Listening to Sheila

sheilaSheila nearly drowned as a small child and now, her muscles at the age of 36, have a mind of their own because of her cerebral palsy.  But that doesn’t stop Sheila from interacting with others.  Her beautiful blue eyes, look intently into your own as she struggles at conversation.  Her throat tightens, even her tongue twists from spasms and yet, she has something to say, a message that she wants to get across to me as I sit next to her wheelchair at camp one afternoon, surrounded by the noise of laughing children, carnival games and parents making connections with one another.  All of my attention and focus goes into listening to Sheila.  I watch her mouth as she forms her words because sometimes I don’t recognize the sounds and I also attempt to read her lips, to see what she might possibly be saying, but that is difficult too.  Her eyes are so expressive, looking directly into mine, waiting patiently for me to put the sentence together.

I realize as we are talking that I cannot look away, I cannot become distracted or I will miss something.  Usually, when we are having a casual conversation with someone, it’s very easy to listen with our ears but even our mind often wonders to what else is happening around us, perhaps even missing a word or two here and there but as a person speaks at a fairly rapid pace, it’s easy enough to fill in the gaps.  Not so with Sheila, if I turn aside for a moment, I’ll miss a cue.  Skip a vowel and she will have to begin the slow process of forming that word again.  I’m listening with my ears, I’m focusing with my eyes and I’m concentrating with my mind in order to engage in this conversation.

She tells me about her room being remodeled and the stairs she has to climb, she tells me of her love of the water and how she feels so free, like a mermaid.  And then, she tells me a message that leaves a lasting impression, “I knooow…”

I repeat back to her, making sure I understand, “I know…”

“Jessssus is reaaaaa….”

“I know Jesus is real,” I repeat.  Her eyes seem to sparkle, her face lights up and she continues on.

“He livvvvvvvves in my hearrrrrrrrrt.”  She pauses and I repeat.

“He lives in my heart.”  Again, her smile grows.

“I don carrrrrrrre whaaaaaaaat,” pausing to wait for me.

“I don’t care what,”

“Annny bodddy sayssss.”

“I don’t care what anybody says.”  She grabs my arm and pulls me close to her face.

“I can feeww Him righhhhht here.”  She pats her own chest with her curled hand.

“You can feel Him.”  I stop, my eyes filling with tears.  I kiss her on the forehead.  “Sheila, you are so very precious.”

Such an important message that this woman had to say.  I could have missed it.  It took patience, it took focus.  I had to strain to put all of my attention on her.

Our lives so busy, who has the time to hear?  Who has the time to listen?

God’s timing is not our timing.  How often do I brush him aside, my schedule full, my errands to run, my own life to get on with.

Later that afternoon, I had finished lunch and most of the campers had already filed out of the dining hall when I saw little four year old David, leaning on his walker, his slow methodical steps getting him through the lines of tables.

“Well, hello young man!  I’ve hardly had a chance to talk with you all week!”  I said as he approached me.

Down on the floor he sat, right in front of me as if to say, ‘I guess there’s no better time than now.’  So I sat down with him on the carpet filled with crumbs, the tables surrounding us filled with dirty dishes and had a conversation about camp, the fun things that he’s been doing and what was on the mind of a four year old.

My God of the universe who has a zillion things to do, my excuses for busyness now seem so very petty.  What if I were to focus all my attention and listen to You as I did with Sheila?  What are the messages that I miss when I do not hear Your every word?  What if I were to pause and sit in the midst of chaos when I know I need to listen to You, as I did with David?

Thank you, Lord for using these lives to instruct me once again.



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  1. Beautiful, all of it…Sheila, the story, and the incredible lesson they both have to share! Even as a parent of a child with a disability who offers me moments like this on a daily basis, I too often get caught up in the daily grind and miss them. Thank you, Kara and Sheila for the reminder…

  2. Thank you, Nancy for being one of those parents who recognizes the gifts within her children. Your family is amazing. God has such plans for you!

  3. Kara, beautifully written (things usually are when they come from God)and a great reminder to me today. Thank you for sharing these stories. Thanks for following God. Thanks for what you do.

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