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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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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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!

The Wheels are Turning

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This past week, I got emails from three different people telling me that they have wheelchairs to donate to Joni and Friends! This was wonderful news, however, it was the furthest thing from my mind since we are such a small group here in Portland, and we’re just starting out. I couldn’t think of any place to store the wheelchairs. So I called a friend from another chapter and he told me what I needed to do.

It got me thinking, there are a lot of things like that when I think, “No, I can’t do it!” It is my first response to new projects, but then after awhile, I think, “How can it be done?” Then I take one step, and then two steps, and before I know it the path is opening up! Fear is usually the first response, a knee-jerk reaction to anything outside of my comfort zone. But then the wheels within my brain start turning and one thing leads to another.

Sometimes, when I can’t do something, I find out who can! I have done that all of my life, and am known as the #1 networker among my friends! When I was first blogging, I was doing it by myself and I said, “God, look at me typing with two fingers!” It wasn’t because I didn’t know the keys, I just can’t do it any other way because of my withered hand due to Cerebral Palsy. It was so tedious and I said, “God, you have to be kidding!” But He wasn’t, and after two years of persistence, God provided a helper. This reminded me of the story of Moses and Aaron in Exodus 4:10-15

10 Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” 11 The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” 13 But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” 14 Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you. 15 You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do.

So it is natural at first to think, “No, I can’t do this!” But when we are open to saying “yes”, God will surprise us by providing us with the means to stand up when we’d rather sit down. It is so humbling to watch how God provides us with everything we need to do what He’s called us to do.

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?