Thursday, September 11, 2008
The last weekend in August Kevin, Lance and I went to the Joni and Friends Family Retreat in upper Michigan. This was our fourth retreat and just like always, it was amazing. I believe it is possibly the only place where families with disabilities can go and totally relax, renew, and recreate. In the normal world we walk in everyday, we are always conscious of the way our loved one is viewed, at the retreats we are the norm and everyone is accepted no matter what. It feels a little of what I expect heaven to be like. We are whole in God's eyes. Each person with a disabilty is paired up with a volunteer short term missionary who spends the entire time one on one with that person doing things such as going to services, making crafts, hiking, paddle boating, singing, swimming, horseback riding, eating, etc... Jon, Lance's STM is an amazing man. He has two daughters with disabilities himself, which gave him incredible insight with Lance. They got along wonderfully!
I was asked to facilitate a small group composed of women with adult children with special needs. This was so humbling. When each woman told her story I became so grateful for the small inconveniences that I experience with Lance. One mother's daughter has juvenile arthritis who is confined to a wheelchair and unable to do anything for herself. This women is in her 70's and is still bathing, dressing, feeding and moving her forty something daughter (who, by the way, is an incredible woman in her own right). She also is caring for another daughter who has recently escaped a horrible abusive marriage and was diagnosed with stage three cancer.
Another woman's youngest son (of five boys!!) is severe/profoundly disabled and in a wheelchair. She takes care of his needs without complaining...she is also taking care of her mother who has Alzheimer's and is a wheelchair as well. Do you know what she was so excited to do while there that weekend? Walk down stairs and hold hands with her husband.
The stories go on... The common thread spoken throughout the camp was "and I thought I had it rough". You see, when confronted with what others go through, our own struggles don't seem so bad. We also see the amazing Grace that God gives to each of us to carry the burdens we have. "...I want us to help each other with the faith we have. Your faith will help me and my faith will help you." Romans 1:12, New Century Version.
I came away from Family Retreat once again with the feeling of contentment. Yes, I struggle everyday, but knowing that God is there and is lifting me up, helps me get through the tough times.