What level of determination and dedication does it take to become a Paralympic athlete? Steph Nickel draws from her friendship with Deb Willows to provide her usual direct conclusions.
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We’ve been talking about several of the women whose story God chose to include in His Word, how their situation was different from ours and how, in other ways, they were just like us.
Today, in light of the Paralympic Games, I would like to chat about my friend and coauthor, Paralympian Deb Willows.
I must admit, before I attended the ceremony at which Deb was inducted into the Canadian Cerebral Palsy Sports Association Hall of Fame in 2007, I was virtually oblivious to these amazing athletes and their accomplishments.
As I got to know Deb and we worked on her book, I was blown away by her determination and dedication. When she was a child, watching the Olympics with her dad, she informed him, “That’s what I want to do when I grow up.”
Instead of discouraging her or suggesting she set her sights a little lower, Deb’s parents did all they could to make her dreams come true—which they did time and time again. Deb participated in Paralympic events all around the world—long before these men and women were recognized as the athletes they are, long before communities spoke of accessibility.
I could tell you many stories of the challenges Deb faced and overcame, of the unbelievable treatment she and other athletes faced in various locations around the world, of the plethora of medals and ribbons she won over the years.
But today I want to tell you how Deb is just like us; how her faith is more important to her than anything she has accomplished, any acclaim she has received; how she continues to set an example for others to this day.
Would she allow cerebral palsy, uncooperative limbs, and society’s ignorance and misunderstanding to hold her back?
To a large extent, it was because of how her parents raised her that she was able to live as an overcomer, a champion.
Long before there was support and encouragement for individuals with physical challenges and their families, Deb’s mom and dad realized, “This is the child God blessed us with, and that’s that.” They expected her to achieve all she could, and they facilitated her success all along.
Every day we have choices to make as well. Will we allow the challenges we face, whatever they are, to hold us back or propel us forward? With God’s help, we can keep moving forward.
I often quote Romans 8:28. God will work all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called by Him.
Deb Had to Ignore the Naysayers.
Over the years, Deb has faced children who taunted her, teachers who didn’t understand cerebral palsy, those who doubted her ability to achieve anything of significance.
Do you find yourself butting heads with others, those who try to extinguish your dreams and suggest you choose a more “realistic” path?
People often quote Philippians 4:13, which says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (ESV).
While I believe this isn’t a blanket promise, I do believe that, because Jesus gives us the strength and determination, we can accomplish all He calls us to accomplish. If our dreams are from Him, He will give us the wherewithal to see them come to pass.
Deb Chose to Keep her Eye on the Prize.
As I mentioned, Deb has more medals, ribbons, and trophies—more awards—than most of us will ever win.
But Deb would tell you, if her achievements didn’t provide her with the opportunity to share her faith in Jesus with others, they would mean nothing.
Are these merely platitudes voiced to make her sound super spiritual? I’ve known Deb for over 10 years now, and I can tell you she is 100 percent sincere.
It isn’t wrong for us to pursue success, to fulfill our potential, to strive to push ourselves beyond our apparent limits. But, as Christians, we must be honest about what motivates us. Do we do what we do in order to glorify the Lord Jesus and make Him known—or do we do it out of selfish ambition, something God warns against repeatedly in His Word?
Deb continues to face a number of challenges, but, as ever, she seeks to honour and glorify the Lord through it all.
Today, may we “go for the gold,” the gold of becoming all God wants us to be.
Images courtesy of:
Trophy – KeithJJ
Woman on mountain – livrariaadventista
Read About Other Woman of Faith. Click here.
Stephanie is a freelance writer and a contributor to our Christian internet radio station, HopeStreamRadio. Read and hear more from Steph Nickel on the contributor’s page or at Steph Nickel’s Eclectic Interests.
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