Hidden Gifts

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On the first weekend In December, for several years, I have had the opportunity to go to the Tryad retreat at the beach.  It was started by my friend David O’Brian who had cerebral palsy.  After graduating from Echola Bible School, he made his home in Cannon Beach Oregon.  He was passionate about sharing the love of God with everyone especially those who also had disabilities.

Since he knew that many of his handicapped friends didn’t get to go to the beach, he decided to invite them to Cannon Beach Oregon for fun and fellowship.  In fact throughout the many years, as friendships developed the conference felt like a family reunion.   Several of the people had very fragile physical conditions and needed specialized care, so just arranging transportation was pretty complicated.   The students, from Ecola helped at conference.  Many of them didn’t have any previous experience with people with disabilities until they met us.  It felt a bit awkward for each of us for a while but it didn’t take long before friendships were formed.

David took great care in choosing people to lead worship and speakers who share the Word of God.

Planning for such an event must have felt like a daunting task, especially since he needed assistance with own basic needs.  But, as David prayed God always answered and people stepped forward to help his plan take shape.  No matter what was thrown in front of him, he never gave up.  He example will always give me courage to continue doing the things God has put in my heart.

Sometimes gifts come from unlikely sources. David usually met us at the door when we arrived for the retreat, but this year he watched us from his heavenly home.  When I got home from the retreat I reflected on his life. Besides giving me a great time at the retreat he gave me tenacity.  And I am grateful for   David’s gift to me which was the reminder that God can do great things when we offer him what we have.  He showed me what can happen when we push through our problems.

Be on the lookout for hidden gifts that God wants to give you this season.  Please share then with me.

 

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Sips of living water

“Friendship is like sips of living water”

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.

Better than Chocolates and Roses

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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!

Stepping Stones

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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!

 

 

 

Hidden Gifts

Me and my Ecola Bible friends at the retreat

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.

Out of control?

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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!

The Wheels are Turning

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This past week, I got emails from three different people telling me that they have wheelchairs to donate to Joni and Friends! This was wonderful news, however, it was the furthest thing from my mind since we are such a small group here in Portland, and we’re just starting out. I couldn’t think of any place to store the wheelchairs. So I called a friend from another chapter and he told me what I needed to do.

It got me thinking, there are a lot of things like that when I think, “No, I can’t do it!” It is my first response to new projects, but then after awhile, I think, “How can it be done?” Then I take one step, and then two steps, and before I know it the path is opening up! Fear is usually the first response, a knee-jerk reaction to anything outside of my comfort zone. But then the wheels within my brain start turning and one thing leads to another.

Sometimes, when I can’t do something, I find out who can! I have done that all of my life, and am known as the #1 networker among my friends! When I was first blogging, I was doing it by myself and I said, “God, look at me typing with two fingers!” It wasn’t because I didn’t know the keys, I just can’t do it any other way because of my withered hand due to Cerebral Palsy. It was so tedious and I said, “God, you have to be kidding!” But He wasn’t, and after two years of persistence, God provided a helper. This reminded me of the story of Moses and Aaron in Exodus 4:10-15

10 Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” 11 The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” 13 But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” 14 Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you. 15 You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do.

So it is natural at first to think, “No, I can’t do this!” But when we are open to saying “yes”, God will surprise us by providing us with the means to stand up when we’d rather sit down. It is so humbling to watch how God provides us with everything we need to do what He’s called us to do.