“A Break From Life”

We all have our favorite Christmas traditions and memories.  This one is one of my favorites.  Enjoy!
   
    

  


Oh boy, here comes the really good stuff,” I thought, as my mom brought my stocking to me! I began pulling out, one by one, each gift.  Mom, usually, gives me gifts, such as, jewelry and chocolates. The first gift was neither!
            It was a travel size bar of soap with a sponge. “What am I supposed to do with these? I thought, as I quietly laid the first gift aside.
I pulled out the next gift—a travel size deodorant. I was speechless. “Just keep going,” I silently told myself; “it’s going to get better.”
 The next gift I took out was a travel size tube of toothpaste and a toothbrush. My sister said,  “A toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste for Christmas? Mom, that’s really corny.”
It sure is! What’s going on here?! “Mom, are you trying to hint I need to brush up on my hygiene?!”
            Finally, I pulled out the last gift. It was a huge piece of paper with a note written on it saying, “Rachael, you and an aide are going to Joni and Friends Family Retreat at the Murrieta Hot Springs in San Diego July 23rd through the 26th, 2008.”
I was delighted! I hadn’t been to one since I was a little girl! I always wanted to go back! After I read the note, Mom explained,
“You’re going to Family Retreat by yourself with an aide because you need a break from life.”
Today, I’m thirty years old, have cerebral palsy, and working toward living independently. I still live with my mother, but sending me to the retreat by myself, “a break from life,” has become a great summer tradition ever since. It’s one of the best ways she knows to give me, as she puts it, an “independent vacation.”
The retreat is designed for families who struggle with the daily challenges of having a disability. It gives them a place where they can come and get some much-needed rest and some great spiritual encouragement in a Christian environment.  
The retreat reminds us everything has a purpose and comes from God. After the retreat, I feel inspired to make a difference and share my faith with others. Joni and Friends Family Retreat really is a glimpse of heaven!!
           
 
           

* Joni and Friends Family Retreat relies heavily on Christ following volunteers to serve the families who come to get “a break from life.” If you’re interested in serving at Family Retreat visit Joni’s website:  http://www.joniandfriends.org/family-retreats/ Click on “Apply as an STM.” (Short Term Missionary). It’s a great thing to do as a church group!

Grandma’s Wise Words

    Merry Christmas everybody! A few years back when I started to take writting seriously, I thought that I would try to write my own version of A Christmas Carol. I was trying to show how much Christmas had changed over time and how our focus should really be on Jesus because He is the reason for the season. When I was doing some research for this project I e-mailed my Grandma Giese to find out what Christmas was like in the 30’s. Grandma is now ninety years old. She grew up during the depression- A time when money and jobs were even more scarce then they are today.

    Because of that she lives a pretty simple life even today. Her words are full of richness and wisdom. We could all learn a thing or two from my grandma. It humbles me to think about how much I still have even in the midst of hard times. Alththough things are tight right now, it is still nothing compared to what people like my grandma have gone through. She and her sister were twins. What a Godly person my grandma is-filled with such joy! Enjoy!

    “Well, I just lost the thing so I’m starting over. Ellen and I have been talking about what we remember when we were in the 30’s. There was not much of a Christmas for us having an ill mother, She passed away we were thirteen. (1933). But talking to serval women around here when they were young they remember a small Christmas tree but very few gifts. None of them ever had a bike. Most gifts were things for school. It was during a depression so there wasn’t much money or family gatherings. We did go to church but most churches were im a pastor’s home. Our grandparents took us to church as dad stay home and took care of Mom. We didn’t expect anything. It was a time of Jesu’s birth-not something for giving. Although Christmas was Jesu’s birthday, we seem to have Him every day- not just that day, Lou says he remembers trees and gifts but I don’t think his family was religious. Every thing we received we had to have. The ones I talked to said the same thing. We had a garden and shared everything we had. You have a very good idea showing how much we have changed in expecting and being thankful for the things we are given and keeping our eye on the the importance of Christmas.
   
    Everyone I talked to never had a bike, roller skates, and YET we had a good time together without expecting things.  We were thankful for what we did have and thanked God for the thongs He provided for us. Isn’t that what Christmas is about??? God cared enough to provide what we needed.  Jesus.  What more do we need?”

“A Typical Teenager’s Night Out”

On my blog, I talk a lot about Fun Life.  What exactly is Fun Life? What do we do there anyway? This article explains all that,  I sent this article to the Santa Clartia Magazine a long time ago, but nothing ever happened with it.  This article expresses some of my not so happy emotions that sometimes happen as a young adult with a disability.  This is how I felt before I started coming to Fun Life.  I still struggle with those  emotions, but having Fun Life as an outlet has made things a lot better!  Enjoy!

  

Imagine that you’re a teenager in Santa Clarita with a disability.  It ‘s Friday night.  It’s been a long stressful week at school, and you just want to relax. You didn’t make any plans with friends.  Even if you did, it’s very hard to get your friends to stick to their commitments.  They cancel on you at the last minute. Most of your friends are able-bodied, so they can move from one place to the other much easier then you can.  They’re just about ready to their driver’s licenses, while you’ll never be able to because of your disability. It makes you feel left behind doesn’t it? What can you do?  It ‘s not your fault you have a disability. You wish you didn’t have it.  If you didn’t have a disability, you could keep up with your friends and be part of the “in crowd.” Are there any activities out here geared toward people with disabilities? You say to yourself in your mind. Your parents feel your pain, and are thinking the same thing. They’re wondering if there are any activities out here that are fun, that you can do, that also promote the positive moral values that they’ve worked so hard to instill in you. 
Somehow in that moment of desperation, you remember that a friend told you about Fun Life a long time ago. Fun Life is an extension of Young Life— A Christian
Club that is designed to reach out to junior high and high school students.   Fun Life is the one designed for teens and young adults with disabilities. You remember that your friend told you they do activities such as a Karaoke night, a Halloween dance, a Christmas Party, and, they even have dinner. Since it is a Christian club, there is always a short message about God. There are also skits. You also remember that your friend told you that the club meets twice a month on Fridays from six o’ clock to eight o’ clock.
            Excited, you tell your parents. They say yes because you’ve been so depressed lately that they’re willing to try anything to make you feel better.
            Friday night comes, and you go to Fun Life. You look around and see a lot of people in wheelchairs. You start talking to people and you realize that you have a lot in common.  You feel comfortable. “How come I didn’t know about this sooner?” you ask yourself out loud. 
            You’re having a great time singing some pretty silly songs.  You can’t help but wonder who wrote the songs-—like The Banana song.The last verse says, “Hug A Banana.” “Hug A Banana?” Are they crazy?
Then you play hot potato and do the chicken dance, and they do their version of a turkey bowl.  Then it’s time for the skit and a message. It’s Thanksgiving so everyone is dressed like a bunch of Indians.  Hearing them talk in funny accents is hilarious!
Then, It’s time to go home.  You had so much fun that you beg your parents to bring you back next time and they say okay.  This is your idea of a typical teenager’s night out.

“Don’t Let The Devil Twix You”


Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.”
2 Corinthians 5:17a
My Fun Life group has a weekly Bible study that meets on Thursday nights.  Last time we met for Bible study, we made pumpkin paper plates and talked about Halloween.  My leader told us that the pumpkin could symbolize the way Christians are supposed to shine as lights for Christ.
When we accept Jesus into our hearts, He comes in and cleans all the dirt out of our lives, then he “carves us out” in his image and makes us “a new creation.”  The light that shines inside the pumpkin could symbolize the light and hope that Jesus brings into our lives when we truly trust Him as our savior. Then she gave us Twix bars and said, “Don’t let the devil Twix you.”
She meant that Satan is always trying to mess with our minds.  He’s always trying to make us think we’re not good enough for God.  He wants to make sure our light for Christ goes out for good.
As Christians, we need to do things like be in fellowship with other believers, pray, and read the Bible.  During the week, I like to listen to praise music in the morning. If we do these things, we keep our minds and our hearts pure and we won’t be “Twixed” by the devil!
Dear Lord,
Help me not to be “Twixed” by the devil.
Amen

“An Elephant Never Forgets”

Last Saturday, my church hosted Awana’s 60th year anniversary celebration.  Awana is a Bible program for kids. It consists of three components: Handbook time, which is where the kids recite the verses they they’ve been practicing all week, counsel time, which is where they usually hear a Bible story or a lesson that teaches them something about God, and last but not least, often a kid’s favorite part, game time. Each week is a different theme night. Crazy Hair Day, Wrap your leader night, etc.  The point is to get kids interested in studying God’s word and have fun doing it.
The main thing they really stress in the Awana program is the importance of memorizing scripture.  In order to motivate the kids to memorize scripture, we give away prizes—badges, pins, etc.
I’m the room helper. If five kids want to say verses all at once, my job is to say, “I can help you over here.” Or the leaders can say, “Why don’t you say your verse to Rachael?” I might be in charge of a table if a leader is absent. I’ve even taught the lesson at counsel time a couple times. I fill in the gaps wherever necessary.
There’s no question the motivation works. There are weeks the kids want to say verses faster than I can keep up with them. The problem is, often the kids are so anxious to get their verses signed off and get the prize, that many times I find myself thinking, Will they be able to say the same verse again in the morning?
            We’ve all heard the old saying, “An elephant never forgets.” What good does it do to memorize God’s word if we can’t apply the verses to our own lives, and share the Gospel with a friend? It’s pointless! The Bible has no meaning if we do that. It quickly becomes just another ordinary book. If we can remember other things, how come we have such a hard time remembering God’s word? In the same way we remember our favorite songs, God wants us to remember His word—like an elephant!
Dear Lord,
Help me to be like an elephant memorizing your word.
Amen

“Press One”

 

I can’t drive so I use Access. It’s the public bus system for people with disabilities. Sometimes it can be so frustrating!
            Last night I was on my way to Fun Life. The bus was supposed to pick me from my house between 5:36-5:56. Fun Life only lasts two hours from 6:00-8:00. I waited the 20 minutes they ask riders to wait when scheduling a ride.  By the end of the window, the bus driver still hadn’t shown up. Normally I wait five minutes pass the window, but the company already cut it close with the time they gave me and I really wanted to get there.  After two minutes, I called them.
            Access has one of those automated systems.  I got to the part where it says,  “For English, please press one.” I found out that the company had my pick-up time down as 6:14. Somebody changed my pick-up time and didn’t call me to ask my permission. I asked to speak to a supervisor and filed a complaint. I finally got there at 6:30. While I’m on the phone I’m thinking, These people need to speak the language of details!
             God wants us to learn to speak His language. If we have questions about something, all we have to do is pray, read the Bible, and listen for His still small voice.  No automated system required!
Dear Jesus,
Thank you for making Your word so simple.
Amen

“Sweet Tooth Rachael”

    

Anyone who knows me really well knows that I love sugar.  In fact, one of my aides calls me, “Sweet Tooth Rachael.”
            Last week my mom was in charge of bringing snacks to her Sunday school class.  She made a tray with three types of popcorn: parmesan, nacho, and caramel. She knew it would take awhile, so she started very early in the morning.  As I was coming down the hallway, I smelled the scent of caramel.  I wanted some right now! I could eat a bunch! “I get to test it, right Mom?” I ask. “Yes Rachael.” She replies.
            That same day when it was time to go to church, I was so tired from the day that   I actually thought about not going. My mother emphasized that it was important for me to have fellowship with other solid believers. The more we talked, I realized she was right and I ended up going.  Once I got there I was glad I didn’t miss it.
             The thing about eating sweets is that the “sugar rush” only lasts awhile and then we’re hungry again. In the same way, our “sweet tooth” for the things of this world only lasts awhile and then we are looking for something else to fill our hunger. Only Jesus can really fill our lives with sweetness that lasts a lifetime.
Dear Jesus,
Give me a sweet tooth for the wisdom of your ways.
Amen

Rachael The Miracle Child

Hey everybody! Here’s the first article I wrote when I started to take writing seriously.  I sent it to Guideposts Magazine in 2007. They loved it but it didn’t quite fit their criteria, so it never made it to the magazine.  It’s my testimony.  Enjoy!

  

     The date: February 8, 1983.  The time: around noon.  The weather: cool and breezy.  The newscasters would call this the Santa Ana winds. The baby is not due to come until April 8, but there is a problem. The baby is ready to come early.
            The mother to be is at her next-door neighbor’s house and calls the grandmother to be, who then rushes over to take her to the hospital and pages the father to meet them there.  Once they are at the hospital, the doctor rushes Rosemary into surgery and delivers the baby by emergency C-section. When the baby comes out of the womb, it stops breathing. Within 15 minutes, the doctors are able to get no more than five breaths out of it. Imagine trying to hold your breath for 15 minutes. Could you do it? No. You’d kill yourself if you tried.
            Unfortunately, the baby’s skin is blue.  It’s not making a sound—not even a normal baby cry.  It’s quiet— too quiet. Rosemary’s water broke early, causing the baby to become very ill. The doctors realized two days later that the baby had pneumonia, and that lack of oxygen had caused serious brain damage. Is there any hope for this child? Or, should the parents of this child say good-bye right now? Is it even possible to say good-bye to babies who haven’t even taken their first steps, their first breath of air, or their first look at life?
            After that, the doctors tried everything medically possible, but the baby’s body didn’t respond.  When the doctors were about to lose hope, they tried one more thing.  They gave the baby antibiotics. The baby began to recover within 24 hours, and then the doctors knew that the baby would live.
Now that the baby would live, what about a name? I’m sure that Rosemary and Rex hadn’t thought about that yet. After all, the baby wasn’t even due until April 8, and here it was February 8, two months early.
Rex decided on a name and its spelling.  “Her name will be Rachael Benson,” he said.  When the nurses found out this baby would live, they were ecstatic, and they started writing the name on everything.
I’m Rachael Benson.  I’m the “miracle child.”  I’m 24 years old now and have cerebral palsy.  This is the story of what happened when I was born.
Even though everyone was sure I was going to live, that didn’t mean I could go home right away. Because of complications, I weighed only three and one half pounds.  The doctors would not let me go home until I weighed five pounds.
Heartbroken that she couldn’t bring me home, my mother traveled back and forth to the hospital for five weeks to feed me. If I was asleep when she came, she just had to wait for me to wake up. Finally, I reached five pounds and the doctors said I could go home.
When they brought me home, they had to put me on a heart monitor for my first year to monitor my heart rate. The heart monitor’s alarm went off quite often, causing my parents to jump up to check on me, but nothing ever happened. It only went off because I moved around so much.  My parents would look at me and I would just smile.  My heart never completely stopped. But, it slowed way down at times, especially if I had a stressful day. The doctors were monitoring what is called apnea, which is where you forget to breathe. My mom and other family members were well prepared for the worst before the doctors sent me home. They had taken a special CPR class so that they would know what to do in an instant if they had to. They did it together so that Mom could have a break every once in a while.
Mom said that while I was on the heart monitor, I slept in my parents’ room in a bassinet so that she could see me and drop what she was doing in an instant if she had to.  She said she could see out of the corner of her eye that I was all right.
Because of my health problems, my mother, even though a follower of Christ, harbored anger against God until she realized that she had quite a bit of spiritual growing to do. She says I was her wake-up call.
After my mother got past her anger, she made sure that church was a high priority in my life. This taught me to focus on the positives about my disability, like learning to walk with a walker. I’m thankful that I can talk to people and make intelligent conversation.  I don’t have a speech impediment, although I stutter occasionally.
Most of all, I’m thankful for a mother who emphasized that God had a reason for allowing me to have CP. She wouldn’t allow me to have a “woe is me I’m disabled” attitude.  She has taught me (and is still teaching me) to focus on what I can do, not what I can’t do.  Thanks to her and the many other friends and family members that have loved me, I came to know the Lord at a very early age.
I’ve learned to be thankful for only have two seizures in my lifetime: once when I was a year old, and again when I was 15. The second seizure happened because the doctor tried to take me off the medication. I’m stable enough that, even though my mom has to help me quite often, she doesn’t have to be there all the time. While my mom runs errands, someone else can help me, and I can socialize with people my age.
I’m also thankful that my disability is physical, not mental.  Although I sometimes have trouble with my sense of direction and math, or things that require a lot of motor planning, I don’t have any major behavior problems that scare others away. I don’t scream or throw tantrums in public.
I’m thankful for the people God has put in my life to help me learn the essential skills I need for my life, like walking with a walker. I am very thankful that God allowed me to live.  Instead of being in heaven right now, waiting for my mother to arrive, I am sitting here at my computer, writing this story.
     My disability is not a mistake. Everything happened for a reason.  In Psalm 139:13-16 the Bible says, “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.” (New International Version),
     Since I was created in my mother’s womb, how could my disability be a mistake?  It wasn’t. God didn’t say” oops” when I was born. He doesn’t punish people by giving them disabilities, but allows them to go through trials to develop character.  The Bible says in Romans 5:3-4: “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (NIV).
People sometimes ask,  “Where is God in the midst of suffering?” I tell them, He’s been right there all along.”  The real question is not, “Where is God?” Instead, the question we should ask is, “Where are we?”

 

“Would You Like A Magazine?”

Hey everybody! Here’s the article that got published in the Santa Clartia Magazine in April 2009.  It’s about the volunteer work I do at the hospital.  Enjoy!
Henry Mayo volunteer Lifts Spirits and Eases Loneliness
   

Imagine that you’re a patient at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital.  You’ve just had some tests done, and the doctor has just told you that you’re going to be here for awhile. It’s noontime. Friends and family do come to visit, but they can only come at certain times for a short visit.   They can’t stay all day. Nurses and doctors come in and out of the room, but mainly to give you medicine and check your vitals.   No one really has any time to talk because everyone is so busy.  What happens when your friends and family leave? You’ve got a long day in the hospital.
            You could sleep, but what if you’re not tired and need some stimulation? You could watch television, but television can get boring after awhile.  The hospital offers Internet access, but what if you’re not a huge computer person? What else is left to do besides lay in bed and stare at the walls?
            That’s where I come in.  My name is Rachael Benson.  I’m a patient visitations volunteer at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital. I make rounds throughout the hospital to visit patients.  I’m the one who comes into the room and says, “Hi, would you like a magazine?” 
Even when patients don’t take a magazine, many appreciate the fact that someone besides their family members came to visit. I’m a good listener; if they feel like making conversation, I will gladly stay awhile to talk with them. Patients often say to me, “Thanks for coming by.”
When people see me, they are often surprised that I’m a volunteer.  I’ve seen some patients in tears when I hand them a magazine because they can’t believe that someone like me could or would want to set aside time to help others in need. That’s because I have cerebral palsy, and I’m in a wheelchair.  Why am I volunteering when to many people it looks like I am the one who needs the help?  How is that even possible? It’s not only the patients who feel good as a result of my volunteer service.
I remember one patient in particular who goes by the name of “cowboy.”  One day when I was driving home in my wheelchair, he literally stopped his car in the middle of the street on McBean Parkway to say “thank you” for the magazine. Then, on another day, I saw him again just outside Henry Mayo’s Pavilion. He said, “Thank you for the magazine.  I really appreciate what you did for me.”  
People love the service—especially when I tell them that the magazines are free. One time when I said that, a patient replied, “What a delight.”
It feels good to know that I’m helping to bring smiles to patients just by performing a simple gesture when they may be going through a rough time in their life.  I love the fact that people see me, they often realize that if I’m at the hospital volunteering, even with my disability, then they can overcome their burdens. I hope to keep volunteering for a long while because in addition to the magazines I deliver, I also bring inspiration and cheer.    
The free magazine service provided by Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital’s volunteer department is dependent on magazine donations from the community.  If you have any unused magazines at home that you would like to donate to the hospital, please deliver them to the information desk in the hospital’s main lobby. 
            
 

“A Human Disability”

SIN

Recently, I went to Young Life Camp. One thing that really stuck out to me was that the speaker called sin, “A human disability.” We’re all born with a sin nature. We all have regrets or mistakes in our lives that aren’t humanly possible to fix. When we do things that aren’t pleasing to God, it’s because we’re making ourselves the center of our lives, instead of Jesus.
  Maybe you’ve seen something on television or in a store and thought, ifonly I could afford to have that, then I would be happy. It would make my life so much better. Or how about, if I could just go back and do it over again, I wouldn’t have to feel so guilty. 
            The funny thing is, a lot of times even after we get the thing we were hoping for, we still aren’t happy. If we are happy, it’s only temporary. We’re always looking for someone or something to fill the void. The truth is only Jesus can truly love and forgive us the way we need to be loved and forgiven. Only He can cure us of our real disabilities.
            The speaker said, “Jesus came and died for you and I, so that you could have the life you were meant to have—the life that you really always wanted.” Have you experienced an abundant life?

      Dear Jesus,
Please come into my heart and take away my disability: sin.
Amen