“God can make a Message out of a Mess”

This summer I had the opportunity to meet Kelly Schaefer and hear her heart-wrenching, yet incredibly inspirational story. It really got me thinking about how I would handle her situation if it had been mine. One the one hand, it makes me think that with “God All Things are Possible”, because Kelly really makes that Scripture quote real, in that she really has overcome so much with perseverance, and ultimately God’s grace–made all things possible.

To say  I was blown away by Kelly, might be an understatement. I came away from Kelly’s presentation with four reactions. First, I have to honestly say, it help me put my own “trials” in perspective. Another thought I had was wow, even with my strong faith in God, I’m not sure how I would handle becoming a quadriplegic over night. Third, it made me appreciate even more the gifts I have been given. And, finally, it challenged me think about how well I am using my gifts for God’s glory.

If you are ready to read an inspirational story, I invite you to read on. And I’d be interested to hear your thoughts and reactions to Kelly’s story.



“God can make a Message out of a Mess”

By Brigid Curtis Ayer

At age 19, Kelly Schaefer thought her life was over. The young college student woke up in a hospital bed following a car accident and was told she would live the rest of her days in a wheelchair.  Schaefer’s story of near-despair-turned-to-hope is featured in her memoir “Fractured, Not Broken” — a story she shared with a group of parishioners at St. John Vianney in Fishers, June 22.

Struck by a drunk driver on the last night of a family vacation in Colorado, the Indiana University cheerleader, broke her neck in the accident, rendering her a quadriplegic. For months as she worked every day in therapy to recover, Schaefer said, “I wanted to die or walk again, nothing in between.”

Reminiscing about her childhood, Schaefer said she felt her goals in life to be married, have children and become a school teacher were easily attainable and she was well on her way. She had a steady boyfriend, was majoring in elementary education, and all was going well.

After the accident, Schaefer said she needed a lot of help. “I need help with normal daily living like going to the bathroom or taking a shower. I kept thinking, ‘if I could only walk, I could start school again with my friends.’” She said she was sinking into self-pity. Schaefer said it took another paraplegic to challenger her, and get her to move forward again. Schaefer said the other paraplegic told me, “You are not dead Kelly, you just can’t walk You have to live for today.”

Schaefer decided to go out for Miss Wheelchair America, a beauty pageant for women of all ages with all different types of disabilities. Schaefer won Miss Wheelchair Indiana, but did not win the Miss Wheelchair America. Schaefer said the experience taught her “invaluable” lessons. “The other contestants in the pageant were doctors, teachers, entrepreneurs. They were happy. They were living for today, and I wanted to be like them,” she said.

“Romans 8:28 says, ‘God causes everything to work together for good,’” said Schaefer. “No matter how hard we try to control our lives. We have to really trust in God’s plan.” Schaefer admits, that is easier said than done because every day is a struggle still.

Inspired by her pageant experience, Schaefer returned to school, though she wasn’t sure how she was going to manage. Schaefer proudly said she typed all of her papers herself using her mouth and a special stick for typing, and she graduated with a degree in elementary education.

After being hired in at a Catholic school in her community, Schaefer said she experienced “a real role reversal.” When a student came to her desk and asked Schaefer for help, she said it moved her so much. Someone was asking her for help, not the other way around.  Schaefer needed help for just about everything, the role reversal made her feel “empowered, useful, important.” She added, “The best part of a having a job, any job, is it gives you a purpose.” Schaefer said teaching gave her meaning and purpose again.

While Schaefer had achieved her dream to teach, she doubted she would ever marry, because she thought who would want to marry her in her fragile state. God had another plan. Schaefer’s future husband, Shawn, saw Kelly tell her story in an interview on ESPN television channel. Inspired by Kelly, he wrote her a letter. He was living out of state, but when he was in Indiana, he looked Kelly up and delivered the letter to her door. And Kelly says with a smile, “The rest is history.”

Kelly appears with her two adopted childen Emmy and Sam.

Fast forward nearly two decades, Schaefer, is married to Shawn, a mother of two children, and has been teaching for 13 years. Schaefer overcame significant trials and adversity to get where she is today. Even though she has accomplished her dreams, she says every day is still a struggle. “Life is hard,” she says.  “I need a lot of help with daily living.” Despite daily challenges Schaefer forges ahead, because she believes there really isn’t any other alternative.

Schaefer said she got hung-up dwelling on the “if only” in life.  “For me, it was ‘if only’ I could walk, I could… People get trapped in the ‘if onlys’ of life. If only I had this job, I’d be happy…; if only I had more money, I could….; or if only I had this spouse, then life would be perfect, and on and on…” said Schaefer.

Challenging the audience, she asked, “What ‘if-onlys’ are holding you back? And what are you or others telling you that you can’t do? What is getting in the way of you achieving your dreams and God’s plan for your life?”

Reflecting on her own life she said, “God can make a message out of a mess. God does provide you what you need. God does not call the equipped, but equips the called.

St. John Vianney parishioner Suzin Boulet said she was moved most by Schaefer’s ability to persevere and not drown in the darkness. “As a parent, sometimes there are no words to tell my kids when they are going through a tough time. Kelly’s experience that ‘God can make a message out of a mess’ means to me that with all the sadness that comes your way, there will be blessings too.”

Dodi Poynter, organizer of the event and member of the Fishers parish, said she was guided by the Holy Spirit to read Kelly’s book. “I reached out to my pastor and said we need to bring Kelly here. In my mind, Kelly’s story is a love story. Her love of God and the love of her husband. It is a message that needs to be heard.”

Schaefer’s book, “Fractured, Not Broken,” is available at www.fracturednotbroken.com .


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