This post is part of an ongoing series on Kingdom Women—women God has used and is using in His great Kingdom endeavor.
Jordan Stroman entered the 4th-grade classroom and took in the scene, smiling.
But when she rolled into the room in her electric wheelchair, tipped at a comfortable angle to minimize the pain in her legs, she wondered if the 4th graders would see past her chair and into her heart as she talked to them about her writing, her dreams and how she overcomes obstacles. She didn’t look like anyone else in the room. At 26, she had been confined to a wheelchair for more than half her life.
She wore a plastic mask allowing oxygen to flow directly into her nose and throughout her body. A microphone attached to her mask picked up the whisper of her voice that was then amplified through a wooden speaker box attached to the arm of her chair.
Earlier she had received an invitation. Would she tell her story to the class and answer their questions? Jordan was fully aware of how cruel kids can be and how different she looked from the rest of them. Could she overcome her fear and speak to the students anyway? She accepted their invitation.
Some of the students seemed surprised by her wheelchair and mask. Others let their curiosity lead them to ask questions. Seeing past her chair and into her heart, the students fell in love with her and her enthusiasm as she told her story.
A degenerative muscle disease
Jordan had an uneventful entry into the world and lived a very happy childhood. No one suspected anything was wrong until she played soccer as a 6-year-old. Noticing her unusual gait when she ran, her parents took her to doctors who were stumped by her symptoms. She didn’t have muscular dystrophy, but they did tell her she suffered from a degenerative muscular disease. At 12, she began using a wheelchair because she could no longer walk.
Throughout her teenage years, as she gradually lost more muscle control, she thought about God and the role faith might play in her life. At first, her suffering kept her from trusting God, but she went to church anyway. Eventually, when she understood how much Christ loved her and had a plan for her life, even with the body He had given her, she trusted Him to forgive her sins.
After graduating from high school, she attended the University of Central Florida and majored in Digital Communications. During her freshman year, she lived on campus with 24-hour nursing care. In the midst of many changes, her symptoms worsened, and she began wearing a mask so she could receive oxygen into her lungs more easily.
Jordan’s life is difficult. First thing in the morning, a nurse gets her out of bed, helps her shower and get dressed, and then moves her into her chair. This process takes about two hours. Because of pain in her legs and feet, Jordan sits up for only four hours at a time. When she gets tired, a nurse lifts her out of her chair and into bed where she can rest. Once she feels better, she can sit in her chair again for another four hours.
When she has the stamina, she enjoys writing about her experiences and the lessons she has learned along the way. Using a computer with a keyboard on the screen, she types by moving her eyes across the keyboard. The computer responds to her eye movements and puts words on the screen, allowing her to write.
Her friends are crucial
Friends are a vital lifeline for her. They frequently include her in their plans, and they listen to her when she’s not feeling well. They encourage her to keep going, and she encourages them by the ways she trusts the Lord to overcome her obstacles.
During her senior year at UCF, she and her friends traveled from Orlando to San Diego to attend a Storyline conference with Donald Miller. At the conference, speakers challenged them to live a better story.
From the vantage point of being confined to a wheelchair, Jordan allowed herself to dream. What if she could encourage others by telling her story? What if she could travel and tell her story about the hope she has found in her faith? Could she do something this daring?
Jordan and each of her friends had to overcome fears and obstacles to get to the conference. For Jordan, it was the logistics of flying across the country with her wheelchair and medical equipment and then renting a handicap-accessible vehicle to transport her from place to place.
As suspected, travel from Orlando to San Diego was difficult. Jordan’s mother picked her up out of her wheelchair and carried her on and off the plane. When they arrived in San Diego, they discovered Jordan’s wheelchair was damaged in the baggage compartment during the flight. They had to quickly find someone who could repair her chair. In order to get around, they had to rent a wheelchair-accessible van, which cost more than a typical rental car.
They attended the conference and developed an idea. What if they started an organization to help people reach past their fears, tap into their faith and live an abundant life? So they created a nonprofit called Live Alive, encouraging people to trust the Lord and find joy in every experience.
The longing to travel so she could see more places grew inside of Jordan. But how could she get there, especially when she can only sit up for four hours at a time? Would her travels be limited to the 200 miles a car could carry her during that time? She dreamed about a handicap-accessible bus that could be outfitted with a bed and her medical equipment—a bus that would have room for her friends to travel with her.
Born to be free
Just before Christmas 2018, Jordan started a Go Fund Me campaign called Born to be Free. She hopes to raise $20,000 to buy a bus and install a bed plus her medical equipment so she can both sit up and lie down to rest when she’s tired. She’d like to travel to the West Coast and back, encouraging people to follow their dreams while she sees the country. During the first month of the campaign, she raised almost $8,000.
The dream is too big for her to accomplish alone. She’s relying on the kindness of both friends and strangers. You can find her webpage at https://www.gofundme.com/borntobefree.
While she dreams big and acts on her dreams, she understands the importance of grace. Sometimes she gets impatient with herself and her body for not being able to do as much as she used to. In those moments, she reminds herself that her life has purpose even if it’s not perfect.
“As my body has gotten weaker over the years, sometimes it’s hard for me to adjust to those changes. My body can’t keep up the way it used to. I have had to force myself to give myself grace. It’s okay if I can’t get out of bed in the morning.”
Jordan fiercely believes the life she’s living right now is a gift. “Every single breath is an opportunity to go on an adventure and be who you are called to be. I choose to live into that every day.”
When she finished telling her story to the fourth graders, they saw past her chair and into her heart. To thank her for coming, they gave her an honorary teacher certificate. Their warmth and kindness inspired Jordan to overcome fear and trust God to live a bigger dream, a dream that includes viewing each breath of air into her lungs as an opportunity for another meaningful adventure.
What about you? What’s your dream?
Anne Marie Winz has been on staff with Cru since 1983. Most recently she has served in my office with the Women’s Resources Team at Lake Hart. She trains writers to tell more compelling stories. You can find her at www.writingforlife.org.