Goldeluxe & The Three “Must Bears” of Special Needs Ministry

Joni and Friends Church Relations Team, the "Gold-deluxe" standard in special needs ministry.  Equipping churches to embrace families affected by disability.  Photo courtesy Debbie Lillo.

Joni and Friends Church Relations Team, the “Gold-deluxe” standard in special needs ministry.  Equipping churches to embrace families affected by disability.  Photo courtesy Debbie Lillo.


A tribute to special needs ministry champions who honor our families with “Gold-deluxe” service.  

I’ve been each of these three “Must Bears” at some point.   Supporting complex families like ours can be a delicate, sensitive and prickly endeavor.  Thank you for your calling, passion and dedication to serve where many others dare not tread.  



Bear Too Much

Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Goldeluxe (she may have been a distant cousin to that other lass.)  Goldeluxe had a heart of gold.  In fact, she had a special heart to serve families affected by disability, or special needs, or the neuro-diverse community — or whatever other politically correct handle was soup de jour for the moment.

One fine morning, Goldeluxe went for a walk in the forest.  She stumbled upon three houses in a row.  The first house was unkempt, with rusty tricycles and Twinkie wrappers strewn about the overgrown lawn.  She merrily approached the dirty little house and knocked on the door.

No one answered.  Goldeluxe knocked again and waited.  Suddenly she heard a crash, bam, and boom!  Followed by a thump, thump, and thump!  The door swung wide open, and a grinning little boy met Goldeluxe.  She could tell immediately by his almond-shaped eyes, that he had a little something extra special to him.  It was written all over his cherubic little face.

“Well, hello there!  Is your mother home?”  Goldeluxe inquired politely.

A gruff voice bellowed from inside the home,

“Who’s at the door?!”  A man emerged and demanded,  “What do you want?”

Goldeluxe replied, “I was just skipping through the woods.  I was wondering if there was anything I could do to bless your family.  Oh, I do love children!  All kinds of children!” 

She smiled broadly at the little boy.  The youngster was hopping up and down excitedly by now.  Visitors rarely came to this house, you see.

“We’re fine.  Thanks,” the man replied gruffly, pushing his son behind the door. “We don’t need any help.”

Goldeluxe protested, “Are you sure?  I could, ah, mow your lawn?  We have a parent support group and respite event coming up.  We play with the children (eying the little boy), so parents could get a break and enjoy some refreshment. Or maybe you’d like to join our email list, to stay apprised of our upcoming events?  All at no cost!”  

The man was irritated, “Look, I told you we’re fine.  My kids are fine.  I’m fine.  Everything’s normal and we’re don’t need any help.” 

And with that, he slammed the door.  To this house, Goldeluxe was just Too Much to bear.


Bear Too Little

Undeterred, Goldeluxe shook the dust off her feet and skipped merrily to the second house.  This house was even messier than the first.  The grass was dead and the concrete driveway was cracked, tripping Goldeluxe as she walked to the porch.  Gingerly, she stepped around a broken light bulb and knocked on the door.

No one answered.  Goldeluxe knocked again and waited.  Suddenly she heard a piercing scream, followed by a piping voice behind the door chanting,

“Knock, knock!  Who’s there!  Knock, knock!  Who’s there!  Knock, knock!  Who’s there..!”  

The door cracked open a sliver, with the chain lock stayed.  An eyeball peered out, suspiciously, and a woman’s voice called out in desperation,

“Yes?  Who is it?  Are you the 10:00?”

Goldeluxe replied, “I was just skipping through the woods.  I was wondering if there was anything I could do to bless your family.  Oh, I do love children!  All kinds of children!” 

Goldeluxe smiled her most winsome smile at the eyeball.  The door suddenly swung open, and Goldeluxe was yanked into the house by both arms.

“Goodness, yes!  I sure could use help.  A lot of help.  See that boy over there?”  She pointed to the adorable little boy who refused to make eye contact but kept on shouting,

“Knock, knock!  Who’s there!  Knock, knock!  Who’s there! Knock, knock!  Who’s there..!”

The woman continued, “He needs a shower before the 10:00 therapist comes.  And I need to run to the store and take my other child to soccer practice.  Can you bathe him, and clean the bathroom –he just had another accident– and fold my laundry, and… and… Oh, just keep your phone nearby.  I’ll think of more!”

Goldeluxe was feeling a little overwhelmed.  But she’s just a girl who cain’t say no.  Despite being a recovering People Pleaser, she wanted to live up to her name and calling:  providing Gold-Deluxe level service.  Hence, she dove right in to the woman’s requests, chirping a Happy Working Song as she joyfully scrubbed the woman’s toilets.

As the day wore on, the woman continued to assign Goldeluxe extra chores, texting rapid-fire from the store, from the soccer field, and illegally from her minivan at red lights.  Goldeluxe was getting a little concerned.  She wanted to be a helper; not slave labor.  But knowing she was called to sacrifice and serve, she pressed on, putting the family’s needs before her own.  They desperately needed her.  After all, if Goldeluxe didn’t help them, who on God’s green earth would?!

In a matter of days, Goldeluxe found herself on 24×7 standby.  She was starting to feel trapped, like Miranda Priestley’s terrorized assistant in “The Devil Wears Prada.”

In an earnest desire to establish healthy boundaries, Goldeluxe summoned up her courage and requested to have the night off.  She wanted to go home to her own family for the evening.  But the woman was shocked and horrified,

“What?!  You’re abandoning us?  Don’t you see how much we’re suffering?  You owe it to me! What kind of helper are you?  Just go then, you selfish hypocrite!  I knew you never cared about us!  

Poor little Goldeluxe.  No matter how much she poured out for the frazzled woman, it was never enough.  Despite all Goldeluxe’s efforts, according this house, she bearly did enough.  Alas, she never did nothin’ but way Too Little.


Bear Just Right

Bruised, bewildered and dejected, Goldeluxe trudged toward home.  Maybe she should quit trying to help people.  It was just too hard.  No good deed seemed to go unpunished.

On her way, she neared a third house.  This house was also in disarray.  Garbage overflowed from canisters parked haphazardly at the curb.  Newspaper lined the windows, while lights flickered from within the darkened house.

“What is up with this neighborhood?” she wondered.  “There must be something in the water…”  Goldeluxe dared to consider, maybe she should she give it one last try.  Reminding herself that she was gifted and called for such a time as this, she gritted her teeth and knocked on the door.

No one answered.  Goldeluxe reached for the doorbell and saw the sign, “NO SOLICITORS.” She faltered, took another deep breath, and pressed the button.

“Who is it?”  A harried-looking woman rushed to the door, balancing a wailing baby on her hip. “Yes? Can I help you?”

Goldeluxe replied, “Is there any way I could I help YOU?  I love children. All kinds of children!” 

The woman looked stunned.  Even the baby stopped crying.  

“Help us?  Are you serious? You want to help… us??” she stammered, incredulous.

Goldeluxe braced herself for the worst and tried again, “Yes!  I was wondering if there was anything I could do to bless your family.  I have a special heart to minister to special families.  Might you be one?”

The woman was speechless.  Tears welled in her eyes as she whispered,

“You are an answered prayer.  I’m not able to leave the house because my older child has sensory processing disorder and severe allergies.  She’s profoundly sensitive to light, sounds, smells, and… and….”  

Her voice trailed as she searched for words.  Emboldened, Goldeluxe pressed on,

“We have a parent support group and respite event coming up.  We take care of all the children so parents could get a break and have some refreshment. Or maybe you’d like to join our email list, to stay apprised of our upcoming events?  All at no cost!”  

The weary woman looked at Goldeluxe and gulped through grateful tears,

“Thank you.  Thank you so very much.  Please come in.  Oh, and I’m so sorry for the mess.  I’m so embarrassed…”

And for both Goldeluxe and this beary special family, everything felt Just Right.


(Not) The End

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

~ Ephesians 4:1-2



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9 Responses to Goldeluxe & The Three “Must Bears” of Special Needs Ministry

  1. Kathy October 8, 2013 at 11:20 am #

    Love your writings Diane. My Autistic boy often barks and hisses at the people that come to our door (says that is how he protects himself just like our dog and cats he observed). LOL just have to laugh or cry while trying to call him off the UPS guy. I have unfortunately not had folks willing to help much if at all, unless we pay them somewhere between $20 to $100 dollars an hour depending on their area of expertise. My husband and I trade off getting a break. I have had hopes that a Church or friends/family would see the need but have not seen much desire to reach out to special needs families. They don’t know what to do with us…. after all where is the “evidence of the spirit” in that mess if one measures it in peace and lack of problems. Never mind all the stories of Jesus showing compassion to those rejected by the establishment and religion of His times. I served in Sunday school myself for three years when mine were little and I welcomed the tough cases but my Autistic son was generally not welcomed so he stayed home with Dad. In Sunday school they often encourage yelling Yea and outbursts of loud togetherness that scare away and upset the sensitive and do not seem to understand how those loud outburst and rock concerts make it difficult for the special needs children to maintain their composure. We have given up being part of a Church at this point and Church at home and home school. Thinking of starting a home church. We share in His sufferings and take joy in the good stuff and don’t worry about fitting in anymore. We try to be an example of His uncommon love and grace, though sometimes feel far from that and struggle. Do you know of a Church ministry that is really meeting special needs families where they are at and loving them?

    • Diane October 8, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

      Oh dear Kathy, I SO get you! Qualified help is hard to find. But I’m also learning to appreciate that it is also hard to “get” complex families like ours, much know know how to help. I’m learning to give grace and benefit of the doubt, that friends/families do mean well and want to help. They just don’t know how. They’re hapless in knowing what to do. And they don’t want to risk assuming, imposing or even asking, for fear of offending. So they may do was appears to us as,”nothing,” when it’s really because they are paralyyzed, tongue-tied, anxious, overthinking it, etc. All because they are trying to be sensitive to an already sensitive situation. Over the years, I’ve had several heart-to-heart conversations about this, all with similar conclusions (confessions). I’m learning to accept that unless someone has walked in my exact shoes, it’s not reasonable to expect them to understand or know what to do to help. How could they? Without this understanding, it became too easy for me to assume, ‘Hmph! See? They don’t care!” And I became very bitter. But it’s a tragic misunderstanding 🙁 James 4, “What causes fights and quarrels among you?” It’s because I want but don’t get (I make myself miserable, partly due to my own unmet, unspoken expectatations. Admittedly, it’s hard for us to clearly articulate what “doables” would be helpful, too.) Kathy, please contact me offline about where you live. I’d love connect you with your local Joni and Friends office. It’s their mission to connect SN families with local churches who are equipped to embrace and love on them. God bless them for it! BTW, HILARIOUS about the barking/UPS guy. Ain’t it amazing the things we can laugh at, with those of us who “get it”? Thankful 🙂

  2. Kathy October 8, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

    Thanks Diane! Yes, your preaching to the choir dear but I agree grace and forgiveness is needed and expectations are dangerous, though it is not really so hard to help or show caring or inclusion for those who choose to. I will contact you tomorrow to see if a connection can be made through Joni and friends.

    • Diane October 8, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

      Amen and absolutely 😀

  3. morethanlegs October 10, 2013 at 11:45 am #

    This is great! Everyone knows the story of the Three Bears, but few know how to reach out those affected by special needs. the way you conveyed important tips was not only clear but clever! Blessings on your ministry!

    • Diane October 11, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

      morethanlegs, I just checked out your site: YOU are a Goldeluxe yourself! God bless you especially as you bless others!

  4. Naomi October 12, 2013 at 4:24 pm #


    I loved reading your post because every day I strive to be like Goldeluxe and help SN families whenever I can! I wish I could tell which houses, as she did, housed SN families and I would see if they needed help in a heart beat!

    • Diane October 14, 2013 at 9:47 am #

      Dearest Naomi, I KNOW you are one of the goldenest of Goldeluxe’s and I love you for it!! Because you have such a heart, God will continue to order your steps. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” 🙂

      • Naomi October 14, 2013 at 9:59 am #

        Aw! Thanks Diane! I am honored!

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