The Lakeshore Foundation
This past summer our family was re-introduced to the Lakeshore Foundation, which is a wonderful organization right here in Birmingham. Their mission is to enable people with physical disabilities and chronic health conditions to lead healthy, active and independent lifestyles. When Jian first came home, I took her there and enrolled her in swim lessons. I reasoned that being in the water would put her more on an even playing field to showcase her physical strengths and channel her competitive drive. At that time, she would only agree to participate in private swim lessons. No classes where “other kids would stare” at her. And certainly no sports involving wheelchairs. Her physical therapist tried for years to plant seeds about Lakeshore’s wheelchair basketball team, but Jian wanted no part of it. She thought that if she even set foot on the court, they would somehow trick her into permanently using a wheelchair, and she was determined to walk.
Fast forward to this summer. I took Faith to tour Lakeshore because I wanted her to learn to swim as well. We found out about some summer camps that sounded like a lot of fun. Because the two girls had each other for support, they agreed to attend. This is where a lot of opportunities opened up for us. The first camp was called Camp Strive, and is one of my fondest family memories to date. It was a full weekend with the four of us being away from home with no cell phone service in the company of lots of other families in similar circumstances who “got it.” The Lakeshore staff handled everything. We didn’t have to worry about a single thing except spending time together and making memories. It was at this camp that the girls were able to do adaptive water skiing.
One of the greatest things that happened, though, was when Jian decided that she wanted to go fishing. Daniel tried to talk her out of it, because we were scheduled for another activity soon. She was focused on her mission, though. She cast her line a few feet off the bank, where the chances of actually catching a fish was almost zero. In her mind, however, she wasn’t leaving there until she caught a fish. And sure enough, she reeled this little puppy in! The staff member who observed this was quite amazed at Jian’s tenacity.
The other camp the girls attended introduced them to several Paralympic sports. Jian actually shined in almost every one, but the one that grabbed her heart was basketball. The coaches encouraged her to play on the team this year, and she agreed. Practices started the first week of September. When we showed up for the first one, Jian literally knew zero of the rules of the game. At the second or third practice, it was obvious that she has some natural talent, and her speed was as good as most anyone on the court, so she was invited to start practicing with the varsity team as well! After two months of practice, she played in her first tournament in North Carolina. She started two of the games, won the tip-off in one game, played point-guard for some of the time, and even made her first basket!
Her greatest skill at this time is defense. She has the focus and intensity of a pit bull. I told the coach—“Just tell her exactly what you want her to do, and she will do it with 200% effort.” And that’s what she did. During the championship game, when she was put in to guard their fastest female, that girl never scored another point!
It makes my heart glad to watch anyone (and especially my daughters) do what they were gifted to do. The truth is—I am much like Jian. I get focused on something, and I will either accomplish it or die trying. I have had several people in my life point out that this type of intensity is not healthy and that I should try to move more toward the “middle” or become less black-and-white and more gray. For a long time, I believed Satan’s lies that something was “wrong with me” for being this way. But the more I dive into scripture, the more I see that whatever we may perceive as a thorn in the flesh can be worked out for His glory.
When I was a pediatric therapist, I had several moms who would exasperatedly tell me about their young daughters, “She is just SO stubborn!” I would smile and remind them that this quality would serve them well. We just needed to teach them how to channel that energy. Jian is studying about notable Americans, one of whom is Harriet Tubman. I point out to her every time that these people never gave up. They swam against the current, no matter how difficult it was. When I read about Jesus or the Apostle Paul, “middle-of-the-road” does not come to mind. I want to be like them. I want to recognize that there are people all around us and around the world who are suffering. Today. And they do not know Christ. I want to be “all-in.” I want to constantly evaluate what I can do to make a difference. What can I do to loosen my grip on worldly things in order to focus more on what will matter eternally?
I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. John 9:4
So to my Jian, I would say: You have been given a gift. A talent. You are different than others. Not less-than. Different. Channel that drive to do what you have been put here to do. Shine your light for others to see the One who drives you. The One who carries you when you feel too weak to continue swimming against the current. This is what makes me so proud of you.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10