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Crystal Cathedral

Main Service Times: Main - 9:30 & 11:00 AM | Evening - 7:00 PM | Arabic - 1:15 PM

Guest Interviews

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Jennifer Shaw

2204 2020-04-29

Jennifer Shaw (JS) is a talented recording artist, songwriter, speaker and author. She completed her undergraduate degrees in vocal and piano performance at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, and her graduate work in opera performance at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music. Jennifer's newest album is entitled, Love Broke Through, and her new book is entitled, Life Not Typical. Ed Arnold (EA) interviews Jennifer.

EA: It’s my pleasure to welcome talented recording artist, Jennifer Shaw. In addition to singing, Jennifer is also a songwriter, speaker, and author of the book Life Not Typical: How special needs parenting changed my faith and my song.

Jennifer completed her undergraduate degrees in vocal and piano performance at Hope College, (and even sang here in the Crystal Cathedral with her college choir). She went on to complete her graduate work in opera performance at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music. Her newest album, Love Broke Through, includes three billboard top forty songs. She and her husband Nathan and their three children live in central Ohio. Please welcome, Jennifer Shaw.

JS: Good morning!

EA:Jennifer, it’s a pleasure to have you here. Tell us the story of your initial visit to the Crystal Cathedral.

JS: I was here with the Hope College Choir. We were singing and when it came to my little solo, a big bird flew right into the window behind my head and scared me to death. My other memory of that trip was when our whole choir watched the broadcast. We really enjoyed knowing that we were part of something that was going all over the world, telling people about the Lord. That was really fun.

EA: Now your life kind of turned upside down in 2003. Prior to that, you had the all American family life; your faith was strong, you loved the Lord and your family was absolutely great. Explain what happened.

JS: We had a lot of things happen all at once and I consider that kind of a refining fire time in my life. I had a life-threatening situation myself with a miscarriage that was very difficult. And then my father, who I loved tremendously, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, which is 100% fatal.

We have three children and while that was going on with my dad and his illness, our youngest son, Toby, who was just a baby, was beginning to act very bizarre and extreme and we didn’t understand his behavior. We knew something was really wrong, but we weren’t sure what it was. So I knew I was losing my dad and it really felt like I was losing my son at the same time. Toby couldn’t communicate. He didn’t eat. He couldn’t go outside. He couldn’t be touched. It was a very, very hard time for us.

EA: What was his diagnosis?

JS: He was diagnosed at age two with something called Sensory Processing Disorder, which is related to autism in that every autistic child will have this disorder, but you can have the disorder and not have the social and emotional part of autism that makes it autism.

So in Toby’s case, his brain was misinterpreting sensory input. For example, if he got water on him, his brain told him it was burning him. And if we went outside and there was a breeze, it felt like the breeze was cutting his skin. He couldn’t eat because the food felt like it was cutting his mouth. And it was just terrifying for him. He literally cried for two years.

Once we got his diagnosis and got him into therapy, things began to change. There are no medications or drugs, it’s just occupational therapy.

One of my favorite memories after we started occupational therapy was the evening I was reading him a bedtime story. Now he hadn’t communicated at all up until this point. After I finished the story, I said “good-night buddy, I love you” and he turned around, out of no where, patted me on the cheek and said, “I love you, mom.” Just out of the blue! And by Christmas, he was talking in full sentences and now we’ve seen a miracle. Toby is seven years old, he’s in the first grade, and he is there as a typical kid. He’s been discharged from all of his therapy for two years now and he’s just doing wonderful.

EA: How are things going with him in school?

JS: He’s doing great in school. The word in the special needs community for a child without special needs is “a typical.” They call them a typical kid and Toby’s been in school as a typical now for two years and he’s just doing great.

EA: How about your daughters. How have they coped with all of this?

JS: I’m glad you asked because that is such a big deal for families with a special needs child. Often the siblings, the typical siblings have a really hard time because they can come to really resent their sibling that gets so much attention. Toby needed constant, constant attention and it was really hard on them. I often thought to myself, wow, this is really unfair. They were constantly in the car with me going to therapy, and always having to wait, and always having to be patient.

Yet I have seen Romans 8:28 come to life in our family. It says that “God will use all things to good for those who love Him.” I can see that God has used this hard time in my girls’ life for their good. They have learned such compassion. I mean they’re wonderful girls and they love Toby to death, but I’ve seen Him expand it not just for Toby, but for everyone. He’s really taught them compassion.

EA: How did your husband, Nathan, cope with all of this?

JS: I have a wonderful husband and I really give him so much credit. Toby wouldn’t be where he is without his dad. Nathan is a wonderful man of God and I have seen the Lord really deepen his faith through this, as well.

We had our prayers answered “yes” with Toby and we had our prayers answered “no” with my dad. My father passed away yet that doesn’t change who God is. God is who He says He is. He is good, and He is faithful, and He is powerful, and He is with us. He is Emmanuel. And I see that in both my husband and myself. Our faith has been totally transformed.

EA: Jennifer, thank you for being with us today. We really appreciate your story.

JS: Thank you for having me.

EA: Jennifer’s book, Life Not Typical, and her CD, Love Broke Through, are available in stores across the country. Jennifer also has a website: jennifershaw.com where you can find more information about her book and her music.

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