Hi, this is Joni Eareckson Tada and I have a very special kid I want you to meet.
It's been quite awhile, but I remember the time when an 11-year-old girl named Brooke walked into my office. She had soft blonde hair, a smattering of freckles, pixie-like eyes and a full mouth that easily broke into a grin. She was joined by her mother and pastor. They thought it would be good for her to meet another person who is facing tough limitations. You see, Brooke has juvenile arthritis - for those of you who may not know, that is one disability that is painful! Looking at Brooke, I would never have guessed it, except when her mother pointed out Brooke's fused ankle. After that, I noticed how this 11-year-old kept squeezing her hands and rubbing her knuckles. I also noticed her stiff gait. She was in a lot of pain that day. But her smile never showed it.
I asked if Brooke and I could spend some time alone in my art studio. We sat and talked about her friends at school, her hobbies, and her interest in art. Then our discussion turned to spiritual things. I asked what her favorite verse was -- thinking it might be the typical "Psalm 23" or "Romans 8:28" most kids would choose. I was not prepared for her answer. Brooke proudly quoted from James 3 starting at the 10th verse, she said, "Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?"
To be honest, I was taken aback. I would never have thought a kid like that would choose a verse like that as her favorite. When I gave her a funny look, Brooke, ready with a smile and also with an answer, said: "I could do a lot of complaining, Miss Joni, about my arthritis, but I've learned that's not right. I want to trust God, I really do." Brooke was quiet for a moment and her eyes held mine, revealing wisdom far beyond her years. It was like her gaze burned right through me. I even squirmed a little and confessed to her that I had been grumbling over a backache earlier in the day.
When Brooke left my office she seemed to leave behind her a fresh scent. She had cleared the stuffy air in my office, reminding me I have nothing to complain about. God used a little child to lead me, like Jesus explained in Matthew 16 where He said: "... have you never read, 'From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise?'" I'll never forget that kid. It should not be that out of our mouths come both blessing and cursing - it shouldn't be that fresh water and saltwater could possibly flow from the same spring. Brooke showed me that complaining simply does not "go" alongside words of encouragement to others or praise to God. It's been a while since that visit from Brooke and her juvenile arthritis has worsened... just like my quadriplegia has gotten harder. But amazingly, God keeps bringing her to mind. She is one special kid.
And speaking of special kids, I've written a little booklet for you if you are a parent to a child with special needs like Brooke. It covers the topic of discipline... how to deal with sibling rivalry... how to inspire your child... some questions about education... and a brief list of resources in the back of other organizations that serve youth with special needs. If you'd like a copy of this booklet called "Special Kids," then please visit me today at joniandfriendsradio.org and ask for it right away. You might want to give it to a friend or a neighbor, it's just a small guide to help them on their way. Again, that's joniandfriendsradio.org and I look forward to hearing from you; until next time on "Joni and Friends".
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