Disabled Yet Capable

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I pulled my car into its usual spot. Hasn’t always been my spot, and I have to admit, I don’t like parking here. But sometimes we have to deal with the cards dealt to us. My “new normal” dictates I get out of my car. Sometimes slowly. Other times normally. I have to pace myself like never before. But God is so good. All the time. He knows how to sustain us. Through anything. Any trial. Any challenge.

The parking lot is crowded. The rain is pouring and I’m going on with errands I’ve got to run. No one can see what it feels like to be me. I imagine, no one always understands what it is like to be you. Beloved, God does.

A car pulls up behind me and the occupant inside yells, “Hey you have no right to park there!”

I’m thinking, Here we go again. This isn’t the first time someone’s gotten mad at me for parking in a disabled parking slot. Reserved for those who struggle.

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“Actually I do have a ‘right to park here’ although I wish I didn’t have that right.”

She is obviously irritated and shouts, “Miss, you look just fine and obviously have no right to park there!”

A bystander quips at the grumpy car occupant who had just yelled at me, “You’re mean!”

I wanted to shout back at the lady like the bystander did on my behalf, but instead I contained myself and walked over to this angry lady. I gently looked at her disparaging eyes. “I had close to one million dollars worth of medical care to remove a wicked brain tumor. I was in the hospital for eight weeks. My family was called to my side three times.

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Defying medical odds, I returned home to a twenty week rehabilitative challenge learning how to walk, talk, eat, think, and function again. I sustained brain trauma, yet miracles still happen. You cannot see it, but I am disabled and now I am going to be transparent with you. Please don’t yell at people parking in a disabled spot. If they have a valid disabled tag in their window, they have a right to park there. Believe me, I bet they wish they didn’t have to.”

Tender responses can diffuse someone beginning to boil with anger. Rage is ugly. Tenderness is beautiful.

“Well, I still don’t think you should park there.”

“Have a good day,” I whispered.

She got quiet. Really quiet. Said nothing to me. Turned her head away from me. Rolled up her window and drove off.

An older couple, also parked in the disabled section, stopped and came up to me, “Don’t listen to people like that, honey.”

“Thanks.” I did my best to smile.

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As I walked away, tears began to fill my eyes. Why are some people so mean and others so kind? God, why did You allow that ugly brain tumor to occupy my head? I wish I was more like all of the abled people around me. There has to be something more to be gained from suffering than a grumpy woman yelling at me because I parked in that handicapped spot.

I went on with my shopping. Our home needed food and supplies. I was thankful — God provides.

Help was at home. My sons unpacked the car. I was exhausted.

Transparently disabled.

Yet, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13).

You know, all of us have some sort of disability, incapacity, impairment, abnormality, or affliction. Please don’t misunderstand me. Some of us are wheelchair-bound, use walkers, and have profound and noticeable disabilities. My heart goes out to the disabled, physically and mentally.

But behind our smile curtains, I think we all have some sort or a certain degree of disability. Stay with me for a moment. Some of us are shy. Some of us deal with addictions. Some of us have temperament issues. Some of us envy to much. Some of us doubt too much. Some of us lack determination. Some of us are self-centered.

All of us sin. None of us are immune to it —and sin is kind of like a disability. A spiritual one. It can chain us down. Bring us to our knees, thinking we’re not capable.

But Beloved, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. It doesn’t mean He will always remove our physical or emotional disabilities permanently. Through challenges, we can become stronger. Through challenges, God can take moments that we want pity and make us rise to help someone else. Or maybe He uses our brokenness to get our attention and to redirect our focus onto Him. Shattered moments can become blessed moments when we let God handle the restoration. But one disability God can remove eternally is sin. We simply need to call Him near and love Him back. Accepting Him into our broken hearts makes us new.

Hope in Him,
Helo

Labor Day Just Passed But We’re Still Working

I put on the gloves and pulled flowers from plastic pots as my husband dug several holes. I thought, This little bit of labor will plant something beautiful. Perhaps I should apply this thought pattern to that daily to-do list I sometimes get tired of. No complaining. Instead, simply thankfulness. Thankfulness lifted up to our Heavenly Father.

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“Hey handsome, thank you for helping me with this.”

“You’re welcome. It’ll be beautiful to look at,” my husband winked.

His hand got tired from the shoveling. My gloves were dirty. But we chose to enjoy the task at hand. The finished labor would yield reward. Blooming beauty. It made me reflect on Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it wholeheartedly as though you were doing it for the Lord and not merely for people.”

Labor Day just passed. For many of us it was time off. A time for family gatherings and celebration or getting ready to brace ourselves for the unofficial end of summer. Some of us may not have had the luxury to to take the day off. Still, it was a time to honor and celebrate men and women who work.

I think we all work every day. We all labor to one degree or another, right? At times we work so hard, we become so tired and worn, we might find ourselves wanting to quit. Yet we are supposed to be thankful for the work we have. And if we don’t have work, we aren’t supposed to worry. But this isn’t always simple, right?

Time to interject truth, keep the faith, and pray. Holding a “job” isn’t simply about putting on a suit, dressing in your best, and awaiting accolades of praise, “Job well done!” It’s not just about putting on those gloves, breaking a sweat, getting dirty, and claiming, “I did it!” Trusting God when we are out of work begins with hope and carries on with faith. Keeping the job we have without complaining requires gratitude.

Life is so much more than settling our identity in what we attain and accomplish in the world’s eyes. Heads up, you can’t take your car, your title, your home, your closet, your purse, your bank account, your accolades, or your status to Heaven. Heaven is void of worldly accomplishments. Instead, it overflows with God’s glorious presence. It’s going to be awesome up there!

But until we get to go there, many of us think our identity is found in what the world thinks of us. I admit I have fallen prey to this. Years ago, I landed a job with a prominent pharmaceutical company. I thought for a while that I was on top of the world. Temporary fulfillment was gained. I’d achieved status, or so I thought. Then a year and a half later, God helped me welcome my first child into this world. I decided to become a stay-at-home mom.

To all of you mothers who work outside the home, I admire you. To all of you mothers who are stay-at-home moms, I admire you, too! I walked both shoes and both paths have their challenges and benefits.

I’ve been a stay-at-home mom longer than I’ve been out in the labor and workforce world. But the hats God’s given me to wear confirm that I work. I’ve worn many working hats including wife, mom, nursemaid, daughter, sister, friend, caretaker, cabdriver, house cleaner, grocery store shopper, meal planner, meal maker, advice giver, confidant, prayer warrior, inspirational speaker, author, and survivor.

And sometimes I feel worn out, exhausted, and tired. Likely, so do you. Life is not always a field of beautiful flowers. It’s not pretty all the time. Sometimes it feels like it is full of thistles! Are you following me? The thistle picture includes sharp life-weeds like pain, frustration, exhaustion, overwhelming consumption of our time, loneliness, too much to do, too little to do, and questions like: “Am I successful? Am I accomplishing enough? Did I finally get it right? And is this really what life is all about?”

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And sometimes we want to pull our hands away from the wheelbarrow, out of our gloves for just a moment, take a break, and listen to Jesus say, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

(Matthew 11:28).

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Beloved, we cannot find authentic “rest” in this world. But we can find it in God!

Labor Day has passed until we celebrate it again next year. Until then, thank God for the path He’s given you to follow, the wheelbarrow He’s given you to load, the work gloves He has blessed you to wear, and whether you work behind the scenes or in the forefront, at home or in the world workforce, take the job He’s given you, and work for His glory.

Hope in Him,
Helo

Mother’s Day is on its way!

Rewind to joy, reflect on grace

If you had a minute left with your mom or child, what would you say?

It’s taken me a while to find the right answer to that question. I have been blessed to be a mom for almost 26 years. Now, I know what I’d say. I’d look each of my children straight in the eye — and say, “I love you. God loves you more — always remember that.”

Years ago, people told me, “You won’t truly understand the challenges of motherhood until you are a mom.” Yeah right, I thought. What is there to do except have fun with my husband, conceive children, give birth, and raise them? 

At the time, I was quite naive and did not understand the complexity of filling a mom’s shoes, and her-ever changing role — until I became a mom. Yet I looked forward with great anticipation and was excited for the day when I’d get to put little shoes – like these – on my first child.

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Today, I’m rewinding… remembering joy. 

“The test is positive!” I exclaimed to my husband, Rich.

Nine months later, I’m waddling. She’s kicking, which hurts, and can’t be stopped. (Perhaps this was God’s way of foreshadowing future challenges and later independence). I’m thinking, “Hurry up, little one!” And I’m rejoicing in the little life that’s growing inside of me.

The big day came. After twenty hours of labor and an unexpected C-Section, I got to experience the joy of holding our precious baby daughter, Lauren. I vividly remember counting all ten fingers, and all ten toes, while thanking God that our child was here, and healthy. “God, thank you!” My husband kissed my forehead — then hers.

We locked eyes, and I whispered, “I love you.” It was as if a miracle was born. God was the Creator, and I got to be the means by which He brought new life into the world. I felt such joy! That joy happened almost 26 years ago.

Then, there was deep sorrow. There would be joy again, but in between… I had three miscarriages. I cried tears of sorrow and longed for another child – loss hurts. Yet during that sorrowful time, I began to see that God restores broken hearts. He loved and comforted me through the pain. I learned to cherish every “first” moment as a precious gift – first smile, first steps, first “I love you, Mommy and Daddy!” Also, God gave me compassion for others who have lost children. If you have experienced that grief, I am so sorry.

About 20 years ago, I cried — tears of joy. This time, God gave us a baby son, Jordan – strong-willed then, and still determined today. Doctors thought that I’d miscarry him, but apparently, God had a different plan. Jordan’s birth was another miracle.

Then, sorrow returned. I had a fourth miscarriage. Why again, God? This hurts! 

When I prayed, asking why, He again comforted my heart. Remember – I love you. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). In hindsight, I can see that He was emphasizing the miracle of life – of a child being born. Cherish life my friend!

17 years ago – another miracle, another season of joy – our second son, Austin, was born. My pregnancy with him put me on bed rest for several weeks; now, he jokes, “Mom, I was putting you on vacation!” Thank you, son! I didn’t know then, that this rest was a blessing. Now, with teenagers, (as much as I love them!) – I don’t get much “vacation” time!

Slow down. Rewind and count your blessings, Helo — you are blessed to get to be a mom.

I came so close to leaving — for good — too soon, and not getting to watch my children grow up, attain milestones, make me laugh, keep me up at night, leave the nest, and walk down the aisle. I’m thankful to be here, watching all these blessings.

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Friends, don’t fast-forward and worry about loving your children. Rewind to joy. Remember blessings. When I remember hearing my children’s first cries, I cry as well – tears of joy. I marvel at the miracle of life and remember how capable God is, and how much He loves us. We moms need to remember that our children ultimately belong to God. They are His children first, and ours second. We need to trust Him to take care of them. Even when we aren’t capable, God is always capable of loving, protecting, guiding and transforming. He is the Father of their souls.

I am not perfect at being a mom, and loving my children — but He is. He teaches us how to love. Being a mom, with so many roles, can be difficult. We want and strive to be a Christ follower, wife, mother, daughter, sister, caretaker, cheerleader, prayer warrior, counselor, cabdriver, housecleaner and manager… and more! Sometimes we feel overwhelmed, as if we aren’t measuring up. “God, can I rewind and try again?” 

Have you ever felt that way? I have. I’ve wanted to be a better mom — saying, “Tomorrow, I won’t make the same mistakes! I’ll say more “I love you,” and more “I’m sorry.” That’s when God reminds me of His love and forgiveness – His grace. 

He says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Forgiveness makes way for grace. I can’t – and don’t have to be – perfect, because there is grace enough through Jesus to cover my weaknesses and to love perfectly, on my behalf. Jesus saves by grace through faith, and He is enough.

His grace gives us joy. We don’t have to be “perfect” moms, and our children will never be perfect either. If I had just a moment left with my children, I’d whisper with joy, “I love you, God loves you more.” And I’d remind myself – “I am, was, and will be a good mom — never perfect — but good is all I need to be.”

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On Mother’s Day, the only gift that I really want to unwrap is, “Mom, I love you.” At the same time, I remember, God loves me like no one else can. His love reflects in me – and prayerfully, hopefully reflects in my children’s hearts. There is no perfect mother, and there is no perfect child. But in God our Father, there is love, forgiveness, and grace enough for us all. Remember that there is prayer – trust Him and cry out to Him! There is also joy – life itself is a beautiful, miraculous gift.

Here is a prayer that I have prayed, and in which you are welcome to join: “Dear God, please bless the mess in my home. Please give us grace to cover our imperfections — help us to lift one another up. Remind us to love each other with grace and forgiveness.” Amen.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Helo