Sunday, January 27, 2013

Opening the Door to Opportunity

This summer I was invited to volunteer at a Joni & Friends Family Retreat which offers an oasis for families who have a member with a disability.  Our main meeting room was an auditorium called The Anchor which had tiered seating.  I walked in the first day and immediately noticed a problem:  there were no railings.  Suddenly, I found myself stuck.  I could make it down the steps with assistance, but for the rest of week, I found myself sitting in the back.  

I’m a front row girl.  I like to up where the action is.  I like to be seen, and the teacher in me knows that the rate of retention is higher when you sit in the front.  But, I was in the back that week, separated often from the people I came to camp with. I wasn’t just seated towards the back of the room, I was seated behind the platform that was constructed for people who use wheel chairs.  

I found myself distracted, unable to see, and crowded.  What’s worse, I began feeling sorry for myself.  It’s hard to walk into a room and suddenly realize that you can’t fully participate because the way the room is constructed.  So many places have railings that this took me by surprise.  

What good could come of this?

Day after day, a man was wheeled in front of me to hear the sermons.  As I sat behind him, I began to wonder, “What was his name?  What was his story?  How tall is he?”  He happened to be in my small group break out session afterwards.  I had the opportunity to talk to his family and learned they lived just minutes from my house.  

I reached out to him on Facebook after camp and we have since become good friends.  We’ve spent a lot of time together this year and our friendship has become an incredible gift.  

It’s hard when one path is seemingly blocked in a life due to a disability, but incredible to behold how a change in course can open the door to opportunity.

Some friends of mine recently forwarded me a TED Talk featuring Janine Shepherd, who very articulately speaks on this topic.  Enjoy!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Pete & Joy

This week, my friends Pete and Joy candidly share how God is working to blend their lives together after having both lost their spouses to cancer and a heart condition. 


When my son, Collin, was born by C-section in 1989, the doctors also removed a twenty pound tumor that we had no idea existed.  My wife Laurel underwent emergency surgery a week later for a massive infection and spent seven weeks in the hospital. The prognosis was a certain recurrence of the cancer and a year to live. …Laurel survived for the next twenty years and went Home to Jesus on January 17th, 2010.

Laurel and I called cancer a terrible, wonderful gift. It was terrible in its effects on her body, but wonderful in its effects on our lives. We talked many times about it and decided that, although there were many specific days we would have liked to trade away, we would not trade our journey with cancer. It deepened our marriage, our relationship with the Father, and our relationships with others. I would not be half the man I am today if not for my life with Laurel and cancer.

I have known many losses in my life, and likely you have too. My Dad died several years ago, my brother’s wife a few years ago. The most recent was my Mom. She died at age 82.  Each tributary of loss has added to the river of grief, and to the knowledge that my Lord loves me and comforts me as he promised he would in John 14.

Isaiah 61: 3


Sudden loss of my husband, Bryon, from a heart condition is what I experienced at the age of 45. We had 2 small children at home.  With sudden loss, I have found, comes regrets. What about that silly argument you had had with your spouse just a few days earlier? What if you had come home sooner, could you have saved him? Questions like these haunted me over and's funny, in a way, how we can be so grace oriented with others and yet not with ourselves. 

Bryon had doctored with one of the best cardiologists in the Twin Cities. So I knew after Bryon had passed that I had to call his doctor and thank him for the excellent care that he had received.   How could I do this? It's because I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has ordained the number of days we are given before we have yet lived one. Yet I struggled with my own guilt. Thankfully that very same cardiologist was able to help me.  I met with him to look over the autopsy results. He reassured me that I could not have prevented this. With his reassurance and the Lord's own work in my life, I've been more set free from the guilt.     

God showed Himself to me over and over that first year. I felt upheld by the prayers of many, many friends who I knew and many that I've never met, but they had heard my story and began e-mailing me. His faithfulness was clear as I lost my Mom only 4 months after I lost my husband. His evidences of care were shown in the smallest of details. He is SO Faithful!

Pete & Joy on their family honeymoon to LegoLand

            …And so we come together in God’s plan to journey on from here. He has a plan for us. He has blessed us with each other. Blessed is not used lightly here. There are too many good things about our marriage, our kids, and our support system to flippantly say, “We are blessed”. Bryon and Laurel are talked about in our home freely. We remember our parents openly with each other. When the Twins head to spring training, we talk about Joy’s dad. When we hang the stockings by the fireplace, we talk about Pete’s mom. Laurel’s quilts hang on the walls and Bryon’s hunting and fishing trophies do too. These precious ones may not be here physically, but they are very much a part of our lives.
We are thankful for this journey, and anticipating what the Lord will do with us.

Pete & Joy lead a GriefShare group in St. Cloud, MN.  They write, “Coming along side of the hurting is a way to till the soil and seeds of grief in our lives for a bit of beauty to emerge in others.”

Friday, January 11, 2013

Slow Down, Ask For Help, Look Around

I’m learning that a key to disability ministry is to develop an eye for those unseen and to notice people and circumstances that are often ignored.  Ministry is not always so much about minutes or clearly defined activities, but a lifestyle and openness for ministry to happen anywhere.  If you want to be “productive,” speed does matter—the slower the better!

Slowing down at work…
I was thankful for someone who helped me slow down one day at work.  I was walking determinately towards the office when a special education teacher stepped out of her room and said, “Jenny, you look like you’re on a mission.  If you have a minute, could you come in here?  There are some people I’d like you to meet.”

Her students were having a party where moms and dads were invited in for lunch.  I was so grateful to have been pulled out of my rush to meet the beautiful people who love and support our students so well.   

Asking God for help while shopping…
Another time I found myself skeptically praying that “God would partner with me” as I walked into the grocery store, hoping He would help see someone with a disability that I could serve.  I found myself slowing down as I walked through the frozen food section, realizing that the woman in front of me was supported by a walker.  Later, I witnessed her standing in the check-out line, talking to the cashier about an unused coupon.

“Ma’am, did you want to get this cheese today?  It’s on sale, but I don’t see it in your cart.”
“Oh,” she sighed, “That’s too far for me to walk.”

Suddenly, I felt as if God tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “You’re on!”

“I’ll get your cheese!”  I happily volunteered.  I returned moments later with a brick of Colby Jack and smile. 
Looking for others who are unseen in church…
I came to church early one morning to have some coffee before the service started.  Cup in hand, I started looking around the room.  It seemed that everyone was standing in circles talking.  I could have joined, but standing while holding a hot beverage is taxing, so I walked over to a row of empty chairs in the middle of the room and had a seat—alone.  Much to my chagrin, I began to feel sorry for myself!

“God,” I prayed, “This isn’t what I want right now.  Is there someone You would have me see this morning that I wouldn’t normally notice because I am sitting here?”  I took a sip of my coffee and began to survey the room.  I noticed a teenager I had met a few years ago but hadn’t seen in a while. 
“Come sit over here!” I motioned.  She smiled and sat next to me.  She shared about her life in high school, her plans during Christmas break, and then mentioned her participation in adaptive athletics.  I never knew she had a disability.  I was suddenly glad I was sitting down, and even more grateful for this moment of candid sharing.  It could have easily been missed. 

Slow down.
Ask God for help.
Look for others who are often go unnoticed. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Testimony

This summer I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Krista Horning while volunteering at a Joni and Friends Family Retreat.  Following the retreat, Krista was asked to speak at The Works of God: God’s Good Design in Disability Desiring God conference, held November 8th in Minneapolis. 

Sitting near the front, I watched as Krista bravely took the stage immediately following John Piper.  She held her audience captive while she spoke. Many wept while she shared honestly about reality of her disability and the work that God is doing in her life through her experience.  

When she was done, I gave her a hug and said, “Krista, I think we can all go home now.  There’s really nothing more that needs to be said.”  Indeed, each speaker for the rest of the afternoon affirmed the perspective Krista gave—it was profound.

I am happy to share Krista’s ten minute testimony, with her permission, on my blog today.  The video of her talk is embedded below.  You can also read a transcript of her message.  Enjoy! 

By John Piper. ©2012 Desiring God Foundation. Website: