Sprinkling Hope

Blue skies and sunshine unexpectedly showed up after days of rain in Portland.  I find that words of encouragement perk up people’s spirits the same way.     

A few weeks ago, I ventured into a new large church for the first time.  I only knew a handful of people, so I was quite surprised when a woman rushed up to me during the church service.  She said, “I know you and I really need to talk to you.”  I didn’t have the foggiest idea who she was and I wondered if my memory lapse was given away by the blank expression that washed over my face.

 When she started describing our brief encounter, relief swept over me as I recalled a beautiful summer day about twenty years ago. Some friends invited my little girl and I to a blue grass concert. Since I can’t drive, this was quite a treat! 

I took a wheelchair with me since I have cerebral palsy and can’t walk well.  Surveying the crowd from my wheelchair, I spotted a woman with a small boy in a wheelchair too.  When I talked to her, all those years later , she said I was still  grieving over his condition.  But why  gave me courage when you  told me  “God has a plan and purpose for his life, he’ll  be able to do anything he wanted too.”  She laughed and said, “And he is!”

Talking to her again, reminded me that, despite the fact that we must face our own challenges, God can still use each one of us to give others courage.

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How’s Your Focus

A few years ago, my close friend JoAnne, had a concussion as a result of an accident with a horse.  At the same time, my daughter was collecting references for college, so she asked me to find out if JoAnne would write one.

One day, while JoAnne was still recovering, I asked her how her focus was.  I was puzzled when she told me her double vision was improving every day.  We both started to laugh when I said, “I was wondering if you felt good enough to write the letter Rachael needs.”

Even though I have cerebral palsy I’ve been able to live on my own with the help of caregivers.  Last week my caregiver who helps me get ready for the day, wasn’t scheduled to work. Getting myself presentable to go out that night was very time consuming.  Fortunately, a friend came over and helped me finish getting ready.  I felt agitated because I couldn’t do more.  But she kept saying she was amazed because of how well I had done.

2017 is here and has plenty of possibilities.  With it will come plenty of challenges and choices.  They’ll either make me feel sorry for myself or lead me to my Heavenly Father so He can help me refocus on the things that are truly important.

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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. 

Be Still To Be Filled

I got a new hummingbird feeder a few weeks ago. For a few days after I hung it up I felt a bit disappointed because I didn’t see any birds. Finally I got a colorful plant that they’re attracted to and that made all the difference. Soon after I got the new plant, I was thrilled when a pair of them visited for a few seconds. I have noticed now, that the longer I have a feeder hanging on my patio, the more birds come. Some stay longer than others, delighting my heart as they take in nutrition. They never seem to stop moving. Even when they are at the feeder their tiny wings are fluttering at a rate of 80 times per second.

We are a lot like hummingbirds, flitting from here to there. We may want to hear from our Heavenly Father, yet quieting our minds feels impossible. Like the hummers sipping at the feeder, our busy minds prevent us from hearing what our Heavenly Father wants to whisper in our ear.

I’m glad that He invites us to “be still and know” that He is God. As beautiful as my little friends are, I want to be more than a flash of busy color. I want to be quiet long enough to absorb His message of love so I can share it with others.

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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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The Rest of The Story

My book, It Takes More Than Legs to Stand, just came out on Amazon.  Sometimes I wondered if I would ever see this day.    I am going to tell you about some of the high lights of my journey.

Several years ago I saw an article about the Oregon Christian Writers Summer conference in Christian News Northwest.  The description of Marion Duckworth’s class interested me because she was teaching a class on memoirs. My friend, JoAnne and I decided to go to the conference for one day.  I met Marion five minutes before I had to go home.   A few days after the conference was over, I called and asked she would help me write my memoir.  She told me to send her some of my material.  Before I sent her anything I looked her name up on Google.  Seeing the list of her accomplishments, I thought she’d surely laugh at me.  But I was wrong.  Over the past several years, she taught me the craft of writing. She’s encouraged me when she heard me fighting the temptation to give up, by asking me, point blank, “Has God called you to write?” Of course the answer has always been “Yes.”

Creative juices often flow the best when I can bounce Ideas off friends.  One of my favorite memories of my journey was of a sunny afternoon when JoAnne and I sat at her dining room table looking over a river, as we developed an outline for my book.  When we were down we decided to go to another OCW summer conference because they are always a great time to learn our craft and network with other writers.  The only problem was it was an extremely hot summer and I had run completely out of energy.    Several of my friends were going down to the river to cool off and   I rode my scooter down to watch them play in the water.  One of my friends got a chair for me so I could put my feet in the water.

People who attend writer’s conferences can submit articles and book proposal so they can get feedback from editors.  In the past year I decided to self-publish my book, so I didn’t submit my manuscript. David Sanford, one of the presenters,  introduced himself to me when I was waiting for my ride home from the conference.  As we began to visit I knew that this was a very significant conversation.  A short time later he joined Marion in helping me publish It Takes More Than Legs to Stand. 

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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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