Supporting Equal Job Opportunities 

Someday, I want to plan a road trip around the nation and up into Canada, where the focus is stopping at businesses that were specifically created to give those with disabilities equal opportunities for work. 

I’ve been collecting names of these places as they come to my attention. Some are businesses created by parents wanting to make sure their growing child had a job opportunity. Others are places that are specifically made to encourage young people with disabilities to become independent hard workers. 

I’ve been looking online to see if someone else had a database list of these amazing restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops, as well as gift shops and other businesses. As of yet, it doesn’t seem like anyone else has made a list, so I thought I’d share what I’ve gathered so far.

 Perhaps you might want to grab a cookie and a cup of coffee to support these hard working adults?

Or, perhaps, you know of another buisness I should add to my list?

Bitty & Beau Coffee Shop –Wilmington, North Carolina
 www.bittyandbeauscoffee.com

Blake’s Snowshack–Denton, Texas
 http://www.blakessnowshack.com

Firefly Café & Bakery–Winchester, Virginia
 http://www.fireflycafebakery.com

Puzzles Bakery & Café –Schenectady, New York
 http://www.puzzlesbakerycafe.com

Sunflower Bakery–Gaithersburg, Maryland
 http://www.sunflowerbakery.org

Sugar Plum–Virginia Beach, Virginia
 http://www.sugarplumbakery.org

Special Kneads & Treats– Lawrenceville, Georgia
 http://specialkneadsandtreats.com

Greenhouse Inn Restaurant
Hearts & Flour Bakery
Heartstrings Gift Shop
Twice Blest Thrift Shop  –Chicago, Illinois
 http://www.misericordia.com/shops/default.aspx

Steamers Coffeeshop/Jack’s Bar & Grill — Denver, Colorado (A combined shop)
 http://steamerscoffeeshop.com

Cause Café — Fort Salonga, New York
 http://www.causecafe.net

Samples World Bistro– Long Mont, Colorado
 http://www.samplesworldbistro.com

Harvest Café — Staten Island, New York
 http://www.harvestcafe-si.org

Hugs Café — Mckinney, Texas
 http://www.hugscafe.org

Mozzeria– San Francisco, California
 http://www.mozzeria.com

Collette’s Cookies — Boston, Massachusetts
 http://www.colletteys.com

Rising Tides Car Wash– Parkland, Florida
 http://risingtidecarwash.com

International 

Bread of Life Bakery– Beijing 

Christina’s Tortinia Shop– Brampton, Ontario, Canada
 http://www.cristinastortinashop.com

Signs Restaurant — Toronto, Canada
 signsrestaurant.ca

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Do not grieve (JAF Camp 2016)

Featured

I just recently finished serving a week at Joni and Friends Southern Oregon Twin Rocks Family Retreat. This is my fourth year serving at this camp that caters to family with disabilities. These are families who fight for their loved ones so they can get proper medical treatment, education, and spiritual care.

These families travel across the nation to participate in four days of camp on the Oregon Coast, because there isn’t something like it where they live. While more Joni and Friends retreats are being set up, the need is so great that the demand overtaxes the supply. There are families who plan their whole year around these four days, that is how important it is to them.

This camp is a place where the campers can be kids, and families can focus on just loving each other rather than being on the defense against other people’s curiosity and advice. Here they are eagerly anticipated and accepted. They are not considered ‘other’ or ‘different,’ they are simply seen as someone to love.

Short-Term Missionaries (STMS) are volunteers who come and serve these families. They are all age ranges, from 10-80 at least, who are so eager to love on these campers that they save up all year to attend. This is not a camp where volunteers put in a few hours of work in the kitchen to have a free fun time. No, this is a place where STMS are paired with a single camper and their duty is to be their friend for the week. It’s a place where they are truly missionaries whose mission is to show these campers that they are deeply loved, exactly for who they are. We have STMS who do bake sales, garage sales, mow lawns, build birdhouses, and numerous other things, to raise money, because this retreat is that important to them. $450 is a lot of money for a 13 year old to raise, but they do! And now many of them are raising about that much money again, so they can serve in the next week of camp as well. The STMs love it just as much as the families do.

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All of our camp volunteers (STMS) Nearly a 100 kind spirited people giving of their time and money to serve

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Our whole family camp! Campers and STMS together

This year our camp verse could be found in Nehemiah 8:10, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” But, the verse is right in the middle of a sentence. What the actual sentence says is, “Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”” 

Nehemiah is an amazing book full of God’s mercies and work. It’s about the Israelites getting to go back to the Promised Land, after being put into the chains of slavery due to their sinfulness. It’s about a pagan king who listened to the voice of God and allowed his cup-bearer to leave and build the walls of Jerusalem once again. It’s about the eagerness of the God’s people hearing the words of the Lord once more. It’s about the joy of finding God after years of silence (on the side of the people).

In this section of Scripture, we find the people hearing the Word of the Lord for the first time in years. They were weeping because they hadn’t heard it for so long. But, this was a time to celebrate. The Word was available once more. It was being read from early morning till midday. And the people stood to hear it.

Do not be grieved. Don’t be grieved that before you didn’t understand the Word. Do not be grieved over the past deeds, because now you have the way to make your slate clean. Do not be grieved.

It is a time to rejoice! To revel in what the Lord has done! He has done the unimaginable and it must be savored. He has brought the Israelite nation out of slavery and out of their sin and has brought them back to their forefathers’ Promised Land. The pagan king funded the rebuilding of Jerusalem! How amazing would it have been to be there, to walk back into that land that was your father’s and know that you could come home.

Nehemiah is telling these people who were weeping over the loss of time and of the Word, to not grieve, to rejoice, because that joy of the Lord is your strength. The joy of the Lord is your strength. Rejoicing and reveling in the Lord gives you strength.

These families with disabilities know what it is like to grieve. Some days, it may feel like they can never find anything to rejoice, but then the joy of the Lord strengthens them. And this camp gives them that strength.

But, at the same time, these families know how to rejoice over the little things. Things that might seem inconsequential to us, but are major milestones for their loved one. And this camp helps them rejoice over them.

Joni and Friends Family Retreat is an experience like no other. It is hard to use words to describe it adequately, because there isn’t one thing similar to pull from to compare. It is often compared to Disney, as being the happiest place on Earth, because at camp, the campers can just be kids. No expectations to fit into any mold that one may insist on being the perfect one. No trying to remember the arbitrary rules of society so that one can be accepted. No acting a certain way so that you won’t be laughed at. No explaining why you do things differently than others, why you walk the way you do, or why you can’t speak.

These people at camp, they understand. They look at you, and see simply, you. You. The one God declares Beloved. You, who God created with great love. You, whose beauty can be seen as God intended, rather than as a mark against the plastic perfection of society. You, whose talents are marveled at, whether you can sing or draw, or throw a ball, or take your first walks on screen. You, you are celebrated for being you.

Here your ticks are accepted. Here sounds that are voiced are cheered. Here you can run because its just so much, and we will run with you, rather than force you to stop. Here your mask can be left at home, and the real you can be let out to enjoy the world as it was meant to be. Here people rush to meet you. Here hesitation and fear have no place as you are loved. Here people will share their food and their space. Here the need for quiet is understood, but so is noise, and what a joyful noise to the Lord we make together! Here miracles happen on a regular basis, voices are found, friendships are made, love is given. Here, angels tread and God blesses those he calls his.

God’s love for you is your strength. He knew you when he placed you in that womb. He knew your life would be difficult, but he knew he wanted you. You were not a mistake. He rejoices in you, every minute of every day. He knows you and loves you just as you are. He gave you spiritual gifts to bless this world, don’t let anyone get between you and worshiping your Father. Share your gifts!

I know a camp where we are eagerly awaiting to celebrate them…

I highly recommend Joni Eareckson Tada’s biography if you have never heard about this ministry. Joni- An Unforgettable Story

http://www.joniandfriends.org/store/product/joni-unforgettable-story-discount/

You can also follow her radio/video series, many of which can be found here:

http://www.joniandfriends.org/jonis-corner/

For more information about Family Retreat, please see:  http://www.joniandfriends.org/family-retreats/

For more information about volunteering at a Family retreat, please see:

http://www.joniandfriends.org/family-retreats/for-volunteers/

The Art of Losing (Memories)

I finally got the opportunity to watch the recently released film “Still Alice.” I highly recommend this film, as it may give you the ability to understand some of the sheer terror that people face when diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

As a caregiver, I have worked with clients in various stages of this horrid disease. It was remarkably well displayed in “Still Alice.” The film follows a renowned linguistics professor as she discovers that she has Early Onset Familial Alzheimer’s Disease at just the age of 50. Alice is a very intelligent, hardworking woman whose very life is defined by words, but she slowly starts to lose the ability to speak her beloved words. It follows Alice and her family for a year, and you can see the quick progression of the disease to the point where she can barely talk.

What I love about this film is not only the amazing portrayal that Julianne Moore does, but how they show the range of emotions that the family members have regarding the ‘loss’ of their mother and wife. You have the denial in the husband as well as distancing, the fixer in the son, one daughter wants to remember for her, while the other daughter accepts it and learns to live in it. There is so much emotion displayed in this film; the fear, the acceptance, the fight for a life that is familiar.

At the beginning, when the diagnoses is given, Alice says something to the effect that she wished she had cancer. Cancer is acceptable, people will put on ribbons, run in marathons, and do fundraisers for you. You become a vision of inspiration. But, Alzheimer’s? It’s shameful, something to be hidden. No one wants to discuss it and friends start to fade away.

We fear mortality. We fear the loss of self. And in our fear, we distance ourselves from those who are in the midst of something we dread. Think about it. You know someone with a loved one who is becoming forgetful, they are worried about the outcome of tests and meetings with caretakers. In their stress, they stop contacting you, or whenever you do talk to them, it’s all about the struggles they are going through. You start dreading the phone call. You don’t want to hear about it.

Your grandma starts forgetting the stories she has told you, just 30 minutes ago. You start to ‘correct’ her, but it makes her worried. She stops talking. Because you always say, “You’ve already told me that.”

Dementia and Alzheimer’s are diseases that erase self. They make you forget who you were, who you are now, and who you could have been in the future. It makes you forget the ones you love, and the very ability to make your body work. Some people call it the “Second Childhood.” You become dependent on others for the very things that you once took care of for your children.

Your children take care of your intimate needs as your mind forgets the ability to do certain movements. Your spouse who looked forward to an exciting retirement with you instead has to keep track of your wanderings and pills. You become the dreaded burden you always feared.

Alzheimer’s is a demeaning disease. It’s full of angst and fear. As well as intimate demands.

But.

Alzheimer’s can also be an awakening for your family. Personalities can be changed because of this disease. One of my clients whom numerous people attested to be a very hard woman, became extremely sweet in the midst of the disease. Family members were able to connect to her in a way that they were never able to before. Forgiveness was found as untold stories came to the light.

There can be a beauty in the midst of losing.

“Still Alice” uses a quote from the poet Elizabeth Bishop who said: “The Art of Losing isn’t hard to master: so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost, that their loss is no disaster.” I encourage you to live in the losing with your loved one. Do not put upon them the fear of remembering, by correcting them thirty times a day about the things they forget. Many of them already know they are forgetting. Reminding them does no good. 

Follow the meandering stories the best you can. It won’t be easy, but remember, what you are going through is nothing compared to the labyrinth in their minds.

Don’t hide them away as if they are a shameful secret. There will be times that too much stimulation will be hard for them, but hold their hand, read them stories. Engage them in life. Life may look differently for them, but they are still a part of it. Don’t remove them from the time they have among your family.

See things anew through their eyes. Sometimes the simplistic beauty of a flower becomes enrapturing. Looking at each individual petal can take all day, enter into that discovery with them. Maybe this is the time God has given you both to smell the roses they were too busy to see before.

Remember, if you meet one person with Alzheimer’s, you have only met one person with Alzheimer’s. The disease reacts differently to every brain it inhabits. Learn what is best for each person differently. Remember, that they are not the disease, they are people who still dream and hope, acknowledge that desire in them.

I have worked in private homes, adult foster homes, as well as retirement centers. No matter where I go, I see a person who deserves my respect and their dignity. It’s easy to get caught in the ‘doing’ stage and think they are moving too slow, that you have things to do. So you start shoving them into clothes, quickly scrubbing them in the shower, making them eat quicker, etc… When there is a lot to do, it’s easy to see a person as an object and move them where they need to be, rather than see them for a scared nervous man or woman who is uncertain of the next step.

I always think, how would I want to be taken care of? Like no matter what is wrong with me, I’m still someone of worth. I am still me. My self-hood is not contingent on my ability to remember your name or how to put on my pants. If I breathe and my heart still beats, I am still me. Treat me as human and worthy of your respect.

 On my good days, I can, you know, almost pass for a normal person. But on my bad days, I feel like I can’t find myself.-Dr. Alice Howland

There will be bad days. But, there will be sweet moments as well. As the disease runs it’s course, and the memories it eats run dry, there will be come a time, a week or a few days before their eyes close for good, that clarity is found. For a few hours, you will have your loved one back. The one you remember from years past. Cherish that time. It is the final goodbye.

Caregiving for someone with Alzheimer’s is a hard job. It’s even harder when that person is someone you know and love. It will make you weep and make you scream. But, if you allow love to guide you through it, it can be very rewarding as well. Find support groups, make your family get involved, and take moments in the day to remember who you are. Take a walk outside, or read a book. Take a breather. You will love them better when you take care of yourself.

I highly recommend the movie “Still Alice.” I just got the book, but I’m sure I will be recommending it as well.

Why Are There So Many More Disabled People Now?

Why Are There So Many More Disabled People Now?.

A wonderful article looking at the hard history of asylums and the entrance of those with disabilities into the public experience.

I’m not an activist

I am not an activist.
I am not an abolitionist. BLAKE10
I am not a feminist.
I am not an environmentalist.
I am nothing, but a believer in Christ.
I am everything, because I believe in Christ.
I will fight for freedom because someone is being oppressed. Beaten, tortured, and made to feel anything but worthy. I will stand beside those labeled different, less, unwanted, because Christ stood for me. How can I do anything less?
We are called to be shepherds of what God has placed before us, not to use it and throw it away. We are to nurture and protect all within our world because we were tasked to do so. We are also tasked to protect the widow, the orphan, and the alien.
We as Christians seem to give odd connotations to certain words, as if we are afraid of them. Social Justice seems to make a lot of church members bristle and protest when the church should be the one to spearhead the movements.
The point of time that Rosa Parks refused to move fifty nine years ago and all the numerous people that built up to the moment that defined enough was enough, the Civil Rights movement officially started. It is just a few years shy of the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s assassination, and it is fifty one years since his march on Washington, DC.
And still we fight.

The 1963 peaceful march on DC

The 1963 peaceful march on DC

There is still the belief that a human being can be considered less than another. We still believe that whether our skin color is different, or we are born in a certain class, or a certain part of the world or with certain body parts, that we are better than another. If we have the ability to make someone unworthy, we use it.
We still fight for the right to be what God made us to be.
The annual Justice Conference was held last week in LA. On it’s docket was of course Social Justice.
Bernice King, the daughter of Dr. King, spoke about her father’s peaceful fight and the continual need to keep fighting for the rights of all humans. She reminded us that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” As well and most importantly, “When we call God our Father, we cannot divorce the knowledge that the person next to us is either our brother or our sister.”
Other speakers talked about the ‘new’ slavery, the $40+ billion trade in Human Trafficking. While most focus is on the sex trade, as it is a horrific abuse of men, women, and children, we must not forget there are still millions of people being forced to literally work to death. Slavery is far from being dead. And we perpetrate the ability for these slavers to do their horrors by refusing to see what they are doing.
trafficking-report-email-template_01I believe that when we look away when we see someone hurting, we continue to allow injustice it’s power.
Injustice comes in many forms. As a Christian, God calls me to righteousness. He is a lover of justice and commands us to be the same. “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.” Zechariah 7:9
This is why I say I am not an activist.
I refuse to label myself anything, but a lover of Christ. Because I wish to follow Jesus and his example, I must be a person who fights for the rights of others. I must speak up for women whose rights as human beings are being denied, I must fight for children who do not have access to fresh water and food, I must fight for men who are oppressed by those who have money. Because Jesus had no favorites, neither must I. I will not confine my fight for justice to just one label, because all of it is my fight.
People seem to get concerned when we speak of justice. As if it is to weighty and unattainable. Justice can be as easy and as hard as simply speaking up when someone is saying horrible things regarding someone else. Injustice comes in so many forms, but if you allow one thing to continue, eventually you will allow even greater injustices to happen. As Malcolm X once said, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.”
We do not have to travel the world to bring justice, but we do need to make sure we are fighting for justice in our neighborhood. Don’t just talk about it, actually participate in it. Justin Dillon says, “Don’t be an activist. Be a solutionist.” Put feet to your words. It’s one of the reasons why Christians have a bad name in the world of social justice. We talk a lot, but rarely do we put sweat behind the words and help right the wrongs. We have our church ministries which are wonderful, but it is a select few in the church who are part of it. A small contingent who walk out among the homeless, who go to build water systems in Africa, who set up counseling for domestic abuse survivors.
So few when the church is so big. We have enough hands in the church to end injustice. Make a stand and lend that hand. Let’s be God’s feet and his hands on this world to break the chains of injustice.

“A private faith that does not act in the face of oppression is no faith at all.”- William Wilberforce 

Disabilities and Justice

In under two weeks I will have the honor of speaking at a workshop during the Justice Conference of Portland. While the actual Justice Conference is being held in LA, Portland will be streaming it along with having a breakout session the day before. To be asked to come to my former school (Multnomah University) by a former professor to talk about something I have researched and studied for the last seven years is a great honor and an amazing step forward. My workshop will be called “The Disabled: A Forgotten Minority.”
The Justice Conference is a great opportunity to speak to active members of the church as well as extraordinary workers of many ministries. To have the chance to bring their attention to the topic of the disabled in the church and talk with such knowledgeably engaged people will be a tremendous learning curve. I am so eager to have the chance to learn from their experiences.
I am no expert. To quote Albert Einstein, “I have no special talent, I am only passionately curious.” I am a firm believer that I will never know everything about this very important topic. But I can’t wait to be part of the conversation.
It has been so wonderful to see the theologians finally bending their considerable minds to how the church needs to interact with those who are disabled. It is a very long time in coming, and it has a far way to go.
So PLEASE keep me in your prayers as I work on my lecture and on the 21st when I am in front of so many amazing people to share my heart.  Pray that God will hijack my mouth and just use that time to make his plan shine.
So excited and nervous about this opportunity!