Part of my very part-time employment at present is working with a woman who also has a severe neurological condition, though hers is far more severe. I model a few exercises and provide a little massage and stretching; she models so much more for me. She’s been sick for most of thirty years, and has spent thirteen of those paralyzed from the waist down and regulated to a wheelchair. And yet, she always has a smile on her face. When I asked her how she was able to be so upbeat and positive, she said that she wouldn’t want the husband who’s been her caretaker all those years to have to live with a grump. This made me smile; it almost seems like a casual and lighthearted approach to coping with illness, but it is most definitely far more. Long ago, she made a very intentional choice to live in acceptance, gratitude and joy, one I’m sure she has had to make that choice over and over again, but she has. Hers is a very cultivated positivity held perfectly in tension with practical surrender, and they end result is joy.
She calls it grace. It reminds me of what Ann Voskamp once wrote: “Grace is like the wind. It finds us as we are, but it does not leave us as we have been. All is grace.” Grace has met her anew each day in exactly the place she is; it continually shapes and molds her into the image of God. She’s a willing vessel in the hands of a skillful potter; anyone has only to look at my friend’s radiant countenance to be awestruck by its fragile strength. She’s a former elementary teacher, a mom and wife and daughter and sister and aunt and friend. She’s a quilter and a prayer warrior and a blessing to all who know her. I’m so very thankful: in a season of struggling to accept my own challenging circumstances, or perhaps simply arriving in the place where I actually have accepted them, God has given me this beautiful example. I want to accept the joy that fills and surrounds me and say with my friend and the saints of old, as voiced by the prophet Isaiah: “And yet LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter” (Isaiah 64:8).