The Path to Discernment – Part 3

On Monday, February 4th I was driving Ioana to Aurora to ride the FES bike.  It was her birthday, a day she had been looking forward to for some time.  The previous night was when I didn’t sleep much and now as I look back at that day on February 4th I understand why I was so exhausted on her birthday.  I can still remember that we were at 1st Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard when I asked her about the FES bike and that someone had approached me about helping to fund it.  How did she feel about the possibility of having the FES bike in Romania?  She turned to me in the car with an exasperated look and said, “Do we have to talk about that now, of all days, on my birthday?”  I let it go at that point but was frustrated with her response.

When Ioana first started doing this exercise she could bear no weight. Now she is up to 12 pounds of weight. Her goal someday would be to bear her own body weight, which is about 90 pounds.

I remember her effort at therapy that day was less than stellar.  It was clear that she was more interested in the events that would happen later in the day than putting out a concerted effort on the FES bike.  I decided to let the whole subject of the FES bike go and pray and think about seeking the wisdom of others on the matter.  After months of observing Ioana it became clear that what made her most excited was time with friends, birthday parties and social events.  In regard to the hard work required for physical therapy she would put out effort but it often required someone cheering her on.  I had seen that if she was required to go it alone she was rather passive in her effort.  This was a concern to me.  I was worried about her commitment to working hard after she went home to Romania and I expressed this to the potential sponsor of the FES bike.  I felt it was my obligation to be transparent about my concerns and I felt it was necessary to be responsible with a gift of this size.  

I let some time pass and continued to just think about it and met with some friends who I had asked to pray about the situation.  I shared my reservations and Pam and I discussed how we felt Ioana needed to take some steps toward independence in her living situation with us.  Below comes directly from my journal on the morning of Tuesday, Feburary 12th.

I’m not really sure how to pray anymore regarding myself and Ioana.  I truly struggle with my friend’s offer of a significant gift to help her and potential purchase of an FES bike.  I just don’t know if she is really mature enough and truly desires to work hard everyday.  I refuse to blindly purchase something so extravagant only to be neglected, broken or simply not used.  I’m at the point where I am demanding more of her.  (Ioana) Show me what you really can and cannot do!  Yesterday she managed to lift the laundry basket onto her walker and wheel it to the laundry, lifting it back off the walker to get it up the step.  It was significant weight for her to do that.  I was impressed but also felt like she has not been honest in her efforts with normal, ordinary tasks or when she goes to therapy.  So I will push her now to the edge on things to see what she can and cannot do.  It will be hard but we can’t enable her anymore.  Lord, guide me to be fair with her but to help her through her struggles with things as we try to bring her to a whole new level of realization of what she can and cannot do.

I decided to wake Ioana up 15 minutes early that morning.  “I’ve given you an extra fifteen minutes so that you can put your braces on by yourself.”  

“But I don’t know how to put them on by myself.  I can’t get them tight enough.  I can’t reach them.”

“I’ll teach you how to do it”  I told her.  It was a challenging time for both of us.  She struggled with the process.  I encouraged her to think about ways to overcome the challenge of putting on the braces.  “What if you got down on the floor?”  She struggled immensely with getting them tight enough.  I showed how to use leverage to her advantage.  Then, for the first time since she had been with us, I saw her get so frustrated that she got angry.  She threw the strap down on the floor and began to cry.  I left her to the situation and walked away.  “Where are you going?” she called to me.  I told her that she needed to figure it out, that I had showed her how to do it and it was now up to her.  “You either need to figure out a way to get the braces on or you can go without them.  But we’re leaving at 9:30 for physical therapy.”

It took her a while but she got them on.  I don’t know if they were tight enough or not and she didn’t complain.  On the drive to therapy she asked me about the FES bike, the first time that either of us had mentioned it since her birthday.  “I want the bike”, she told me.  “I’ve seen how it makes a big difference in my strength.  It wears me out but a few hours later I recover pretty quickly.”  

“Ioana”, I replied “This isn’t like the braces where we told you about how they can make a difference for you.  I’m not going to talk you into the FES bike.  If you really want this bike, then you need to convince me that you want this bike.”

That was all I said to her about it.  I didn’t tell her how she had to convince me but I knew in my mind what I wanted to see from her, and Pam and I had discussed what we needed to see.  We needed to see her take charge of her life in our house and not ask for help with things.  We needed to see a level of maturity that demonstrated she was ready to be held accountable for her work ethic and a desire to do it for herself, not for the people that surrounded her.

That afternoon after Ioana came home from English class she did her arm exercises on her own without being told to do them.  Either that same week or the next week on two different nights I had started dinner and then went to pick Pam up from school.  The first night when we got home twenty five minutes later, Ioana had set the table like I had asked her to but she also completely de-cluttered our kitchen and cleaned everything up!  The next night she did the same but she also had a pot of coffee brewing as we came through the door.  

And in the weeks that followed she continued in the same vein.  She would come home and do her exercises on her own.  We had lengthy discussions about facing challenges and finding ways to overcome them.  We talked about thinking outside the box.  We talked about how the things that she does are noticed by others around her.  “What if, as you work your way through a problem, someone else with a disability notices and is inspired about how you overcome a challenge?”  I asked her.  “Ioana” I told her in the most loving way I could, “it’s not always okay just to ask someone for help with something because you are struggling.  Maybe it is better to ask someone to help you think of a way or develop a strategy to overcome what seems insurmountable.  It’s always okay to do that.”

Ioana was making big strides but I still was challenged regarding the FES bike.  I didn’t know why but I was.