Blog Contest Winner – Rachel

  • By: Joni and Friends
  • Sept. 11, 2014
  • 8 Comments

Rachel wishing Joni and Friends "Happy 35th Anniversary"To celebrate 35 years of Joni and Friends ministry, we recently held our first blog contest. We invited you to share on your personal blog how Joni and Friends has impacted your life! This week, we’re featuring the winning entries. Today’s post was written Rachel L. who lives with dysautonomia, a disabling chronic illness. As “Joni’s Pick” winner, she’s receiving Joni’s 2015 Daily Planner, the Joni feature film, and an Amazon gift card. Please take a moment to read Rachel’s post and leave her a comment of congratulations!

Joni and Friends 35th Anniversary

Joni and Friends is celebrating 35 years of ministry! I am very grateful for Joni Eareckson Tada and for the ministry of Joni and Friends. I would not be where I am today in my walk with the Lord were it not for Joni and Friends. The Lord has used this ministry to teach, encourage, and equip me to live life well with a chronic illness. Today I would like to share about how this ministry has impacted me.

I first heard of Joni when I was a child. I remember seeing her movie and learning about her life with quadriplegia. I admired her artwork, and I was especially amazed by the fact that she could create such beautiful pictures using her mouth to draw and paint! I remember looking through her first book, Joni: An Unforgettable Story, and seeing pictures of her before and after her diving accident. She was a remarkable woman who had learned to trust God in the midst of suffering, accept the life that He had given her, and serve others affected by disability. Little did I know as a child what an impact Joni would have on my life in the years to come.

I struggled with dysautonomia as a teenager and in my early 20s. When I was 23 the dysautonomia began to affect me so much that I had to quit work completely. Soon my health deteriorated to the point that I became primarily homebound. This was a challenging and lonely time for me as I dealt with various changes that accompany life with a disabling chronic illness. There was much that I needed to learn about my illness and how to live well with it. I had to learn new ways of completing physical tasks, when to ask for help, and when to do something on my own. I especially struggled to learn what it meant to be an excellent wife now that I was disabled.

In those early years of being so sick I felt lonely and ill-equipped to live life well with dysautonomia. I didn’t have a solid understanding of suffering from a biblical perspective, but I did have a deep, abiding peace in the Lord during that time. I trusted that all of this was in His hands. I knew that He could heal me, but that He didn’t have to do so. I worked on growing in contentment and joy. The Lord’s grace carried me through those hard early years of being so sick.

After a couple of years I found the ministry of Joni and Friends online. Because of Joni and Friends I felt less alone in living with a disabling chronic illness. Through their resources and Joni’s books, I learned so much from God’s Word about illness, suffering, disability, God’s sovereignty, Heaven, perseverance, joy, and humility. The Lord used Joni and Friends to help equip me to live life well with dysautonomia.

The first book I read by Joni was When God Weeps, which she co-authored with Steve Estes. It was so refreshing to read a book that dealt with disability and suffering on both a practical and a theological level. This book was just what I needed. God used this book to teach me more about His sovereignty and His plan and purpose in suffering. He used it to strengthen and grow my faith. It was in reading When God Weeps that I began to understand more fully the meaning of 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. These verses quickly became my favorites and helped me through my hardest days.

I have gleaned from Joni’s wisdom not just through her books, but through the Joni and Friends website. There is a wealth of information, encouragement, and biblical teaching that can be found in the blog posts, radio programs, television programs, daily devotion emails, and in the bookstore. I have benefited greatly from all of these resources.

One of my favorite things about reading on the Joni and Friends website is that I get to learn about people with other types of disabilities. Their personal stories and examples of faith are a challenge and an encouragement to me. It also provides me with the opportunity to pray for them in their suffering.

Through the Joni and Friends website I learned about the Wheels for the World program. In 2009, when I had an extra wheelchair, I had the privilege of donating that wheelchair to Wheels for the World. My wheelchair went to the country of Peru. I still think about and pray for the person who received my wheelchair. I hope that someday in the future I will be able to donate another wheelchair to Wheels for the World.

Thank you, Joni, for the words of wisdom you have shared in your books, on the radio, and on your blog. God has used your biblical teaching to help equip me not just to live well with dysautonomia, but also to blog about life with a chronic illness from a Christian perspective.

Thank you, Joni and Friends, for serving me, and countless others, who are affected by disabilities. May the Lord continue to bless your ministry. Happy 35th Anniversary, Joni and Friends!

P.S. There are many bloggers who are writing blog posts in celebration of Joni and Friends 35th Anniversary! You can find their blog posts on the Joni and Friends 35th Anniversary Blog Contest Pinterest board. I have been blessed by reading these posts, and I know you will be too!

Read posts from our other Blog Contest Winners!
Stephanie – “Happy 35 Years to Joni and Friends!”
Electra – “Hope”
Glen – "A Bereaved Father’s Retrospect on Joni and Friends Family Retreat"

 
 

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8 Comments

 
Rachel, your story touched me. It is unbelievable that we can be so alone in this bustling, busy world. I suffered the loss of my parents, a sister and a friend in the last 10 years. No being married, I have not been able to fill the void left by my sister and friend. It isn't a disability, but new decades in our life bring many changes, along with physical and emotional ailments. I will pray for you whenever I think of you. God's Best, Regina
  • Sept. 15, 2014
  • 2:23 p.m.
  • regina
The Lord bless you, Rachel, for sharing your heart with us. I, too, have severe dysautonomia, and it is such a testimony to see a young woman like you trusting the Lord moment by moment in the midst of it. I have had an especially hard week physically and God prompted me to read your blog post today, and He used it greatly to re-direct my focus back to Himself. Thank you for blessing my life today!
  • Sept. 13, 2014
  • 11:12 a.m.
  • Beth Massengale
What a well-deserved honor to have your writing featured here, Rachel. You have suffered so much in faith, and your reward will be great.
  • Sept. 11, 2014
  • 5:40 p.m.
  • Kristen
It was a blessing to read Rachel's blog. I, too, have Dysautonomia, and know only one other person in my area with it. Rachel's words reminded me of the loneliness of spending so much time indoors, and of the assurance every time the Lord comforted, guided, and touched my life through the Holy Spirit, friends, and church family members. I have friends who recently attended the JAF Camp event at Bonclarken, and they've encouranged me to plan on going next year. Thank you, Rachel, for your testimony and encouragement for this ministry!
  • Sept. 11, 2014
  • 5:19 p.m.
  • Margie Hays
Woohoo! Congratulations Rachel!! :)
  • Sept. 11, 2014
  • 4:13 p.m.
  • Emily
Today I have been especially encouraged by Rachael's blog. To know that is able to live with joy in her suffering is another witness to me of the power of the gospel in Christ. It's a bonus to hear that she donated a wheelchair to WFTW Peru. Who knows, I may have worked on her chair as a mechanic in one of my 8 trips, working alongside Corazones Unidos! I also might add that I have been encouraged this last year to read "Beyond Suffering", "Joni and Ken" and also "Another Kind of Courage". Thank you thank you thank you. It is a privilege to be part of this 'movement'! - Reid
  • Sept. 11, 2014
  • 12:27 p.m.
  • Reid Warner
Really enjoyed reading this post. Rachel, you have blessed us with your joy inspite of a chronic illness.
  • Sept. 11, 2014
  • 10:43 a.m.
  • Julia
Thank you Rachael for sharing with us. Learning to live with isolation and a chronic illness is indeed just as you say. I can now say: Thank you Lord for giving me constant pain. I have had to learn to cling to Him and love him in just the ways you shared Rachael. God bless you honey.
  • Sept. 11, 2014
  • 9:42 a.m.
  • Theresa Schwartz