Category Archives: Inspiration and hope

The Gift of Gratefulness

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Lamentations 3:22-24 ​ (English Standard Version)

The holiday season and new year is the perfect time to pause and reflect on everything for which we have to be thankful. We have the opportunity to be surrounded by loved ones and enjoy time and fellowship with one another. The Lord has truly blessed us all with so much and given us the perfect gift; Jesus, who offers us a true and deep sense of peace and contentment. Peace and contentment can rise up in us through nature, or music or kind people. If we recognize these things as blessings it only takes a moment to accept his invitation to receive them and allow them to nurture us.

During this time, it can be so easy to get caught up with the busyness of traveling, buying gifts, and attending holiday gatherings; we can quickly lose sight of the true meaning of the Christmas season. When our focus is centralized on things we may not have, such as material items, a significant other, the perfect decorations or event schedules, our vision can be clouded of everything we do have. The craving and striving that cause discontent will feed feelings of disappointment and can cause us to feel abandoned and forgotten. Feeding this seed of discontentment will only create a deep and relentless hunger that can never be satisfied.

Shifting our focus to gratefulness definitely takes practice and a conscious effort. Try a personal test: one day, practice your grateful muscle by putting effort into noticing every blessing throughout the day – driving your car to work, meeting a friend for lunch, putting your coat on when you walk outside, receiving a smile from a stranger. It does take time and practice; but by being intentional, we can develop a more positive, grateful outlook. It starts with being grateful for what we do have in the present moment. All of the sudden something like “being able to breathe on your own” becomes very valuable.

Our prayer for you is that this season you will be surrounded by love and filled with joy! Blessings from our families to yours. 

-The Van Zandt and Saviers families

Purchase Flipped today! 

Giving and Thanks

Matthew 25: 21 “Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.” The Message Bible

Our family has so much to be thankful for this year. Tommy has been on the receiving end of people willing to share their God given energy, intellect, talent or treasure for the benefit of his physical care. At the beginning of October, the community of Fayetteville and beyond, came together for Tommy’s Nite Out to raise money for his care giving. His injury requires that he has 24-hour care; if he is not able to stay at home with caregivers, he would need to live in a health facility. Needless to say, our family is beyond grateful that he is able to live at home. He gets up every day, and during the week goes to his office in Rogers. He may be severely disabled, but his attitude is abundantly able. Just ask anyone who spends time with him. He does not feel sorry for himself and is always asking how he can help.

In October we were invited to speak at Cross Church’s Summit Luncheon about Flipped! Triumph over Tragedy, Mark Saviers’ book recounting the aftermath of Tommy’s accident. Opportunities like this encourage us to continue pressing on. Our family is able to triumph over this tragedy because we have a sense of belonging to a greater purpose. These opportunities allow us to connect and communicate to others how God has walked with us through the past ten years.

We have observed that people who encourage and support others come from a place of abundance. An attitude of abundance results from believing that giving one’s time, talent, and resources in service to others has its own rewards. These actions as mentioned in the scripture above create a sense of belonging to a greater cause, a quiet satisfaction of a job well done, a partnership and a trust in the Creator of the world, that is a reward in and of itself. These actions create a heart filled with gratitude which is the fuel for an abundant mindset.

What in your life brings to you a sense of gratitude? Here are some things that come to mind: a beautiful autumn day in the Ozarks, observing a teenager helping his wobbly grandmother, a beloved pet lovingly looking at her “human,” a choir singing, the quiet and trust between loved ones, cuddling a baby.

Any time you feel like life is unfair, or challenges seem overwhelming and a sense of despair is clouding your vision, take a few moments to consider what you still have versus what you have lost. Gratitude can start with breathing: breathing is a gift, life is a gift, memories are a gift. You are a gift.

Happy Thanksgiving, we pray for an abundance in your mind, your heart, your life.

The Van Zandt/Saviers Family

When you’re a member of the ‘Flipped Club’

Jamie and her dogs a few years ago

I have been a member of many clubs in my life from Toastmasters to summer Bible clubs when I was a kid. One club I am now a part of is the “flipped club.” That’s right, those of us who have had our lives, and the lives of our loved ones, thrown in a turmoil because of an illness, injury, or some other major, life-changing event.

My membership application

What is ironic, or maybe just a little weird is, I would not consider myself a member of this club until the last few years. I was born with the disability Spina Bifida and am a full-time wheelchair user. Three years ago, however, I developed an auto-immune form of arthritis that often feels like it has the ultimate say-so in my life.

You see, the Spina Bifida may have been a “flipped” moment for my parents, but for me, it is the only reality I know. Truth be told, I would consider my life flipped if, somehow, I was miraculously healed. It would be a major change to everything I have ever known, including how I see the world. The arthritis, though, has often felt like a cruel joke that has robbed me of my who I once was.

I have always worked to stay positive, as it was what my parents taught me from an early age. In those moments of positive also came turmoil that I am learning to share with others in a way that lets them into my story and, I hope, helps them in some way.

Kindred spirits

I first met Tommy and Robyn when I started helping write this website and later signed on to help them with their blogs and social media. I have “met” the Saviers via phone and feel blessed to know the whole family.

When Tommy and I met, there seemed to be an instant connection. One might, and probably naturally so, that it is our disabilities what bond us. I respectfully disagree. Tommy and I live very different lives as our physical issues manifest themselves in very different ways.

Where we instantly bonded was how we handle our disabilities.

Anyone who spends five minutes around the two of us will quickly learn that we handle life with humor. Often morbid humor. But humor nonetheless. We crack jokes, often at our own expense. I have found that approach not only helps me keep a better attitude, but it makes people from the able-bodied world feel more at ease.

A few thoughts

I personally am not a fan of people telling me what to do, think or feel so I try to respect that in how I treat others. I do want to take a few moments and offer a few thoughts to those who might just now be finding yourself a member of the flipped club.

It is OK to grieve-God gave us emotions. We are allowed to grieve losing the life we once knew. I have found that as new situations arise, I must grieve all over again but in a new way each time. And that is OK. I am not reliving the grief God already helped heal. It is new grief as this illness exposes new hurts. Grief is also not doubting God. In fact, I would say grief is the time when God can be given the opportunity to show his glory more than any other moment.

It is OK to share-You are not a burden. I want you to repeat that out loud. I recognize the need for boundaries and know that you need to find those you feel safe sharing your deepest struggles with, but I also know the power of sharing your story. The power of letting people in. God will bring the right people to bless you and, in turn, you will bless them. I cannot tell you how many times people have told me they felt brave enough to go through their struggles because I shared mine. God brought that into place, I can assure you.

There is hope and even joy to come-No, I am not saying you will find miraculous healing. God can for sure do that, but he often finds other, more powerful ways to work in our lives. In some faith circles, having a disability that remains is seen as a lack of faith in God’s healing power. That is a false, abusive theology. I often tell people that when my family prayed for me to be healed from the Spina Bifida, God chose to not heal my body. Instead, he healed my spirit. I still struggle, I still grieve. But I hold onto the hope and joy we find in Jesus.

Life is hard, but God is good. So good.

With God, nothing is impossible (reflections from a caregiver)

By April, one of Tommy’s caregivers

I hate running. But there will come a day that I will run.

Why will I be running? Because I will be chasing Tommy Van Zandt. Why is Tommy running?

Because he can.

He will be praising God and running throughout heaven on streets of gold. Tommy will stride to the beat of Amazing Grace. There is no telling how many pairs of Cosmic Converse shoes he will go through.

Eternity is a long time. I can only imagine Tommy’s Joy! Continue reading