“Reagan wasn’t a burden or a disruption at Grace Avenue. He was a child of God with potential and gifts to share.”
We felt drawn to Grace Avenue even while planning our move to Frisco. We would often refer to it as our future church home. Initially we attended other churches, however, that had specific programs for children with special needs due to our son Reagan having difficulty fitting into regular programs. After some time, we knew we wanted to get our older son Chance involved with a youth program he could attend with students from his school and neighborhood as often as he wished. Christopher Vaughan was the answer to our prayers for a youth director that would engage a teenage boy, provide a positive spiritual role model, and make paranoid parents comfortable entrusting him with our beloved child.
Children’s needs aside, more specifically what drew me to Grace Avenue: There are certain things I loved from visit #1. I love hearing “Welcome home to Grace Avenue” each week. It does feel like home to me, or what a home should be. I feel like I am accepted as I am, a flawed human made in God’s image, rather than judged for what I am not. I like that I can interpret things in a way that is meaningful and life-changing for me, and it doesn’t have to be the same way that someone else interprets the same message.
What keeps me at Grace Avenue is that we have many opportunities to be engaged. It truly is a home for us. When I realized that the people here could accept our WHOLE family, I knew we were home for sure. Reagan was a gift from God to a mom whose biggest hang-up in life was what other people thought. I grew up in church, but it was 360 degrees from what Grace Avenue is to me. I have fully gone into experiences with him expecting disapproving looks and whispers. What I have received instead – from people of all ages and backgrounds – is acceptance and a feeling of belonging.
The best example I can give of this is when Reagan received his 3rd grade Bible. Kristen Lane came to us and asked us how we wanted to participate, giving us unlimited options. While we were offered options that would make it comfortable for all of us, she strongly encouraged us to allow Reagan to go up with his regular 3rd grade class in front of the congregation. I was terrified. I knew he would not act the way the other children did. I expected some disapproving looks and imagined people wondering why we would allow our child to become a spectacle.
When we arrived that Sunday, Marcus saw us in the hallway and broke into a huge grin, telling us how very excited the entire staff was that Reagan was going to be participating in receiving his Bible in front of the congregation. I immediately felt my eyes welling up. Not only was my child welcomed, he was WANTED. Of course, the presentation went on despite Reagan having his own agenda. Billy told him that it was okay and to do whatever made him comfortable, which he would have done with our without permission!
As I walked out with Reagan to help get him back to Sunday School, (he had made himself comfortable and wasn’t prepared to leave just yet), I cautiously glanced at the faces we passed. The tears started pouring down my face, but not for the reasons one might think. It wasn’t out of embarrassment or shame over my child’s behavior. It was because of the smiles on people’s faces – the acceptance and love – that I felt leaving the sanctuary. An older lady, whose name I do not know to this day, followed out. She grabbed my arm and hugged me saying, “Thank you so much for letting your son participate! What a blessing it was for all of us to see him get his Bible. It warmed my heart and made my week.” I couldn’t even talk. I just hugged her tightly and cried. Reagan wasn’t a burden or a disruption at Grace Avenue. He was a child of God with potential and gifts to share.
My hope is that Grace Avenue will continue to seek out those without church homes. I know there are a lot of people who feel unworthy, unloved and alone. Frisco is a great city in which to raise children, but finding your “place” is not always easy. I see many people who do not feel like they fit in, and far too few see church as being a place where they could find a home. It is very common among parents with children with special needs to withdraw because they feel their families cannot find a place where they are all accepted. It is my hope that Grace Avenue can begin to fill that gap and offer these families hope and a place they can feel comfortable, accepted and most of all wanted.