Category Archives: Christianity

Upside-Down and Coming to an End

It’s been a while since I last wrote, but between working a part-time job, being a mother, trying to figure out a lot of things, and now, finally, student teaching, I’ve been a little sidetracked. This past fall and winter have been a tumultuous time for me.

I hope you didn’t miss my writing too much. I have to admit I have missed writing!

To begin to explain why I call it tumultuous, riotous, turbulent, or even stormy, I would need to begin when life began to become almost topsy-turvy… And it started in August. 

My plans for graduating in December with my special education degree was screeched to a halt when it was discovered my counselor did not prepare me or inform me to take the exams and apply for student teaching for the fall semester. I was supposed to have done that back in the spring. All they could do was, “Oops. You’ll have to take a semester off and do all of it now for the spring and begin student-teaching then.” Needless to say,  I was pretty upset. I had no choice but to take a semester off. At first, I thought it was going to be an uneventful time while I waited to begin back up again… Boy, was I wrong.

Two months later, I was heartbroken to find out I had lost a dear uncle to heart disease. 

Thankfully, I had the chance to fly out with my kids and be with my family to celebrate my uncle’s wonderful sense of humor, his love of God, and his amazing life. I am also thankful my kids had the wonderful opportunity to have met their great-uncle the summer before, and in how my son developed a really wonderful connection with him.

It shook his world to find out that his friend, his great-uncle, who loved to hear his ideas and stories, was gone. I told him, “He’s in heaven, and we’ll see him soon.” “Yeah.” he’d say somberly and then smile, “Then I can tell him all sorts of stories then, right?”

I told my kids of how fun he was when I was growing up, and how I recently discovered the pivotal role his family was in helping me get the diagnosis of my deafness. They encouraged my mother of how she could help me, taking me to the University of Arizona for testing,  which led to the beginning of how I became who I am today. Wow. God puts the right people in our lives at the right time, and now I am just finding out about it.

I had just been home two weeks from being with my family for my uncle’s memorial service when I heard the unexpected news that a wonderful childhood friend of mine had died. I had so many wonderful memories with him and had hopes of seeing him when I plan to go celebrate my graduation from my Master’s program. We had even talked once about having him do my hair, as that was his profession, when I was to meet up with him. It still feels surreal to know he’s gone. Yet, I am thankful we were able to reconnect when we did, even though it was virtually through Facebook.

Fortunately, Christmas was a blessed time with snow and my dad spending the special Holiday with us.  Yet, right about that time, I was beginning to feel another change was about to happen. It wasn’t in regards to student teaching in the spring… But it was  something related to what happened a little over 16 years ago.

A piece of glass, which a doctor, 15 years ago, couldn’t remove from my wrist, was left inside after an effort was made to remove it. The glass was from the windshield of the cars involved in the life changing accident a year before this moment. It was estimated there were five pieces of glass inside that part of my wrist, and he was able to remove most of them. I can remember him saying, “Glass is tricky. It hides in blood very easily!” He did try to get them all, but as he tried to find the last elusive piece, I could remember feeling the anesthesia wearing off. He decided that was better to let the body do what it does best. “Your body will work to get rid of it. We were able to get those other ones out because your body had pushed them up. It’ll do the same for that last one in time.”  I can remember thinking, “Oh, okay. Then I’ll probably see it come up in a couple of months and get it removed.”

In the beginning, I do admit I was nervous to have anyone rub that part of my wrist when I went for a manicure or when I wore anything tight around that wrist, but as time went by, I had begun to feel that it was always going to be a part of my body.

In the past several months, it had become something I couldn’t ignore. I’ll just say it’s not a very nice feeling, and it reminds me a bit of having a stone stuck in your shoe – But it’s one you can’t get out.

In the middle of all this happening, my husband recently moved into a job that works really well for him, but it had meant I would need to wait to be able to see a doctor, as a new job meant new benefits. He had been anxious for me, but I assured him I would be fine, since we saw that it wouldn’t take long to wait for benefits to kick in… But I’ll be honest and say it was hard to be patient!

Wearing a brace had helped decrease the pain, and I had to decide to hold off on doing any crocheting until it did get taken care of. That’s hard for an artist to do!

I had a really rough day, a week ago, with being so irritated with everything going on in my life, and the annoying pain in my wrist was beginning to feel like the one that would break the camel’s back. I had so badly wanted to vent and be irritated, yet I knew it wasn’t going to solve anything. Instead, I began to pray and ask God,

“What is it, exactly, that I need?”

I realized it was Strength and Patience.

“Yeah, you think?”I thought sarcastically.

I knew now I need the strength to stand as the turbulant winds blew around me, and patience to wait out the storm. The storm will end. Winter doesn’t always last. There is almost always the bitter hard storm before the first of spring comes, and I knew I had to learn to wait..

Today, I was finally able to go see a doctor about my wrist. I was afraid, after 16 years of living with this invisible “hitchhiker” in my body, that it really wasn’t there and it was all in my head. But, after the x-ray, I was able to see this piece of glass I have been waiting for years to be free of! A little 2 mm rectangular piece of glass sat on top of one of my wrist bones just under the very layer of my skin. “It looks like some nerves are sitting right above it, keeping it right there, and it’s causing you all that pain and numbness. We can easily get that out.” He decides, “We could even do it this coming Monday. How about that?”  I ecstatically signed, “YES!” My interpreter resounded my excitement as she interpreted for me.

My son, who was with me, said a really wonderful thing as we left the office. “Mom, on Monday, you can finally be done with that car accident.”

What an amazing thought. When Monday comes, I will no longer have to wonder when it would come out and, in a sense, release me to heal completely. It is an overwhelming peace in knowing it I can begin to heal COMPLETELY.  I know I will always have scars, but I will be thankful when I see them – It is through them I will remember of God’s grace, strength, and protection.

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Deaf in Church

It’s a chilly morning.

I’ve got my coffee and sitting on my patio in hopes of letting nature around me to inspire me along with Casting Crowns blaring into my earphones. I’ve had a writer’s block for the past couple of days (maybe even weeks) when it comes to what I wanted to write about. Today, I am just going to be honest and straightforward… And gracious.

There has been one issue that has bothered me for years. Yes, years. I’ve let it go as something as being, “Oh, that’s life. Nothing is going to change.”

Yet, I wonder… Can it?

Here’s the question: Why are there not many Deaf people in churches? Why is it so hard for a Deaf person to find a church to plug into?

Everytime I move, it’s back to the question of, “Oh, where am I going to go to church?” I search for churches with interpreters, and many times it’s a frustrating struggle. Especially when the kind of church I would like to go to doesn’t have interpreters.  I was fortunate when I was living in Virginia, but here I am 700 miles away from there and at the place of struggling with the whole Deaf/church issue all over again.

I do have a church that I really like, and it did have an interpreter for a while, but the interpreter does have a life of her own and couldn’t do it anymore… Thus… Leaving me in a place of just surviving. I do the best I can to not be a burden, but I’ll be frank – it’s a frustrating and lonely place to be.

I tried a Catholic church for a while, since they offered interpreting and the priest signed. It was wonderful, but I was, again, alone. I’m not a Catholic, and even though I did try to become one years ago, I still felt isolated as not every Catholic church offered interpeters. Also, I didn’t have the fellowship that I direly needed, as the general deaf population in the church were almost 20 to 30 years older than me. Being a mother to two children and a wife to a husband going blind, I knew I needed friendships and fellowship.

Some people might tell me, “Oh, you just need God.” That might be true, but God made us to need fellowship and friendship. We are social creatures, and because of this, I knew I needed to find a balance… But this is a whole different subject.

Back to the problem: Deaf people and churches.

Why is it so difficult?

Here is what I think is why.

  • “You can lip-read?”  Not many people are aware of the struggles a Deaf person goes through in this very hearing and noisy world. I am sure many don’t realize how exhausting and imperfect lipreading is. When I sit in the front and try lipreading the speaker at church, there are many times I miss a joke and hear the congregation laughing, but I don’t know what they’re laughing about. The speaker moves around on stage and then there’s the microphone that covers the mouth… Both are not ideal for lipreading. The projection of a slide show behind the speaker helps, but I’m not getting everything.
  • Interpreters getting burnt out. I’ve had so many experiences of having interpreters quit serving in churches because they’re tired and feel they aren’t appreciated. It can become a thankless job when people take them for granted. I’ve seen interpreters give up for this reason.  This is one reason why I don’t push for one, though I know I should. Yet, my experience has taught me to be grateful when I do get one, and I strive to make them feel appreciated and pray they don’t get burnt out. When life gets in the way for them, I don’t push it.
  • Lack of funding for Interpreters. Paying for an interpeter is one way of insuring one being available, but it’s not cheap. Because of this, the interpreters are basically a volunteer position in a church environment. To interpret a service, which would be, on average, an hour or two. That can be exhausting for one person to do, which brings us back to the interpreter becoming burnt out. Oh, what an ugly cycle.
  • Many churches don’t “have a calling” to serve the Deaf community. I’ve called numerous churches when I moved to Denver, and many of them told me flat out that they didn’t provide an interpreter. I was told that it is possibly because they don’t think of it as being a need. A Deaf person looks like everyone else… It is definitely an invisible challenge.
  • “Interpreters” are not skilled enough. I’ve had the unfortunate exprience of attending a church with an interpreter who signed in Signed Exact English with a mix of something else. Needless to say, I was completely lost for a while. I did start to recognize some of the signs as I had been taught SEE when I was very young. In the end, I was exhausted from having to translate in my head what I wasn’t familiar with to even understand what the service was about. I knew I was not returning to that church.
  • Drama.  Yes, I did use that D-word. I’m sorry to say this, but I’ve seen enough drama take down Deaf Ministries and cause conflicts between interpreters, church members, and visiting deaf individuals. The church I grew up in, sadly, lost it’s ministry for several reasons, and drama was one I noticed to be part of it. Deaf people left the church as it made them uncomfortable. I left another church for a while because of it.

Now that I’ve pointed out the problems with why Deaf people aren’t in churches; what are we to do about it?

What can I do about it?

I had to think a lot about that… It’s exhausting sometimes to fight for what I need to understand what is going on around me, and then to try to cultivate relationships on top of that- Oi. No wonder I sometimes feel like throwing in the towel!

Believe me, the past couple of weeks I was thinking, “What is the point of going to church?”

I was reminded of why the Church was created in the first place. We need each other.

“But GOD… What can I DO? I’m the Deaf one.”

“No. You’re a BRIDGE.”

There are times when I wish God wouldn’t remind me of that calling.

“I’m tired. I feel so alone.”

God then reminds me of the verse that pretty much every Christian knows.

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I think I need that tattooed on me somewhere so I don’t forget.

So, again, I asked, “What can I do?”

With me being a BRIDGE, I can help those who can hear to understand of this great need. I’ve been wanting to do a sign class for ages, but the fear of adding one more thing onto my already full plate has held me back. I might just have to take that leap of faith and trust that things will be provided to help me do it.

This may not solve the interpreter situation, but it would help build an understanding and break down communication barriers that would cultivate relationships. It could also bring an awareness to a need. There are many people who come to church and see me sign songs, but I often wonder –  do they think I am fine?

Maybe.

Nothing will change if I don’t do something…

Guess it’s time to break out of my shell and try.

I just saw this quote on Facebook, and it is so true:

“Change can be scary, but you know what’s scarier?

Allowing fear to stop you from growing, evolving, and processing.”

~Unknown