Year in Review 2023

November 28, 2023

Once again, we have nearly traveled around the sun. As we look back at another year we’ve been given, it’s good to see the blessings God provided as well as the challenges He brought us through.

Winter and spring continued with me using a regular trach. The trouble I had at the end of 2022 seemed to clear up and I looked forward to changing hardware. Finally, in July, I was able to return to using the trach button again. My parents were on a short vacation at the time and quickly noticed even over the phone at how much stronger my voice was. It was great to no longer have pain from the trach as well and I hope I don’t need to use it again.

February 20 marked the 38th anniversary of my family’s car accident. This year, I was interviewed for the Hometown Press in Sully about my life. The finished article was quite lengthy and I heard several people Talking at the fairenjoyed it. I don’t like being made as a role-model, but I do enjoy helping where I can.

For the sixth year in a row, I again had opportunity to volunteer with local gospel outreach events during Tulip Time in May and the Iowa State Fair in August. I always pray that God uses me to honor Him and share the gospel. One atheist and I talked for well over 20 minutes going over various points. It was especially challenging as he would not allow any common definitions of words to be used, such as good or evil. It was a learning experience as well, but I pray he comes to Christ for forgiveness while possible. In November, I was also interviewed by Bibles & Bullhorns about how I do evangelism.

Spring and summer were busy with visiting grade schools and colleges. This year marked 19 years since I started giving disability awareness talks. I still love working with 2nd and 3rd graders and helping them explore different aspects of life. I also added another class for a School speakingcollege I have been visiting for a few years. My schedule put two courses on the same day and I ended up talking for nearly three hours straight. My voice was sore, but it saved another trip to Des Moines.

In 2019, I was selected to be part of a group called the Olmstead Consumer Taskforce. The mission of the taskforce is to make sure people with disabilities in Iowa are living as independently as possible and can be active. My first three-year term felt like we didn’t do much more than talk and occasionally send letters. However, that started to change late last year and I decided to stay for another term.

I was elected as vice-chair to the group this spring and helped organize a project to help the Iowa State fairgrounds. In June, two other members and I met with the fair’s new CEO and offered suggestions on areas to improve. I was happy to see some changes at this year’s fair and was grateful to hear a big change we suggested, more paved handicapped parking spots, will be added for 2024.

Joel surrounded by booksThe biggest news for this year was my book, The Quad Life. I started working with a self-publisher in January and we went through several rounds of editing before deciding on a cover design and interior layout. On September 8, my autobiography became available for purchase on Amazon. It was great to finally conclude this project that has taken over five years to complete. I have had feedback from several people saying it increased their awareness on daily needs and is a source of help. If anyone still needs ideas for Christmas, my book would be great as a paperweight or to hold doors open!

At the beginning of the year, I started a challenge to post at least one verse a day on Facebook that matched the calendar day. Such as on January 1, I posted Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1. It was sometimes hard to find verses, but I kept making a list as the year progressed. On October 6, I posted Mark 10:6 for the evening verse. The next morning, I was greeted with a notice that my Facebook account had been suspended, but I wasn’t given a reason why.

Facebook waitingI appealed the decision, doing what was asked, and then waited for an answer. In the meantime, I had absolutely no access to my account. Finally, on October 24, I was notified that the problem (whatever it was) had not been fixed and my account would be permanently deleted. While waiting, I also tried to start two other accounts using different names and email, but they were both suspended almost immediately.

Thankfully, after working with Representative Miller-Meeks, my account was restored in mid-November. The time away made me realize how much I depend on social media for socialization and keeping up with people. I was never told my violation, but I was thankful to be able to keep up with everyone again and share Scripture.

After an eight-year break from surgeries, I had my 26th procedure in early October. This time, I had two very large bladder stones cut out that were causing problems. I am familiar with surgeries, but I can tell I have aged since the most recent. Anesthesia has never had a lasting affect on me, but I have generally been more tired since the procedure and have had a harder time with memory. I have spoken twice since surgery and had a hard time remembering everything I had planned, which is rarely a problem. Now at the end of Preaching in SullyNovember, I feel like I am finally back to normal, but it has taken quite a while.

This year, I was given ten opportunities to help lead worship for different congregations. One in early September was an annual dedication service for two combined churches. Between the main worship area and an overflow section, I estimated about 500 people were in attendance. I am thankful I was asked to provide the message and get to share God’s Word.

Summer was busy with VMT in redesigning a few existing client’s sites as well as making a site for a new client. Fall has been slow again, but it felt good to be more productive and use the skills God has given me.

It is a precarious house of cards, but my family and I continue to be blessed with multiple caregivers that primarily keep my nights covered as well as week days. The nursing student that started with me in early 2022 continues to help as her class schedule allows. She even came back a few times in the summer to allow my parents to take trips for more than just overnight.

Every year is unique in its own way and 2023 has been no different. I pray this letter finds everyone doing well and looking forward to 2024. Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Joel Vander Molen

Weekly updates are available on my blog, The Quad Life.

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