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Saturday, 6 August 2011

Reason to Smile- The Joy of Joni

Today’s Reason to Smile is the story of the incredible Joni Eareckson Tada.
I was introduced to this wonderful woman by a very dear friend when I was fifteen years old and ever since then I've used Joni’s story to draw strength at times of difficulties in my own life.
Joni’s life has been nothing short of inspirational; having lived an able bodied and extremely active life until the age of seventeen, one fateful summer’s day saw Joni dive into Chesapeake Bay unaware of the depth of the water and break her neck fracturing it between the fourth and fifth cervical level.
From the 30th July 1976 Joni Eareckson was quadriplegic and only able to move from the shoulders upwards.
From living a carefree teenage life in the seventies, Joni faced being confined to a bed, twenty four hours a day with nothing to look at but the floor or ceiling. Joni endured two years of rehabilitation and realization that her life that she had dreamed of was now over.
What is so incredibly refreshing and encouraging about Joni’s story, is how openly Joni talks of her battles with depression and suicidal thoughts during this emotional transition into her disabled life.
Despite reaching emotional depths that she had believed she would never sink to, Joni impressively managed to turn her life around achieving countless successes over the last forty years.
Having written over forty books,  recorded several musical albums, starred in a major autobiographical movie of her life,become an advocate for disabled people in the U.S. and became actively involved in countless charitable projects; it is fair to say that Joni has filled her life quite miraculously and defied everyone’s preconceptions of what her disabled life would be.
Joni puts all of her success in life down to her immense faith in God, that although was not always present during her darkest of days- is now the driving force of her incredible life.
Probably one of the most unconventional of Joni’s achievements is her success in the field of art and more specifically painting. Shortly after her quadriplegic life began, Joni took up painting with her mouth and has since become a recognized and praised artist in her own right- utterly amazing!
Having regrettably become a little distant from Joni’s message and books for the last year or so, I am alarmed to read on Wikipedia that Joni was last year diagnosed with breast cancer, and underwent surgery for such in June 2010.
I pray that Joni has made a positive recovery from this dreadfully unfair illness and is now in a position to return to her wonderfully full and active life!
Please take a minute or two out of your day to check out this amazing lady! As has been discussed in my blog before, many people are so reluctant to talk openly about the all too uncomfortable subject of how becoming disabled and living a disabled life can at times lead to becoming engulfed by depression.
Joni’s frank and refreshing account of this difficult subject really makes me respect her even more, (if that were at all possible!), as I’ve realized through writing this blog how sharing emotions that we may feel are embarrassing and unique to ourselves, can actually enlighten and encourage others, (and consequently ourselves), that we are not alone and that any feelings pertaining to life with a disability are valid and acceptable to share.  
Never be afraid that what you are feeling is unacceptable or not felt by anyone other than you.
I believe that we learn and evolve through sharing and talking with others.

The book that first brought comfort and inspiration to me was ‘Diamonds in the Dust’, by Joni Eareckson Tada  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Diamonds-Dust-366-Sparkling-Devotions/dp/0310379504/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1312670503&sr=1-1

…but below I also give you a link to this short video of Joni drawing with her mouth- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dun3lrByS0Y

… As well as a link to Joni’s website-   http://www.joniandfriends.org/

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