I have been so behind on blogging and now I feel I have way too much to blog about! However, the blessings from the Lord just keep pouring in and I want to share them and some thoughts that have been in my head scary huh?). I hope I can remember everything I need to say!
Blessing #1 – The Crown Bible Conference
This was such a wonderful encouragement for me. Jimmy had asked me if I still wanted to go to the Bible Conference this year. I told him that I was really nervous about it and that I wanted to hide but I know I cannot do that the rest of my life and I have no intention of doing that, so I decided to go and get it over with!! I knew that if I did not go, I would regret it so bad. Jimmy said that he was leaving it up to me but he was glad I decided to go. He thought it would be good for me. Boy, was he right! I was happy to see and talk to Pastor and Mrs. Sexton. They had been writing me and encouraging me for a few months prior to the paralysis and they asked for me to get there and see them before I ever became paralyzed. Janie and Jeanene had also decided to come in this year and we had all made plans to be together for a couple days. When I knew I would be coming but in a wheelchair (which had not been in the original plans) I told them I did not want to sing at the Conference. They said that was fine and we would just enjoy being together. Jimmy said to me “If Pastor Sexton sees you girls together, he will ask you to sing.” I said, “Well, I will tell him no. I am not ready for that.” Jimmy said “Are you sure?” I said, “YES!!” So, sure enough, Pastor saw us and said “Girls, you are going to sing right?” Janie and Jeanene just looked at me real pitifully like “we want to but Alicia said we couldn’t”.:) I said, “Pastor, I can’t get up there to sing.” He said, “Oh, we will take care of that. That’s nothing. You need to sing.” So, I very calmly said “Okay.” After he walked off I said to the girls, “What am I doing?!!!!! I told you I was going to say no!!” So, we sang. I was a nervous wreck as we were going to get up there but once we were in place, the Lord made me very calm and I was glad to be singing with old friends in our favorite place to sing. That experience really was good to push me out of my comfort zone a little and move forward. I have learned that those moments have helped me go further although they are very uncomfortable at first. I will address this thought later. Of course, I always enjoy seeing everyone at the conference and catching up with dear friends. Our family always enjoys the time spent with Mark and Stephanie Fowler and their girls. They graciously host our large family and we lose much sleep talking and laughing the nights away.
Got this picture off of Faith For The Family – I hope this is allowed!!
I found this old picture of us in college days. We were singing at Jeanene’s dad’s church for the week-end and we decided that we needed a picture posing like all the famous southern gospel groups. I think we had to take about 10 pictures before we got one where we weren’t cracking up laughing. How the pro’s do it I’ll never know!:)
Blessing #2 – Angela’s Pictures
While we were in TN for the Bible Conference, Angela Pepin had written and asked if she could get together with us and take the kids picture. Could she?? I was thrilled! I was very touched when she told me that she could pray for me, and she was, but her pictures were something that she felt she could do for me to be an encouragement to me. I thought that was so sweet and thoughtful. I have since seen the pictures and she was right. There is no greater thrill than, as a mother, seeing your children’s personalities captured in beautiful photography. I cannot wait for them to get back from the printer’s so I can work on the wall collage that I am putting together. Then, I will see them every day and thank God for precious friends who unselfishly give of their time and talents to be an encouragement to one another.
Blessing #3 – Spending Time With Family
After the days at the Bible Conference, we were able to spend an afternoon with my parents and go to church with them. Both sets of my grandparents were there and that was so nice to see them. Then we went to Jimmy mom and dad’s for a couple of days which is a Bible Conference/Spring tradition. We all enjoy the tranquility of the farm to refresh for a couple of days every spring. Of course this year was different for me and once again I was nervous about seeing all the family for the first time. But again, the Lord came through and I was very relaxed and comfortable around every one. That says a lot about our families also, to be able to make me feel like everything was almost normal. Jimmy got the 4-wheeler out at his dad’s to ride the kids – which is our favorite farm toy! He told me that he wanted to take me on a ride and I was all for it! When we got on, we remembered that all of the gears and breaks were on the handle and nothing was on the floor. This made me anxious to ride it by myself which I did a good while and took the kids on rides. That was so much fun but it made me crave driving again very badly. And really, made me very sad that I couldn’t drive anymore. It was one of those things that I had tried not to dwell on because it leads to self-pity but after riding the 4-wheeler and feeling that freedom again, it was a lot harder to get the thoughts out of my head which leads to blessing #4.
Blessing #4 – My Car!!
After was got back home and settled in, I started researching how I could drive again. I read about hand controls, watched YouTube videos of people getting in and out of cars by themselves with no help, putting their wheelchairs in the car and getting them out and doing what they wanted to do without having to be dependent on someone else. Have I mentioned that I hate having to depend on someone for all of these things?:) So, after I looked at the different hand controls and realized how expensive they were (around $1300 to get them and have them installed), I decided to look on Ebay and see if you could buy the hand controls for cheaper and then have them installed somewhere. My very first search on Ebay for “hand controls” brought up hand controls, but also brought up 3 vans and 1 car. I looked at the car, read about it, and knew it was the car for me. It is a 1999 Eighty-eight Olds, but it only had 33,000 miles on it and had been a one owner. The other thing, was that it was only 4 hours away from us here in Ohio. The original owner had been handicapped and ordered the car brand new with hand controls on it already. After researching and calling a few people about the car, we bought it and Jimmy picked it up that week. I felt like a 16 year old getting their license!! I could not wait to drive again! I actually had not been driving (with the exception of going to Wal-Mart once in a blue moon because it is less than a mile from my house) for about 7 months. The reason being that several time I would go to hit the brake pedal and my foot would just simply not move. This, obviously, does not make for very safe driving. So, I had not been driving and did not want the kids with me if I did. I had already been missing driving and then the paralysis made it seem so much more final that I may really never drive again that it was very sad for me. Having said all that, I have loved having my car. My Jimmy hates buying cars and he was so excited to get this car for me. He said he felt like he handed me back part of my life that had been taken away and since he isn’t able to do that for most things, he said it was very exciting for him. He has pretty much let me go and do what I want and hasn’t griped a bit. I think I have volunteered for every errand that needed to be ran!!:) The hand controls have become second nature to me and it is a great way to stay popular with children. They think it is the coolest thing they have ever seen – well, that along with playing in the wheelchair!!:)
Blessing #5 – Our Ladies Banquet
I have been so busy the past month preparing for our annual ladies banquet. This is a big deal around here and it has become a tradition for Mark and Stephanie Fowler to come in for the week-end. She speaks at our banquet on Friday night, we all hang out and have fun on Saturday, and he preaches for Friend Day on Sunday. We have kept this tradition for 4 years in a row now and we look forward to their visit every year. We had around 80 women this year and was the largest we’ve ever had. I am going to have to say this again, but I was nervous as things had to be a little different this year (for example, I could not get up on the stage like I normally would) but it all worked out well. I think this is the best year we have ever had – for the banquet and for Friend Day. We have outgrown our banquet facilities and will have to think of a different location next year. One of the most encouraging things to me was that there were 3 Pastor’s wives that are my friends that came this year. None of them had ever been to the banquet and this year they all came. This was the shot in the arm that I needed. Cassie Brown, whose husband pastors in Portsmouth, OH came and brought 5 ladies. She and 2 other ladies sang for us that night and did a beautiful job. Mrs. Suzie Montgomery, whose husband pastors in Chilicothie, OH, came and brought her daughters and a lady from her church, and Mrs. Tammy Palotta, whose husband pastors in Wartburg, TN came and brought 13 ladies with her. As a Pastor’s wife, I was so encouraged by their love and support of me by coming to the Banquet. I hope they make it a tradition to come every year!! Stephanie taught a wonderful devotion on being fashioned by God and had made paper dolls and accessories on her Cricut machine. The ladies had a lot of fun putting them together while Stephanie compared what they were doing with a spiritual application. It was a wonderful evening filled with music, funny skits, great catered food, and feasting on God’s Word and godly music. It couldn’t have gone any better and my heart is refreshed from it. Saturday we enjoyed the day with Mark and Steph and she and I enjoyed playing with her Cricut machine and making some things for the church walls and nursery. Sunday was a wonderful day and Mark did a great job preaching. He is always such an encouragement to Jimmy and to our church. We rejoice in the godly friends that the Lord has allowed us to have.
Blessing #6 – Jimmy’s Missions Trip
Although Jimmy left today, and will be gone for 2 weeks, this is still a tremedous blessing to us that he can go on this trip. He went to Kyrgyzstan to work with Daniel and Christina Norton. Jamin Boyer went with him and they have been like 2 little boys planning this trip. Originally, Jimmy wanted to cancel this trip because he did not want to leave me. The first 2 weeks of being paralyzed, I had my own doubts about it simply because I did not know how I could do certain things without him truly picking me up and helping me. But, as I learned more that I could do on my own, I became convinced that he needed to go and began to persuade him to go. I knew we would be alright. He agreed and went forward. The reason this is a blessing to he and I, is that so many people have been such a blessing to us, financially, prayerfully, physically, spiritually, and on and on, that this is a way we felt we could be a blessing to someone else for a change. Our prayer is that he can be a blessing to the missionaries while being there and helping them in their work, and I can be a blessing by supporting and encouraging him 100% so that he will not fret about me and be hindered in the work God would have him to do. We are thankful that the Lord has provided for him to go. The children and I will miss him but we know He is where God wants him to be for the next 2 weeks and we are going to hold down the fort for “daddy” until he gets back. They are all excited to help mommy and I am blessed to have such sweet little children that enjoy being a blessing to us.
Blessing #7 – Our Baby
We are so thankful that the Lord is protecting our little unborn blessing. Elisha Maclaren Reagan is due August 4 but they will deliver him early because they do not want me going into labor for fear that I won’t feel it. I have had a lot of questions about my pregnancy and the delivery and how this pregancy is going with me being paralyzed. Instead of me answering all of these here, I have a “new” friend the Lord has brought along my path who is paralyzed and pregnant (we are just a couple weeks apart) and she wrote it all so accurately that I will just send you to her post. I couldn’t have said it any clearer, I am thankful that the baby is healthy and we are on the path to a near normal delivery. Here is the link to Jamie’s sight and you really ought to read it real quick.http://jamiegoodwin.wordpress.com/2009/05/18/paralyzed-and-pregnant/
Having said all of these blessings, and returning to a thought that I had mentioned earlier, is the thought of all of us being stretched out of our comfort zones. I know this has become realistic to me physically, whether it is singing again in front of crowds and feeling like a spotlight is on my wheelchair (which it is not), or being around people for the first time and still trying to be “Alicia” but knowing that I am newly defined somewhat, or getting in and out of a vehicle in a parking lot and wondering who is watching, to wheeling around a store and everything now being to high to reach or see and literally trying to stretch until you can stretch no more just to see what is on the shelf or to pay with your debit card, to figuring out how to get in someone’s house who has no ramp and only steps, to getting in and out of bed or rolling over in bed, or taking a shower and trying to do a simple task of shaving your legs, or just get dressed, or trying to put shoes and socks on, or open a door and getting out of the way so you can get the door opened at the same time, or not being able to reach your stove top or sink or anything in your upper cabinets, to going up the stairs backwards on your rump and lifting your body step by step, to getting back in your wheelchair from the floor, to physical therapy to keep my legs from getting stiff, and I could go on and on. The point is not that I am complaining. The point is that these challenges have made it possible that I have had to push beyond what was normal for me to be able to continue to move forward in my life. This has not been comfortable and I assure you it has not been easy, but it has been good for me. The only other option is to stay inside, in bed and act like life is over. I have realized though, that my arms are a lot stronger, my will is more determined, my spirit is stronger, and I have been able to meet each challenge and slowly conquer them one by one. Not like I used to, but in a new way. These challenges have stretched me as an individual and made me stronger and better.
Now, spiritually, I have not been able to get off my mind the fact that as Christians, we have all got set in our little comfort zones and we are not willing to be stretched any further. We have stagnated our lives spiritually, because we will not allow ourselves any temporary uncomforts that would really help us in the long run to be stronger Christians. So, we stay in our weak and comfortable little spots. That may be fine but don’t expect great things from God in your life and in your influence if you are not willing to be stretched farther for him.
Practically, how does this apply? What about attending church faithfully? Even Sunday School and Wednesday evenings? What about volunteering for something – like the nursery, or sunday school teacher or helper, or join the choir, or make a nursing home visit or something. Maybe it is to start a devotion time with your children or reading your Bible and praying faithfully. Something. My challenge to you would be to stop right now, and think of something, or maybe the Lord has already been working on your heart that you need to be stretched somewhere in your life and you already know what it is, but decided right now that you will allow the Lord to stretch you. I promise you, whether it is physically or spiritually, being stretched farther than you are comfortable with always ends up positively and you will be thankful in the long run.