When Natalie was diagnosed the doctors told us she’d lose the ability to walk independently between the ages of 3 and 4; she’d be permanently in a power chair by kindergarten; that she was looking at a life span of early adulthood. I remember interrupting the doctor at that point and asking how Natalie was going to go to college if she was in a power chair and needed round the clock assistance. The doctor became silent and looked at me with concern.
I was holding two realities in my hand; the reality that I’d created through planning and dreaming, and the present reality. And they were incompatible in every way. The plans we had to expand our family, my plans for grad school and work, our vehicles, the two story home with the claw foot tub I’d dreamed of, going to sporting events and music recitals. It had all changed instantaneously.
My reality had changed, but God hadn’t.
I spent a good chunk of time wrestling with God, attempting to merge together the idea of what I thought my life would look like and the new reality in front of me. My living room floor often saw me at 3 am praying the Psalms, sitting in silence, wondering about the future of our family. How we were going to do this.
On one of those nights in my living room and in His mercy God showed me that Natalie would walk independently until she was nine. I believed Him. It was a mercy that allowed me to confidently enjoy small moments with her – climbing the stairs of a playground, a mile trek with her walker, the feeling of holding her hand, memorizing the five steps she took from her door to her bed at night, noticing how tall she’d gotten when she stood next to me.
Last fall, just before her tenth birthday, Natalie stopped walking independently. A bittersweet reminder that He is a God who can be trusted to keep His promises. When our lives are an ever changing mess, He is a constant.
And He’s been our constant. Our rock. He shows up and takes care of us, of Natalie, with the loving gentleness of a father. His provision going so far beyond what we could have ever done for ourselves. When we felt the pull to move from Colorado to Iowa be closer to family, a job for Dan opened up. When we felt led to a specific elementary school, friends offered to sell us their home so we could be in the district. Recently, when we needed an accessible van for Natalie friends and family pulled together and helped us find and purchase a van. Quail and mana.
Again, Dan and I are feeling God lead us in a direction that we know supersedes our abilities. We’ve realized that while our home has so far been conducive to Natalie’s needs it won’t remain that way for long. She is not able to maneuver in our 1040 square foot home with a power chair in a way to allows her independence. Our one bathroom is too small for a power chair and would need considerable modifications to be safe for her. We either find ourselves carrying her in and out of the bathroom or her crawling across the bathroom floor. We don’t have room for night time medical equipment near her bed without obstructing her ability to get out of bed. The hallway is narrow, as are the doors. Had we not received a tremendous amount of help from VGM Group and last summer we would still be struggling to just get her manual wheels around the house.
After looking at options to make our home accessible, we feel led to instead build a house that will meet our family’s needs. It’s an option that has high walls around it, causing it to feel far out of reach for our family, but we are confident that if that’s where God is leading us then he will provide what we need. It’s our Jericho, of sorts, and we are stepping into this reality with strength and courage, and hope in an ever present, never changing God.
But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
To help our family along this path a Go Fund Me site has been set up, or you can stop into any Veridian Credit Union branch (Iowa) and contribute to the Natalie Olsen Benefit Account.