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.
“When are you going to get busy and do what God has called you todo?” thespeaker 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 thatGod wantsus 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. Shetaught 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.
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.
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 paths. The beautiful scenery of the mountain range and the fall colors werebreathtaking. As I soaked in the beautyfromthe 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 wasaccessible 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 thathappened for athird time I asked myselfwhat 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.
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?
I got a new hummingbird feeder a few weeks ago. For a few days after I hung it up I felt a bit disappointed because I didn’t see any birds. Finally I got a colorful plant that they’re attracted to and that made all the difference. Soon after I got the new plant, I was thrilled when a pair of them visited for a few seconds. I have noticed now, that the longer I have a feeder hanging on my patio, the more birds come. Some stay longer than others, delighting my heart as they take in nutrition. They never seem to stop moving. Even when they are at the feeder their tiny wings are fluttering at a rate of 80 times per second.
We are a lot like hummingbirds, flitting from here to there. We may want to hear from our Heavenly Father, yet quieting our minds feels impossible. Like the hummers sipping at the feeder, our busy minds prevent us from hearing what our Heavenly Father wants to whisper in our ear.
I’m glad that He invites us to “be still and know” that He is God. As beautiful as my little friends are, I want to be more than a flash of busy color. I want to be quiet long enough to absorb His message of love so I can share it with others.
This week the Canadian Parliament is finalizing their assisted-death law. Unlike the five states in the US that have legalized assisted-suicide for terminally ill people, the Canadian law extends doctor-assisted death to people with disabilities who find their condition unbearable. My first thought was, “WHO THE HECK DOESN’T!!!!!!!”
What makes a person’s life unbearable? It doesn’t take a disability to make a life miserable, but it does make it challenging. I think that many people with disabilities struggle when their limitations keep them from achieving dreams. I just got a call about a young handicapped woman who is very discouraged. I can remember when I felt like a victim of my limitations. However I learned how to surrender my dreams to God and now I understand what God’s purpose is for my life regardless of my condition.
My friend Mark, was a healthy teenager until he had a skiing accident when he was 16. He’s been paralyzed ever since and survives with the help of a ventilator. In January he developed a sore on his leg that has forced him to be bedridden for several months.
Knowing he represents others who will be affected by the legislation, I asked him why he has wanted to keep living. His answer was clear, “His passion for encouraging others makes his life worth fighting for.”
God values people so much differently than people often do. When we understand how much God loves us we can gain hope and courage from His promises.
Zech. 9:12Come to the place of safety, all you prisoners, for there is yet hope! I promise right now, I will repay you two mercies for each of your woes.