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Archive for the ‘Disability’ Category

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

When introducing myself, I struggled giving my name first to a new acquaintance. Whether it was a peer, teacher, or a friend of my family, I couldn’t bring myself to give them my name. First, they needed to know what was wrong with me so they could decide whether they liked me or not. “Hello, I’m Jim,” was often answered with, “Hi. I have cerebral palsy.” After perceiving their shock and confusion, I’d mutter, “Oh, um, my name’s Cass. Nice to meet you.”

I wasn’t shy—far from it! Rather, my disability had garnered enough shame for me, I felt as if it was all I had to offer someone else. The memory makes me cringe now, but when I was younger, there wasn’t much which could convince me my weaknesses weren’t my identity.

Too often, I think we approach God in much the same way. He opens his arms to greet us with reconciliation and love, and instead of accepting his grace, we respond, “Yes, but remember what I’ve done wrong?” What would happen if we actually believed our hope and identity was in Jesus, and not in the memory of our mistakes?

How would it change our lives if we truly trusted God when he promises to make beauty out of our ashes?

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~ Written by Viki Rife

Anna felt all alone. The husband who had needed her care night and day over the past decade had just passed away. Her own health had deteriorated during that time. Now she was left with no friends, no family nearby, and the huge specter of anxiety and depression hanging over her. The isolation of the Covid shutdown had her almost paralyzed.

One morning she decided to make a list of things she could do that day. She grabbed her walker and made her way to the desk, where she found a notepad in the drawer. She started to write: Take a shower. Organize meds into a labeled contained so she would know which ones she had taken. Read a Psalm as a prayer. She was surprised at the satisfaction she got from checking each item off the list.

The next day her list was a bit bolder. Reorganize her sock drawer. Dust one room of the house. Write a get-well card to someone from church. Call Betty, her old high school friend she hadn’t talked to for years, just to catch up.

Betty was delighted to hear from her. Anna was struck by how little it takes to encourage someone else. After that, Anna made a point each day of including in her list at least one item that would bless or encourage someone else.

As time went on, she then started adding some occasion to celebrate God’s goodness each day. Eventually, the day came when she was able to sort and label a box of old photos, all the time thanking God for the memories rather than feeling sorry for herself. As she finished that project, the thought hit her: “I can choose to live in joy. And I’m doing it!”

Anna’s journey from anxiety and depression to joy seemed like a miracle to all of us. But as she summarized it: “Be Thankful. Bless others.”

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~ Written by Lorena Oplinger

My brother Kevin is 15. He looks like a typical healthy teenager. When Kevin was four, however, he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and ADHD.

Kevin was a healthy baby boy. He was born without any complications. However, during the early stages of his physical and mental development, something inside his brain began to change. In preschool his teachers started noticing some distinctive behaviors and attitudes in him. Kevin was having a hard time understanding and following their instructions. His learning and communication abilities decreased gradually to the point he could no longer keep up with his classmates.

I never saw my parents so heartbroken. It was painful for my mom to absorb the news and accept my brother’s medical condition would prevent him from reaching his full potential. It is hard for many moms, including mine, to embrace the challenges of raising kids with disabilities.

There are times when we just can’t explain or understand why things happen the way they do. But regardless, God’s grace is so abundant! He has shown us his grace by giving my parents the peace, patience, and persistence to endure this challenge for the past 11 years.

Kevin struggles with anxiety, stress, mood changes, and some other behavioral issues produced by social environments. He is also experiencing the physical and emotional changes caused by puberty. He is a very smart boy and is becoming more self-aware of his medical condition. A couple of days ago, he told my parents that he is asking God to make him normal because he wants to be like the other boys. He doesn’t want to deal with mental or psychological issues any more. My parents are surprised to see that Kevin is now communicating his feelings, desires, and thoughts; something he never did before.

My parents are strong believers, and for them this is a huge sign of hope from God. My mom even said, “I know that God is working in Kevin’s life. He is answering my prayers!”

My family has realized both the blessing and challenge of raising a child with disabilities. Through this, they have learned God has a plan and purpose for all of us. Sometimes it is hard to see the big picture and understand why things happen the way we least expect. Perhaps we only need to recognize that God is sending us undercover blessings.

“We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5, NIV).

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~ Written by Viki Rife

As a child, I really disliked the old wooden pews that had a single board across the back. The board was usually too high for my short little body, meaning the board caught me right about at the neck. I had several unpleasant experiences slipping backwards through the pew.

I came to appreciate those pews, however, after I lost my hearing in one ear after an illness. I had always enjoyed sitting by my father and hearing his rich bass voice as he sang. Now I could no longer hear it when he scooted in next to me at the edge of the pew, ready to get up again to preach.

Then one day I leaned hard against that wooden pew back. At the same time, Dad hit a low note and the vibration rumbled throughout my whole body. I realized I could experience the richness of his voice in the middle of the discomfort of that pew back.

The lesson I learned has extended into my spiritual life. When I can’t hear God’s voice, when life gets uncomfortable, the solution is to press harder into Him. Sooner or later, I will feel the richness of His presence.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“Freedom!” His unnaturally high-pitched voice echoed throughout the jail’s cold, cinderblock chapel after the chaplain had asked his audience, “What does every man want the most?” When my client’s announcement was met with shocked silence, he turned to me and signed angrily, “Tell him what I mean!”

With my hands corresponding with my voice, I explained to the audience that my client — we’ll call him Caleb — believed no man could know what he wanted if the person was not free. Mentally, I reminded myself he meant free from the jail cell he was confined in. He wanted freedom; he didn’t seem to know how to want God.

After my explanation, Caleb patted me on the back in affirmation that I had interpreted his anger efficiently. He seemed proud of himself for speaking up. He no longer wanted me to interpret the service and sat there annoyed and impatient, waiting for the guard to come and return the inmates to their cells.

My heart ached when I left work that day. Caleb may have had deaf ears, but he had a jaded and uninformed mind when it came to things about God, love, and true freedom. The week prior, I had asked him to define words like “salvation,” “grace,” “love,” and “sin.” None of his definitions made sense. None of his explanations came with conviction. He’d told me rather nonchalantly, “I don’t really know what these things mean, I just know you want to hear me say them. You are a Christian after all.”

I was reminded during my time with Caleb that often times people who need truth the most long for freedom, but don’t know how to ask for it. Such a reality means we as Christians — freedom and truth holders — must be watching for them and be willing to pour into them.

They may think they’re free, but are they?

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~ Written by Viki Rife

The other day I had some extra time between appointments, so I stopped at an area park to enjoy the scenery and sunshine. An older couple pulled up in their boat to the pier. The man got out and backed a truck with a boat trailer up to the boat ramp. Then he got back in the boat and drove up the ramp. He fastened the boat to the trailer and drove the truck up a little ways. He then busied himself taking fishing poles out of the boat, etc. All the time the wife sat in the boat.

Finally, he took a small crane-like apparatus out of the back of the truck. He carefully spread out some strips of canvas and the women scooted onto them. He grabbed both ends, hooked them onto the crane, and with the push of a button was able to lift her off the boat and lower her into a waiting wheelchair.

He pushed the wheelchair around to the other side of the truck and helped her scoot herself onto something that looked like a stool. She pushed a button and it slowly lifted her level with the truck seat. Once she was safely in the truck, the man loaded the crane, stool and wheelchair into the truck. It had taken them 45 minutes to go through this process. I’m guessing they did the same thing in reverse when they started their fishing trip.

Their commitment to fishing blew me away. Why would anyone go to so much hassle? As I left for my next appointment, a tender voice probed, “Are you that committed to being a fisher of men?” I’ve been pondering it ever since. 

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~ Written by Pat Ashcraft

Barbara was the youngest of four children. Born in the early 1920’s, she lived through the depression. When she was seven, her mother died and she was raised by her dad and grandmother. She later met and married Bob Mason; together they had five children in six years. Their first child died at childbirth.

Barbara was very intelligent, funny, and outgoing. Everywhere she went, she was the life of the party. She was a good mother, wife, friend and neighbor. At the age of 33, after several years of problems, Barbara was hospitalized for the first time for bipolar disorder.

I know all this about Barbara because she was my mother. I am the youngest of her children.

My mother’s life and our family were greatly affected by her illness. In our house growing up, we never used the words “mental illness.” Our dad would just say, “your mom is sick, try to help out more.” We were all adults before we knew what her diagnosis was. We never discussed with anyone else that our mother was mentally ill.

My oldest sister took over running the household. My next sister took care of mom but also learned to cook at a young age. My brother coped by ignoring everything and keeping busy outside the home. I was the “baby” and was cared for and protected by the older kids. I probably had the most normal childhood, as I was allowed to be a child and not take on adult duties.

All of us had various issues that affected our schooling. It wasn’t until 12th grade that anyone asked me if there were problems at home. Even then, I didn’t tell the principal that life was a total upheaval at times because of my mother. At that point, I was soon going to graduate and leave home, so it seemed like a moot point.

When I was 16 years old, my mother was having a very bad manic episode. She hadn’t slept or eaten or stopped talking for about five days. She was totally confused. She would pick fights over the smallest things. We were all exhausted.

My dad decided to put her in the car and drive her to the hospital. She knew that meant another stay in the psychiatric ward and didn’t want to go. I was helping my dad get her shoes and socks on and helping with her coat. She was fighting us every step of the way. I was thoroughly disgusted with my mom. I had had enough of her and all we had to live with. I was tired and angry that I didn’t have a “normal” mom. I said to my dad, “How can you stand this?” He stopped what he was doing, looked at me and said, “I don’t ‘stand’ anything. I love your mother. And when you love someone, you take care of them. Don’t you ever say anything like that about your mother again.” Wow, what a lesson in love.

When my mother was at her worst, her least attractive and most difficult to deal with, my dad chose to love her. What a picture of God’s love for me! When I was at my worst, ugly from sin and full of pride, God chose to love me. He sent His only Son to save me. That’s unconditional love at its best!  

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