Is the Small Percentage Worth My Time?

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Yesterday morning, I posed a question on Facebook. Here is what it said:

“Only 12% of Americans have a disability. Only 2% of those are actually paralyzed. Is it worth my time and efforts to be an advocate, educator and friend to such a small percentage?”

The replies I received were overwhelmingly encouraging. The faces of many of those voices I know deal personally with a disability themselves, or with a very close relative. To hear them all proclaim more than just a yes, and to answer with well written reasons that yes, a voice is needed, bolstered my resolve to continue in this journey. It is a path that needs blazed. I personally believe it was started by Jesus Christ Himself in His loving treatment of those who were outcasts in that society.

I think I accidentally scared a few of my friends. If I did, I apologize. I have no intention, or temptation, to stop what I feel pulsates through every beat of my heart. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that this is my calling in life – to speak for those who are seldom heard. The sweetest phrase that was repeated yesterday was “if it only helps one, it is worth it.” Amen to that. I posted it, in my mind, as a rhetorical question preparing for this blog post today.

I have just come off a whirlwind weekend that was exhausting and most gratifying. I drove to Georgia to see a friend who was paralyzed not too long ago. While there, we dealt with a local firefighter who just got home from the hospital and they messed his catheter order up. A great friend from the support group I direct, jumped on the phones and we got a great connection going and helped this guy get through the weekend. After posting about that on Facebook, I started a conversation with a mom whose family was in a horrific accident that killed her 5 year old and paralyzed her 2 and 7 year old children. She is also having catheter and trachea issues and I am trying to help her out. I shot an email out to a friend that just got his trach taken out to see if they had connections to help this new mom. They had a connection to a family in FL that had also been in a wreck that killed their little girl, paralyzed their son and seriously injured their other 2 children. Now, we have connected the mom in KY to the family in FL. Why? Because a few people care about a very small percentage!

I have been sorting things out in our family life since the new year. I wear a lot of hats and I am happy to do them all. I also have to take care of my own health so that I can be here for the most important people in my life – my family! I also know that taking care of me physically, is also taking care of me emotionally. Working with and for the disabled is so therapeutic for me. It is truly a balm for my soul.

The small percentage is absolutely vital.

I remember a story in the Bible about a man named Bartimaus. He was blind and as custom had it in those days, would be taken out to beg as his way of helping to make a living. He heard that Jesus was near and since he could not see, he started yelling, “JESUS!! Have mercy on me!” Those around, who were leading the way to Jesus told Bartimaus to “Be quiet.” But Bartimaus yelled even louder. Jesus heard Him, called Him forward and healed him. Do you think that one voice in the midst of the multitude meant something to Jesus? Yes it did.

Jesus’ whole ministry really involved dealing with the small percentages that no one else cared about or swept under a rug. Jesus always had time for them. He dealt with sick children, He dealt with old mother-in-laws, he dealt with prostitutes and harlots, and he dealt with the stinking, rotting flesh of the lepers. He saw the blind, heard the deaf, and walked to the paralyzed. All around were masses of normal people. Constantly around were the scowls and murmurs of the religious. But the stories that move us are the ones where Jesus focused and came to the small percentages – the poor, the lame, the blind, the hungry, the imprisoned. And He told us to seek them also!

Will you allow me to bring up a small percentage that has very little voice in our spiritual lives? It is the voice of the spiritually abused. We have all been guilty of spiritual manipulation. We have all been guilty of spiritual blackmail. We have all been guilty of plucking out Bible verses, completely out of context, to make a hammered point to make someone feel guilty about not doing what we say. All of those things are spiritual abuse and we have all been guilty at one point or another of hurting others. Even though we have all been guilty of spiritual abuse, that doesn’t make everyone spiritual abusers. To do something as individual acts because you are human is one thing. To develop a pattern or habit or these things is what makes you an abuser.

A spiritual abuser is one who makes it their normal practice to twist and manipulate God’s precious Word to get their own way or to meet their own personal agendas. Most of these people, in my opinion, are extremely insecure, fearful and full of pride. Their pride demands that they be at the top. Their insecurity makes them afraid that it will never happen. It is not okay to be viewed as a failure or not successful, so they begin to move and shake things until it they arrive. The bloody bodies they leave scattered across that path of success are disturbing. If you dare to speak up against it, you are kicked and beaten again until you are afraid to say anything else. No, not physically. Spiritually. The spiritual abusers have created many silent hypocrits. The perform like the master says because they don’t want to be the one to rock the boat…or be proclaimed a dividing liberal.

The spiritually abused are truly a small percentage. So many precious people have shared with us how they “were in a place like that once but now are in such a wonderful church.” Praise the Lord for that! There are sincere, God-honoring pastors and church members alike. But there is also that small percentage that are afraid and do not know where to turn. Do you leave them bleeding on the side of the road? Not according to Jesus and the story of the Good Samaritan.

My husband has been blogging for some time about this small percentage in Christianity. It is the group of those who have been in spiritually abusive relationships – whether that is in a church, in a family, or even in marriages (it happens!). Hundreds have written sharing their heartbreaks over living in a church relationship that has been horribly abusive and manipulative. At times it has been horrific and obvious and at other times, it has been subtle and deceptive. They have spanned the independent Baptist world and have crossed into other denominations. We are not alone in this problem.

Pastor’s and their families have had their own share of spiritual abuse from church members! It is easy to demonize the pastor’s and leadership of these churches (and the emphasis is important because of the leadership position), but abuse can always be two sided. There are members that connive, lie, manipulate, twist Scripture and distort truth to get their way or make their Pastor a puppet, just as there are Pastors who have done this to members. Let’s not get stuck in the church either. Christians have done this to one another, parents to children, children to parents, church member to church member and the list goes on. Some have left these abusive relationships and found true freedom in Christ. This is a good thing as this is exactly what God’s Word teaches we are to have!

Jimmy does not need me to defend him, nor would I because truth needs no defense, but I think there is such a beautiful parallel to my disability world. My husband has been asked if that blog is truly worth his time. Is it truly even helping anyone? The questions are fair and have been asked with good motives. So, I asked my own question regarding my own small percentage that I focus on. Are the small percentages worth speaking up for? Are they worth advocating for, educating and friending? Yes.

The small percentage is vital.

We each have a calling. We each have a job that others may not understand. We each have a personal connection to both disability and spiritual abuse. We each have a passion that God has placed within us to help hurting people. We each have a voice to use for those who have been pushed aside, hushed, and treated terribly. It is not our job to point people to us to rescue them. It is our job to pick up the wounded, love on them, and take them straight to the Great Physician. It is not our job to teach others how to become victims. It is, instead, our job to show them that through Jesus Christ, our only Master, we have victory!

Yes, we will fight for the small percentages. Why? Because we are only two small people in this great big world. That’s a pretty small percentage. But Jesus would have come just for us, to give His life for us, so we could spend eternity with Him.

The small percentage was vital to Him, and it is vital to us.

Please see Jimmy’s post today about the misconception some have over what he writes.

6 Years Paralyzed Today ~ Sad or Happy?

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It’s today. The one anniversary that rolls around every year and adds one more number to the years I have rolled around. On this day, every year, we go away and do something together. It helps me keep my focus on my blessings and the beautiful gift of life that I was granted that day 6 years ago.

In a conversation at school yesterday, I was asked if this day made me sad. I answered yes. When asked, “Why?”, I sort of stuttered around. It was hard to answer. Later at home, while discussing our family plans for today, my husband asked me, “Are you looking forward to tomorrow?” Once again, I stuttered and finally said, “That is a loaded question.”

How do you put the emotions of this day into a quick answer? You don’t. You just stutter. If you ask me today, “Are you happy or sad today?,” my answer would be, “Yes.”

In honor of the #6, let me share why.

#1. SadLife is so different than before. This date marks a drastic change in my life.  Thinking of how my life was before and how different it is now, sends a painful streak right through my heart. This day is a stark reminder of how it used to be.

HappyLife is so different than before. My priorities, my perspective, and the preciousness of every single day is unbelievably different now than how it used to be “before”. I would not want it any other way.

#2. Sad - Memories can hurt. This day floods memories to my mind of that horrible day….months…year. The pain, the terror of not knowing what happened in my body and if I would even live to see my baby grow, the tears and frustration, the fights with my husband as we tried to find our new selves, and the agonizing nights left alone with my mind! To this day, I still struggle to see myself in a pictures where I am standing up. Memories. Lots of them.

HappyMemories can heal. I remember something my good friend, Jamie Goodwin – who was a “new” friend at the time of this story- told me. She has been a paraplegic for a long time now and she had called me to talk to me and help. I was still pregnant and scared and she was pregnant with her third boy. She said, “You know, Alicia, your little ones will never remember you walking. They will only know you as their mommy in the wheelchair and they will be totally cool with it.” When she said that, I felt like I had just been stabbed in the gut!! But her words stuck with me and I started to think about the memories that I wanted them to have with their “Mommy in a wheelchair.” I didn’t want them to know me as the mom who was depressed and stayed in bed because she didn’t want to face the world. They deserved good memories too. That drove me to a good place. It helped heal a part of my heart that was afraid. I am thankful for that.

#3. Sad - It marks the death of a way of life. Besides just losing parts of your body, you lose part of what made you who you were. There are still things I mourn for. Things in my marriage, things in my hobbies, or things I could do with friends or family. I can adapt a lot, but there are still things I cannot do. Those losses can add up and take a toll on you emotionally. This day sort of just hits a refresh button inside and you mourn these things especially on this day.

HappyIt marks the birth of a new life.  Oh my goodness! There are things that I do now that I never did before! I have been given some amazing opportunities through speaking and traveling, I have a whole new set of friends who are paralyzed like me, I am extremely involved in the spinal cord world nationwide and on a local level in my city, and I have a whole new outlook on life that is nothing like it was before. I could mention so many amazing specific things that are already in place for this year but I will keep this short. It just makes me happy that God is not finished with me and has helped work so many of these things out.

#4. Sad - Realistic reminders that never go away. There is sadness because every day I am reminded of my limitations. A set of steps, sand or rough terrain, the lack of a curb cutout at a sidewalk, no open parking, inaccessible seating or rooms, no handicap stalls…I could go on and on. The sadness of this day follows us every day of our lives in these areas. We can’t box them up and put them away until next year.

HappyRealistic challenges that can be learned or changed! These reminders have spurred so many people with disabilities to make wonderful and productive changes in our communities. While learning personal wheelchair skills can be very helpful in facing these reminders head on, it is important to do for those who can’t. This is where advocacy is so important. I love what my friend, Casey Schaffer, is doing as Ms. Wheelchair KY. She is challenging the mayors of small rural towns to get in a wheelchair and navigate their communities to see first hand the challenges that must be fixed. Love it! Our struggles are helping others. That makes me happy.

#5. Sad – Daily struggles. The daily is where it can get rough at times. The truth is, I can’t believe I have made it to 6 years already! I used to cry thinking about getting through the day! If you would have asked me if I could have handled 6 years of the daily struggle, I would have told you that you were crazy. I would never make it!! But I have. Every single part of your day is hard. Very doable, but so hard compared to what it was. Turning over, getting up, bathrooming and showering, transferring, getting in and out of our cars, bathroom accidents, constant nerve pain, neck pain, shoulder pain…pain is sort of a common theme in our day! You watch others do it with such ease and you get a wave of jealousy! You think of it very often, but today, you just think about it a little longer.

Happy – Daily struggles. The daily is rough because it shows me my deficiencies every single day. The beauty in this, is that my limitations and pain show me a true picture of myself before the Lord. I am weak, I am not able, I am hurting without Him. The big picture of my life is drawn out by the daily sketches. In these sketches, I am shown how I daily need the Lord’s strength. I have found my weakest moments to be the times when the Lord’s presence and help was the strongest. I am so touched that Jesus cares that much for me. Nothing I suffer can compare to what He suffered for me because He loved me. It makes me happy to know that in my suffering, I have been drawn closer to His fellowship. 

#6. Sad - These same emotions that hit me this way every year.

Happy – These emotions mean that I am alive to have them! I pray to have many more of these anniversaries. I am so thankful for God’s gift of life He has still chosen to grant to me.

It’s okay to be sad and happy on this day. Even though it fills me with a cocktail of emotions, the balance between sad and happy is a good thing. I don’t want to ever forget the journey that God has placed me on as it has been a remarkable teacher. 

Thank you for sharing these years with me!

Why I Don’t Like What My Husband Writes

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I have a problem. For some time now, my husband has been blogging almost every Tuesday morning about the danger in our Independent Baptist churches. I have grown up Independent Baptist. My husband grew up in a little country Southern Baptist church. I went to an Independent Baptist college. My husband went to the University of Tennessee. We met and married in an Independent Baptist church. We have always served in an Independent Baptist church. I was bred an Independent Baptist while my husband chose to become an Independent Baptist in college. All of my siblings attend an Independent Baptist church. Most of our friends either attend or pastor an Independent Baptist church. So, I am well aware and conversed in the practices and methods of the Independent Baptist.

My husband started telling me years ago, not long after we were married, that he worried for the Independent Baptists. He is a well-read man of great books by men of old. He has watched the timeline of history through the pages of wise men of yesteryear. He was greatly burdened for our generation and the general attitude among us. The more he talked to me about it, the more scared I got. Did he know that if he became vocal that we would lose friends? That we would be black-balled and rejected? Did he know that we would be called liberal and compromisers? Did he know that people would gossip behind our backs and would stoop to even making things up as long as it would validate their position that we were rebel rousers? Did he not know that he would be told he was a rebel for even bringing up an issue to discuss? Rebels never question. If we started questioning things in our own world, we were done for! I know. I have seen and heard these types of things all my life. I knew what happened to people if they spoke their hearts.

A couple of years ago, he started blogging about his concerns. I facetiously told him it would be better if we just skipped the whole process and just went ahead and committed the cardinal sin and left our Independent Baptist world, than to endure the journey we were about to embark on. But he loves being an independent Baptist (little i). He loves our history. He loves that we answer directly to the Lord Jesus Christ. He loves that there is an emphasis on the literal word of God and its final authority in our lives. He loves the autonomy of the local church. He loves that we do not have to get permission or support financially anything thing that as a local assembly would grieve our conscience. He loves that we have soul liberty and the priesthood of the believer. He loves the emphasis on missions. He loves being an independent Baptist and the historical path that those before us have walked to obtain this independence. As much as he loves it, he does not love the direction that he sees us going. It has him on high alert.

This brings us to my problem. I don’t like what he writes. I don’t like the idea that people are going to be upset at us. I don’t like knowing that those I love think we are off the deep end. I don’t like people thinking that my husband is feeding rebels. I don’t like him blogging about the bad things of our own. I don’t like that he can’t seem to see the sunshine and roses part, but can only see the pits and thorns along the path. I don’t like that he has to be the one to say these things! Isn’t it just safer to sit in our house, and read what others are writing about this? Isn’t it better if we just talk in the privacy of our room, knowing that we agree with that author but never having to stick our neck out there? Wouldn’t it be better to just carefully share every now and then a blog we read instead of being the one to write it?!! My man hates confrontation. Why did he pick this? Can you see where I am coming from? See why I don’t like what my husband writes?

I sit and muse on this. I have argued with him on a few occasions. That man loves me more than anyone or anything in this world and I can talk him into a lot of things, but I have never been able to get him to quit writing on this stuff. I am always in agreement with what he says, it’s just the posting of it!! You know, the part where everyone will then know!! He always tells me that he is sorry. He loves me, but he knows that God has made it clear to him to try to help salvage and repair the walls of our movement that have been broken down by pride, hypocrisy, deceit, arrogance, man-worship, and a leaving of God’s Word to follow the traditions of men.

As I thought about the voices of the past that were used as a warning, I figured something out. I don’t like what my husband writes because I don’t want to be the one to make a sacrifice for truth. I want someone else to do that for me. Oh, I want all the perks of the politics. I want invited to other churches. I want my husband to get to preach in big meetings. I want others to be pleased with us and our service to God. I want all the political kisses, head patting’s, and tail wagging coming our way. I don’t want to have to feel unpleasant when you enter a room knowing that you will be talked about as soon as you leave it. Am I willing to drown on a sinking ship just so I don’t have to be the bearer of bad news that it’s going down? Am I willing to be the one to let others be mad at for now? If we all worked together, the ship may not sink at all!! If all hands are on deck and bailing out the water that is bogging us down, we don’t have to drown! The ship can be repaired!

I wonder what they thought of John the Baptist - the solo crier in the wilderness to prepare the way for Jesus Christ. I wonder what they thought of Daniel – the man who prayed knowing they were watching him. I wonder what they thought of Moses – demanding that they let God’s people go. I wonder what they thought of Jonah – preaching repentance or doom. I wonder what they thought of Paul- declaring that there was only one true God. I wonder what they thought of Stephen – who alone told the story of God’s redemption in the very court room that demanded his execution. I wonder what they think of the hundreds who at this very time of our history are being murdered for their faith in other parts of the world. Individual voices that shape the course of history.

I wonder why in the world I have a problem. Hiding from truth does not make it false. It is still truth. Not identifying with truths that I hold in my heart do not make it all better. Ask Nicodemus. He was a silent Christian – sneaking around after dark to talk to Jesus so that no one would see him and label him. It took the crucifixion to shake him up and bring him out of hiding. It became very personal and so he had to do something then. He boldly asked for the body of Christ. I have a problem because I care more about what people think of me in the here and now, then I do in the big picture of our spiritual health. Shame on me.

Many are speaking up. Many have decided that it is personal because it involves our families and our children. Many feel that we live in a time that opinionated pettiness has no place, and the Word of God has power and can change lives! Many feel that it is time to get our eyes off of the pastor and back on Jesus.

I still don’t always like what he writes. Sometimes I look forward to them like a trip to the doctor. But, I know they are necessary. I know that if I care about the future of my children and grandchildren taking seriously what God’s Word truly says, then it must start with my willingness to be examined if I am following God or a set of man-made traditions. A regular, detailed examination leads to catching diseases before they are deadly.

I am glad my husband has stayed true to what God has called him to do. I am glad that he loves our independent baptists enough to try to help heal it. Sometimes a wound must be scraped of infection before it will ever heal. Sometimes a limb must be lost to save a body. I am glad he has cared more for the approval of God than the politics of the brethren. I am glad God is using him and men like him to stand strong in the admonition of the Lord. I am honored to be his wife!

Jimmy’s Independent Baptist Truth Revolution Series

Stages of Grief: Stage 4 – Depression

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This week’s topic is one I am leary to write about. Depression can be a hot topic. It can range from those who think depression can be remedied with the snap of a finger to those who are left in utter despair and feel it is better to end their lives. Both of these ways are harmful. It is a stage of grief after a life altering trauma and so we must discuss it.

There are different types of depression. There is post-partum depression where a females hormones are out of whack after having a baby. She can have depression until things balance out again. There is seasonal depression where the days are shorter and the sunshine less and some can have trouble during these times with some depression. There is a major depression disorder where you feel depressed and completely disinterested in life for 2 weeks or more. When this stretches into a very long time – 2 years or more – it is chronic and called Dysthymia. The last type of depression is called adjustment disorder with depressed mood. We will talk more of this particular one.

When something life changing occurs in your life, the “depression” stage of grief can have 2 kinds of depression. Almost everyone of us will deal with the adjustment disorder, and some go on to chronic depression. It is my personal belief, that having to learn to adjust is a process, but allowing yourself to fall into a pit of chronic depression is completely avoidable. I pray for gentleness and compassion to discuss this.

Let me clarify that depression can occur in people who have not gone through any life-altering changes at all. Life could be great and for some reason, they are just depressed. This may have to do with hidden problems, guilt, childhood baggage, chemical imbalances or a slew of unknowns. I am not really discussing about this. I am specifically dealing with depression as a stage of grief because of a great loss.

I cannot speak for everyone. I can only speak for myself and what I have gone through.

After you have gone through the denial part (I am going to get better….this is going to go away….they cannot really be dead…), after we get angry (how could I have…why didn’t the doctor…how could they have been so stupid…why didn’t I...), after we bargain and plead (God, if you will…..then I will….), after all these things we are left looking at reality. You see, no matter how much I deny, no matter how angry I get or bargain and plead and blackmail, the reality is that the reality has not changed. I am still paralyzed. For you, it may mean that your spouse is still sick. It may mean that you cannot bring that child back to life. It may mean that you are going to die and you know it. None of our realities have changed. We can cry and kick and scream and act out all we want, but the reality is the reality. As you are faced with that, you better believe that you will go through an “adjustment period with a depressed disorder.” I mean really? Are we suppose to jump up and say, “I am SO happy that my life just turned upside down!”

As we stare squarely in the face of reality, and realize what our future is, we are at a crossroads. There is a MAJOR choice that must be made. Right here. Right now. We are either going to move on to the last stage in our cycle of grief, or we are going to bog down completely and go into chronic depression. Let me remind you that this does not only happen to the individual. It also can happen to the closely involved family member – spouses, children, etc.

It is completely natural to wonder how you will go on. It is completely natural to need time to process your feelings and emotions. It is completely natural to feel like your world has stopped while everyone else’s is moving on. It is completely normal to need time for our hearts to catch back up with the reality of our life. It is NOT normal to not move forward in the process. It is harmful.

There is a major decision that has to be made. Am I going to continue with the despair I feel about my reality? Or am I going to move on and come to terms with my new way of life? A friend of mine who was paralyzed from falling out of a tree stand said it like this, “I realized very quickly that there was nowhere else to go but up.” There is a lot of truth in that. You can either start climbing back up, or you can stay down.

For me, I don’t like being down. As I stared into my future it was…and still is at times…very overwhelming. But when I looked around me at my precious family, I did not want to stay down. They needed more than that from me. It felt very selfish for me to think more about my feelings about my future than about their feelings about our future. My family needs me to be the best I can for them. Someone once said that depression is the deepest form of self-pity. There may be exceptions to that statement, but I believe there is much truth in it. Whether it is self-pity over my true circumstances, or self-pity that I have to be the one to go through them, it is still self-pity and selfishness. Selfishness runs away those who love you. If you think being in your circumstance is hard, just try going through it all alone.

My challenge for you, my readers, is that if you are going through this stage of grief to not allow yourself to bog down here. If you know someone going through this, give them some time. All of us need time to adjust. Just help encourage and remind them that they are loved and are not on this journey alone.

*If you are struggling with depression and need a friend, please write me and let me know! I would love to encourage you!

Stage 1 – Denial

Stage 2 – Anger

Stage 3 – Bargaining

Emotional Vertigo

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Have you ever listened to SO many voices that your head spins? I am trying to figure out what is what and who is who and where I fit in this picture. I look around me and see so many things that need people with a passion and a heart to just please commit to! Then, I look inside me and my home and I see so many things that need people with a passion and a heart to just please commit to! In both of those scenarios I am there!

Truth is, in life, I expect this clear distinct line to crisply and cleanly define first priorities from second priorities. But it isn’t like that at all. It is more like a scribbled wobbly road straight from K4! Riding that road can make me a little woozy too!

Sometimes, I just sit there with my head spinning. A lady in my church tells me I cannot save the world. She is right. But then a friend tells me that God is using my life to help so many others. I pray she is right. My husband tells me that he could not imagine pastoring his church without me next to him in the saddle. I pray I can always be a blessing to him. My kids have needs and desires from me and they are for sure my top priority! I see other disabled wives, moms and friends who need support and encouragement and ask me to please keep leading the way. Where did that line go?

As I frantically chase to stay on the line….the balance between what I can do vs. what I should do….I develop emotional vertigo.

Have you ever had vertigo? I don’t mean feeling dizzy. I mean full blown vertigo. When you have vertigo, you can’t walk. You can’t sit up. You can’t even move your eye balls!! Your balance is SO off, you feel like you are on a sickening merry-go-round that won’t let you off. It is horrible. Once when I had it, a lady in my church who suffered much from it, told me some good advice. She said, “When everything is spinning, try to focus your eyes on one object and just hold them there. It is not easy but just keep focusing on that one object. Everything will slow down and ease up.” Sure enough! She was right!

I have found that when I have a case of emotional vertigo, if I just stop…and listen for that still small voice…and keep my eyes focused on Jesus….everything calms down.

Last year, I was completely overwhelmed with homeschool. NOT because it wasn’t a priority, but because I have 6 children – one of which was starting high school, one who was starting kindergarten, and 2 who were still not reading because of dyslexia. I knew I was going to do more damage to my children trying to continue in that direction. The Lord opened up a door and we went through it. It has been a tremendous help and blessing to us. You can read more of that story here. That was a head spinning time. I spent many a night praying and asking the Lord to please show us the right way. He did. This year, I have already had to make some more major decisions and I have another one facing me. He has led. He will lead again.

I do not believe that we can always know the line. If we did, we would not need Jesus to guide us. It is not the straight roads that have me questioning a driver’s abilities. It is the curvy, scary ones. It is not the easy seasons of life that challenge my trust in the Lord. It is the scary ones.

There is no real trust unless there is a real test of that trust.

Sometimes, I need to add something in my life because God is stretching me in service to others. Sometimes, I need to delete something in my life because God knows that it is a direction and not where I am needed the most.

I do not know the line or the path of my life, but God does. I do not know what to add or delete, but God does. I do not know if I am doing too much or too little, but God does. My head spins when I try to figure all these things out before it is my time to know.

Philippians 2:13 says, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” God is still in the working business in my life. He will continue to guide me as He always has.

Emotional vertigo has a cure. Just keep focusing on Jesus. He will guide you one day at a time, one decision at time, just as He always has. Take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay.

Stages of Grief: Stage 3 – Bargaining

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I just got off the phone a little while ago with a lady who talked with me about this series of blog posts. She was so encouraging to me and shared how the last post on anger really helped her to not feel alone. She said that she and her husband have dealt with this since his stroke 5 years ago. I write because it is therapeutic to me to try to help others. Maybe it is selfish, because I am always helped every time I try to help someone else. She was thanking me, but do you know what? I was helped by her!! She and her husband have been married for 55 years and have had a wonderful marriage, but the loss of his health has greatly impacted both of them and they are both grieving. It helps to know you do not journey alone on the road of grief.

Although grief is listed in stages, and I definitely see the pattern, it is not set in bounds. The initial stages are intense and dramatic and you remember them! However, though you may be past the initial stages, they can and do return at times. Maybe not as strong, and maybe not as overwhelming because you can identify them, but they do cycle in and out of your life. Not all of them in order or at once, but one or two of the stages will recur throughout your life.

I would say that most of the recurrences are circumstantial. Anger might pop up on a day I really have a project I want to get done but I can’t reach it or get down in the shed to find my missing tools. That anger is sometimes at my paralysis and sometimes it is at my family. “WHO lost my hammer?!!!” A lecture ensues because I am angry that I physically cannot look in all the places where it should be. They should be responsible with my tools, however, the lecture could do without the anger. I know where the anger comes from.

I just want us all to understand that just because you “get through a stage” does not mean you will never face it again. I also don’t want to sound like Debbie Downer! I don’t think this is a discouraging thought, because there is strength in knowledge. If you know that you may face these things at times, then you will be more prepared to handle them correctly.

We have already talked about denial and anger, so today we are going to move to the next stage. Bargaining.

Recently, my children and I watched Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken. I LOVE that movie! It is the story of Lenora, a circus horse-diving girl who hit the water with her eyes open and detached her retinas. She became permanently blind. In the first months, she kept telling her fiancé that it was temporary. The scene where they argue and he finally takes her by the shoulders and tells her it is permanent always leaves me very teary-eyed. She finally lays her head on his chest and says softly, “I know.” You feel the knife in her gut right along with her. I’ve been there. I know that feeling.

The denial is very much gone. The anger has let up. The permanency of it all is settling in. And now we begin to bargain. Bargaining can take on many forms. Questions and conversations haunt us! “Why did I let them drive that night?” “Why didn’t I take it more seriously when they said they weren’t feeling well?” “Why didn’t I notice he was spending more and more time at “the office?” “How could the doctors miss this?” On and on they go. Bargaining with God is also a common scenario.

My mind just rushed to the story of Hannah in the Bible. She was barren and could not have a child. Oh how her heart grieved for a son to give to her husband! There we find her in the Temple bargaining with God. “God, if you will give me a son, I will give him back to you for your service in the Temple.” God did give her a son and she kept her word, but

    what if God doesn’t do what we ask Him too?

I remember once when my younger brother, who is an asthmatic, was very little. He was not breathing well at all and they were going to rush him to a larger hospital in another city. I was about 15 and he was my best little buddy. I thought he was going to die and I was terrified out of my mind. I will never forget watching the ambulance pull away and telling God that if He would please let my brother live, that I would never miss a day of reading my Bible! My little brother lived, but I have missed many times of reading my Bible.

    What if we don’t do what we said we would?

I must stop and talk about bargaining with God. I love to bargain for a good deal. They have the power as the seller and I hold the power as the buyer. They want to make a sale, and I want to buy their product. We have equal balancing power. He won’t take less than what it is worth and I won’t pay more than it is worth. He has the power to say no to my terms and I have the power to say no to his. Bargaining over something makes us equals.

I am

    not

equal with God. He is all powerful. Because of that power, I am even more awed at his love, mercy, care and compassion for me.

I had to learn this. I remember prayers that I prayed that went like this:

“God, if You could have prevented this, then why didn’t you?”

“God, you know I have a bunch of kids. Why would you give them to me and then allow me to become half a woman?”

“God, okay, here’s the deal. You know if you would let me walk again, I could be a much more effective Christian.”

“God, just think of all the glory and praise you would get if I was healed!!”

Are these bad prayers? No, I don’t think so. Does God answer prayer? Yes, He does. Does He have to answer like I want him too? No, He doesn’t. Was Hannah wrong for praying and asking for a son? No. Hannah had already been without a son for a long time. That was not the first time, I am sure, that she poured her heart out to the Lord. Hannah had a request, but she was faithful and trusted the Lord all the other times she prayed and did not get the answer she wanted.

So, is the solution just more prayer? More persistent grieving and bargaining? No, I don’t believe so. When this happens, I get a bad and inaccurate image of God standing in Heaven with his hand to his ear yelling, “I CAN’T HEAR YOU!! Can you plead a little louder?” Or maybe He is laughing at us and saying, “Ask again. Now say pretty please….with a cherry on top…!” No, this is not our God.

God does not need to be convinced or begged. Before I was ever born, He knew the plans for my life and nothing has happened that has caught God by surprise. He has only allowed the things to come to pass in my life that He knew would help mold me into the life that He had already planned for me. God loves us because we are His children. I have children! I know that I cannot grant some of their requests because it would not be good for their life. “Mom, can I quit school?” “Mommy, PLEASE let me play on the road.” I have never had a child that asked for a cavity to be filled. Nope. I know what is best for them because I know more than them. It isn’t based so I can flex my parental muscle. It is based on pure love. I love my crew with all my heart and as much as I love to pleasure them, I just cannot if it is not good for them. “Alicia, how could you walking again be a bad thing that would hurt you?” I don’t know. I also don’t know if it has to hurt me. Maybe God knows more than me. Just maybe God knows the life He has planned for me is much better accomplished in this wheelchair. Maybe it isn’t a maybe. For me, I

    know

God knows best and loves me so I just trust Him. Just as I pray my children will trust me.

No extra faith beyond just a faith in Who God is and as the Master of the universe, He has my life in perfect control.
No extra prayers beyond a prayer of “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. Not my will but thine be done.”
No extra bargaining. Just a simple statement, “Lord, please just use this. Don’t waste what you have allowed.”

How do you get through the bargaining stage? How do you help others get through it? I believe that the truths I just stated bring the ultimate healing. It is what brought mine.

You see, no amount of doctor’s wisdom, or timing, or trying to relive our past will ultimately change one thing. If it is in God’s plan for my life, it will happen.

I need to transition my mind away from trying to change the plan and instead embrace my new purpose.

Try to grasp ahold of this truth. Lead others into this truth. God has a plan and He still does. I may be slow to catch on, but all the pieces of my life are already a beautiful picture to God.

Don’t let the bargaining stage or bad Bible teaching keep you in a stage that should be gone through – not lived in.

Stage 1 – Denial

Stage 2 – Anger

Stage 4 – Depression

Stages of Grief: Stage 2 – Anger

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In this series, we are talking about the stages of grief and how they look in our life or in the lives of our loved ones. I would like to make one thing clear before we go any farther.

Anytime we go through a situation that causes deep grief many people are affected and many will go through these stages of grief.

For example, I got very sick with Transverse Myelitis in 2009 and it left me paralyzed from my ribs down. This has absolutely and profoundly changed my life and it has been a great loss that I have grieved. So, it affected me very much personally. However, although my husband has full function of his body, he has also had his own grief and loss. My paralysis was not in his plans and ideas of our life together. So when we talk about grief and how to identify it in yourself and in others, don’t just think of the one the most closely associated. I know couples that we have talked to that have a disability and at times I have been more troubled and concerned for the able-bodied spouse than I have been for the disabled one. So, be alert to all involved in the grieving process.

Last post, we talked about the first stage of grief which is denial. In this post, we are going to tackle the next stage of grief which is anger. Most of us think of anger as slamming our fist into a wall or bashing a window in. We think of it as a raging temper tantrum! While this is true, anger takes on different forms.

1. Outright Anger

I remember one day when I was newly paralyzed. At that time, we lived in a two-story house. My laundry room was downstairs and I decided that I was going to go down those stairs and do some laundry. I had an extra wheelchair and I told my children to put it at the bottom of the stairs to wait on me. Upstairs, I got myself out of my wheelchair and onto the floor at the top of the stairs. I would throw my legs out in front of me, grab the handrail and sort of plopped my way down those steps. I transferred into my waiting chariot at the bottom of the steps and did some laundry! Success!! I was so proud of myself. Time to go back upstairs. I transferred back to the bottom step. I grabbed the rail and tried to pull myself up to the next step. I could not get my rear to lift at all! I was pulling with all my might. I felt like I weighed 1,000 pounds! Going down steps is one thing. Going up them is a whole new ballgame! I tried this and I tried that. I f…i…n…a…l…l…y got to the next step and was heartsick at how many more I had to go. With each step, I got angrier and angrier at being paralyzed! How easy were the old days when I would bound up those steps with not even a thought! About 45 minutes later, I finally reached the top. I was exhausted. I was angry. While still sitting on the floor at the top of the steps, I grabbed my wheelchair and in one erratic decision decided to hurl it down those stairs praying it would break into a million pieces! As I was about to let it soar, I quickly thought how I would be stranded and that is the

    only

thing that stopped me. That is outright, obvious anger. Someone may cry or shout. Someone may punch or hit. Someone may throw or break something. Someone may lash out hateful or hurtful words. “I don’t need you!”, “Get out of here!!”, “You don’t know what I am going through!!” or “Leave me alone! I never want to see you again!” may be expressions you could here.

Outright anger is hurtful. If you are the one doing it, you know that you have hurt someone else (I do not mean physically hurting another person – that should never be tolerated under any circumstances) and you are now even more angry with yourself. If you are on the receiving end of someone’s outright anger, it is confusing. You know they are angry and probably don’t mean what they say, but they have hurt your feelings very badly and you want to retaliate.

If you feel angry, you need to put your self in a safe zone where you won’t hurt others. There were times, I would get so very frustrated, I would punch my legs. Who cares. I couldn’t feel them anyway. There were times I would go to my shower and cry my head off. I mean a whaling angry cry. There were times I would go outside and just need to breathe. All alone. The key thing is that I did not do any of these things in front of my family. I did not want to hurt them as I came through this process. If your loved needs to be alone to regroup – let them!

2. Subtle Anger

Subtle anger is harder to identify because it comes out in many different ways. I have told the story before of deciding that my housework was too hard and so I took to my bed for 3 days. I did not yell. I did not cry. I just didn’t come out of my room. I wasn’t depressed. I just did not want to see the mess. If I saw the mess, then I had to clean it. When I tried to clean, it was just too hard and not the way it used to be at all. So, I ignored it and hid from it. I got away with it until my husband confronted me and told me that if I was sick he was going to take me to the doctor. If I wasn’t sick, he wanted to know what was going on. I will tell you that by the end of that conversation my anger came out and I almost threw a book at him! I didn’t. :) I knew he was right and I got up. I was angry and it came out by avoiding.

My husband would get so mad at himself if he accidentally bumped me into a wall while pushing me. He was angry at himself for not being able to protect me enough from paralysis. He would get angry if he could not get my clothes on right. I would get angry that he got up in the night with the kids now instead of me. I would get angry if he did not clean the places I could not reach like I cleaned them. I would get angry that he was the one swinging the kids on the playground. He would get angry when their wasn’t a handicapped parking place for me. He would get angry when a family outing that was supposed to be accessible was not. I would get angry when he tried to help me too much. He would get angry when I wouldn’t let him help me enough. All of this anger from two very grieving individuals.

Many people check out of their marriages at this point.

There was much hurt, anger and confusion. We were determined that although it seemed like we were mad at each other a lot, we were committed to one another. We knew we were hurting. We knew we were lost in this strange new world. We knew that no matter how mad we were at one another, we wanted to journey this road together. We clung to the Lord and to each other even when we were angry.

Do you know how most of those anger examples came out though?

    Subtly

. If he bumped me, he would be grouchy for the next hour and I wouldn’t know why. In truth, it was because he felt stupid that he couldn’t drive me without maybe hurting me more. But I didn’t know that. I just knew he was grouchy and I would lash back. If the children cried out in the night and he would jump up to help them, I would lay there and the tears would roll down my cheeks. I would ask for him to bring them to me so I could help him and he would sweetly tell me to go back to sleep and rest – it was fine and he had them settled in. He was being precious and his only desire was to help me. However, my mommy heart was breaking that I couldn’t comfort my child in the night. Instead of telling him what was really wrong, I would turn from him and feel like he was just trying to take my place. It would affect our next day because I felt hurt at him. But in reality, I was grieving over a “mommy” loss and I did not want to be replaced.

This leads to another area where subtle anger rears its head. Believe it or not, it is jealousy. Ask any sibling who lives with a special needs sibling about jealousy. Many times, they struggle being angry at the disabled sibling because they are jealous. The disabled child requires a lot of personal one on one care from the parents and the other children can feel left out and wishing they could get attention like that. I have been jealous of Jimmy. Jimmy has been jealous of me. A close family member told me she was jealous because nobody read her blog and she wished I would stop using my wheelchair to my advantage. These things hurt, but they are just evidence of anger and a grieving process.

Anger can be outright or it can be subtle. Anger can be internal or external. Anger can be aimed at people, objects (my wheelchair) or God. Remember Job’s wife? She has always gotten a bad rap, but my heart goes out to her. She also lost her children, her servants, her wealth, and then her husband lost his health and she became caretaker. Her anger lashed out to Job, but was really directed at God. She looked at Job (who I am sure she hurt with her words) and told him to curse God and die. Ouch. She was a grieving woman and she was angry. Job told her not to talk foolishly. He took the conversation back to God where he knew her real problem was. She did not want Job dead.

What can we do about this stage of grief? I will just offer my advice as one who has learned through trial and error!

1. Communicate

You would think that I would be a wonderful communicator as a writer and speaker. And, on the whole, I do love to communicate with others, but I have a terrible flaw. I have a John Wayne side to me that says I am tough and I will not struggle or complain. I do think we should greatly bridle our struggles and complaints, but I have learned that instead of anger coming out all the little holes of my life, it is better to open the spout and let the water flow from the real channel.

I vividly remember the night that Jimmy went again to check on one of our children in the night. Again, I felt angry. Again, I felt ready to smother my feelings and just give the cold shoulder. However, this time, when he came back in, I let him see the tears. I told him my heart and how it was breaking for my child. I told him that I could not get to their beds, but could he please bring them to me even if just for a kiss so they would know that I cared and was there for them…even if I could not get to them. Jimmy was shocked to know that I had been struggling with this. He was also more than happy to do this for me if it was important.

I had to learn to let him know that when he pushed me in front of people it made me feel like I was an old lady! But, when we were alone and I was exhausted, pushing me was fine. He would not have known those differences if I had not shared my heart. He had to let me know that he had always been a gentleman and enjoyed helping me. A wheelchair made no difference to him. I had to learn that when I didn’t let him help me in front of others, it made him worry that others would think he wasn’t a gentleman to his wife. I didn’t think of it like that at all! Communicating our why’s are very important. Otherwise, we just snap and turn on one another while the deeper reasons stay buried in our pride.

Job didn’t yell at his wife and tell her “just hit the road then if she really didn’t care!” He didn’t sit and cry and say, “How could you say that to me? Don’t you love me?” No. He guided the conversation to the real problem. My hubby has had to do that to me on many occasions, and I have had to do that to him. Truly loving someone means you tough love sometimes.

2. Grace.

I still wish I could talk my husband into spending an entire day in my wheelchair. I want him to “get it.” He always says that watching me gives him a good enough picture to know he wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It wouldn’t work anyway because at the end of the day, he could still get up and walk away from it so he would miss the emotional side. In turn, how could I relate to his side of watching someone you love struggle? How could I do for him all that he does for me? We can never truly relate to how someone else feels.

If we remain in a spirit of competition as to who has it worse, we will forever be attacking one another.

Give grace. I don’t have to know exactly how Jimmy personally feels. He doesn’t have to know exactly how I personally feel. If we have communicated those feelings to one another, than that should be enough for us to extend grace.

In the anger stage of grief, grace must be abundant. We can hold a boundary with others. We can remove ourselves. We can get the conversation to where it really needs to be. But without grace, we will hurt each other wrongly. Grace must extend beyond our comfort zone. Grace understands that all of us struggle. Grace is treating others in their struggle like we would like to be treated in our own. Grace does not enable bad behaviors, but instead remains committed while they find their way to a better place. Grace is not easy nor is it natural and that is why I need God in my life.

I know this has been long, but this is a big deal. I think it is because for the most part, you do get through the anger “stage”, but when deep grief has been a part of your life, it never goes away. You just learn to deal with it and that is why these are stages. At times, grief can rare its head again and you are back in the trenches with it. The dealing time gets shorter but the grief is always there. This is why it is so crucial to learn how to navigate through these waters.

Anger can easily get out of hand. We are to be angry and sin not. I still get frustrated and angry at times over my paralysis, but I know what to do about it to get through it. Job handled his wife correctly because it says he did not sin with his lips. Job and his wife had more children so I know his wife made it through it all okay. We will too. We must learn how to handle our own anger and how to handle it in others. I hope this will at least give a foundation to understanding anger in our grieving process.

I love reading your comments. They encourage me so! Thank you!!

Stage 1 – Denial

Stage 3 – Bargaining

Stage 4 – Depression