Sunday, September 30, 2012

Standing in the Return Line

“Jenny, why do you walk different from the rest of us?”  My four year old niece Tizi looked up at me with honest eyes as we strolled through the neighborhood.  We took a few more steps while pushing the stroller as she watched me walk some more.  I looked over, explained cerebral palsy in the best 4 year old language I could find, and then she responded with a change in perspective, “We all walk differently, every one of us!”

"Yes," I thought to myself, "We all have a different walk in life."

Ever feel like your walk with God stands out, looking different from everyone else?  I’m not talking about the standing out that makes you feel special; I’m talking about the standing out that makes you feel odd, awkward, and alone?  Do you ever feel that what God has called you to feels overwhelming, and the gifts and calling on your life are not ones that you would like to graciously unwrap and receive, but rather return because they don’t seem to fit?

I’ve found myself in this place lately, questioning whether God actually knows me well enough to move me in the direction He’s leading.  I’ve prayed prayers that I’m not proud of, asking God where the return line is for the gifts and calling He’s given me.  I’ve been envisioning myself as the disappointed woman standing wearily in line the day after Christmas, frustrated by the packages I’ve opened that seemed to have no resemblance of who I am.  

God is so patient isn’t He?

God, I believe, has been listening to my prayers, as sarcastic as they are, and He has been inviting me into a different line—not one of return, but one of exchange.  It’s as if He has been saying, “Why don’t you lay down your frustration and your resentment and instead pick up surrender and trust?  Why don’t you exchange your answer of ‘no,’ to the things I am calling you towards for an answer of ‘yes?’  The truth is, I do know you and I know how to give good gifts.”

Feel like you’re standing in the return line?  Here are two resources that have helped me this week:
1.        I Knew What I Was Getting Into sung by Misty Edwards
2.       Irreplaceable, a sermon by Steve Wiens

Stumbo Family Story

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Judy Siegle

Note: Last week I introduced a new series called Turning the TapestryOnce a month I will be featuring a guest blogger who is connected to disability in some way to share how they have seen God at work in the midst of the challenges they face.  This month, I am honored to introduce you to Judy Siegle.  I hope you are encouraged by what she has to share. 

Jenny asked me to share a little bit about how I have seen God at work in the midst of my paralysis. Wow. Where do I begin? It was thirty-three years ago, the summer after I graduated from high school, that I was involved in the car accident that left me a quadriplegic. Life as I had known it came to a screeching halt!   Although I had faith in God, for the most part I had no idea what this was going to mean for my life. I discovered that going with God was to be the greatest adventure I could ever imagine!   

In addition to a spinal cord injury, I sustained a mild traumatic brain injury in the accident, which was a blessing. With my memory coming back gradually, there wasn't the sudden blow of being able-bodied one moment -- to looking at life in the wheelchair in the next moment. While my days were positive – my nights were interrupted with nightmares. I couldn’t understand what was going on, because I knew God was with me. So why the difficult nights?

Judy with her dad, "Dad taught me about the Father's love.  He is my hero!"

Through some words with a pastor, I learned that there were going to be many times that I would be frustrated and possibly even angry at God.  It was okay to cry.   God understands.  He told me to imagine God so close to me that I could beat on His chest with my anger. God could take it!  The conversation with the pastor totally ended my nightmares. In their place, I experienced God’s peace. Even though there was still a huge loss in my heart for several years, as I continued to share my thoughts and grow in my relationship with God -- even sometimes beating on His chest with my anger -- He healed my broken heart.

Over the years, God has taught me many lessons for life through my paralysis.

·         He gives me courage to step out in the development of myself, even though life is going to be very different than I had planned.  Never will I leave you…Heb 13:5
·         He gives me strength to develop my talents and abilities, which moves me from being a back-of-the-pack wheelchair racer to a two-time Paralympian and national record holder. I can do all things through Christ…Phil 4:13
·         He gives me purpose and passion to reach outside myself and serve others.  As a Chair Corps Rep for Wheels for the World, part of the disability ministry of Joni Eareckson Tada, I traveled to Romania, Egypt and Jordan on wheelchair distributions, and organized drives that have collected over 1250 wheelchairs.  One of my favorite weeks of the year is when I volunteer at Joni and Friends’ Family Retreat.  For I know the plans I have for you…Jer 29:11
On a trip to Egypt with a Wheels for the World distribution

It has been my striving for independence, as a quadriplegic, that has actually brought me to dependence on God. I have experienced that He is intimately involved in the details of my days and that when I am going with Him, absolutely nothing has to keep me down.  It is THE GREATEST ADVENTURE!

You can read more about Judy by visiting her Website:
Next month Turning the Tapestry will feature thoughts from Krista Horning.   

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Turning the Tapestry

This summer I volunteered at a Joni & Friends Family Retreat.  For a week I worked as a short-term missionary (STM) paired with a camper who had a disability so her care-giver could enjoy some respite.  There are many things I am still pondering in my heart after that experience, including reflections on my own journey.  

As a child, most of my prayers involved petitioning God to remove cerebral palsy from my life.  I hoped the grace of God would help me turn away from my disability.  Surely His healing hand would deliver me!

As an adult, I’m learning that the grace of God can also help you turn and face your reality.  Volunteering at Joni Camp helped me see that the Body of Christ can help you bear the challenges and suffering of life, even if it means living with a disability.  

I saw this time and time again at camp:

 I saw it in a small group when a young man wept openly about what he has lost due to his disabilities. The people around him acknowledged his pain, wiped his tears, and wept with him.

·         I saw it while walking into a bathroom where a mother faced an overwhelming mess while toileting her adult son.  People immediately stepped in to offer wipes and whatever assistance they could. 

·         I saw it when a middle aged father carried his teenage daughter down the dock so she could ride the pontoon.  It took some effort, but he was happy to do it.  

·         I saw it in personal care attendants who could interpret the groans of a young woman because they had assisted her for so much of her life.  

·         I saw it in the recreation staff that stood in the water for hours every afternoon so others could be supported in their fun.  This is the beauty of the Body of Christ at work! 

I was encouraged by all I saw, but challenged by it as well.  After sharing my internal struggles with one of the camp leaders, I was encouraged by this insight, "Sometimes the suffering we see looks like the back of a tapestry.”  At first all we see is a knotty, tangled mess, but the truth is, God is creating a masterpiece.   

Once a month, I’m going to be inviting people with disabilities and those who regularly interact with them to share their stories on my blog, turning the tapestry over, gaining a glimpse of where God is at work in the midst of the challenges they face. 

Will you join me on this journey, looking for the beautiful design created by the Grand Weaver?  

We will begin next week when we hear from two-time Paralympian and national wheelchair racer record holder, Judy Siegle. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

To the Top of the Wall Pt. 4

“I am Batman!”  I called out in triumphal determination.  I closed my eyes and pictured this summer’s blockbuster.  I was resolved to press on just like Christian Bale as he pulled himself out of the Pit to freedom.  Only a few more hurdles left.

“Ahh!”  I grunted as I pulled my body up and over an outcropping in the wall.  “Almost there!”  I told my muscles between clenched teeth as they ached and shook in rebellion.

A cheer rose from the ground as my spotter and I worked as team to scale the wall.  “Good job Jenny!”  His words carried me as much as my harness.  As I repositioned my arms and legs to new heights, my spotter responded with an uplifting hoist.  My muscles continued to throb and spasm.

“I am Batman!”  I called out again, almost in defiance, trying to convince myself and my muscles of the ability to continue.

“You’re Batman!” Encouragement rose from underneath.

Looking up, I could finally see the top of the wall; a wooden picket fence lay ahead with a bell hanging from above.

“Grab the wooden bars and pull yourself up!”

I closed my eyes, picturing my final push to the top that had played in my mind on repeat over and over as June turned into July and suddenly transformed into August.   With my last burst of energy, I gripped the bars and raised myself to the top!  I rang the bell, signaling my victory for all its worth.

Note:  This post is part 4 of a 4 part series.  Visit Pt. 1, Pt. 2, and Pt. 3.

Photo by: J. DeChamplain

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

To The Top of the Wall Pt. 3

 Guess I’m going to do it without any help.  I extended my left leg towards the rock as it began to spasm, shaking uncontrollably.  “Left. Leg. Spasming!”  I announced, as I reached for the hold.
“Can you put any weight on your left foot?”  I heard my spotter ask.
“I don’t know!”  I shifted my weight, trying to bear down on my left side, fighting against a flood of muscle tone and fatigue.  My leg seemed insistent on shaking, crying for relief.

“Ahhh!”  I called out, and with one last surge, pressed down, balancing my weight.  Once again, my harness came to my rescue, as the rope squeezed my thighs, pushing me further in my ascent. 

Ahead of me lay a cubby.  A box of sorts cut into the wall providing a built in step to propel climbers upward.  I reached into the box, gripping the holds that lay in the bottom, but once my arms were secure, I found myself in a new predicament.  “Where do I put my feet?”
“You can’t see it, but there’s a yellow rock just beneath the box.”
I fumbled around for a minute until I felt my right leg plant itself firmly as if pressing on a brake.  With my left leg in a new position, I pushed upward moving my hands to a higher level, finally standing on the “step.”

Find out how my climb concludes tomorrow!

Note: This is part 3 of a 4 part series.  Read previous posts:

Photo by J. DeChamplain