FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Embracing Life’s Changes

with | June 30, 2009
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Sometimes one single incident changes the course of your life. Today Joe and Cindi Ferrini tell how their lives have changed since the birth of their first child, Joey, was born with severe disabilities. Having decided to raise Joey themselves despite his challenges, Joe and Cindi share what they’ve learned about unconditional love as they’ve nurtured and cared for Joey.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Sometimes one single incident changes the course of your life. Today Joe and Cindi Ferrini tell how their lives have changed since the birth of their first child, Joey, was born with severe disabilities. Having decided to raise Joey themselves despite his challenges, Joe and Cindi share what they’ve learned about unconditional love as they’ve nurtured and cared for Joey.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Sometimes one single incident changes the course of your life.

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Embracing Life’s Changes

June 30, 2009
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Bob:  You talk about other choices.  The duty versus the other choices.  When you said there were other choices were you talking about, such as: you could put him in some kind of an institution, a care facility, where you go visit him from time to time.  That’s the end of your responsibilities.  Is that what you mean by other choices?

Cindi:  Certainly.  We have visited places like that where there are children who are every bit as capable as Joey is, but whose parents for whatever reason have chosen this, either because they can’t take care of them or don’t want to take care of them.  Because it is a job that is 24/7, it can be daunting.  There are many people who really feel at that point:  I don’t think I can do this.

Bob:  Some of the folks we are talking to have made that decision.  You’ve talked to people who have made that decision.  Are you saying they’ve made the wrong decision?

Cindi:  I think everyone has to make the decision that is best for them.  We have had situations in our life where the child could not be in the home.  It was destructive.  It was unsafe.  Sometimes life-threatening.  So I would never tell someone they should or shouldn’t do it.  In our life we knew that we could manage this duty with the help of the Lord.  We would do it with His help. 

Joe:   There are different degrees of disabilities.  We would never generalize a statement like that and say that because you did that you are wrong.  That is not our thoughts at all.

Bob:  Here’s what your duty, your decision, meant.  I mean it meant a lot of things but it meant that your own personal freedoms were going to not be as much as most adults have.  It meant that your daughters were going to grow up in a very different kind of a home than most daughters grow up in.  It meant that ministry, you’d talked about wanting to do ministry together as a couple, now all of a sudden those ministry opportunities were going to be set aside. 

There had to be some long, hard talks about maybe the best thing for everyone would be if Joey had, maybe it would be the best thing for him to have, full-time care in one of these care facilities.  Maybe that would be the best thing for us.  Did you have a lot of long talks about that?

Cindi:  I can tell you that I would have probably never done that.  If I never got to go out of my house again, I probably would have served at home caring for my son.  I don’t think my personality would have allowed for me to have allowed for my son to have been taken from me. 

Dennis:  We’ve talked a lot about Joey and lessons you’ve learned.  Describe him to me.  I want each of you to tell me your favorite Joey story.  You’ve mentioned that he has cerebral palsy and that he’s mentally retarded.  What does that mean, practically speaking, at the age of 27?

Cindi:  At 27, physically, believe this or not, he is 6’3.”  So he’s very tall.  Since dad is not that tall, it looks kind of funny in a family picture because we are all about the same height.  Then there is Joey who looks like this big tall tree in the midst of all of us.  He’s really quite delightful.  He actually has a very nice sense of humor. 

In terms of the cerebral palsy, he’s not in a wheelchair.  He is mobile.  His gait is very obvious.  He has a little bit of a limp.  His legs are very thin.  When you talk about how do those kids stand on those legs that are so thin they look like toothpicks.  They really look like toothpicks, really thin and skinny. 

His highest functioning aspect is his reading skills which to us is a great blessing because at a fourth grade level he is able to read signs and simple books.  It takes a lot of time to do so.  Maybe he can read a little of the sports page and see what’s happening with his special teams. 

He can make us laugh sometimes.  If I can share one story.  We were coming home from his place of work, which is a supervised work experience.  He really cannot be alone because if someone came and said, “Joey, come with me,” he would go.  He would go with anyone. 

We transport him to work everyday and home.  It’s about thirteen thousand miles every year.  So that’s a commitment right there.  Talk about love.  Anyway, we were driving home one day and there was a billboard.  In our area there is a place called Fish Furniture.  He started laughing.  He looked at me and said, “Fish?  Furniture?”  Like, what would fish do with furniture?  You know, never in my mind would I even have thought like that because it’s just the Fish company furniture.

Bob:  You hear stories like that and it’s delightful.  Yet I know there have been times, Cindi, when you’ll be talking with a friend and she’ll say, “Oh, I got together with a bunch of moms recently for lunch.  We had the best time.”  And you are thinking, “I would like to get together with some friends for lunch and have the best time.  And that’s not the path I’m on.” 

Or Joe, you hear about some guys getting together and doing something.  You go, “That’s just not a part of my life.  I don’t get to do that.”  What do you do with those feelings when they happen?

Joe:   That’s a tough one.  We have to take each situation by itself.  We have the church baseball league.  Everyone loves Joey.  When we come there, they’ll give Joey a ball and he’ll lob it back to them.  They gave him a t-shirt to wear for the team.  He’s happy just cheering for the team.  One day we got to go to the Cleveland Indians baseball game.  At the end of the game they allow all of the children to run the bases.  I’m talking children--three, four, five-year-olds running the bases.  Joey said, “Me go?”  I said, “Okay.” 

Dennis:   He was how old?

Joe:  He was in his twenties at this time.  Six foot something.  I took a big gulp and said, “Okay, let’s go down there.”  He’s running the bases at the Cleveland Indians stadium.  I’m right there behind him in case he falls or anything.  But that’s okay.  That’s all right.  That’s my kid.  He wants to do that.  He can do that.  I’m happy to do that. 

We’ve had Joey in Special Olympics.  We’ve had him do Soap Box Derby, a special edition of soapbox derby.  He’s gone as far as he can go in those things.  That coach part of me in my head wants my kid to do something like that.  He did the very best that he could do.  That’s all I could ask of him.

Dennis:  As I listen to this story, I think that if there was a school you could enroll in to learn how to be a great lover of people, there would be a great line forming outside that school.  The problem is, as you all have experienced, the route of learning how to be a great lover is not downhill.

Bob:  A pretty rigorous course they’d put you through at that school. 

Dennis:  The challenges you have faced in your marriage, in your family, and as Bob pointed out in your personal lives.  Dying to self.  Constantly having to give up your expectations.  Yet the verse I read earlier Romans 8:28, how God promises to use all things, everything that happens in our lives, for good.  It’s not for evil, if we will respond by faith. 

Joe:  It’s a choice.

Dennis:  But you have to choose to respond in faith to Him.  You can turn away from God and become embittered and angry and just cave in to becoming furious, full of bitterness and resentment.  I can see how that would be very easy to do.  That’s hopeless, absolute hopelessness.

Joe:  I would love to be able to tell you that that was easy for me.  But that was not easy for me.  It was a definite crossroads in my life.  I shook my fist at God and said, “How dare You do this to my son.” 

In my mind I knew that I had to accept him.  This was God’s will for our lives.  I wish I could tell you that it was easy for me, that it took me 30 seconds.  But it took a while for me to cross that line.  By God’s grace and the prayers of many people, we were able to resolve that issue in our lives and say, “Okay God.  I accept this gift that You have give me in my son, just the way You wanted it to be.”

Dennis:  As you mentioned, you are not alone.  Your book Unexpected Journey is full of stories of others who have been on this rigorous road as well.  They give us courage.  Those stories remind us of what is right and of how others have experienced it and how they have dealt with it.

Bob:  The thing that I think so many people appreciate about the book is how honest and transparent you are.  You are not sugarcoating the situation.  You are showing other parents how you have fleshed this out in the midst of real emotions, real challenges, real struggles and yet real faith.  This is a great book to pass along to parents who have a special needs child. 

I want to encourage our listeners to go to our website  Just stop and think for a moment.  How many parents do you know who are dealing with an autistic child, or a child with cerebral palsy, or a child who has any kind of a special need? 

Order multiple copies of Joe and Cindi’s book and give them as a gift to your friends. Again, we have copies in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.  Go to and the information you need about how to order the book online is available there. 

Again, it’s or call 1-800-FL-Today.  You can get information over the phone about how you can get a copy of Joe and Cindi’s book.  Let me also mention, many folks have contacting us about the new book from your wife Barbara, Dennis, and your daughter Rebecca.  The book is called A Symphony in the Dark.  In this book they talk about the lessons they have learned and the lessons that all of you learned as a family as you faced the death of your granddaughter Molly a year ago. 

Again, this is a book you may want to pass along to a parent you know who has experienced the loss of a son or a daughter in recent days.  The book is called A Symphony in the Dark.  We have copies in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.  You can find out more or order online at or by calling 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word today.

You know the reality is that we will all experience trials in life.  There is going to be suffering that accompanies certain seasons of our lives.  We need to know how to walk the path when we are experiencing trials.  How do you walk that path in faith? 

Not long ago Dennis Rainey gave a message to our staff here at FamilyLife from Psalm 34 called Trials and Tribulations: encouragement, hope, and help found in Psalm 34.  This month we are making the CD of that message available to listeners who can support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount. 

This has been a challenging year for us at FamilyLife, as it has been for many non-profits, and for many families.  We have seen a decline in donations to our ministry.  We’ve had to make some hard choices in the midst of this challenging economy and it is at times like this that we need to be reminded that what God says is true.  That’s what Dennis does for us in this message from Psalm 34. 

If you can help with a donation of any amount to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today this month, feel free to request a copy of the CD from Dennis on trials and tribulations.  All you have to do to request the CD is type the word “trials” in the key code box on the online donation form or call 1-800-FL-Today, 1-800-358-6329, 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word today.  When you make a donation over the phone you can request a copy of this CD on trials and tribulation.  Again we are happy to send it out to you.  We very much appreciate your support of this ministry. 

We hope you can be back with us tomorrow.  We’ll be talking with Joe and Cindi Ferrini about the special pressure that is put on a marriage relationship when you are raising a child with unique physical challenges and needs.  I hope you can join us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine.  We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

Help for today.  Hope for tomorrow.

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