. It takes your mind off your storm and it brings an understanding that this storm was not meant to destroy you it was meant to take you and others higher even in the midst of your storm. So we begin to help others in the midst of our storm and God has used us to help others go higher than what they could have done on their own. It’s become our life’s work, our mission in life. Sometimes you will get your calling early but you may not receive your mission in life until later. It’s usually when God breaks us or breaks us over something. You thought this storm was meant to take you down but God was using it to help you and others fly higher. Isaiah 40:29-31 says, He gives power to the weak
    and strength to the powerless.
    Even youths will become weak and tired,
    and young men will fall in exhaustion.
     But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint.

I’ve heard it said, when everything comes against you remember airplanes take off against the wind, not with the wind. The winds of your storm were never meant to push you down, they were meant to lift you to a higher level of your destiny. When an eagle faces a storm he doesn’t try to fight his way through the wind, through the rain, frustrated, struggling, putting forth all this effort. No, he simply stretches out his wings and he lets the strong winds lift him higher and higher. Finally he rises above the storm where it’s as calm and peaceful as it can be.

When the winds are blowing, things are coming against us, it’s easy to get frustrated, start fighting the winds, trying to change things that we were never meant to change…worried about the diagnosis, can’t sleep at night, anxiety, & fear. No, be an eagle…say, God, I’ve done all I can, it’s yours now. I’m going to try to quit struggling, I’m going to quit trying to make it happen my way, God, I’m going to trust you and help someone else even in the midst of my storm. Not only will you rise above the storm, you’ll carry others on your wings and teach them to fly higher than they’ve ever been before.

Craig Johnson with excerpts written by Joel Osteen

 

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Not So Ordinary Miracles

A child playing with friends, a little girl having a conversation with her mother, a middle school boy going to the bathroom by himself, a father and son playing catch, to some this may seem very ordinary. But to others this would be a miracle. It’s amazing what the human mind is conditioned to believe what is ordinary and what is a miracle.

Our son Connor would speak from the time of he was 1 and saying his first word, to the time he was almost 2 years old where he was a chatterbox. This was somewhat normal to us. Our other two children Cory and Courtney who are 10 and 12 years older than Connor were the same way. They talked incessantly. We thought every child did this. My son Cory at a very young age would watch a video called “Super Book” about David and Goliath. He would walk around with a plastic sword and cloth sling and proclaim as he swung his sling, “I will slay you Gowiath(Goliath) in the name of the Loward(Lord) for him is on my side!” The imaginary stone would be thrown and he would then run over and knock down a toy transformer and then pull his sword out and with a mighty swing cut off the transformers head which we had to tape back on over and over and he would then proclaim as he held the transformer’s head in his hand, “God has dewivered this Philwistine into my hand!” I don’t know how biblically correct it was but it was hilarious watching him to do this. This is normal right? Every kid does this.

Fast forward to when my son was two years old we would hear Connor say without hesitation “I love you,” then all of a sudden he said nothing. Where he would play with other kids all of a sudden he would sit in a corner and only play by himself. What at one time seemed ordinary now would become a miracle. Because for the next 3 years we would barely hear our son put two words together.

It’s interesting what we take for granted in life because it happens so naturally or is so abundant to us.

I remember the first hurricane I ever experienced after coming to Houston. When the 100 mph winds and rain finally stopped there was no electricity, no running water for multiple days. What seemed so ordinary a few days ago became in an instant so scarce.

The truth is that life is a miracle. There are miracles happening around us everyday. The very things we get used too because they seem effortless, if taken away, would become a miracle.

There is no one that understands that more than a special needs parent. When you were preparing with joy and excitement to have your new baby you must have dreamed about all the things they were going to do just like any other child. But, it didn’t turn out that way. God had a scarier, bigger plan. You thought your child would do ordinary things like others but God was going to show to you that you will see miracles no one else can see, a blind spot coming to into full view.

For instance, anyone can ask and get a drink of clean or bottled water for the most part in America. Seems ordinary right? Yet it would be a not so ordinary miracle for a child in Africa where the only water they have access to is dirty and diseased. Having a healthy child who outside of a cold or flu would seem pretty ordinary for most parents right? Yet, to my friend and fellow blogger Barb Dittrich who has seen her children in and out of hospitals for years this would be an amazing miracle. A little girl having a conversation with her mommy seems fairly ordinary for many parents don’t you think? But, for my wife Sam & I to hear one sentence from our son after years of silence would be beyond a miracle.

For 3 years we barely heard him speak. He would point to things he needed. Because he couldn’t speak he would get frustrated and act out. Sometimes it would be terrible fits, other times it would be biting or scratching his arms. I remember one day driving to work I asked God why? I wasn’t asking God why I had my son, I was asking God why is my son not able to speak? Why does he have to struggle so much in frustration?

I’ll never forget what God spoke to me in my spirit. God said, “Your child is not a burden your child is a gift.” I said, “I know what you mean God, he’s our son, we love him, of course he’s a gift, but do you see how much he’s struggling?” God said it again, “Your child is not a burden your child is a gift. You are looking at the struggle and not seeing how I can use your test and make it a testimony. I am going to use your son to reach millions of people.” I said, “are you kidding me God? How is my son going to reach millions of people, right now he can’t even ask for a drink of water?” Then God ssaid four words that he will always say to those who feel like they are in the desert, He said, DO YOU TRUST ME? I gave God a very simple and vulnerable answer. I said, “You are all we’ve got in this situation, there is no cure for Autism but you, WE TRUST YOU.” God later said to me, “thank me for the miracles I am already doing, everyday, all around you and watch me do the miracles yet to be seen. Your son is alive…that’s a miracle. There are moms and dads that can’t have children that would be so proud to have a son like Connor. Your son gives you a hug and a kiss when you ask, that’s a miracle. Many autistic children don’t do that. Thank me for the not so ordinary miracles and watch me surprise you with my goodness.”

You think it’s going to get easier after you hear God speak like that right? It didn’t. It got worse. After God speaks, many times, He is wanting to see if we will trust Him and thank Him. Praise precedes the victory. Psalm 50:14-15 says, Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God,
and keep the vows you made to the Most High.
15 Then call on me when you are in trouble,
and I will rescue you,
and you will give me glory.”

About 3 months later my wife who was putting our son to bed started yelling, “Craig, Craig get up here! Hurry!” So I ran up stairs walked into my son’s room and I said, “what is the matter?’ My wife Sam said, “I was putting Connor to bed, reading a book, praying with him, and as I went to turn off the light all of a sudden he begin to speak. One word after another word, one sentence after another sentence.” I said, “you have got to be kidding me? What…what did he say?’ She walked me over to his bed and said, “Connor say it again, say it for daddy.” He lifted up his head and in broken English all of a sudden begin to speak, “This is my bible, I am what it says I am, I have what is says I have I can do what it says I can do. Tonight I will be taught the word of God. I boldly confess, my mind is alert, my heart is receptive, I will never be the same. I am about to receive the incorruptible, indestructible, ever living seed of the Word of God. I will never be the same, never, never, never, I will never be the same in Jesus name. Amen.” Those were my son’s first sentences and paragraph we had heard him speak since he stopped speaking. To say we were overwhelmed would be an understatement. We were crying, hugging, jumping, yelling. We called everyone we knew and videotaped Connor saying This Is My Bible…and now millions of people have heard that testimony, It has been written about in 3 books, it was the inspiration to launch Champions Club developmental centers for special needs kids around the world.

God showed us something powerful through all of this. Try not to look at the burden focus on the gift. Emily Colson’s dad Chuck Colson wrote that when he had shared with close friends about his grandson being diagnosed with Autism he had a good friend send him a note that read in part, with your grandson you have been given the greatest gift. Now, you will truly understand what it means to sacrificially love.”

Celebrate what we do have not what we don’t have. We have so much to be grateful for even in spite of our challenges. There is always someone in a more challenging situation that would trade places with us in a heartbeat.

Lastly, begin to notice the not so ordinary miracles happening everyday. What one may see as ordinary another may see as their miracle. When you notice that God is doing miracles all around us the ordinary becomes extraordinary.

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Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants

 

Eight years ago when we first got the diagnosis of our son Connor having Autism I remember my wife and I being in state of disbelief.  There were so many questions running through our minds like, “What is Autism? What does this mean for the future? Is there a cure? How can we help our son? There were many questions at the time but so few definitive answers.

 

The one thing we knew was there was no quick fix. This was a journey. We needed help. We knew God would be there we just didn’t know how and whom he would send to help us.  One thing we made up our minds early on to not be was a victim. So many face living with a victim mentality when they are faced with overwhelming circumstances. I’ve watched others with both compassion and frustration, accept their situation as their lot in life. I understand how we all could get there. There is nothing easy about having a child with special needs.

 

Yet, it was amazing to watch God bring people into our lives just when we needed it the most. Even when we didn’t see a way, God used friends, family, and the most special heroes of the faith to come speak into our lives right on time.

 

I remember shortly after the diagnosis saying to my wife no matter what it takes we will get Connor the best help we could not knowing at the time what that meant. We found out that most private schools for autism could run between $1500 to $5000 a month. The one we really loved was going to cost $4200.00 a month. I don’t know about you but even though I make a good salary $4200.00 a month is a huge dent in our budget. I recall saying to my wife, “honey, if we have to sell the house and move into an apartment, go down to one car, we will do what it takes to help our son.

I honestly didn’t know how we were going to do it. I still had two other kids besides Connor with needs to help. What was this going to do to them when I couldn’t get my daughter dance lessons or I couldn’t sign my son up for baseball because we wouldn’t have the money?

Many of you parents with special needs kids have carried or you are carrying this same burden. You want to give your child the best care but you just don’t know how you are going to carry the load. I also see so many parents with out God trying to carry the world on their shoulders without the promise of anything. But God said He will never leave us or forsake us. To cast your cares on him for He cares for you.

We had baby monitors in my son’s room and our bedroom and every night even though she didn’t know I was listening I would hear my wife praying by my son after he went to sleep, “Oh please God help our son. Don’t make us sell our house. Please God help us find a way to shoulder the load.” I’m listening to this in the our bedroom. I’m weeping. I feel like less than a provider for my family because we have to sell our home and squeeze into an apartment. Please don’t misunderstand…we were not too proud. We were more than willing to do whatever it took. It was just those feelings of inadequacy that every parent may feel when you have to do what it takes to help your family.

The day I was going to call the realtor to put our house up on the market I was feeling low. I wasn’t feeling a lot of faith that day but I wasn’t feeling like a victim either. It is at these times that God will send Giants of the Faith like in Hebrews 11. These Giants come into our lives to remind us how faithful God is. Hebrews 11:1-2(NCV) says, “Faith means being sure of the things we hope for and knowing something is real even if we don’t see it. Faith is the reason we remember great people who lived in the past.” I’ll never forget one of those Giants of the Faith for us.

As I started to dial the realtor to ask him to put our house on the market the phone began to ring. It was our business administrator at our church asking about Connor. I told him Connor was dong pretty good. He then said, “Craig, I just talked to pastor Joel and he said we never want you to have to worry about his schooling. We are going to pay those bills and take care of Connor because we want him to be everything God wants him to be.” I have to tell you…outside of my salvation, and my family that was the greatest gift I have ever received in my life. We didn’t have to move out of our home. It was a miracle.

When we couldn’t stand on our own God sent us people like our pastors so we could stand on their shoulders. At other times when we could only see the problems in front of us God sent special men and women of the faith who would say, “You can make it, were standing with you. You don’t have to walk through this alone.” They became Giants of faith in our lives.

We are where we are today because someone encouraged us to reach higher than where we were standing. When I look back over this eight year journey I remember all of the giants of the faith God gave my family to stand on. I thank God for being the ultimate Giant in our life. When our shoulders aren’t big enough I remember His shoulders carry the world.

 

Now those of us who have been on this journey a while can help those who may be just beginning, carrying kids on our shoulders who need our help, cheering on moms and dads who need our encouragement. Maybe God will use us to help someone financially or to develop programs to help those with special needs find their purpose in life. When they have no faith, we can believe with them. When they can’t see beyond their problems we can allow God to put them on our shoulders so they can see farther than before.

Isaac Newton wrote, “If I have seen further it was by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”

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This Little Light Of Mine

 

LightOfMine“Should we let him go out there?” “Maybe we should have him wait in the green room.” This is the conversation my wife and I are having minutes before we were supposed to go out on a morning talk show with our son Connor here in Houston.

The morning show “Great Day Houston” had asked us to come and share about Champion’s Club Developmental Centers for those with special needs and they wanted us to share as a family. Our first thought was “I’m not sure if that would be a good idea. How he would respond could go in any direction.” But, we agreed that if he struggled one of us could just stay in the green room with him while the other one goes out. That was safe. That felt good. So we said yes with conditions.

Connor looked so handsome the day of the program. Even though his mom dressed him up in this cool shirt, sweater, nice pants and shoes, from the time he gets them on he was calculating when the moment was that he could tear this burden called “clothing” off when we were not looking. Connor’s preference around the house or anywhere else for that matter would be athletic undies and a t-shirt for the rest of the day. Of course we don’t let him do that, but that’s his preference. My wife says he gets that from me.

As we were waiting in the green room to go out, those questions that all of us special needs parents get at one time or another started flooding our thought process. “What if he has an episode in front of all those people?” “If he starts stemming I don’t want them to stare at our son like he’s a freak show.” “Will they accept him for who he is?” “We don’t want our child to be pitied, we want our child to be valued.”

We’ve all at one time or another experienced rejection as a special needs parent. We know what it’s like to watch people just not know how to respond in a situation with a special needs person. It can be awkward.

I remember one time watching through the window of my house as the neighborhood kids were playing ball outside in our cul-de-sac. My son heard them playing and before I could stop him he opened the door ran outside and begin jumping up and down, running around the kids with pure joy and excitement just to be out there with them. I was hoping they would just go on playing but all of a sudden the ball dropped to the ground and everyone stopped and stared. You know that stare like when a contestant would try out on American Idol who couldn’t sing well and you know they were put on there so they could catch the judges reaction of “what is this?”…that kind of stare. It wasn’t the kids fault, they weren’t use to that. They weren’t use to Connor because we protected Connor from experiences like that.

I’m going to be real vulnerable and honest right here. There were times I think in the past that we protected Connor not just because he would have been embarrassed but because we might have been embarrassed. I sometimes wonder how a few times early on that my wife & I have not let Connor’s light shine because we were afraid it would have been to hard and embarrassing. In this journey we can get use to the limitations of our child’s challenges. It’s easier to shut ourselves off then to face the challenge of leaving the house. For some parents their situation may be so difficult that at the time it’s just not an option.

Yet for others, I wonder if we would have not let fear of what might happen, allow us to experience the joy of what could happen.

Our children are lights of hope. They can touch people like no one else can. Even with limitations they can still do great things. There was a song we used to sing in children’s church that said, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine. This little light of mine(go ahead and sing) I’m going to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.” Then the verse says, ‘Hide it under a bushel…NO! I’m going to let it shine. This is what the enemy would love for us to do with our kids. He wants us to hide them rather than let their light shine.

The enemy will put thoughts of fear that will say to you “when things get hard, hide them.” “Don’t go out, they may have an episode…hide them.” “If you go to a restaurant, what if they are loud and someone sitting at another table starts staring and even has the audacity to say, “Were trying to eat here, can you take them some place else?” You wouldn’t want to experience that so it’s easier to hide them.”

When the enemy comes with fear we must fight back with faith. These children are our lights that were not made to be hidden. Society may want us to hide them but God wants to see them shine.
So as Connor is having a melt down the backstage assistant was trying to put a microphone on him and he would not wear it. He was crying and gritting his teeth in frustration.

“Should we let him go out there?” “Maybe we should have him wait in the green room,” we said to each other. I could feel fear setting in. The safe thing to do would be to let him wait here so one of us could share. The enemy always wants special needs parents to play it safe. When you fear you look for safety. Yet, faith says, “Trust Me.” I’ve put you here for a purpose to let my light shine through your child. I love the scripture in Joshua 1:9 This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

I looked at my wife and said, “were not going to let the enemy stop us from going out there with our son.” “If he acts up fine. At least they will see what a parent of a special needs child goes through and hopefully have compassion for them. Either way, were not going to hide him, were going to let him shine.” We prayed and felt God with us. When it came time to go out and the lights came up Connor sit in his chair like a little gentleman until we had basically finished sharing about the Champions Clubs. Then he began to notice his face in the monitor. The crowd is enjoying him making faces at himself. So he plops down and begins to move closer to the monitor in front of him. His mom pulls him up to the chair and Connor thinks he is hilarious! All of a sudden he begins to clap like he just did something amazing and said, “Yea,” with a big smile on his face. The crowd in the studio loved his excitement and started clapping with him. He stole the show!

A viewer called me afterwards and said, “It couldn’t have been more perfect. We saw a real glimpse of what it was like to have a special needs child. Thank you for sharing your light Connor to the world.”

Hide them under a bushel, NO! Let them shine. let them shine, let them shine.

This is the link to the Great Day Houston program Connor was on. Click here: http://www.khou.com/great-day/videos/gdh_4-12-13_seg6-202746391.html

Craig Johnson

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Were Stronger Together

I will never forget when my wife Sam & I first got the diagnosis that our son Connor was on the middle of the spectrum with Autism. We started hearing all of these startling statistics. They were not statistics concerning kids with special needs, they were percentages based on parents with special needs children. Some said it was 88%, others said it was 83%, a number I heard a lot was 80% of parents with special needs children end in divorce. We were just trying to figure out what this diagnosis meant and now they’re telling us we’re already doomed.

I said to myself, “20%, that’s not good odds for us.” Especially me.  I was always the one who feared I was going to get picked last on the playground. I’ve never won any contests except one time when I was caller #19 on love songs on the KOST and I won an “Air Supply” album.  My wife is this kind, caring, “rock” in our family and I’m the passionate but far less than perfect male of our brood who has been known to jump on the next vision ride if God moved me while my wife hung on for dear life.  I mean if eye rolling burned calories my wife would never have to exercise.

So, if they are only giving us a 20% chance of staying together what does this mean for Sam & I? What I observed with Sam after the diagnosis was that she began to attach herself to our son. Most mother’s are instinctively maternal and Connor became Sam’s mission. It wasn’t even a thought for her….Connor was her cause. For dad’s, many times they connect with their child emotionally. My son even as a young child before things changed would give me a hug or kiss when asked, tell me he loved me, and would look into my eyes and give this awesome smile. All of sudden it all stopped. No more hugs, emotionless. No kisses, no “I love you” and no more eye contact and very few smiles. These things would have to be learned or you would have to catch the moment. Those moments early on were few and far between.

A huge shift had occurred. It seemed I couldn’t connect with my son emotionally, so how do I connect?

I remember dealing with so many emotions wanting so badly to find an answer (as men love to do) to what felt like a loss of some kind in our family. But I realized I couldn’t fix this like other things. I felt helpless and numb for a short time.

Meanwhile, my wife is looking at me thinking “why isn’t he attaching himself to Connor like I am?” I’m thinking, “I just want to connect with my son like we used too.” The enemy loves to come in at crucial times like these to separate what God put together. The enemy wants to pull us apart because he knows WE’RE STRONGER TOGETHER.  We don’t want conflict when were hurting. We avoid it like we avoid eye contact with the mineral cream salesperson at the mall kiosk before they ask, “Can I ask you something?” We try our best to avoid it, but it doesn’t always work out.

Yet, God in His grace and gentleness spoke into our lives at pivotal times through our devotional time, prayer walks, long talks, and some amazing counsel we received.  We realized that we don’t have to have it all figured out, but God will give us just what we need when we need it. We can’t worry about what’s ahead because we don’t have grace for two years from now we have grace for today. I’ve heard it said that sometimes we find our destiny on the road we took to avoid it.  As long as we don’t back up but keep moving forward God will show us our destiny. Matthew 18:19 says, I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. It’s been almost 8 years later since the diagnosis. Now Connor is both of our causes. We get hugs, kisses, and lots of “I love you.” I encourage you to stay in agreement, trust God, we will beat the odds because WERE STRONGER TOGETHER then we are apart.

Craig Johnson

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Circle Of Hope: Amazing report

This is KJ & his mom Jane w/ Dodie Osteen at Lakewood Church. They came to Lakewood thru our Circle of Hope teams ministry at Ronald McDonald House. Jane Richerson has been a cheerleader for Jesus and Circle of Hope. She encourages families to come to church with her at Lakewood, and she offers to organize their visits with CIrcle of Hope
A recent MRI showed no cancer in her son’s (“KJ”) spine and the primary tumor continues to die. KJ has started to walk again! He uses a cane or walker for assistance as his strength builds. So proud of our team who brings hope to amazing families like the Richersons.

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Amazing Impact

I love the impact Lakewood’s Circle of Hope Ministry is having on the hospitals in our community. Circle of Hope helps the Medically Fragile, At Risk kids, & various Special Needs. Here is a picture on the window of one of the rooms at Hermann Memorial.

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Courageous Spirit-Justin

This is our friend Justin. He is so courageous fighting bone cancer. Although he had to have his leg amputated because of the cancer you would never know it. He has such a strong spirit. He and his family are believing for a new prosthetic leg so he can move out of the wheel chair and be free to walk and do all he aspires to do. It’s going to cost around 70,000 dollars. We believe God is going to use someone to help him get back up again.

This is Justin holding his jersey at the NBA All Star Night with Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat. Dwayne signed this special All Star jersey. He is so happy because the Miami Heat are his favorite team and he loves Dwayne Wade. If you would like to help in any way to help Justin get his prosthetic leg please contact us by leaving a note below this page. Thank you!

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