News Flash from Special Olympics Provincial Summer Games
I just received a text from Nessa’s parents. She earned her gold in the 50 metre race. No details just a picture of the presentation. Wow. She must have bettered her time. She’s amazing and we’re so proud. I’ve asked her Dad for details. But really it doesn’t matter. She crossed the finish line twice. As my sister Sharon said, in her comment on my blog, “When you’re afraid to take the next step, think of Nessa.” She sure is an inspiration for our family.
Today’s blog is longer than usual. Please read the whole story. It will be worth your time.
Thursday and Friday of this week, Tom and I attended the Special Olympics Provincial Summer Games in Brampton, where our granddaughter, Nessa, age 27, was participating. Over the years, I’ve learned that every Special Olympics is a life-changing experience for family, friends, strangers who come to watch. We had a great time cheering for every athlete in every event, for that is one of the unique things about Special Olympics. Almost immediately the spectator realizes that they are watching monumental courage and determination as even the slowest runner struggles over the finish line. We want to cheer for everyone. We’re there to add our voices, our applause, to the support for each athlete.
We caught the excitement at the opening ceremonies as over 700 athletes and coaches marched in. Their smiles, their cheers, their joy at just being there, lit up the arena. We listened as government officials from every level and the hosts, Peel Regional Police Services, one after another welcomed the athletes and affirmed them for being who they are. By the time Abbamania started the actual entertainment, we were all so pumped that we stood and danced and sang along with the musicians. We had caught the Spirit and we were flying.
Each athlete competes in his or her track event twice. After the initial trial, the athlete’s recorded results, along with their coach’s submitted prediction of their ability in that event, are used to establish the skill level for each competitor. This means that the participants are divided not just by gender and age, but also by ability in their sport. The second trial is the actual competition. The athlete competes against himself as well as others in his ability level (division).
Here is part of Nessa’s story from this three-day sporting event. Nessa participated in four track events. Friday, she ran her first trial for the fifty meter race.
Before I tell you about that race, you need to know a little about our wonderful granddaughter, the angel of our entire family. Besides being developmentally delayed, Vanessa has no depth perception. That means she doesn’t know where her foot will land with every step. I liken it to you or I running down a set of stairs. About halfway down your foot comes hits a step that is two inches deeper or shallower than you expect. Your entire body is jarred. You stumble. Sometimes you fall. It’s a scary experience.
Vanessa experiences that jar every time she steps down on an uneven surface. Not knowing what to expect, she hesitates when she sees a change in surface color or texture, even a crack in the pavement.
Nessa also suffers from anxiety. She’s anxious. She worries. Fear is ever present in her life, particularly fear of falling. We know lots of seniors who don’t like to go out in the winter because they fear they will slip on the ice. Nessa has no choice. If she lets fear control her, she won’t be able to go anywhere. Consequently, when she’s outside, she holds your hand for security. When we walk together, I feel her whole body tremble as she stands at a curb and tentatively reaches out her foot searching for the pavement below. I’ve seen her hesitate when the sidewalk changes to asphalt. In my mind I hear her silent question, “Where will my foot land? Am I going to fall?”
At the track meet, among all those strangers, in that new place, Nessa hung onto someone for every step. On Friday Nessa had to run her fifty metre race all by herself. Her coach, walked with her onto the rubberized track. Once Nessa was settled in her running lane, her coach returned to the sidelines. As Tom described it, Nessa stood there, looking like a young deer caught in a car’s headlights. She listened and waited while a track official explained the rules of the race. Get ready, get set and the gun was fired.
The other seven athletes ran, some very slowly, but they ran. Nessa stood there. Tentatively, she stretched her foot over the starting line. It landed safely, so she took another step, and another, until she was sort of jogging. She continued jogging for about thirty metres. As the fear gradually took over, Nessa slowed to a walk. Every one of us, spectators, volunteers, other athletes started to cheer, “Keep going Nessa, you can do it.” About ten feet from the finish line, she stopped, then tentatively, one painful step at a time, she moved forward until she stepped over that line. We cheered, “You did it, Nessa, you did it.” Tears slip down my cheeks once again as I write this. Once over that line, Nessa stopped and didn’t move until a volunteer came to take her hand. She smiled. She knew she’d done well.
Nessa has to run that race all over again today. Whether she has a faster time, even if she can’t make it over the line doesn’t matter. Friday, she did it. She conquered her fear. She stood there a champion.
At the Special Olympics Summer Games, I experienced courage and determination, not just in our Nessa, but in every athlete, as they overcame their own particular obstacles and made it to the finish line, did the jump, threw the javelin. Of course, those athletes walked back along the fence, with wide smiles and high fives from us the spectators. Of course they cheered themselves, whether they were first or last in the competition. They had challenged their demons and won yet again. For today, they had done their best.
Attending any Special Olympics event is a lesson in courage for living. I recommend you seek one out and go. This kind of competition is a life-changer. I guarantee the experience will transform your perception of your world.
I did it. I did it. I’ve really finished round one. This afternoon, I finished the first serious edit of the sequel to Fireweed. Wow. This was a definite huge rewrite and I’m pleased as punch. Now before I send it to my editor I get to read it through all at once. I’m hoping that will happen tomorrow. I may learn that I have to do serious edit number 2 before I send it off. After all, in her words, the more I refine my manuscript before she gets it, the less work she has to do. Those of us who self-publish know how important that is. Editors are amazing and they need to be paid for their skill.
Now I have hope that maybe, just maybe this book will be ready to publish by November. Wouldn’t that be wonderful. Now, I need a title. A friend suggested I should carry on the plant theme. The working titles so far have been – “One More Step” and “Safe Haven”. Once I googled them, I learned that many many books carry those titles. I need something unique that fits the book. I will pray about it as I reread the manuscript. Maybe you will pray as well. Blessings to you all. Janet
My first piece of great news today arrived on my phone this morning. My wonderful nurse practitioner Melissa Campbell called me herself to give me the news. The report from the ugly weird looking growth the surgeon removed from my chest two weeks ago IS NOT CANCER – NOT ANY KIND OF CANCER – NOT SKIN CANCER, NOT BASEL CELL, NOT ANYTHING HORRIBLE. It can’t grow any bigger because it’s gone. It won’t return. I am so totally blessed. Today, I keep saying, “Thank you, Thank you, Thank you God.” Hallelujah!
I have learned some very important things with this cancer scare. There’s more but here are a few.
There’s nothing better than a doctor who cares. Melissa is a doctor even though society calls her a nurse practitioner and she cares deeply.
I don’t like watching something alien growing on my body.
I am truly committed to having the sequel to Fireweed published. My writing is my ministry.
Last week, during a conversation about kids and sports, a young mom made the following comment, “My child doesn’t like to practice.”
I’ve been thinking about that comment. Sports definitely entail a lot of practice. With team sports, kids practice in groups. They have a coach who gives direction, teaches skills, and usually tries to make it fun, at least when the kids are young. For sure, the children learn that it takes practice to gain enough skill to play the game. They also discover the fun, the support, the strength and the challenge of playing as a team. Solo sports, like skiing and horseback riding, also require practice, instruction that often takes place in a group.
Group practice opens up the opportunity to be challenged and receive praise from your peers. You learn to work as a team even as you learn to accept the uniqueness of skill and personality of each member of the group. Members missing practice are missed by the others. They lose out on opportunities to improve.
We don’t often think about practicing our faith. As in sports, we respect those who have become skillful in living a life of faith. These people find tremendous strength, confidence and wisdom for living because they have a spiritual connection with God. Often these same people are totally committed to caring for others, not just in their church family, but also in the wider community. They appear to have endless energy. How do they do it?
I suggest that faith, like sports, requires practice and self-discipline. When we participate in a church family by coming to worship on Sundays, we are practicing with a group led by a minister or coach. Learning from others, being part of a team, practicing are essential for a strong, healthy faith life. Within the church family, we find support when the going gets tough, together with those who celebrate our successes and grieve with us in sorrow.
Without the coach and our teammates to challenge us and offer new ways, we do not become the best player we can be. Without our church family to challenge our thinking and offer new ideas we do not become the most faith filled person we can be.
Yes, you can teach yourself a sport. Yes, you can learn to play the game, sort of, without practicing with your team. Yes, you can teach yourself about God, sort of. Yes, you can care for others competently without practicing with your church family. But you will miss out on the joy, the opportunities, the support and the growth that can come when you are part of the team. That’s why we gather together as Christians every week at the church. That’s why we practice our faith together. We know that group practice will not make us perfect, but it will push us to grow in faith.
Yesterday Tom and I had a delightful day, celebrating our 14th wedding anniversary. We spent the day surrounded with family. We are truly blessed. Our blended family is an endless source of pleasure and love. We ended the day with granddaughter Ellie’s rugby game and dinner at the Red Lobster. As always, it was delicious, but Shelley, our waitress particularly went the second mile to make sure we were pleased with our anniversary dinner.
This morning we left home early. I needed surgery. The last two months, I have lived with a spot on my chest, growing and changing, while I waited for my turn with a surgeon. Of course, Google showed me pictures of what was actually growing on my body. The doctor did a biopsy. We waited for the report. She called me herself to re-assure me the report said, “not basal cell.” I believed her, but my spot kept growing and changing
My friends and family have prayed and worried with me. Their prayers and their concern have helped tremendously. From this ordeal, and that’s what it has been for Tom and me, I have learned a great deal. First of all, patience and fear require a great deal of energy. I have kept myself even busier than usual in to keep the anxiety at bay. Second, prayer helps. It’s wonderful knowing that others care. Their loving prayer released a strength I needed. Third, I already knew that Tom is wonderful. Over the last two months he has shown me that growing old with him will be the best possible experience. Fourth,my faith keeps me solid. I had no expectation that God was going to just wipe this growth away. I did know in the depths of my heart that God was with me and I would be okay. In the words of the ancient mystic, Julian of Norwich, “All will be well. All will be well. And all manner of things will be well.” No matter what happens.
Today, I celebrated all the way to Lindsay. It was coming off. I could hardly wait. Of course, there was a wait, of over an hour once we got there. I worried the surgeon might be called away to an emergency. But no, like most worries it didn’t happen. Now it’s done. Surgeon thought it was cancer. Has sent it away to be checked. He assured me he got it all and it would not reoccur. Well, I might get a similar type of growth at some point but it would not be related. So now I’m celebrating all the way home.
I am truly grateful. First, to our wonderful country and its medical system. Yes, I had to wait a bit, but I walked into the hospital this morning, had the surgery, walked out and paid nothing. I’m grateful. I willingly pay my taxes for everyone to have this wonderful medical care. Second I’m grateful to Dr. McNab and for his skills. He was kind, gentle and caring and he got it all. Thirdly and most important, I’m grateful to God for all the help over the last two months and for the gift of life. All IS WELL. I am truly blessed. God’s Spirit is “the wind beneath my wings.”
Jesus said, “I will be with you always, even unto the ends of the earth.”
Father’s Day celebrations dominated my thoughts today. I felt called by God to consider my adoptive father. He was a good man, respected, and yet, for many reasons, he and I were not particularly close.
There is a beautiful poem available on the internet titled, “When you thought I wasn’t looking,” (author unknown). When I think about my dad, I need to write a new version of that poem. It goes like this.
“When I Thought I Wasn’t Looking”
When I thought I wasn’t looking, Dad, I experienced you driving my sister and me into town for Sunday School at 9:30 a.m. You then returned to the farm, collected our mom, and returned for the 11:00 worship service. Dad, your commitment to Sunday worship as a family, is a strong part of my faith today.
When I thought I wasn’t looking, Dad, you wrote the cheque and put it in the offering envelope. It lay on the kitchen table every Saturday night, along with our Sunday School offering. Dad, your generosity to the church and its programs is the yardstick by which I measure my own.
When I thought I wasn’t looking, Dad, you planted a garden much too big for our family. You tended it lovingly. At harvest time, you took so much pleasure in eating the tasty vegetables, and just as much in giving them away. Every time I make a salad, I see you with a huge bowl of lettuce sprinkled with salt and vinegar. Dad, your love for your garden has shown me the wonder of God’s beautiful world. A tiny, spindly blueberry plant, baking in the hot sun, produces a whole handful of luscious berries. I take nothing for granted.
When I thought I wasn’t looking at you, Dad, someone crept into your garden and stole your entire crop of cantaloupe melons. I remember the tears in your eyes when you said, “If they’d only asked, I’d have gladly given them all they needed.” I learned from you, Dad, the pain that comes when we steal, lie, or deceive.
These are but a few of the things I learned from my Dad. We learn even when we think we are not conscious of what is happening. On this Father’s Day, I encourage you to go back through your memories. Regardless of who your father is, whether the world identifies him as good or not, there will be things you learned that have been helpful in your life. Give thanks for those things.
Even if you don’t know who your father is, you can give thanks that his DNA is part of you. Fathers, like mothers, have given us life.
When I thought I wasn’t looking, my dad taught me lots.
In our country today, there is a large group of people who declare that they are “spiritual but not religious”.
Over the last few years, I have endeavoured to understand this category. When I question those who are spiritual but not religious, they tell me that they do believe in a power, a source of all that is, that is bigger than anything we humans can muster. They add that they are just not interested in attending church or following any religious traditions. They also tell me that they certainly believe in caring for others. I know that to be true because I have experienced them as generous, caring, loving responsible citizens.
As we continued to talk, I have learned that the spiritually but not religious, feel they might need the church for weddings, and maybe funerals. Often they enjoy yoga, or pickle ball, or musical presentations, or quilting or other activities that are held in the church, Occasionally, they end up volunteering in a church sponsored program like the local food bank, or children’s program. My conclusion has been that those who are spiritual and not religious usually see the church building, minister and congregation minister as useful.
This morning, I’m aware that this assumption that the church, supported and manned by other people, will continue to be there even unto the end of the age, may one day be false. As Christians we know that our precious church family, requires our time, our commitment, our gifts. We know God is the foundation of our church family, and yet God is not limited to churches. God already works all over the earth. As our population ages, church workers are becoming fewer and fewer. Without the help of the broader community, your local huch may disappear, as many have over the last few years.
Therefore, if the spiritual but not religious want the presence of “the church” in their community, now is the time to help, with their, time, talents and even their dollars.
Our God is a God of relationships. Jesus gathered a group of friends around him. He was not a solitary person. He knew the support, and joy that comes when a purpose is shared, when we weep together, and when we celebrate together. We, Spiritual and religious people know from experience that we don’t want to miss out on all the advantages of our religious community. So once again we offer an invitation, “Come, join our communities spread throughout this beautiful world. Come. We want you with us. We need you with us. We will share all that we have and all that we are as church communities. We are ready to receive you. Together we can offer love, caring, life cycle rituals, spirituality. Our faith is not meant to turn you away. Together we believe that God, the Creator, that great power of new life, is will us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God.
“Twoarebetterthanone, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken….”
As we tear around every day caring for others, fulfilling our responsibilities, we often forget to nurture our own souls. In her book, “Glimpses of Grace,” Madeline L’Engle tells us she brings peace to her soul on long walks in the woods, soaking in the sunshine and sitting on her favourite rock. My daughter, who lives a crazy busy life with heavy responsibilities, spent hours last weekend preparing her flower gardens for spring. “It’s fun, Mom,” she said. “It gives my spirit a rest.” Peace, energy, joy come to me when I lose myself in my writing. Soul nourishment is unique to each of us and requires intentionality.
Rather than trying to add one more task to your schedule, consider weaving self-care into the midst of your daily living. While waiting in the car for children, husband, friend, read a reflection on peace, or listen to your special music. Turn those few minutes of impatience and frustration into mini retreats. Transform daily routine tasks by letting your mind drift back to a family story that has brought laughter. Take time to pray at meals, when you get up, before going to bed. Eventually, you may even be able to write into that busy schedule a little “me time,” a half hour walk, a soak in the tub, a whole hour of reading.
Intentional self-care prevents burn-out. You control your schedule. You want to be able to care for family, friends and maybe even strangers for many more years. For the next week, try being your own best friend. Take action every day to nurture your soul. Sit in your favourite chair with a special snack, go for a walk to a restful place, listen to music that brings comfort, laugh with a friend or a child. You know what brings you peace. Care for yourself, and you will add goodness and joy to this troubled world.
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. “(Matthew 1:35)