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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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.

Stepping Stones

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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!

 

 

 

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!

Tis the season…

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Tis the season of graduations, weddings, and new life to begin! Each one of these events holds excitement and expectation. In my life, I am getting ready to experience a new season; being a grand-mom. My daughter is having her first little baby at the end of July and it is thrilling! I remember my friend Dottie helping me to prepare for my daughter, Rachael’s birth 27 years ago, so when Dottie threw a baby shower for her this past weekend, it brought a lot of joy to be able to celebrate together again! Dottie has been one of those friends I could always count on.

For several years, raising my girl was all-consuming, and at her high school graduation it made me a little bit sad to to wonder, “Now what am I going to do?” When she went to college, it was time for another part of my life to begin, and I’ve found that it has been just as satisfying; especially now when I get to experience the joys of being a grandma! I’ve found a richness in both old and new relationships and I’m looking forward to many trips; including an upcoming trip to the beach with a few friends.

Sometimes life doesn’t work out the way you anticipate; but guess what; it can be so much greater than you expect! The way we can truly enter into the fullness of new experiences and relationships is to let go of disappointments. For instance, when I was right out of college and looking for a job, and things didn’t work out the way that I had thought they should, that was disappointing. I’ve had many other major disappointments as well that could have cast a dark shadow on my life, but I discovered that accepting the things I could not change has led me into the freedom that I know today. Those difficult times were not stumbling blocks, but actually building blocks.

Raising Rachael was both stressful and delightful (as it is for most parents), and some days I couldn’t see past each moment. But believe me, I wouldn’t trade any of that, because each one of those days brought me to closer to where I am now; about to experience the birth of my precious granddaughter.

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!