Preparing to Grow

We often hear about people making resolutions on New Year’s Eve.  So you’re probably wondering why I’m thinking about it in October.  My balance and other motors skill are affected by my cerebral palsy.  A few years ago a friend suggested I make an appointment with her acupuncturist.  I was thrilled how much my improved after my first treatment and decided to see her on a consistent basis.  

Although Anna immigrated from the Ukraine thirty years ago, she still speaks English with a heavy accent. At a recent appointment she surprised me when she said, “I think I’m going to take some speech classes, so I can learn to speak  better English.”  Curious about her decision to try to improve her communication skills, I asked her why.  “Maybe I could get more clients and friends if I was easier to understand.”

But with her next breath she started to talk herself out of her new goal.  After telling me she didn’t have time to take classes she finally admitted she didn’t like school when she was a kid. She said “I can get better by myself.”

 “If that were true” I argued, “you would have done it already.  We don’t hear ourselves the way others do. For instance, my speech is affected by my cerebral palsy.  Unless I hear a recording of myself talking, I forget how I sound to other people. I hear myself the way I hear others. 

She was surprised when I asked her, “ Do you hear yourself roll your R’s?

Puzzled, she asked, “So what do.”  “I think either taking a class or having A mentor would be helpful.  They can point out speech patterns you need to change and give you moral support when you get discouraged.     
 Instead of increasing the number of people she can talk to by learning to speak clearer,she told me she really didn’t need to talk to strangers. She communicated just fine with her clients.  I didn’t tell her but I cringed when I thought about how restrictive that would be.  

As my treatment continued, she explained the pain I have in my arm when I straighten it.  Last year, when I started to have trouble with it, I stopped doing things that involved stretching.  For example; brushing the back of my hair and putting on my tee shirts . Unfortunately, my decisions about how to avoid pain caused my muscles to get shorter.  

There aren’t any painless answers. If I want to regain some mobility and keep my independence I need to follow her instructions.

Personal growth takes a lot of  work and dedication.  In order to achieve your goal it’s helpful to:

  • 1. Know your reason for working for it,
  • 2. What happens if you don’t try to improve your situation?
  • 3. Who are to be your cheerleaders?  

Please share your why and what keeps you going during the long haul.

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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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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. 

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.  

Hope can be Like Water

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Have you ever watered a drooping plant and then seen it perk up?  When we give people hope through our actions or a word of an encouragement, we can have the same effect.  Hope gives people the resilience to make them stronger. Here are a few ways some have done that.

Mary Carver is a regular blogger on the (in)courage website.  This morning she wrote about traveling to Kenya with Mercy Corp. International.  As she toured the schools, Mary was moved to tears by the empty bookshelves.  When she returned to the US her first impulse was to gather books to ship overseas.  Then she realized books would be wonderful, but what the people needed even more was hope.

My church has a large food ministry.  Along with nutrition, they give hundreds of people hope that they can make it through tough times.

One Christmas, my mom’s quilt guild made pajamas for children in domestic violent shelters.  I think the mothers might have felt a glimmer of hope when they saw kids in new, warm pjs.

One of Joni and Friends’ ministries is Wheels for the World. They refurbish wheelchairs and walkers for other countries.  I got excited when I spotted a cane at a rummage sale.  I bought it, knowing that, coupled with the    Good News of the Gospel, it would change someone’s life!

August is a busy month for me because I go the Oregon Christian Writers conference and also Joni and Friends. Both of them inspire me to reflect the love and power of Jesus.  Sometimes it’s difficult to hold onto the hope that God gives. That’s why I need to be in fellowship with people who inspire me.  Both conferences give me a lot of hope.  By attending the Oregon Christian Writers conference, I hone my craft and am encouraged to keep writing. All my friends from OCW celebrated with me when my book, It Takes More Than Legs to Stand, was published this April. At the Joni and Friends Family Retreats, people affected by disabilities receive hope as they hear and experience God’s love. Giving hope away can be as simple as acknowledging someone when you’re out and about and smiling at them. It’s as easy as watering a plant.

Won’t you share some of the ways you like to give and receive hope?

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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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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.