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.

hummingbird

The fragrance of joy

For the past few months, I’ve belonged to a group on facebook for people with disabilities. I know that it’s a place where people can air their problems but sometimes I wonder if there’s anything good that come out of living a life with CP.

YES! I’m here to tell you it ain’t all bad! In fact if I didn’t have this, everything in my life would be different. Sure it would be great to drive a car or put a cake in the oven using both hands, but there are some things I just couldn’t imagine living without. I probably wouldn’t have ever come to Oregon to go to college. I may have been able to get a job and had a marriage but on the other hand, I wouldn’t have had to go through the struggles that have given me the insights into other people’s struggles. I may have avoided an unhealthy marriage but without it, I wouldn’t have the wonderful daughter that I do today. Sure she was a rascal and it was difficult to catch up with her when she was growing up. But I survived with the help of faithful friends who could run faster than she could. Now I get to watch her take care of her little one. I could not imagine life without either one of them.

The sense of belonging is one of our basic needs in life. People with disabilities are often not involved in many of the activities that people do, this can lead to feelings of isolation. It can be tempting to fall into the pit of self-pity. But as I celebrated my birthday last week, I reflected on how blessed I am. I took a trip to the lilac farm with one of my closest friends. We had talked about it for about a gazillion years and finally did it!!!

I loved every minute of it. There were so many shades of lavender. The air was filled with a heavenly scent. I’ve loved lilacs since I was a small girl. There was a large lilac bush outside the window of my parent’s house and when it was in bloom, the scent filled the air. I really wish the lilac bushes stayed in bloom longer.

I think the birds have been singing louder than ever before and have been waking me up each morning. The way they used to, when I lived on my parents farm. The sounds of the meadowlarks woke me up each morning, as the  sun streamed through my bedroom windows. And pretty soon as the day got underway I forgot about the birds singing. But now the birds bring me back to that place.

The night of my birthday dinner Rachel gave me a book filled with pictures of her and my precious granddaughter Hannah. It filled me with joy and seemed as refreshing as the scent of lilacs. The gifts in my life are more pronounced than the struggles I have experienced from living with CP. I wouldn’t trade anything for what I have today.

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!

Abrupt Changes

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This year has already brought on a lot of surprises! Caregivers coming and going, Joni and Friends being planned, and trips happening one after the other!

The other day I was looking in my closet and I saw a favorite shirt of mine that I thought was only a few years old, but I saw a number on the back of the tag that reminded me that I’d gotten it before I fell and fractured my ribs and went into rehab. Which was back when Rachael was in graduate school!

The shirt didn’t seem that old, but boy, have there been a lot of changes since that time 4 or 5 years ago! Sometimes things change slowly and other times they change quickly! When they change slowly, we don’t even see them, but when changes come at the drop of a hat, it seems harder to go with the flow.

For instance, the day I fell, I was as happy as a clam; busy working on an article I was writing on the computer. The next thing I knew, I fell on my way to the bathroom and was in excruciating pain; and then headed to 6 weeks of rehab! The hardest part about going through those 6 weeks of rehab was having people hover over me and wondering if my life would ever get back to normal again. 

Each time that I notice the number on the tag of my shirt, rather than reflect on the pain of that time, I’m continually grateful for all the changes that have taken place since then! Rachael has not only graduated with her master’s but she is happily married, and I am a proud grandma!

Changes can bring struggles and disappointment, but in the end, they can lead to contentment and a deeper awareness of the faithfulness of God.

The Wait is Over!

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Fifteen days ago, I got a call from my son-in-law, Vince, that my daughter Rachael was in labor! It was unexpected because Hannah was not supposed to arrive for another three weeks. I was so excited, I couldn’t sleep all night. The whole next day I carried my phone everywhere and there wasn’t any news for hours and hours. I tried to pass the time watching the last U.S. World Cup game with friends, but that was no match for what was really on my mind that whole time!  Then I got a text that labor had slowed down and that Rachael and Vince had actually taken a nap while I had sat on pins and needles waiting! Later that night, as I was getting ready for bed, I got a text saying, ‘Hannah Mae is here!’ So instead of going to bed, I went to see my precious granddaughter.

Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to go through the hard times that we have in life if we knew what happiness it would bring us in the future? I had no idea how delightful it would be to hold Hannah when I was chasing my own little two year old so many years ago.  At the time, it was exasperating, especially because I have Cerebral Palsy, and there was no way I could catch Rachael! But right now, holding my granddaughter brings me nothing but joy.

My little granddaughter, Hannah Mae, was in such a hurry to join this world, that she was born three weeks early. Although her parents could hardly wait to get her home, her little lungs were not quite ready, so she spent the first 10 days of her life in the NICU. I was quite proud of them as they patiently waited for her lungs to get stronger and three days ago their wait was over and she came home!

Just like my daughter Rachael had to go through a long and hard labor to bring Hannah into this world, and then wait to bring her daughter home we all have to go through many difficult experiences, but often without the understanding that it is these very struggles that produce the beautiful gifts and skills that God wants to give to us that will lead us to future joy! What gives you the strength to hold onto God’s promise of future joy during your hard times? Have you developed a way to hang onto the hope that God offers us in every difficult circumstance? Please share these in the comments below and spread His joy!

Fixing Leaky Faucets

Joyce Meyers was talking last week about how Satan is a deceiver, and she went onto say that there are nagging thoughts in our mind like, “You are not good enough, or you are not performing well enough,” that are most certainly from Satan. It caused me to think about John 10:10 in a completely new light. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

When my focus is wrong, negative thoughts eat away at me and rob me of my peace of mind and creativity. Some thieves, are blatantly overpowering, others are quiet yet just as disruptive. Thoughts that start with the phrase I wish or I should are like a leaky faucet; always in my mind and always needing attention.

I’ve realized that when I hear these phrases, it’s because my focus is wrong. Just like it is important to take care of the plumbing in your house, it is necessary to interrupt the lies that want to filter through our minds. Even one drip at a time raises your water bill, so it is important to take care of fixing that leaky faucet. Acknowledging that my focus is wrong is the first step in receiving the grace God has given me to move forward.

As I watch my daughter and my friend Jill prepare to have their babies, I have a similar sense of anticipation over the growth of our Joni and Friends Portland Area ministry. I find myself thinking, “Is anything I can do to help this to be more fruitful?” I can always think of things I should be doing better, but I have to press through the drudgery of the everyday by looking at the promise of things to come!

For example, I keep meeting people who are like-minded in both my passion for disability ministry and my writing! The encouragement we share in these relationships help to break the spell of negative thoughts that creep in so quietly, but are as loud as a sonic boom if left alone!

As we get ready to celebrate the Fourth of July and we hear the fireworks booming, let us look for ways that we can dislodge our negative thoughts and quiet them with the encouragement of God and others!

The wait is on…

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I’ve been doing a lot of waiting lately. Sometimes waiting can be torture, and sometimes it can be exciting! Farmers like my father and my brothers have planted seeds in the ground and then waited for months and months to see how the crop would turn out.  On one hand it is exciting to think of what may come up and on the other hand, it is nerve-wracking because they are dependent upon this crop for their livelihood.

Several months ago my daughter and my son-in-law announced that they were having a baby in July! They told me in December, and at that time, it seemed like so far away. But here we are today, about 5 weeks away from the birth of their precious daughter. This wait has been exciting more than anything else.

Another thing that many of my friends in the Northwest are waiting for is the Joni and Friends camp at Twin Rocks. Some of the people returning to camp have had such a good time that they start counting down the days months in advance! But in order to make the week a success, there is another group working to put the events together. I am in charge of recruiting volunteers for Pampering Day and a Couples Dinner. This wait has been similar to the farmer’s wait in that all I can do is tell people about it, and try to plant those seeds, and then see what happens from there. Some people may be too busy, and others won’t be interested at all, and that can be discouraging. But on the other hand, some people jump on board right away. The more people I ask, the more likely it is that people will say yes.

With all the waiting that’s been going on, I’ve been thinking a lot about Moses in Exodus 32. The Israelites waited for years and years to be led out of bondage and into the Promised Land. They were RIGHT THERE, but God told Moses to go up to the mountain to hear from Him. While he was gone, they waited and got afraid; eventually taking matters into their own hands. The results were disastrous on many levels. The Israelites missed out on hearing about the plans that God had for them because they chose not to wait on God’s timing.

Waiting isn’t optional, but our attitude is. We can either grumble and complain which usually leads to bitterness, or we can enjoy the process of developing the skills we need as we move forward. Sometimes we don’t know why we are waiting, it’s only when we look back that we see how God was shaping us for the tasks at hand.

What are you waiting on right now? Are you digging in your heels and taking matters into your own hands, or going with the flow?