Just home from another Broken and Beautiful Retreat. The venue was the Women’s South Coast Christian Conference held at Brookings, Oregon’s Church of the Nazarene.
I prayed each time I was wheeled up the steep ramp to the stage: Lord, use me to bring good news to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners. Isaiah 61:1
Yes, the Lord has set this prisoner free and what a privilege to share my exit-from-captivity story. His story.
I tell people that I’m a speaker first, then a writer.
I gave my first speech at age 13, but didn’t begin taking writing classes until I was almost 50 years old. Writing is work for me, whereas delivering a speech is my joy!
It’s interesting how the chore called writing has enhanced my joy called speaking. Speaking opportunities were few and far between pre-publication of my books, but that changed drastically when His Majesty in Brokenness was born.
Now David and Judy go where the books lead. First came His Majesty in Brokenness, then Living in the Names of God and most recently the Living in the Names of God Bible Study – with each book come more invitations to speak: Atlanta, San Antonio, Seattle, Portland, Colorado Springs, San Francisco Bay Area.
The venues vary and I love every one:
How I treasure the rapt attention of audiences of all ages as I tell my Jesus-Judy stories – how Jesus met me in the pit, cheerleading me on and carrying me out. And that same Jesus wants to meet you in your pit.
I love the heart connections that follow the talks, when people tell me that my stories help them see God in their story.
I count it a privilege to encourage the grief-stricken, the devastated and those with brokenness of all sorts. I knew my story of brokenness would strike a universal chord, even as Christian editors rejected my submitted chapter manuscripts. Over and again I was shot down by these words: “Your message, Judy, is good but limited to too small of a population – those who are physically disabled and their families. Christian publishers are looking for material that will reach a broader audience.”
From deep down inside I would counter their No-Thank-You’s with, “Aren’t we all disabled?”
God knew what they didn’t know: Elohim, the Creator God who makes no mistakes. would use a woman with no legs and feet to get His foot in the door to heal humanity’s pain and shame, be it physical, mental, intellectual, emotional, social, financial, and above all else, spiritual.
Yes, we are all broken. And classic God-style is to choose a blatantly-broken spokesperson like me to publicly model connecting brokenness with the Only One Who Can Mend Us – Jesus Christ Himself.
Satan licks his chops intending that humanity’s suffering kill, steal and destroy, but Jesus Christ disabled all forms of dis-ability on the cross turning the sting into holy ground.
What an honor to help others peak out of the storm cellars of their lives to behold the nail-scarred hand of Jesus welcoming them, oh, so tenderly:
I love the afterglow of a speech – a time of connecting, a time of rejoicing. I thought my 2013 hug from little Brantley in a church outside of Atlanta could never be topped. Initially I thought this little guy must have mistaken me for someone famous, as he and his little ankle braces ran unabashedly into my arms to deliver his million-dollar hug. I heard and received his message loud and clear: “We’re special and don’t forget it!”
Just recently Brantley’s power-packed hug was equaled – once again by a little child who was one of 500 first through eighth-graders attending her school’s weekly chapel.
Little Lizzie, a first-grader struggling with dyslexia, told her mom the following: “We had a speaker in chapel today, Mom. Her name was Judy and she was born without legs. Judy doesn’t struggle with reading like I do, but Judy had lots of struggles. It’s okay because God used them and He’ll use mine too. You know, Mom, my brain is like Judy’s legs!”
Lord, help us all to connect the dots like Wise Lizzie, Your little lamb with dyslexia.
Thanks for inspiring me, precious Lizzie. You inspire me so that more than ever I want to get the message out: Indeed, His Majesty meets us in our brokenness and from that wasteland He promises to make His Masterpiece!
My bags are packed. My speeches are ready. I invite any one of you to call me or e-mail me. Do you need a speaker at your church, your club, your school, or your retreat? I’m on a roll, blessed by God’s promise in Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord God is on me. The Lord has chosen me to tell good news to the poor and to comfort those who are sad. He sent me to tell the captives and prisoners that they have been set free. (ERV Easy-to-read Version)
Elisabeth Elliot has a special place in my heart. Ever since a women’s retreat in the 80’s, where she was the keynote speaker and I did a workshop. At dinner she chose a seat next to me and so began our fast friendship.
Elisabeth was one of the few people I’ve met who asked about my disability. Placing her hand on my artificial limb, she queried: Tell me what happened?
Subsequently she has had a story about our meeting in several of her books, her March/April 1989 newsletter and on numerous radio broadcasts:
There Are No Accidents
Author: Elisabeth Elliot
– Judy’s letter to the Scott Family in 1988 –
~ ~ ~
I think of Elisabeth so often, remembering how she had so much to do as a conference speaker, an author, upholder of the Biblical world view throughout the world; she had her radio broadcast, her family, how did she do all that had to be done?
She shared her secret with me in a tract containing one of her favorite poems, one she made famous. I dedicate Elisabeth’s poem to All my busy friends, who like me aren’t sure what to do first on our bursting-at-the-seams schedules:
Do the Next Thing
(A poem quoted by Elisabeth Elliot)
“At an old English parsonage down by the sea,
there came in the twilight a message to me.
Its quaint Saxon legend deeply engraven that,
as it seems to me, teaching from heaven.
And all through the hours the quiet words ring,
like a low inspiration, ‘Do the next thing.’
Many a questioning, many a fear,
many a doubt hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from heaven,
time, opportunity, guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrow, child of the King,
trust that with Jesus, do the next thing.
Do it immediately, do it with prayer,
do it reliantly, casting all care.
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand,
who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
leave all resultings, do the next thing.
Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
working or suffering be thy demeanor,
in His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
the light of His countenance, be thy psalm.
Do the next thing.”
My 2012 highlight just occurred at a Joni Camp on the Oregon Coast. I was scheduled to do my usual – lead the Woman-to-Woman support groups – but God promoted me to the role of main speaker when the camp pastor took ill the last minute.
What a privilege to give the three morning talks to 30 battle-weary families slammed by disability. I couldn’t help but think, where, oh where was a Joni and Friends family retreat in the 50’s when my family desperately needed relief?
As I spoke, I looked heavenward longing to tell my parents that:
– Our suffering was not wasted
– God kept His promise in Jeremiah 29:11
– His plan for my life – disability and all – was for good and not for disaster
– Low & behold, my life has become living proof to others of God’s future and hope
My deformed left hand stole the show preaching its now-revered, three-point sermon. Further proof that God transforms our broken places into Holy Ground.
Indeed Jesus showed up at Rockaway Beach, Oregon – in broken bodies, broken families, broken hearts and broken dreams. Why wouldn’t He? Wasn’t He broken so that He could make the dastardly holes in our lives, HOLY?
Heaven orchestrates an audible and inaudible chorus at Joni Camps throughout the world.
Holy, Holy, Holy reverberates as one beholds:
Heroes are ubiquitous at Joni Camp. Stockpiling their courage supplies the strength we all need to survive until next year’s family retreat. I’m savoring the memory of:
Angel –a gutsy, fear-filled tween (not quite a teenager) who announced that she came to camp to make fear walk the plank.
Three of us who formed an Amputee Club to celebrate the fact that Jesus grows those without limbs – spiritual limbs.
Ben, a 1st time STM, who was challenged by a teen camper who was in constant motion. After the families left, I asked Ben, “Are you relieved to be off duty?” Ben’s duo-reply summarized the wonder of Joni Camp: “I miss my camper and I’m going to ask to be his STM again next year.”
And then there’s Joni, the woman God used to redeem disability’s landscape around the world. July 30, 2012 marked the 45th anniversary of her dive into Chesapeake Bay, resulting in forty-five years of quadriplegia to date. Anniversary, one might ask, does such a crisis deserve the blessed word anniversary?
You have to come to a Joni Camp to see for yourself. To see with your own eyes why Joni and the thousands of families impacted by her life would say YES.
By the way, it’s not too early to consider attending a Joni Camp as a family or volunteering as an in 2013. Check into it: (www.joniandfriends.org)
A final word of advice from this veteran camper, who attended my first Joni camp in the early nineties with our three daughters
DON’T FORGET YOUR SUNGLASSES,
or do I mean SONGLASSES?
Be forewarned: you are going to have to wear them 24/7 even on our overcast Oregon Coast. WHY? Because Jesus shines blindingly bright in the broken of body, mind and spirit – who the world overlooks – but who are His Stars at Joni Camps around the world.
His Majesty and I have enjoyed amazing opportunities since my book His Majesty in Brokenness was published in August 2010. Book signings have felt like a warm hug from supportive friends and family. Tea parties, Christian Women’s Club talks, Broken and Beautiful retreats have all provided an opportunity to tell audiences to keep their eyes peeled for Jesus in their broken places.
Most recently Donna Schmid, the founder of Grants Pass’ Pathway to Authenticity contacted me wanting to do a short documentary on my life. She’s a motivational coach, a hypnotherapist and a massage therapist who helps people become connected body, mind and spirit.
In a phone conversation ahead of time, she asked, me, “Judy, what’s the one thing you would like to tell our viewers?” My immediate response that “I’d like to tell them we are all broken,” resulted in a long silence.
Finally Donna communicated, “I don’t think we are all broken.” Hmmm. Might a synonym help? No. She preferred the word victorious.
I suggested maybe she wanted to retract her invitation to me since our philosophies were polar opposites. No, she wanted to ponder brokenness and she’d call me back later.
Six hours later, an excited Donna greeted me. She related how after hanging up she went to visit her father-in-law at the local memory loss facility. Like never before she was struck by his broken speech and the many broken residents. Yes, she could now agree with my premise about universal brokenness.
I praised her for her amazing 180; she shared more about her new discovery; then we picked a date for the filming. Recording it on my calendar, I realized the documentary would happen on Good Friday.
“Donna,” I wrote in an email, “speaking of brokenness, did you realize we are scheduled to meet on Good Friday? It’s the day in history when God Himself became broken so He could heal us and set us free.”
Her email back simply said, “WOW!”
Wow is more and more my response as I watch His Majesty fling open doors of opportunity. But He’s no longer limiting it to doors. He’s expanding his job description to bridge building. When Donna and I hit the wall between us, His Majesty built a bridge.
Together we thank Him because we are both enjoying a friendship that might not have happened.
I don’t even remember getting onto my wheelchair lift. All I know is that David said he heard a big boom and came rushing to the living room. There I lay – unconscious for a short while, then disoriented – having back-flipped, maybe even somersaulted to our hickory hardwood floor fourteen inches below.
Falling has not been uncommon in my life with a physical disability. Falling with no warning was actually the reason I stopped walking on artificial limbs after fifty years.
Then there was the morning long ago when an unexpected fall shook my faith. I had read and claimed Psalm 91:11-12 that morning in my daily devotions. Lord, I rejoice that Your angels steady me on my artificial limbs so I won’t stumble. That was the morning one of our three daughters parked her bike at the front door so that when I backed down the three steps as was my custom I STUMBLED.
I must confess that tumble landed a chink in my armor of faith. God, I thought You said Your angels would keep me from falling? Where were they?
A chink in my armor of faith? Is that Christian? I believe it is. And I believe that God takes full responsibility for eliminating our chinks with His day after day and year after year presence. He invites us to give our doubts and our danders to Him since He is big enough to resolve them. Meanwhile He encourages us to admit them to ourselves and others as He heals us with His peaceful presence often most evident to us on those days when we land flat on our backs.
Two decades later – it wasn’t a bike that took me down, just some distraction or overconfidence on a lift that takes me up and down dozens of times a day. Having twenty more years of experiencing Immanuel – God with us – under my belt I am comforted knowing that He was with me. Jesus was that You I spotted stretched out beside me on the hardwood?
What about you, dear friend? Do you have chinks in your armor of faith? Have you trusted God for safety for yourself or a loved one to only have calamity strike? Was a foxhole prayer followed by seeming silence from heaven?
God’s ways are not our ways; actually His ways prove better than ours. And for those who choose, His presence is 24/7 in the highs and lows. Shepherd, I need You now! puts Him smack dab in the middle of all that touches us. Then just knowing He’s there cushions the inevitable blows of this life.
On the brink of 2012 I pass on to you one of my favorite faith-strengtheners – Ruth Harms Calkin’s paraphrase of Romans 8:38-39:
Pinch me, is that really me gracing the forest on a flying trapeze?
Thanks to three committed guys – Brent , Jeff and my ever true David this old girl was blessed this week with the ride of a lifetime. They didn’t carry a Judy-filled stretcher up a flight of stairs and lower me through the roof to the feet of Jesus but they did drive me up the steep service trail, hooked me up, lowered me to the launch plank and gave me a shove. Like the friends in the Gospels, they got me there. God bless them.
Now I know how a seagull feels riding the sea breeze – free as a bird. I know now the security of His everlasting arms holding me as I take that leap of faith. And having experienced it kinesthetically, I can rest in the reality – You, Lord, are the wind beneath my wings.
Joni Camp is famous for providing the launch pad for scaredy-cats to take flight, conquering fears that are more paralyzing than quadriplegia. One little girl came specifically to overcome particular fears in her life. She told her mom, “I want to make fear walk the plank!”
Joni Camp is life changing… for me and for others. Who wouldn’t want to see for themselves in 2012?? Are you willing to live on the edge?
I am honored to be back at the Joni and Friends Family Retreat in Mission Springs, CA. where my three daughters and I came over fifteen years ago.
I feel privileged to be the keynote speaker for the week sharing how His Majesty has shown up in my brokenness. Indeed He has been forever faithful to me and I want to encourage others not to quit before their happy ending.
My long time friend Margaret Schroth (in the photos) and I will be part
of the team ministering to more than 35 families touched by disability. Margaret and I share a deeper than life bond – the same congenital disability. We are connected at the hip in that proximal femoral focal deficiency includes a disconnect of our ball and socket hip joints.
Margaret and I thank for your prayers this week –
Can’t wait to tell you how God shows up.
Touring the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial was a definite highlight of my recent trip to Washington DC. At the same time, my eyes were opened to how far our society has actually come in accepting a physical disability.
President Roosevelt had residual lower limb paralysis following polio at age 39. He used a wheelchair every day of his four-term presidency. Was America aware of this? Newspaper publicity never showed the chair. Of the 30,000 photos studied for his memoirs, only two were found showing him in the wheelchair.
With the unveiling of his memorial in 1997, President Roosevelt was depicted sitting down with a long cape hiding the wheelchair. The disabled of America protested insisting the president’s disability be made visible: “He was our only president in a wheelchair.” Against the designers wishes, the memorial now exposes FDR’s secret.
Viewing this ‘prologue’ to the memorial, I was struck by how small and alone FDR looks seated in his wheelchair. How small and alone disability can make us feel. Thank God, times have changed.
Back at home, thankful for my trusty wheelchair that gives me the dignity of independence, I grieve President Roosevelt’s obvious shame associated with his. And I ponder how could a key figure on the world stage hide his inability to walk unaided much less hide his wheelchair? Hopefully none of us are living in such bondage.
I welcome your thoughts as I wrestle with this one.
When I was making my website, my friend Ethel insisted that we put a particular video on it. So after some searching through our VHS tapes and researching how to get it online, David got it up on the web to share with all of you!
So here is the story behind it: in 1991 I was one of three disabled Americans honored in Washington DC by the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family. This video was played at the awards banquet, at which I received a fifteen pound bronze statue that reads: The Marian Pfister Anschutz Award presented to Judy Squier in recognition of her dedication to protecting, encouraging and strengthening the American Family.
Though a dozen of my family members sat amongst the 300 guests, for me two people were sorely missed: my deceased father who had cheered me on every step of the way and the delivery roon doctor who had announced to Dad: Your daughter’s going to live, I’m sorry to say.
Being chosen for this national honor is a forever reminder to me that I extend to you: Don’t quit before the happy ending.
God’s plan for good may be invisible to you right now; Heaven’s applause may be inaudible. But keep walking, (crawl if you must). We walk by faith not by sight!
So without further ado – please watch my story!
JUDY SQUIER has authored His Majesty in Brokenness, Living in the Names of God and the Living in the Names Bible Study. Husband David and she have three adult daughters, three sons-in-law and seven grandchildren. Never did Mr. and Mrs. Squier dream that their long-awaited golden wedding anniversary would coincide with David’s memorial service. Judy resides in southern Oregon, alone, yet not alone. Thanks to the Good Shepherd!