“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!!