Have faith to see. Here is an inspiring example to follow.
It is difficult to find in all the treasure-house of biographies a life story more thrilling, dramatic, and fascinating than that of Helen Keller. I am convinced Helen Keller was a woman of both faith and action, despite her inability to see or hear from the age of two. Seriously? Can you imagine even giving up one of these God-given gifts? I cannot.
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.
“In one of Helen Keller’s letters she told Bishop Brooks that she had always known about God. even before she had any words. Even before she could call God anything, she knew God was there. She did not know what it was. God had no name for her–nothing had a name for her. She had no concept of a name. But in her darkness and isolation, she knew, somehow, she was not alone. Someone was with her. She felt God’s Love. And when she received the gift of language and heard about God, she said she already knew.” from Phillips Brooks and Helen Keller.
Think On That! WOW! I love during our quietest times and in our greatest adversities, God makes His presence known to us.
A prolific author, Keller was well-traveled and outspoken in her convictions. A member of the Socialist Party of America and the Industrial Workers of the World, she campaigned for women’s suffrage, labor rights, socialism, antimilitarism, and other similar causes. She was inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame in 1971 and was one of twelve inaugural inductees to the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame on June 8, 2015. Keller proved to the world that deaf people could all learn to communicate and that they could survive in the hearing world. She also taught that deaf people are capable of doing things that hearing people can do. One of the most famous deaf people in history, she is an idol to many deaf people in the world.
Based on Keller’s autobiography, published in 1903, The Miracle Worker was first performed as a play (1957) and later became a movie (1962). The story is about how Anne Sullivan had an amazing impact on Helen’s life as her teacher. At only 20 years of age, Sullivan showed great maturity and ingenuity in teaching Keller and worked hard with her stubborn pupil, bringing both women much acclaim. Sullivan even helped Keller write her autobiography.
I have loved the inspiring story of Helen Adams Keller, born June 27, 1880 for decades. I tend to give away a lot of books after I have read them, but my paper back copy of The Story Of My Life will stay a part of my personal library forever. Did you know? Keller’s birthplace in West Tuscumbia, Alabama is now a museum.
I am wondering. Has this post caused you to recall a special soul that you’ve admired? It may be a well-known person, like Helen Keller, someone in your community, or even a family member. Whose life example are you following as you go through your days?
You can make a difference with CAL or Catch A Lift, which began in memory of Army Cpl. Chris Coffland, and has gone on to help many veterans since its founding.
After 9/11/01 and every anniversary of September 11th since that horrific day of tremendous loss, a phrase sticks out in my mind:
We Will Never Forget!!!
We say we will remember forever the true sacrifice, day in and day out, of men and women in uniform, whether they be first responders or part of our strong military services.
And yet, is that statement really true, other than the usual times of remembering, Veterans’ Day, the 4th of July, and other red, white, and blue celebrations? Do you and I really remember these souls who serve and their families in our prayers? Do we truly recognize that freedom is not free, and how many grave sacrifices have been made on our behalf? Do we intentionally share our resources in causes related to wounded veterans?
'Shake off any dust that may accumulate from stagnation of purpose.'
Army Cpl. Christopher Coffland (1966-2009)
Our daughter, Leah, is running a 10k in February, and she is showing her support for our veterans by running in honor of the Catch a Lift foundation, founded in memory of Army Cpl. Christopher Coffland (1966-2009).
Founded in memory of Army Cpl. Chris Coffland, Catch A Lift Fund (CAL) enables post 9/11 combat wounded Veterans to regain and maintain their physical and mental health by providing granted gym memberships, fitness programs or in-home gym equipment, anywhere in the United States. If a veteran has an appointed VA certified caregiver, the caregiver is eligible as well.
In addition, CAL’s M.A.P.S. Program ensures success by tracking progress and offers motivation, accountability and peer support through small squads of Veterans who heal together Vet to Vet. CAL Veterans are not only losing weight and moving away from obesity, but also eliminating the need for multiple prescription medications and finding their “new self”. CAL Veterans are thriving, reintegrating, healing and saving each other’s lives through newly established comradery; filling the void left after military service.
Won’t you jump on board and support this important cause?
With the observation of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday just passed, I’ve been thinking about how important it is to reach out and help those we find in our path. We all have bad days, those days when we are feeling down. These are opportunities to help someone!
Just think, back in the days of the Civil Rights Movement, if it were not for the countless citizens, both black and white, who aided others, no telling how this difficult season would have ended.
If we do an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, we will be a blind and toothless nation.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Did you know? A white woman by the name of Viola Liuzzo was murdered at the age of 39 for shuttling civil rights activists back and forth in Alabama. Now, of course, I am not saying to reach out, putting ourselves in dangerous situations such as this, but I am calling us to be brave, look outward vs. inward, and to carry out small deeds which impact others in a positive way.
And remember, it may be as simple as a smile or a kind word that is powerful enough to turn someone’s day around.
Many of you already know that I am working hard on writing a book, a compilation of some of the things I learned from my Mom. Did you know? I started this blog because of my Mama and the many lessons I gained from growing up with her. Here below and on the next post, you will find Part One and Part Two of an excerpt from my book.
LESSON THREE: Are You Down? Help Someone!
This is a lesson I’ve practiced again and again in my life journey. We all have times when we feel discouraged, even hopeless. If we pull up our bootstraps, and help someone, they will be encouraged, and we will feel better too. This works like a charm every time! Try it the next time you feel blue.
The date was August 5, 2005, when my dear friend Jil drowned in an Alabama lake while her family was with her. They were delighting in the final hazy, lazy days of summer when she slipped away. Jil was 40 years old. Jil Cain was one of those humans who inspired others to laugh and love. Jil is still remembered and missed by multitudes of people, even now over 10 years following her passing. Jil left a memorable legacy behind for her family and friends.
My memory bank holds many, many sweet images of Jil, one of which was our participation, along with my girlfriend Kathy, in an Avon 3-Day 60 mile Breast Cancer Walk together in 2000. With the help of my friend, Jules Furr, I was able to raise over $6,000.00 and I walked in memory of my teaching friend, Debbie Ledford who had died in late 1999 of cancer. Leah and Walker even held a dog-wash to raise funds. : ) Throughout this weekend in 2000, Jil, Kathy and I were surrounded by survivors at every turn. The 60-mile journey was an incredibly inspiring experience. A stirring of the soul.
An experience that changed our lives forever.
Later in the month of August, 2005, soon after Jil had died, I was driving aimlessly down the road. Our children were at Wednesday night youth group, my husband was working late, and I was falling into the depths of despondency as I grieved the loss of my 40-year-old girlfriend.
Suddenly, I remembered this important lesson that my mother had always told me. Mama had often modeled this lesson as well. I considered what I could do to make a difference in someone’s path, and my car, changing directions, was soon traveling up Dallas Highway towards the Boots Ward Recreational Center.
Is there someone in your path, in my path, who may need a boost in the days ahead?
Children. A topic that gets much attention for any number of reasons. I hope this post will be an encouragement to you as you interact with the children in your life journey.
Let’s listen to children like Mattie J. T. Stepanek. Five books written and illustrated by Mattie are available at Amazon.com, some for as little as $0.01 plus S/H. Responding to my latest post, What Feeds You and Me?, my friend, Jan Weber commented: “I have all of Mattie’s books and I am going to reread them again. Thanks for reminding us of that remarkable lil boy!”
Yes, Mattie was a remarkable young man, wise beyond his years. Rereading much of Mattie’s lifework reminds me that I want to listen more to the children in my path. This life we live can preoccupy us and we have to keep in mind that children rely solely on us for their livelihood. Children truly are like wet cement.
When our two were small, I had to constantly remind myself to not rush them…their little legs could only move so fast!
Be still, and know that I am God.
One tool that has always helped me, and still does to this day is deep breathing. Click here for details.
If I was running late, it was not their fault, but mine. It always takes extra minutes to get shoes and socks on their small feet and arms through their tiny clothes. Having little ones can teach a Mom and Dad so much if they are listening.
As Mattie says,
“If I close my eyes and sit very still,
it’s so easy to listen to my heart song.”
As I’ve sat with Donny’s Father this past week, I’ve been reminded of being a Mommy to two young children. Those who are aging with dementia, like Don, are much like young children.
Thanks for sharing this. I have read his books. I Google the interview that Oprah did with Mattie and his mother whenever I need to slow down and put life into perspective. Heartsongs sits on an end table at home for the purpose of starting a conversation which leads to inspiration.
Both take enormous patience and extra time to get their points across to the listener. Are you “listening” to the children in your life? As Mattie illustrates here, they have much to say to us and to the world as they grow.
I hope by now, you will agree with me that the description for parents of special needs kids: Common Warriors, is perfect. They truly are warriors as they live day in and day out meeting the ever-growing needs of their loved ones. My friend, Maryanne, author of the blog Sweet Surrender knows only too well of the challenges that have come with raising her daughter, Rachel. You see, Rachel and her twin, Adam were born early and Rachel experienced either a brain bleed or O2 deprivation leading to Cerebral Palsy.
Four things Maryanne has learned while raising Rachel into adulthood:
I have had to really learn to lean into grace and forgive myself for growing tired, weary, discouraged, angry, and frustrated. I have often felt my capabilities as it related to Rachel’s care and the responsibilities of my other children were sorely outmatched. A mother of a disabled child must trust God’s grace to cover the bare places.
It is very important for a mother to take care of herself by taking breaks, filling her soul with inspiration, beauty, and recreation. If a mother’s heart runs dry, she has nothing to impart to her children. This is especially true with the ongoing needs of a disabled child. I struggled here and often felt guilty for wanting time away.
If people offer to help- let them. Find time for your spouse even if it is taking a short walk or sitting outside on the deck enjoying time together. Live in FAITH and not FEAR!
Don’t get so caught up in the “what ifs” that you miss the sweet moments in the present.”Angie Beighley, Tim Beighley’s Mom
I found it important to surround myself with safe people who were supportive and willing to give me the latitude to express my feelings. No mother should go this journey alone, especially the mother of disabled child. She needs support and additional help.
Lastly, I have had to give myself permission to grieve the loss of the hopes and dreams I had for my daughter. This can be hard for parents to admit or articulate. This grief is an ongoing lifelong journey. I have found that the only way I can keep my heart open to the possibilities and blessings of Rachel’s life is to acknowledge my sadness, process it with God, and then surrender.
I think Rachel has taught me more than she will ever learn from me. She is open and happy. I see absolutely no bitterness in her because of her condition. Sometimes I miss blessings because I am so hyper-focused on what’s wrong.” Maryanne Abbate, Rachel’s Mom
Surrendering expectations was and continues to be a difficult part of this journey for me.
Another Common Warrior whom I have
met along life’s pathway is Amy, Mom to Jonah and Lily.
The main issues with Jonah are his cognitive ability not matching up with his verbal ability (expressive language). As Jonah’s Mommy, one of her main concerns now is the gap between the two…especially with a major heart surgery right around the corner, in summer 2016. How do you prep a by then, 4-year-old? Amy feels he has already been through so much, however she is also ecstatic that he is a fighter. Amy prays that he will be like David the rest of his life. Amy wants others to know that they were “blind” to this world once too.
Until you are placed in a situation … You can never really understand. But he chooses us all for different reasons. Amy considers the truth that perhaps God gives us more than we can handle so we fall on our knees in prayer to Our Mighty Father. We all mess up. There is no perfect parent. We are all just trying our personal best to make our children their personal best!
My sincere thanks to these three families for sharing their precious and personal journeys with each one of us.
In case you missed my other two posts, please click here (Tim Beighley’s Story) and here (Common Warriors: Part One) to read them.
What is one thing you have learned about raising a
special needs children that you may not have realized before?
How will YOU be the one to lift up
the parents of a special needs child in the future?
Let’s all offer a smile of encouragement to those in our path.
“Your daughter has a neurological condition, she will likely go home from the NICU on a feeding tube and oxygen…”
I have always been inspired by parents of special needs children. Raising kids can be challenging enough, but add in physical or emotional limitations, and it becomes Common Warrior parenting.
Parents of special needs children go through a grief process. There are stages of grief, numbness, denial, bargaining, anger…acceptance.” Angie Beighley, Mom of Tim
These parents are Common Warriors, all stretching themselves and their families to meet the needs of these precious children whom they’ve been given.
Today, I would like to introduce you to my guest blogger: Cindy Crook. Cindy’s first-born, Katie was born with a neurological condition in 2003. Little sis, Lexi and little bro, Drew followed soon after.
If people offer to help, let them! Live in Faith, not Fear! Don’t get so caught up in the ‘what ifs’ that you miss the sweet moments in the present.” Angie Beighley, Mom of Tim
The word special is defined as ‘better, greater or otherwise different from what is usual’. Cindy loves the way that describes Katie. When Katie was born, going home with a feeding tube and O2, Cindy and her husband, Andy found it hard to accept the different part of that definition.
Cindy wanted normalcy, she wanted what she had dreamed of her entire life. But as always God knows what we need and Katie was it…she is Cindy’s purpose on this earth. Katie has many challenges like trying to walk, not speaking, seizures, tube feedings, vision impairment…but God has told her so many times throughout her life, “She is perfect, she is exactly who she is supposed to be”. Katie has a job to do on this earth and that is to spread God’s love. Before starting her blog, g.p.s. rerouting: God’s Purpose for Special Needs she had written it in her head a hundred times! Cindy wanted to come up with a way to share her experience and to join efforts with other Common Warriors in her path.
Now for a few questions for Cindy:
How did you come to this name for your blog? I’ve traveled from devastation to thankfulness and this blog is about how I rerouted my GPS to get there. My blog is a story of how I found my purpose on this earth.
How do you keep friendships going with people who have typical children and no special needs children? I think it’s about coming to a place of respect for everyone’s personal struggles. There was a time in my life when I did not want to hear about my friend’s typical children’s issues which seemed so minor to me. I battled envy and resentment. But now I know each of my friends’ struggle with something and deserve my respect and support. Once I recognized this, I dropped the walls of jealousy and resentment, and was able to see why God had put each friend in my life. I also realized I had a special gift to share with them.
What did you feel like when Katie was first-born? I felt a long list of emotions, but the one that stands out the most was anger. I could not wrap my brain around how this could happen to me. I didn’t deserve this, all my friends had their perfect little lives, or so I thought, and I was struggling to put one foot in front of the other. I felt this for many years, but somewhere along the way, my perspective changed. I slowly started to see my daughter as a gift, not a curse. Today, I cannot imagine the person I would be without each hurdle we’ve climbed. So now my anger is replaced with thanksgiving. I am thankful I get to parent this pure soul who knows nothing about sins or the evils of this world. I get to touch a piece of heaven every day! Read Welcome To Holland to understand more about how both Cindy and Angie felt after the birth of their special needs children.
What do you wish others could understand about living with a child who cannot talk?I want them to know that my child knows and loves me. Before Katie, I often felt so sorry for parents in my situation. I couldn’t imagine having a relationship with someone who could not talk. But my silent relationship with my precious daughter is so very real. I appreciate the empathy, but I don’t want the pity, because what we have together is well beyond words. I have truly learned the majority of “the real stuff” from Katie. I am blessed, indeed.
Our family first met The Beighley Family when they joined our church in 1996. Tim would’ve only been about three years old and I remember watching Doug carry Tim into church for the next several years while Angie followed behind pushing Tim’s chair. Doug and Angie consider it a true honor and a blessing to be Timothy’s parents, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been without challenges. In the past 22 years of Tim’s life, he has had approximately 15 surgeries. Tim has cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, and scoliosis, and has done PT and OT most of his life. I’ll let Angie’s voice take over from here…
“With Tim having turned 22 recently, it really is a good time to reflect on his 22 years of life.
For people reading our story for the first time my son, Tim was born at 28 weeks while we were on vacation in Destin, Florida in 1993. Doug and I were on our anniversary trip, it was supposed to be the last trip before the baby came but to our surprise Tim decided to join us early. Tim had a great 3/4 brain hemorrhage within the first 72 hours of life. Our “roller coaster” ride had just begun. We had an extended stay in Florida-about a month before we were able to bring Timothy home to Georgia. Around Timothy’s delivery due date we were able to bring Tim home from the hospital. The magical number that we were waiting for was for Timothy to reach 5 pounds. At birth he was only 2 pounds and 7 ounces, when we were released from the hospital we were told that Tim could be blind, deaf, he may or may not walk, he may or may not talk, he could be mentally challenged…we just did not know what the future would look like. The one thing that I held onto was the fact that I did know and still do not know to this day what the future holds but I do know Who holds the future.
My faith in Jesus Christ has carried me every step of the way. The “Footprints” verse is near and dear to my heart. God has truly carried me when I could not walk.”
“There are cycles in life where things go smoothly for a while and then something comes up and you go through a process of researching options/solving problems / meeting challenges. Smooth sailing and another cycle comes. Kind of like what Pastor Ike says in that you are either coming out of a storm, in a storm or getting ready to go into a storm.
You know God never left us. Time after time as I look back I see God’s hand. While I was pregnant every morning when I drove to work there was a song that played on the radio. In the verse were these words… “right there on your knees is where you are going to win the fight”. My defining moment when I felt God was telling me things would be ok was when I walked into the NICU and Tim was was laying there on his knees with his little butt stuck up in the air. “
“I want to be a hospital chaplain. With as much time as I’ve spent in a hospital, I should be pretty good at it 🙂 I’ll require assistance and therapy the rest of my life, but I believe there is nothing that I cannot overcome. As Randy Pausch said “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” Timothy Beighley
The nurses called it “positive tush” syndrome. I called it my Heavenly Father letting me know that everything will be ok.
Doug and I heard David Ring speak at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church before we were even pregnant with Tim. David is a Christian Evangelist who happens to have cerebral palsy. He is married with 5 kids and oh, what an inspiration. As I look back I think God was preparing my heart…We had Tim’s baby dedication on Mother’s Day 1994, and he accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior on Mother’s Day 2004. I have always said that he could not have given me a better gift. Tim is now a student at Reinhardt University. “
All of our family agrees that knowing Tim and his parents has inspired us all to be the very best we can be. Recently Tim was honored by singer/songwriter, Matthew West when West wrote the song Wonderfully Made about Tim. Click here to read more. And finally, EVERYBODY HAS A STORY. Click here to check out a devotion penned by West about Tim’s story.
In my next post, I will introduce you to a Guest Blogger, Cindy Crook, the author of g.p.s. rerouting: God’s Purpose for Special Needs. With Cindy’s help, we will take a closer look into the lives of a few families with wonderfully made children.
The older I get, the more I realize that life as we know it can change on a dime. When that unexpected, often shocking change shows up, we are called for bravery beyond what we might believe we can offer to the circumstances before us.
I have definitely learned that it is a process—being brave—it may not just happen, but that doesnt’ mean that bravery won’t evolve as the days go by.
Most of you will remember the story of Aimee Copeland, the athletic, graduate student who was injured on a homemade zip line back in May of 2012. I suspect that Tuesday, May 1, 2012, was a day much like yesterday in Georgia. Full sun. Birds singing. High between 75-80 degrees. Aimee and some of her classmates were ready for a reward, some fun in the sun. Aimee had just completed her last final for her last class of the semester, studying at West Georgia as a graduate student. What began as a beautiful time in nature with friends turned tragic when Aimee encountered an equipment malfunction on her second pass on the line. Her fall set the stage for the development of necrotizing fasciitis which led to amputations and the failure of her five major organs. Instead of saying, “Why me?”, Aimee recognized that it could have been any one of her group of friends, but she was the injured one. Aimee also stated, “You can’t live your life being paranoid, or in a bubble. The truth is, things like this happen when you least expect it.” I assure you that the remainder of this post won’t be a downer. Instead I would like to share with you the many ways Aimee’s life journey has exhibited bravery and stick-to-itiveness, again and again.
LIFE calls for BRAVERY. It truly does. You can click here to read my April post in its entirety.
Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.
I caught up with Aimee recently and asked her if I could share an update about her current life journey, along with some recent pictures. Aimee wholeheartedly agreed! Three years ago doctors told Aimee she would never walk again without two forearm crutches, but every day victories keep Aimee motivated to reach her goals. When her trainer, LC Reese of Reesefit in Carrollton, GA, suggested trying her prosthetic legs on the treadmill for the first time, she jumped on and quickly mastered it, reaching a speed of 2 mph. Proving the doctors wrong, she released the treadmill and walked completely unaided for two minutes at a time! Next up, she plans on walking a 5K to show people with and without disabilities that with the power of perseverance anything is possible!
Aimee traveled to Ohio in May of this year to be fitted with new myoelectric “robo arm” prostheses by the great folks at Touch Bionics and world-class prosthetist Randy Alley.
This past August 5, 2015, a You-Tube video was publishing showing Aimee getting biodesigns’ HiFi Prosthetic Sockets.
Aimee has built a new life for herself that includes white water rafting, wake boarding, climbing, and a lot of other great activities. She is living life well!
Aimee is indebted to her fabulous teachers, Joe Gudger and Chris Townsend. As Winnie the Pooh so wisely said, “Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.”
The most beautiful people are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern.
One focus which Aimee is developing more and more is reaching out and aiding people in her path who have similar circumstances she is living in these days, as shown here with a young man who is an amputee. She wants to be available and supportive of anyone in a similar life experience. In fact, Aimee was in the news in July 2015 for offering encouragement to a young woman in Gwinnett County who has been suffering with this same condition: Necrotizing Fasciitis. Read about this here. In addition, Aimee has become a spokesperson about the signs of illness that could be associated with the chances of this life-threatening condition, and is also encouraging those who live with disabilities to realize more freedoms that can come with their life circumstances. Aimee has a background in psychology, and is working towards a second Masters in Social Work. As Aimee shared with Denis O’Hayer and Rose Scott on a June 18, 2015, NPR interview, the two big “take-aways” she tries to give to her listeners are The Power of Perseverance and The Power of Compassion. Click here to listen to the 13 minute NPR interview in its entirety.
Two years ago doctors told Aimee she would never walk again without at least two crutches. Here she is a year later, proving them wrong. She recently has taken many steps completely unaided by crutches.
No one can decide your limits for you.
If they try, it provides a great opportunity to prove them wrong.
It's not what you have, but what you do with what you have that really matters. Regardless of who you are, there's always a way to experience a connection with the world.
In the words of Nelson Mandela, “it always seems impossible until it’s done.” Only YOU can decide what possibilities await you!
Resilience and perseverance have helped Aimee find a new normal after surviving an extreme case of flesh-eating bacteria. She has built a new life for herself and says that COMMUNITY, social, and family support, have been of utmost importance for Aimee’s mental recovery. This makes me wonder how you and I can have a positive impact in our own sphere of influence in the days ahead.
What ‘community’ can you and I join up with in order to be an encouragement to someone in our path who is going through a difficult season?