What Feeds You And Me? Let’s Follow Our Heartsong.


What feeds you and me? Let’s follow our heartsong.

Change is Inevitable. Growth is Optional. I’ve been thinking about some changes I would like to make and I am realizing more and more that changes must first take place from the inside out.

There is no doubt that there is a lot of evil, a ton of loss,so much sadness in our world today, what with the continued, enormous conflict and divisiveness  in our own country and across our globe. There are storms, like a current one named “Dorian”, that come up and disturb our sense of peace, our well-being.

Terrorists and criminals feed on fear. It seems their greatest delight must lie in horrifying others. Their goal-fear, our reaction-fear… is a normal response to the circumstances in our world today.

Life circumstances catch us off guard with the sudden death of a loved one, the delivery of a scary diagnosis, a job loss.

Call it naivety…

…but what if we decided to “fight back”, not with weapons, but with hope paired with our fear? What if we decided to intentionally have guarded optimism about our future days?

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

There was a brave, young soul, named Matthew Joseph Thaddeus Stepanek, who lived between the years of 1991-2004.

A heart song is something deep inside each of us. It’s our sense of why we are here and how we can keep going. It is like a purpose. It may be to live as a mommy or a daddy, or a firefighter or a delivery person, or a child with a disability who teaches others about patience and love and acceptance. Heartsongs are usually easy to hear when we are young, but we sometimes get too busy or hurt or angry to listen to them as we get older. And just like any gift that isn’t cared for or used well, it is possible to forget how to listen to the message of each song. But even if we completely lose our heart song, we can share someone else’s song until we are able to reawaken or recreate our own.” Mattie Stepanek, in the Introduction to his 2002 Best Seller, Hope Through Heartsongs 

Mattie’s Poem penned in 1999, just five years before he passed at the age of 13

Despite a rare, debilitative disease (dysautonomic mitochondrial myopathy) Mattie managed to publish five poetry books before his passing at the age of 13.

“We are each Angels-in-the-making, and that is why we can see and honor in others, such as Mattie, the goal that each of us is traveling toward. Mattie reminds us of that goal and makes us thankful.” Gary Zukav in the Foreword to Mattie’s 2001 Best Seller Hope Through Heartsongs

Mattie began writing poetry at the age of three to cope with the death of his brother of this same genetic disease. Did you know? Mattie’s fans included Jimmy Carter and Oprah Winfrey. He was well-known for his promotion of peace. As I consider Mattie’s heart and work, I am inspired to “fight back” with goodness. But how does one do that? In Mattie’s poem entitled “Bravery Prayer”, he suggests we pair hope and fear together in one great force, leading to Bravery!


Mattie’s thoughts remind me of another great example for making the discovery of what feeds us:

The Tale Of Two Wolves







So with that old story, along with the courageous, short life of Mattie Stepanek, I ask us again…What feeds you and me? Whether we fear tornadoes, death, terrorists, earthquakes, or tax collectors, let’s follow our heart song. Let’s start within our own families, in our homes, today.

Let There Be Peace On Earth and Let It Begin With Me


A L’Arche Community A Community Of Pure Love

Have you heard of L’Arche? I had not heard of it until I read about it recently in a book I picked up along the way: Why Good Things Happen To Good People By, Stephen Post, PhD and Jill Neimark. (2007)

Here there is a very pure love you don't experience in other places in society. Here you learn that innocence is beautiful, that the disabled can be like living prayers. a L'Arche assistant

One thing I have learned for sure is that a L’Arche Community is a community of pure love. L’Arche is French for “the ark,” a reference to the floating refuge Noah created at God’s command. It began in 1964 when Frenchman Jean Vanier opened his home to two developmentally disabled adults.

To work for community, is to work for humanity. founder of L'Arche, Jean Vanier

He had no grand plan. Vanier simply believed people of differing physical and mental abilities could live together, respecting the capabilities of one another. What began as an informal invitation from the heart has grown into the world-renowned International Federation of L’Arche Communities, a network of more than 6,000 individuals in 140 communities and 31 countries. There is even a L’Arche community in my hometown of Decatur, Georgia, which opened its doors in 2012. Born in Switzerland in 1928, Vanier is a devout Catholic, but these communities welcome all, regardless of their race, culture, abilities, or disabilities, as well as people of all faiths, including atheists. In each community, the healthy (called “assistants) and disabled live together.


When Jean Vanier was asked to share one of his most memorable L’Arche stories, this is what he said:

“I will never forget Eric, whom I met in a local psychiatric hospital where he had been abandoned since he was four years old. He was then a blind, deaf young man of 16 who was unable to walk or speak. I had never met anyone so filled with anguish. Even the nurses and helpers found him too difficult to be with. He came to our L’Arche community in 1978, and I had the privilege of living with him and a few others for a year: dressing him, bathing him, helping him to learn to feed himself. Little by little, he began to discover that he was loved and seen as a person, unique and important. He gradually grew more peaceful. During the evening prayer we had in our little home, he had changed, and I too had changed. Eric, above all, make me realize that each person is important no matter what their abilities, disabilities, religion, or culture.”


In 2015, Vanier was awarded The Templeton Award, one of the most prestigious awards in the world.

The whole pain of our world is the pain of walls. We've had enough of loneliness, independence, and competition. We all begin in weakness and end in weakness. We are all broken in some way. The only answer to life is to love each other.

Perhaps it is my personal experience of growing up with Robin, my first cousin who was born with Downs Syndrome, or perhaps it’s my own growing awareness of my weaknesses and brokenness, or maybe it was the example of compassion shown to me by my loving parents, but my heart is soft towards this ministry of L’Arche communities. I hope to visit L’Arche Atlanta, in Decatur in the not too far off future.


What do you think about the L’Arche concept? What are some other ways we can continue to break down the tall walls of discrimination that are based on race, culture, economic circumstances,religion, and/or disability?

Other related Pages From Joan posts you may have missed:

Common Warriors: Part One

Common Warriors: Part Two

Have A Care Kit Party

What Feeds You And Me? Let’s Follow Our Heart Song.

Aimee Copeland: Living Life


The Beauty Of Sight

blind woman

Have you ever thought for very long what life might be like for you without your sight?

Do you, like me, sometimes find it hard to see in the dark?

Recently, I ran across a story that got me thinking about this reality. Of course, we all know the story of Helen Keller.

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” Helen Keller

Her story, as well her countless quotes have inspired multitudes through the years since her birth in 1880. Keller’s life completely changed the attitudes of many towards those with blindness and/or deafness. Did you know? Helen Keller, though both deaf and blind, graduated from Radcliffe College in 1904 at the age of 24 and went onto author sixty-seven books?

More recently, a woman by the name of Anna Mae Pennica was born blind in 1919. In 1982 the Los Angeles Times carried a story of Mrs. Pennica, sixty-two-year-old at the time. At age 47, she married a man she met in a Braille class; and for the first fifteen years of their marriage he did the seeing for both of them until he completely lost his vision to retinitis pigmentosa. Mrs. Pennica had never seen the green of spring or the golden, orangish hues of a sunset…

Then in October, 1981 Dr. Thomas Pettit of the Jules Stein Eye Institute of UCLA performed surgery to remove the rare congenital cataracts from the lens of her eyes and Mrs. Pennica saw for the first time ever! Imagine! She had lived for 62 years without the beauty of sight.

The LORD gives sight to the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are weighed down. The LORD loves the righteous.” Psalm 146:8 

The newspaper account does not record her initial response, but it does tell us that she found that everything was “so much bigger and brighter” then she ever imagined….

Since that day Mrs. Pennica has hardly been able to wait to wake up in the morning, splash her eyes with water, put on her glasses, and enjoy the changing morning light. Her vision is almost 20/30- good enough to pass a driver’s test.

Think how wonderful it must have been for Anna Mae Pennica when she looked for the first time at the faces she had only felt, or when she saw the kaleidoscope of a pacific sunset or a tree waving its branches or a bird in flight.

It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision.” Helen Keller 

The beauty of physical sight is wonderful. And the miracle of seeing for the first time can hardly be described.

Colorful flower bouquet from red roses for use as background. Closeup.
Imagine being Mrs. Pennica??? What do you think you would want to see first? a mountainside with red and yellow changing foilage, a deer running through the forest, your child’s brown eyes, red roses, the sun setting over the lake?

Autumn scene. Fall. Trees and leaves in sun light


Close your eyes for just a moment imagining

what a life would be like without the beauty of sight.

I am the Light of the world. So if you follow me, you won’t be stumbling through the darkness, for living light will flood your path.” John 8:12

I will bet that you are as grateful as

I am to have eyes to see all that is before us.

Common Warriors Part One

Katie and her Mom, Cindy

“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.

Newborn Katie 2003

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.

L to R: Lexi, Katie, and Drew
Katie and her Daddy, Andy.

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.

Go to You Need To Sit Down for Cindy’s latest thoughts on g.p.s. rerouting: God’s Purpose For Special Needs.

Thanks so much to Cindy for your honesty and transparency!

You’ve given us much to ponder about life with a child

who is wonderfully made…

In Part Two of Common Warriors,

we will hear thoughts from the Moms of Rachel and Jonah.

Special Needs? Tim Beighley: Wonderfully Made

Tim and his service dog, Ringer.

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.”

Angie and Tim

“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. “

Tim and his family

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.