Better than Chocolates and Roses

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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

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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

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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!

 

 

 

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!