An Imperfect Love Story

An Imperfect Love Story

He saw her across the gymnasium – a petite girl with long golden brown hair.  His Science Fair project was on Bridges and hers was on the Human Body.  He finally got up the nerve to speak with her and bought her a Coke.  A couple years later they attended their Junior and Senior proms together but were heading to different states for college.

Over those years many hours were spent on dorm hallway phones and almost daily letters sent back and forth. Summers and holidays they happily reunited and by their senior year they began planning a future together. He was going to be a Civil Engineer and she was studying Nursing – funny how their early interests would become their careers.

Senior year of college, something wasn’t right – she became very ill. Graduation was followed by a trip to the hospital for tests and later major surgery.  He sat by her bedside praying while she recovered in the ICU – what was God doing?  They postponed the wedding even though she wrestled with God over that. She realized her fiancee had proven his faithfulness “in sickness and health”! Their bond only strengthened as they thanked God for healing and chose to keep Him in the middle of every day – good days and bad.  Their wedding verse;

bride-1837148_1920This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.        Psalms 118:24 (ESV)

 After the wedding they started their happily ever after and saved to buy a house. Three children came along one right after the other – a girl and two boys.  Their lives took a different path when child #2 was born with cognitive and physical disabilities. Those early years included open heart surgery for that little one and casts on club feet.  Doctor visits and seeing therapists became the new normal.  The now mother of three also continued to have medical issues and the daughter had learning disabilities. Challenging? Yes.  But nothing is impossible with God so they clung to His promises.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.     Jer 29:11 (ESV)

 Life was good just different because there are added concerns and some limitations when a family member has a disability. But days were filled with school, sports, church activities, celebrations and vacations just like everyone else. Most importantly they made life-long friendships.

Love and a solid faith in God along with a lot of family and friend support helped them overcome and in turn reach out.  They became involved with Family and Marriage ministry to help others. Communication and commitment is necessary while quitting is NOT an option. The couple also became involved with Disability ministries like Special Olympics and served in their local church.

They learned that every day is an opportunity for grace with communication being the key -especially when an apology is necessary. Often they would laugh or make a joke about something else going wrong. Laughter does help make the burdens lighter!

After 36+ years this couple still celebrates with gratitude for all God has provided. They have met some amazing people and traveled to beautiful places they never dreamed possible. Their story is far from over as now in mid-life they plan for the future and retirement. Their parents are gone and the children are grown with their own careers. The son with disabilities is doing well. There were many more difficulties as well as great stories through those years because life is an imperfect balance. They still have arguments and misunderstandings but at the end of every day find security and comfort in each others’ arms.

Life is not perfect but good.

What advice would they give you this Valentine’s Day?

Set priorities: God first, Spouse (before self) then Family and everything else

Laugh – A little bit (or a lot) of humor  helps along the way!

 Listening well helps avoid misunderstanding

Trust God is in control even when life seems out of control.

During the hardest times of life – PRAY MORE – God will give you the peace and strength to not only endure but to excel when you trust in Him.

Loving one another requires patience, over-looking faults and compassion.

Teach your children well.

Always kiss good night.

 

Review your own imperfect love story and have a blessed Valentine’s Day.

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I Can Do It…

I Can Do It…

My son is participating in Special Olympics speed skating competition this weekend.  Remy proskateYes, the son that had open heart surgery at six months of age, born with club feet and cognitive disabilities. He started with a tentative shuffle and learned how to step and glide with the boots holding his ankles firm and secure. The doctors had said not to shelter him but instead let him try to do whatever he can.  It has been a long road to get to where we are. I could never have dreamed of the places we would go or the people we would meet in our journey with special needs.

Special Olympics involves a huge community of family, friends, coaches,volunteers, and sponsors that come together for sport, encouragement, healthy living and teamwork with a positive attitude.  There is no “I can’t” and lots of “you can do it”. Milestones are recorded and progress is acknowledged.  Everyone tries their best but many strive for the gold!

race-marathon The apostle Paul used the analogy of  sports and “running the race” several times in his letters.

24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.26 So I run with purpose in every step.   1 Cor 9:24-26 (NLT)

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.      Phil 4:13 (NLT)

There are many things in life that can be challenging.  Studying for exams is one example.  Beloved evangelist and professor at the Word of Life Bible Institute, Wendell Calder,  challenges and encourages the students every year by having them memorize this rally cry,

  I will not quit. By God’s grace I can do it.”  

What would our churches look like if we all worked together as a team? What if we all church memorialdisciplined ourselves in reading and studying God’s word – our rule book and guide to life?  What if we encouraged each other during the highs and lows of life with compassion and persistence?    Would our congregation look and feel different if we welcomed people of all abilities?

What if I tried my best everyday? What if instead of making excuses I looked up and trusted God to be there in the middle of my mess.

There’s a joke about a lady praying, “Lord, its been a beautiful day so far and I am so grateful. But in a minute I will be getting out of bed and I don’t know what’s going to happen so I’m going to need your help…”

college-football-crowdTherefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus,   Heb 12:1-2 

We can transform the place where we live by the power of God’s spirit. We can share His compassion, faithfulness, mercy and hope for tomorrow with the people in our lives.

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.     Heb 10:23-25 

Each day is a new start……Run well…..

 

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Choose to Include

Choose to Include

SO5othAnnivSpecial Olympics is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary and June 21st, 2018 will be the “Global Day of Inclusion”. Through the power of sports – people with intellectual disabilities discover new strengths and abilities,skills and success.The power and joy of sport, shifts focus to what the athletes CAN do, not what they can’t. Attention to disabilities fades away.

“When a society misunderstands and underestimates the capabilities of people with intellectual disabilities, opportunities are lost. Jobs that might be done go undone. chances for friendships that might be sparked pass by. And respect that might be won is lost.”  (quote from Special Olympics website)

revs_bfag_groupRemyThe Special Olympics organization understands the odds their athletes must overcome and the barriers they face everyday. They have done much to fight negative stereotypes and misconceptions by raising awareness and providing educational experiences. They have also been focusing on Unified Teams – which gets people with and without  ID to play on team sports.

Oddly enough many churches do not include people with intellectual disabilities in their services and programs. There may be limited access and accommodations to even attend the church building. People fear “odd” behavior and may not feel comfortable around those who don’t fit in with the “norm”.  But through telling a parable, Jesus taught that is incorrect thinking.

…Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’22 After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’23 So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full.’”      Luke 14:21-24 (NLT)

There is plenty of room in God’s house for ALL and they are welcome. Our family has JFsingingparticipated in Special Olympics for over 20 years. Our 30 yr.old son Jeremy has cerebral palsy and participates in three seasons of sport and my husband is a coach.  But we have learned about God’s unconditional love for us and for all people through an organization called “Joni and Friends”.  They have educational programs for churches and family retreats for families affected by disability.

At Family Retreat, there is no can’t.  WE sing, worship, do activities – boating, crafts, dancing, even rock-wall climbing – with people of all abilities. Volunteers go out of their way to make a way for all to participate.

This is where I have witnessed unconditional love and acceptance.  People who love God and see others through His eyes are truly blessed. Does it make the circumstances of life easier or go away? No. We encourage, support and pray for each other. There is a true JOY that fills the heart.

As THE CHURCH – we need to choose to include!

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