Thursday, February 23, 2017

Quotes by Daniel part 2

Daniel: “Only 6 more days in February.”
Me: “Do you know what today is?”
Daniel: “Yes, February twenty tooth.”

Helping me peel potatoes last night: “Am I a great helper?

Concerned when I warned him that he needed to get his hands out of the sink when I turned on the garbage disposal: “If I put my hand in there, it will be SUPER bad.”
After a few more minutes of contemplating how serious it would be: “That means...I will die?”

Listening to Bible songs with his headphones as we're driving, he starts to sing with gusto. It usually takes us a little while to figure out what he's singing. One of the lines sounds like, “Yes, Jesus slugs me.” And another one: “I wanna see Jesus in my eye

Coaching himself as he maneuvers his walker into the bathroom at my parents' house: “Do not touch the wall. Do not touch the wall. Oopsie. You touched it....That's ok.”

When the nurse took David and Daniel's blood pressure before their surgeries she told us that the difference in Daniel's high numbers and David's low ones was because one of them was being pretty wiggly and the other was still. “David,” Daniel said with scorn. “Why did you move so much?

“Are you tired?” I heard Daniel ask the night of his surgery from his hospital bed. “Yes,” I replied with a big sigh. “I AM tired.” “I wasn't talking to you,” he turned his head toward me. “I was talking to my lion.”

I very want to go to China with Joshua,” Daniel said before his brother left for a study abroad semester in Beijing last week. “Just the two of us.” (We told Joshua to be looking out for a surprise package we might be sending his way)

Are you poop?” he calls out loudly when someone is in the bathroom and he wants to know how long it's going to be.

"Faster! Faster! Crash it!" he kept yelling from the shopping cart when Jordan and her roommate were pushing him and David around the grocery store. (I knew this was not a good indicator of him being a safe "driver" when he got his wheelchair)

“I AM STRONG!” he yells when wheeling himself up our hill.

“Do you know who this is?” I asked Daniel, as I pointed to a picture of the Statue of Liberty in his library book. “Captain America?” he guessed.

"My camel! My camel! CJ made this for me!" when he discovered the stuffed camel CJ had bought him in Jordan waiting for him as a surprise on his bed last night (Charly had unpacked him from a storage box).

Daniel gave me this poem at their school's Morning With Mom event today:

This is a funny video clip of Daniel meeting Omar the camel, my Dad's puppet, 
when we celebrated Chinese New Year together:

Click here for the original Quotes by Daniel

Difficulty and Struggle

I've been inspired recently by Joni Eareckson Tada's  A Lifetime of Wisdom: Embracing the Way God Heals You. Joni's personal understanding of God's purposes in pain have encouraged me for many years on my journey with migraines. Her wisdom as she looks back on 40 years of living in a wheelchair is especially relevant right now, with our boys being in wheelchairs this month.

Reading her words makes me feel like I'm having a personal conversation with Joni, one of my all-time heroes of the faith. It's as if she is cheering me on, as one of the great cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 12:1, to run with perseverance the race marked out for me. And I can hear her encouraging me to cheer David and Daniel on in their journeys of healing and recovery as well. She says:

“If you find yourself in a confining situation, it is God who has confined you. He is the One who has surrounded you and hemmed you in. It is only when we view our restricting circumstances as being placed there by God's hand that we find courage to face, accept, and even embrace the wall and the hedge.”

David struggling with his heavy casts
“Difficulty, struggle, and feelings of loneliness are bound to be part of the hedge with which God has enclosed those who suffer—so we must learn not to be dismayed in the face of darkness.”

“God doesn't give me grace for the future, uncertain seasons that He may grant me on earth before He takes me home. He doesn't give me grace for next year's headaches—or even next month's heartaches. He won't loan me enough grace to face the prospects of tomorrow! God only gives me grace for today.

Daniel leaning on his physical therapist as he comes down the stairs
He expects me to live this day in His strength, leaning on His wisdom, drawing on His presence and power.”

“Grit-your-teeth stamina and human courage have nothing to do with experiencing His grace, It isn't human strength that prompts God to pour out His grace, it is human weakness. Complete dependence.”

Daniel and David struggling in their race up our hill
I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitation in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 MSG)

Wait on the Lord,” Psalm 27:14 tells us, “be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord.”

“Waiting on the Lord means putting His desires before our own, believing that He will meet our needs with generosity and love in His good time.

We don't wait to live. We have to keep living while we're waiting.

a video clip of the wheelchair race: David and Daniel embracing life
while they wait for their casts to come off

It takes courage to wait patiently and yet get out there and embrace life. But you can do it. Lean on God and courage will never be in short supply.” 

our tough courageous boys
who are teaching me, through their struggles,
how to better lean into His strength

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?


Linking up with Velvet Ashes this week on the theme of Invitation

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.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Locked Out

On Sunday afternoon I returned home from my run to find our house locked. I knocked on the door and waited a few quiet minutes. Then I cupped my hands and peered in the living room window. No one. I walked around the side of the house to check out the backyard. No one was home. Sometimes problem solving takes me awhile, but this time it didn't take long for me to determine that Charly and the boys had probably taken their football tossing from the front yard to the school field. So I ventured down the hill, discovered them playing there, retrieved the key from Charly who apologized for locking me out, and walked back home. It was an approximate 20 minute inconvenience to my day.

Being “locked out” wasn't just a minor inconvenience to many who were trying to enter America over the weekend.

A 12 year old girl from Yemen got stuck in Djibouti because of Trump's Executive Order:
“The 12-year-old is now in the worst possible limbo. That immigrant visa grants her lawful permanent resident status the instant she’s admitted to the U.S. by Customs and Border Protection. And once she reaches the United States, Section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act stipulates that, as a minor living with her U.S. citizen parents, she automatically becomes a U.S. citizen. But on Saturday, hours after Trump signed that executive order, Ali and his daughter were pulled out of line by airline personnel and prevented from boarding their Ethiopian Airlines flight.

Until she’s admitted to the United States, she will not have green card status. The girl and her father are trapped in East Africa, where they have no friends or family, as they wait for a resolution to an ordeal they had thought was over. 'Everybody was happy,' Ali told me on the phone from Djibouti. 'We were almost done after six years.' And then, in one day, he said, 'Everything disappears.'"

Rep. Jim Costa, a Democrat who represents California’s 16th congressional district, released the following statement about this tragic situation:

“As a member of Congress, my number one priority is Americans’ safety both at home and abroad, and I think it’s obvious that keeping a 12-year-old out of the country is not strengthening the safety of our nation. This executive order is having a devastating impact on hundreds of other individuals and immigrant families that thought the United States would be helping them seek refuge. The vast majority of individuals being detained or prohibited from entering the United States have already been through one of the most extensive vetting processes in the world. Clearly, President Trump’s executive order was not vetted thoroughly by his Administration. Not only is it flawed policy, but it has the potential to be ruled unconstitutional.

Let us never forget that America’s diversity is what makes us strong. Banning individuals, mostly women and children, from entering the United States is not the American way. I will be supporting legislation that will rescind President Trump’s executive order because the executive order is flawed and is not making the American people safer.”
I was challenged yesterday by Gary Haugen's book Good News About Injustice, “While it seems more natural to have compassion for those closest to us, we won't find in the Bible where Jesus asked us to have more compassion for our immediate neighbors or our compatriots than for anyone else. I believe he understands our tendency to do so but is probably eager for us to reach out, as we are able (or as we seek his enabling), beyond our carnal limitations, prejudices, cultural mythologies and convenient stereotypes. Jesus calls us to be witnesses to his love, truth, salvation, compassion and justice 'in Jerusalem (at home), and in all Judea and Samaria (nearby) and to the ends of the earth.'" (Acts 1:8)
Since we have been back in America the past 1 ½ years, Charly's heart has been growing to develop relationships with internationals. Through family dinners hosted by our boys' ESL program we have gotten to know 4 Egyptian families. Last month God gave Charly an idea to bring two of these Egyptian (Muslim) families and two Christian families together to host an incoming refugee family. He wrote a great blog post for Pulpit Rock Church called Outside These Walls.
The four families interested in serving together in this way are planning to attend a volunteer training meeting tonight at Lutheran Family Services But because of the Refugee Ban, it is unclear when we will be matched with a new refugee family.
We want to be Breaking Out of the Bubble where it is so easy to live. In Why Jesus Crossed the Road, Bruce Main writes, “To those carrying his name today, Jesus calls out and reminds us to rediscover the often overlooked discipline of road crossing. With this challenge comes a promise. Our faith journey will be enriched. Our lives will be transformed. And our world will be changed.”

Let's open the doors of our homes and work together to unlock the doors of this country to welcome those who have been wrongly turned away, like the 12 year old girl in Djiboiti.


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