You Call This a Gift?!

 

 

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I bought a new calendar for 2014 and I was looking through some of the old events that I was a part of from this past year’s calendar and it was remarkable. There were weddings (my precious daughter’s), and incredible trips (St. Croix for a grief retreat, Southern California for a Joni and Friends Leadership Retreat), and the official start of the Joni and Friends Volunteer Ministry in the Portland area!

Of course there were challenges, but though they seemed really difficult at the time, I look back at the calendar overall, and I’ve already forgotten about so many of those challenges. Looking back at 2013 and forward to 2014 has reminded me that the future is like an unwrapped gift; some of which you open and say, ‘I didn’t ask for this!” Often times, the malls are full of people exchanging their Christmas gifts.  Sometimes of the gifts God gives us are unwanted gifts, like toothbrushes in a kid’s stocking, the trouble is, we can’t exchange them.

A few years ago I fell and wound up with fractured ribs, and that was definitely an unwanted event, but after I recovered I could see some of the blessings of that time.  One of them was timing.   If it had happened earlier, it would have put a lot more stress on my daughter who was finishing her Master’s degree. I also had to learn to walk with a cane, which has now really helped me to get around. In addition, I met some people who were in rehab at the time with whom I still keep in touch today.

A couple of weeks ago, some friends from the Ecola Bible School, planned to pick my friend and I up to go to the Tryad conference at Cannon Beach.  Because of the snowy weather, we needed to take a Greyhound instead.  It was inconvenient and nerve-racking. But now I know I can do it!

The disappointment that comes along with unwanted gifts can be a joy-zapper.  But when you bring young dissatisfaction to God, He’ll help you to accept your circumstances so you’ll be free to experience hope again; the hope of better things to come! It is kind of like being in a dark tunnel; when you are in it, it’s even hard to see a few feet in front of you. All you know is that you have to keep going, not even knowing where you are headed all of the time. When you do make it through that tunnel, you are blessed with the beautiful view of the cherry blossoms on the trees, or the roses and lilacs that cover the hillside.

It is the unwanted gifts that get us ready to experience the best ones! The grief retreat I went to in St. Croix is an example of that. People who are not in touch with their own grief cannot teach or help others through theirs. If you are reeling from an unwanted gift, just wait and see how God turns it into a treasured gift. We need to trust the gift-giver, not just the gift itself. Whether or not we asked for that gift, God promises that he gives good gifts, and we can trust in that promise!

Matthew 7: 10-12 “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

 

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Shortcuts to Sanity

Christmas Stress

This is an article that I wrote recently, and it will be in the December publication of Pentimento; an ad-free literary magazine for the disability community. It is fitting for this time of year, so I thought I’d share it with all of you!

Joy filled my heart when the nurse laid my baby daughter on my chest.  As a woman with cerebral palsy, becoming a mother wasn’t something I had allowed myself to dream of.

 A few days later, as I tried to change her diaper, I wound up in tears.   “How was I ever going to take care of her?”   My crippled hands were no match for my wonderful, yet wiggly new born.

The snaps on her sleepers and other clothes were anything but a snap to fasten, so my mother replaced them with Velcro. Little by little I figured out ways to do the things I needed to do.

As she got older, she wanted to be Mommy’s little helper, so I put the unbreakable dishes in cupboards she could reach, so she could help set the table.  Unlike most mothers, who are less than thrilled when they catch their kids on top of the cupboards, sometimes I encouraged it.

Early in December when my daughter was about nine, we sat on her bed, snuggled up under a favorite blanket while she read aloud a Christmas story. When we finished, she asked, “When are we going to decorate for Christmas?”  I would have loved to have said, “Let’s do it together right now.” When I thought of all my boxes of decorations, I knew it would be too much for us to do by ourselves. So I told her that we needed to wait until someone was here to help us.”   

 “You stay here” she told me as she walked toward her bedroom door, “and don’t come out until I tell you.”

Sitting on her bed, I wondered what in the world she was doing. Several moments later, she proudly led me into the living room.  To my surprise she had dug our small, artificial tree out of the closet and set it up!

Regardless of whether you have physical limitations or not, everyone has time constraints.  All too often, we are wound up tighter than a top because of the effort it takes to make the holiday season bright, and it puts the majority of people into a real spin. I only have partial use of one hand, so I have had to figure out how to accomplish everything without driving to stores, finding ways to wrap gifts and fix a nice meal to celebrate the holiday.

It seems that this the time of year   is when my limitations have been the most glaring and frustrating.    Fortunately for myself and everyone around me, I’ve learned to use what I call, a shortcut to sanity.  Nine times out of ten, it’s a matter of my heart instead of the circumstances. The holiday preparations have magnified my unresolved grief due to lack of mobility. Once I figured that out and let go of my expectations, life seemed to flow better because I can think clearly.

I used to have someone come in and spend hours putting out a lot of my Christmas treasures. Now, the majority of those decorations stay in the closet and I get out a few of the very special ones. My nativity set is the first.  Over the past years, my Mom has made a few very nice decorations, and they always come out as well. It is so freeing to put up just a few of my favorite things.

Wrapping gifts was another task I always had to pawn off on someone else.  Even though it was seconds after the gifts were in someone’s hands that the paper was ripped off and on the floor, it had to be done.  Everyone was relieved when I tossed my wrapping paper away and replaced it with gift bags.

Instead of being upset because I can’t cook special foods for our Christmas Eve diner, I selected  a menu my caregiver could prepare ahead of time. When Rachael was old enough to drive, one of our favorite things to do was order a nice meal from a nearby restaurant.

I’ve had to learn accepting my limitations and use shortcuts to preserve my sanity before I could enjoy life, especially during the Christmas Season.