Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Into the Prison

In October of last year, we had a Missions Sunday in church. We learned about the many local areas that we could become involved in. When it began, I thought that it would be interesting, but I didn't really think there was much I could do. But I wanted to have an open heart, and so when Van, who was sharing about each area, encouraged everyone to say, "Yes I can", I said it along with everyone else. But I didn't really believe it. I wasn't feeling sorry for myself, I just didn't see how I could practically be a part of any of these really great ministries. And then he came to the One-on-One Visitation Program for the Tennessee Prison for Women. There are women in prison that never have a visitor. They are lonely, and they long to know that somebody cares about them. In that moment my heart cried out, "Yes I can!" I didn't know how, but I knew that if God put it on my heart so strongly, then He would definitely provide the way for me to go.

I understand about loneliness. I am alone in my house all day. There have been times that I have felt trapped, because I have no way to leave unless someone comes and takes me out. I wanted so very much to help alleviate those feelings in another woman's life. So I wheeled my way to the back and signed my name on the volunteer list. I attended an orientation meeting to learn everything I would need to know about going into the prison. I was given the name of a girl that applied for a visitor from this ministry. Her name is Lorie. We went as a group for our first visit. As we were waiting, the first inmate came in. She began crying because she had been in for 2 years and never had a visitor. I really had to make myself keep it together, because I didn't want to be crying when Lorie came in. When she did, she had the biggest smile on her face, and she gave me a big hug. I wondered if she would be intimidated by my wheelchair, but she wasn't.  We just hit it off right away. She was very honest about her life and I shared some about mine.  Her parents don't write to her, and she had been in for 19 months without a visitor. Our time together was so sweet, and so much better than I expected.

I had to wait for about a month to be put on her official list of visitors. When I received the letter on Christmas Eve, I was so happy. I felt I had been given a gift. My husband, Marc, and I worked out a great way for me to get there. One of his favorite record stores is about 10 minutes away from the prison, so he drops me off and comes back a couple hours later to pick me up. I've been going once a month since January.

I think it can be very easy to just look past a prison when we see one, and think that there are probably scary people in there that deserve to be there. It is easy to just look past it and not consider that there are real people with hearts and feelings just as real as our own. I had no idea how much the Lord had in store for me when I signed my name on that paper. Going to visit Lorie has completely changed my perspective. Every time we pull into the prison and see all that barbed wire I realize that I am not trapped. I can go anywhere I want to. I just have to get a ride. That's more fun anyway, because I get to spend time with one of my friends. God has shown me the great depth of His love and how beautiful it is when He fills my heart to overflowing with it so that I can pour that love all over Lorie. It is a precious thing to tell her that I love her and to see her just soak it up.

In one of Lorie's letters she wrote, "I believe that God is teaching us both to see our lives with possibilities instead of disappointments. It's amazing that God can teach us the same thing together with it looking differently! Because God's grace is made perfect in our weakness."

I am forever changed because I said, "Yes I can." I want to keep saying that, because I know that with God, all things are possible.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Wall

I was diagnosed with MS almost 16 years ago. My main symptom was always difficulty walking. There were many times that I couldn't walk at all and had to use a wheelchair. When I could walk I used a cane and sort of dragged my right foot along behind me. Always in the back of my mind was the fear that I would end up in a wheelchair for good. When I would have an attack, that fear would move from the back of my mind and become a huge wall right in front of me. I couldn't see around it, over it, or anything else other than that wall. It was built brick by brick of what ifs and how can I? and so many doubts and fears. Every time I was confronted with this wall I would turn to the Lord and surrender again, knowing that His love for me was greater than my wall.

It has been nearly 7 years since I have been in my wheelchair, safely on the other side of that wall. All those years of surrender prepared me for surrendering my ability to walk and drive and all the things that are no longer mine as I roll instead of walk. I have learned so many beautiful things on this side of the wall. I know how very much Jesus loves me. I know how sweet it is to surrender to His lovely will for my life. I know the joy of sharing in the fellowship of suffering with my Savior. I have exchanged walking for a peace that reaches a place so deep inside of me that I never even knew existed.

About 6 months ago, I had an attack that made life in my wheelchair more challenging. I am still able to stand up for short periods. I can transfer from my chair to my bed, get dressed, do my own make-up, and fix my hair. I have a measure of independence that I am very thankful for. This attack made it so I couldn't stand up straight, and my balance was terrible. My hands had a serious tremor and I was completely exhausted all the time. Before I knew it, there was another wall right in front of me. This wall was built with all my doubts and fears of losing what little independence I had. But this time I had some experience with this kind of wall. I knew that things are way better on this side of the Wheelchair Wall. One morning I told the Lord that I didn't want to wait to deal with this wall if and when all my fears became reality. So I simply asked Him to take away that wall. I knew He was the only One who could do it. And right then, as I surrendered my life and all my fears once again, my sweet Heavenly Father removed that wall.

I am still confronted with fear about what my future will hold, but then I remember that God took the wall away. And then I remember that He holds my future in His hands. He has shown Himself to be faithful, trustworthy, lovely, mighty and everything else I have ever needed Him to be in my life. I have seen His perfect love cast out my fear again and again.

I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all of your heart.
Jeremiah 29:11-13

Saturday, March 10, 2012

I know it's been a very long time since my last post. I'm still here! We've just had a pretty crazy year. My son had to have an appendectomy when my husband was out of town. That was not something I would ever have felt prepared for! I can't drive so I had to call 911. It was a completely different experience being in the hospital not as a patient. But I had an important job. I was there as Nate's Mom. It was very hard to see him going through everything, but something changed in me. It was like a switch got turned on and my wheelchair didn't seem to be a hindrance. Because my inability to walk had absolutely nothing to do with being there for my son. I even had some inside information. I helped him through getting his IV started, I've had that done countless times. I knew how to operate the bed, call the nurse, even unplug his IV pole and help him to the bathroom. I didn't feel like Disabled Mom, I felt like Super Mom!

My husband, Marc had to have his gallbladder removed and he's been going through some other physical problems. The Lord really taught me a completely different side of compassion. It is absolutely heartbreaking to see this man I so dearly love go through something that there is no easy answer for. Now I know how he feels when he looks at me and tells me he wishes he could take it all away. Even though it's been difficult, it has brought us even closer together, and closer to Jesus.

My daughter, Hannah broke her collar bone when she collided with a boy on the playground. For 2 weeks I helped her get dressed, take a bath, wash her hair and put her shoes on. She never complained. I got to see a beautiful side of her. It was really great to spend all of that time together.

Through all of these things, being in a wheelchair was just somewhere in the background. Or maybe it was, in a way, the star of the show. Because the Lord has taught me how to trust Him in all things throughout these past 16 years of walking with Him. In all of these difficulties, I was given the opportunity to trust Him with the people I love, to encourage them, and to see how very trustworthy God is. Instead of seeing all of the things I can't do, God is showing me all the things I can do. And all of those things are way more important than walking.