Jim and I recently enjoyed a month-long visit from my sister, Donna, who lives in Pennsylvania. For those of you who have been welcoming Donna over the many years she has been visiting, and for those who met her for the first time during this visit, I thank you for helping to make her visits so enjoyable. She was happy to attend our all-staff picnic, allowing her to visit with staff and see all the new children that are in our homes.
We sometimes get asked which sister is the oldest – I love being able to clarify that Donna is the oldest. Having a sibling is a God-given blessing and, regardless of our ages, there is much to be learned from an older sibling. Let me just share a couple lessons I have learned from my sister, Donna:
Accept what life hands to you and let God show His plan for your life. Due to cancer, Donna’s leg amputation took place in fall of 1974. At that time, she had two small children to raise, which can sometimes be an challenging task when we are totally healthy. Although her prognosis wasn’t very positive, Donna prayed for the Lord to allow her to live long enough to raise her children. He has blessed her with over 40 years of life since then and her years have been full and rewarding. Not only has she raised her children, but her life now blesses two grandchildren. She skied for many years after her amputation, rode a hot air balloon and even went white-water rafting. I’ll never forget the first time I saw her skiing the mountain at Purgatory in Colorado on one leg. Impressive!!!
Never, never, never give up. Donna enjoys traveling, especially to Jackson Hole Wyoming, where her son and grandchildren live. She has made numerous trips there, sometimes spending several weeks caring for her grandson when he was smaller. For many years, she also enjoyed spending time in May with us in Farmington, while her husband enjoyed a fishing trip and a short break from care-giving.
Three years ago, Donna had surgery to repair a knee replacement she had done several years prior. Being an amputee, you can imagine the strenuous physical therapy and recovery she had ahead of her. None of us could have guessed it would be three years before she was able to make her annual trip to Farmington again. Those years were filled with physical setbacks, extensive physical therapy and discouragement. Eventually it was inevitable she would no longer have the strength in her leg to continue walking with crutches. The decision was made to adjust to life in the wheelchair on a permanent basis. With this decision came some emotional struggles as Donna saw her independent life-style change. She could no longer enjoy the freedom of driving and being able to even get to the store on her own.
During these past three years, her desire to travel never wavered. She set a goal to become healthy and strong enough to continue those trips to Jackson Hole and Farmington, and she never gave up. Last Christmas, Donna and her husband, Dick, joined her son and grandchildren in Jackson Hole for Christmas. This flight, with her husband’s help, Donna gained her confidence to make her May visit to Farmington by herself. We were able to spend a month together and celebrate the progress she made over the past three years, allowing her the ability to travel again on her own.
As long as God has you on this earth, you have a purpose to serve. Even in the worst of circumstances, God can use you to meet the needs of others. Being confined to a wheelchair, Donna’s options to serve are more limited than they use to be. But from her home, she still writes encouraging notes to people, invites family and friends to her home for a meal or fellowship, and has knitted over 1,500 hats for newborn babies since 2010. As a cancer survivor, she is able to encourage and pray for others who are going through physical struggles. What an encouragement she was to us and our son, Dave, when he was diagnosed with cancer and faced surgery two years ago.
Lean on God’s Word and believe in His faithfulness. It’s no surprise that Donna and her husband give God all the praise for what He has accomplished through their lives. They have known some very low periods of time when Donna’s future looked very uncertain. Then, as always, Donna relied on Philippians 4:13; “I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me.”
I trust you will be encouraged today to live your life in a joy-filled way, leaning on God’s Word, accepting His purpose and plan for your life, and never, never giving up.