We Belong

This summer has been a whirlwind of activity.  Last week I got to go to the fourth annual Joni and Friends camp at Twin Rocks Retreat Center.  When I went there for the first year, it was like going to another world. The welcoming committee took my breath away and made me think of the way that heaven will be. In fact, the owners of the campground had prepared for us by replacing much of the gravel with sidewalks. This, in and of itself said ‘Welcome; you belong here!’

I am reminded of the verse in 1 Peter 2:9 when, it states, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. …” There are a lot of reasons why people do not feel ‘chosen.’ For instance, people with disabilities can feel set apart in a negative way when we are talked down to or ignored. We can feel like Tevye in ‘Fiddler on the Roof‘ when he says to God, “I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t You choose someone else?” Being chosen can often feel like a pain in the ankle, or a pain somewhere else too!

Our disabilities sometimes feel like warts that everyone can see! They can be very, very isolating.  At Joni and Friend’s camp there is an unconditional love in the air that causes the ‘warts’ to dissolve.  The short term missionaries (or buddies) embrace each camper by helping with any and all activities at camp, and this melts away the stigma of rejection. The parents get to rest knowing that their child is having a great time.  They also get to connect with other parents who share many of the same struggles as they do.

One of my favorite parts of camp is getting to know other people and what they are passionate about.  This last year at camp, I met so many great people with the same passions that I have. We ate together, square-danced, and were pampered with a little TLC (thank you Mary Kay for giving us makeovers and Cabi for decking us out in new clothes), but in all of this activity, what stood out to me was what Peter talks about in the first part of that verse, that we are all a chosen people.

In all of our struggles, sometimes it is hard to remember that we are chosen by God. Yes, we are.

Lyla at camp

(I’m sportin’ my new jacket, generously donated by Cabi)

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Preparing our heart’s soil

I just returned from seeing my family in Montana.  My brothers are third generation dry-land farmers.  Each year my dad and brothers have done everything they could to help their land produce the highest yield possible.

The problem is, they can do everything possible to care of the land, but if it doesn’t rain, the crop will suffer.

Like past years, my brother has worked hard; he’s sprayed the weeds and fertilized the soil.

As a farmer’s daughter, one of my favorite parables has always been John 15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” In spite of their dedication and the richness of the soil, when it doesn’t rain, the crop is poor.  He may have gotten discouraged at times, but that hasn’t stopped him from working the land.

This year when we visited, excitement was in the air because the land has gotten enough rain to produce a bumper crop. The best my 83 year old mother has ever seen!

As a Christian, God has prevented some of the good things I’ve wanted to happen, because He wanted to produce something greater.   When that happens, discouragement rears its ugly head and has the potential to crush my vision. For instance, when I was a junior in college, I was so tired on Christmas break and then I got my grades and I burst into tears. My mother said, “Why don’t you quit?”  Her idea of quitting was appealing, but it would have left a sour taste in my mouth.

I thought getting A’s and B’s would honor God, but it also would have given me a sense of pride.  Pride can be like a weed, which chokes out humility and reliance on God. Like my brother has done everything he could do to help our farm produce a bumper crop, I had to let God cultivate a deeper relationship with Him.  After I surrender to Him, and rested and encouraged by my friends, I returned to college with my eyes fixed on my goal of graduation.

My tears turned to giggles as I staggered toward my college president to receive my diploma.   As many people stood and applauded my accomplishment I celebrated what God had helped me do.

When I get discouraged because my efforts are not producing the results I want, I usually discover I have a loose connection.  Once I come into alignment with Him, I have joy in my heart and He can work through me!

A Lift in Your Step

Right before I left for St. Croix, I went out to get a new pair of shoes, because my other ones were falling off of my feet. My daughter, Rachael, helped me pick them out and I took them for a test walk around the store. I decided to buy them. After I got them home and had to put them on myself, I discovered that it was pretty difficult.  I bought them because they gave me a lot of support, but they were a pain in the behind. There were straps and buckles and these shaky hands just couldn’t make it work. I got frustrated because it took me several minutes to get them on, and then the more impatient I got with myself, the shorter temper I got with the shoes. I just figured that it was the way it was, and that I’d have to just deal with these shoes.

As I read part of the book called, “The Sky’s the Limit,” by Susie Bennett , about her experience with cerebral palsy, I came across the section about how she taught herself to put on her leg braces. It was a real struggle for her to do it, but she looked forward to the independence it would bring her.  The light went on when I read about that, and I decided to be more patient with myself.  I would deal with my shoes; if she could do it, I could do it, right? Instead of saying to myself, “I got the wrong type of shoes,” I focused on telling myself, “Yes, I can do this.”  It became an opportunity to discipline my thoughts. I needed to give myself grace; and being more patient with myself helped me to remember, “The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.” Ecclesiastes 7:8.

Last week, my friend was coming to pick me up and, I would have loved to have been ready when she got there. Instead, when she arrived, she had to watch me put on my shoes and she said, “Oh you should just take them to the shoe shop and have the strap lengthened.”  Being independent and ready when people arrive can easily become a source of pride, but there is a balance between being patient and prideful.  Later on, I went to a place by my house called, ‘The Shoe Dr’s,’ and he had some great ideas and my shoes are good to go!  Getting a new prospective on problems, helps us to solve problems in new ways.