The Moment I Realized I’m Disabled……

Before we get into our topic of the day, I need to offer a caveat: The following entry is based solely on my experience and does not reflect the entire disabled population as a whole. I offer these insights in hopes of helping others that are going through a tough time that can be jarring and very confusing.



I didn’t realize I was disabled until I was 16 years old. Seriously.

The fact that I was born with Spina-Bifida makes that last statement seem completely illogical.

But it’s true. Let me explain.

I grew up the youngest of 3 in the late ’70s in a small town in the Midwest. Being that my sisters were both completely able-bodied and our town was small, I was normally the only person in a wheelchair and braces around. When I was really little I was able to get around with just braces.

My parents worked hard to treat me just like my other siblings. I had chores around the house and would get in trouble if my assigned tasks weren’t done.

In school I was mainstreamed into a regular classroom, and taken out only for short times for physical and occupational therapy. Those were the only times I was treated different from my classmates. I was also the only disabled student in my kindergarten, elementary and middle school.

It’s a funny thing; being a kid. You don’t think much about the future. And when you do, sometimes elements of the life you have are different in the future imagined.

And so it wasn’t until I was 16 and in high school that I had the realization that I had a disability. And there was nothing I could do to ever change that.

Whoa. Heavy stuff.

There was definitely an exact moment this hit me. And it felt like a ton of bricks (I know this is a over-used colloquialism, but in this case it’s the truth). So how did I get through this and come out stronger on the other side? I’m glad you asked:

1. Know that verbally saying it aloud helps you to accept it. Writing it down in a journal can also be cathartic.

2. Seek professional help-This was the best thing that I was able to do with the help of my parents. It was also during this time that we discovered I had been living with a chemical imbalance, causing depression, for a long time prior to this experience.

There is no shame in seeking outside help.

3. To your parents-listen to your child. It may seem strange that they are just now coming to terms with reality, but hearing their words and validating their feelings will go a long way towards healing.

4. Take a day-Again, this realization can be quite jarring. Taking a day to reflect and get your head together might be a helpful technique. I know for myself that taking a day off school helped me to focus and get my head back together.

You can and will get through this. And come out stronger on the other side.

I’m pulling for you

 

Snark, Trudeau and the Truth Behind Inspirational Photos…..

Warning: I am feeling particularly snarky today, but decided to blog anyway because sometimes extra snark actually produces brilliance.

I think I read that on a cereal box one time.

Before we get to our topic of the day, here is one giant flaming thing to consider if you ever decide to post an “opinion” on the internet. Now, before I say this, let me clarify that I am a proponent of free speech…..

That said, if your “factually logical” arguments in regards to anything, but specifically the Target debacle, contain holes that I could in theory drive the Starship Enterprise through, I will have no other choice but to call you out. I’m looking at you, Matt Walsh (PS-By the way, you may want to get that thing in your eye checked out and possibly removed. It looks painful).


Now that we have the political rant out of the way, let’s move on….TO CANADA!

Specifically where this photo was captured. (Ok, I can’t just embed the photo, so here is the accompanying article from the Huffington Post):

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/04/16/justin-trudeau-wheelchair-stairs-montreal-metro_n_5159721.html

For those that want to save the click, the photo shows Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau helping to carry a man in a wheelchair down a broken escalator in a Montreal Metro station.

I originally saw this photo on a page I’m subscribed to on Facebook. Along with this photo on the page were comments such as: “Trudeau is SO dreamy,” “Look at him being such a help. This is great!” (Blogger’s Note: The preceeding comments were heavily paraphrased and do not reflect a word-for-word transcription of the actual comments, although the comments shown here accurately reflect the spirit of the actual comments contained in the original piece.)

Not to completely plow over your feelings of “Yay! We helped” but as I look at this photo, all I can think about as a disabled woman who uses a chair is:

1. Where is the elevator and why wasn’t he using it?

2. Was carrying him down the stairs the only option (why no elevator?) and if that was the case, that is unacceptable.

3. Did the disabled man want to be photographed being helped? And…

4. How did the disabled person feel about getting this help? There have been times honestly when I’ve been helped in this way and on the outside I have been polite and thanked those that helped, but on the inside I’ve wondered “Why haven’t they gotten whatever fixed” Or why didn’t they have an elevator? I do try to be understanding, but there are times that my patience has worn thin.

I remember our Senior Trip (ironically to Canada) and we went to a Broadway-type show. Our tickets had been purchased way before, and when we got there we discovered that our seats were in the balcony, and THEY DIDN’T HAVE AN ELEVATOR!! They did offer to help lift my chair up the stairs……But I just kept thinking, “WHY don’t you have an elevator? Seriously!” I refused their offer to lift me up the stairs because the staircase was winding and I didn’t feel particularly safe with that approach.

Fortunately it was a lighter attended show, so they had seats available on the ground floor that I was able to use and enjoy the show.

So the next time you see a photo of someone helping a person in a wheelchair, after regarding that the person did a good thing, think about why it happened in the first place and maybe brainstorm a few ways to really fix the situation.

Cheers!

To the Woman That’s Gone Through Her 3rd Change of Clothes for the Day…..

Good Tuesday to you all!! While both our girls are sleeping soundly, let’s get into the topic of the day!

Do you guys remember when I wrote that piece to the girl with Spina Bifida? Remember how I had said that was the most vulnerable I’d been on my blog? Well, after letting this one sit in my head for a month or so, I think it’s time to release it. Today’s blog will be the most vulnerable I’ve ever been, but I’m writing it in hopes of helping others dealing with the same thing. So, here it goes…..

My disability has changed my body in several ways over the years. I’m not able to move around as much as I could when I was a kid. I use my wheelchair more frequently now. My bladder has also changed. This has been one of the most frustrating changes.

As women age, their menstrual cycles sometimes shift to a heavier flow or more painful cramps. For me this change manifested itself by making my bladder gush forth several times a day during my cycle. This has gone on for many years. One benefit of this is that it is so consistent that I know my period will begin shortly after this occurs. But it makes it no less frustrating.

See, on the worst days of this, I end up changing clothes at least twice. Usually more. Any liquid that I consume races right through me. It gets to the point where I just sit at home, trying to keep my mind off things. I don’t drink much liquid on these days for fear of changing clothes again. I pretty much live in the bathroom on these days.

I have taken medication to fight off these bladder spasms. It worked well for years, but then my insurance company quit covering it and I had to switch to a new one. This new one works pretty well, but is not as long lasting as the first. And when I’m in the throes of a long day of changing clothes constantly, I can get so into my head that I forget to take it. (In Real Time: Can you believe just sitting here writing this I had a pretty sizable spasm? Calm down, bladder! 😛 )

On these days, I’m reminded why we (my husband and I) were chosen to remain childless. There is no way I’d be able to take care of myself and a child on these days.

So dear female, I know you are tired and frustrated from constantly visiting the bathroom and changing into yet another pair of clothes. I know you feel unattractive and less of a woman simply because your bladder doesn’t work the way it should. But here are truths you need to hang on to:

1. You are attractive

2. You are worthy of love

3. At least you have clean laundry 😉

4. This too shall pass

If you are currently going through endless bladder spasms and mountains of laundry, you are certainly not alone. I’m rooting for you.

Cheers!

Embarrassed spider image courtesy of cartoonstock.com

Explaining Disability: The Girl With the Extra Accessories…

Having a disability my entire life, I’ve experienced my share of discrimination. Of people making snap judgements of my intellectual ability based on my appearance. But today I wanted to share a story that I hope encourages you to think differently if you have a disability and have experienced discrimination.

When I was in high school, I spent a week with my grandparents one summer. My youngest cousin lived close by so she’d come over to our grandparents house and hang out. One day we went to a movie and to Walmart. While at Walmart, we stopped into the bathroom. For some reason I didn’t take my manual wheelchair into the stall with me, so I parked it right outside the door.

As I was in the stall, I saw my little cousin get into my chair and roll it back and forth. I could see her little pink and white tennis shoes floating back and forth under the door. My grandma filled me in later on what happened next:

“When you were in the bathroom stall, a woman came out the stall next door and looked at Kristina in your chair. She then washed her hands and left. Kristina looked up at me and proudly exclaimed, “I think she thought I was handicapped!!”

Let me restate that. In the eyes of a young child, being labeled “handicapped” is a sign of pride and honor!

Dear employers, job recruiters and society; we are not a group to be pitied, avoided or fixed. We need respect and a chance to show you what we can do.  After all, being disabled basically just means that we come into the world with a few more accessories than the average person. 😉

About That Cake From Meijer: A Disabled Perspective

**Before we get into the topic of the day, I wanted to give you an update from my smoothie recipe post yesterday. I think when I make this again; I’ll not use as much peppermint. It seems as though after sitting overnight in the fridge, the leftover smoothie mixture took on the peppermint flavor like that one guy that farts on the subway full of people, and you can’t get the smell out of your clothes for a week, even though you sat in the front and he was in the back. The flavor has taken on a Pepto Bismol-y quality which is never a good thing. 😛 Just wanted to pass this along if you planned on replicating my recipe…….
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Today’s planned post has been bumped to tomorrow so we can talk about a more serious issue; cake. Specifically bakery cake. More specifically a cake from a Meijer bakery that has gone viral in the past few days. Why did a cake from Meijer go viral? Because it was decorated by an employee with autism.

Now according to the story, this employee was not a trained cake decorator, but the order came in and they decided to fill it themselves (whether this was because no one else was available is not disclosed). When the customer picked up the cake, they didn’t notice the writing at first. Then, “After looking, I nervously laughed and headed to check out- it didn’t really matter to me that it looked so bad- I thought people would think it was funny,” (She)wrote. But the cashiers told her the girl who helped her has autism and isn’t supposed to write on cakes.”

Reread that last line. Maybe I’m just in a snarky mood brought on by the weather (its spitting snow outside my window), but to me it just seems wrong to publicly disclose someone’s disability without their consent (HIPPA violation anyone?). I understand the cashier did so in an effort to thwart a possible complaint from the customer. Why couldn’t the cashier simply apologize and say, “This person wasn’t supposed to write on cakes” without the added information that she has autism. Was the fact that she has autism the reason for her not being allowed to write on the cake? **cough**discrimination**cough**

At this point you are probably saying, “Dang woman! Calm down! This was just a feel good story about a cake!” But to that I say, because of my disability I see something else others might not be able to.

I see that the story went viral because the act of writing on a cake for someone with autism is unexpected. I understand that some with autism are nonverbal and unable to write, so in that way this act would be considered kinda cool. But the article never divulges the artist’s writing ability so it’s safe to assume they were able to write (and the finished product is quite legible).

The fact that this story went viral because a person with a disability did something unexpected is a little disheartening. Because that means that in the year 2015, our society-a nation that has made many advances in science and industry- is still mesmerized by disabled people doing ordinary things.

This reminds me of something that happened to me in college. Every year our college took one day out of the year for a campus-wide day of service in the community. My particular site one year was with a couple other people at a museum. When we arrived the person in charge of assigning us tasks began splitting us into groups. She finally looked at me, in my wheelchair, and hesitantly asked, “Can you write?” Now she may have been wondering if I was a good writer, as in content, but I took this to mean can I use a pencil (and in the end I was correct as my job that day had me writing things down with a pencil). Now, in her defense she was an older woman and I’ve realized that older people are sometimes still amazed that I get out and about every day. Because when they were my age, anyone with a disability was put in institutions or kept at home. So the act of seeing me out and about was, to them, extraordinary.

So to sum up, here is what our community wants others to know: people with disabilities are just like you. We have hopes, dreams and talents. We suck at math (ok, maybe that’s just me 😉 ). We laugh and cry. We strive for employment that we can feel proud of and makes a difference in the world.

I for one dream of the day where we can go to work, put lettering on a cake and have this act go by without so much fan-fare. Only then will we have truly been accepted by society as just like everyone else. Truly equal.

 

To the Parents of the Disabled Child Going Off to College Out of State…..

I’m not a parent of a human, so I can’t completely understand what you are going through, but my parents went through this when I broke family tradition and attended college out-of-state. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Of course It wasn’t something I was looking to do, but when the Lord clearly speaks to your heart, following through is the best option.

Our graduating class was tiny and close. I was quite anxious about moving away to college. Especially since most of my friends would not be joining me. Thankfully my parents supported my decision and were proactive in helping me have a great experience. That is my first piece of advice:

1. Support your child’s decision. Supporting them is one step in helping them maintain independence. If money is a concern, help your child research possible scholarships to defray the cost.

2. Also do some research on doctors in the area that would help with your child’s specific needs. I needed a urologist, an orthopedist, and a neurologist. Fortunately the tiny town I landed in for my first two years of college had all three. We were even able to visit with them during a college visit.

3. If you child has issues walking long distance, look into purchasing a battery operated scooter. This will save your child’s joints in traversing large campuses that may have many hills. This will also help carry all their books. Of course cost is a big hindrance, so look into Vocational Rehabilitation services in your area for assistance. We were able to purchase a battery operated scooter through Voc. Rehab right before I entered college and it was a life saver many times.

4. Now is a great time to contact your child’s college’s Student Life office to talk to them about your child’s specific needs. During a visit, you’ll be able to see if there are things that may need to be modified in terms of accessibility. Bring this up during the visit and when you call, check up on any progress that has been made.

5. Ok, this one is universal and doesn’t just apply to those with a disability: Before you send your child off to college out-of-state, grab a small notebook and write down things they need to remember. For example, remind them what clothes have to be dry-cleaned or hung on a rack to dry. If they are disabled and have medical equipment to care for, include that as well. Divide the notebook into sections such as laundry and equipment maintenance and put sticky flags on each section. My mom did this for me and it was SO handy when I was in college. I even used it after graduation.

Leaving a child at college, especially a disabled child, can be hard on parents. With these 5 tips, I hope it helps you cope. Remember, you are not alone!

Cheers!

 

 

To the Teenaged Girl With Spina Bifida: Hang In There-It Gets Better…..

Ugh! As if growing up and puberty weren’t hard enough-with the acne, growing two feet in a week and sweaty palms. Add to that leg braces, a wheelchair, and bowels and bladder that don’t work properly, and you’ve taken the awkwardness of puberty and kicked it into overdrive. Especially if your parents continually bought you only knee high socks to wear with your braces. Yep, I’ve been there, and I wanted to let you know, it gets better. Fortunately for you, ankle socks are more available now then they were when I was a kid, so you’ll be able to dodge that bullet. 😉

Then there is the question of boys. My mom tried to make me feel better by saying boys were maybe intimidated by my chair and braces and that’s why none ever asked me out. While this makes sense, it wasn’t all that helpful to me at the time. Seeing my friends pair off and start dating made me feel like an outsider. It sucked. I felt like I was an outsider and everyone else was a part of this great club that I could only dream of joining. But you know what you avoid when you aren’t dating in high school? Drama. It gets so much better after high school when the guys have grown up a bit and realize you aren’t all that scary. 

Then there is the issue of what to do about your lesion scar. I know you’ve been eyeing that cute bikini at Target. I also know the first thing that comes to your mind….your scar will show. Frankly this is true in any bathing suit, but especially a bikini. My advice? Don’t be afraid to ROCK IT, GIRL!! When you have a disability and are out in the world, the biggest tool you have at your disposal is confidence. It disarms the stares of those around you. Some may still stare, but it will be because they are in awe of your confidence. 😉 Besides, you can’t control the actions of others, you can only control what your response will be. Choose confidence and you will win every time. It gets better.

But your biggest obstacle being a teenaged girl with spina bifida? Likely your #1 best kept secret. A secret that if it’d leak out (pardon the pun), would humiliate you till what seems like forever: learning how to handle bowel and bladder accidents. This stuff isn’t supposed to happen past the age of 8. The number one tip I can give you? Know your triggers, such as diet, and avoid those things that turn your bowels and bladder into an overflowing faucet. For me it was avoiding caffeine.

Weather can also be a factor. I know, it sounds insane. But temperature extremes can trigger your bladder to gush forth much like Old Faithful–except your bladder is not as reliable. Let me explain; say it is the middle of summer, hotter than blitz and you go out with friends to the mall. You are using crutches to walk and you reach the inside of the first store. The AC is on full blast.  For some reason, if you don’t have an empty bladder, this drop in temperature can trigger a flow that’ll leave you with a puddle on the floor. The same thing happens in winter when you go from cold to hot suddenly. While you can’t completely prevent this from happening, there are ways to lessen your embarrassment. First, catheterize before you leave the house. And if you still are a little unsure, don’t rely on walking, take your wheelchair. That way, if you do have an accident, it’s more hidden. When you are in the car going on your outing, sit on the cushion of your chair. If taking your chair is not possible, you can still get by with using crutches. Just make sure to wear a disposable pair of underwear over your actual panties. I know it sounds super lame and uncool, but I promise you won’t look like a granny. And you’ll cease to worry about having an accident in front of that cute boy from art class. Nowadays these protective pants come in slim but absorbent forms that are comfortable and won’t leak through. These were a life saver for me in college. You can normally find these at your local pharmacy or places online such as www.hdis.com

Finally make sure when you go out you have plenty of catheters. I remember once when my grandparents and I took my parents to the airport. The trip took longer than we thought and they missed their flight. So we had to take them on to their next destination–a two-hour drive. Guess who forgot to take extras with her? Yep. I’ve lived and learned, and now I pass my tips onto you. 

But even with a vigilant diet and making sure to catheterize at regular intervals, accidents happen. That’s why they call them accidents. So what do you do? One way I’ve handled the unexpected accident is to try to pass it off as your period. This actually works better than you’d expect. Lessens the embarrassment for you, and it makes sense to the other person who expects this anyway based on your stage of life. When all else fails, use humor. Here, feel free to practice using these phrases:

1. “Hey, who put that water balloon on my chair??” (carrying around a deflated balloon with a hole in it adds authenticity)

2. “Yeah, when I sit too long, my butt gets really nervous and starts sweating profusely. My dermatologist says it’s a glandular issue”

3. “So I was running late and didn’t have time to dry off completely from the shower I took, so I just came here and stood under the hand dryer and I must have forgotten to dry off my backside.”

Puberty is tough. Going through puberty when you have a disability is even tougher. But I’ve been there and I promise, you can get through it. After all, it does eventually get better. I promise.

Cheers!

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*image appears courtesy of Pinterest

To the Parents of the Unborn Child Diagnosed with Spina Bifida

First things first: I know this sucks. You had plans for your child, plans for a wonderful future, and this diagnosis will maybe change that future to something unknown and scary. You are scared. But you are also not alone. My parents went through the same thing you are going through. In some ways it was worse for them since I was born pre internet, so they had to do lots of research on their own. There was no google search. There was also no way to know something was wrong until after I was born, although my mom tells me she had a feeling something was wrong, she just didn’t know what. They call it mother’s intuition for a reason. Since you were able to learn of this diagnosis before your child was born, use that to your advantage to prepare yourself as much as you can. 

As part of your research and preparation, get involved with spina bifida support groups. These groups exist to assist families with the myriad of issues that arise when your child is diagnosed with spina bifida. Seek out early intervention support as soon as you can, as early intervention therapy is crucial in helping your child live as normal a life as possible.

I know you must be thinking, “it’s my fault.” Even if you eat all the right things, take enough folic acid, keep yourself as healthy as you can, this can happen. It’s not your fault. This diagnosis does NOT make you a bad parent. If you have to stand in front of a mirror and repeat this mantra everyday, do it.

There is a bit of good news, however. Doctors are now able, in most cases, to repair the spina bifida lesion in  utero. Babies that are born after this surgery have a lesser need for shunts and an increased chance of walking. But if, for whatever reason, surgery is not an option, please don’t despair.

When I was born, there were many unknowns. The doctors told my parents I may never walk. I may never talk. I may not even live through that first night. As you’ve probably figured out by now, I’ve been in the business of proving Dr.’s wrong for a long time now. Sometimes doctors are only able to speculate.

Adjust your expectations. In a child with special needs, expecting them to meet standard developmental markers in a certain time frame can be frustrating if these markers are not met. For example, the average age for a child’s first steps is 12-18 months. I took my first steps at 3 years old. Celebrate these milestones as you would for a non disabled child.

I know you are scared. You may even be considering termination out of fear that your child will suffer with this diagnosis. Please don’t. Trust me when I say a child born with a disability knows nothing else. They don’t see their life as suffering. Yes, there will be bad days, days when they look around and see their non disabled friends doing things they can’t or things that don’t come as easy to them. Let them experience this, and be a support to them when they need an ear to listen, or a shoulder to cry on. But in a way, doesn’t every child experience this? Pray daily for your child. For the Lord to grant them extra confidence to get all they can out of life. To try new things and explore. To be a kid.

You can do this. It’ll be a challenge, but I promise you have what it takes to make it through. We do too.

I hope you found this encouraging if you are indeed expecting a child with spina bifida. Please pass this along to anyone you think needs to read these words.

ALWAYS remember you are NEVER alone.

Cheers!

I’d like to thank my mom, Roxanna, for helping me write this through a parents perspective. Thanks for helping me become the woman I am today. I love you 

The H Word: Breaking the Stigma, Embracing Reality

Disclaimer: The following opinions are my own and don’t reflect the disabled community as a whole.

Let’s talk about words. We use them everyday to express ourselves. Words express joy, surprise and sadness. There are some words that we use that some people find offensive. In the disabled community, there is some debate about what word people with disabilities want to be labeled. Here is where I think we’ve taken it too far at times.

Handicapped. This word has been a source of contention within the disabled community for a long time. In this age of political correctness, the word handicapped has somehow become an offensive term, perhaps implying that the person is somehow less of a person because of their physical appearance/abilities. So alternative words have been manufactured to replace it. My least favorite replacement? Handicapable. Blech! Even writing that word makes me twitch in the face a bit, like I’ve just eaten something extremely sour. Sidenote: while editing this entry, the word “handicapable” was actually flagged as a word not recognized by spellcheck….hmmm….

Should the above definition stick? And what can be done to change this definition where those of us in the disabled community can embrace it and be proud of how we were made? I think it helps to look into the origin of the word. According to oxfordictionaries.com, the word handicapped originated in the mid 17th century:

from the phrase hand in cap; originally a pastime in which one person claimed an article belonging to another and offered something in exchange, any difference in value being decided by an umpire. All three deposited forfeit money in a cap; the two opponents showed their agreement or disagreement with the valuation by bringing out their hands either full or empty. If both were the same, the umpire took the forfeit money; if not, it went to the person who accepted the valuation.”

Seems to have been a more positive definition way back when, before it was supposedly clouded with negativity. As time went on, I think the word became more polarizing as the disabled community was having an increasingly more difficult time earning a living, and enjoying life without discrimination. But I think I have a solution to turn this negative word into a positive. It’s to simply think like a child. Case in point: many years ago I was spending a week at my grandparents house. One day we went out to a movie and took my then 7 yr old cousin with us. We stopped in the bathroom to take a break, and I used a non handicapped stall-I’m able to transfer out of my chair when I need to move around just a bit. I transferred into the stall, leaving my chair outside the door…. Later that day my grandma told me what happened next. My little cousin, becoming restless, had climbed up into my wheelchair and was moving the wheels back and forth. Someone else came into the bathroom, saw her and went into the stall. My cousin, oozing pride, breathlessly announced to my grandma, “I think they thought I was handicapped!!…..”

There you go, ladies and gentlemen. Out of the mouths of babes comes wisdom and insight. My little cousin in that moment was so proud to be labeled handicapped. In my work with children over the years I’ve also found this to be true. They are constantly questioning me about my chair or why I have braces on my legs. Or they pretend to be disabled in their playtime. They see it as a thing of pride and honor (and fun 😉 ).

And so I choose to be labeled as handicapped. A moniker that I’ll wear with pride the rest of my days.

I hope you found this helpful. Always remember you are never alone, and are worth more than any label you wear.

Cheers!

Growing Forgiveness

Living with a disability from birth, there are certain things you learn to live with. Discrimination is one of these things. I’ve been denied jobs because of my disability, and the perceived inability to do the job adequately because of my physical appearance. I was even asked once if I had the ability to write things down–ironically I went to college and majored in Communication, so yes, I am able to write things down 😉 . Speaking of college, there was one painful incident involving adequate housing for my needs my last year of school. But the most painful discrimination I’ve experienced occurred in my own church denomination. 



The other day I mentioned that I lived with several other young adults for one year during a voluntary service program after college. This was not my first attempt at working for a such a program. Shortly before I graduated college, I applied to be a part of my church denomination’s one-year voluntary service program. After the interview process, I realized I wasn’t ready, so I withdrew my application. Fast forward one year later. I had graduated and was figuring out my next steps. So I applied again for the same VS program. This time I went a bit further and was still interested after the interview process. Several weeks after my interview, I received a letter by email, informing me that although I showed a continued interest in the program, there were concerns that I wouldn’t be able to handle the proposed 40-hour work week, having never had a full-time job, but how many recent college graduates have this level of experience? In addition to this, there were concerns about accessibility at work and living sites. During my interview, I explained that I’d need accommodations, but minimal at most. 

After I received this email, I was devastated and walked around in a daze for a few weeks. I never expected my own church to discount my abilities because of my disabilities.

Around this time, the pastor of my church called me and asked me to lunch. She had heard about my troubles and wanted to let me know of a new VS program that was just starting up in a neighboring state. I immediately applied and within days received a call that I had been accepted. I couldn’t believe it! They even asked me what they needed to do to make things accessible. I moved to my new assignment 3 weeks later, and all in all the year was a wonderful experience. I ended up living in that same city for the next 6 years.

The previous story contained two different outcomes, from essentially the same source–the church. A place that is supposed to accept you as you are, and help you grow. But here is what I’ve learned in the years since this experience: the church is made up of people. People are fallible and make mistakes. As Christians we are called to forgive them. And realize life this side of heaven is going to be unfair at best some days. And in the end, know without a shadow of a doubt, that we are loved more fiercely than we know by our Heavenly Father. 

:-)

I hope this encourages you today if you are struggling with similar circumstances. Know that you are most certainly not alone. I’ll see you again tomorrow.

Cheers!