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Chet McDoniel

Meeting the Amazing

This past Wednesday night, I had the opportunity to speak at the Legacy Church in Princeton, TX, for a youth event that tied into the worldwide “See You at the Pole” gathering.  The kids sang passionately, and listened intently as I attempted to inspire and encourage.  But, the surprise that awaited me that evening was amazing.  Before service started, the pastor leaned in to whisper, “There is a family here with a baby who was born without arms or legs.  Would be willing to stay afterwards to meet with them?”  In that type of situation, my response is always, “Try and stop me!”

IMG_0319It is my pleasure to introduce you all to Stetson. Stetson is eight months old, and is a happy, bright-eyed boy who happens to have no arms or legs.  His parents were told of his diagnosis early on in the pregnancy, and as is the norm in the medical community, they were strongly counseled to abort this precious life.  His parents, however, knew that Stetson was a blessing no matter the shape of his body, and after having to change medical providers, Stetson has been given every opportunity available for his success. His parents say that he can hold his own bottle, put his pacifier in his mouth, and that daily, he continues to surprise them with what he can do.

The question we must deal with as a society is this: is Stetson’s life worth living?  We live in a world that terminates life at the first sign of trouble.  The treatment for an adverse diagnosis in a pregnancy is abortion.  At least, it is the first treatment suggested.  My parents did not know of my lack of limbs before I was born.  They have said before and continue to profess that had they known, I still would have been born.  Abortion was not an option for them, nor is it for my family.  However, in today’s world, a baby like me…like Stetson…has a very small chance of making it past the first sonogram.  Parents-to-be are listening to the advice of supposed experts both in and out of the medical community saying that they would be better off (and so would the baby) if they would abort.  I’m living proof that the advice provided in those situations is DEAD WRONG.

Simply put, we cannot know the life that will be led based on a sonogram screen or any other test conducted.  Life is an adventure, and while my adventure may not look like yours, it is no less valuable.

I praise God for Stetson and his parents.
I praise God for my own parents.
I praise God for my life.

And I cannot wait to see the amazing man Stetson becomes all due to a choice for life.

You’re Next

Seeing as how it was my second trip to the DMV in one day, you can understand how my patience was already quite thin.  I had spent the day running errands, and my first trip to the DMV ended in failure as I was told I needed my wife’s signature on the form that had to be submitted.  Upon entering the room where you are reduced to a number and are forced to wait your long awaited turn, I was faced with another dilemma.   The number I was supposed to take to determine my place in line was in a machine a foot or two above my highest reach.  I was forced to ask for help.

What’s your weakest ability?  For some it is math.  I know tons of people who hate working with numbers.  Maybe it is writing or public speaking.  Pick something you hate or are terrible at doing.  Got it?  Now, for the rest of your life you have to wear a t-shirt that tells the world how incapable you are at the thing you just picked.  Got a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach?  Good…cause now you have an inkling of what it is like for me to ask for help.

I live in a body with no arms and deformed legs.  The ways in which I struggle – reaching high objects, opening doors, carrying things, etc – are shown to all those around me the moment I enter their presence.  I have no ability to hide my disability.  I’m always on stage.  So, you may comprehend why I generally choose to ignore my problems.  After all, if I focused on my lack of abilities, I would be down in the dumps all the time.  Sometimes, though, life forces me to acknowledge my lack of arms.  You’d think that having to ask for help as often as I do, that I’d be used to it by now.  It doesn’t seem to ever get easier, though.

A man standing near the take-a-number device made eye contact with me, I swallowed my pride, and asked if he would get a number for me.  After all, they were already serving number 61, and I didn’t want to this to take any longer than it was already destined to as the next number in the machine was 89.   The man smiled, grabbed a number, and then did something unexpected.  Instead of giving me the next number in the machine, he gave me the ticket he had been holding, and took the new number for himself.  I looked at the number he gave me…62.  “You’re next.” he said as smiled and walked away.

In asking for help, I admit my imperfection, my inadequacy, and ultimately, my handicap.  And, sometimes, I not only get the assistance need, but receive a blessing for being just the way I am.

The World Doesn’t Owe Me

You may already know that my wife and I own our own travel agency that specializes in Disney Destinations called Off to Neverland Travel.  Disney released a new special today, and inevitably, some clients’ reservations are excluded from the new rates due to the terms and conditions.  This happens every time a special is released, and yet every time this occurs we get phone calls demanding that we call Disney and make them fix the blackout dates to match a particular client’s reservation.

First of all, you don’t demand anything from the Mouse.  Disney sets their specials up to fill rooms that wouldn’t otherwise be filled.  They aren’t being generous to the general population…they are trying to make more money.  That’s what a good business does.

Second, and much more importantly, when did our sense of entitlement grow so out of control that we blow our tops at every little issue in life?  Maybe it is the spirit of individualism in America that is somewhat to blame.  Maybe it is our upbringing.  One thing is for sure, though…we have decided that our interests outweigh everyone else’s no matter the situation.

Let’s be honest here.  If the world “owed” anyone, it would be me.  After all, I have to live life in a body without arms and with shortened legs.  Most people reading this post do not have near the reason to feel shortchanged like I do.  If I chose to, I could adopt an attitude of entitlement, and no one could really blame me, right?

No one owes me anything! I have a fantastic live with an amazing wife, two beautiful daughters, and a God who loves me unconditionally.  I am not entitled to anything other than the grace of God that he offers freely to me.  I have no need for anything else.  My joy comes from Him, and being free of that demanding spirit allows me to live a truly happy life.

So, next time you feel like you deserve more than life has given you, take time to realize you can be spared from what you truly deserve through the grace and mercy of God.  And that is the only way to truly be free.

Mr. McDoniel Goes to Austin – Time to Testify

Pro Life Speaker Chet McDoniel at Texas State CapitolI have never been one for politics.  I get too stressed and too frazzled when I hear opponents shouting at each other.  I get frustrated when I hear poorly thought out arguments that others buy into, and even more disappointed when I see some of our leaders clearly in it to make a name for themselves.  I tend to steer clear of the political arena, but sometimes God calls on you to get involved in a place where you are very uncomfortable.  I felt that call, and so Joni and I traveled to Austin, TX, on July 2nd for me to testify before the Texas House Committee on State Affairs regarding my plea for the fetal abnormality exception to be removed from the new pain capable, anti-abortion bill (HB 2).  My actual testimony can be viewed here.

Upon entering the capitol building and heading towards the registration terminal, one could feel the tense nature all around.  For the most part, things were cordial between the two sides.  At least they were at 10AM.  Registration was fast and furious when it opened up as everyone knew that only a select few would get to testify, and the committee had chosen the order as first come, first serve.  After registration, Joni and I returned to our hotel to rest up as we knew the day would be long.  We headed back to the capitol at 3PM, and it was definitely a different place.  The tense air had gotten much thicker as many more supporters had shown up for both sides.  The hearing room only held a few people, so most of us were in overflow rooms watching the proceedings on TV monitors.  Each room had multiple state troopers, and we were admonished that outbursts would not be tolerated.

As the hearing began, the representatives that were against the bill from the beginning began throwing as many roadblocks as they could think of.  From questioning the constitutionality of the bill all the way to complaining about the size of the room where the hearing was being held.  Eventually, much to his credit, the chairman emphasized that many witnesses were waiting and that those who had traveled all this way were the priority.  Rep. Turner suggested that the witnesses all could come back another day which made it obvious that he cared more about his arguments than our testimony.

Fast forward through HOURS of testimony…some good, well thought out claims, and some who obviously had not prepared nor had a clue what the bill was about…Joni and I were still waiting in one of the overflow rooms when we realized that many people who had registered alongside me had already testified.  That, along with some other needs, had us alerting our hosts, Texas Right to Life.  The director contacted one of the representatives favorable to our cause, and he asked for me to be brought into the hearing room.  I was escorted by a large state trooper, and was very glad he was there as the cordial nature from earlier in the day had broken apart into rallies, shouting, and even the pro-choice crowd chanting “Hail, Satan!”  (By the way, the satanists have declared they want no part in the debate.  When satanists throw you under the bus, you have hit a new low.)

After being ushered into the hearing room, the committee clerk came to me to say that they could not find my registration information.  He helped me enter it on his iPad, but said it was up to the chairman as to whether or not I would be called.  After all, I was now dead last on the list.  This was the biggest roadblock that Satan had thrown our way that day.  There were many others, but this one took the cake.  I simply bowed my head and asked God to make whatever he wanted to make out of the situation.  Two testimonies later, the chair announced it was now recognizing me to come testify.  I wheeled to the front of the room where the clerk lowered the microphone so that I could be heard on the video feed, and I proceeded to give my testimony.  At the beginning, many of the representatives were busy writing or in conversation, but when I dropped the bomb on them that my delivering OB left me in the corner of the room, giving me the opportunity to die, they ALL turned to listen.  Very soon, my three minutes were up, I was thanked for my testimony, and I left the room to make space for someone else.  Out in the hallway, I had two representatives come up to me to thank me for my testimony, including Rep. Turner.  One of them said that I was the first one in nearly four hours of testimony to mention that we should be considering what the baby would want in these situations.  After a few photos, we were escorted out a back way that would allow us not to have to go through the protesters.  Joni told me later that many in the room were nodding their heads during my testimony including several that were wearing orange (the chosen color for the pro-choice crowd).

Pro Life Speaker Chet McDoniel at Texas State Capitol

My time in Austin was short, and the bill passed with the exception included.  Did I change the committee’s mind?  Nope.  Did I stand up for what I believe in?  Yep.  Did I answer the call from the Lord?  I believe so.  And, THAT is what is important.  Once again, he led me to a place I had no intention of going, and once again, I found an amazing group of people to uplift and encourage in the pro-life crowd there at the capitol.  I will continue to fight for the lives of innocent babies who are unable to have a voice themselves.  Even though doctors told my parents I would never stand, I am happy to #stand4life.  (Plus, I learned more about state government in one evening in Austin than I did in my entire government class in high school!)

My Testimony as a Pro Life Speaker Before the Texas Legislature

Before you ask, I do plan on posting an account of what happened last Tuesday before the Texas House Committee on State Affairs as I testified in support of HB 2 as a Pro Life Speaker representing myself.  In the meantime, some have asked to read my testimony, so I have provided it, below.  You may also view the testimony by clicking this video link (you’ll need to adjust the viewer to right at 5 hrs and 1 minute into the video to see my part).

I support HB 2, however, there is one portion of the bill that concerns me greatly. I fear that by allowing a fetal abnormality exception in this bill, Texas is solidifying the terrible myth that my life is not to be provided as much protection as those without disabilities. The United States claims that all life is created equal, but by allowing the euthanasia of the disabled in the womb, we contradict our own declaration.


In January of 1980, my parents received the shock of their lives. Sonograms were not performed on a regular basis, and since there were no signs of problems, the delivering obstetrician even allowed me to be born breach. After my delivery, though, he made a snap decision based on my outward appearance that I might have been better off dead. He performed a minimal amount of work on me to make sure I could breath, and then left me in the corner of the room to die. He had no right to make that decision then, and we have no right to make that decision now.


The medical community claims to know much when it comes to the predictions based on a sonogram screen and other tests. However, I have encountered countless stories in my travels all over this country as a pro-life speaker where those predictions were blatantly untrue. From parents who were told their child would have Down’s Syndrome only to find out at birth that the diagnosis was incorrect, to a family at church who were told their baby would be stillborn…only to find a very much alive baby kicking and screaming at the time of delivery. We must be willing to admit that even with the proper education, training, and years of practice, that the medical community simply cannot, and will never, know everything. How then can we trust a diagnosis of a fetal abnormality?


This all boils down to one thing…is my life in a body without arms worth it? My parents would tell you that they were not prepared for my arrival in 1980, yet now, they would also say that they would change nothing. I have a beautiful wife of eight years, two amazing children, Hannah age 5 and Olivia who is 15 months old. I run two successful businesses here in the great state of Texas. I can type around 35 words a minute, write with my feet, and drive a van with my feet. More than that, my life can praise God in the unusual form that my body is in. When I arrive home, my kids will nearly tackle me as they do every time I return from speaking somewhere and there will be lots of hugs, giggles, and “I love you’s!” It is at that moment, I know that my life is worth it. I ask that you remove the fetal abnormality exception to allow many other potential lives with disabilities to show you how much they are worth as well.


I thank you for your time and the work you are doing to pass this bill that is of ultimate importance. Thanks, and may God bless you.

Just Above the Clouds

Storms of LifeAs the plane descended, I looked out the window to see a beautiful blue sky above and a thick layer of puffy white clouds, below.  Above us, the sun was shining, and the sky could have been described as a beautiful day.  The clouds below didn’t look particularly ominous as their fluffy surface bounced up and down as far as the eye could see.  Up here, things were calm.  Up here, life was perfect.

Our descension continued bringing the serenity to an end as we bounced around while passing through the ever so innocent looking layers of clouds.  Once on the other side, things looked different.  A storm was afoot and by the looks of it, this storm was anything but weak.  Lightening flashed, thunder rolled, and the rain pounded the window thus blurring my view.  Down here, things were violent.  Down here, life was rough.

At any given time, my life can be easily be viewed based solely on the circumstances surrounding me.  Life throws constant changes or lifelong curveballs, and rarely could I say that life is perfect based on what is happening in the here and now.  The good news is that life CAN always be viewed as perfect based on the view of my life from above the clouds.  From God’s perspective, my life is lived in his presence and guidance, and thus is a perfect existence.   Sure, bad things will come, but God is always there to pierce his beaming rays of joy and hope through the clouds that have formed in my life.

Down here it is hard to see through the clouds to the glorious sun and sky that always remain whether our eyes can see them or not.  The clouds block our view of God, but not God’s view of us.  Weathering a storm can take its toll, but when the storm passes, and the clouds clear, we are reminded that the sun was shining all along even when sunshine was the furthest thought from our mind.

I thank God for his ever present help throughout the storms of life.

Life in the Fast Lane

The day started out like most.  Out of bed.  Shower.  Eat breakfast.  It started like most days, but this day would be unlike any other day…

After maneuvering through the race day traffic, we (my dad and I) finally found our way to the NASCAR credentials trailer.  Once we had verified who we were and that we were Chet McDoniel on the track at Texas Motor Speedwayin the right place, our passes were bestowed upon us, and we were led into the infield parking area of Texas Motor Speedway.  Our credentials worn on our shirts said “HOT” in large, red letters.  Although I had wanted it to be a commentary on our looks, the word HOT meant that we had access to wherever we wanted to go…the garage, pit row, the track itself…all access. We aren’t huge NASCAR fans (in fact this was our first race), but being men, we had a blast looking at these cars and watching the frantic pace at which the crews were driving themselves to get their team ready for the race.

Following a tour of the garage area, it was time to go to the tent where the Driver’s Meeting was to be held.  After working out some details for the chapel service that was to immediately follow the Driver’s Meeting, we relocated to a corner of the tent behind the stage in order to be out of the way.  I had pulled over even further out of the way to attempt to update my Facebook status when a man approached me, knelt down beside me, and said, “Hi, I’m Rick Perry!” Rick Perry is the governor of Texas, and I am definitely a fan of his work.  I was amazed that he would kneel down beside me to speak to me as I have often spoken about this kind gesture when I am doing a disability awareness presentation.

We made a few connections, and then he began to tell me about his anti-bullying video/campaign that he is gearing up for…and then he invited me to be a part of it!  I don’t know many details Chet McDoniel with Gov. Rick Perry, Glenn Beck and Marcus Luttrellyet, but it will be going to schools all over the state, and he asked me to play a role in the video and in getting the message out to schools.  Then, he said, “Hey, have you met Glenn Beck (former host of the Glenn Beck Show on Fox News)?”  I looked up, and Glenn Beck (who recently moved to Texas) was standing there with a big smile on his face.  The governor proceeded to tell Mr. Beck about this new project and my involvement.  After Gov. Perry stepped away, Mr. Beck and I began to talk about my speaking and my work with the pro-life movement.  We had a great conversation, and I hope to get to be with him more in the future.  Gov. Perry also introduced me to Marcus Lutrell, who is a former Navy SEAL.

Soon, the Driver’s Meeting began and was soon concluded.  After a few minutes of folks exiting and entering, the chapel service began.  We were led in worship by Richard Andrew, and then I was up.  The temptation to water down or soften your message is strong when you are speaking to celebrities.  Many NASCAR drivers and their teams stayed for chapel.  However, I had been encouraged that the people to whom I was speaking used this weekly chapel time as their “Sunday morning worship” as their schedules often preclude them from attending a church during race season.  I prayed for God to use me boldly, and I delivered a message to that race day crowd to challenge them to use their gifts for God.

You can be the best racer today, next week, and for the whole season, but unless you are Chet McDoniel speaking at NASCAR Driver's Chapel Serviceserving God and praising his name in your every day life, winning means nothing.  Perfection in your witnessing and service isn’t what God demands.  He does, however, demand that you try to serve in every way possible.  Many times, we cower away from witnessing because we are afraid we might screw up and fall flat on our face.  So, in order to avoid failing God, we don’t even make an attempt.  After all, wouldn’t making a blunder be worse than not trying?

In Matthew 25, Jesus tells a parable of a man who goes away on a long trip.  Before departing, he leaves his servants some money and he expects them to do something with it.  He expects good stewardship of the funds.  One of the servants decides to “play-it-safe” and dig a hole to bury his master’s money.  Upon the master’s return, he becomes irate with the lazy servant.  His anger burns not because the servant failed to make money with the investment he had been given, but rather because the servant didn’t even try.  Serving God isn’t always easy…nor will you always be good at it.  But, you will bring a smile to your Heavenly Father’s face when you live your life for Him and you make an attempt at glorifying His name.  While the NASCAR drivers and crew members can easily get focused on their sport, my challenge to them was to focus on God and make their lives about Him.

Following the message, I was privileged to lead a song right along with Richard Andrew, and then we got a chance to talk to many of those who attended.  Hearing how dedicated they were to spreading the word of God encouraged me.  Now, though, it was time to get Chet McDoniel in Pit Row at Texas Motor Speedwaydown to business.  We were given a tour of pit row, and invited by some drivers to check out their cars and talk with them before the race.  I even got to take my wheelchair full speed along a flat section of the track.  Following the driver introductions (by Miss Kay and Godwin from the TV show Duck Dynasty), we left the track and watched as final preparations were made for the race.  While it was very hard to see the race from down in the pit, it was not hard to hear it.  I think my ears are still ringing two days later!  Once the green flag was waved, I got to see what speed is all about.  Wow is all I can say.  From our vantage point, my eyes barely had to time to focus on an individual car before it was long gone.  We didn’t stay for very long, but the little amount that we saw was thrilling.

So, how are you using your life for God?  I never thought that God could use a man with no arms to speak in so many places and in so many ways.  The world looks at my body and says it’s broken.  God looks at my body and says, “I can use that…if you’ll let me.”

Are you letting God use you?

(Special thanks to Motor Racing Outreach for having me speak at the NRA 500.)

The Sun Can’t Shine Every Day

The forecast for our area calls for two to three inches of rain over today and tomorrow. This has been the forecast for a week, now, and the rain has already started to fall. Even with the advanced warning, I still saw this post on my Facebook feed this morning:

“It’s so gloomy. I want sunshine.”

I wonder how much we focus on wanting more sunshine instead of making the world a brighter place with our own light. We require that our happiness comes from the environment around us, and when that environment turns gloomy, we lose our joy. Of course, the problem with that as a way of life? It WILL get gloomy.

One thing I do know is that the sun cannot shine every day. Even in the beauty of the garden, the rain is seen as just as necessary as sunshine. In fact, without rain and the cloudy skies that come with it, we would all be living in a desert. Nature finds the clouds and the rain as refreshing. Maybe the gloom in our lives sometimes comes with refreshing rain as well.

This past summer, our family made a trip to Walt Disney World before a weekend speaking engagement in Orlando. The beginning of our trip was marred by a tropical storm that refused to move beyond central Florida. It rained. A ton. So much rain and gloom that we found ourselves longing for the sunshine. Once the rain cleared, however, we learned the true meaning of the word “sauna.” It was so hot and so miserable that we found ourselves longing for the rain again. Our happiness was being derived from the weather, which was way out of our control. That kind of external reliance is a way of life for so many, and it does not work.

Life will send problems. It is only a foundation of happiness and positive living that allows us to retain our joy when the dark times come. Maybe it sounds too trite to say that simply choosing to be happy will make you happy, but have you tried it? Maybe dismissing the idea as too simple is simply an excuse for those not willing to give it a try.

Give it a shot. Choose to be happy…to live happy, and see where that choice gets you the next time the gloomy problems of life show up! I cannot promise it will be easy, but I can promise that if you truly commit to happiness, nothing will ever steal your joy.

Wounds That Define Who We Are

For the past week, I have dreaded going on Facebook.  Not because it is a black hole that sucks away my time (though it is), and not because I didn’t want to hear anything about the Olympics (since I’m DVR’ing it and watching later).  Rather, my dread came from the general anger and outrage over the statements made by the owner of Chick-fil-a.

I’m not going to further beat that dead horse by bringing up more arguments regarding the statements made, but rather focus on something else that I believe is a much deeper problem.  So many of the comments on Facebook this week were not about discussing the statements that Mr. Cathy made, nor were they even about the issue(s) brought up by what he said.  The vast majority of threads on the subject seemed to quickly devolve into shouting matches filled with hateful speech and pointless rhetoric from both sides.

And…it’s gotten us nowhere.

Never mind the fact that Facebook has to be the worst place for convincing someone else that your opinion is the only correct opinion (maybe Twitter would even be better because it would force people to be succinct in stating their cases).  The social media platform, instead, simply served to worsen the already deep wounds that are so prevalent in our society.  I believe those wounds have to heal before we can have any conversations in our country that aren’t reduced to neanderthalic, mud-slinging events.  So, why are these wounds unable to heal?

Because we let our wounds define who we are.

I hope it doesn’t come as too much of a surprise that I have been discriminated against in every way possible.  I have seen and heard it all.  Don’t think for a second that hateful comments towards me haven’t left wounds.  That would make me a robot.  The difference in my life is that I have CHOSEN to not let those wounds define who I am.

If the scars of past statements and actions of others could alter my personality and beliefs, I would have become bitter and angry long ago.  I believe that our society holds on to these scars either because being pitied can be addicting, or because they have not found anything to fill those holes in their lives.  Either way, it is no way to truly live.  You can become enslaved to these wounds to the point where you can’t live a positive life, and instead you simply become a fight waiting to happen.  It is a broken existence.

Instead, the deep cuts that I have endured in life have made me stronger, and allowed me to serve others because I know what it feels like to be hurt.  I am in a somewhat unique situation, and can help when other people are knocked down in life simply due to what I’ve experienced.  How is that possible?


The ability to take an imperfect body like mine, and make it a life that is perfect in the eyes of God is solely credited to Jesus.  My wounds can’t define who I am because HE defines who I am.  And, while the scars may still be visible, the deep cuts have long ago healed through His love for me.  That healing allows me to be free.  It allows me not only to live, but to live happily.

I have no doubt that each and every person who chooses to read this has been hurt by someone else.  I believe you when you say those pains run deep, and that it is hard to let go.  What I refuse to believe is that you can’t let go.  What happens to you is often out of your control, but your reaction to those events is 100% within your power.  Your default reaction to pain can be re-learned to the point where you let your hurt go the moment after you have been wronged.

I don’t believe for a second that the vile nature that came out all over Facebook this week is simply because of the issue at hand.  More likely, the spiteful things typed out on the social media giant’s site this week were born out of hurt.  Hurt that has been building up for years, and explodes at every turn.

I challenge you to take that hurt…that pain…and give to God.  He is big enough to manage your hurt while you take the time to heal.  And, once you are on the path to healing, find others along the way who also need healing and care for them.  Caring for each other is the only path towards a discrimination-free society…because it is hard to hate while you are loving.