You can be a catalyst of change

I recently attended a smorgasbord and I may have overeaten.  No, I didn’t go to the Old Country Kitchen, one of the buffets in the area.  I attended the Faith and Culture Writers conference.  I found there was plenty of food for thought for everyone who was there.  I discovered that my appetite for writing was still alive and well. The track I followed was for non-fiction writers and all the workshops were excellent. Each of the speakers shared their story of pain and triumph. The stories of the speakers helped me remember that all of us have had struggles. But God can turn our difficult roads into pathways of hope when we share what he’s done in our lives.

One of the speakers I appreciated the most was Romal Tune. He was raised in poverty and violence.   As a teenager he kept the destructive patterns he learned from his mother, but he has totally turned his life around.  After serving in the Army he went to Howard University and graduated Magna Cum Laude. From there he went to Duke University School of Divinity to become an ordained minister.

By sharing the life lessons He’s learned throughout his journey, Roma Tune is instrumental in leading people out of despair and into hope.  He is the author of an Award-Winning Book entitled, “God’s Graffiti: Inspiring Stories for Teens”

In Matthew 9: Some men brought Jesus a paralytic man. When Jesus saw their faith he said to them“Your sins are forgiven. Get up, take your mat and go home”. The man got up and went home.

Our physical disabilities and life experiences often make us feel paralyzed, yet when Jesus forgives and heals our hearts. Then we can be catalysts of change in people’s lives by sharing our good news with them.

The power of surrender

 

In the last few months, I’ve been realizing that my body is a lot less resilient than it used to be. For instance, I used to live alone and get ready for the day by myself, but over just over a year ago, I’ve had the benefit of my friend living with me and helping me get ready for the day.

The few times that I’ve been alone lately, I’ve noticed what a struggle it is. I’ve realized that like or not, old age is creeping up to me and there is no stopping it. So I’ve been wondering how to deal with these changes.

On Good Friday, I went to a Good Samaritan Ministries Luncheon. My ears perked up as Bettie, the founder shared a message entitled “The Ministry of suffering”. In a nut shell she encouraged us to step into the difficult times in our lives. When we step into the difficulties in our lives with the Lord, instead of running and trying to avoid them, we can receive His power and grace to walk through our battle.

Bettie just recently lost her husband after a long battle with Dementia. Since she was his main care provider, it wore her out.

As she continued to talk, I looked over at my friend and her mother who I had just chatted with during lunch. Her brother had recently passed away and the sorrow was all over her mother’s face. Sometimes people will say “just grin and bare it” or “time will heal everything”, but it’s far more effective when we realize that grief can only be totally healed by God when we go through the stages of grief.

There are several stages in the grief process, sometimes people might be angry about what’s happening to them or want to figure out how to get out of it by bargaining. I realized that what I’ve been doing is going through parts of the grief cycle. I haven’t looked at what the process of getting older will look like in my life, but like it or not I will. So I’ve moved on into acceptance and I’m learning what I can do to be as feisty and independent for as long as possible.

For the last few months a group of us from Joni and Friends have been studying a book called “Beyond Suffering”. One of the things that stuck me was a statement Joni made about her disability. When people see her sitting in her wheelchair, they assume her paraplegia is the cross God has asked her to carry, but she believes it is actually her attitude that is her cross to carry. I so identify with that. It’s our attitudes that we need to surrender to God.

Typical most of us avoid asking the difficult questions surrounding suffering.  It may be we’re afraid to admit we feel our circumstances are unfair.

Each time I read about Jesus in the Garden of  Gethsemane, I’m reminded how God didn’t turn a way from Jesus while He was asking His Father to let this cup pass from Him.

At the  end of His time of prayer Jesus agreed to carry out God’s plan. In this we see that it’s alright to ask the hard questions because Jesus did. When He was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He spent the night agonizing over what God was asking Him to do.  He didn’t want to be crucified but yet He prayed “not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42), but when we embrace it we can discover that God remains faithful.

Wait, Don’t Stop

As a child growing up with cerebral palsy, I had the opportunity to have physical and occupational therapy regularly at a school for handicapped school for children, Sunshine School in Riverside, California. Therapy wasn’t available when I started attending a small public school in Montana. A couple of years ago after a serious fall I did get a few visits with a therapist but I neglected to follow through with their instructions.

Since a recent stay in the hospital I’ve been visited by therapists again. To my surprise the exercises I have been given haven’t even hurt. Thinking about my track record I said, “It’s really hard to believe these will do any good.” The response of the therapist switched my paradigm. “I want you to think about what you’ll lose if you don’t do the exercises.” I’ve fought hard all of my life to be independent. Slacking off now seems like it comes with a price that is too big to pay.

In January a lot of people join a gym determined to get healthy. Although you are there at the gym lifting weights you know there will be a payoff from the daily grind. It often whittles away your resolve and so many times people give up.

A friend of mine who needed a specialized wheelchair was denied his request because of how the way it was worded.

After a year and a half of fighting the system he finally received his power wheelchair. His battle raised his awareness that others weren’t receiving the equipment they need so he’s been tirelessly trying to get the laws changed.

Last week I went to Salem to testify in support of Oregon House Bill 2937.  If past it promises to help people get life enhancing equipment.  You can read more about Joseph Lowe’s tireless efforts in the Lund Report, https://www.thelundreport.org/

Unlike my friend we might want things to change but we sit back and complain Complain about things rather than being a catalyst for change.

On a note that is closer to home, we don’t see the benefit of exercise right away.   It’s similar to out walk with God. Christians are encouraged to have daily devotions often times they skip them. If we keep at it, and stay committed, the Lord will bless our desire to know him.

Sips of living water

“Friendship is like sips of living water”

Have you wondered where I’ve been? Everywhere but here! Joni and Friends Global Access Summit was totally unbelievable. It was a blessing to meet people from all over the world with the passion of helping people with disabilities meet Jesus.

A couple days after the conference I took an unexpected trip to the hospital. Just like the conference there were unexpected treasures. Many times people with special needs have a difficult time when they’re in hospital getting some of their basic needs met. However, my experience last week was pretty remarkable. From the minute I entered the ER room until I left, just like at Joni and Friends there were unexpected treasures to be picked up.

One of my problems was that my water bottle was just beyond my reach. Most of the attendants were baffled and couldn’t figure out how to get it any closer. Finally I told my nurse and to my surprise she easily figured out how to get my tray maneuvered so that I could reach my water. There can be water all around us, but unless we can reach it, it doesn’t do us any good. It reminded me that God figures out ways to give us each sips of the living water. As we watch people and listen to them, God will often show us their needs. It’s his way of bringing them living water.

Better than Chocolates and Roses

image

Is there anything better than chocolates and roses? As wonderful as Valentine’s Day is for some people, it can be a pretty painful day of reflection for others. People can be caught in the trap of thinking about what could be, what isn’t, or what was.

I recently started taking a class called “Beyond Suffering,” with some of my friends in the Joni and Friends Portland Area ministry. This week, in one of our readings, I read that people with disabilities can be prone to self-pity.  People who’ve had unfulfilled expectations and desires can also be prone to self-pity.

Several years ago, as I was helping to lead a grief recovery group, there were two other participants who had a disability. As they were talking about all of the things that they had once done before their injuries, I began thinking about all of the things I’d NEVER done. I discovered a bunch of unresolved grief in my own life. For instance, every spring when people started to ride their bikes, I’d gotten a very sad heart. Could unresolved grief be the cause of this hidden pain that only popped up every now and then?

I usually have a pretty positive outlook on life, but there were definitely signs pointing me toward the need to work through this grief. It wasn’t just being unable to ride a bike, obviously, but being born with cerebral palsy has affected every area of my life.

Being in that group was the start of my healing. I was able to share with them that for many years I tried to prove that my disability would not limit me, and it was crushing to realize that it was just part of the bargaining process. Eventually, I got to the point of accepting the fact that God had a better plan then I did. That doesn’t mean that I never get sad, because I do. Each time I see someone carrying my grand daughter, there is a sting when I think, “I can’t do that.” But as I give that pain to my Father in heaven, I receive His comfort and grace, and I look forward to many times of playing with my Hannah Mae!

Abrupt Changes

10204643807043658

This year has already brought on a lot of surprises! Caregivers coming and going, Joni and Friends being planned, and trips happening one after the other!

The other day I was looking in my closet and I saw a favorite shirt of mine that I thought was only a few years old, but I saw a number on the back of the tag that reminded me that I’d gotten it before I fell and fractured my ribs and went into rehab. Which was back when Rachael was in graduate school!

The shirt didn’t seem that old, but boy, have there been a lot of changes since that time 4 or 5 years ago! Sometimes things change slowly and other times they change quickly! When they change slowly, we don’t even see them, but when changes come at the drop of a hat, it seems harder to go with the flow.

For instance, the day I fell, I was as happy as a clam; busy working on an article I was writing on the computer. The next thing I knew, I fell on my way to the bathroom and was in excruciating pain; and then headed to 6 weeks of rehab! The hardest part about going through those 6 weeks of rehab was having people hover over me and wondering if my life would ever get back to normal again. 

Each time that I notice the number on the tag of my shirt, rather than reflect on the pain of that time, I’m continually grateful for all the changes that have taken place since then! Rachael has not only graduated with her master’s but she is happily married, and I am a proud grandma!

Changes can bring struggles and disappointment, but in the end, they can lead to contentment and a deeper awareness of the faithfulness of God.

Stepping Stones

snow in montana

This picture was taken on January 6th but a few days earlier, it was a completely different story in Montana. It had been bright and clear and beautiful, but on this day, the snow covered the ground and I hardly expected to be able to leave and come back home to Portland. But my brother blazed a trail through the snow to the airport and I made it home! Some days seem like this. Our plans can be clear as that cold winter’s day, and other days it can be as dismal as a Montana snow storm or a rainy day in Portland!

It was really stressful raising my daughter as a single mom with a disability. Some days it was hard to put one foot in front of the other. The struggle of the day-to-day activities prevented me from seeing the joy that would eventually come my way. It was like being buried in snow or driving through a blizzard. But on this trip home to Montana to see my mother and siblings, I could look back in the rearview mirror and see that all of the struggles of the past were leveled by the joys of today.

There has been the wonder of becoming of a grandmom this year, and the pleasure of meeting many wonderful people as the Area Director of Joni and Friends.  Now that the holidays are past, I hope you have the chance to sit down and sip a cup of coffee or tea and reflect on some of your joys as well as the things that you struggled through this past year. Those times where I struggled may have caused a dip in my emotions, but I’ve figured out that they can also be stepping stones for success that is right around the bend if I keep on trucking!