8 Dec 2011
As I thought about Christmas and the state of the nation I really wanted to send out something that might encourage all of you in the goodness and faithfulness of our Lord. As I prayed I kept hearing the word “hero.”
Webster’s dictionary defines Hero as: a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities. In mythology a hero was a warrior-chieftain of special strength, courage, or ability. Over time the term has evolved and evokes different images to different people—people look up to athletes like Kurt Warner, military men and women like the Seal Team Six, and different family members such as our fathers or older brothers, as heroes. As a child my dad was my hero.
For most of us the term brings to mind someone who has displayed courage against all odds. I think that all too frequently we think of human courage as a one time deed where a heroic rescue took place, rather than a daily determination to overcome life’s unbelievably painful adversity against all odds. The latter definition of a hero is what I am referring to, and these individuals have what some people call “grit” but what I call “heart.”
In this Christmas season where everyone hopes for a miracle and our nation is facing an uncertain future, it is the story of this other type of hero I want to tell you about. His name is Dusty and he is our youngest grandson. He has always been special. I know all grandparents feel this way—but this one is ours and this is our story!
My daughter-in-law had a very hard pregnancy and delivery and nearly lost Dusty several times. After his birth she was told that there could be no more babies. So we all doubly appreciated God delivering him safely at birth. We delighted in this precious happy smiley baby who was so cute that it’s impossible to describe. His brothers were 7 years old at his birth and were over the moon with their new baby brother. They had all sorts of things they wanted to teach him and especially couldn’t wait to play ball with him. That worked out well for all of them, since Dusty seemed to be born with a baseball that never left his hands!
When Dusty was about 6 months old he began responding to people and situations in ways that raised red flags for us. When he felt threatened by strangers or other kids who got too close to his space he would bite, scratch, and scream. As the months went by he became more sensitive to being touched, hugged and kissed. And if there was too much confusion or noise he began having ‘meltdowns.’ He needed strong structure or became extremely anxious and frightened. He had small seizures.
As he developed, his symptoms increased. He began having ‘tics’ (snorting and some jerking) and exhibited strong obsessive compulsive behaviors. He snorted uncontrollably and constantly worried that he had said a “bad word.” Once he heard words, he would repeat them (whatever they were) so when any of us would say, “No dusty, bad word, don’t say that,” then he would repeatedly worry he had said it, and kept asking—“Did I say a bad word? Did I say a bad word?”
I can’t describe the heartbreak we all felt watching him going thru this. His brothers began to withdraw in their pain and embarrassment of trying to cope with it. Whenever we went out to restaurants or play areas they had to be on high alert to guard him and prevent a potential problem if other kids or strangers got too close to him. Family dinners were a nightmare for them. The tics (snorting) increased as the family stressed over them. Their stress increased his stress and the tics became worse. It was a never ending cycle.
Dusty couldn’t sleep at night without medication because his little mind seemed to be overly stimulated. Painful things happened to them as a family. Dusty was kicked out of the Church nursery, for biting a kid who grabbed his ‘baba.’ But they found that they couldn’t sit with him in service because people turned and stared, made nasty comments, and glared at them. They stopped going to Church.
On the plus side we saw some amazing things, such as, he had an incredible ability for language and numbers. He was pronouncing words like alligator when he was barely a year old, and he had all of our phone numbers memorized from the time he was little more then a toddler. He seemed to have a “speed dial” approach to calling.
We found that change created tremendous anxiety in him. And our schedule was always changing. He called multiple times daily when we were on the road and when he knew we were on the way home he would call hourly to see where we were and ‘how much longer’ until we were home. He desperately needed to know where we all were and have a consistent daily routine.
Because our constant traveling affected him so much, I sat with him before each trip and showed him on a map where we were going, then marked a calendar to help him count the days until we returned. He really struggled with how much we were gone, and needed to know where his nana and papa were on a daily basis. I spoke to him daily and talked to him about the Lord and the needs of native people hoping to help him understand why we did what we did. He just knew what he needed at that point.
Dusty was “diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder when he was about 3. He had been hospitalized from a reaction to medication, and a CAT scan showed that his little brain had so many holes that it looked like Swiss cheese. We were told that his brain waves were constantly elevated, even then, when they had him sedated.
I thank God for his momma who was like a “grizzly” that went in pursuit of answers for “our little dude” as we called him. She left no stone unturned, and had Dusty tested in several places. I thank God for my son who made sure he was home early each day even though it meant his getting up at 4:30 each morning so there was always someone there for Dusty. I thank God that our son and daughter-in-law refused to accept a ‘diagnosis’ of mental retardation for Dusty.
They were finally able to get Dusty admitted into a special program with a wonderful doctor that was an answer to prayer. While we were laying siege to heaven, they were in the thick of the pain of it on a daily basis. As a family, we were determined that the enemy was not going to steal Dusty’s destiny. I believe that we see the true character of a man, woman or child when the going gets tough. And our God had a plan!
As I previously said—it was as if Dusty had been born with a baseball in his hand. He could throw a ball right at you from the time he was wearing his ‘big boy’ pants! And his favorite thing was his older brother’s catcher’s mask. He wore it around the house constantly.
I recently ask my daughter-in–law this question: If you were to talk to families in the Church with ‘special needs’ children what would you tell them? She got quiet, then said the following: 1) the Church needs to change how they handle families—they aren’t prepared to help; 2) parents who have ‘special needs’ children need to have one adult who is devoted to supporting that child no matter what; and, 3) they need to find the carrot that can be used to gain the child’s attention for the hard work that has to be done.
For Dusty that carrot was baseball. His mom and dad promised him that he could play as much ball as he wanted ‘if’…. he played nicely with his siblings, allowed all of us to play with him, didn’t kick, bite, scratch, or hit other kids when he was afraid, and, as he started school—‘if’ he went all week without ending up in the principal’s office. Each stipulation was implemented gradually. The key, she said, was that the parents needed to be ready to follow thru with whatever promises they made to their child. In Dusty’s case it meant playing with 3 different teams so he could play as much baseball as he wanted! But this also meant that they had to give up normal weekends and family time to shuttle him all over.
The Lord used baseball to help him focus and to build his character. He excelled at catching and then about 5 years ago began pitching too. It was so stressful watching him struggle under the stress of pitching. Even if he pitched a good game, his team mates might not do well, and as the pitcher he had to stand on that mound no matter what. He wouldn’t quit and he never gave up, despite experiencing some terrible things said to him by abusive coaches and the taunting by some kids. An amazing thing began to happen—he stopped having melt downs! Somewhere in the process God totally healed his brain! It was a process that built his character, not an instantaneous miracle.
I remember the first time that something really changed there. The bases were loaded, the other team had only one out, and our son (as the assistant coach) was agonizing over whether to pull Dusty off the mound to avoid a meltdown. Dusty signaled he wanted to stay in and then calmly went on to strike out the next 2 batters. As he walked off the field he looked directly at his dad and said, “Don’t you dare take me out—I can do this.” And he did. In fact he did ALL the things they told us he would never be able to do—excel in every area of his life—in school, on and off the field, with other kids, and without medicine!!
He became amazing as a catcher and learned as a pitcher to drill down on what he had to do. He made the Honor Roll with all A’s and B’s. He’s a real social charmer and is awesome with other kids, especially those who are underdogs. Dusty is now 14 and was recently accepted into the most elite baseball league in the region, St. Louis Amateur Baseball Association, or SLABA as it is known. It is from there that colleges recruit for scholarships.
Dusty 2003 Dusty 2011
I remember thinking when he was only 5, that he had that intangible something that I call “Heart.” It’s why one fighter gets up off the mat while others lay there. It’s why some of us keep going back into the battle when others run away. Real life everyday heroes have “Heart.” I believe its “Heart” that helps those, who when in the midst of terrible adversity, push thru with gritted teeth and firm determination to live their lives as over comers. Dusty has a vision for his life—to be a pro. We warned him that there is tremendous competition to make it to the pros and there will always be somebody better. He thought about that and said—“well, somebody has to be the best, and it might as well be me.” Our Dusty has “Heart.”
Jer 29:11 (NIV) "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Be encouraged in this wonderful season! If the devil has been giving you a bad report remember that our Lord has not changed! It is never over until God says it’s over!!
We at First Nations Counseling Ministries wish you a blessed and peaceful Christmas!
Linda Doxtator, PhD, LPC, LCPC
PO Box 813
O’Fallon, MO 63366