Grace For The Clueless: Part 2

I remember the day I discovered I had a spine. Some backbone. Some courage to defend myself. Some boldness to stick up for myself as someone who lives with hearing and visual disabilities. Since I always want to be completely honest with you, I just want you know….it felt real good, too! That day was a turning point in my life.

We meet all kinds of people during our lifetime. We’re all different. We have different personalities and unique character traits, but more importantly, we have different hearts. Having a compassionate, sensitive heart that feels sympathy for others isn’t something that comes naturally. We have to choose to clothe ourselves with compassion. I’ve come to the conclusion that some people are clueless because they have a hard heart. They’ve never taken the time to cultivate the heart of Christ. Honestly, I want to feel compassion for those who don’t sympathize well. They’re missing a key ingredient in life. It must be awfully lonely and awfully sad for those whose hearts are cold.

I worked for 7 years on and off at a really cool place in downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia. Goolrick’s Modern Pharmacy, the oldest continuously working pharmacy in the country. It’s a little bit of Americana you don’t see too much of anymore. There’s an old-fashioned soda fountain in the front of the store. They serve ice cream sodas in old fashioned glass tumblers, milk shakes with at least a thousand calories in them, flavored cokes with rich syrup and sandwiches spread thick with home made chicken salad loaded with enough mayonnaise to cause a heart attack. Mmmmmmmm….I love me some Goolrick’s!

A restaurant, cafe or old fashioned soda fountain isn’t the best place for a hearing impaired person to work, but the owner took a chance on me and gave me a job. It was there I discovered God had given me a gift for service. Fredericksburg is very historic and downtown is loaded with cute boutiques and antique shops as well as a trolley car for hire to take you on tours of the city. I loved standing behind the counter of that bar and making sandwiches, serving up milk shakes and getting to know the community where I lived. There were times I thought my hearing loss would be a hindrance, a strike against me, but I learned if I was honest and told people to look at me when they talked so I could read their lips most were happy to oblige.

One man, though, didn’t want to cooperate. Since he was a regular at the fountain, I soon realized he had neither the patience nor the will to repeat himself when I asked him. He would question me, “Can’t you turn those hearing aids up?” I would smile and go on about my work. One day, though, I didn’t want to smile. I didn’t want to walk away feeling rejected or unimportant or insignificant. One day, I asked this man to repeat himself and he responded, “Do you need to change the batteries in those things?”

Whoooaaaa….now hold on….hold on just one minute. Rewind and freeze. Excuse me?!? Did you really ask me that?! That was the last straw.

I put my hands on my hips, looked him straight in the eyes and said, “Well I would, if I thought you were saying anything worth listening to!!” And I turned on  my heels, lifted my chin in the air and did an about face. Like a proud peacock I strutted my stuff.

That man, God love him, never asked me another insensitive question like that again.

Victory. Sometimes it’s sweet. Sometimes it’s short.

I’ve thought about it long and hard since that day. Yes, I needed to stick up for myself, but was I really any better than he? My response to clueless people needs to reflect my heart. I so want the heart of Christ. I want to learn to clothe myself with compassion and that means I need to respond to difficult people with love, not anger. I could have chosen a more appropriate response, one that honored God. Or at least I could have responded in a way as to be funny, to lighten the mood, to let him know that turning the volume up on my hearing aids not only amplifies voices but all the other sounds in the room as well. I could have told him politely that changing the batteries in my hearing aids wouldn’t make a bit of difference. After all, he was clueless….ignorant….maybe even hard hearted, but I shouldn’t be any of those things because I have the living Christ in me and His Word says:

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”  Colossians 3:12-14

Every morning when I get up I choose what I want to wear. I go to my closet and look through the rows of shirts and blouses, skirts and dresses and I make a deliberate choice what I want to put on. I guess you could say I dress for the day on purpose.

That’s how I’m to clothe myself with compassion. On purpose. Just because I’m living with some disabilities doesn’t mean I have a right to shoot off at the mouth at clueless people. I’m learning that I’m to reflect Christ even in this. Some days it’s hard. Some days I’m tired and short-tempered. I’m weary of it all. I don’t want to be nice. I don’t want to be understanding. I want to put people in their place. I want to have some backbone…

You know what I think? I think it takes great strength NOT to lash out at people who hurt me. It takes Christ to produce the kind of backbone needed to keep me standing tall in the face of ignorance, to keep my heart full of compassion, kindness and gentleness. So, I guess, when I think about it, I’ve got some backbone after all and to tell you the truth, it feels real good .

Grace For The Clueless: Part 1

I haven’t always been so vocal about my disabilities. Most of my childhood friends didn’t even know that deep down inside my heart I carried around some pretty heavy stuff. I never talked about the eye accident that stole my eye and I didn’t tell them I couldn’t always hear what was going on around me. I didn’t want them to feel sorry for me, but more than that I had some emotional baggage I just couldn’t understand. As I said last week in my very first post…I faked a LOT. My parents didn’t even know that sometimes I cried myself to sleep at night.

Losing my left eye as a child in a backyard accident wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to me. I can still see. I still have one good eye. I’m not blind, for crying out loud! So why did I carry around that awful shame for so long…

…because life can be cruel sometimes and people can be mean. Don’t misunderstand me. My parents never made me feel as if my disabilities would hinder me from success in life. There have been many deaf and blind people who have led very influential lives, inspiring others to have a vision and pursue their dreams. They’ve learned to live life to the fullest within the boundaries of their disabilities, but I’m neither completely deaf nor blind. My disabilities aren’t obvious. As several friends have told me over the years, “Nina, no one thinks of you as being disabled because you don’t act like someone who is.” That’s a grace~bit. Only God can do that.

How do you make others understand what it’s like to live in a hearing~seeing world when you don’t hear and see like everybody  else without sounding like a whiner or a complainer? I’m not a “woe~is~me” kinda person, but if I want to get the most out of life I have to be real…I have to be honest…I have to be vocal about the fact that there are certain things I need from others…like, “Look at me when you talk, please” or “Would you mind repeating that?” or “Don’t approach me on my left side because I won’t see you or hear you.”

I don’t want to be labeled. I want to be accepted. I want to be included. I want to sit at a table and take part in conversation. I want to be in a roomful of people without feeling like I’m on the outside~looking~in. I want the checker at the grocery store or the teller at the bank to speak to me with clarity and patience. If I want these things, I have to be honest about what I need. I don’t want to feel like I’m a “bother” or a “nuisance,” but let’s face it, if you want to be friends with someone like me it’s gonna take a bit of work on your part.

I wish I’d had more backbone, more fire, more confidence when I was younger. Instead, I put a wall around my heart on the day some young, cruel boys made sport of me by calling me, “False-eyed,” at the community swimming pool. I can still hear their laughter ringing in my ears. I can still remember the shame I felt because I was physically imperfect. I formed a different opinion of myself that day and it’s not a pretty picture. I saw myself as a freak. It would take years before I let God heal my wounded, broken heart. I am not what the world says I am. I am a daughter of the King. I’m a princess. And princesses wear beautiful clothes and costly jewels and crowns on their heads. But the most important thing about being God’s child is the way He changes me…the way I see myself and the way I see others. He makes me beautiful on the inside. Now that’s a pretty picture!

Clueless. That’s what some people are. They don’t have a clue. And I’ve dealt with a lot of clueless people in my life so I’ve taken it upon myself to educate them. I’m just warning you. This blog isn’t so much about education, though, as it is about sharing life. We all need to know that someone “gets it,” someone understands, someone else has been there.

The definition of clueless is “having no knowledge or understanding.” The Nina definition, though, is  “having no idea what’s going on!” Like the man who said to me once upon a time, “God can restore your hearing.” Well, yeah….I know that, but He hasn’t so I replied, “Yes, He can, but God said No to me.” To which he stepped back with a look of utter disbelief and said, “Ma’am, God never says No to anybody!” Oka-a-a-a-a-y……(picture me saying that in my best singsongy voice.)

I know God answers prayers. He’s answered many of mine over the years. Sometimes He answers yes, but sometimes He answers no because we bring Him more glory in the No’s. I quoted in my first post a passage of Scripture from 1 Corinthians 12. Paul actually says that he pleaded 3 times for God to take away his thorn, but God said, “My grace is sufficient for you.” In other words, God didn’t take Paul’s thorn away even though Paul begged him over and over again. God wanted Paul to depend upon His grace every day for the rest of his life. Paul did that so beautifully, don’t you think? If I could only live life half as gracefully as he did…sigh.

One of things I’ve learned over the years is that I don’t have to be clueless. I have God’s Word. I have His sustaining grace and I have Jesus to show me how to grace those who have no idea what it’s like to wear a prosthetic eye and hearing aids.  Jesus loved on a whole lot of clueless people while He lived and walked among us. He was misunderstood. He was labeled. He was wounded by the words and actions of those He came to seek and save. And He knows how it feels to hear God say No. Remember the Garden? He prayed to His father to take away the cup, but Jesus had one thing on His mind….to bring His Father glory by giving His life for you…for me…for the clueless.

Jesus is still lovin’ on a whole lot of clueless people today and I’ve been one of them so……I just want to ask, what are you gonna do with God’s No’s?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a clue…I’m just gonna trust God to grace me.

Welcome to gracedtolive!

Wow.

I can’t believe I finally have a blog. I’ve prayed about this for so long. Being the technically challenged middle-aged woman that I am, though, I was having a hard time getting started on my own. Thank goodness my amazingly patient son, Jason, came to my rescue. We still have some work to do, but at least I can now write. I can share. I have a voice.

Quite a few years ago I believe God called me to be His “spokesperson.” I’m a huge fan of God’s Word. I love to dig deep into its pages. I love to ponder and meditate on what I read. I love to sit in expectation, knowing that when my heart is sensitive and ready to hear, God will speak to me. I want to know His heart. I want to know His plans and purposes for me. One day I came to recognize a passion inside of me to share with others what He shares with me.

My faith journey has taken me on so many twists and turns in my 55 years of living, but I look back on my life and know that I’m blessed, that God has graced me to live life to the full.   I’m both visually and hearing impaired. I lost my left eye in an accident as a child. I wear a prosthesis. I was also born with a hereditary, degenerative hearing impairment. I’m now severely hearing impaired. Hearing aids aren’t a substitute for normal hearing, in case you were wondering. Somehow along the way, though, God gave me the ability to read lips. Not perfectly, but enough to get by.

There’s a passage of Scripture that spoke to my heart many years ago and I believe it’s my life message:

“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me,   ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’   Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I’m going to be completely honest with you…I don’t always delight in my weaknesses. There have been many times in my life when I felt the loss of my eye and the loss of my hearing were thorns in my side…pointy, sharp and constant reminders that I have to try a little harder, strive a little longer, and forgive a little more just to experience this abundant life God has for me.

I admit my thorns don’t actually torment me, although when I was a teenager I cried a lot at the insensitive comments and curious questions I had to endure about my eyes. I faked a lot, too, when it came to what I couldn’t hear or understand. And I wore a mask to hide my insecurities about my physical limitations.

This visual God gave me has become my motto: My thorn….God’s glory. In my mind and in my heart I carry a picture of a crown of thorns all abloom with sweet-smelling roses. We all have thorns, but we have to remember that we can’t have the roses without the thorns. We can learn to deal with the pain of our weaknesses if we focus on the beauty of God’s grace. It will always be sufficient…it will always be enough. There is power in grace.

We have a choice to make when living with our thorns…we can either let Satan use them to keep us from being effective in the ministries God calls us to or…we can use those thorns to the glory of God!! I don’t know about you, but I’m going for the glory.

I hope to share with you through this blog some grace-bits….ways God helps me in my daily life. Maybe we can cultivate together a garden of roses that sends a sweet-smelling fragrance to the heavens…right to the throne of grace.

“By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect.” 1 Cor 15:10