The God Who Accessorizes

Okay, people. Here it is. The moment you’ve all been waiting for….

Ta-da!!!!!

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I have pimped my hearing aids.

Oh, I’m sorry…maybe I shouldn’t have said it quite like that. Let me rephrase…

I have jazzed up my hearing aids. I have reached a pivotal moment in my life. I am showing them off and making them stand out by accessorizing them.

I needed some new molds recently. My old molds were giving me an absolute fit!!!! They just would not stay in my ears. Every 5 minutes I was having to push them back in…with every move of my jaw they would ease out of my ear canal like an inch worm. Now for someone who likes to talk a lot you can certainly understand how my jaw is constantly on the move. I was ready to curse my hearing aids and put them death.

My ear doctor (and if you’ve been keeping up with me on my blog you know she is my fabulously sensitive and compassionate daughter-in-law) recommended some new molds made out of a different material. I’d been looking at some pictures of hearing aids on Pinterest all dolled-up with washi tape and brightly dyed molds…some of them even had glitter mixed in the dye!

Can I just say….to-die-for-cool!!!!

Oh, yes, can I have some of these, pretty please?!?

My new molds are actually tie-dyed yellow and green and of course, absolutely, without question….they have glitter.

Oooooooooo, I’m so giddy I’m ready to pop out of my chair.

I found some really pretty complimentary washi tape at Hobby Lobby and picked out a charm and some chain in the jewelry findings section and twa-LA! (don’t know what that word is, I just made it up) I made a darling little dangle to hang from my tubes.

BUT!!!! The best part of all is that my new molds stay in my ears ALL. DAY. LONG.

Oh, Sweet Jesus, I think I hear the Hallelujah Chorus….

For anyone who wears hearing aids you’ll understand when I say this is all a very huge, very major, very bold statement for me. When I was growing up they didn’t even make hearing aids to help people with hearing loss like mine. As a teenager, I was so ashamed of being hearing impaired, partly because I was already visually impaired due to the loss of my eye, that I didn’t talk about my hearing loss at all. I didn’t talk about my eye accident. To anyone. EVER.

Now you can’t shut me up.

I was talking to someone earlier this week about hearing loss. A woman I met who also wears hearing aids. We were talking about some of the ‘issues’ we encounter in life being hearing impaired and, like me, she doesn’t consider herself disabled or impaired. When I shared with her the issues I have of being hearing impaired without the peripheral vision, though, she actually stopped talking and blurted out a not-so-nice word that I won’t repeat here. It was her of way of saying, “Well, that stinks…”

Anyway, I use every opportunity I can when I share with others just how good God is to me in all of this. I guess I’ve become so comfortable that pimping-up my hearing aids (that’s actually what it’s called on Pinterest) is just another way for me to show God off. Cause when I show off my hearing aids, I can show others how beautifully God has accessorized my life…

Yes, God is a God who accessorizes. He makes all things beautiful in His time. And He’s made some wonderfully beautiful changes in my heart and soul. Over time, in His way, He has given me

…a crown of beauty for ashes… (Isaiah 61:3)

…a garland of grace on my head and presented me with a crown of splendor…(Proverbs 4:9)

…clothed me with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (still working on that one)… Colossians 3:12

…treasures in heaven that are like fine pearls…(Matthew 13:44-46)

…the best robe, a ring on my finger, and sandals on my feet…(Luke 15:22) 

I think you get the picture.

I have so much to be thankful for as a child of the King. That’s the real reason I pimped-up my hearing aids. To give me more opportunity to tell people that.

God’s riches are so much more than just washi tape and tie-dyed hearing aid molds. So much more than hearing loss and vision loss. So much more than anything on this earth that I think is to-die-for-cool. I can jazz up my hearing aids all I want. I can change the washi tape and change the color of my molds and change the cute little dangles, but I can never change the fact that God’s way of accessorizing my life is better than anything this world could ever offer me.

So….ta-da!!! This is the real moment I’ve been waiting for….

God, can I show You off?

When The Eyes Aren’t Enough

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There’s a reason why there are five senses: Sight. Hearing. Taste. Smell. Touch.

They help us to experience life in the every day.

When I lost my left eye in an accident as a child I was never told there was anything I wouldn’t be able to do. I didn’t grow up thinking I was any worse off for the loss. I adapted. I didn’t just cope, I carried on.

Truthfully…I had a wonderful childhood. Thanks to parents who didn’t fuss over me. They wanted me to have pleasant life experiences.

No one told me early in life that my depth perception would change. I didn’t even know what depth perception was. I grew up learning to sew in a 4-H class one summer and didn’t seem to fret over threading needles. And I played sports in high school. I ran track, played field hockey and wore a cute little cheerleader’s uniform. I did get hit right smack in the eye socket one time by a fly softball playing on the church lawn. That was pretty painful, but without the peripheral vision it was an accident waiting to happen. But, you know? Even people with two good eyes have shared the same pain.

Probably more problematic for me than the loss of depth perception is the loss of peripheral vision. Because I also have hereditary, degenerative hearing loss I am now severely hearing impaired. Which means…if someone comes up beside me on my left side I don’t see them, neither do I hear them. Scary, huh?

My boss at the small town cafe where I worked for three years got a BIG kick out of coming up on my left side and giving me a tickle at the waist. No lie…I jumped every single time. I even let out a squeal. One time he surprised me when the floor was packed with customers having a pleasant dining experience. Let’s just say, after that, he usually waited until there were fewer patrons for fear of starting a stampede. Seriously, if you ever want to run people off just give me a call. You give me a scare and I’ll scream for you.

I guess working at a restaurant wasn’t the most suitable place for a visually and hearing impaired person, but the funny thing is…no one thought of me as ‘disabled.’ Part of the beauty of being able to experience life is not to focus on what I don’t have. I focus on what I do. I still have some of my sight. I still have some of my hearing. I can still taste. I can still smell. I can still touch. Working around all that food at the town cafe certainly brought out the best in my remaining senses.

Did you know there are five basic tastes? Sweet. Bitter. Sour. Salty. Umami. Umami? That’s a new one for me. Had to look it up…it’s a savory taste. Had to look that up, too…it’s an aromatic plant of the mint family, used as a culinary herb, but technically it means it’s full of flavor, delicious.

Whew. You didn’t know this was going to be a culinary lesson, did you? Actually, I have a point. I promise.

Every day life shouldn’t be something we just do. It’s something we should experience. Half the time we don’t even realize how our senses work overtime in helping us get the most out of life. Not just to live like a mindless drone, but live it wonderfully and well. Even when life is hard to understand it’s possible to get clarity and perception when we keep our eyes on the goodness of God.

“O taste and see that the Lord is good, how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” Psalm 34:8

I like it in the New Century Version, too: “Examine and see how good the Lord is. Happy is the person who trusts Him.”

Is it possible to taste God’s goodness? I believe it is.

But… here’s the million dollar question…how will I know what something tastes like if I don’t put it in my mouth and see for myself?

“Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I have been called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.” Jeremiah 15:16

I can see something with my eyes. I can suppose what it might taste like. I can imagine what it might taste like. But, until I taste it, I won’t know for sure.

And that’s a very powerful thought. I want to experience the presence of God. I want to practice the presence of God. I don’t want to hear about Him from someone else. I want to see Him for myself.

I was sitting at a large family-style dinner table in a large dining hall many years ago with eleven other people. In the center of the table was a little bowl with some creamy-looking white sauce. No one seemed to know what it was. So me, being the most curious and quite possibly the bravest, decided to taste it. I didn’t just put a little on the tip of my finger. Oh, no. I took a spoonful. Horseradish. For real. I nearly died of asphyxiation.

Just because something looks good and is pleasing to the eye doesn’t mean that it is.

I can’t just sit back and wait for God’s goodness to reveal itself. Oh, I know it will. I don’t have to do anything to be a recipient, but I do have to choose to see it, hear it, taste it, smell it, even touch it. God’s goodness is part of His character and it can’t be taken out of Him. His good gifts are always raining down, even when I don’t see them, even when I’m not paying attention. But, when I sit up and take notice, my senses come alive and I don’t just think God is good. I know.

Because I experience God.

Because I take refuge in God.

Because I trust in the God of my salvation.

YES! The Lord is good. He is pleasing to all five senses. He is beautiful to my eyes, music to my ears, savory to my mouth, aromatic to my nose, and tender to my touch.

Because of Jesus, my eyes can see the goodness of God clearly. My ears hear perfectly. My mouth tastes pleasantly. My nose smells sweetly. My hands touch softly.

Whew. Thank You, Lord, for the culinary lesson. You add the umami to my life. Because of Your presence I can carry on…

The New Normal

IMG_0439Two weeks ago I had an appointment with my ear doctor who just happens to be my sweet daughter-in-law. How providential that God gave me a daughter (I raised two sons) who truly understands the needs of the hearing impaired. Laura has helped me understand hearing loss in a way no other expert ever has. She may not be hearing impaired herself, but she has her own health issues. Serious health issues that have given her a compassion and tenderness people long to see in their health specialist. She “gets it.” She gets it when someone needs reassurance. She gets it when someone needs understanding. She gets it when someone needs comfort. She gets it when someone needs an advocate.

Can you possibly understand what this has done for my own self-esteem? No longer do I want to hide or retreat. Laura has educated me. As my hearing deteriorates this education has gone a long way in helping me deal with the ignorance of the misinformed. I no longer get on the defensive…I educate. Seriously, I think by the time I’m done with the class lecture the misinformed person is sorry he or she ever said anything negative to me at all. LOL. To those without hearing loss it can be B.O.R.I.N.G.

So Laura gave me an updated audiology exam. I sat in a sound-proof booth and big fat ear phones were placed over my ears. The door to the booth was shut tight and Laura played back a series of sounds in all different volumes and tones to determine what I can and cannot hear. She spoke words to me and I repeated them as best I could. This test helped her determine how to program my hearing aids so that I can hear as well as I possibly can.

Can I just educate all who want to know: Hearing aids are NOT a substitute for normal hearing. They amplify and clarify, but they aren’t really natural. After all, I wasn’t born with hearing aids already in my ears, but I wasn’t born with perfect hearing, either. My hearing is degenerative so I’m always needing updates.

After Laura reprogrammed my hearing aids I was shocked. The change was so completely unnatural to me that at that moment I didn’t know if I would be able to adjust. Laura assured me I would get used to my new way of hearing.

She was right. This is now my new normal.

What is normal, anyway? We all want to be normal. We want normal lives. Normal families. Normal relationships. Normal this. Normal that. Normal. Normal. Normal. Do we dare to believe that normal in the eyes of the world is highly over-rated?

Webster’s Dictionary defines normal as this: Conforming, adhering to, or constituting to a usual or typical pattern, level, or type; functioning or occurring in a natural way.

I don’t hear anything the way a person with normal hearing does, but it’s normal to me. Without hearing aids I wouldn’t hear much of anything at all, but I’ve adjusted to this new change. I’ve conformed to the new program. What was typical for me the past couple of years is now void. I’ve adhered to my new normal. I’m sticking like glue to what has become a lifeline into the world of hearing for me.

God doesn’t want me to get stuck in what was. He wants me to live with what is. Some things God wants to change so my life will be better, but there are just some things that won’t change. Like the fact I hear poorly and the fact I see imperfectly. As a matter of fact, yesterday I had an appointment with my ophthalmologist and guess what? It’s back to the ocularist for me. If you read my post last fall, Sweet Child of Mine, you have a bit of insight into this part of my life. I’m learning that sometimes God wants to do a new thing in me through changes in my physical issues.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

When change means adjusting to a new normal, then maybe God wants me to experience Him in new ways…like a way in the desert or a stream in the wasteland. When there’s no path laid out before me in a dry hot desert, God reminds me His footsteps are marked in the sand. All I have to do is follow them. When there’s no water for my thirsty soul in a barren wasteland, God reminds me He’s an oasis of underground springs. All I have to do is pitch my tent and drink freely. I can live in the past if I want to, but why would I when He’s in the new and very real present?

Last night before training began at the Pregnancy Care Center in Rocky Mount (I’m hoping to serve in this ministry. See? God is doing a new thing!) we began with a devotion from Hebrews 4:16,

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” 

Help in our time of need…for you, that means a different need than mine, a different circumstance, a different change, a different adjustment, a different desert, a different wasteland…a different normal.

Yet help is there for us no matter the need. So is the confidence that God supplies the grace straight from His throne….straight from heaven.

Sounds to me like God wants us to experience a bit of heaven on earth…who would ever have thought that there would be a bit of heaven found in each new normal we learn to accept and adhere to as part of God’s plan for each of us. I think this is a very cool thought. I feel educated.

So…I’m stickin’ like glue to Jesus….my Lifeline, my Advocate…the One who gives me all I need to live in the new normals of life.

 

 

So Graced

ee52388ba75604b092e0f7b991357b18Let me tell you how bad my hearing is these days…not too long ago I parked my car in a busy parking lot and went to do some shopping in a pet store. Thirty minutes later I walked back to my car and found my keys still in the ignition with the engine running. I guess I’d been distracted before I got out of the car, but seriously, not even my hearing aids picked up the sound of my idly racing engine. Don’t even mention the stupidity of getting out of the car without my keys. I was so thankful that no one had stolen my car.

And so very thankful for the grace of God.

I quit my job last summer at the town cafe. A restaurant may seem an unlikely place for a hearing-impaired person, but a hearing-impaired person who is also visually-impaired? Definitely not likely. When I applied for the job I was honest with the owner, Mike, about my hearing disability. He said, “I don’t have a problem with that…”

…so graced.

A few days after I began work at this completely charming cafe in small town Spring Hope, I had a slight collision with Mike on the floor. He whipped around a corner on my blind side and I nearly knocked him over. I said, “I guess this would be a good time to tell you that I’m also blind in my left eye.” He didn’t even blink…

…so graced.

I learned to be extra careful as I maneuvered around the restaurant with plates of food, trays of drinks, and dirty dishes stacked precariously at every turn. Like the time I ran into a coworker and knocked a drink out of her hand that made a pretty big mess. She actually laughed…

…so graced.

I learned to be purposeful in the care taken to repeat every order so I didn’t make mistakes. Like the time I misunderstood an order and a customer had to wait twice as long to eat while his food was remade. He still tipped…

…so graced.

I learned to be aware of the activity all around me so I didn’t spill food in unwanted places. Like the time I was talking with a customer and knocked a hamburger and fries in her lap because I didn’t see or hear the server approach. She wasn’t a bit angry…

…so graced.

As my hearing degenerates I’m learning that I have to be intentional in many ways. Like when I get out of the car I have to make sure I’ve actually turned the engine off and my keys are in my purse. I check and recheck…

…so graced.

When I go shopping in a busy store I have to move with caution. Like the time I knocked someone down with a few groceries in her arms and had to grovel at her feet. She forgave me…

…so graced.

When I go to church I have to sit in a seat that gives me a good view of the pastor’s face so I can read lips. Sometimes I have to change seats three times before I find one where my view isn’t blocked. My family’s way over being embarrassed by this…

…so graced.

When I go to the bank I can’t go to the drive-in anymore. Like the time I couldn’t understand what the teller was saying through the speaker so I parked and went inside. She said, “I just wanted to know if there was anything else I could do for you today…”

…so graced.

God is so intentional in the way He graces me. Let’s face it, I don’t hear and see like most people around me, but who’s going to know that if I don’t tell them? If I want to get the most out of life I’m learning I have to be intentional, too. That means I have to let God’s grace do the work it was intended to do in me. My limitations force me to face challenges, but it’s grace that frees me to accept them.

I quit my job at the restaurant partly because the struggle was becoming too great to hear over all the activity and background noise, but God’s grace has no limits. I realize that even people with perfect hearing and perfect sight make the same mistakes I do, but sometimes it wears me out mentally and emotionally to be so intentional all the time. So aware. So cautious. So vulnerable.

Part of my lot in life is making the changes necessary to compensate for my physical limitations, but God will never change the way He extends His grace. It never wears Him out. I can count on it. I can depend upon it. I can expect it. I may be facing new challenges these days, but so what?

So graced, that’s what…

So God, that’s who..

“By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”  1 Corinthians 15:10

And the effect of this grace means my hearing-and-visually-impaired-self gets to shine His light in some of the most unlikely places… 

Grace For The Clueless: Part 3

Since I’m new to the blogging world I’ve just wanted to give you an idea of who I am and a glimpse into what my life is like living with moderate disabilities. I hope I haven’t given the impression that my life is harder or more stressful than anyone else’s. We all deal with “stuff.” I’m just sharing mine. I like to hope, though, that my “stuff” has helped shape my character in a way that makes God happy because when He’s happy with me life is just better.

I admit, letting God mold me and shape me on the potter’s wheel is probably a whole lot harder than living with hearing and visual disabilities. I’m not always easy in God’s hands. Sometimes He’s gotta carry me kickin’ and screamin’. I think it’s a whole lot easier to sit in sack cloth and ashes and wear a banner over my head that says, “Woe is me!” But that’s not really me. It’s hard to let the Potter have His way in me. The times when I want to have a pity-party are the times God has to remind me that His banner over me is, “Love.” Always. On the days when I feel insignificant or unimportant I can’t tell you how glad I am to feel the power of God’s mighty love washing over me.

A few years ago a young man berated me in Sheetz. Seriously, he gave me a verbal beating. A tongue lashing. A stoning. I’ll never forget it. Just when I think I’ve finally gotten past my insecurities I encounter someone who makes me feel small once again in the eyes of the world.

I love me some frou-frou coffee. That’s what I call a fancy cup of espresso with lots of caramel and white chocolate syrup. I eliminate the whip cream and opt for soy milk to make it a little bit healthier, but I know it’s still loaded with calories I don’t need. My husband says I don’t want a cup of coffee, I want a melted candy bar. LOL. Anyway, he spoils me rotten and we never pass by a Sheetz without stopping.

On this particular day, my husband waited in the car while I went in to get my sugar fix. I ordered my usual from the kiosk, swiped my ticket from the machine, and got in line behind a man waiting for the next available cashier. When he moved up to the counter I stepped forward and within seconds, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned to face a 20-something young man who asked, “Are you with that man?”

“No,” I replied. “Why?”

That’s when he lit in on me like a firecracker. “I was standing right here. You cut right in front of me. I was next. I thought you were with that man so I didn’t say anything, but you need to wait your turn.” And on and on and on…

I was so humiliated all I could do was apologize all over myself. I thought about groveling, even getting on my knees, but what I really wanted to do was cry. I was so upset I couldn’t form the words to tell him I was hearing impaired and blind in one eye. He had been on my left side so I didn’t see him in my peripheral vision and I didn’t hear him. I guess he was camouflaged by the coffee bar so he could’ve been a gigantic vanilla latte for all I knew. For pity’s sake, whatever happened to respect?!

When I got back to the car I couldn’t even tell my husband what had happened. Those old feelings of shame and guilt washed over me and threatened to steal the breath right out of me. I beat myself up all day long. Why didn’t I stick up for myself? Why didn’t I have the courage to speak up about my disabilities? It wasn’t until the end of the day that God opened the eyes of my heart to see it wouldn’t have made any difference to this young man whether I was partially blind or severely hearing impaired. This young man was clueless in the strongest sense of the word.

“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” 2 Timothy 2:23 & 24

Trying to explain myself to this young man would have been foolish. I would have felt even worse if I had tried to make him understand and he still didn’t get it. To be rejected and ridiculed for being physically impaired is cruel. It makes my heart hurt just thinking about it. I have tears pooling in my eyes as I write because there are people like this in the world. I may experience a small taste of it from time to time, but I know there are others who face this kind of ridicule every day of their lives. And I weep for them, too.

I take great comfort in the fact that when others don’t “get it,” God does. He is Jehovah-Nissi: The Lord My Banner. On the days when I feel defeated, discouraged or doubtful I remind myself that God goes before me with His banner of love waving high over me. When I face the uncaring, fight the unfeeling or fault the unloving I can raise my hands to the sky, lift my face to the heavens and bask in the power of His mighty love. There are just some battles I don’t have to fight because God fights for me. He says, “I’ve got this one, Nina. You need only be still.”

So, I’ve come to accept that I’m going to encounter people on this earth who just don’t have what it takes to see with kingdom eyes and feel with the heart of Christ. That’s all there is to it.  I’m not responsible for them. I’m responsible for me.  And the beautiful thing about grace is that there’s so much of it to go around. Grace isn’t something that we keep to ourselves. It’s meant to be shared.

This earthen vessel has been cracked time and time again, yet the Master Potter knows just how to repair all those cracks. To think, He still sees something in me worth repairing. Something worth rescuing. To think, He fills this vessel so full that when He tips me over I’ve got more than enough to pour out.

And that means I have enough grace for the clueless in this world.

That’s a grace-bit, if I ever heard one!

                 

“Indeed, we have all received grace after grace from His fullness….” John 1:16