Many of us are spending some time this evening reflecting back on 2013, thankful for the memories, or perhaps wishing things had gone a bit differently. There may be some time set aside in how we plan to approach the next year. My husband and I sit down each year and make plans for the next. We map out how we plan to use our time, what we intend to do with our kids, what area of ministry we plan to serve and where we want to direct our money. In other words, New Years provides a time to regroup and perhaps, redirect our focus. How we approach that is entirely up to us. This reminds me of a conversation I had with my daughter a couple of years ago. Brooklyn had had the most fabulous fifth grade year. Her teachers made the school days interesting and fun; the students were friendly, polite and had an encouraging dose of enthusiasm for their time at school. Brooklyn couldn’t imagine it could get any better.
The night before her sixth grade year started, she shared those very thoughts with me. We discussed how blessed she was to have experienced such a wonderful school year in fifth grade, but that sixth grade could be just as good, if not better. She wasn’t convinced. She couldn’t see it being any better, nor nearly as good as what she had. She just didn’t think it was possible. I spoke with her about our outlook. If she had already determined in her heart that sixth grade wasn’t going to be as fun as fifth, then it wouldn’t; but God could have even more wonderful things in store for her new school year. And He did! She absolutely loved sixth grade. What a great life lesson to learn so early.
My daughter’s thoughts weren’t immature though. They were human. But I believe as adults, we may be inclined to see it in the other direction. It can be hard to imagine things getting better when we’re living in the muck and mire of a difficult time. Life circumstances can be downright brutal. However, if those realities consume our thoughts, we’ll never see brighter days.
I was honored to have met a man who illustrated the characteristic of a positive outlook. Nate Waters sustained a spinal cord injury at the age of 19 from an altercation with his mother’s boyfriend. Due to the resulting diagnosis of quadriplegia, Nate was dependent on nursing home care for over ten years. At a time when most young people are discovering life and the world, Nate was attempting to accomplish tasks most of us take for granted. But none of this kept him from pursuing his best. Even a doctor telling him he would never have the use of his arms or legs prevented him from attaining his goals.
Nate could have spent the rest of his life in bitterness and anger. He could have accepted the limitations many associate with his diagnosis. He could have, but he didn’t. Nate didn’t focus on the injury or the unfairness. Nate Waters had unwavering determination, immeasurable optimism, and immense drive. Those characteristics were noted from everyone who had the privilege of knowing him.
This amazing man made no excuses. He graduated in 2005 with a Bachelor in Business Administration from Oklahoma State University. He worked at Williams as an accountant and gave back to his community through his involvements in fundraising and public speaking. He seized every opportunity meeting political leaders like Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney, Gerald Ford, Rudolph Guiliani and Colin Powell. A dear friendship was formed between Nate and T. Boone Pickens who was instrumental in helping Nate reach the goal of independent living. Nate had his own home, could make his bed, brush his teeth, do his own laundry and partially dress his self. Although he needed nursing assistance, it didn’t limit his drive or his attitude. The immense progress he experienced in his rehabilitation gave him great optimism in his on-going efforts to recover. None of which would have been possible had he not been determined to think optimistically and try for what others deemed impossible.
Nate Waters passed away April 20, 2013 at the age of 35. Nate touched countless lives and I’m deeply grateful mine was one of them. He inspires me to dream big and continually strive for what is beyond my reach.
In the New Year, let us glean from Paul’s words:
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14 NIV
May we let go of what is behind….
May we press on…..
May we have an optimistic outlook knowing the One who calls us….
Happy New Year!!!!
~~ Nate Waters~~
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