Family/Parenting

Thank You God For God

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Pro Life Speaker Chet McDoniel and daughter, HannahMost every night, I get the opportunity to read a Bible story to my (almost) four year old daughter, Hannah.  She and I treasure the time together, and I love watching her learn about God’s love.

After the Bible story, we talk about what we want to tell God that night, and Hannah always picks a few things from the day to give thanks for.  Most of the time, she gives thanks for her family and friends.  Sometimes it’s for a toy…you get the picture.  A couple of nights ago, she said this prayer:

Dear God,
Thank you for God.
In Jesus name,
Amen.

At first, I thought that she doesn’t understand what she’s saying.  She doesn’t realize that we give thanks for God’s gifts or His wonderful creation.  But, that prayer has rattled around in my brain until I finally came to a much better conclusion.

Hannah prayed a prayer that I’ve never prayed.

I have never once thought to thank God for being God.   Thank Him for being who He is.  God does not have to be a merciful god.  There is no requirement on Him to be a god of love, grace, and mercy.  He could have easily chosen a different way to exist.  We exist because he is a god of love.  He could zap us out of existence with a blink of an eye.  But, he doesn’t.

So often, I get tied up in the culture we live in, and I begin to focus my thankfulness on the things I have.  Not necessarily material things, although I am grateful for what He has provided.  Even focusing solely on the wonderful family and life He has given me is potentially dangerous as my focus is on me…not Him.  Maybe I’ve forgotten that my things and my life that I am so thankful for are not for me…they are for Him.

My prayers are going to sound different.  I want to remember that God is love not because he has to be…but because He chose to be love.  He chose to be merciful.  He chose to send Jesus.  I am thankful to God for who and what He chose to be.

Thank you, God…for God.

Our Normal Obsession

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I have an amazing wife.

I love her with all my heart, and I know she loves me just as much.  She posted a blog entry today that I believe each and every person needs to read.  It is a declaration of our “normal” and I strongly encourage you to read: “Our Normal Obsession

Walking “Hand-in-Hand”

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Inspirational Speaker - Chet McDoniel walks hand-in-hand with his daughter.This past week, my family and I traveled to Baltimore, MD, for the 2009 Care Net Conference.  In their own words, Care Net and their network of more than 1,100 pregnancy centers offer hope to women facing unplanned pregnancies by providing practical help and emotional support.  I attended the conference as an exhibitor to talk to various people about my story and pro-life speaking opportunities.  The conference was wonderful and not only did I get to meet so many people, but those new people made me feel as if I were already part of the Care Net family.

While the conference was great, my favorite part of the trip was the couple of days after the conference when my daughter, Hannah, and wife, Joni, and I got to play in Baltimore.  At one point during those two days, my wife told Hannah to “hold daddy’s hand while we walk” because Joni’s hands were full and we were in a crowded area.  Now, before you think my wife was being insensitive, in our family, we exchange the words “foot” and “hand” all of the time when referring to me as my feet serve as my hands.   We’ve never gotten hung up on word choices.

What amazed me, though, is that our 18-month daughter had already picked up on this, and when instructed, she walked right over to me and grabbed my foot.  We came together in that pose many times throughout the trip, and I’m sure we will many times to come.  What is so inspiring and amazing to me is Hannah’s acceptance of what is “normal” in our family.  She doesn’t know any differently, so she treats me with full acceptance and love unlike the world around me that often treats me as handicapped before they get to know me.  Hannah’s attitude shows what we all could be like if we simply treated others with respect and love without judging others based on looks.

I love my girl just as much as any other father loves his child, and my daughter loves me with no regard to how I look.  That is amazing.

Invited to Write for HitchedMag.com

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I have recently been invited to write a monthly column, “Couplehood Chronicles” for an online marriage magazine called HitchedMag.com.  My first article is up on their site, and I would love for you to take a look.  Joni, Hannah and I recently returned from a vacation to Walt Disney World, and so my first article is about surviving vacations when things get a little crazy.  Here is the link to the article:

http://www.hitchedmag.com/article.php?id=571

Stay tuned for future articles!

When Kids Say…

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Chet playing games with nephew and nieceI was recently approached a reporter from “The Plain Dealer” by the name of John Campanelli regarding how I handle a situation when a child says something inappropriate about me or to me.  He quoted me as saying:

“I often try to go directly to the child and open up a conversation with them,” he said via e-mail (he types with his feet). “It may be that they have never seen someone like me, and often times, I am able to show them that I am a person, too, and that they do not have to be afraid of me just because I look different.”  (pg. 3, Advice for handling kids’ embarrassing comments)

I would like to take a moment to write even more about this topic as it is very important to me.  Quite frequently, when I am in public, kids stare, laugh, point, or yell out things like, “Hey, what happened to your arms.”  
 
The worst way, in my opinion, for a parent to react is to ignore the child, or to rebuke the child openly/loudly for their behavior.  I have even seen parents hit or spank their children for the outburst.  I can only assume that the parent is embarassed, and yes, outbursts like that need to be corrected, however, I believe that type of correction only serves the purpose of furthering the child’s fear of people who look different than they do. 

If the parent has the opportunity, I recommend for them to stop what they are doing, get eye-to-eye with the child, and explain that some people look different, but that does not mean they aren’t people, too.  Many times, with this reaction, I’m able to speak to both the parent and child, which reinforces what I am saying because mom or dad can interject when needed.  Even better, when the parent involves me in the conversation, I get a golden opportunity to share God’s love with both the parent and the child.  Even though I may look different, God still loves me in every way that He loves you.  This message so important, and every child needs to hear it (and every parent, too).
 
I welcome the opportunity for a child to have questions.  The sooner I can teach them not to fear, the better off we are as a country with one more child growing up without a fear of others.

Family Time

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Chet leading worship with (from left to right) Ben Wall, Jessica McDoniel and Randy McDonielMy dad and I had the wonderful opportunity to share our story at the New Life Church in Odessa, TX this past Sunday.  My brother and his family attend here, and I got to lead their praise team which my brother and niece both sing on.  We had a great weekend watching my niece graduate from High School and spending time with family.  The weekend was capped off by a powerful worship service.  In the picture above, I am leading with Ben Wall (far left) and my niece and brother (on the right).

The New Life Church is full of life and energy and their excitement could easily be seen in their passionate worship. One special moment of the service that morning was when my whole family was able to gather around a small communion table and share communion together. What a powerful experience!

After Sunday morning, Joni, Hannah and I drove to Lubbock to visit with relatives on Joni’s side of the family.  We even got a 5 generation picture from Hannah all the way up to Hannah’s Great-Great Grandmother.  Truly a “once-in-a-lifetime” picture that will be a wonderful keepsake.  After stopping in Abilene on the way home to visit more relatives, we finally made it back to DFW Tuesday morning.  You can see more pictures of that portion of the trip on our family blog, McDoniel Family.

We’re all still tired, but we had a wonderful weekend, and we were given yet another chance to tell our story. 

Want Jim and Chet McDoniel to come to your church?  Click “Booking Information” above to get learn more. 

Change

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Over the past few months, Joni and I have felt the Lord’s calling to tell my story to any and all who will listen. In order to do that best, I have resigned my position as worship minister from Plymouth Park Church of Christ. We feel that this ministry is so important, we must pursue it at all costs…even giving up something we love. We’ll be back to Plymouth Park whenever we can, and whenever asked to come back as a guest worship leader. We love our Plymouth Park family, and thank them for the kindness they’ve shown to us during this transition.

We’ll be in Odessa, TX this weekend for my niece’s HS graduation and to give our “All He Needs” presentation on Sunday morning at the New Life Church. It will be a busy weekend as we’ll then head on to Lubbock to visit Joni’s family. We are excited about this weekend, and every opportunity the Lord gives us to tell our story!

What Works For Me

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In the form of a quick update:  Joni is doing just fine and recovering well.  Hannah had her first doctor’s appointment recently and she is doing great.  Thanks so much for your thoughts and prayers.

I want to talk just for a moment about how I believe the world perceives people who are different. 

Telling family and friends that we were pregnant was very exciting.  People that knew us thought nothing of the fact that I would be “handicapped parent,” and family/friends were very supportive of our decision to have children.  In fact, we were told many times that we would make wonderful parents…that remains to be seen. 🙂

Still, though, many people who did not know us very well insisted that some adjustments be made so that I could cuddle with Hannah once she was born.  The folks giving this advice were well meaning, but I must say that their advice bothered me.  You see, for my whole life, people have tried to “fix” me.  From a very early age, doctors wanted to do all sorts of procedures and tests to make me “as normal as possible.”  While some did get a chance, they all failed.  Now, I will say that the therapists that worked with me at a young age did wonders for me.  But, the difference is that the therapists got me to use what I have to function in life, instead of trying to change me to look like everyone else.

I have learned in 28 years without arms that I AM as normal as possible…as long as I want to be.  I need no doctors’ procedures, no kind advice, and no prosthesis to make me look like everyone else.  In other words, “I’m Not Broken.”  I don’t mean this in a spiteful or resentful fashion, but rather, I want to inform the world that making me look like you may make you feel more comfortable, however, I couldn’t be more comfortable with who I am.  I don’t need to be changed to fit in.  My attitude in life is to go full-steam ahead and never desire to be who I’m not. 

Hannah McDoniel cuddling with her handicapped dad, Chet McDonielI will never have arms.  I will never look like everyone else.  I will never hold Hannah like everyone else.  But, for me, this is not a sad thing.  I just have to learn “what works for me” in each and every situation.  So, the picture on the right is of me “holding and cuddling” with Hannah.  No, she’s not against my chest, but then again, how else would I feel her without being able to touch her with my feet?  My feet are my hands.  So, the advice I was given was to make sure and buy a sling to put her in so that she could be up against my chest.  We bought one…and maybe we’ll use it.  But, inevitably, I’ll want her out of the sling and on my lap or on the floor so that I can bond with, play with, and touch my daughter.  It may not look like how you would bond with your child…it may not look like how my own wife bonds with Hannah…but it is what works for me!  Hannah, Joni and I will figure it out for each and every situation that comes our way…and we will great each challenge with a smile because that’s how we believe life should be lived.

Hannah Jane McDoniel

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Hannah is here.  She was born on Thursday, March 6th at 11:35AM – weighing in at 8 lbs 5 oz – measuring 20 and a half inches.  I am overwhelmed with emotions and excitement…and a complete lack of sleep!  We are all home, now, and I’ll put more thoughts into words when I can.  I leave you with a couple of pictures as we start our journey!

Hannah McDoniel and Dad (Chet McDoniel)

Hannah McDoniel and Dad (Chet McDoniel)

Baby Will Be Here Soon

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My wife and I just found out that our first baby will be arriving this Thursday.  We are so excited, and it seems that 9 months has flown by.  (Well…maybe not “flown by” for Joni…but for me it has!)  I plan to blog some about my adventures as a handicapped parent.  I believe I can give my new daughter a great life and that while their may be physical obstacles to overcome, nothing will prevent me from loving and caring for “Hannah.”  Life will soon be different…and I can’t wait.

Hannah's NurseryOne item I did want to mention is that Joni found a crib for Hannah that has a door at the short end which I can open by pressing two buttons.  The crib is advertised as a way to quickly and easily change the sheets, but for us it is a way that I can get Hannah out of her crib in case of an emergency…or whenever I need to do so.  The peace of mind that I have knowing that I can get her if needed is a welcome relief to a big concern I had.  You can find more about the crib here.  The picture to the left is of Hannah’s nursery.

When I post again, I’ll be a father.  Wow.