DD Awareness and a post office miracle

Who would ever expect to find a miracle at the post office? About a decade ago, I did. While waiting in line there, it seems common practice to act somewhat aloof, distracted, and hurried. There is also an unspoken etiquette about children staying with their parents and not addressing strangers.

Late one afternoon, a young mom with three small charges was blatantly breaking all these rules by allowing her kids to run free. Well, at least two of them were enjoying freedom as she precariously perched a chubby infant on the counter. Then she spent what seemed like an inordinate amount of time discussing her mailing needs with the postal clerk.

This mom appeared oblivious to the lobby full of customers and to her approximately 4-year-old girl, who was constantly checking on another sibling hiding under one of the mailing tables. When I say, “hiding,” that’s not exactly accurate. From where I was standing, I couldn’t see the young boy, but I could hear his voice beckon to each new customer who would come within range.

“Hi Buddy, how are you?” the boyish voice would call aggressively. Some folks ignored the voice, while others would bend down and answer the child’s question. If they didn’t answer, the voice would become more insistent. I wondered why this mother didn’t tell her son that he was defying post office etiquette, and that he should leave these busy adults to their hectic world of personal thoughts.

As the minutes passed, I drew closer to the table. Although the child still wasn’t visible, I glanced at the burly middle-aged man with soiled coveralls who was about to be the boy’s next victim. I thought to myself, Mom, you really need to intervene. This stoic looking factory worker is in no mood to deal with your ill-mannered child.

Too late. “Hi, Buddy, how are you?” It must have been the 20th time I had heard that statement. The boy’s tone had become so demanding that instinctively the tired laborer bent down to look under the table. The worker’s indifferent face softened into a smile, and an almost tender, “Hello,” came from his lips. He extended his large callused hand to shake the child’s tiny hand. I couldn’t wait to see this kid who could turn a gruff-looking man into an affectionate puppy.

I didn’t have to wait long, since it was now my turn. Eagerly, I peered under the table unprepared for what I was to see. The boy was about six-years-old, but his smile and the look in his eyes were different from that of other children. He was like my nephew, who is almost thirty, going on three. Instantly, I regretted my harsh judgment of his distracted mother.

During March, our nation observes Developmental Disability Awareness Month, where we note the many accomplishments of the folks that I like to refer to as God’s special children. Their achievements are indeed noteworthy, because they have to overcome countless obstacles, and need the support of the community to succeed.

Diverse groups, including lawmakers, educators, and individuals with disabilities themselves, have been pushing for change and heightened awareness for years. According to the U.S. Library of Medicine online, “Developmental disabilities are severe, long-term problems. They may be physical…[or] may affect mental ability…Or the problem can be both physical and mental, such as Down syndrome.”

Besides those with disabilities, we should remember the sacrifices required from their parents, siblings, extended families, and by those who compassionately care for these precious people. After all, unless you are involved firsthand, it’s impossible to fully understand the daily challenges a disability can present. Especially, in a society that values physique, intellect, and success, there is sometimes little empathy for this vulnerable population.

That’s why, even though the progress made in acknowledging the rights and accomplishments of individuals with disabilities is exciting, we can’t forget to applaud the parents and families who devote so much for the betterment of their loved ones. In addition, a hearty societal “thank you” to all of the dedicated workers, educators, and professionals, who spend their lives caring for God’s special children.

For the beautiful song, “Sometimes Miracles Hide” about being the parents of a child with a disability by Christian musician, Bruce Carroll, please click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgZvax0NKSg 

Christina Ryan Claypool is an Amy award-winning journalist. Her Website is www.christinaryanclaypool.com

Pain: My One Word for 2015

Pain [noun]: “the physical feeling caused by disease, injury, or something that hurts the body or : mental or emotional suffering : sadness caused by some emotional or mental problem”  Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Winter SceneP-A-I-N!  I definitely did not want this bleak word to start the new year. Here in Ohio, January is bitter cold and the days are gray enough. I tried desperately to push the word out of my mind, assured that I was not hearing our heavenly Father’s still small voice clearly.

My search for my one word for 2015 began in December 2014. I prayed that God would reveal what I needed to contemplate in order to grow spiritually and become more like Him. At first, it was difficult to accept that a good God would want me to concentrate on the word, “Pain.” I wanted nothing to do with dissecting its definition for twelve months. I had to wonder if this was a misguided, self-inflicted masochistic leading like cutting my arm as a teen had been. Or if the all-wise Holy Spirit could possibly desire for me to further investigate this topic.

Seeds of Hope coverYou see, I know a lot about the pain of mental torment. When I committed my life to Christ in my early 30s, I was a patient on a psychiatric ward battling depression and addiction. I was desperate for anything that would relieve the anguish. Then in my more than two decades of recovery, I have tried to empower others in their journey of finding wholeness from past brokenness, addiction, or abuse. In my book, Seeds of Hope for Survivors, I share some of the painful circumstances which I have overcome through God’s grace to enjoy the fulfilling existence that I have today. Speaking and writing about the pathway of spiritual & emotional healing, I have found the true meaning of being a “New Creation” in Christ. By profession, I am a journalist, a lover of words, but this particular word has always had a terrible emotional connotation. Pain is a four-letter word that conjures up agony and suffering, and is something I’ve spent my life running from, or trying to overcome.

That’s why, I prayed earnestly for confirmation concerning this 2015 word of the year suspecting the enemy of my soul was sending “Pain” to haunt me one more time. I tried to convince myself that our benevolent Father wanted me to have a positive expression like “Believe.” After all, my 2014 word was “Hope.” This past year, I have enjoyed researching Scriptures and even purchasing keepsakes that point to the hope we have in our Savior.

To prove that I was hearing wrong, I turned to my favorite resource regarding the word of the year, “One Perfect Word,” by Debbie Macomber. I was certain the New York Times best selling author would advise folks to never select a negative word. To my surprise, when I randomly opened her book and began reading, my eyes landed on the heading, “Choosing Your Word.” The famous author writes:

“Sometimes a word will not let you alone –  like my word brokenness. Who would want to spend a whole year exploring something as depressing as that? I’m an optimist by nature, but I’ve discovered over the years that some of the most profound lessons of life have grown out of pain [there it was again] and struggle….. If the Lord seems to be whispering the word that you’d much rather not even think about I encourage you to embrace it. Prepare for a year of discovery and growth. God will bless your willingness to trust Him for your word.”(Page 72, One Perfect Word by Debbie Macomber)

Even after this serendipitous event of divine intervention, I still wanted to push “pain” away. To explain, I have spent almost a year and a half battling debilitating physical pain caused by injury and arthritis. Pain that exhausted me, that took every bit of creative energy away, and that made me feel like an old woman before my time. I had always promised myself that I would never turn into one of those boring individuals who talk only of their physical ailments. Then suddenly, I found myself offering daily reports about the unrelenting pain in my feet, hands, and knees, while discussing doctor visits and surgery. Formerly an athletic individual, I was relegated to life on crutches and the couch. I was the one used to ministering to others, and now I was humbled to require assistance for daily tasks.

I prayed and cried and begged the God who I had always known as Healer to restore me to the vibrant woman I had once been. All to no avail, as the physical pain continued, and fear of more pain increased my anxiety. The resulting emotional turmoil grew so intense that deep depression became a battle like it had been in my youth. I had never experienced anything like this. My heart was broken by my diminished existence, and also for all the other folks living daily with chronic pain. The kind of unceasing torment, that can ultimately cause you to question God’s love for you. Pentecostal by background, I did not theologically know how to explain pain. Didn’t I have enough faith? Was there sin somewhere in my heart? I knew all these faulty questions were not the problem, thankfully my non-charismatic brothers and sisters would never even ask them, yet I had watched others who were struggling being judged over my years in ministry. Even when I was well, I never wanted to judge someone suffering, knowing there is so much we will never understand with our finite mind.

As I wrestled with physical pain, my personality changed too. Like a butterfly who is forming in a cocoon gradually I began to transform into a more gentle human being. Something, my passionate nature and high energy have always prevented. Of course, I did not know this. The pain made me think that I was simply weak and had failed, since I was unable to recognize the person I had become. It was my precious husband who at first was sorely confused by this metamorphosis, but eventually delighted that I was no longer the driven individual he had married.

Finally and miraculously, I am beginning to feel better physically – more like myself, something I will admit I had almost given up hope of happening. There are a couple permanent limitations like everyone grappling with getting older, but amazingly some good days. Sadly though, so many wonderful people around me continue to suffer. With my health being renewed, the last thing I want to do is to think about pain, but there is no escaping it. “Pain” is my one word for 2015 – the word God wants me to “embrace” as Debbie Macomber suggests, because He obviously has more for me to understand about it.Christina Ryan Claypool - Angel Column photo 2

Perhaps, as I reflect upon its meaning, I will learn not to fear it, trusting that God` has always been with me in the midst of it. Then in some small way, maybe I will be better able to assist others struggling with spiritual, emotional, or chronic physical pain for which there seems to be no remedy. In the end, our Heavenly Father will eradicate all of our pain. Revelation 21:4 NIV says, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Until that day, it’s up to us to be wounded healers to those we encounter who are desperate for our Savior’s mercy. So, “Pain,” here I come. In 2015, for the first time in my life, I’m facing you head on.

Christina Ryan Claypool is an Amy Award winning freelance journalist, Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor, and inspirational speaker. She has a Masters in Ministry from Mount Vernon Nazarene University. Her website is www.christinaryanclaypool.com