Sprinkling Hope

Blue skies and sunshine unexpectedly showed up after days of rain in Portland.  I find that words of encouragement perk up people’s spirits the same way.     

A few weeks ago, I ventured into a new large church for the first time.  I only knew a handful of people, so I was quite surprised when a woman rushed up to me during the church service.  She said, “I know you and I really need to talk to you.”  I didn’t have the foggiest idea who she was and I wondered if my memory lapse was given away by the blank expression that washed over my face.

 When she started describing our brief encounter, relief swept over me as I recalled a beautiful summer day about twenty years ago. Some friends invited my little girl and I to a blue grass concert. Since I can’t drive, this was quite a treat! 

I took a wheelchair with me since I have cerebral palsy and can’t walk well.  Surveying the crowd from my wheelchair, I spotted a woman with a small boy in a wheelchair too.  When I talked to her, all those years later , she said I was still  grieving over his condition.  But why  gave me courage when you  told me  “God has a plan and purpose for his life, he’ll  be able to do anything he wanted too.”  She laughed and said, “And he is!”

Talking to her again, reminded me that, despite the fact that we must face our own challenges, God can still use each one of us to give others courage.

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Recasting Your Net

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Does it seem as though you’ve spent days or even years trying to work on projects, but just keep hitting a brick wall?

That may be the way the fishermen felt as they worked day and night trying to catch fish but came up empty. Just when they were ready to quit, Jesus showed up on the scene and said: “Throw out your nets on the other side of the boat.” They probably thought: “We’ve been working all day and night!” Tired and frustrated, they just wanted to go home.  Nevertheless, they obeyed. Do you think they questioned their sanity as they tossed their net into the water again? Their weariness was exchanged for amazement as they pulled in full nets.

That pretty much describes my state of mind when my friend Kameo popped in for a visit.  She knew that I’ve been trying to develop the ministry of Joni and Friends in the Portland area for several years.  As she asked me what my goals were in regards to the ministry, I hesitated to tell her because nothing I’d tried seemed to work.

Although Kameo is an extremely busy person, she got excited and said, “I’m going to help you!”  She started to tell me about the people she wanted me to meet.  A couple of weeks later, a few of us gathered at her friend Penny’s home. I told them about my book, It Takes More Than Legs To Stand, and my involvement with Joni and Friends.  

As I sipped my coffee that November afternoon, I told them that I just found out that Joni Eareckson Tada was coming to Portland in January.  One of them said, “Let’s have a dessert get together and invite people who are interested in developing the Joni and Friends chapter in Portland.” I didn’t want to dampen their enthusiasm but I knew Joni was going to speak at Mission ConneXion that weekend so I was doubtful whether she could add this to her busy schedule. Even though Joni agreed, I  wondered how we could get prepared for such an event. For one thing, I wondered about the venue. To my delight, River West Church completely opened their doors to us and hosted the event.   

I praised God for His faithfulness as I watched details come together quickly. As people involved with disability miniseries gathered to hear Joni, I was glad my friends had helped me recast my vision.  

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(Joni connecting with people interested in disability ministry at informational dessert at River West Church)

My friends, have you become weary because you don’t think your efforts are making a difference? Don’t give up, Jesus will show up and amaze you!

How’s Your Focus

A few years ago, my close friend JoAnne, had a concussion as a result of an accident with a horse.  At the same time, my daughter was collecting references for college, so she asked me to find out if JoAnne would write one.

One day, while JoAnne was still recovering, I asked her how her focus was.  I was puzzled when she told me her double vision was improving every day.  We both started to laugh when I said, “I was wondering if you felt good enough to write the letter Rachael needs.”

Even though I have cerebral palsy I’ve been able to live on my own with the help of caregivers.  Last week my caregiver who helps me get ready for the day, wasn’t scheduled to work. Getting myself presentable to go out that night was very time consuming.  Fortunately, a friend came over and helped me finish getting ready.  I felt agitated because I couldn’t do more.  But she kept saying she was amazed because of how well I had done.

2017 is here and has plenty of possibilities.  With it will come plenty of challenges and choices.  They’ll either make me feel sorry for myself or lead me to my Heavenly Father so He can help me refocus on the things that are truly important.

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Surprises from Heaven

godcalls“When are you going to get busy and do what God has called you to do?” the speaker asked my friend.  God had called him into the ministry, but he had done some things that made him feel disqualified and stopped him from pursuing it.

Many of us have been impressed that God wants us to do a particular task.  When we hear the call, it is easy to fix our eyes on our inadequacies rather than God. Regardless of the problems we deal with we are all uniquely created to serve Him.

Sometimes we feel like our physical disabilities hold us back from being useful in society or used by God.   Several years ago, Bettie Mitchell, founder of Good Samaritan Ministries was with a group of pastors in Africa. When she found a neglected, crippled woman lying on the ground in a dark tent, Bettie taught the men how to take care of her.  Bettie also taught them that God has a purpose for everyone. She taught Lucy how to pray a blessing over the people.  Then she explained to the pastors with her that every pastor in the area was to have Lucy lay her hands on them and pray for them.

At times, I not only feel short in stature, but in a multitude of ways.  When my daughter was little, I used to have her climb on the cupboards to help me get things I needed. Many of my accomplishments first began as unattainable dreams that led me into times of frustration and doubts. In the end, my spirit celebrates, when I see the way His strength is made perfect through my weakness.

For the last few years I’ve been Director of the Portland Area chapter of Joni and Friends.  The ministry has developed at a much slower process than I anticipated. Recently, I was telling the Lord if I had more help and could drive, I could meet more people. He stopped me.  “I knew all your strengths and weaknesses before I put you in this position.”

Last week for example, God reminded me that He has many ways to let people know about His work.  I received an e-mail letting me know Joni will be one of the key note speakers at Mission ConneXion in Portland this January. It felt like God was saying, “See? I’ve got this!”

Please share the ways God has surprised you lately.

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Finding Balance

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On Facebook I read a post about how many children with special needs go through the addition heartbreak of isolation.  They are seldom invited to go to parties and other events with their peers.

Days before my High School Senior prom, I couldn’t stand the thought of missing out on the fun so I asked a boy to take me.  I’m sure I surprised the guy, and I threw my mom into a spin because she only had a few days to get me ready.

Even though there are attempts to include kids with special needs, all too often efforts fail. Last year, I read an article about a student who used a wheelchair.  She practiced for the Christmas program along with her classmates.  She learned all the songs and was excited the night of their performance.  As her friends climbed on to the stage, her wheelchair was parked in down below the stage.  Her smiles turned to tears when she realized she was all alone.

During a discussion group centered on grief and loss I had some life changing revelations.    Two women in the group were amputees.  As they talked, I recognized I had similar feelings.   I haven’t let my disability control me but a there are times I’ve felt sad about what I haven’t been able to do.  For instance, in springtime many are out either riding bikes or doing other activities.  Feelings of loss often spring up when everyone else is having fun.  After I identified my loss and acknowledged my pain I was able to let Jesus heal it.

Another symptom of feeling like you’re always missing out on the fun others are having is not feeling satisfied with what you’re doing.  This has often caused me wear myself out, because of feeling compelled to look for the next fun thing or group of people who would give me a sense of belonging.

In 2 Cor.2:10 Paul tells us to take every thought captive.

When we let God heal our hearts by transforming our minds we are no longer captives to the pain in our past. 

My Alaskan Adventure

One night in July I was talking on the phone to my friend JoAnne who lives in Alaska. We talked for months about me going to visit her, I was a bit hesitant.  My balance isn’t very good because of my cerebral palsy. This would be a long flight, and I was nervous about needing to get up.  I also thought it would be too expensive. I asked her to look for tickets.  Then she looked online she found a ticket I couldn’t pass up. 

It was a perfect day to fly.  The sky was blue with white fluffy clouds.   My window seat on the plane gave me a clear view of the glaciers.

The sites of Anchorage are very accessible because there are miles and miles of walking pathsThe beautiful scenery of the mountain range and the fall colors were breathtaking.  As I soaked in the beauty from the car window, JoAnne, took a short walk as she tried  to figure out how you could get closer to a glacier.   After I heard the route was accessible to hikers I said “How hard can it be for me to use it?  Let’s go check it out!”

As I started, I thought my ride on my scooter was going to be relatively easy and beautiful.    The path consisted of packed dirt with large trees on both sides.  As I drove along, my scooter veered to the left.    I stopped and backed up, then continued.  When that happened for a third time I asked myself what in the world was going on.  Then, as I looked at the ground in front of me I saw roots from trees that were barely covered by dirt.  Whenever I hit them I lost control of my scooter.  While JoAnne went ahead to see If the trail was any smoother, I stayed behind. After sitting there for a while I inched my way forward a little more down the path.  Each time I hit a root I thought, “I better stop.”  But I didn’t stop until the idea crossed my mind a third time. I thanked God as I glanced over my shoulder and saw a place I where I could turn around!

This adventure seems like a theme in my life.  Whenever I see something important in front of me, I reach for it. While I do feel overwhelmed at times, I would miss out on many wonderful opportunities if I didn’t step out of my comfort zone.  

Hope can be Like Water

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Have you ever watered a drooping plant and then seen it perk up?  When we give people hope through our actions or a word of an encouragement, we can have the same effect.  Hope gives people the resilience to make them stronger. Here are a few ways some have done that.

Mary Carver is a regular blogger on the (in)courage website.  This morning she wrote about traveling to Kenya with Mercy Corp. International.  As she toured the schools, Mary was moved to tears by the empty bookshelves.  When she returned to the US her first impulse was to gather books to ship overseas.  Then she realized books would be wonderful, but what the people needed even more was hope.

My church has a large food ministry.  Along with nutrition, they give hundreds of people hope that they can make it through tough times.

One Christmas, my mom’s quilt guild made pajamas for children in domestic violent shelters.  I think the mothers might have felt a glimmer of hope when they saw kids in new, warm pjs.

One of Joni and Friends’ ministries is Wheels for the World. They refurbish wheelchairs and walkers for other countries.  I got excited when I spotted a cane at a rummage sale.  I bought it, knowing that, coupled with the    Good News of the Gospel, it would change someone’s life!

August is a busy month for me because I go the Oregon Christian Writers conference and also Joni and Friends. Both of them inspire me to reflect the love and power of Jesus.  Sometimes it’s difficult to hold onto the hope that God gives. That’s why I need to be in fellowship with people who inspire me.  Both conferences give me a lot of hope.  By attending the Oregon Christian Writers conference, I hone my craft and am encouraged to keep writing. All my friends from OCW celebrated with me when my book, It Takes More Than Legs to Stand, was published this April. At the Joni and Friends Family Retreats, people affected by disabilities receive hope as they hear and experience God’s love. Giving hope away can be as simple as acknowledging someone when you’re out and about and smiling at them. It’s as easy as watering a plant.

Won’t you share some of the ways you like to give and receive hope?

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