Sunday, October 28, 2018

Grade Schools

Every fall for the past 14 years, I have visited with students at area Christian grade schools. Each year is unique with questions and observations, and I enjoy every part of it.

Thursday was my fourth school this year, and my last scheduled grade school for this season. With these schools, I met with six second grade classrooms and one combined 3rd/4th grade class totaling around 100 students.

One of the schools had to be rescheduled due to my hospital visit last month which meant I had one school a week for October. Having them back to back helps me keep my routine in my head, but since I also added a college and a church in the mix, it was a challenge keeping each one straight.

For the first time in my visits, a student asked me if I was ever mad at God. I wondered if she had some sort of family experience with a disability, but I didn't pursue it. It's a little challenging answering an eight-year-old that question, but I answered the truth that I've had times of struggle, but know I have been given much more than I deserve.

Also first inquiries for this year was the weight of my chair (501 lbs) and what the white things were on my arms (elbow pads). Before I come to class, I have the teachers show a couple videos of how I use my mouth stick for typing and other tasks as well as biking and zip lining. If a class is quiet, then I need to rely on the extra activities for further talking points, but most of them didn't need it this year.

Two of the schools only had a single classroom and each of them followed me outside like ducks in a row to watch me get in the van. I try to hide grins as I roll down the hall, but I love getting to work with the students and show them that some people have different abilities, but we're all made by God and need to serve Him.

Sadly, two of my regular schools no longer have me back. I have never been told a reason, but my emails don't receive response after a few years of trying. Thankfully, I'm still able to go to several and still pray that I can continue for years to come.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Quad Travels

With the challenges of every day life, it isn't very common for high level quads like me to take vacations far from home. This year, with camp in June and Kentucky a few weeks ago, I was able to go out twice.

Excluding camp, this is the first time in three years that I have gone anywhere. Most people go on trips to see particular destinations or visit friends and family. For me, I want traveling to serve some purpose of helping others in some way. If that can coincide with meeting friends and seeing a destination, it's an added bonus.

I think that is partly why I also don't travel very often. Personally, just going somewhere and being a tourist doesn't sound very exciting. Going to Indianapolis every year to camp helps serve kids and the trip earlier this month was to preach and serve a church congregation. The last one just also worked out to also see friends I rarely talk with and visit the Ark Encounter.

Every year though, it gets harder to go anywhere no matter what purpose or destination. It takes several days worth of packing to get all my stuff and making sure I have enough supplies on hand. Then, finding the people that can help me and are willing to come along.

For the last several years, at least one if not both of my parents end up going with me along with my main day assistant. This means time away from family for my caregiver and time off work and taking vacation hours for my parents. All of it takes an increasing physical toll as everyone ages as well as mental stress that everything will go as planned.

After this year, I'm really questioning if attempting more vacations to camp, or anywhere, are still worth the effort. Each journey gets harder for me to recover as well as everyone that helps. I don't have anything further planned for this year at least. I don't have a guess for 2019, but the traveling quad life will likely become an even rarer occasion. I'm thankful for the opportunities I have had so far and the memories they inspire. I'll see what another week brings.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Ark Encounter

For the last three years, I have volunteered at the Ark Encounter booth at the Iowa State Fair. I have read a lot about it, watched videos, and talked with people who have been there. However, I hadn't ever visited myself. Since Dave's church is about 90 minutes away from the Ark, we took the Monday of our trip to finally see it in person.

My caregiver that came along to help at night also wanted to see the boat with us. Therefore, my parents took over in the morning while she tried to sleep for a few hours. Dave met us at the hotel along with another camp friend who wasn't able to come Sunday.

Our group left the hotel around 11:00 and started the commute east. I'm used to rural Iowa roads, but Kentucky has some very twisty, bumpy, and scenic back roads that make for an almost uncomfortable experience. Fortunately, we all arrived in one piece and navigated the expansive parking lot to the ticket booth.

Parking is at the bottom of a hill with all guests boarding buses to get up to the Ark. I wasn't sure both mom with her scooter and I could use the same bus, but it was an easy fit for everyone. I somewhat knew what to expect on the ride, but experiencing it in person was much more amazing. Seeing the full size of the massive ship was impressive and larger than I thought.

After a quick lunch, our group made it inside the vessel by 1:00, leaving about five hours for exploration. When I heard the attraction was built with wood floors, I was expecting a rough ride with lots of seams. However, getting off the elevator I found very smooth driving that was easy to navigate.

Going through each deck and seeing everything how Noah may have had arranged was educational and fun to think through everything. Ramps between floors made easy transition as we started during the storm that wiped out the earth and ended with Noah seeing a freshly plucked branch.

One blog post can't cover everything, but I was very glad to be able to see it in person. With time constraints, we didn't see everything, but did get most of the Ark covered. On our trip home Tuesday, it was again new scenery going through St. Louis and stopping to watch trains in Missouri.

I'm more aware each year how quickly time passes and it did again with this four-day trip. Traveling with the quad life has challenges, but I'm thankful that I was able to preach God's Word and see part of the Bible's history in person.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Traveling Preacher

Through my years at camp, I have made many long lasting friendships. As a camper, one of the new counselors was Dave. He was a pastor at a Methodist church around Indianapolis and got invited to camp. Over two decades later, Dave and I still gladly serve together at camp and in ministry.

After I received my license to exhort last year, Dave invited me to preach at his church near Louisville, KY. It took quite a lot of looking at schedules and planning, but I was able to go this past weekend and preached at Dave's church last Sunday, October 7.

My church denomination is the Christian Reformed Church, or CRC. I'm used to the general routine of services, songs, and preaching style. I wasn't sure how well I would fit in at a different congregation, but knew I could serve God anywhere.

On Saturday, my parents, caregiver, and I drove through rain and wind arriving at the hotel about 11 hours after we left home. We went through Indianapolis, so much of the trip was very familiar, but the skyline of Louisville was unique as well as tree lined interstates.

Sunday morning consisted of two services, traditional at 9:00 and contemporary at 11:11. I preached my introductory message I give at most churches talking about God's inspired Word, the moral law, Christ's sacrifice, and spreading the good news of salvation. In doing this, we need to use everything God has given us to serve Him, including wheelchairs and diaphragm pacemakers.

At the conclusion of my message and prayer, the congregation gave me a standing ovation. I can't say I've ever had that in a CRC church, but was glad to see I made an impression. I gave the same message for the second service, but could tell my voice was tired from all the talking. Drinks help, but I'm still not accustomed to adding drink pauses in my messages.

After all the preaching, Dave's wife provided a great lunch for us at church. A couple more friends from camp came to hear me as well and joined us to eat. It has been very rare that I see any of my camp friends in person outside of our volunteer week. The time was nice and I'm glad it worked out.

The trip didn't only include preaching though. Monday included another excursion that I have wanted to do for a couple years. However, that will have to wait until the next entry.

Sunday, October 7, 2018


Through social media and general contact with people, I see an increase in the amount of anxiety some experience. Worry and anxious thoughts can be very difficult, but it doesn't have to be.

If you have been following this blog for a while, I have definitely had times of frustration and concern over what the future may bring. Some of the cause has been due to funding changes, health problems, and life in general. However, I have learned well that building up worry and becoming anxious about a situation doesn't do anything to help.

In 1 Peter 5:7 we read, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." Also in Proverbs 12:25, "Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up." My favorite verse I go back to is Matthew 6:34 "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Letting go of worry and anxious thoughts is difficult and can sometimes take practice and trusting in God's plan. I have had times that I thought looked hopeless for a future, but the result turned out better than I imagined. The transition from event to final outcome is the most difficult time, but is also when faith can grow.

As a Christian, I continue to learn to trust in what God has in His plan for the life I've been given. Yes, I would prefer a "normal" life of not dealing with the quad life. Through it though, I have been able to work with more people and relate to different circumstances than if I had been given another path.

At some point, I also know that life will change from what I currently know. It could be a change in health or funding that I have to change housing or can't be as active. When that time comes, I will continue to look for God's direction and see where He takes me.

This week will hopefully continue as normal. As always, I will wait and see what is to come.