A Story of Grace

I was asked to speak at our FL church for a stewardship moment. It is at the very beginning of the service immediately after the announcements. If it doesn’t come up, it was Nov. 27 ~ click the “watch” button.


For a second time, my testimonial was called “A Story of Grace” by others. It is.

We all receive blessing. Shalom, Collene


God Moments 1 ~ Mini

At the 2-year mark, post accident I decided it was time to share a bit more of the first days, week, and months, given the years of reflection and the healing of time. I decided I would do that through many God Moments that helped uphold us. However, a celebration blog and other important projects kept me from getting to those blogs. I’m now moved to start those but I’m kicking this off with a present-day one, and then I’ll periodically bring out the earlier ones.

This Sunday morning began with the local weather news showing a nasty band of storms with intense lightning strikes heading our way and projecting to hit just the time we typically leave for church. Remember, being in a wheelchair, which requires two hands for propelling my chariot, leaves NO hands for umbrella protection from rain so rain typically dictates we stay inside. Well, by time we were both ready for church, we had missed the window for getting to Van Gogh before the rain began. This wasn’t just a MI rain storm. This was coming down in torrents. Sitting by our open condo door, I determined I needed to stay home but just then, it slowed a tad so we decided to head out. I was most thankful for our incredible condo board members here who, despite already having the ADA required access to the raised entry sidewalk, recognized that it was across a large, open, exposed parking lot. They took it upon themselves after my accident to add a second ramp which allows me to get between the raised sidewalk to our garage with only a very short area without a covered walk and exposure to the elements, i.e. soaking rain.

Once we arrived at church, we secured one of the coveted van/ramp, blue slashes, accessible parking spots and decided to wait 15-20 minutes hoping for the rain to slow. It was getting close to the start of church and the rain let up only a bit but my husband exited Van Gogh, raised the huge golf umbrella, and came around to where the ramp comes down. The look on his face changed but was unreadable to me. I pushed the button to lower the ramp and realized his look. The water right where the ramp landed was in about 3-4 inches of fast flowing water. A quick look down at my wheels assured me that the wheels would hold me above the water, even if not the hand rims, so down I went and continued to move through the falling rain rather than sit in the rushing water while Alan pushed the button to raise the ramp and close the van door. I looked up to see two angels walking toward me from church in the form of two friends holding their own huge, golf umbrellas. They were able to keep me from getting soaked between the van and the door overhang. Mini God Moment.

As was typical, the service was worshipful and harmonized from the words of preparation through the postlude. The final message in the series on Nehemiah, Restoring Purpose, the Power of Rubble Restored, reminded me of my focus word this year, purpose. Our minister of music and his (guest) brother added richness with their musical talents on piano, organ, blended voice, and trumpet. They sang the hymn of response, Blessings by L. Story, as a dialogue between a typical person’s words and God’s response.

Revised chorus text:

Your blessings come through rain drops. (just this morning)

Your healing comes through tears. (many in the last two+ years)

A thousand sleepless nights (can’t count the number my husband has had)

Are what it takes to know I’m near.


Person’s voice in final verse:

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life

Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy.

What if trials of this life

The rain, the storms, the hardest nights

Are your mercies in disguise.


Watch for your disguised blessings.

Shalom: May all be well, Collene


Parking in the Big “Blue Space”

Handicap parking spots exist by law to be used by disabled persons. Sometimes it is a matter of convenience so those with difficulty walking have less far to walk. Other times, it is a necessity because people cannot walk. Typically the extra wide spaces are needed for vans but not always. Occasionally a car door must be opened the full width and a wheel chair moved in from a wider angle than is possible without damaging the vehicle in the adjoining spot. Note, because you, your relative, or a friend once legitimately needed a handicap hang tag but the medical condition has improved or no longer exists, the placard may no longer be used to snag convenient spots. It is not legal; it is not right.

I am well aware that appearances can be deceptive. I had a friend and colleague who had a brain tumor. Thankfully, the surgery was successful. She could walk and appeared able bodied, however, walking more than a short distance was dangerous and not possible. She didn’t appear to need the handicap spot but she actually did for a period of time. I observed something recently that I cannot for the life of me figure out was a legitimate use of a handicap placard and spot.

We attended a lecture at a facility we enjoy. As we’ve learned to do, we arrived early to get a handicap spot that would accommodate my needs. Upon arrival, I noticed a woman was already in the most prime spot, hung a tag on the rearview mirror, popped out of the car, and walked in what I can only describe as a perky walk into the facility. This place has a delightful hors d’oeuvre setup when members arrive. When we went into the auditorium to find a seat, this woman was already seated along the center aisle toward the front. During the time prior to the lecture, she popped up no less than four times to move to the back and refill her plate or glass or dispose of her things. Each of these times, she proceeded in her perky manner. Immediately after the Q/A session ended, she jumped up and quickly maneuvered through others down the aisle and out the building. By time we got to our car, she was leaving the parking lot. Now, perhaps, she had a legitimate need for that spot set aside near the entrance and wide enough for handicap access to the vehicle. I certainly saw no sign of it. If she once had a legitimate medical need, I’m so happy she appears to have improved to this point.

It is wise to know the rules for the blue spaces:

If you have a disability parking placard or license plate:

  • You must either be the driver or a passenger of the vehicle to park in a disability parking “blue space.”
  • Don’t park on the blue striped lines needed by vans with wheelchair lifts or ramps.
  • Disability parking anywhere in the U.S. is available to you.
  • Hang the placard from the rearview mirror. (Remove when driving.)
  • NOTE: Vehicles with a disabled veteran plate need to use a disability-parking placard or obtain a red handicap sticker for their disabled veteran license plate to park in a “blue space.”

It is against the law to:

  • Loan your disability placard to another person.
  • Knowingly use a disability placard that has been canceled or replaced.
  • Use a disability placard or plate when the disability no longer exists.
  • Use the disability placard or license plate of a deceased family member.
  • Copy, alter, or forge a disability placard or license plate.


Penalties may include fines as high as $1,000 and up to 6 months in jail.

People are encouraged by the MI Secretary of State (SOS) to report violations to the local police. I for one will happily report infractions. You may choose to as well.

* The “blue space” rules comes from MI SOS but the fines and jail time vary by state and reflect the research I have done.

Count your blessings.

Shalom, Collene

A Story of God’s Grace

A Story of God’s Grace

Stories make truth come alive. The larger context is The Best News Ever. As part of that, I was interviewed about my story, focusing on the last 1.5 years since the accident. My story was entitled – not by me but appropriately – A Story of God’s Grace. The interview follows:

  • Collene, you were in education all your life. Where and in what capacity?
    1. I started teaching kindergarten and remedial reading in Hudsonville in a joint position between the public and Chr. schools.
    2. We moved to Lansing and …
      1. I taught first at Lansing Chr. in primary grades and reading support.
      2. When our children were born, I taught a variety of classes, part time at Lansing Community College, teaching adults to read.
  • When the boys were in school full time, I began at Waverly Community Schools focusing on K-12 reading support and became the curriculum director.
  1. When we moved to Harrisburg, PA, I became the Asst. Supt. and ultimately the Superintendent in the Palmyra Area School District.
  • What happened that put you in a wheelchair?
    We had just retired mid summer of 2013 and begun to sail The Chesapeake Bay and to travel. We moved our belongings to Holland in November. On March 19, 2014 I was hit by another car in Florida. I broke about a dozen bones from my scull to my left fibula, had 2 collapsed lungs, required 7 units of blood, and was on life support, but most severe was the spinal cord injury at T-6. I’m paralyzed from the chest down.
  • Such a major change, how do you handle it?
    1. First, I don’t want to minimize how difficult this is. Everything I do from the time I get up until I go to bed, including how I sleep is different and more difficult. That said, from the day of the accident, the word miraculously spread and many, many people were praying for me. A girlhood friend got the word out to our graduating class from Unity Chr. HS. The accident happened on a Wednesday and Alan’s sister is in the choir here. They began praying. Prayer groups I didn’t even know about meeting that Wednesday in Palmyra prayed for me. An order of Nuns in Lansing was praying for me. Of course, we also had our family and their friends from across the country and world praying. Our daughter-in-law began a CarePage which had over 900 followers. I firmly believe that the prayers are why I am alive, why I don’t have brain damage despite having had a closed head injury, why I have my arms and hands, and why we can deal with this. It is a 180* turn but not the end of the road.
    2. We have seen God Moments throughout this journey.
      1. One of my nurses in intensive care in FL had Jeremiah 29:11 tattooed across her lower arm. That became my special text. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
      2. Our two sons and daughter-in-law came when I was in intensive care, along with my sister and Alan. Our children are all in the area of science and they reminded me from Day 1 that “I am an N of one.” “N” stands for a critical number in research and science. If 5% of people can improve with this injury, I can (and will) be that one of those 5/100. I am an N of one.
      3. A very special physical therapist was placed in my life at Mary Free Bed. Marium was raised Muslim but is now an amazing Christian. She was there to say the things I needed to hear on difficult days. One day she climbed onto the therapy table with me, grabbed my hand, and said, “There is a difference between fact and truth. The fact is that right now you have a spinal cord injury and cannot move below the T-6. The truth is that God can and does perform miracles and I believe He can do a miracle in your life.” Over the next couple days she shared miracles she had seen in her own life. We keep praying for that miracle which could be in the form of medical breakthroughs.
  1. During our years in Lansing, we kept our sailboat at Anchorage Marina. We first heard about Christ Memorial from our friends Ron & Sherrie. We attended Christ Memorial several times each year when we were out here. The preaching always spoke to us and was true to the word. The music was excellent. When we moved to Holland in retirement, this is where we wanted to join. Before we were even members, Bill Boersma met with Alan after my accident. He then began to meet with both of us and we appreciated him so much. Quality music is important to us so we’ve always belonged to churches with beautiful music. The thing about Christ Memorial is how naturally and beautifully the music blends with the sermon and the liturgy. It is seamless.
  2. My SCI happened to me but it really happened to my family and friends as well. Each one of their lives has changed, especially Alan and our children. Family and friends support us with prayer and in countless ways. We are given grace to make it through one day at a time. I am an N of one. Glory be to God.

To hear the entire context as well as the interview in my own words, click below. You won’t want to miss the message by Dr. Bill Brownson, former voice of Words of Hope radio. At about 88 years old, he speaks without a note in front of him.


Trying to Say Thanks

The gift of the modified van as prize in the National Mobility Equipment Dealer Association (NMEDA) Local Hero contest is such a rare occurrence. It was wonderful and exciting to actually receive the van from NMEDA! There are many people to whom we wanted to say thank you. Words seem inadequate but this is how I tried.

First, those who donated so much made this all possible. You can’t help me stand or walk but you are certainly making this part of our lives much easier.

  1. NMEDA – Dave Hubbard, from your first phone call to let me know we had won, your gentle voice and respectful manner struck me. When we met in Florida, I knew you were proud of what your organization does for so many people. Leadership style makes a difference and you set such a kind and gentle, giving tone. Thank you for this experience. Cheryl and Donna from evok, thanks for taking care of all the details so this could happen.
  2. Toyota – Bill Burris, without Toyota donating the Sienna, this wouldn’t be happening. We are so grateful. It is beautiful and full of safety features which amaze us. Early in our married life we owned a little, yellow, Toyota Corolla which we just loved. We named him Tommy Toyota. This van deserves a more mature and sophisticated name. Plus, being in Holland, she needs a Dutch name, so everyone, meet Van Gogh. Thank you for the van.
  3. BraunAbility – Brian Harper, you welcomed us as we walked into the dinner for the winners in Tampa. You shared the amazing, major changes you would make to the Toyota to make it usable. You explained about Mr. Braun and how he designed and developed the modifications – always remembering to make the modified vehicle look normal as well as functional. He lived with Multiple Sclerosis so he understood that more than anything we need normalcy and independence. We can go for ice cream at 8:00 at night if we want. For those who are visiting, Hudsonville Ice Cream is the best ice cream around but Tommy Turtles at Capt. Sundae are not to be missed! Thank you for the major modifications.
  4. Clock Mobility – Mr. Clock and Kadi, thank you so much for coordinating everything on this end. You started by getting the word out on the contest and ended just this week making the final, necessary modifications and making sure everything was just right. Thank you.
  5. Crown Motors – You opened your beautiful facility, and we’re all so excited to be here.
  6. NMEDA Dealers: B&D and MPS ~ We are grateful for the donations your organizations provided for the B&D transfer seat platform and for the hand controls. Without those, which Clock installed, I would be unable to drive.

Second, Friends and Family!

Wow, you all came. This is so moving. When Cheryl asked about how many people would come, I said, well a lot of the voters are from Harrisburg, Palmyra, Lansing, Florida, California, and spread all over the country and world. Most people won’t be able to come. But, look at you. Y’all did! Thank you and a special thank you to our children who live too far away to be here. You have supported us for over a year now. You were faithful with your prayers and caring – and for this van with your daily votes. Many of you said you voted so regularly that it seemed odd when June arrived. It seemed you were missing something each day. I think we all learned a LOT about mobility and options in the types of modifications that are available because of the daily questions and research we did to get those extra points. Again, thanks for your perseverance. It is just so great to have you here. Alan and I are delighted to thank you in person and also have you help us thank the rest of these wonderfully generous people. You all know that we watch for our blessings and see Van Gogh as the greatest blessing we’ve had in a long time. Thank you!

Blessings! Thank you.

Some of you have heard me say a secret is a secret as long as only one person knows it. You know that secrets are hard to keep, especially when they involve good news. Wednesday, June 16, I was home alone and received a phone call. A man’s voice identified himself as David Hubbard of NMEDA and he let me know that I had won one of the vehicles for the contest. Wow, did I really hear that right? When the reality of what he said dawned on me, I was choked up and in tears. I kept thanking him and he calmly repeated that, no, I had earned it and they were proud. I would need to sign a confidentiality agreement and tell no one other than Alan. We also needed to fly to Tampa in a week and a day to meet the sponsors, other winners, and participate in taping the televised segment for the June 30 announcement.

  • “The DayTime Show” – check local listings for the interview [NEW: check under the page “SCI Important Links” for YouTube clips of the TV interviews of winners]
  • check http://wfla.com/category/259807/daytime/
  • check MobilityAwarenessMonth.com.

As directed, I watched for the email with the confidentiality agreement and details. It was six pages of serious, legal language about keeping that secret and other details. Two days later Dave agreed that we could tell our children as long as they understood the importance of the secret. As much as we wanted to thank everyone for their support and votes, we have waited until now.

9,455 votes were a lot of votes from a ton of people along with a lot of correct answers to the daily questions. How can we possibly thank you? WE won, not me! Without all of you, it never would have happened. We have appreciated the help from many for the last 15 very, difficult months. However, for the month of May you ~ our family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, students, ‘parents,’ sailing friends, church partners, and YOUR family and friends really stepped up making a commitment of your personal time to log on and vote. We know there were people in our ‘family home states’ of MI, CA, PA, FL, and The Bay (ok, Chesapeake is not a state other than state of mind it put us in), but we know there were people voting regularly in multiple states and countries around the world. We DO live in a global society don’t we and are intertwined in friendship and support.

We will be receiving a Toyota Sienna modified by BraunAbility. Final modifications will be made by Clock Mobility in Grand Rapids. In Tampa, we had dinner together and were able to meet Dave Hubbard, the gentle man behind the soft voice giving me the good news last week. He explained the process. You know that your votes moved the top 10% of vote getters into the semi-finalist round. At that point these people were turned over to an outside panel who judged them strictly on their merit (not votes) based on several criteria NMEDA set to determine local heroes. We met the other winners and I read their stories afterwards in the airport. I encourage you to do so as well. The other three are amazing people who will impress you with what they faced but are now doing. You will feel uplifted by reading about them. They are the types of people you would want to call your friend.

We met Cheryl and Donna who made sure every detail of the trip and taping went well. We met Brian from BraunAbility who explained to us about the special vehicles. Braun takes the Toyota (ours!) and makes major renovations beginning with lowering the floor, removing the center row, and removing the consul between the front seats. The floor is lowered so a ramp is usable but replacement parts as well as logos integrate well with the Toyota parts and look. Brian explained that founder Mr. Braun built the company to meet his own needs (MS for 50 years). He wanted the vehicle to look like a regular Toyota, Honda, or Chrysler so no one would easily spot it as one carrying a person with a disability. He felt the vehicle should be easy enough to use that the disabled could go out for ice cream at 8 PM if they felt like ice cream. We met Mike who represented Toyota who you will also see pictured in the TV segment. We met Andrew from the local Ride-Away dealership that provided the 3 of the 4 vehicles being donated to serve as backdrop for the TV taping. Brian and Andrew proudly explained and demonstrated the various features in this vehicle and explained to Alan and myself the various options available as well as which would likely be best for our situation. We met Ralph, the man behind the new Chairiot solo, who explained how his company began and how it so uniquely offers those in wheelchairs an economical way to get about town. We met Cyndi, hostess of DayTime, who did her job seamlessly and warmly set us at ease. During the dinner and the taping experience, it struck me how passionate all these people were about what they do. They treated us with such respect and knew that what they do day-to-day makes a difference in our lives by making at least this easier. We add these good folks to our list of those to thank because their generous donations make it all possible.

Words are not enough but they’re all we seem to have. We do remember, though, what out sons have heard for years. We have been blessed to be a blessing.