Embracing Marriage Together
Joe and Cindi Ferrini talk candidly about walking through life with their 38-year-old son Joey, who has special needs. Acknowledging the strain a child with disabilities can put on a family, the Ferrinis tell what they did to strengthen their marriage in the midst of doctor visits, therapy sessions, and meeting Joey's continual needs. They also talk about the importance of finding a care team or community of people who will be an emotional and practical support in the daily care of their child.
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Joe and Cindi Ferrini talk candidly about walking through life with their 38-year-old son Joey, who has special needs.
Embracing Marriage Together
Dave: —I’m sitting here, thinking, “God is talking to somebody right now.”
Dave: You know who needs help; you’ve seen them. Maybe, you’re good friends with them; and you’re the one God’s saying, “Go tell them.”
Ann: We’re talking about an important relationship with our spouse; but I’m also listening to you, thinking, “How do you do your walk with God?” Because I know you guys—Jesus oozes out of you—you can tell your love for Him is so apparent. Here you have a special needs child; you also had two more daughters. Your lives are full and busy; how did you carve out time for a dynamic walk with God?
Cindi: Well, a couple of things. First of all, I would very rarely miss a quiet time; but a quiet time wouldn’t necessarily mean it was an hour long. It might have been a verse, or a chapter, or maybe a couple of verses until I learned something new. It wasn’t always this great spiritual high of getting out your Bible and your teaching manuals and having this big quiet time—though I would have loved to have done that—I think sometimes we just have to steal those moments when we can.
Joey points us to Jesus all along the way. He knows the Lord. I would have to say, for sure, that Joey has taught us things that the Bible itself, just reading it, would never have taught us.
Joe: It was learned, by God’s grace, in a way that we never could have learned from reading a book or hearing a sermon. We tell people, all the time, that: “If you want to learn how to worship/if you want to learn how to come to the throne of God, stand behind us in church. Joey will take you there.”
Dave: What’s that mean? What’s that look like?
Joe: His eyes are closed; his hands are up. He’s—
Joe: —doesn’t know the words—he’s singing. He’s not in tune at all, but you know what?—he’s in worship.
Ann: It’s interesting, too—because when our kids have struggled—God gives us a different view. We see them as struggling; yet, God sometimes gives us: “Wait. You’re not looking at it the way I’m looking at it.”
Our son—I remember realizing and getting a diagnosis of ADD—and he just struggled in school. I remember I was on an elliptical bike, and I was reading Exodus that day. I read this in Exodus 4:10—it says, “But Moses said to the Lord, ‘O my Lord, I’m not eloquent either in the past or since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and of tongue.’” Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute or deaf or seeing or blind? Is it not I the Lord?”
I remember putting down my Bible—and I’ve never read that in that way before—it was as if God said: “I am delighting in your son. I have made your son. Can you not delight in him as I have made him?” It changed my whole perspective—
Joe: That’s right; that’s right.
Ann: —whereas: “If God’s delighting in him,—
Ann: —“I’m going to delight in him too.”
Ann: And to hear Joey delighting in God, himself, is inspiring.
Cindi: I really feel, too, in our family—having Joey has allowed for our girls to become—through no/I wish I could say, “Oh, we did such a good job”; you know?—but through no fault of our own, if you will, they have turned into the loveliest of young ladies—how they love and care for their brother and other people.
One of our daughters is looking into foster care. Another is working with an improv group, that are Downs Syndrome young adults, having a blast. That’s her background—musical theater/improv—she’s loving it. Would they have gone those directions without Joey? It’s more far-reaching; but I think, as parents, we have to come to a place, which that Scripture verse took you—
Joe: That’s beautiful.
Cindi: —to where you say, “I do delight in them like You delight in them.” It gives you a whole different perspective for that day and for that goal, that I said earlier, where you are looking, “Will we have a legacy, when we look back on this child’s life, and in our marriage?”
Dave: And you think—well, at least I thought—when you describe Joey worshipping, I thought, “Someday, he’ll be doing that in heaven, and you’ll be there.”
Cindi: That’s right.
Joe: That’s right.
Dave: You know, when you described earlier, Joe—looking into his eyes when he was a little baby and seeing that look—what do you think you’re going to see in his eyes then?
Joe: Ooh! Glory!
Dave: Yes, it’ll be amazing.
Joe: That’s right.
Cindi: You know, we prayed for Joey for many years. I remember going into his room and him just going, “Uh”; and I thought for sure that was going to be the morning he’d be healed. I stopped praying; because I realized he is just who he is, and I am going to love him just how he is.
When he was little, I think, if you would have said, “Would you like Joey healed?”—and if Jesus would walk in the room and heal him—I would have said, “Yes, yes; heal him right now.” But at 38 years old—and we’ve said this for a number of years—if Jesus came to us and said, “Would you like Me to heal him?” I think we’d say, “No”; because he has taught us so much. We have learned to love him in all ways, and I believe he has loved us in all ways.
Bob: You know, whether our kids have acute special needs or—they all have special needs; don’t they?—
Ann: So do we. [Laughter]
Joe: That’s right.
Bob: —their [special needs child] needs are clear, and present, and obvious; and they make them known to us, right?
Our marriage has needs, but it’s not always as acute or obvious. I think part of what we’re hearing this week is we have to be smart enough to know to address the less obvious need of our marriage, even if it means setting aside some of those immediate needs that our kids are coming with. If we don’t put the priority on the marriage, there is not going to be the strength available, long term, to meet the special needs of our kids.
Bob: And you guys address this so well in your book, Love All Ways, which is a book we want to encourage our listeners—if you are dealing with this personally—or if you know a couple in your church—get a copy of this book, and pass it on to them.
Thank you guys for being with us, and for sharing this, and for encouraging others through this book and through this time together.
Joe: Well, thank you for the opportunity.
Cindi: Thank you so much.
Joe: Appreciate it.
Bob: We’ve got both of Joe and Cindi’s books available in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. They wrote another book called Unexpected Journey: Caring for Those with Special Needs. Both books are available; go to FamilyLifeToday.com. If you know somebody, who has a special needs child, get them copies of these books and pass them onto them as a gift. Just let them know that you are there for them and that you are available. Offer these books as a way of saying, “We care about you.”
Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com to get the books, Love All Ways and Unexpected Journey, by Joe and Cindi Ferrini. You can order from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order. One more time, the website: FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to order at 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to tell you about a movie that is premiering this weekend. It’s available, online, for you to watch. It’s a movie that’s a great Father’s Day film; it’s called Selfie Dad. Brad Silverman, who is the director and screenwriter for the movie, is going to be with us. We’re also going to tell you about how Kayne West got involved in this film a little bit. That’s all coming up tomorrow. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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