Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Questioning the Yes

After carefully examining David's feet in November, the orthopedist offered him an invitation. She could straighten his feet that were turned in 30 degrees, if he chose surgery. Charly and I decided to step back and let David make the choice himself. On the drive home from the hospital that day, he wrestled with what he saw as the pros and cons. Being in a wheelchair for a month post-surgery seemed to be the most difficult part for him. But the thought of having straight feet for the rest of his life won out in the end, and he said “yes” to surgery.

Three weeks ago, he was full of courage as he underwent extensive surgery on both of his legs: breaking the bones, twisting them into proper position, and resetting them with plates and pins. But after surgery, he doubted that he made the right decision. He didn't know it was going to hurt so much. 

Sometimes invitations bring unexpected results.

We say “yes” to a desired outcome, but find ourselves despairing through difficult days of darkness and doubt. Wondering if the valley of the shadow of death is going to be our permanent residence or if we might actually emerge to experience light and life on the other side again.

For David, an active 12 year old, feeling miserable and confined to his hospital bed with heavy casts on his legs for two days was like a prison. There was improvement after we got home, but he still found himself stuck on the sofa or in his wheelchair, in our not-very-wheelchair-friendly house. It has been a challenge for our tough boy to ask for assistance when he needs a cup of water or to go up or down the stairs. While he was experiencing unrelenting pain, he was forced to admit multiple times throughout the day and night that he needed more medication. And watching Daniel–who only had surgery on one foot and hasn't struggled with pain, energetically hopping around the house and going back to school sooner—has been hard.

Maybe David should have said “no” to surgery and bypassed the pain of recovery.

But then he would have missed the invitation God was extending: to a greater Trust and Dependence, as he experienced the stripping away of much of his self-reliance and independence.

These past three weeks, God has been working through David's doubt that he made the right decision, by giving him eyes to see the opportunity that he has to Trust God with more of his life.

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:16

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.” Psalm 23: 1-4

Oftentimes difficulties bring unexpected blessings.

God has used David's dependence as an opportunity for greater bonding within our family. It was a memorable moment for me when he reached up for the first time in the hospital to put both arms around my neck and I scooped him up under his broken legs to carry him to the bathroom. I realized that God was extending an invitation not only to David but to me as well--through David's helplessness--to care for him in ways that I have not been able to do since he joined our family as an independent 8 year old.

God is allowing us to create new bonds of Trust in this recovery time of brokenness and need.

When we are closed in by clouds of doubt and are questioning the "yes," we can choose to accept God's invitation to trust Him more deeply and receive His blessing.

In what areas of your your life is God inviting you to a deeper level of Trust?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Cared For

God has blessed our family through all the incredible care we have received.

Lots of people were praying for David and Daniel as they went into surgery on the same day.

My parents came to the hospital and kept David company during Daniel's surgery.

The hospital TV studio interviewed David about Ground Hog's Day while we waited for Daniel to come out of the operating room.

My parents encouraged Daniel during his recovery and brought coloring books and other fun activities for him to do in his hospital bed.

He also got a lot of TLC from the nurses. This one showed him his foot in a mirror
so he could see that his toes were straight.

He was excited when the physical therapist showed him how to use his new walker!

David had a harder time with two casts, but his nurses were really positive and one even showed him some of her dance moves to make him laugh.

When we got home there was a fun package waiting from my sister. Our boys have been blessed with so many cards, puzzles, coloring/activity books, legos, and treats from people who care about them.

 This is one of the sweetest cards Daniel got from his classmates, along with a big gift basket with lots of goodies from the school.

The school librarian asked what their favorite animals were and made these adorable stuffed animals for them. Their playground monitor gave them play-dough and a card that said she hoped to see them running around on the playground again soon.

We had two meals delivered within an hour after we got home from the hospital!
Eight delicious meals these past two weeks.

Some Egyptian friends stopped by to deliver gifts for the boys and we were able to serve them one of the meals a friend had prepared for us that day.

David was excited to play football with his Sunday school class. 

We are so thankful for the gift of community.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Will You Push Me?

David and Daniel survived their surgeries last Thursday and have been on the road to recovery. Daniel bounced back a bit quicker than David, as his reconstructive surgery was just on one foot, and he was ready to go back to school on Monday. David had both of his legs broken and reset to straighten his feet, and he has been struggling with a lot more pain. But the pain has been gradually decreasing, and he felt up for going back to school for two hours yesterday. He was ready to try an even longer day today. 

On Wednesday afternoon, we took the boys to Cottonwood Creek Park to let them enjoy the sunshine and get some practice with their wheelchairs. It was hard work for them to stay on course, without rolling off into the grass, especially when the sidewalk wasn't flat. Their competitive sides were in full force and there were shouts of “I'm beating you!” and “Watch out! I'm getting closer!” One would move into the lead and then the other as they raced and got themselves stuck.

Daniel started getting tired and slowing down about halfway around the 2/3 mile course. He focused on and got himself worried about the drop-off on one side. “I'm scared!” he kept telling me. And I kept reassuring him that I wouldn't let him go down the hill. “Just keep looking ahead. Don't be afraid. You can do it.”

Will you push me?”

That was definitely the easier and faster option. If I had chosen to push him, we could have caught back up with Charly and David, who were getting farther and farther ahead. But I was thinking about the class I'm taking this semester on Discipleship and Development, where I've been learning that we so often choose the faster and easier option in helping people, which can actually disempower them.

We default toward giving handouts and doing things for people before stopping to evaluate how we might help them grow and develop. 

How can we help to empower? At the park, my desire was to see Daniel grow in his ability to maneuver the wheelchair. Not to always have to depend on someone to push him everywhere he needed to go, but to become more independent. To do the hard work, to overcome his fears, and to become stronger.

The main text for my online class is When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brain Fikkert. They make clear distinctions between relief, rehabilitation, and development and then expound upon the results of each.

What is our ultimate goal when we try to help people?

“The goal is to see people restored to being who God created them to be: people who understand that they are created in the image of God with the gifts, abilities, and capacities to make decisions and to effect change in the world around them; and people who steward their lives, communities, resources, and relationships in order to bring glory to God. These things tend to happen in highly relational, process-focused ministries more than in impersonal, product-focused ministries.”

“The key feature of relief is a provider-receiver dynamic in which they provider gives assistance—often material—to the receiver, who is largely incapable of helping himself at the time. The Good Samaritan's bandaging of the helpless man who lay bleeding along the roadside is an excellent example of relief applied appropriately.

“Rehabilitation” begins as soon as the bleeding stops; it seeks to restore people and their communities to the positive elements of their precrisis conditions. The key feature of rehabilitation is a dynamic of working with the tsunami victims as they participate in their own recovery.

“Development” is a process of ongoing change that moves all the people involved—both the “helpers” and the “helped”--closer to being in right relationship with God, self, others, and the rest of creation.

Development is not done to people or for people but with people. The key dynamic in development is promoting an empowering process in which all the people involved—both the “helpers” and the “helped”--become more of what God made them to be.

The When Helping Hurts website states: “Unfortunately, many Christians don’t recognize these distinctions, providing relief in situations that actually require rehabilitation or development. By giving handouts to low-income people who are capable of helping themselves, churches and ministries contribute to the materially poor’s sense of shame and undermine their capacity to work.”

My favorite part of walking behind Daniel, as he struggled with his wheelchair, was when he yelled out to David and Charly, “I AM COMING!”

It would take him longer than if I pushed him, but he was going to get there. And I was experiencing firsthand the principles from my class that the best help I could give him wasn't to do it for him, but to let the process take longer as he learned to do it himself. I walked along beside him, offering encouragement that he was getting better and stronger and that he was growing in his own development. Empowered.


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