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.  

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

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 Choice to Belong

friends at Judy Turley's

Teachers have been working to get their classrooms ready for school and while some kids come into the classroom excited about the new year and seeing their friends, others have lingering memories of previous disappointments and struggles in school, and they are uncertain about where they fit in.

They might be in the top of the bunch of students or the bottom of the bunch or just right in the middle, but no matter where they are, they feel like they have stigma that follows them. Kids who have a disability will likely feel the same way and they may not necessarily act out, but you can be sure they are wrestling with the same feelings of insecurity as the other kids.

Last week, I went to a function where we were packing backpacks to give away to kids who were in need. I thought it was an assembly line where I could do my part and send it along. Instead, everyone was running around like beavers and I felt like a bump on a log, watching the dam being built. I was excited about working on this project with my friends, but when they all started working around me, it would have been easy to feel like I should have just stayed home and skipped the event. Instead of sitting there with a bad attitude, I looked more closely at what everyone was doing, I could see something that wasn’t being done. I saw that the new backpacks were in plastic wrap and they needed to be unwrapped, so I started on those. I had found my niche. I also saw someone else who was sitting on the sidelines and I got her involved.

At that critical moment, I made choice to stay and get engaged; the next minute, I saw my niche. It felt really good to find that job that I could help with; and even better to find another person who may have felt the way I did and ask her to help me too. I am so happy I didn’t just sit there and watch everybody else help with the project.

A good teacher will see kids who are feeling dejected and will help them find a role that they can play. The kids who act out are also feeling left out, they just have a different way of showing it. In the same way, a good friend looks for others who are on the outside of the busyness and brings them in by showing them ways that they can join in.

“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24) That sounds like a good friend to me!

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

snow in montana

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!

 

 

 

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!