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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!