Finding Balance

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On Facebook I read a post about how many children with special needs go through the addition heartbreak of isolation.  They are seldom invited to go to parties and other events with their peers.

Days before my High School Senior prom, I couldn’t stand the thought of missing out on the fun so I asked a boy to take me.  I’m sure I surprised the guy, and I threw my mom into a spin because she only had a few days to get me ready.

Even though there are attempts to include kids with special needs, all too often efforts fail. Last year, I read an article about a student who used a wheelchair.  She practiced for the Christmas program along with her classmates.  She learned all the songs and was excited the night of their performance.  As her friends climbed on to the stage, her wheelchair was parked in down below the stage.  Her smiles turned to tears when she realized she was all alone.

During a discussion group centered on grief and loss I had some life changing revelations.    Two women in the group were amputees.  As they talked, I recognized I had similar feelings.   I haven’t let my disability control me but a there are times I’ve felt sad about what I haven’t been able to do.  For instance, in springtime many are out either riding bikes or doing other activities.  Feelings of loss often spring up when everyone else is having fun.  After I identified my loss and acknowledged my pain I was able to let Jesus heal it.

Another symptom of feeling like you’re always missing out on the fun others are having is not feeling satisfied with what you’re doing.  This has often caused me wear myself out, because of feeling compelled to look for the next fun thing or group of people who would give me a sense of belonging.

In 2 Cor.2:10 Paul tells us to take every thought captive.

When we let God heal our hearts by transforming our minds we are no longer captives to the pain in our past. 

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My Alaskan Adventure

One night in July I was talking on the phone to my friend JoAnne who lives in Alaska. We talked for months about me going to visit her, I was a bit hesitant.  My balance isn’t very good because of my cerebral palsy. This would be a long flight, and I was nervous about needing to get up.  I also thought it would be too expensive. I asked her to look for tickets.  Then she looked online she found a ticket I couldn’t pass up. 

It was a perfect day to fly.  The sky was blue with white fluffy clouds.   My window seat on the plane gave me a clear view of the glaciers.

The sites of Anchorage are very accessible because there are miles and miles of walking pathsThe beautiful scenery of the mountain range and the fall colors were breathtaking.  As I soaked in the beauty from the car window, JoAnne, took a short walk as she tried  to figure out how you could get closer to a glacier.   After I heard the route was accessible to hikers I said “How hard can it be for me to use it?  Let’s go check it out!”

As I started, I thought my ride on my scooter was going to be relatively easy and beautiful.    The path consisted of packed dirt with large trees on both sides.  As I drove along, my scooter veered to the left.    I stopped and backed up, then continued.  When that happened for a third time I asked myself what in the world was going on.  Then, as I looked at the ground in front of me I saw roots from trees that were barely covered by dirt.  Whenever I hit them I lost control of my scooter.  While JoAnne went ahead to see If the trail was any smoother, I stayed behind. After sitting there for a while I inched my way forward a little more down the path.  Each time I hit a root I thought, “I better stop.”  But I didn’t stop until the idea crossed my mind a third time. I thanked God as I glanced over my shoulder and saw a place I where I could turn around!

This adventure seems like a theme in my life.  Whenever I see something important in front of me, I reach for it. While I do feel overwhelmed at times, I would miss out on many wonderful opportunities if I didn’t step out of my comfort zone.  

Hope can be Like Water

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Have you ever watered a drooping plant and then seen it perk up?  When we give people hope through our actions or a word of an encouragement, we can have the same effect.  Hope gives people the resilience to make them stronger. Here are a few ways some have done that.

Mary Carver is a regular blogger on the (in)courage website.  This morning she wrote about traveling to Kenya with Mercy Corp. International.  As she toured the schools, Mary was moved to tears by the empty bookshelves.  When she returned to the US her first impulse was to gather books to ship overseas.  Then she realized books would be wonderful, but what the people needed even more was hope.

My church has a large food ministry.  Along with nutrition, they give hundreds of people hope that they can make it through tough times.

One Christmas, my mom’s quilt guild made pajamas for children in domestic violent shelters.  I think the mothers might have felt a glimmer of hope when they saw kids in new, warm pjs.

One of Joni and Friends’ ministries is Wheels for the World. They refurbish wheelchairs and walkers for other countries.  I got excited when I spotted a cane at a rummage sale.  I bought it, knowing that, coupled with the    Good News of the Gospel, it would change someone’s life!

August is a busy month for me because I go the Oregon Christian Writers conference and also Joni and Friends. Both of them inspire me to reflect the love and power of Jesus.  Sometimes it’s difficult to hold onto the hope that God gives. That’s why I need to be in fellowship with people who inspire me.  Both conferences give me a lot of hope.  By attending the Oregon Christian Writers conference, I hone my craft and am encouraged to keep writing. All my friends from OCW celebrated with me when my book, It Takes More Than Legs to Stand, was published this April. At the Joni and Friends Family Retreats, people affected by disabilities receive hope as they hear and experience God’s love. Giving hope away can be as simple as acknowledging someone when you’re out and about and smiling at them. It’s as easy as watering a plant.

Won’t you share some of the ways you like to give and receive hope?

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More Than What Meets The Eye

This week the Canadian Parliament is finalizing their assisted-death law. Unlike the five states in the US that have legalized assisted-suicide for terminally ill people, the Canadian law extends doctor-assisted death to people with disabilities who find their condition unbearable.  My first thought was, “WHO THE HECK DOESN’T!!!!!!!”  

What makes a person’s life unbearable? It doesn’t take a disability to make a life miserable, but it does make it challenging.  I think that many people with disabilities struggle when their limitations keep them from achieving dreams.   I just got a call about a young handicapped woman who is very discouraged.  I can remember when I felt like a victim of my limitations.  However I learned how to surrender my dreams to God and now I understand what God’s purpose is for my life regardless of my condition.  

My friend Mark, was a healthy teenager until he had a skiing accident when he was 16.  He’s been paralyzed ever since and survives with the help of a ventilator.  In January he developed a sore on his leg that has forced him to be bedridden for several months.

Knowing he represents others who will be affected by the legislation, I asked him why he has wanted to keep living.   His answer was clear, “His passion for encouraging others makes his life worth fighting for.”

God values people so much differently than people often do.  When we understand how much God loves us we can gain hope and courage from His promises.  

 Zech. 9:12 Come to the place of safety, all you prisoners, for there is yet hope! I promise right now, I will repay you two mercies for each of your woes.

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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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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!

Celebrations in May

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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!