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15 year anniversary A Life Modified: Reflections on pain, purpose and being present

Real Stories



A life modified, inspirational speaker kelly lemon, Wow. 15 years.   As I say those words it almost doesn’t seem real.  On July 29th, 2000 my family was in a near fatal car accident, resulting in the full paralysis of my right arm and daily chronic nerve pain.  This week marks the 15th anniversary of the accident and I have been reflecting on how that day drastically changed the course of our lives.   After taking a little break from my #alifemodified series, I thought this would be a great way to launch back into the series.  I will warn you.. this a bit longer than my usual posts.

If at this point you are feeling a bit lost and are not familiar with my #alifemodified series, please feel free to catch up on a short snippet/recap of the story of the accident on the first #alifemodified post.

Over the years, I have noticed how having a disability has changed the way that some people approach me or…share with me rather.   Many times after learning that my arm is paralyzed, they share with me openly about the hardships in their lives even if they have only met me minutes before.   I am honored that people feel comfortable sharing and that I have the opportunity to listen.   And I can understand why, at times we just want to chat with some that might be able to relate to the pain we are experiencing and I think that has a large part of why people open up more freely.

When we are hurting, our culture says “hey! it’s a problem, how can put a quick fix on this!?” But in that moment, many times the last thing we want is for someone to fix it…(even though many attempt, but fail) we want those that are close to us to be simply be present.  To embrace us, cry with us, and acknowledge that season or situation is hard and it’s okay to mourn, to feel sad, or be angry.

A life modified, inspirational speaker kelly lemon,

Because the reality is.. being present during a season of difficult or pain can form bonds and deepen relationships in ways no other experience can.

With paralysis, I suffer from severe chronic nerve pain daily.  Over the years, I often found it was difficult to truly talk to people about it because there was no way for them to fix it, and they just ended up feeling really upset and helpless so most of the time I wouldn’t express the pain I was feeling since I didn’t want to make my friends feel helpless.   But God placed an amazing woman and mentor in my life.    My dear friend Debi is one of my favorite people.  She is so loving, giving, funny, wise and gives the best hugs!   She also endures the extreme pain of Fibromyalgia every day.   So now…when I am in a lot of pain.. I pray for Debi and her pain and that she would have a better day today and for the pain to subside so she can rest and she does the same for me.   When I see her, we can share each other’s burdens and truly express how we are feeling, how our pain is that day and just simply be there for each other.  As much as I want to… I can’t take her pain away. But I can be present with her. I love her and I listen…and embrace her.

Last year Debi sent me this devotion/passage from a book that connected with my heart and expressed what I was feeling regarding how we handle hardship and pain and the purpose that God can bring through it and I would love to share it with you as I reflect on this anniversary.

“My promises are of no avail to you except as you apply and appropriate them by faith.  In your daily walk, you shall be victorious only to the degree that you trust Me.  I can help you only as you ask.  I will meet you at every point where you put action alongside your prayers.  Only as you walk will the waters of adversity be parted before you.  Overburdened as the world is with trouble and sickness, I need those who have proved My sufficiency in everyday, personal experience to lead the suffering to the fountains of life.  I need those who have found Me as burden-bearer to help bring deliverance to the oppressed.  Never begrudge time given to chronic complainers, but recognize in each encounter the opportunity to speak a word that may lead to their liberation.  No case is too hard for Me.  Never be taken by surprise when I use you to change a pattern.  Do not judge a man by what he appears to be, but see him as what he can be if he gives himself unreservedly to Me.”

Matthew 9:29
Come Away My Beloved
Frances J. Roberts
When I read those words, it spoke right to my heart.  Those words empowered me.   God needs those who have suffered…to meet others in them where they are at and give them hope, love, encouragement… to be present with them.   It eloquently reminded me that there is a purpose and beautiful opportunity to love and be present with people in a way I could not have before if I hadn’t gone through what I have experienced over the past 15 years.
One beautiful example of this was when I lived in Ghana for 2013, Agustin and I volunteered at a children’s home outside Accra (the capital) and I met an amazing young woman…Gloria.  Gloria was 15 and tragically was severely burned as a child by her mom and as a result she lost the use of her left arm.   As I came each week Gloria and I formed a beautiful bond and relationship.  I taught her how I have modified doing things with one arm and she showed me her fun modified tricks :)  I listened to her heart and how she was coping… I was present with her.  I loved on Gloria;  I pushed her to chase her dreams, encouraged to get back up when she fell or tried something new, and connected with her in such a deep way that never would have been possible if July 29, 2000 had turned out differently.
15 years ago on July 29, 2000 I lost the use of my right arm… but gained so much more than I lost and I would never take it back.
So I just want to encourage you…that your trial, disability or difficult past…can be an opportunity to love, bless and be present with someone who needs a listening ear today.   If you have gotten this far and read through my reflections of this anniversary – THANK YOU!   I would love to hear your stories of how a hard experience led to a beautiful connection, relationship or how you were able to use that experience to give someone hope.

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My superpower is putting people at ease; whether that's behind the camera or on their elopement day solving problems calmly under pressure. I am passionate about building relationships with the people I work with. 


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  1. Erica says:

    Beautiful testimony and such a powerful perspective. Thank you for sharing your heart!

  2. Vonny Oei says:

    Hi Kelly,
    My name is Vonny, I am Jackie Oei’s mom. Thank you so much for sharing your life, your tears, your hope. Jackie went through a lot with her past relationship. Now she found Jacob and with you capturing those magical moments, I can’t thank you enough.
    Right now I suffered what they called frozen shoulder on my left arm. I can’t lift my left arm and it is sore, and sometimes I can’t sleep because of the aching shoulder. Reading your story made me realize that I am not the only one that has pain. Hopefully after the physical theraphy, I will get better. I really admire you and pray that God will always bless you and keep you close to His side and continue to be a blessing to others through your work and life.

    Best regards,
    Vonny Oei

  3. Jill says:

    These are really compelling photos! I love that you are documenting this aspect of their life.

  4. Leah says:

    You are a strong woman, thank you for sharing this beautiful story.

  5. Tanya says:

    Your story and your pictures are so powerful. Thank you for sharing!

  6. You deserve a trophy. I admire your honesty. It goes such a long way. I can’t tell you how many times in just the past few days how many people I’ve seen claim to be a “coffee adict” or a “lover of Kate Spade”. Thank you! Thank you for being you and for not covering yourself up. We need more people like you. We all have such a hard battle that is unique to each of us. I don’t feel like I genuinely know my community of creatives when we just say we “love light, coffee and photography”. You’re letting me know you with your honest story of overcoming your unique battle. You will reach so many people by doing this. You are incredible and inspiring. Thank you, Kelly!

  7. Kelly, this was a beautiful post. I feel honored to have gotten a glimpse into who you are and read your innermost thoughts and encouragement for others. I am amazed at your strength and grace and I’m even more excited to get to know you now. :)

  8. Marianne says:

    Hi Kelly,
    Good for you to share this story about Gloria and your friendship with her.
    looking for those opportunities to show up with kindness and love overflowing is life changing. As a young woman you have discovered your purpose and making a difference, this is thrilling. The journey is more than what you have ever dreamed of. Blessings to you.

  9. Marianne says:

    Hi Kelly,
    Good for you to share this story about Gloria and your friendship with her.
    As you look for those opportunities to show up with kindness and love overflowing is life changing. As a young woman you have discovered your purpose and making a difference, this is thrilling. This journey will be more than what you have ever dreamed of. Thank you for being brave and sharing. Blessings to you.