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From The Publisher Hello friends,
It is with great joy that I bring to you the second issue of Living Life Abundantly magazine. The stories contained in this edition are full of hope and encouragement and it is my prayer that it speaks to that certain someone so profoundly it opens the door to a life filled with hope and indescribable love with the living God.
Since the inaugural release of LLA I have taken a look back at what has transpired and to my excitement I can see how the Lord has been guiding my steps, encounters and connections. It is not by accident that I am being introduced to the right people, being at the right place at the right time and hearing testimonies that will soon inspire you and give you hope or to someone you know.
What is also exciting is that LLA is growing. Weve added a new department where a local non-profit ministry will be featured. Additionally, LLA can be found at over 40 locations in Sacramento and Placer counties. The website is also up and running, so please visit us and leave a comment. We want to hear your thoughts and suggestions. Let us know what you
would like to see in LLA. Until next timeBrightest Blessings,
LivingLIFE Abundantly Contributors
Ana BillingsleyPublisher Senior EditorRachel Marie Stanich Photography
Chandra has lived in the Greater Sacramento area for 15 years, with her husband of 18 years and her two daughters. She has served as an Elder at Church of the Harvest, in Citrus Heights, for 14 years, and in that time has been involved in various ares of ministry, including Counseling, Christian Education, Worship, and Pulpit Ministry. She has a strong desire to see the people of God realize their potential and find their place of service in the Kingdom of God.
Jessica is a full time English and journalism major as well as a full time worker. It has been her childhood dream in becoming a writer and hopes that her words will one day inspire others. She currently resides in Roseville, CA
Hannah is a California native aspiring to write cross culturally. She is majoring in journalism and minoring in anthropology at a privateCalifornia university.
Jim is the graphic designer of LivingLIFE Abundantly as well as the advertising that appears in the magazine. A native of Sacramento, Jim is also a publisher of his own Magazine, MeowDigest as well as a published photographer. (Jim with his little sidekick Lil Bubba J)
Chandra JonesWriter Editor Jessica Noelle Hayes
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Perseverance is defined, in Websters Dictionary, as continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition. Don Walker is a man who embodies the very definition of perseverance. His determination to succeed, after a tragic accident, is an inspiration to all who witness it.
His story begins on a rainy Tuesday, April 9, 2013. Don and a group of his friends from work had been consistently bike riding, every Tuesday and Thursday, at lunch, in an effort to maintain physical fitness. According to Don, they had ridden the same trail at least 150 times, without change, and without incident. But on that fateful Tuesday afternoon, everything changed.
The familiar trail had several bridges, approximately 16 to 18 inches wide. One of these bridges was about 12 feet long, stretching across a deep ravine. As Don approached the bridge ahead of the others, he didnt realize that the rain had washed out part of the approach, and rather than accessing the bridge, the same way he had many times before, he had to skirt around the part that had been washed out. As he swerved onto the wet grass, realized it was slick from the rain, and he began to slide. He did his best to straighten himself out by applying the break, but all at once, he and his bike were airborne!
In describing the scene, Don says his body went over the handlebars, and was catapulted straight, like an arrow, into the opposite embankment. Although he was wearing a helmet, there was an obscure tree stump, protruding from the embankment, covered by blackberry bushes, and his face
and head connected with the tree stump, with the full force and the weight of his body compounding the impact. The impact was so great that his helmet was severely dented, and his head was bent all the way back.
The next thing he realized was that he was lying in a pile of sticks on the floor of the ravine, and he could not move his arms or legs. His friend, Jake, was the first one to get to him, and he asked Don, several times, if he needed help getting up. Don remembers telling him, No, dont move medont take my helmet off, because I cant move at all!
While one of his buddies rode to the top of the hill to get cell reception and call 911, Jake straightened Dons head and grabbed his own helmet & put it under Dons head like a pillow, and all at once he could move his arms!
He says it only seemed like minutes before he was hearing the ambulance sirens, but although the hospital was only minutes away from where he had fallen, it took 45 minutes from the time they called the ambulance until they were able to get him out of the wooded area and to the Emergency Room.
He doesnt remember the ambulance ride to the hospital. The next thing he remembers was coming to in the MRI tube and feeling like a thousand nails had been pounded into the base of his skull.
When Dons wife, Nancy, arrived in the trauma room, and he told her what had happened, she said to him, Thats OK, we can get through this! proving that a supportive wife is worth her weight in gold! Don was going to need to draw on that strength, time and time again in the coming months.
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They both knew it wouldnt be easy, but they also knew that God had spared Dons life, and with God on their side, they could get through this!
Everything was still such a blur. He doesnt remember all of the hoses and tubes he was hooked up to. But he does remember so many of his friends and family who came to visit him in the hospital. He was so appreciative of all of their uplifting words of hope, and offerings of prayer and encouragement! But at the time he didnt realize how dire his situation appeared to those who visited, and he asked Nancy why everyone seemed to be so freaked out when they came to see him. She took a picture on her phone so he could see what he looked like, and he was a bit shocked by all of the bruises, scratches, tubes and hoses!
When the neurosurgeon delivered the MRI results to Don and Nancy, it showed that he had broken several vertebrae in his Cervical Spine, numbers 1, 2, 5, 6, & 7, and a burst fracture of his Thoracic Spine, numbers 4 & 5, which basically means he had severely broken his neck and back, as well as 6 ribs. To attempt to repair this damage, he immediately underwent a 3 hour spinal fusion surgery, in which they placed 2 rods from the T1 to the T8 vertebrae, 3 above, and 3 below the fracture.
After surgery, he spent 3 days in the ICU. Because he couldnt feed himself, he hardly ate anything while in ICU. Nancy would feed him sorbet. He definitely remembers the sorbet without much fondness, describing it as flavored ice chips, and not very appetizing. Three days was about all he
could handle of the ICU, so they moved him to the Rehabilitation Center.
Now it was time for the hard work to begin. In the beginning, the whole rehab process was geared toward teaching him how to function and do his daily tasks without using his legs, rather than being geared toward walking again, because the doctor said he had a complete spinal fracture, and would never walk again. He said, I was in thereinside your back, and you will not walk again! To this, Nancy said, You dont know Don! He WILL walk again! Don had to agree! In my head, I knew I would walk again! I knew I was going to be OK! It wasnt a matter of IF, but a matter of WHEN. This positive outlook and determination has carried him throughout his entire ordeal!
Don says he prayed every night. I never really prayed for myself. I prayed for Nancy & the kids (Lynda & Jessie), that they would be taken care of. The prayers he prayed for his family were deep, heart-felt prayers. Their suffering on his behalf was overwhelming. I never had a doubt in my mind that I was going to be OK, so he focused his prayers on them. His determination to walk again was for his family because he knew they were really going through it. He wanted to walk again for them!
Every night, he would say to himself, Tomorrow, Im going to wake up and wiggle my feet! About two weeks into his 6 week rehab stay, it happened! He wiggled his feet!! Thats when he said Its ON, BABY! So now, in addition to teaching him to do daily tasks without using his legs, his rehab technician began to give him exercises to strengthen his legs!
As he became stronger, he began to accomplish the goals that his medical staff had set for him, goals that would show them he was ready to be released from the hospital: he had to feed himself, bathe himself, dress himself, cook a grilled cheese sandwich, and cut up vegetables.
On the day before he was released from the hospital, the doctor decided to change his spinal fracture status from Complete spinal injury (which means a
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total loss of function), to Incomplete spinal injury (which is usually a transitional phase indicating some functionality is possible). This was a major milestone, because, remember, it was the doctor that had said his fracture was complete, and he would never walk again!
The next day was Don and Nancys 32nd wedding anniversary, and he was released from the hospital! What a gift! They were able to go to dinner together to celebrate their anniversary! After 6 weeks of hospital food, he said, That had to have been the best meal Id ever had in my life!
Although he was released from the hospital, his hard work wasnt over! On his first day in out-patient rehab, he was able to stand up for the first time since his accident! He remembers lifting his hand, trying to wave at Nancy, and starting to stumblebut he didnt fall! He said that to actually stand, after not being able to for so long, felt absolutely fantastic!
Every week he would reach a new milestone. Every week he would be instructed to do another exercise that forced him to do things he was previously unable to do. His son, Jessie, would take him to the gym to do his prescribed exercises. Just a few short weeks after he stood for the very first time, he was strengthened enough to stand without holding on! This truly was a blessing from God!
Today, 14 months after that illl-fated day, Don is able to stand and walk with the aid of crutches. In his right leg, he has no feeling, but he is able to move it without assistance. In his left leg, he has full feeling, but he must use a special piece of electronic stimulation equipment that works with his nerves to help him move it so he can walk. It goes without saying that life is very different than it was 14 months and one day ago.
Don admits that he experiences some pretty heavy emotions, at times, because he feels he should be farther along in his recovery than what he is. The big progresses have stopped, yet he does still experience incremental increases. Although he sometimes feels his progress should be more advanced, he has had to put his faith in what
God can do, rather than in what the doctor has said is possible. He knows that God is going to bring him through this. After all, he is twice as far along as the doctors thought hed ever get!
When asked about the changes this accident has brought to his character, he revealed that he has always been a stubborn individual, and used it to overcome any obstacle that presented itself; but through the accident, he has learned how to mellow out, and has become pretty computer savvy! Nancy spoke up and said, Yes, hes always been headstrong & perseverant, be he does seem
more relaxed these days.You cant tell me Im not living a blessed life! I had this
accident, but I can still live comfortably. I have come a long way, but there is still so much farther to go. I expect that eventually I will be walking with nothing more than a cane.
I do everything I can do, he says, and I pray every night for that miraculous healing. Ive always been ornery as can be, but Ive always had Faith, and Ive always prayed for other people, because although God has always looked out for me, its not about me! Several times, complete strangers have asked to pray for him, and he never turns it down. After all, prayer changes things!
So, stubborn and headstrong can be a good thing when there is so much to overcome! A broken neck, a broken back, broken ribs, bruises, and scratches, loss of mobility, loss of function, loss of feeling, it all seems like a long list of destruction. But the Word of God says, You will laugh at destruction and famine; wild animals will not terrify you. (Job 5:22 NLT). If you sit and talk with Don, there is one thing that stands outthroughout the story of his ordeal, he certainly hasnt lost his laughter!
With an overwhelming spirit of determination and perseverance such as this, how can we not expect to see him reach his goal of walking with nothing more than a cane? Its just such a spirit of tenacity that overcomes and conquers whatever life brings! In light of this, perhaps his name is prophetic of things yet to come: Don Walker! With the power of God, working on his behalf, he truly is UNSTOPPABLE!
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Bevan AtkinsAge 25 Roseville, CA
I do not believe in one specific entity. I am very spiritual, but would prefer not to label my spirituality. I base my belief in a higher power and base my views on sound morals. I prefer to make my own rules.
When I was a child he went to church every Sunday. My family was very invested in the time at church, but it was something that was a forced requirement on me. Even when I came to the United States with my family, church was a requirement. It wasnt until I was the ages of 14 or 15 that I decided on my own views about religion. I chose my faith and a lot of things about the religion I had known didnt sit right with me.
I came to America when my mother got a better job that required my family to relo-cate. I knew that we moved for the better of our family and church was a part of that until I tapered off to find what I believed.
I like it. I believe that everyone should respect each other. The forefathers built this nation off that topic (God and Coun-try), might as well grasp it and embrace it. I do not feel that the government pushes any religion on its people. It is a melting pot to pick your own religion. Its got that going for them.
Dont be an extremist! Everyone is dif-ferent and everyone likes different things. Dont let it matter.
Brandon BarkerAge 21...