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.
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.
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)
Every morning I begin my day with prayer for my family and friends. Today it seems as if young people, including my grandchildren, need special prayers. Life lacks security. Temptation comes clothed in respectability. There are so many choices. Around it all, there is the internet, social media, the web. Sometimes I think calling it a net is so apt. It can feel like a spider’s web, with we humans fulfilling the role of the fly. I would like God to remove all the temptations, all the struggles for each of my precious teenage grandchildren. Smooth the road, please God, is my plea.
Breakfast over, I often need to drive somewhere. I maneuver around the potholes. My car bounces over the rough spots. I’m aware that regardless the amount of money, machinery, time or work hours spent on our road network, our marvelous smooth roads eventually develop potholes. Heavy traffic in our rugged Canadian winters means that our roads require constant fixing. The best we can do to ensure a safe journey is to keep our own cars in good repair. Be careful, confident, knowledgeable drivers, and use wisdom when choosing our route and speed. In the end, we must trust in God to enable us to deal with whatever happens.
I’m thinking we need to follow the same rules in living our lives, whether we’re teens, seniors or in-between. We can keep our bodies in good repair by eating healthy, exercising, and resting. We can live with care and confidence, using the knowledge we gain as we mature to give us wisdom in making our life choices. And we can teach trust in our loving God. God has promised the Holy Spirit to guide, comfort and strengthen us. God’s Spirit dwells within us to enable us to deal with the life events we encounter. We can focus on preparing ourselves and our young people for the potholes in the roads of life.
Some of you may have already purchased a copy of Spectacular Stella. I have sold over 1000 copies of this sweet children’s book, since I wrote it. Today, I received an email, that the second edition of Spectacular Stella is now ready for pick up. There have been a view glitches as Stella made her journey into the world of Amazon. Now, she is ready for the world dressed up in a whole new cover, size and shape. Now she’s 8 1/2 inches square, which means the print will be much easier to read. Stella is a great gift for grandchildren, neighour’s kids, and your child. Buy several so you will have a stack to share at the local homeless shelter, or your church’s next foodbaskets. Enjoy this simple story which affirms you as God’s special child, whether you are 8 or 98. They’re available on my website, and even better from Amazon.com and soon from Amazon.ca
If you order Spectacular Stella from my website before the end of May you will receive a signed copy at a 10% discount plus shipping.
My teenage granddaughter, made her mom a teapot for mother’s day in art class. On the way back to her locker with her precious gift, she dropped the pot and chipped it. Now it will hold a plant but not tea. I can only imagine the frustration my granddaughter is feeling. There is nothing I can say, that will help. What I know is that her mom, like me will treasure that tea pot, with it’s chip. Her mom knows the courage and love required to give a gift that you make yourself, especially when you are a teenager. A chip only adds to it’s beauty.
This brings to me some understanding of God’s love. Many of us are chipped by life. We have done foolish things, and sometimes even cruel things that brought ourselves and our loved ones misery. Even our apathy at times has created chips in our hearts. There are also the chips in our hearts caused by others. Not one of us is perfect. Yet, Jesus assured us that God loves us anyway. We don’t have to be good enough. We can be blemished and yet our lives offered as a gift to God, like Ellie’s teapot are always acceptable, more than acceptable, cherished. We are God’s precious children. In today’s world where judgment abounds, understanding God’s infinite love is lifegiving.
I believe that mother’s at their best are God’s show and tell when it comes to unconditional love. For sure mother’s too have chips. They have times when they fail totally, but most mothers, most of the time love their children through all their scrapes, disappointments, failures, and mistakes. As Mothers’ Day approaches I am grateful for the love of both of my mothers. With me now, only in Spirit and memory, I celebrate Mothers’ Day with great joy. They have told me and shown me God’s love.