Daddy’s Home

 

 

When I was a little girl, my dad owned the family trucking business. It still exists today. It’s a mail delivery business. Christmas is a very busy time of year for the mail business. Everybody wants to get their cards and packages delivered to their loved ones by Christmas Day. It seemed liked Dad was always working all the time. My sister and I hardly ever saw him. When we did see him, he was very tired—so tired that all he wanted to do was sit still and relax.
Our Christmases with Dad were simple. On Christmas Day, we would get up and watch television, have breakfast, then go into the dining room, and open up our presents and stockings. When we were done, we played with our new toys. That was it. We didn’t go anywhere special, or do anything fancy. We just enjoyed each other’s company. Having Dad there was such a treat, we didn’t need anything else. He was our gift.
In Matthew 2:11, the Bible says, “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” (New International Version).
The wise men presented Jesus with their gifts, and them they just enjoyed being in His presence. We live in such a materialistic society, that it’s easy to miss the simplicity of Christmas—the birth of Jesus. Do you have the ultimate gift?

The Cookie Dough Mix Up

In my family, we celebrate Christmas Eve on my dad’s side. As we prepare for Christmas, one of our favorite traditions is baking cookies. We make two kinds. Sugar cookies, and peanut butter cookies with Hershey’s chocolate in the middle. One year, something very interesting happened.
We went to cousin Nina’s house. It was my mom, my Aunt Kay, my Grandma Benson, Cousin Nina’s two kids Whitney and Mitchell, and myself. We gathered around the kitchen table, got out the proper tools, and got started. First, we started with the sugar cookies. My Grandma Benson stood beside me as she sprinkled the cookie board with sugar, then she took the rolling pin, and rolled out the dough. Then, I took a cookie cutter, placed it on the dough, pressed it down firmly on all sides, and lifted it up. When there wasn’t any more room for cookies, Grandma Benson grabbed a cookie sheet, scooped up the cookies, and put them in the oven.
 We moved on to the peanut butter cookies. My job was to unwrap the Hershey’s kisses that would go in the middle of the little peanut butter balls, and put them in a bowl. Once we had enough Hershey’s kisses, my mother came over with the cookie sheet, placed the chocolate in the middle, and put them in them in the oven.
When it was time to check on the cookies, Cousin Nina noticed a problem. “Hey guys, Come look at this.” The adults walked over to the oven.
“The peanut butter dough spread.”  She said.
“Oh yeah, it did spread.  Aunt Kay replied. That’s strange.” Everyone was puzzled. This was definitely a first! Nothing like that ever happened before. By this time, our family had been doing this for years. We followed the same routine every year.  If something was wrong, we should be able to figure it out-—right?
It wasn’t until the next day that we figured out what happened. My mom opened up both containers. The peanut butter cookies smelled like sugar cookies, and the sugar cookies smelled like peanut butter cookies. The adults switched the cookie dough! When we figured out what happened, we laughed. How did such a silly thing happen? I thought. The funniest part was, Aunt Kay was our taste tester and she failed us! How do you miss something like that?
When we did it, we had a great time, and we were together. It was something everyone enjoyed. We still do it today. Just because it didn’t turn out the way we expected, it still blessed our time together as a family.

The Special Ornament

 

This Christmas memory is a real treasure. Read on and you’ll see why.  Merry Christmas!

My dad passed away in January 1995. My mother, who loves to sew, decided to make everyone in the family ornaments for Christmas in 1995. Using her tailoring skills she gathered dad’s clothes in order to create special gifts for each family member to remember him by. She selected his old favorite clothes like jeans and shirts, cut them into assorted shapes and pieces, and then sewed them together! Some ornaments were round and some looked like stockings. For my grandma Benson, Dad’s mother, she made a pillow.
The fireplace was Dad’s ‘go to spot! Often he would declare: “The hearth is the heart of the family.” Whenever we decided to take the chill out of a cold night, my dad, more often than not, was the person who lit and stoked the fireplace. I could see places where he had burns on his pockets and could smell the scent of lingering smoke. All I have to do is close my eyes and see him wearing those singed “ornament clothes.”
Two months premature, I was born with cerebral palsy. When I came home from the hospital, my mom recalls my dad saying, “This is now the new normal.” Often when our family would go on hikes and other outings, Dad would carry me on his shoulders. Even now I’m able to picture myself being carried by my dad–both of us smiling ear to ear! When we display those ornaments at Christmas I can clearly see his blonde hair, blue eyes, and his glasses, and say, “There’s my daddy!” My father’s gentleness coupled with strong leadership is a huge part of what has shaped my character today.
Let’s rewind to that first Christmas Eve at Grandma’s house after Dad died. Following dinner, before we opened our presents, my mother gave a little speech and passed out her special handcrafted ornaments. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but I know that her intention was to acknowledge the fact that Dad was with us last year and this year he’s not. That side of our family has never been big on talking about emotions. Mom was afraid that some of the relatives might get upset because she was talking about something sad on a day that was supposed to be a happy celebration. Instead, the family surprised her. Everyone appreciated Mom’s heartfelt words.  Plus they loved their ornaments. What a relief! Uncle Harold said, “Now when I look at my ornament, I’ll look at it and say, “That’s Rex.”
Creating those ornaments was my mother’s way of making sure her husband would never be forgotten. Well, I don’t have my dad. I still have cerebral palsy. But the images of my father carrying me on his shoulders are forever inscribed on my mind and heart. I sincerely appreciate how he always made me feel like an equal part of the family. I was and always will be daddy’s girl-the “new normal.”
Whenever I catch a glimpse of my special ornament I think, “Merry Christmas Daddy. I sure miss and love you. Now, I’m 33, and still I hold to the memory of the little girl you lovingly carried on your shoulders. Thanks for treating me like a normal kid and making me feel really special. I can’t wait to climb on your shoulders again and be together in heaven.” Merry Christmas everyone!
 
 

“Hot Coffee Coming Through”

Writer's DigestCo
Sometimes, it can be very difficult, being in a wheelchair, trying to get people to pay attention to your comings and goings. Beep! Beep! I attend Grace Baptist Church in Santa Clartia, California. One of my favorite memories, in my late teens, is when I joined the choir called Living Proof; I sang for five years Every year at Thanksgiving weekend, our church hosted an Advent celebration: dinner, skits, music, and handmade Advent wreaths!  It prepared our hearts for Christmas, and reminded us of the true meaning of the season.
 For a couple years in a row, our choir provided the music. When it was time to get on stage, I would carefully edge my through the crowds trying not to run over any toes.
Even though, I would say,“ Excuse me!” Excuse me!” in my loudest voice, people just weren’t paying attention! Finally, the choir director’s wife helped me.
“Hot coffee! Hot coffee! Hot coffee coming through!” She yelled. Suddenly, everybody moved out of the way real fast, and I was able to get on stage!
 It took the right vocabulary to get people’s attention. No one moved when I said, “Excuse me” because it was too polite. However, when she yelled, “Hot coffee!” everyone moved because they were all afraid of getting burned!  From that night on, Instead of saying, “Excuse me,” I yell, “Hot coffee!” and it works! Everybody moves, and I chuckle!
The same principle applies to us as Christians. We are called to be lights in a darkened world. You never know what’s going on in someone’s personal life. Seeing you might be the only time a person sees Jesus. Using just the right vocabulary can either turn their heart toward Jesus or away from Jesus. Sometimes the words, “I’m praying for you” are exactly what someone needs to hear, just to know that God is present in their circumstances and loves them. What does your life say for Jesus, today? What kind of memories will you leave that will lighten others’ darkened world?
Dear Lord,
Help me use the right words that I may be a light for You in a darkened world.
Amen

From the Horse’s Mouth–A Lesson from Gus’s Perspective

Hey everybody here’s a short story that I wrote about Carousel Ranch a while back.  Enjoy!

Hi, I’m Gus.  I work here at Carousel Ranch. I’m a horse.  I give riding lessons to people with disabilities. You might say I’m the therapist. A lot of people have their own ideas about riding a horse, but I thought it would be interesting for the humans if they heard what a lesson at Carousel Ranch is like from the horse’s perspective.  Here’s the inside look into my head during a riding lesson.  Ready? Hold on tight. Neigh!
            It’s ‘one ‘o’clock on a Wednesday. It’s time for Rachael Benson’s lesson.   Oh boy, here she comes! She’s one of my favorites. She always has a smile on her face.  Usually, we spend the entire half hour walking around in the arena, but today, her riding instructor, Eileen, asked her if she wanted to go for a trail ride.
The words “trail ride” are music to my ears. I love the feeling of being out in an open field with all the green leaves. There’s always plenty of food on the trail.  It’s a horse’s paradise.  Rachael says yes. I kick my heels up in excitement. “Whoa Gus, take it easy.” Scott says as he pulls on my rope and pets my nose. I can’t help it. This is going to be a fun day for both of us.
Rachael walks up to the platform and gets on me. Scott closes the gate behind us and we head on up the trail. As we head up, Rachael and Eileen start singing songs and talking about things only humans can understand.
            Suddenly, I hear them laughing.  Rachael is laughing so hard that she can’t control her body and falls forward on to my mane. Ouch! That hurts!
What’s so funny? I wonder. I wish I could understand human conversation. Whatever the joke is, it must be pretty good. Rachael pushes herself back up and we keep going on up the trail.
            Soon, I start to get hungry and try to head toward a plant. Scott pulls me away from it. “No Gus, not now,” he says.
You don’t really mean that.I think to myself. I try again. This time, I bend my head all the way down.  I want that plant! Again, Scott pulls me away from it. “No Gus! Dinner time is later.”
            I finally realize I’m not going to get what I want, and give up. I neigh as if to say, “Okay fine!” and we move on.
Suddenly, as we start to go down hill a little bit, there’s an awkward silence. It takes a lot of concentration for Rachael to stay in the center. We get down the hill, and Rachael and Eileen start talking again. About what, I have no idea. After all —I am a horse.
Finally, Eileen looks at her watch and tells Rachael It’s time to go home. We head back toward the ranch and Rachael gets off of me.
            As she walks away, she says, “Bye Gus, I’ll see you next week.”  I neigh as if to say, “Bye Rachael.” She giggles. I may not understand much about humans, but if there’s one thing I do know, it’s when they’re happy. Her giggle lets me know she understands me. She has such a friendly laugh!
            After I say bye to her, I realize something. I have a purpose here at Carousel Ranch. My purpose is to bring joy to people with disabilities and their families. Maybe I didn’t get the food on the trail I was hoping for, but that’s okay. The smile on Rachael’s face makes my job worthwhile. That’s good enough for me. I look forward to seeing her every week!

* Carousel Ranch is always looking for volunteers! If you’re interested in helping or would like to know more about the program, visit their website at: http://www.carouselranch.org/

 

The Unexpected Visitor

Hey Everybody here’s another piece of writing that talks more in depth about what I do at the hospital  I sent this article to the people who put together the Chicken Soup for the Soul books but it didn’t make it. Enjoy!

I volunteer at my local hospital. I’m known as the “patient visitations” volunteer but I have many names. Nurses and doctors who have known me for a while and know what I do say, “Here comes the magazine lady.”
 Personally, I like to call myself, “the unexpected visitor.”
At the hospital, I knock on a patient’s door. When I hear “come in,” I enter with a big smile on my face as I say, “Hi, my name is Rachael. I volunteer here. Would you like a magazine? It’s free.”
     Patients are often surprised when I say that – for a couple of reasons. One reason is that they can’t believe something free is being offered to them. Once a patient answered, “What a delight.” 
 The other reason people are often surprised is because I’m in a wheelchair, and I have cerebral palsy. Many people are surprised by the fact that someone with a disability is out in the community, let alone out contributing to society. They wonder how I can help others when it looks as if I need help myself. They might also wonder why I’d want to help others.  No one says anything, but it’s obvious that people don’t know how to react because I’m in a wheelchair. Silently, their first reaction seems to be, What is she doing here?  
My wheelchair starts conversation. People will ask, “What kind of illness do you have?”
            “It’s not an illness,” I tell them. “It’s a condition.  It’s called cerebral palsy. I was born this way. I have a walker at home. I use the wheelchair in the community for faster mobility.”
People are also surprised by my openness and my ability to communicate. It makes them want to know more. A doctor may have told their patient that they’re going to have to start using a wheelchair at home. They’ve never had to use a wheelchair before, and now they want to know what it’s like.
“It takes a lot of practice,” I tell them. “It’s like learning how to drive a car. Even if you’ve been driving for years, every time you get a new car, you have to learn how that particular one works because each one is different. It takes time and patience. But once you get the hang of it, you can do it.”
At the end of a visit people are encouraged. Seeing me in my wheelchair often gives patients and their families the assurance they need that everything is going to be okay.  Many times someone will say to me, “Thanks for coming by.”
“You’re welcome.” I reply.  “I’m glad to be of service.”
People also say, “God Bless you.”
I smile and say, “Thank you.”
Volunteering at the hospital reminds me to be thankful for what I have.  Some patients I visit don’t have any family at all, or their families live too far away to come visit them. I may be the only person they see besides a doctor or a nurse. If they want to talk, I’m usually the only one who has time to sit and listen to them. For these patients I call myself, “the unexpected visitor.” If I didn’t come visit them, who would? I’m able to brighten someone else’s day. It’s my pleasure. 
Volunteering at the hospital and visiting patients also gives me a sense of fulfillment. People are always looking for ways to help me because of my disability. When I’m volunteering, it’s the other way around. I’m able to show them that having a disability doesn’t mean they can’t be a productive member of society. Even if they suddenly have to adjust to a lifetime in a wheelchair, they can still do the things they used to do, maybe just a little bit differently. I’m able to get people to start thinking, If this girl can do it, and she was born this way, then what’s stopping me?
I always say that I was born with extra determination. If someone asks me, “Rachael, don’t you thinks this is a little dangerous?” I look at them and say, “Danger is my middle name!”
It makes people laugh as they reply, “Well then, go for it!”
     That’s how I strive to live my life, and I try to communicate that to the people in my community. If you really want to accomplish something, nothing is impossible! Go for it!
  

OakBridge 2011

Hey everybody I just got back from Oakbridge Camp in San Diego with my Fun Life friends this past weekend. Here’s the  letter I wrote to God. Enjoy!

Friday August 26, 2011

Dear God,
Thank you for the opportunity to be at OakBridge-for a break from life at home. Thank you for the beauty of your creation. Help me to keep my eyes focused on You. Thank you for keeping me and my friends safe on the way to club. Thank you that the injuries were not worse.
When I go home, help me to take home the things I’ve learned. Help me not to worry about the Day Program. Help me to be there for my mom. Help me not to worry about her. Thank you for being a father to the fatherless.
Love,
Rachael

“Ask for help!”

I love to be independent and do as much as I can for myself.  Sometimes I try so hard to be independent that some pretty dumb things can happen if I let them. 
I volunteer at my local hospital. I’m known as the “Patient Visitations” volunteer. I deliver smiles and magazines to patients and their families. The rooms at the hospital are small. One time, there was a really small chair in the room. I should’ve asked for help, but for some reason, I looked inside, and thought, I can make it.
I went into the room to ask the patient if they’d like a magazine. The patient was asleep so I started to slowly back up my wheelchair. Little did I realize what had happened. After I came out of the room, I still heard a noise right behind my wheelchair. What ’s that noise? I thought.  I looked behind me and discovered the problem. The chair from the patient’s room had gotten stuck to my wheelchair! One of the legs had gotten wrapped around my wheel! How did that happen? I wondered. This was definitely a first! 
Realizing that I couldn’t get myself out of the mess, I finally called on my aide for help. “Jamie I need you.” I called. She came in. I moved my wheelchair forward and backward. We were trying not to wake the patient. Finally, after much work, Jamie was finally able to free the chair from my wheelchair. Unharmed, and in one piece! Phew! The good news: No one saw us!
However, Jamie was frustrated. When I came out of the room, there was a moment of silence between us. At lunchtime she explained, “I was never really mad just frustrated. I wouldn’t want anyone to hear about what happened and think that you weren’t capable of doing the job. I don’t want the hospital to require me to have to follow you into a room because of what happened.”
“I understand I said. I’m sorry.”
Jamie replied, “You don’t need to be sorry. You just need to ask for help next time. Maybe this is God’s way of telling you to slow down and ask for help.”
“I’ll ask for help next time. I promise.” I said in agreement.
Okay, she nodded as we moved on with our day. From that day forward, Jamie and I often said to each other, “We had a great day and no broken chairs.” We laughed.
Since then, the incident hasn’t happened again. Now, if a room looks questionable, I always ask for help.
            As Christians, I believe God allows things to happen in our lives to keep us from being prideful and to help us realize that we need to depend on Him for our strength. In our weakness, He is strong.
            Dear Lord,
                Please help to rely on you and never be afraid to ask for help.  Amen

Heaven

Hey everybody here’s something else I did in my Bible Study. While my leader was reading a passage, a list of things came to mind about what heaven would be like for me. Here’s what I wrote. Enjoy!

  •  Heaven will be a place where my physical body will be able to be healed and new. Everything I wasn’t able to do on Earth I’ll be able to do in heaven.

  • Cartwheels

  • Baking- I’ll bake cookies and other tasty goods with my grandma Benson who is already in heaven. Together, she and I will serve everyone at the banquet table. Heaven will be a place where we won’t have to worry about calories! I can’t wait to see her!

  •  I’ll be the fastest runner. No one else will be able to keep up!

  •  Ballet dancing Jesus will be my dance partner! I’ll wear the prettiest glass slippers just like Cinderella! For once, I won’t have to worry about my shoes coming off my feet!

  • Play soccer with my sister. Jesus will be our cheerleader!

  •  I’ll finally have the proper hand dexterity to be able to sew with my mom. We can make quilts, knit, etc. We’ll have our own craft store. The biggest craft store ever!

  •  Heaven will be like a scrapbook of my life. I’ll see people who are in heaven because of my testimony for Christ while I was on Earth. I’ll see a whole bookshelf of all the books I wrote including The Hunt for Heaven. People will walk toward me in my glorified new body and say, “Thank you for telling me about Jesus Rachael. I’m here because of what you did for him.” I’ll smile and say, “You’re welcome and give them a big hug. Jesus will come toward me with a big smile on his face and say, “Well done my good and faithful servant welcome home.” Then, he’ll reward me with a crown for the trials I’ve endured and the way I’ve lived my life. What a great day that will be!

  •  Heaven will be a place where questions can be answered. Anything that doesn’t make sense now will make sense in heaven. All those questions of why will be settled. I’m sure many of us will have some very interesting conversations with God. I know I will! I can’t wait to hear from some of the people that were talked about in the Bible. What were Paul’s Journeys  really like? What about Jesus’ birth? Was it really as quiet as the Bible describes? Was Mary really that clam? That just seems too easy! What was it like to hold the Son of God? “I can only imagine!”