Pushing Out Into Deep Water as Our Special Needs Kids Become Adults

Jesus said to Simon, “Push out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch.” Simon said, “Master, we’ve been fishing hard all night and haven’t caught even a minnow.  But if you say so, I’ll let out the nets.” It was no sooner said than done—a huge haul of fish, straining the nets past capacity. They waved to their partners in the other  boat to come help them. They filled both boats, nearly swamping them with the catch. Simon Peter, when he saw it, fell to his knees before Jesus. “Master, leave. I’m a sinner and can’t handle this holiness. Leave me to myself.” When they pulled in that catch of fish, awe overwhelmed Simon and everyone with him. It was the same with James and John, Zebedee’s sons., coworkers with Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “There is nothing to fear. From now on you’ll be fishing for men and women.” They pulled their boats up on the beach, left them, nets and all, and followed him. Luke 5:1-11, The Message.

 Nearly ten years ago I received a valuable tip from a life-coach friend: “When you're having anxiety over a decision, name what you don’t want,” she said, “and then move on to name what you do want. And as you do, you will feel the energy move from what you’re afraid of to what is possible. Then choose to keep the energy in that life-giving place.”

Since the main anxiety-provoking issue in my life at that time was Joel’s move from our family home to a farm for adults with autism, I decided to spend some time practicing moving the energy from fear to possibility. This is what I wrote:

I don’t want to be consumed with fears and anxieties about moving Joel to the farm.

I don’t want to worry that this isn’t going to work.

I want to walk forward in trust, trusting that God is in control.

I  want to get to know the other parents and start working on building community.

I want to be in on the ground floor of building something grand.

I want to play a part in making it happen.

I want to be 100% involved, not hanging out on the periphery.

I want to believe that Joel is going to love his new home.

I want to believe that Joel has gifts that have yet to be discovered, and that the farm will bring them to the surface.

I want to foster independence in Joel.

I want to foster new friendships for Joel.

I want for Joel to live in a country atmosphere, where he can do physical labor out of doors and live a healthy lifestyle.

I want to remember that Joel can come home on weekends or for dinner anytime—that we can take him on vacations with us as often as we desire.

I want to remember that the farm will be a place where we can volunteer our time and treasure, knowing that these gifts will be multiplied many times over in the lives of its residents.


Ten years ago, when we were making the decision to move Joel to the farm, in my state of high anxiety, I at least knew what I didn't want and what I did want. My husband and I used the positive energy of the second set of wants to help establish a farm where we truly believed Joel would thrive and live for the rest of his adult life. To our great surprise, and shock and consternation, the farm did not end up being a good match for Joel. He could not tolerate the noise and chaos of group living, rotating staff, high staff turn-over, and a home located on 60-plus acres, away from the community. The wide open spaces, along with the large number of people coming into and out of his home each day overwhelmed his sensory system, resulting in behaviors that showed us how very unhappy he was in this setting.

It took us awhile to hear the Lord as we cried out for answers, but we finally heard Jesus telling us to push out into deep water once again, and throw our net over the side. It was scary. We had invested several years, many hopes and dreams and more than a few dollars into this farm.

Today, as I meditate on the Scripture above, I realize that Simon was afraid of the abundance that Jesus offered to him. It’s always easier to stay with what is familiar than to venture out into deep water when we’re already tired, when we feel like we’ve been fishing all night to no avail. Pull in the nets and go home, get a good night’s sleep, and do the same-old same-old tomorrow.

But Jesus commands us to throw the nets back in, right here, right now. This is always the turning point: the present moment. Jesus knows what’s out there, waiting for us: abundance, over-flowing abundance.

As we heeded Jesus's call, we took all that we had learned and found Joel a house in a neighborhood ten minutes from our home. Joel needed a quiet, calm home atmosphere, just one or two familiar staff who were willing to stay for the long haul, and the ability to be out and about in the community on a daily basis.

Joel’s home is in a neighborhood where he can shoot hoops in the driveway, ride his bike around the block, and participate in block parties. One of the house staff has been with Joel for seventeen years! We re-wrote his ISP so that he has daily time in the community, where he participates in Best Buddies at Miami University, and sings in the Best Buddies Friends Choir. He goes to the Rec Center regularly, and takes walks on campus, uptown, or at one of the nearby parks. He is a member of a young adult small group through the church he attends with us, a church where he is a beloved and contributing member of the congregation.

Today, Joel is comfortable within his own skin, and as happy as we’ve ever seen him. And what about that list I made ten years ago, of the things I wanted for Joel? Almost every one of those desires came true in this new setting.

I’m so thankful for my friend’s coaching tip, to name what you don’t want, then name what you do want and ride that positive energy into the future. As parents of kids with special needs, we will make mistakes on this journey called life. We won’t always choose the right option, especially as they grow into adulthood. Sometimes we will think we are hearing God's voice when it's really our own hopes and dreams we hear. Keep naming what you don't want, then naming what you do want, always listening for the voice of the Lord in your heart as you head out into deep waters of change. Know that the Lord is with you, wherever you are, even if you have to head out into deep waters again and again.

Jesus promises to be with us every step of the way. And sometimes He surprises us with a catch so great that it takes us our breath away!

Kathy Bolduc is the mother of three sons and one adopted daughter. She is the author of four books, including The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities and Autism & Alleluias. Kathy's books, information about her spiritual direction practice and contemplative retreat center, Cloudland, can be found at kathleenbolduc.com