Admittedly, it has been tough to find the right church that works for our family. We have tried several in the Bismarck-Mandan area with each of them having their own pros and cons. And a pro for one person in our family can be a con for another. Take the praise and worship time, for instance. The louder and more exciting the better, for me anyways but not for Faith.
With her CP, Faith has something called a "startle reflex." It's something newborns have but they grow out of it. When a newborn baby is startled their whole body reacts with arms flailing and legs going because they can't control those movements yet. For Faith, she has never been able to control those movements. It used to be that when she startled many times in a short period she would get very upset and would start to cry.
Another issue she has is if she is somewhere loud and dark with the noise varying at different levels, she is very tense the whole time and her muscles just can't relax. Places like movie theaters are an example. And as we found out, charismatic church services are another example. One minute the pastor may be very quiet but then suddenly becomes very loud - this will cause Faith to startle. She'll be tense the whole time because she doesn't know when she will be surprised again.
Finding a church where Faith can relax and not be so tense has been a bit challenging, especially for me who really likes those very charismatic church services. Rob on the other hand can pretty much go to any church and be okay with it, as long as he is free to take part in communion and gets something out of the message.
At some churches we would try to sit in various spots - like the back row, sitting way back in the corner, sitting outside in the lobby area or sitting in the coffee shop. While sitting in these certain areas may have helped alleviate some of Faith's startling, it felt to us that we weren't really a part of the service or the fellowship.
After years of searching we have found a church for the three of us. Rob's friend from work invited us to their Saturday evening service at a church called Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. The evening service is less traditional, the music more contemporary and Faith really seems to enjoy being there. We can sit way up front and not have to worry about Faith getting nervous or tense.
Another thing we discoverd is that some friends of ours from the CP support group go there as well. Faith really gets a kick out of their 21-year-old son, who is in a wheelchair too.
This past Saturday was interesting and I sort of held my breath when the pastor announced what we were going to doing. He had a message on confession and forgiveness. He explained that there are four promises of forgiveness - for each promise, his wife had thought of a cheer for all of us to yell. One side of the room would yell the first line of the cheer and the other side would yell the second line. I did not know how Faith was going to react. Rob and I both looked at her and I quickly explained to her there was going to be a lot of yelling.
The pastor read the first promise of forgiveness: I promise I will think good thoughts about you and do good for you.
Then we yelled out the cheer: THINK GOOD THOUGHTS! DO GOOD THINGS!
Faith tensed up a little but she didn't startle. Instead, she began to laugh.
Promise: I promise I will not bring up this situation to use against you.
Cheer: DIGGING UP DIRT...IS NOT GOOD WORK!
Faith continues to laugh.
Promise: I promise I will not talk to others about what you did.
Cheer: G-O-S-S-I-P...GOSSIP IS MISERY!
Promise: I will be friends with you again.
Cheer: FRIENDS RESTORED...IN THE LORD!
After the last cheer, we had to try to get Faith to stop laughing and continue to listen to the pastor. After we visited for a little while, Faith said on the way home, "I had so much fun at church!"
It seems to me, we may have finally found a church home!