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Focus on the Family with Jim Daly

Learning to Trust God Through My Disability (Part 2 of 2)

Learning to Trust God Through My Disability (Part 2 of 2)

Sarah Kovac shares her inspirational testimony of overcoming the challenges she's faced in having been born with a rare congenital birth defect which has essentially rendered her arms and hands unusable. (Part 2 of 2)
Original Air Date: June 3, 2016

Opening:

Teaser:

Jim Daly: What did they say to you that gave you confidence, that gave you courage, that gave you a sense about yourself that you were okay, even though you had these limitations?

Mrs. Sarah Kovac: They said yes. When I wanted to go to Spain, they said yes. When I wanted to learn to ride a bike or roller blade, they said yes. And then they went into the house and probably cried and prayed (Laughter) and I mean, I know my mom, you know, she prayed a lot, you know, that God would send His angels to protect me.

End of Teaser

John Fuller: Well, that’s Sarah Kovac, as she describes the unique challenges she’s faced with a rare disability that has rendered her hands and arms almost useless. Sarah is a remarkable woman. She’s a wife and a mom and we met her last time on “Focus on the Family” with Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller and you’ll hear more of her story today.

Jim: John, we had what I would describe as a great conversation with Sarah, not so much because of her unusual situation, how she’s learned to cope with that handicap, but because of how normal she is in dealing with the joys and pain of life. And she talked about that last time. If you missed it, get the CD; get the download. It’ll help you better understand today’s conversation.

And you know what I caught from it is, that every one of us, if you have a physical disability or not, we all have very common human desires, human needs, human expressions, human emotions. And we’re gonna talk more about that today.

Sarah has challenged me to think about people with disabilities a little differently. She’s quite capable, but she uses her feet instead of her arms and hands. And so, everything she does is with her feet and I think we have video of that or a link to video.

John: We’ll link over on the website to some video, so you can see Sarah in action, if you will.

Body:

Jim: And it’s worth seeing, ’cause it’s powerful and it does remind me of that great Scripture of Philippians 4:13, which I think is one of her core verses and that is, “That I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” And that video and what you see in those pictures will certainly describe that.

She deserves our dignity and respect, just because of who she is, made in the image of Christ. And I’ll tell you what. You’re gonna enjoy this conversation. If you’re feeling like you’re not sure where God has you, where your place is in this life, if you’re struggling, I think Sarah will point, not because of her disability, but because of her insights on how to overcome that in Christ, that’s what counts and Sarah, I want to welcome you back to “Focus on the Family.”

Sarah: Thank you so much.

Jim: I was so in spired by your story last time.

Sarah: Thank you.

Jim: And I just love your spirit, but we did end where you were on a fire escape. You were a young girl. You thought maybe you’re too much of a burden for people and you had thoughts of just leaning over that fire escape. What people have to understand is, you can’t brace yourself with your arms. Your arms simply hang to your side. You couldn’t put your arm up to catch yourself. If you just leaned a little bit, your torso would take you over that rail and it would be over.

Sarah: Uh-hm.

Jim: How does that continue to play our though in the days and the weeks after that? Because you’re going from a point of despair and you know, I didn’t have a physical impairment, but I did have emotional stuff goin’ on with the loss of my mom and dad. And there were times, I don’t think I was ever suicidal but I was depressed. I had to spend my first year at college. I remember Christmas, I had nowhere to go and I just stayed in the dorms. The electricity was off. I had a meal out of the vending machine. I was lonely and desperate and I was sad because of that.

People experience that often in their life, but it’s what you do with it. Where does it take you? Does it take you to a dark place? Or can it take you to a better place? I really want to know how God got ahold of you then and turned your heart around to say, you know what? You are worth something, Sarah? How did He speak to you in that way?

Sarah: Well, I would love to say, you know, that I stepped down from that fire escape and walked back in my classroom and they were, you know, having a surprise party for me because they just wanted me to feel so special and you know, God dropped me a neon sign from the sky saying how special I was. It wasn’t like that. I walked back in and nobody had even noticed that I had left. And I didn’t talk to anybody about it for a very long time. And at that point in high school, it was really just a matter of trusting God that He had something good in my future and just living another day. And it was still miserable for a long time.

I went off to college and things got better for me, maybe not spiritually, but socially. I started to realize that, you know, hey, I’m not so bad and people do enjoy my company sometimes. And so, I think honestly, at that point, it was just, you know, wake up another day. Live another day. I can do it one more time.

Jim: Yeah, in fact, I think in the book you talked about those college years as being a bit rebellious.

Sarah: Uh-hm, uh-hm.

Jim: I mean, you were doing the normal thing—

Sarah: Right.

Jim: –which [is] what a lot of kids do. I want to be careful here, because it’s nice if a teenager and a 20-something walks a straight line. It’s rare.

Sarah: Right.

Jim: And so, in many ways, you’re doing the normal thing. You were stretching your boundaries, trying to figure out who you were, who God was in your life. Talk about that and how did you come back into alignment with the spiritual things?

Sarah: Well, I think one thing that really helped me is that physically I never left. I was at church. You know. my spirituality was takin’ a hit in college, but I was still at church and there were still people that didn’t ask any questions, they just welcomed me back with open arms. And you know, the Lord knows my parents probably knew a lot more (Laughing) than they let on. (Laughing)

But you know, they were just there for me and they were ready with mercy and grace for me and so, when I was ready to really, you know, step it up and re-engage with God and His family, they were there. They had never left, so it wasn’t this huge scary thing. You know—

Jim: Yeah.

Sarah: –it’s just the natural next thing to do.

Jim: You talk about that drive in you, not just for being normal, but you talked about that high goal for someone with a disability to feel independent—

Sarah: Uh-hm.

Jim: –and that you don’t need everybody’s help. I mean, we’ve stumbled a little bit here. Can we help you? Can we, you know, John was handing you a Kleenex. We didn’t know. (Laughter) I mean, people might feel a little awkward ’cause we’re not sure how to engage with you—

Sarah: Uh-hm.

Jim: –how to help you. What would you say to us, just point blank, what do we need to do to be your friend?

Sarah: I guess act like you would act with any other friend. You know, I mean, that’s the thing, is that I want to be treated just like everybody else. And that’s hard because you guys don’t experience me as you experience everybody else. You know, there’s something different in this situation. And so, I understand and I’m so thankful that God made humans in such a way that we want to help each other. You know, I think that’s a beautiful thing and I think that’s part of why we’re here.

But I’m on the receiving end of help so often, you know, that sometimes I’ve just gotta put my foot down or people would be doing everything for me all the time. You know, I have to step up and have some independence. Or you know, people’d be carrying me around in one of those little hut things, you know, on their shoulders. (Laughter)

Jim: That’s right, no, but it’s true. I mean, people, you need to understand that people want to feel a sense of independence. There’s a certain dignity that comes with that. And you’re capable of doing everything.

Sarah: Sure.

Jim: It’s just different from how we would use our hands.

Sarah: Right.

Jim: You use your feet.

John: Well, and the subtitle of your book, I mean, the book is called In Capable Arms: Living a Life Embraced by Grace. You’ve showed a little grace to me as I passed the tissue box to you because I want to help you, but I don’t know how to help you get a tissue, since your arms don’t work.

Sarah: Right.

John: And you simply took the box from me with your foot and that’s a little awkward for me.

Sarah: Sure.

John: And you knew that.

Sarah: Yeah.

John: And you’re used to that, so thank you for being kind to me, but that’s the kind of thing that I guess we have to get used to as we deal with you, right? I mean, we have to find out where the boundaries for me helping you and becoming a little bit too deferential, if I can put it that way.

Sarah: Well, I think, for me, I try to make it easy, you know. If I need help, I’ll let you know, that kind of a deal. But it’s hard. Like I know it’s hard, because you look at me and it looks like I’m struggling and it’s what God gave us to help somebody struggling. You know, that’s part of God’s nature in us and so, it’s hard to shut that off. It’s hard to let your brain say, okay, we’re not gonna react. We’re not gonna do anything. We’re just gonna wait. (Laughs)

I totally get it. I do it with my kids. You know, that’s how it is. You see somebody and you think, “I could do that faster and I could do that better and I could show them how to do it.” But you gotta let them struggle through it. You know, and it’s important for them.

Jim: Well, and the interesting thing, what you’re learning in there is grace toward others who are, you know, falling over themselves, trying to figure out how to be around you and how to do something. And if you didn’t have a well of grace, I’m sure it could be very frustrating.

And you know, when you think about it in terms of your faith, I’m thinking of a person who may struggle in similar ways to you with limitation and they don’t have that to lean into and they become bitter. ‘Cause again, your entire life you could be a very bitter person, but you’ve chosen not to be. This applies to all of us—

Sarah: Right.

Jim: –not just somebody who suffers with a physical impairment. I mean, what wisdom do you have for us to say, hey, open your eyes. Think of it differently. Don’t let everything ruin your life or your day or your relationships.

Sarah: I think especially when you ‘re talking about not becoming bitter that empathy is your biggest weapon, because if I’m only focusing on my own experience and how awkward this is for me, then it’s easy for me to get bitter, because you’re making me feel awkward. You know (Laughing), you’re stepping into my bubble and pushing me in ways I don’t like to be pushed.

But if I think about what it must be like from your perspective and give you the benefit of the doubt, that you’re trying to be helpful and that you have good things in your heart and that’s why this is coming out of you, then the whole situation looks a lot different. You know, it’s harder for me to be upset and self-righteous about how I feel when I’m thinking about the fact that you’re trying to do something good. You know, and it may be misguided or you may be broken and it may be coming across in ways that you don’t intend. But if I’m focused on that, then it’s hard to be angry.

Program Note:

John: Well, this is “Focus on the Family” with Jim Daly and our guest is Sarah Kovac and she’s written a book. It’s called In Capable Arms: Living a Life Embraced by Grace. And it captures her story and we’ve heard a lot of her insights and her wisdom along the way here. Let me encourage you to get the CD or a download of our conversation and the book, In Capable Arms and we can tell you more when you call 800-A-FAMILY or you’ll find those at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.

End of Program Note

Jim: John, I think this is a good place to invite Sarah’s husband into the conversation, Adam and Adam, you have joined us at the table. Welcome to “Focus on the Family.”

Adam Kovac: Thank you for havin’ me.

Jim: We’re gonna talk a bit about how you met and how God brought you together. Let’s start with that story. Where did you guys meet?

Adam: (Laughing) It’s the one question. (Laughter)

Jim: Yeah.

Adam: All right, well (Laughter)—

Jim: Uh-oh, this sounds good.

Adam: –well, it would be fun to say that, you know, we met in a park and all that stuff, but it wasn’t like that. Back when we met, Myspace was the popular thing back, not Facebook.

Jim: Right.

Adam: And I had Sarah on my friends list with Myspace for probably about a year and at that time, honestly I didn’t know who she was. I just had a picture and would see comments here and there and I tried to make remarks on pictures and tried to give little cues of, hey, I find you interesting and so forth.

Jim: The normal stuff.

Adam: The normal stuff (Laughter) and it wasn’t workin’.

Jim: It wasn’t working?

Adam: It wasn’t working.

Jim: Oh, what was goin’ on?

Sarah: I was just oblivious. I didn’t know , you know, that you know, “Your eyes are cute” meant, “Hey, can we go on a date?” (Laughter) I didn’t —

Jim: So, what was the big–

Sarah: –make that jump.

Jim: –moment? When did you guys realize that, wow, okay, maybe this is something that can work?

Adam: Well, she had made a statement on Myspace that was supposed to kinda roll along, you know, ask me a question; I’ll ask you a question and then you ask your friends and so forth. Well, my question was, “Can I ask you on a date?” I was like, I’ll just be bold about it. (Laughter)

Jim: Good question.

Adam: Yeah, well, she told me later, it was thinkin’ about being a no, but she had gone to one of her best friends that she had known since they were little girls, I guess 2, 3, somethin’ like that. Turned out that girl went to school with me (Laughter)–

John: Oh.

Adam: –and knew–

Jim: They were kind to her.

Adam:–and she knew who I was.

Sarah: She could verify that he wasn’t an Internet predator. (Laughter)

Jim: Yeah, right. That’s amazing; what a small world.

Adam: Yeah, so with her givin’ the thumbs up, got us to our first date, which led us down the road.

Jim: Well, let’s talk about that, because that had to be unique, given, you know, where you’re comin’ from and what you’re doin’. What were you thinkin’, Sarah, about Adam? Were you thinking this is a possibility?

Sarah: Well, when he asked me on a date, yes, I thought absolutely not. (Laughing)

Jim: Had you dated much?

Sarah: Not really.

Jim: Okay.

Sarah: You know, I’m not the typical girl that all the guys are runnin’ after.

Jim: Well, you—

Sarah: That’s okay.

Jim: –mentioned you’re introverted, too, and—

Sarah: Yeah, that doesn’t—

Jim: –that, you know—

Sarah: –help. (Laughing)

Jim: –those are all things (Laughter).

Sarah: So, yeah, so he asked me out and I was gonna say no and yeah my friend told me that he was a nice guy and I’d had my fill of not-nice guys in the recent past and so, then recent past, not now recent.

Jim: Right.

Sarah: (Laughing) So I agreed to meet him at Dairy Queen, ’cause it’s open and well-lit. People don’t get abducted from Dairy Queen.

Jim: There you go.

Sarah: And it was so sweet because he was nervous, you know. I could tell he was nervous and it was so endearing, you know, that he was laughing a little too much, ’cause see, I could tell he wasn’t nervous about my disability. He was nervous ’cause he wanted to make a good impression.

Jim: Wow.

Sarah: He said he liked me and so, that was super sweet and I decided to keep him.

Jim: (Laughter) Yeah, I was gonna say. And Adam, how did you process that? I mean, you’re having feelings and emotions for Sarah and yet, did you talk about your life, potential life together and what your future could look like?

Adam: Well, that wasn’t really, I mean—

Jim: That came a bit later.

Adam: –that was later in our relationship. When we were first together, honestly, my focus was more on trying to make a good impression–

Jim: Right.

Adam: –you know. I wanted to ask questions but not make questions that were necessarily about her disability, but who she was. ‘Cause I knew; I just had a gut feeling that was telling me, if I was doing what everyone else did with, “Hey, I see you’re using your feet.” Or “How do you do this?” and “How do you do that?” Well, that takes away the complete aspect of who that person is, you know. I wanted her to be comfortable with me and we can figure that stuff out as we go along.

Jim: And so, you know, carry the story forward. You did talk about your life potentially together. You popped the question. You obviously said yes. (Laughter) And then you get married and what have been some of those uniquenesses in your marriage that maybe others might not even think about. We don’t have to think through?

Sarah: Yeah, I think, you know, being married has really helped me grow in that grace that we talked about earlier as far as seeing things from another person’s perspective and not holding my independence as the pinnacle of my existence, you know. My independence is not everything. And sometimes—

Jim: Huh.

Sarah: –the greatest way to respect my husband is to let him help me, you know. I gotta let my own respect go sometimes and let him help me.

But yeah, we had just gotten married and I was makin’ spaghetti, ’cause that’s the only thing I know how to make still (Laughter) and for me to open a jar of spaghetti sauce, I have to lay it on its side on the floor and I use my feet and hands together to kinda pop the seal and then I set it back upright and then I open it the rest of the way.

And he walked into the kitchen, so I had this jar of spaghetti sauce lying on the side. You know, I’m gruntin’ and groanin’, tryin’ to get it open, ’cause it was stuck. And he’s like, “Here, let me do that for you.”

Jim: Sarah, those lids can be tough for all of us.

Sarah: I know. I have a jar opener now (Laughter), so it’s a moot point, but yeah, so I said, “No, I really got it.” You know, I said, “You know, this is the only thing I’ve ever cooked. Do you know I know how to open a jar of spaghetti sauce.” So, I was trying and trying and he just was upset that I wasn’t allowing him to help and we ended up, you know, screamin’ at each other, ’cause I wanted to do it my way. And there comes a point where you’ve been trying to do something for so long that you just gotta conquer the thing, you know?

Jim: Yeah.

Sarah: So, that’s about where I was and he didn’t want to stand there and watch me spill spaghetti sauce all over the floor, so he ended up, you know, leaving the room.

Jim: So, you got there. You got it open—

Sarah: Yeah, I did it; I did it. Yeah.

Jim: –and you did it.

Sarah: But (Laughter) …

John: I’m trackin’ with Adam, because I do want to help my wife sometimes and there are those moments where she looks at me and says, “Get out of my space. Leave me alone. (Laughing) Let me do this.”

Jim: Now do you see that as a challenge?

John: Well, I just back off and (Laughter) Adam, I’m thinkin’, how did you leave that situation?

Adam: Angry.

Sarah: Angry. (Laughter)

Adam: Very angry, ’cause I mean, I understand what she was thinking in the terms of being independent and wantin’ to do things herself, but I’m not there to say, “You can’t do this” and make her feel uncomfortable. I’m her husband and I love her and I want to make it easier for you, you know. I see the struggle. I’m sure you can do it, but let me help.

Jim: Well, I see in that with you, Sarah in terms of that independent streak and as you were talking about that, that could be my wife, Jean, as well (Chuckling), you know, in terms of that desire. It’s, I think especially for women today, that yeah, we want a bit of independence, you know. We want to do our thing and do it well and I think you’re speaking to most women’s hearts when you talk in that regard, regardless of what they’re able to do physically.

Sarah: Uh-hm.

Jim: Let me translate that to childbearing, ’cause that became a question in your heart as you and Adam continued to grow in your marriage; you began to wonder if you could be a mom, given the fact that you couldn’t use your hands, etc.

I would say again, that’s such a parallel for so many women today because they all have or many have self-doubt about that and those limitations, what they heard from their own mom. Maybe their mom and dad didn’t do well raising them. Talk about that soul searching that you did before having children and how you emotionally got through that and made the decision, yes.

Sarah: Well, well, our son wasn’t really a decision we made. It just—

Jim: Right.

Sarah: –he sort of (Laughing) just entered our lives.

Jim: God made that decision for you.

Sarah: Yes, yes. (Laughter) Yes, but it was a pleasant surprise for us and so, it was more like adjusting to the idea because I had told myself I didn’t want to have kids prior to that, because it’s much easier for me to say I don’t want to have kids, than it is for me to say, I feel a little uncomfortable with my abilities here, you know. I don’t want to say that.

But anyway, we found ourselves, you know, expecting and you know, one of the hugest lessons that I’ve learned as a parent is if I were perfect and I were able to do everything perfectly, that would be crippling to my children because they’re gonna grow up and they are gonna go to a school where their teachers aren’t perfect. They’re gonna go to a church where their pastor’s not perfect. They’re gonna marry people who aren’t perfect and have imperfect children. So, me being imperfect and having my flaws and them seeing me work through them and live with them is a great preparation for them to be in a world that’s not perfect.

Jim: Hm.

Sarah: So yeah, I wish I was perfect for them and I wish I could do what every other mom does, but at the same time, I think it’s a gift to them, that they’re gonna know how to react first of all to people with a disability. They’re gonna be comfortable with those people. But also, they’re gonna be comfortable with everybody being different and everybody having differences and even their own differences. And I can be, you know, a living example of how to deal with that stuff for them.

Jim: Boy, that’s so true.Sarah, what has been maybe one of those challenges as a mom?

Sarah: The thing that I’ve run into over and over is that my kids seem to bring out of me a lot of pain that I’ve dealt with in the past–

Jim: Huh.

Sarah: –and in overcoming that.

Sarah: For an example, I took my son to a bounce house and he was the youngest one there and he’s super social, super extroverted, loves everybody. And these older boys were being kind of mean to him and they were leaving him behind and runnin’ away from him.

And when I was young, I remember riding my bike and I had a couple of friends who kinda just ditched me, that we were all playin’ together and they just left and didn’t tell me where they were going. And I felt that come back up in me and it’s, I think the struggle in having that’s the hardest is not to let my own experiences muddy their experience. Because my son, when he was getting left, he didn’t care. He was just runnin’ and runnin’, you know. He wasn’t heartbroken, but I was, you know? So, it’s hard for me to remember that I’m looking at them and their experiences through the filter of my own pain sometimes–

Jim: Yeah.

Sarah: –and to not try to shield them from things just because they hurt me when I was little.

Jim: You know, we started this conversation talking about the power of vulnerability last time and how God tends to want to pull us into a direction that we see our weaknesses, not kinda live in our strengths. You know, if you’re livin’ in a strong place, pretty soon God’s gonna say, let me take you down this path—

Sarah: Uh-hm.

Jim: –which will give you some humility.

Sarah: Right. (Laughter)

Jim: And you’ve done that. You took a huge step in that direction when you decided to share your story publicly, to write a book. That can be very intimidating. Can you tell us about that process and what feedback you’ve received, being open with people and letting them hear your heart?

Sarah: Sure and you know, I always wanted God to use me. I would pray, “God, use me for something awesome.” You know, I played the trumpet. Here’s this. You know, I like to write; here’s this. And you know, I was hoping that maybe someday I would be a famous musician or writer.And you know, I’m a writer, but I wouldn’t say I’m famous. But I’ve found that, you know, the one thing that I really didn’t want to show anybody and the one thing that I would like to pretend isn’t there was the one thing that He wanted to use and open the door to all the rest of that stuff.

You know, ’cause I didn’t want to talk about my disability. I wanted to pretend like it wasn’t there, ’cause it was ugly and you know, not the foot I want to put forward, to use a pun. (Laughing) So, yeah, He led me to a place where it was uncomfortable for me. I would’ve been totally comfortable being a famous musician, but that’s not what He wanted for me.

Jim: You know, that Scripture, I’m just thinking of that, where Paul so eloquently is talking about when I’m weak, He is strong.

Sarah: Uh-hm.

Jim: That reminds me of your story, that He asks you to put that vulnerability forward so that He could touch the hearts of other people, so they could see what you do and how you praise God even in the difficulty and you can get through life quite well, both you and Adam. You can raise your kids. I mean, it is a beautiful story to see how you leaned into God to lift you up and you don’t have to do it in your own power. Many of us need that story.

Sarah: Right, exactly and I think, you know, I’ve said it more than once that overcoming is overrated, you know? We’ve all got stuff we’re workin’ through and I’ve heard people call me “an overcomer.” I don’t really feel like it’s that. I think you’re dealin’ with stuff and a lot of times, you can find a way around it, you know? But it’s still there.

And we all have stuff we’re tryin’ to work through and especially in the church, I see people trying to hide it and pretend like they’ve got all their ducks in a row. And you’re not foolin’ me. (Laughter) You might be foolin’ other people, but we’re all dealin’ with stuff and it doesn’t do you any justice to pretend like it’s not there, because how is God gonna work with it? How’s God gonna heal you or heal something else through it, if you pretend like it’s not there?

Jim: That’s a powerful statement. I mean, the fact that, you know, because of what you’ve gone through, you can sniff out kind of the one that’s living a veneer Christian life and not a deep one, because in many ways, you’re forced to. I mean, you know, the Lord really set it up to where you had to deal with it and you have. Adam, well done. Way to marry well. (Laughter)

Adam: Well, thank you.

Jim: And thanks for bein’ with us today. Sarah, thank you for your story. Your book, In Capable Arms is such a testimony to God’s work in your life and your willingness to lean into Him. Thank you.

Sarah: Thank you. My pleasure.

Closing:

John: And I’ll just add, Sarah, that your vulnerability about your limitations as a mom and how you’ve had to really trust God to meet the needs of your kids that you just can’t meet, is a great message for all of us to hear, especially moms who might be discouraged. And we’ll encourage you to contact us for a copy of Sarah’s book and a CD or a download of this two-day conversation. It’ll infuse you with a different perspective and help you carry on through the difficulties of parenting. Ask about those resources and more when you call 800-A-FAMILY; 800-232-6459. Or stop by www.focusonthefamily.com/radio .

And when you get in touch, we’ll invite you to support this ministry with your prayers and financial gifts. The work of Focus on the Family depends on you. We can’t produce programs like this one and provide resources like Sarah’s book and our counseling team and websites and magazines and events without you. And you can be a part of strengthening families across the world when you support this ministry. And you can donate by calling 800-A-FAMILY or at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio .

And let us say thank you for your gift by sending a complimentary copy of the book, In Capable Arms by Sa

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In Capable Arms

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Being the Hero Within You

Rodney Bullard, Vice President of Community Affairs at Chick-fil-A, encourages listeners to make a heroic impact on the world in an inspiring discussion based on his book, Heroes Wanted: Why the World Needs You to Live Your Heart Out.