Hidden Gifts

Me and my Ecola Bible friends at the retreat

Last weekend, I went to a conference that I’ve been going to for many years. This retreat has been hosted by David O’Brien, a man with Cerebral Palsy.   Over 30 years ago, he invited several of his friends with disabilities to spend a weekend at the Cannon Beach Conference Center on the first weekend in December. Little did he know that this was the beginning of a 30 year tradition.

To make this weekend possible, David has partnered with many people from his church as well as the students from Ecola Bible School. Each attendee has students help them throughout the weekend. This gives the students the unique opportunity to form friendships with and learn more about people with disabilities.

While we were getting ready to gather for a meeting, I glanced at the unopened gifts sheltered by the Christmas tree. When I see gifts, I know there is a sense of expectation; we always expect something wonderful, but sometimes we are disappointed. We want to put those gifts back on the shelf and pretend we never got them. I started to think about how many people are like unopened gifts. Some people don’t live up to our expectations. Some people may look like pretty packages, but when we unwrap them we discover that they are less than desirable. The opposite is true too! At first glance, there are people that may be less appealing, but when we take the risk to engage with them, we discover that they are like hidden treasures. All people are gifts; so if you get a gift that you aren’t sure you want, please take another look!

Some people celebrate Christmas just to open gifts and celebrate love, while others celebrate the birth of their Savior.  Jesus was the epitome of an unwanted gift. He was born to an unwed mother and was not at all the King that the Israelites expected. He knows all about how it feels to be an unwanted gift. My hope is that none of us miss out on the surprise gifts that will come our way this Christmas season.

Out of control?

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November hasn’t been my easiest month. If you didn’t notice, there weren’t many blogs and a lot of my other activities were cancelled too. This was because of an uninvited respiratory infection that is going around. i seem to be doing much better now.

I thought I had my coughing under control around Thanksgiving day, so I went over to a friend’s house to celebrate. After hacking my way through the day, my daughter loaded me into the car, and instead of taking me home, we went to Urgent Care. I thought, “Oh my goodness, this is going to take all night!” But I was pleasantly surprised that I got in and out in a matter of 3 hours!

My next hurdle that had been looming over me all month had been getting out our first Joni and Friends newsletter. I was frustrated when people who had offered to help did not come through, but I was relieved when the Lord provided others who were willing to help.

Last night as i was reading updates on some of my friends, one had written this,”Not everyday is good, but everyday has something good in it!” I could relate to this because of the last month being full of ups and downs.  I was thinking about all of the things that have gone ‘wrong’ lately, and I realized that I had learned more about God’s faithfulness; that when I thought things were out of control, they were actually just in His control, not mine.

So as we head into the busy month of December and feel out of control, just take a breath and re-focus your eyes on the Prince of Peace!

Spoonful of Sugar

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I was watching a movie called, “Saving Mr. Banks,” last night. The movie is about the author of “Mary Poppins,” and the process of Walt Disney making that story into a film.

At first, I assumed that P.L. Travers (the author of the book) was just being difficult and had really strong opinions about the way she wanted things done. Then I realized that the scenes that she was most insistent about were  those that triggered unsealed childhood memories. Fortunately

for us, Walt Disney found a way to relieve her fears so we could all enjoy that Walt Disney Classic.

Instead of assuming that people we encounter are just being difficult, we need to remember that there is always something behind it, both in our lives and in theirs. “Matthew 7:3-5 reminds us to “take the plank out of our own eye before removing the speck of dust in our brother’s eye (paraphrased).”

Many ties I blow things way out of proportion, so I found it helpful to ask myself, ” what is it about this person that is triggering such a strong response in me?” God is very faithful to bring healing and health to each area of our hearts that we bring to Him.

Seasons of Change

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The gray clouds seem to be closing in for the winter, and the green leaves of summer have turned golden yellow and they’re falling from the trees. Some of you have lit your fireplaces for the first time and are cozying up with a book and a cup of coffee.

I’ve been thinking about the trees that will be stripped of all of their leaves in a few weeks and I look forward to the springtime when I can see buds form from those very same withered branches. A friend of mine posted this poem by Pierre Teilhard De Chardin and I think you will enjoy what it says:

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.

We are quite naturally impatient in everything,
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way
to something unknown,
something new.

And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability-
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually – let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstance
acting on your own good will)
will make of your tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense, and incomplete.

It is hard to wait, sometimes we can despair when it seems like nothing is happening at all. But God has a purpose for every season. When we trust him, we will be blessed when our winters turn to springs!

The End of the Scooter Saga

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(Picture of me and Jerry Pattee, the President of UCP Oregon and Southern Washington)

Just in the nick of time, I got my new scooter. It’s a beauty. It does everything I need it to and it is light enough for one person to load into the back of a car! Our first adventure with the scooter was to a UCP (United Cerebral Palsy) Family Conference last weekend.

There were all kinds of speakers and vendors there. While talking to one of the mobility vendors, I told him about the sad saga of my scooter and said, “At least I got two blogs out of the experience!” I gave him my blog site and in a couple of hours, he came back to me and said, “You didn’t finish the story of your scooter!” So there you go, the end of the story is that I am happy and on the road again!

The keynote speaker at this conference was Julie Keon, whose experience raising a daughter with medical fragility has led her to become a writer and blogger. Her talk, entitled ‘Ten Pearls of Wisdom I Gained in Ten Years’ was filled with touching and inspiring stories of struggle and hope. I looked around the room and saw tired mothers and dads with faces full of worry and concern. Some were in the middle of a struggle where it is hard to grasp that there is hope. Julie talked about how she had to put away the expectations that she’d had while she was pregnant with her baby in order to go forward. She learned to be thankful each day that her daughter lived and breathed. Just a few years ago, Julie had trouble breathing too. After several tests, there were still no answers. Eventually, she talked with a vocal coach who had her take a deep breath, and she told Julie that the reason she was having trouble is because she was holding her breath. She’d didn’t even realize that ever since her daughter was born, she’d been afraid to breathe deeply.

There have been a lot of times that I haven’t been aware of the stress I was carrying, for instance, when I was in junior high, I had a mouth full of canker sores and a chronic upset stomach, which was later diagnosed as a ‘nervous stomach’ due to moving to a public school.

I thought about my own mom raising a child with Cerebral Palsy, without the internet or very much support. There must have been times when she found it hard to breathe too! Do you know the areas in your life that scare you, or knock the wind out of you?

On the Road Again…

Lyla lounging on her scooter

A few weeks ago, I posted about the untimely death of my scooter. So, here is the next installment of the scooter saga. Actually, it began several months ago when I was stranded in the airport. Thankfully, I was able to make it to my destination; Montana. I was there to visit my mom who suggested that I buy a new scooter. I said, “No mom, I can get this fixed!” It seemed frivolous at the time to buy a whole new scooter. She replied, “If my car kept breaking down, would you think it was frivolous to replace it?” I thought about it and felt like the scooter worked well enough; until a few weeks ago.

Since then, I’ve been shopping around for a new one. I called a friend and he recommended a guy that sold him his scooter. So I called him up and he brought one out to show me. I took it for a short spin and told him it would work. After he left, I took it out for a longer jaunt and got stuck on a speed bump in the parking lot of my apartment complex. I hated to call him back, but I knew I needed to.

So he came out a second time and brought a different scooter that sailed over the speed bumps at lightening speed, and left my friends who were walking with me in the dust. I was sold! The next day, I took it to a writing conference and had some trouble maneuvering it, but I thought that eventually it would loosen up and be all right. So the following day, I gave it one last big test. My friend picked me up for an event and she and my son-in-law loaded it into her car before we took off. It was much heavier than my last scooter and almost impossible for her to load by herself.

When the guy dropped it off, he said, drive it and test it, but that night, I weighed the pros and cons. Power versus practicality. Were the inconveniences of the scooter worth calling him again and saying, “Now this one isn’t going to work either!” I decided to call this morning and let him know that this scooter flunked the test too. He was pretty understanding when I told him why and then I explained what I needed.

There are a lot of things in our lives that we just put up with because we don’t want to inconvenience anyone or seem like a pest. But when we don’t make our needs known, we wind up in a bigger bind than we started with! We can wind up resentful. But when we speak up about what we need, it lends itself to more freedom in our own lives and our relationships. Is there something in your own life that is eating little holes in your heart? Do you need to speak up about it?

Doors of Opportunity

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This weekend at the rockin’ Rock Creek women’s retreat, the theme was ‘keys and gates.’ Saturday afternoon, we were asked to look at pictures of gates and doors and pick one that inspired us. I did, but quickly forgot about it. Abundant morning when everyone was sharing about their experience, I could not remember which one I had chosen. Finally I remembered, but by that time, my eyes had been drawn to a different picture.

It was a picture of a double doors with stained glass on them; one part of the door was shut, but the other part was opened just a little ways. Through the crack in the door, I saw an inviting light. It just drew me in!

As I thought about that picture, I remembered how frustrating it’s been to have so many doors closed to me  my life. I could have let the disappointment of not getting a job right out of college stop me cold, but l I saw that the light of the Lord was inviting me into a deeper fellowship then I could have imagined. What a great honor it is to be in communion with Him. The more I’m drawn to Him, the less I bang my head against the doors that are shut. It is easier to relax and trust that God has greater plans than I do. Step by step, God has shown me that my plan to support myself by working in the field of disability is just a fraction of His plans.

The glass on the door represented the times when my perception has been distorted by my own desires. Even if they were great desires, they stopped me from seeing other options. Remarkable opportunities that were more than I could have dreamed. My plans seem boring in comparison to the joy He’s given me. Now it is my greatest desire to allow His light to shine through me and draw others into fellowship with Him.