Seek The Lord – Paralympian Deb Willows
By Steph Nickel
Do you seek the Lord in all you do? Steph shares the story of her friend Deb Willows, who is an example of someone who seeks to do the best in all she does.
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Recently, I shared some examples of 21st-century women who are just like us. Today, I would like to zero in on one such woman before we get back to examples from the Scriptures.
Several years ago, I met a remarkable woman named Deb Willows. Deb was looking for someone to co-author her memoir and a mutual friend introduced us. Although I didn’t have a lot of time to spend on the project, Deb was in no hurry, believing it would all come together in God’s timing. What a privilege it was to work with her!
Shortly after we met, Deb was inducted into the Canadian Cerebral Palsy Sports Association’s Hall of Fame. I was amazed at the men and women who were honoured that evening—not the disabled who participated in sports, but athletes who happened to have physical challenges, some extensive. How could these people go unnoticed by the general population, including myself?
Neither Deb nor I set out to write the book to make a political or a social statement. It became clear as I got to know Deb that it is her desire to encourage others to “go for the gold” in all areas of life, whether these individuals have been labelled able-bodied or disabled. But more than that, it’s Deb’s desire to point those who hear her speak or read her book to the Lord.
As Christians, we should seek to do our best in every area of life as well. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (ESV).
And, of course, we should have an ever-increasing desire to make Jesus known. The Great Commission stands to this day.
Matthew 28:19-20 says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (ESV).
Cerebral palsy is a neurological condition that children are born with. It doesn’t get worse over time, but the challenges faced by those with CP are compounded by other issues as they grow older. Deb and I are currently working on a follow-up to her first book. We will be exploring some of those challenges.
I can’t help but think of James 1:2-4, which says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (ESV).
Just like us, when faced with physical challenges, Deb doesn’t find it easy to count it all joy, not when she has a migraine or when her blood sugars are all over the place. (Deb developed diabetes in the last few years, which continues to present new challenges for her to face—and overcome—with God’s help.)
Still, as Deb’s faith has been tested, it has produced steadfastness in her life. There are many ways in which she is more complete than other believers, including myself.
Just Like Us
Just like us, she has been challenged to do all she could, while depending on others to assist her with what she couldn’t accomplish on her own. This is true of all of us. Rather than being independent, we are all truly interdependent. First Corinthians 12 teaches us that all believers are members of the body of Christ, each with different responsibilities, each dependent on the other members.
Just like us, Deb must deal with those who don’t take the time to really get to know her, who misunderstand her and her situation. No matter who we are, we can likely all relate on some level.
Just like us, Deb must be patient as she seeks to interact with others. If she gave up when others didn’t understand her, she would miss the opportunity to share her faith. While others may have no difficulty understanding our words, they may not know what we’re driving at—whether we’re not explaining it clearly enough or they just don’t get it. Deb must persevere and so must we.
When Deb was about 10 years old, she was watching the Olympics with her dad. While they were watching the swimmers, she told him she wanted to do be an Olympic swimmer when she grew up. While most parents would encourage their children to strive for a dream a little more within reach, he didn’t.
Eventually, Deb’s parents installed a pool and helped her find a coach. Because of their encouragement and her determination, she went on to become a Paralympian—not only a swimmer but also a Bocci ball player, a slalom racer, and more.
By working hard and not letting others hold her back, Deb accomplished more than others expected of her. As we trust the Lord and pursue the dreams He places in our heart, the same can be true of us.
Let’s Seek The Lord
Just like us, Deb faces the day-to-day challenges of growing older: increasing concern for her health and the health of her aging parents; an increasing sense of urgency to accomplish all she feels called to accomplish; the realization that she must continue to trust God in all areas of her life—no matter what’s going on.
There is so much more I could say about this dear sister in Christ. But, for now, I’ll simply say that I’m thankful the Lord caused our paths to cross and that I have learned and am continuing to learn much from this woman who is just like us in so many ways.
Let’s not make excuses for not accomplishing all God calls us to. Just like Deb, let’s seek the Lord, commit to the path He lays before us, and persevere even when the hurdles in our path seem insurmountable.
Steph Beth Nickel is a freelance writer and editor. She is the coauthor of Paralympian Deb Willows’ award-winning memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances, published by Castle Quay Books.
Steph is a member of InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship and The Word Guild. She and her husband of over 30 years live in Southwestern Ontario, Canada.
Steph’s goal is to nurture and inspire. She blogs at Steph Nickel’s Eclectic Interests. She also guest posts regularly on the topics of Christian living, writing, and fitness. You can visit her website, stephbethnickel.com, to learn more about her.
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