Category Archives: In Robyn’s Words

The Gift of Surrender

“…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair…”

Isaiah 61:3

The phrase “a new normal” has never worked for me. Nothing is normal when it comes to suffering. It doesn’t feel very “normal,” to have your life abruptly upended, to have unexpressed tears stuck in your throat and to see your future plans vanish. However, what I can accept is that with time and grace suffering can be a gift and a path to a life with purpose. It has been 9 and a half years since Tommy’s accident, and I am at the beginning of understanding what surrendering my will to God’s will really means.

Surrendering takes discipline, it takes prayer, it takes head and heart understanding of what surrender looks and feels like. Let’s start with the opposite of surrender, which is control. What does control look like?  Something like: it is my responsibility to make sure Tommy stays healthy. I need to have everything in order legally and financially so that I am not taken by surprise, or maybe I find myself preoccupied with the family’s health whether it be spiritual, emotional, or physical. Surrender looks like…OK all of these things are important and need to be considered. I will do my part to be wise and disciplined, praying for God’s guidance with the realization that I am not in charge of the outcome. It takes time and discipline to practice this mindset. What helps me and strengthens my faith is to look back and see how we have been cared for in every one of these areas in unexpected ways and most of the time without my help!

Another area I have had to practice surrendering is accepting how much my life has changed. This is so hard, but God’s grace is sufficient even for this. What has helped me is to look at the lives of people in scripture that God used to bring Him glory. You can also find inspiring stories in the media of people who have turned pain into purpose.  A scripture story that resonates with me is Moses, an outsider in his own family, born an Israelite and raised in Pharoah’s household. His anger at the way the Israelite slaves were being treated got so out of control that he murdered an Egyptian. Talk about a life being Flipped! But God had compassion and a plan for Moses. Moses went from walking the halls of a palace to tending sheep for forty years! Moses had to learn the gift of surrendering his will and his life over to God. The result of this forty-year surrendering was a humble man who reluctantly agreed to lead the Israelites from slavery to freedom. During this trek through the wilderness God gave the Israelites daily manna or bread to sustain them. This daily reliance upon God’s provision is also found in the new testament when Jesus taught us to pray, “give us this day our daily bread.”  The message here is that we can trust God to take care of our needs, but we need to turn to him daily with faith and thanksgiving.

What if suffering and wilderness experiences are a path to relying on God? What if relying on God builds our faith, transforming anxiety and fear into strength? What if, once strengthened through God’s grace we are willing to step out of our comfort zone and participate in the relieving of the suffering of others? What if we stop thinking that hard times, disappointments, or flipped lives are a punishment? What if we accept all of life as a gift and appreciate even the hard times as an opportunity to become a vessel for God’s glory and not our own? I have found in my own life that the pretense of self-sufficiency tends to lead to pride, judgement and fear. I am beginning to see that through surrender and God’s grace there is a depth to life through meaningful connection, healing, purpose and peace. I would not have chosen this path for our family. However, I am eternally grateful for what I have learned so far, and I have hope that ashes will be transformed into an internal and eternal beauty for the glory of God, who DID choose to suffer and surrender for my sake and for yours.

From my heart to yours,

Robyn

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Deep Dive

“Who led them through the depths? Like a horse in the desert, they did not stumble” Isaiah 63:13

Like many of you I was overcome with joy when I heard the news that the young Thai soccer players and their coach were rescued from being trapped in a cave. Their environment was becoming more and more hazardous for their health, and their chances for being rescued were getting smaller by the hour. The situation was so dangerous for the boys and the divers that one expert diver died when he ran out of oxygen on his way out of the cave. Their rescue was meticulously planned and executed. Expert divers prepared the players for the harrowing journey out, they were surrounded by the divers as they swam out of the cave, they were given medicine to calm them and a rope to guide them.

I can relate to aspects of this scenario, can you? Maybe we find our lives “flipped” from following our own curiosity that has led us deep into a dark cave where we become trapped. Maybe our circumstances are so scary that we are required to dive deep into the unknown and trust when we can’t see ahead; finding that we neither have the strength nor the ability to solve our own problems. Even writing this blog is one of those scenarios for me, not life- threatening mind you, but scary nonetheless. Putting my thoughts out to the public knowing I am neither a writer by training nor an expert on scripture creates apprehension in me. However, I choose to act because my faith experience has shown me that I am not alone, I have an expert rescuer guiding me. This expert is available to all of us. This expert is God, Jesus the son, was willing to give His own life to save ours. God, the Holy Spirit, who builds our trust by encouraging us, teaching and preparing us, and calming us. God, the father, nourishes us with food and oxygen, hems us in so that we feel secure, gives us a rope (scripture, family, community) to hang onto; and then leads the way out or through our circumstances. Furthermore, we have access to God, through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, at all times and in all places. He will never leave and go home. God will not make us follow Him, He knows that it is crucial that it is our choice to believe in Him. It is our choice to surrender to Him, and to trust and to follow Him.

All humans struggle with this choice to surrender, trust and follow. We are by nature “strong willed” because we want to be in control. It is scary to literally put our lives into another person’s hands, because we know human experts are limited, as we saw with the expert diver who was overcome by his natural limitations. Perhaps we have experienced authority figures who were not gentle, patient, or forgiving. But what if we put our trust in a God who knows us intimately, who, if we choose Him, will forgive our weaknesses and strengthen us? An all knowing eternal expert, triune God, who desires for us to accept Him so we can live with Him forever once our natural limits are reached on this earth.

Faith takes practice and discipline, and many times my “strong will” gets in the way of experiencing His influence in my life. However, when I do choose to surrender to Him, trust Him and follow His direction the result is that I am less likely to feel anxious or sad. His faithful provision gives me hope that He will continue to do so in the future, encouraging friends help me to see that what I am going through, with His help, benefits others and strengthens me. Furthermore, His comfort through scripture and prayer provides relief from the false notion that I have to rely totally on myself or other limited human beings.

It does not take a crisis in our lives to bring us to the point of choosing to lay down our will to follow God’s will for us. He wants us to know Him so we can begin to see that He is loving and trustworthy, no matter our circumstances past, present and future. He does not promise that following Him will be easy, but He does promise that we will never be alone. Even if our vision is limited and we can’t feel him; He will give us a rope and He is on the other end, leading us to eternal life with Him.

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Wheelchair Accessibility

If you clicked on this title to read about the environmental aspects of wheelchair accessibility, sorry to disappoint, but the title is actually a play on words. This is an observation about how some people learn to create an atmosphere that invites people to connect with them.

Tommy is confident but self-effacing, as well as quick-witted, warm, and, at his core, kind-hearted. I find this is true of Mark, his brother-in-law, and Vicki, his sister, too. These traits have worked in their favor as they have made many friends over their lifetime.

Nine plus years ago Tommy was “gifted” with a wheelchair. I use the word gift because I have noticed that when people he meets get beyond the visual of his physical difference, they enjoy conversing with him. One of Tommy’s behaviors I have noticed that helps to ease other’s apprehension are that when he enters a space, he is usually the first to speak and smile. This intentional act informs those who don’t know him that he can speak and that he is approachable. Continue reading

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Abundant Living

Mark 2: 2-4 “Some men came bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on…”

Kim Butler and her steering committee put together a wonderful evening for Dallas friends to raise money for Tommy’s in-home care.

The generosity, the effort, the determination of the friends of a paralyzed man. I am not only talking about the Bible story, I am also relating present-day experiences. Our family has been blown away by friends and family who have “carried” us over the last 9+ years. Their determination to provide the means for Tommy to be cared for at home humbles us to the core.

Caring and connection are tremendously powerful tools of abundant living. What is truly miraculous to see is The Spirit working amongst friends who are motivated to act for the benefit of another.

Over the years, we have witnessed a strong feeling of connection among people who organize and who attend the “Tommy’s Nite Out” events. We know that at the core it is not about one person or one family; but it is about community, connection and caring.   Continue reading

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Home

What does the word home mean to you? In 2009, I would have defined home to be a house, in a community that we chose to live in, and our family who lived in our home.

That definition changed when Tommy came back from Craig Rehabilitation Hospital. Our home was now where Tommy’s care took center stage. Since his homecoming, we have desired and have been profoundly grateful that Tommy is able to receive great care in our home; his presence in our home is essential.

However, it has been a sacrifice and a surrendering for all of us to lose our privacy and “control” over our surroundings. For example, Because Tommy requires 24-hour nursing care, we have people in our home most of the time. Imagine having a male nurse that you don’t know in your house overnight! Continue reading

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Reflecting on a year of shock, survival, sacrifice, and surrender

The Saviers and Van Zandt families (minus one of our sons) about a year and a half after Tommy got home from the hospital.

I cannot help but reflect on how we would have never been able to envision that nine years after the worst day of our lives, Mark’s cathartic journaling of his experiences the first year after Tommy’s accident, would launch a book and a website centered around the worst year of our life.

We launched the site last week and Wednesday, the book Flipped went on sale. As Tommy’s wife, I will periodically be recounting my experiences through the stages of triumph over tragedy throughout the last nine years. This particular blog is about my experience of shock in the first stage of this tragedy.

 

The worst day of our lives

Continue reading

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