The chewy tube, the coloring book, and the pew

“…Clear the path for long-distance runners so no one will trip and fall, so no one will step in a hole and sprain an ankle. Help each other out. And run for it!” Hebrews 12:13, The Message


I wanted to share some of the ways we have been blessed by thoughtful, meaningful help in the past weeks.

Remember the problem of Rhema eating her shirts?

Well, immediately upon hearing about it my mother ordered a clip-on chewy tube for her. We hoped that this was the answer. Rhema would get the sensory stimulation she needed, chew to her heart’s content… and her shirts would live to see another day.

When the chewy tube arrived in the mail, I clipped it on.

“Look Rhema! Look what Nana sent you!”

“You can chew it, Rhema!”

Hope and I waited eagerly for Rhema to chow down.

She picked it up and curiously twirled it between her fingers. She flapped it. She sniffed it. She hummed and rolled it slowly, lovingly back and forth across her cheeks.

When Hope could stand it no longer she put the chewy tube to Rhema’s lips. Rhema was horrified and bounced off.

And so it goes. She wears her friend Chewy almost every day. But has never, ever chewed Chewy.  Nor has she eaten a single shirt since. Or, well, I should say, if I forget to put Chewy on then she chews her clothes. But if Chewy is there… she chews nothing. Works for me!


The girls’ other grandmother was visiting a couple weeks ago. She came to church with us and witnessed Rhema’s obsession with coloring as many church bulletins as possible. Right now, continuously feeding her paper to color is the only way to keep her somewhat quiet and occupied during the service. Rhema is absolutely franctic about her coloring and if we run out of paper, well, someone will lose an arm.

I love my mother-in-law. She just has this way of quietly making things better for everyone around her. She’s inventive and creative and does not want attention or praise, yet she does a hundred little things every day to serve and love her family. She bought white paper and brightly colored paper and made a huge stack coloring books for Rhema. She hole-punched them and bound them with yarn. Knowing Rhema is fond of vibrant colors she got her Crayola Slick Stix to decorate the books.

Needless to say, Rhema (and Hope) LOVE these homemade Sunday coloring books. And our church no longer need wonder where all the bulletins went!


So there’s another thing about church. We always sit in a small pew, in the second to last row, near the door so that we can make a fast getaway when the need arises. I think it can be overwhelming for Rhema still – all the people, the sights and sounds – but her seat, her pew, is predictable and comforting. In the past, if we’ve arrived and people were already sitting in “our” pew, Rhema has attempted to sit on them. When we re-direct her to another pew, she’s completely thrown. She’s even cried.

This morning before church, B and I had a brief conversation about where we’d go if the pew was already occupied. We had a plan.

But when we arrived at church we found this in our pew:

(I “whited-out” our last name for the blog).

No one said anything to us about it. They just noticed our struggle on Sundays and wanted to make it easier. We often worry that we’re disrupting the service. But that little sign spoke volumes to me – that we are loved as we are, that we belong, that we are family.

I don’t know if they know – our mothers, our friends, our church – how these little things “strengthen our feeble hands and steady the knees that give way”, how they help us stand. Even run.

16 thoughts on “The chewy tube, the coloring book, and the pew

  1. I’m so glad that a solution to the shirt chewing has been found, and the coloring books–what a great idea! But that sign did me IN. I’m so glad you are feeling the love in your church community too.

  2. Yes, way to go, church (and grandmas, too)! This post left me sobbing (and my children wondering why!). Love to see how God is transforming us in Christ to do his good works. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever!”  (Eph. 3:20-21)  Thanks for sharing this little reminder of God’s grace, Jeneil!

  3. Your family totally deserves all the love and support that you’re given. You do so much for others just by telling your stories and being an inspiration. This makes me want to think of a small way that I could do something for someone else. So often, it’s the smallest things that have the biggest impact.

  4. Yea for grams who love their babies and grandbabies! Yea for people who care! Yea for community! I always tell newly diagnosed families that community is the most important thing to find. Hugs all around! gail

  5. That sign on the pew brought tears to my eyes. My brother (20 yrs old now) who is 8 yrs younger than me has special needs. I don’t think people understand how such a small thing can make a world of difference for kids and their families. It’s nice to know that people see a need and help to fill it.

  6. It was so sweet to see Rhema holding on to her daddy’s hand in church the other week. So tight that he couldn’t even get her to let go to grab the communion tray. Brought a little tear to my eye. So nice to hear about the sign!

  7. I was smiling a really wide smile all through your post, then came the picture of the sign your church put up for you…and the happy tears came…lots of them :). Such love & acceptance for your family, just the way you are. And I bet they didn’t mind one bit about the church bulletins, but how wonderful of the grandmothers! Now that’s showing the love of Jesus…I am sure He was smiling ear to ear. 🙂

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