Contentment in Life

I wasn’t in a particularly good place a few minutes ago.

Having cerebal palsy, and not having taken proactive-care of my health, my mobility is becoming more problematic. In the last few months this has become much more apparent. My legs are have lost flexibility, and my arms can no longer always cajole them to behave. (Actually cajole is too soft a word, let’s go with force). Even the simple act of putting on shoes takes more effort than it once did. Add to that, my gait is now so bad that the rate at which I go through shoes is not an insignificant cost.

And so, at crazy-stupid-o’clock this was bearing down on me, and I was feeling a little sorry for myself, and all involved. I guess it’s like growing old – only I’m experiencing it a few decades too early.

One could continue to wallow in self-pity, but that really is an ugly thing. Especially when I sit in a first world country with all that it offers. I’ve found through life’s varied challenges, physical or otherwise, that self-pity calls for a perspective change. It’s not about looking at what you don’t have, but being thankful for what you do have. Sure, my legs aren’t all that great, but I do still have good mobility. Sure, I should own shares in a shoe company, but at least I can afford to buy shoes.

It reminded me of the amazing Nick Vujicic. Nick doesn’t have any limbs, but he does have incredible determination, adaptability and a joy that shines through.

In his book Unstoppable Nick speaks of a man named Phil Toth who was an encouragement to him. Among other things, Phil shows us that age, experience or circumstance are no barrier to being used by God. The value of Phil’s example is so poignant that I must share the passage:

For nearly two years his doctors couldn’t determine what was wrong, but they finally diagnosed him with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)…

The life expectancy for one with this incurable disease, which destroys the motor nerve cells in the brain and spine and causes muscles to deteriorate, is usually two to five years. Initially, Phil’s doctors told him that his case was advancing so quickly that he might not survive another three months. Instead, Phil lived for five years, and I think it was because he did not focus on his suffering. He focused instead on encouraging others to pray and trust God. Phil dealt with his deadly illness by celebrating life and reaching out to help others, even though he could not lift his arms or legs from his bed.

ALS is both wickedly cruel and extremely painful. Within a few years, Phil was bedridden and unable to do much for himself. His large circle of loving family and friends provided constant care. Even his voice was affected, making it difficult for people to understand him.

Despite his pain and suffering, Phil remained deeply devoted to his Christian faith, and beyond that he even found a way to put his faith into action so that he could reach out to console and inspire others who were suffering debilitating and deadly illnesses. By God’s grace, with all his physical challenges, Phil created the website that my mother discovered through the church. Here is part of the message he posted about his illness and the impact it had on his faith:

“I thank God for leading me through this! It has brought me closer to God [it would be worth it if this is all it did], it has caused me to reevaluate my life and see if I’m in the faith, caused me to experience the love of my brothers and sisters in Christ, near and far. Taught me to depend fully on the Word of God, my knowledge of the Word has increased, as well as maturing in the faith. My family and friends are a lot closer now. Additionally I’ve been learning a lot more about health, nutrition, and taking care of my body. The benefits of my situation are endless.”

Make every moment count.

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13)

 

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My Bio: In The Beginning

I shared recently that I like to know the backgrounds of the authors that I read. Here is my first contribution toward sharing my background.

Life Starts with a Miracle

Hi, My name is Ben Ezard, but it almost wasn’t.Profile pic - small

The first my parents knew of the pregnancy was when the doctor told them they had suffered an incomplete miscarriage (at 2 months). My mum had an ultrasound (prior to the dilation and curettage being scheduled) which proved I was very much alive.

At 15 weeks there was a major membrane rupture, leaving only about one cup of amniotic fluid. As my mum later wrote:

The doctor gave us the choice of returning home, which inevitably meant we would lose the baby, or stay in hospital to wait for it to abort anyway. It was implied there was a very, very slim chance of survival if I stayed.

The doctor informed my parents that even if I managed to live I would most likely be physically and cognitively disabled.

Just five days later:

By Friday my condition was so bad that the doctor could only shake his head when he examined me.  He expected the end to come within 24 hours, and I was prepared for it if it was to be.

The church rallied around my parents and prayed for me to be born healthy and alive; in direct contrast to the doctor’s 23 years of experience. My mum received an assurance from God, and clung to Psalm 139 that illustrates that God is intimately involved in the life of all.

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:13-15)

From that Sunday, 15 weeks into pregnancy, my mum remained in  hospital for the duration of the pregnancy. In a beautiful display of love my dad visited her each day before and after work (about 160 visits), and my maternal grandmother cared for my older sisters during the week.

At 28 weeks I was done with the cramped conditions in mum’s uterus and made an early appearance. I was admitted to intensive care, and had five complete blood transfusions because both my red and white blood cells weren’t right. After six weeks I was allowed to go home.

Benjamin’s development showed he was not only slow because of prematurity, but he was also somewhat lazy.

Just after I turned one my parents were informed that I would need two minor and two major operations, which would be the first of 11.

At 15 months I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy (technically spastic quadraplegia because all four limbs are affected to a degree). My parents were informed that they would need to give me intensive long term physio.

I believe one of the main reasons Benjamin was healed this time was because the Lord hear the prayer of a little boy. “…help the doctor get it right this time because I’m tired of going to hospital.”

Whenever we saw the negative side of things Benjamin’s comment would always be… “we’ll have to ask God to make it right…”

Early Life

I consider myself incredibly blessed to have been born into a loving family. It is unlikely that without such dedicated parents I would have been so healthy and lived the life that I have. (Not to mention the excellent Australian public health care system).

1982-12 family - Copy
The obligatory family photo.

 

Another key aspect of my early life was seeing my parent’s faith expressed in every day living. Both of them served in our local church and our house was one of regular hospitality. For decades I was accustomed to seeing both parents spend time in the morning reading the Bible; prayer was common.

And so, based on the demonstration of their faith I accepted Jesus at the age of 9 (I think) and was baptised by my Dad in a half-rainwater tank outside of the church.

1987 fireman 1.png
Which male doesn’t like ‘fixing’ a fire? (Me: 6ish).

“God made me so I can make people happy.” Me, just before my 5th birthday.

I remember myself as a happy-go-lucky child, with a quick smile and sharing my Dad’s finely tuned (and somewhat unorthodox) sense of humour. If I was told I physically couldn’t do something, then I would make it my mission to prove them wrong. As my  mum recorded:

HIS CONFIDENCE is very high and he tries to persuade his Physio to play with him rather than work.  He is currently practising walking with sticks only, and doing extremely well, although somewhat slower.

Fast-forward a number of years and school challenged my positive outlook. As I grew older I began to realise that there were more activities that I couldn’t participate in. I longed to play football or basketball, and began to notice that the gap between my social standing and the ‘popular kids’ was growing into a chasm.

I remember struggling a lot emotionally and wanting to be ‘normal’. This was something that I would continue to work through for years…

(The end of this installment).

 

 

The Power of Thank You

“Thank You” are two words which when used sincerely can be powerful. When someone says “thank you” to us it means that they appreciate something that we have done, whether that be big or small. Conversely, when someone doesn’t say thank you I think it means that are either rude, taking our action for granted or both.

Being disabled and a commuter to work, I particularly appreciated a bus driver who was very considerate; pulling in perfectly to the curb to make getting on-and-off the bus easy. After several bus trips with this individual I came to know it was his consistent behaviour. So I wrote an email of gratitude and sent it to his employer.

The response I got was quite good in itself. Another staff member responded, thanking me for taking the time to give praise … it seems that most commuters only ever complain. We should be equally quick to praise as we are to complain. (And to be honest, I’m quicker at complaining myself…something to work on). I was told the driver was going to be given an award or certificate of gratitude.

Since that day, I have seen that bus driver many times, and now I get GOLD service from him. In the last few days – even as he has been driving a different bus and I have been waiting at the stop, each time we wave and smile to each other as he drives past. A little bit of gratitude can go a long way. A stranger can become a friend (* remember stranger danger still applies).

Being a Christian, I ascribe credit to every blessing as originating from God. Sometimes other people are involved, and they deserve to be thanked too. Living in a “first-world country” means that I have an incredible amount to be thankful for:

Even just this morning I have food to fill my belly and coffee to aid in the waking process. I am warm because I am in a house (and an incredibly big house by most of the world’s standards) and have ample clothing. I have electricity to light up the darkness and power my computer. I can read and write and use a computer fluently. In a short time I will have a hot shower in clean water and dress for work. I will then go outside knowing that I should be safe and catch reliable public transport. After today is over I will enjoy the blessing of a weekend in which I don’t have to work.

There are so many things to be thankful for.

We are each responsible for influencing our community; let’s make a positive influence.