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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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.

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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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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!