Monday, November 25, 2013

How do you envision heaven?

Revelation 21:4
4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[a] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Do you ever wonder about heaven?  I let my imagination wonder.  Here’s what I envision:

I hope my room in heaven looks like the main reading room at the Library of Congress.  Rows and rows of ancient books line dark wooden shelves.  There are ornate ceilings, and lots of nooks and crannies with inviting views where I can snuggle up and read.  The lake is at my doorstep.  There’s a dock and a fishing boat and beautiful sunsets.  The Great Blue Heron soars across the water, and because it’s heaven we can talk to each other; he tells me about fishing and I tell him about my day.
There’s lots of time to spend with loved ones.  My little nieces and nephew come over every day.  We have story time together and then go out and play in the sand.  My childhood dog is there, tail whipping around and tongue hanging out as he pants a wet smile. 

Heaven is a place where disability doesn’t exist.  Personal care attendants will have to find a line of work.  No one is fed with an IV or syringe. No one eats alone.  No one knows what loneliness is.  Shame is no longer something people carry.  No one wears diapers or uses a wheelchair.  My friend Kris who was injured in a car accident is out playing football once again and my friend Krista, born with a rare genetic condition causing her bones to fuse is out winning beauty pageants; not just because her new body is stunning, but because her character is too.  My students who once had intellectual disabilities are earth are now solving math problems and teaching me things.  My students with autism haven’t lost their childish charm, but in heaven, they can finally speak!

 I have a whole closet full of high heels: hot pink, leopard print, but I think I’ll wear the red ones, at least for the first 100 years.  My feet will match because they will no longer be deformed.  No scars will line my legs.  I won’t have to manage fatigue any longer, suffer from back pain, or have an awkward posture.  My balance will be perfect; my gait will be flawless.  Maybe I’ll even take up running.  Maybe I’ll do it in my red heels.

I hope there will be lots of time for learning.  I want to sit down and have private tea with all my favorite English authors: C.S. Lewis, Paul Brand, J.K. Rowling, and Agatha Christie.  I want to pick their brains about their wonderful imaginations, plot lines, and spend time thanking them for the way their words carried me through life.  I want to take a graduate theology course from Paul the Apostle.  I want to learn about animals from the animals themselves.

I think there will be lots of time to meet people.  I hope we all have a reception line where we get to greet the people that impacted our lives and the people we in turn impacted.  I hope I’ll get to meet my ancestors as far back as I want, and spend lots of time with Grandma who left my life abruptly in 1998. 

In heaven, I won’t have to worry about seasonal depression any more.  There won’t be clouds or darkness to drag me down, but plenty of sunshine and endless light.  There will be times of quiet intimacy with God that are precious and also lots of time to worship together.  I think there will be lots of music and dancing.  Our pitch will be perfect and song will be rich and deep when we sing alone, but everything will come together when we sing as a choir, every voice fitting together like pieces in a puzzle, creating a masterpiece that fills the expanse of heaven.  We’ll want to sing and praise Him forever and ever.

And God finally will be with us.  We will touch him and he will hold us.  We will look into His eyes and He will stare back at us and in that moment we will finally know what it is to know and be known….how I long for that day!

In case the thought of heaven makes you want to sing, may I recommend this song?  Yours will Be (The Only Name) by Big Daddy Weave:

 1 Corinthians 13:12
12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Here's to Teachers Who See the Awesome!

I was an awkward teenager.  I didn’t know how to style my hair; I didn’t own any make-up, and I was completely clueless when it came to boys.  They simply weren’t on my radar screen.  It’s as if I have always been a “librarian in training.”  I wore sweaters to school, had glasses on my face, and I spent too many quiet evenings at home reading books.

I spent a lot of time in the library too.  I was a great student, but what motivated me above the thrill and joy of learning was shame.  I felt like a failure for having a physical disability. I hated my body.  I wanted to weave something to cover all of the awkwardness up, so I made a robe from my perfect academics, except they weren’t perfect; I only had a 3.9 G.P.A. in a line-up of several people with 4.0s.  

I remember not liking high school.  I remember wanting the whole experience to be over.  I remember wanting to be an adult.

I also remember that moment sitting in Mr. Olsen’s English class as a junior when he stood in front of us and said, “You all need to learn how to speak.  This class is very talented and I know there are many of you who will one day make some very important speeches.  I want you to be prepared.”

I squirmed in my seat; hopeful and disappointed at the same time.  I knew that I would never address my classmates at commencement, but somehow I knew he was talking to me.  Mr. Olsen was a unique kind of teacher—one who taught beyond the curriculum and considered the whole student.  He wanted to know my name as much as he wanted me to enjoy The Great Gatsby.  He saw me a whole person; he dared to see my talent in the midst of my awkwardness.

I remembered him throughout college as I pushed myself to do better.  When I stood before 7,000 people at St. Cloud State University on Mother’s Day 2006, delivering my valedictory speech, I smiled, not only because of my achievements and honors, but because Mr. Olsen was right—I was making that very important speech.

I always wanted to thank Mr. Olsen for believing in me, and this summer I got my chance.  I ran into him at Perkins one morning and thanked him.  He turned to me, smiled, and said, “I knew you had it in you kid.”
Did you have a teacher along the way who helped “reveal the awesome” potential in you?  This week is American Education Week.  What better time to e-mail your alma matter, hop on to Linked In, or look up your teacher on Facebook.  Tell them what an impact they have made; you will be glad you did.

Enjoy this video by Kid President.  (If you can't see the video below, visit this link:

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Finding the Courage to Be Myself: My reaction to being seen on WCCO

There are moments in my life when, because I have cerebral palsy, I don’t like being myself.  I feel inadequate, awkward, and tired.  I wonder how people perceive me and if they like what they see.  But, after this happened last week, I found the courage and confidence to like being myself.  I realized it was okay to let myself be seen, even though my butt sticks out when I stand, my arms get spastic when I'm excited, and my feet are covered with Reeboks because of the inserts and AFO that holds me up each day. Seeing myself on screen, helped me see, that even in the midst of all that awkwardness, I am beautiful.  I like what I see and so do other people.  For the first time, in a long time, I was happy about the place I am at in life, the work God is doing, and the people He has called me to.  I finally wanted to be me! 

Thank you for the tremendous outpouring of support over the past few days.  I am secure in my conviction that I am loved.

Please enjoy the letter and videos that follow.  I did receive permission to share this letter in its entirety from Aimee Libby. Aimee, this is one of the most beautiful letters I've ever read.  Thank you for taking the time to write it and for honoring me.

From: Aimee Libby
Subject: Excellent Educator nomination
Date: October 4, 2013 at 3:56:42 PM CDT


 My name is Aimee Libby and I have two kids who attend St. Michael Elementary (STME) in St. Michael, MN. My oldest child (Peyton) has special needs from an injury at birth, and is in 3rd grade at STME. Peyton struggles with Expressive & Receptive Language Disorder and Global Apraxia (both neurological planning/processing disorders). We have been at STME for three years, and while we have met and interacted with countless amazing staff members there both in the regular ed and SPED classrooms, there's one person in particular who has had a huge impact on our family – and who is making a HUGE impact on our entire community. Her name is Jenny Hill. She is the Media Specialist at STME, and she was born at 29 weeks gestation with Cerebral Palsy. The very first week our daughter, Peyton, was at STME, she came home raving about "Miss Hill". I had no idea who she was, so I looked her up on the school staff directory online. I remember thinking, "Weird, she's just the librarian". When my husband and I asked Peyton why she liked Miss Hill so much, her response was, "She's different. Like me." Little did we know that Ms. Hill was very actively teaching so much more than simply how to check out a book.

 Over the past few years, we've gotten to know Miss Hill and have been amazed at what a great asset she is to STME and to our community. She's very open with the kids about her disability. In talking with her, we have been so encouraged to hear her mission as an educator - to make sure every student knows they are loved, appreciated, and respected. I once asked her how she's able to so freely discuss her disability after having such a difficult time growing up, feeling as though she was alone and without any friends. I know for myself, it's often difficult to talk about or explain my daughter's disability to others, but Jenny does it with grace and ease. Her response blew me away, she said, "I have seen that sharing my story has the power to provide hope, inspiration, and encouragement to others who are struggling". Wow.

About a year and a half ago I helped start a Special Olympics team here in St. Michael-Albertville…and Jenny has been one of our biggest fans! She invited my daughter and I to be a part of the daily "morning news" at STME during "Acceptance Week" last April to help inform the kids what Special Olympics is all about, she has helped promote fundraisers for our team, she has also been doing an amazing job encouraging kids to look beyond people's disability (whether physical or cognitive). Through sharing her story and being transparent to both students and staff at her building, she's trailblazing a beautiful path for all current and future students with special needs/disabilities to walk down – one that is filled with cheerleaders along the way and even friends walking ON that path with them, hand-in-hand. Jenny is promoting acceptance, but more importantly, she is working so very hard to teach each student she comes in contact with that "different" is good. Because deep down, we're all "different" in one way or another.

 We can't say enough good things about Miss Hill! And we'd love for her to be recognized for all that she's doing (much of which she probably doesn't even realize) simply by being herself and being open with everyone regarding her disability. She is truly one in a million and we're so lucky to have her at STME!

Thanks for your time and consideration!
Aimee Libby

On Thursday morning, Edward Moody from WCCO showed up in the middle of my first class to hand me an award and name me their Excellent Educator of the Week.
If you cannot see the video embedded below, visit this link:

I also want to express my gratitude for Steve Wiens in how he honored me this weekend at Church of the Open Door.  If have time, please watch this message in its entirety.  It is very good.  Steve tells my story around the 20 minute mark.  Here is the link:

Monday, November 4, 2013

Jesus Wept

The fellowship of suffering….I experienced it last week when I opened up about the pain of being stared at in public.  Many of you who responded were people who have experienced this pain yourself.  Your reaction was not one of pity or encouragement, but rather expressions of understanding, “Well said.” “Thank you.”  “I’ve had similar experiences.”  This is the fellowship of suffering—when what we read points to our pain with such pressure we can feel it, and at the same time brings relief because the words have brought friendship to our grief.

This, however, leads to a good question.

How do we react when we haven’t had similar experiences?  What do we do when our friends and family are facing the unbearable?  What do we say when all of our words and information seem cheap and wrong and the best option it would seem, is to say nothing, yet it is these situations which cry the loudest for our concern?

This is not the time to try to fix things.

It’s not the time to offer friendly advice or a story.

Please don’t send a message to “think on the bright side.”

I think these are the times when we must learn to sit with one another in the midst of pain and weep.

This is not an easy thing to learn.

Let’s face it; many of us are reserved native Minnesotans, myself included.  I also have Norwegian roots.  I’m not a crier.  It’s like Tom Hanks  has been two inches away from my ear my whole life screaming, “There’s no crying!!”

But, as I continue to interact with people who are suffering, I am slowly learning how to weep.  It’s like I hold it all inside until it’s pressing down on my chest.  When I sit down alone to pray, it all comes out with so much force I can hardly breathe.  I’ve learned to thank God for these moments, to ask Him for tears and to thank Him when they come because a hard cry seems to be the only release and the only authentic expression I can offer.

Jesus did this.

In John 35:11, upon hearing of Lazarus’ death, we read the famous line, “Jesus wept.”  Jesus, who had just boldly proclaimed to Martha that He was “The Resurrection and the Life,” the only One who could really fix the situation, was reduced to tears when he saw other people’s pain.  He wept with them.  He joined with them in their suffering.  It was this act that caused the crowd to cry, “See how he loved him!”

Want to read more?  Tanya Marlow is a minister, blogger, and a person who lives with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  Read what she has to say in an article written for Relevant Magazine.

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