Finding Balance

balancing

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.

hummingbird

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.

He Can Lift the Fog

fog

This afternoon, my friend looked at my desk and asked me, “Do you want me to help you clean up your desk?” My first thought was, “No!” I thought it was hopeless. But I groaned and said, “Ok.” And sure enough, in a few minutes, she helped me to make order out of chaos!  There were things on my desk from just a few days ago to papers from a conference that I’d been to months before.

When we’re talking about discouragement, it’s not something that just shows up one day. It’s the little things that we gradually accumulate. Discouragement can seem like a foggy day that slowly, slowly clouds your vision, preventing you from seeing your next steps. I think we don’t pay attention to the little things that bug us, and then we wake up one day so bummed that it’s impossible to ignore any longer. Sometimes I don’t meet my own expectations and I don’t see any solutions to the problems that are eating away at me. However, each time I invite God into my messy circumstances, amazing things happen.

It stinks that we wait so long and let things pile up when we could so easily turn it over to the Lord. But sometimes, we don’t even see the need until life starts going sideways and we don’t know how to stop it. When we remember that, (Psalm 46:1) “The Lord is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble,” life goes much smoother.

Summer treasures

book cover 1 book cover

Where did the summer go? The kids are back in school, and the souvenirs that the kids just HAD to have when they were on vacations may already be forgotten. They could be strewn across the playroom floor or tossed underneath the bed, never to be treasured again.

My mom never bought herself anything when we went away on vacation, so we were surprised when we went to Waterton in Alberta Canada and she bought herself a mole-hair blanket. I’ve kept it for many years but recently I felt the blanket and realized how scratchy it was and I thought, ‘I wouldn’t want to cover myself with this!’ It got me thinking, it’s not the quality of the blanket that made me keep it, but it’s my memories of that day.

Some of the treasures from my summer were two wonderful books by women that I connected with at the Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference a few weeks ago. I’ve read their work recently to get some inspiration. These two stories resonated with something other than just my head. Both of these books encouraged me by showing me that each of us have a story that can impact the people around us and help each of us to be overcomers.

The Iron Heart by Delilah Moore Leach is a memoir about her contracting polio as a child, and her efforts not to be restrained by her outward appearance. It reminded me a lot of my own story. Both of us went to college despite others’ expectations. We also both realized that we had to change our own self-image rather than expecting other people to change their perceptions of us.

Where Eagles Soar by Bonnie Leon is a riveting account of a woman whose courage and determination to survive helped her to overcome life-altering abuse at the hands of her dad. Her story will impact other people who feel stuck in their circumstances.

The treasures that I have from this summer won’t be tossed under the bed or slip away from my memory because they are stories that impacted me and will remain dear to my heart.

 

Searching for Significance

Sometimes we are filled with passion toward one cause or another and it directs our path and our decisions. Other times we just live moment-to-moment with a hunger in our hearts to do something that matters to someone.

Last night we were going around and sharing problems within my small group and trying to let the Lord re-frame our circumstances into positive experiences and I was just squirming in my seat. We’ve all been in a place where we don’t know where we belong or we can’t see the bigger purpose of why life is turning out the way that it is. Life is a continual journey, we are always on our way somewhere, but there are times that we feel stagnant and root-bound to a space that is too small for our growing desire to produce something great. There is something really satisfying about sharing our lives and our talents with others around us.

This past weekend, I met two men who were both in the prime of their lives when tragedy struck and changed their course forever. One man was involved in a diving accident more than thirty years ago and the other was diagnosed with ALS just a few years ago. They are both currently in a long-term care facility and I had the privilege of spending some time visiting with them. I was deeply impressed with how hopeful both of these men were given their circumstances. My visit with these men was like finding a quiet stream after having been hurried along on the highway of life with so many others who are rushing to get to where they want to go.

These two men accept service gracefully for their various physical needs, and also serve others with their friendly and welcoming attitudes. I’m sure they have struggled with finding their purpose and meaning like all of us have, but I can see that they have worked through their grief over what has happened in their lives and now they are profound instruments of grace and hope to others.

Psalm 104: 16 “The trees of the Lord are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.”

Pressure Cooker of Life

I can remember the yummy chicken dinners that my mother prepared in her pressure cooker; at the end of the process, the chicken was tenderized. A pressure cooker works using a combination of pressure and steam to cook food quickly.  There is a valve to control the steam and a certain amount of steam is let off to alleviate some of the pressure at different times in the cooking process.

A lot of us have different coping mechanisms to alleviate some of the stress that we feel, and sometimes one of those is Facebook. It connects us just enough to let off some steam and alleviate the pressure quickly. Even though we feel better when we let off steam,  it doesn’t last for long.  We need to have the courage to stay involved in the process of discovering why we’re upset and ‘stay on the burner.’

Yesterday, I was presented with some unexpected news and now I have to weigh the pros and cons about how to deal with this issue. I need to stay on the burner and deal with this, and there will be consequences either way, but in the end, I know that it will lead to my heart being tenderized.

We live in a society where sometimes we don’t share the important things; we would rather stay in safe conversations. Oddly enough, though we live in a society connected through cell phones and Facebook and so many other websites, we live in isolation. That disconnect is making us lonely as a society.

It is risky to share what is really going on because there is always a high probability that people are not going to understand; even your closest friends might not understand. That is why we make choices about whether or not to speak up and be authentic or just live lives on the surface. No matter which way you choose to go, there are always losses. It could be a loss in friendship or a loss of security. Telling the truth disrupts your life as it is now, but when we have the courage to go through the process of being tenderized, we gain strength and freedom.