Springing into Action

Lyla getting off of the bus

Several years ago, when I got my scooter, I had tried to take a ride on the city TriMet bus, and it had been a disaster. It took me forever to maneuver my scooter into the proper position, and I felt like everyone on the bus was staring at me thinking, “I wish that lady would hurry up!” I was thinking, “I wish I could hurry up,” too, which made my arms go stiff. When I got off of the bus, I thought, “I’m never doing that again!” I figured the bus driver would agree! My main choices from that point on for transportation have been services that require two days notice to get picked up and dropped off at my home. For a woman on the go, this really puts a damper on things, because I have to miss things that come up last minute.

Last week, I got an email about a meeting that I was supposed to go to, but I hadn’t scheduled a ride for me to get to the meeting. As the time got closer, I was regretting my inaction, and I decided that I wanted to attend the meeting. But by the time I changed my mind, I thought it was too late to get to there. My friend Mary Anne, who was sitting right across the table from me, had been wanting me to take a bus ride for weeks, but I had weaseled my way out of it. To her surprise, and mine, I looked at her and said, “Will take a ride on the bus with me?” She said, “Oh yeah! Let’s go!”

To my delight, getting on and off  of the bus this time was much easier than I remembered it being because TriMet has redesigned them. My driving skills have gotten better too. I got to my meeting, and Mary Anne and I enjoyed dinner downtown together. I found that our adventure had led to a new-found freedom. I discovered that when I let go of the past, I can experience the joy of rolling into the future.

Have you discovered a new-found freedom this week? Share that good news with me!


All Abilities Celebrated


This past week, my friend Jill and I attended the ‘Beyond the Ramp’ Conference, hosted by the Interfaith Disability Network of Oregon.  The main speaker was Bill Gaventa, the coordinator of the Summer Institute on Theology and Disability, the Associate Editor of Intellectual and Development Disabilities and former editor of the  Journal of Religion Disability, and Health. As pastors and lay persons from different faith communities in the Portland area gathered to talk about disabilities and faith, we were encouraged by words from Bill focusing on the theme, ‘from mission to member to mission.’

My interest was piqued when Bill stated that “People with disabilities don’t want to be the mission field or a project.” Wow, I wholeheartedly agree with this because when people feel like a project, it makes us feel like a victim of our circumstances. Unless there is a relationship between the two people, it makes the them appear unequal.  Even though the person ‘helping’ them does so with the best intentions, the individual being served can be made to feel frustrated because our gifts are overlooked.

The Church will flourish when they welcome people with disabilities not as a mission, but as members, because everyone wants to be a part of the greater community. We all have gifts and abilities that help the body to flourish and grow. We want to be involved in the mission of the Church as a whole once we have become members; we don’t want to continue to be the mission.

Another great thing about this conference was that everyone was from around this area and I am looking forward to networking with them. It is kind of like fishing, you have to know where the pods of fish are in order to catch anything! It was a great opportunity to connect with pastors and see what their congregations and communities are doing.  When I told some of the pastors that I was the Area Director of Joni and Friends, they expressed an interest in hearing more about it, and that was an encouragement to me.

One of my main goals for Joni and Friends here in the Portland area is to help people of all abilities realize their significance in the body of Christ. I was very encouraged to find churches in the area that have already started to create an awareness in their faith communities about the gifts and abilities of all of their members. If you know of churches or individuals who are interested in joining us in this mission, let me know by sending me an email at lswafford@joniandfriends.org; or share the good news with them that there are churches that are welcoming the abilities of everyone!


A Second Look


Yesterday, I met my caseworker for the first time after talking with her for months on the phone. She came over for a home visit and one of the first things she saw was a book on my table by Joyce Meyers called ‘Never Give Up.’ She commented, “Oh, I read her stuff all of the time!” There was an instant connection between us after she said that. This small statement opened the lines of communication and we had a delightful chat.

I’ve had appointments with caseworkers for years, but this one stood out because she really wanted to give me all of the help she could. It made me realize that when we make those small connections and learn to find something in common with other people, the desire to help them grows.

A few months ago, I saw a post on Facebook about a person who was raising money to go to a Joni and Friends camp, something I am really passionate about because of my own physical disability, so I re-posted it on my Facebook page. A few hours later, I got a response from another friend of mine saying, “That girl is my niece!” This just added to my desire to help her raise the funds she needed to go to camp. A lot of times, connecting with a person is not that easy; I have to decide whether to try or to just let the opportunity go by.

My friend Joanne is an RN, CHPN and a hospice nurse who has also developed curriculum to educate other hospice care workers on end-of-life care. She is now raising funds to finish her documentary called, ‘Honored to the End,’ a powerful film to help caregivers and family members of veterans everywhere be able to provide more intelligent, compassionate care to this very deserving special group of people. I have an increased interest in this project because I know both Joanne and her father, whose story is told in this film, and is a World War II veteran himself. Through this project, I found out that veterans often need specialized care when they are at this stage of life. As we approach Memorial Day in a few weeks, I think this incredibly important project is a way that we can honor the veterans that have served our country so selflessly.

It is interesting to think about the reasons we connect with some people on a deeper level than others. It always seems easier to just pass by instead of taking a second look and digging deeper into relationships, but if we take the time to connect, we can discover that each relationship brings a unique richness into our lives.

Celebrations in May


There are always kids that don’t get to go to prom. I could have been one of those kids, but instead of staying home, three days before the prom, I asked a boy to take me! I probably put the poor guy on the spot when I asked him, but he said he would! I was thrilled, but it also put my mom in a tailspin because we lived in the country, and she had to drive 40 miles to the store to buy fabric to make my dress!

I think that was my favorite memory of prom; how my mother made me look like a princess. The prom itself was a fun night, and I was happy to be there with my friends. I went to a small high school so everyone knew each other and it was fun to be included.

A couple of weeks ago I saw a post on Facebook from my friend, Karla, about a work party that she was having to prepare for a prom that would be held for kids affected by disability in the Portland area. I knew I wanted to get involved, so my friends and I went to a couple of work parties to help make some decorations for the ‘Candy-land’ theme they had this year. At the work party, I was reluctant to paint, because I can’t even write very legibly, but after sitting there for about 20 minutes, I decided to try. Lo and behold, even though I couldn’t paint exactly in the lines, there were others to help touch up what I started and I helped move the projects along faster.

As I get ready to go to the prom on Friday night, I wondered, “What will I be able to do to help tonight?” As soon as we got there, my friend and I found ourselves sitting at the registration table signing everyone into the prom, and although I couldn’t write, I gave instructions on how people needed to fill out the form.  It was a great place to be because we got to see everyone come in all decked out and so excited to be at their prom! Later I found out that one of the organizers had been wondering all day who would be at the registration table. It was great to feel needed as well as see everyone dance and have a great time!

Sometimes taking the chance to get involved can be a little scary because you always face the possibility of rejection or failure. My mother and the many mothers that helped put together the prom this Friday have another thing in common with me, because we saw opportunities to meet kids’ needs and we got involved. Seeing the needs of our kids makes us go beyond our comfort zone and though it can be a little scary, it can bring so much joy!