I’ve never been one who has a firm grip on her limits. Like the time when I went skydiving and signed up under “has experience” because that option saved fifty bucks. Or while Ian was in an induced coma in the ICU, after being told no, I snuck extra nutrition down his feeding tube while no one was watching.
Some limits can’t be ignored. And I’m discovering that to accept them, even embrace them is a game changer.
Life is a Series of Losses
I have a tennis friend who showed up to play with both knees heavily strapped. When I asked her about it, she said with a sarcastic sneer, “life is a series of losses.” What she meant was … my knees are creaky and I can no longer play two matches in the same day. But, she wasn’t wrong. In fact, her statement was profound. Life IS a series of losses.
How do you find your footing after a loss? When you realize the best is not yet to come, this side of heaven? How do you live fully knowing you have peaked, knowing you’re on the downhill slope? Or worse yet, what if some life event, an injury or an illness has increased your pace down that slope and you’re just hanging on, reacting. Sometimes, as in my case, loss happens because others depend on you and you’re limited by your responsibilities. For others, life circumstances have so changed their landscape that they’re starting over. Inevitably, whether you admit it or not, life is limited.
The Gold Medal skill of life
It makes me think of an elite athlete who is forced to retire. Depression is common. They wonder who they are without their sport to define them? Many struggle for years, to find a new identity and some never do. The real gold medal skill is to learn to enjoy and embrace the “what is”.
Is life somehow less because you have less, you can do less, you are less?
This article is for every one of us who thinks quietly, maybe even a bit regrettably, that maybe I won’t climb every mountain. But I still yearn to LIVE LIFE WELL.
Fighting the culture that says we’re limit-less
Americans have this ingrained desire to believe we’re limit-less. If you acknowledge a limit you’re a party pooper, a Debbie downer a negative Nancy. Try as we might, there are some limits that no amount of positivity can compensate for.
As I think about my new normal attempting to craft a meaningful, productive, wonderful life for myself, God has been near. Ironically, I’m learning that to accept a limitation is to invite God’s creativity. I credit Him with how He has helped me to navigate a way forward. It’s true and not just a clever saying… a new beginning starts with an ending.
I can’t take any credit for this counter-cultural way of thinking. Ian was my inspiration. This week he had a breakthrough. One I’ve been been praying for, for months. And while I’m still processing what it could mean, I can’t help but wonder why now? What has changed? This breakthrough was only possible with Ian’s acknowledgment of the “What Is.” Ian had to embrace reality and own his very significant limitations. For a brain injured 23 year old who still loses his wallet once a week, but plans to live in Brooklyn and support himself selling his art someday, this was nothing short of a miracle. Thank you God.
Nurturing an Artist
Since 2015 Ian has had a relationship with an organization called Abilities United, in Palo Alto California. This fantastic program provides a platform for artists with limitations. Abilities United sponsored Ian to display his work at the San Jose children’s museum, his first solo art show in 2015. It was that vote of confidence that gave Ian the gumption to pursue an art exhibit locally. And to compete with able bodied artists.
The VSA Art Center
Ian’s recent experience with his exhibit, “People Watching” at Harwood has been so affirming, he continues to ride its wave. While his passion for painting portraits continues, I’ve explored other outlets, to find something else for him to work towards. Advised by the program director of Abilities United, Ian contacted VSA North Fourth Art Center right here in Albuquerque. This organization, currently bulging with participation serving very special artists (VSA), was eager to meet with Ian to show him around their facility.
I was nervous and didn’t know what to expect. The VSA Art Center is a special place. Many of the participants were in wheel chairs with a range of disabilities that run the gamut. I wasn’t sure how Ian would react. Would he identify with them? Would he empathize with them? Or would he freak out and conclude I’m not that bad get me out of here?
What I witnessed was astounding. Ian could not have been any more comfortable. Fist bumping the paraplegic, praising the autistic kid, and dropping to his knees to join the ten year old girl who was preoccupied with a bug on the floor. A 30 something woman, Brenda who wore a bib to catch her constant drool, approached Ian and asked him if his shoes (white Stan Smith tennis shoes) were for scuba diving. Without skipping a beat, Ian said… “hmmm I don’t know. I’ve never tried them to scuba dive.” She giggled with delight. And then Ian said… “what about your shoes? (leather sandals) Are they for scuba diving?” Brenda responded… “You are so funny. You are so funny. I like you. You are so funny.”
The director, excited about Ian’s obvious connection with the students, is eager to find a place for Ian to become more involved at VSA arts. Walking to the car Ian said, “I can see it. Someday, I’d like to be a full time teacher here. They would like me and everyone deserves to enjoy art.” I quickly put on my sunglasses to hide my wet eyes. Breakthrough indeed.
I repeat…. Is life somehow less because you have less, you can do less, you are less?
God’s Creative Solution
I believe what I witnessed was a God ordained work-around. Ian embraced his reality and when he did he could “see” a way forward. Perhaps, God has been working on Ian’s behalf the whole time — making a way in the wilderness. It really is true… God makes a way where there is no way.
I love this passage. God is powerful and creative. When we offer him our limitations, He uses them to make something new.
Isaiah 43:16-19 16 I am the Lord, who opened a way through the waters,
making a dry path through the sea.
17 I called forth the mighty army of Egypt
with all its chariots and horses.
I drew them beneath the waves, and they drowned,
their lives snuffed out like a smoldering candlewick.18 “But forget all that—
it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
19 For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
“This… I can work with!” God
The way I see it, when you embrace your limitations even offering them to God, you release His input, His direction and His creativity. It’s as if God says… “yes, thank you. THIS (limitation, loss, failure, dead dream) I can work with.” With your eyes now fully open, you discover His pathway through the wilderness. And… this new way that may look somehow less, in God’s economy is actually MORE.
Ginger Horner says
What a wonderful witness to what God has planned for Ian. He would be a wonderful teacher!!
Yes, we all have limitations, changes and adaptions to make. I notice the physical limitations (especially as I get older) and sometimes frustration and sadness rears its ugly head. But, I think, but now I can do this or that. God is there for each of us and we know he has a plan and we are to follow His direction. Not ours.
Thank you for the message, and wonderful news about Ian’s news. God is with Ian,
Thanks Ginger. It takes a village. And you have been a part of that village for sure.
Michelle Anderson says
Fantastic blog Debbie! You hit a homerun with this one. Thank you for continuing to stretch yourself into areas that limit the rest of us at time. There is a sense of relief I felt after reading this that I am not alone and that the more I give to God the more I will receive back. Trust that Gods got this!
ABSOLUTELY. I love that take away. The more you give to Him the more you will receive back. Thanks for your comment. Debbie
Such good reminders! Love this Deb! Thanks for sharing! 💕
You’ve had to master this skill. Thanks April for chiming in. Debbie
Anne Kole says
I am speechless with joy about God showing Ian a path ahead! Gods Got him, Debbie! Thank you for continuing to share Ian’s story, and your own. Praying for you and your family.
Thanks for faithfully riding along this windy journey.
Kerry Harmon says
Very timely blog for me. Something has just hit my family which I can’t speak about yet but this gives me insight on how to handle it.
God is good, Kerry. He is faithful. And oh so very creative with a new direction! Debbie
Betty Fyffe says
This is God showing up so beautifully, working in Ian’s life, creating a path through what appeared to be wilderness. My eyes are damp from the tears of joy that this good news has brought to my heart!
Thanks Betty. Now I’m praying his revelation “sticks”. But it is a hopeful sign for sure!
Joan Clawson says
I am absolutely thrilled with this news about Ian. I talked to you briefly at Ian’s show about VSA where I taught for several years. I did a lot of soul searching afterwards and thought perhaps it would be too much for him to take in because he is much further along than the clients. I am so glad you pursued it and delighted at his break through. Joan
Oh Joan… now I remember that. I DID NOT make the connection until you point it out. It was an overwhelming night for me too. Maybe you could talk to Ian some about your time there. He loved the variety and especially that he had a lot to contribute. Thanks for reminding me. Debbie
Well THAT hit home today, thank you for the reminder of God’s purposes & love for ALL his people which includes me.
Thrilled for Ian and open doors.
Thanks Karen. Thanks for riding this road with us. And yes… His purpose is real at whatever age and stage. Debbie
Betsy Everett says
Such great news Debbie! I am really amazed at what God has done in Ian but knowing him, you, and Doug, I’m not surprised. It’s a lesson in never giving up despite our limitations and so inspiring. Maybe a movie is in the future!?
Thanks Betsy… Hmmm a movie. Let’s stick with getting through a Wednesday! But I guess if He’s the director, you never know.
Nancy Sellin says
Having been involved as a teacher and advocate for people with disabilities for 20 some years (I still work with adults with disabilities in theatre) I think that Ian would be a tremendous asset to anyone. I can definitely see him as a teacher at VSA (one of my favorite places). And, I’d like to see his work displayed there, as well.
Stayed tuned Nancy! Someday….
Dr. Ify Achusim says
Our limitation is the beginning of God’s miracles!! Go Ian.
Amen Ify! Good to hear from you.
Terri Roseth says
The story reminded me of in being such an incredible inspiration when he was at the rehab facility in the Midwest. He has a gift, clearly, and God will continue to use Ian’s sweet spirit and talents to bless others. I, too, had tears as I read ins statement upon leaving this facility. God is so good and patience can be so hard for all of us. When we actually experience that moment when God comes through for us, it hits me hard that many times I allow myself to forget that God is with us every moment and working his perfect plans for our lives. Thank you again Debbie for you’re beautiful words and your Godly insight.
Thank you Terri! Thank you for taking the time to comment.
Barbara Gross says
Beautiful with such good and hopeful news.
Amen Barbara. Thanks for commenting.
Cathy Jones says
Debbie, I’m behind on reading your blogs, so I’m starting to get caught up. Reading this about Ian warmed my heart and brought happy tears to my eyes. As most everyone else I know, I’m also facing the limitations of aging. This article was very helpful, (as most of them are!).
Thank you for the time you put into this.
Good to hear from you, Cathy. I am so pleased you found it helpful.