Sunday, March 25, 2012

Let's Celebrate Life Today!

“So, you have two children, right?” I asked with interest.  “We have two children now.”  He paused, looking down at the floor.  “We had three children.  My wife had some troubles during her first pregnancy.  Our daughter didn’t live past six months.  She would have been a senior in high school this year.”  Our conversation stopped for a moment. We both took a breath to honor the mystery and beauty of life.  

Today, March 26th, is my 28th birthday.  It seems like every year, I find myself pondering the details of my birth, thinking about how 3/26 was not supposed to be the day I was to be born.  Although I love having something fun to celebrate as winter turns into spring, I find myself thinking about how I should have been born in the summer.  I think about how I was born premature, weighing 3lbs, 2 oz at 29 weeks.  

Holding my new nephew (1/20/12) 

This year, I’ve spent some time interviewing my parents, learning more about the story of my birth.  I’ve also been reading about premature babies.  I learned that, “In the 1980s, doctors could save only 1 in 10 [preemies]; today, that number is 9 in 10.”  When I let the reality of those numbers sink in, I had to stop for a moment and reflect.

Sometimes I take my life for granted.

Life, I’ve begun to realize, is the greatest gift I have ever been given and I am so grateful for it!  I know sometimes that life can be discouraging and full of struggle, and while life is hard, I believe there is beauty to be found in the midst of pain if we’ll look for it, and wonderful lessons to be learned as we endure the trials of life.    

Will you join with me today to celebrate life?  

  1. Take a few minutes to think about your life and all that you have to be thankful for.
  2. Consider some of the challenges you are facing right now in your life.  What are you learning from your circumstances?  Where are you challenged to see beauty in the midst of pain?
  3. Hug, kiss, call, or e-mail someone close to you today and tell them how much they are loved and how glad you are to have them in your life.

Need some inspiration?  Here’s what Gianna Jessen has to say about the beauty of life in the midst of living with cerebral palsy.  Learn more at:

Monday, March 12, 2012

Showing Honor

I surveyed the stairs that were leading to my friend’s door.  They were covered with ice and had no railing.  I began to wonder, how am I going to make it into their house?  While looking around for an answer, two gentlemen come around the corner from the garage to rescue me from my predicament.  One says, “Jenny, let me help you up the stairs.”  The other says, “I’ll get the door.”  

“Your arm, Miss,” my friend extends his elbow for me to grasp as we head up the stairs.  I look at him and smile, “It’s like we’re at the prom!  ‘Jenny Hill escorted by…’”  Suddenly, in that moment, I am transformed from a casual visitor to an honored guest.  

"It's like we're at the prom!"

Pleasantly surprised by this incident, feeling so honored by the kindness of my friends, I began to wonder:  how can we show honor to people with disabilities?  I am sure there are several ways, but here are three that come to mind:

1.        We can honor people with our language.  In college, I learned about using person-first language.  It’s a simple rearranging of our sentences helping us to see and honor people as human beings ahead of their disabilities.  For example, instead of saying, the blind girl, or the deaf boy, say the girl who is blind or the boy who is deaf.  I also recommend the use of the word disability and accessible in lieu of the word handicapped.  There’s a widely held misconception that the word handicapped actually means cap-in-hand, referring to the need for those with disabilities to beg for money.  The word handicapped actually speaks to leveling the playing field in sporting events so everyone has an equal advantage to compete.  Unfortunately, this word’s history is not widely known.  (Read more here:

2.         We can honor people with our priorities. I think it is so important to get to know people for who they are as individuals, and then out of that relationship, learn how to meet their needs.  I feel loved and honored when family and friends attend to small details for me without being asked because they have known me long enough to know my needs.  I see this in many ways:  when a seat is waiting at the door for me to sit in while I take off my shoes, when colleagues walk in quietly to the media center so I don’t startle while sitting at my desk, when friends offer to carry my food for me while walking down stairs or outside at a social gathering because they know I can’t balance everything, and when people offer to drive when going to the Cities because they know I’m uncomfortable with the traffic.

3.    We can honor people with our attention.  The issues surrounding disabilities can be challenging to understand and difficult to discuss.  However, I think we can all learn so much from taking the time to hear other people’s stories.  Stories provide a window into the world of disability for those who are able-bodied and a mirror for those who have a disability from which they can see themselves.  This is why I believe they have the unique power to offer both insight and hope.  Want to read a great story?  Here’s one about a family who has three children with cerebral palsy.  They are one of 18 families in the world to be in their unique situation, but I don’t want to give away all the details…read the full story here:

For all you Beth Moore fans, check out this story of when Beth interacted with a man in a wheel chair in an airport terminal.  It’s humorous, poignant, and very honoring!


Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Walk to Remember

“When people meet you once, they never forget you Jenny.”

I’d like to believe that if that statement is true, it’s because of my smile or my surprisingly witty sense of humor.  Perhaps people are drawn to me because I’m “MN nice.”  I’ve been told that I can relate to almost anyone.  

In reality: I think people remember me because I walk differently.  I limp.

I wish people didn’t notice my unique gait because there are times when it gets awkward—like when I need to purchase a bottle of wine from a liquor store.  On occasion, the clerk will look at my ID and stare me down.  I can see the gears turning in their head:   What is this woman doing here?!  She’s already tipsy and she has the audacity to come in the store and purchase another bottle of wine?  Do I say something, or do I let it go?  Despite the look in their eyes, no one has ever said anything to me, but it’s an uncomfortable moment for both of us. 

I want an ID that reads I'm not drunk, I just have CP.

I’ve decided that if something ever happens, I’ll run to the car and show them my parking permit, “for persons with disabilities.”  That should settle the issue immediately.  As a courtesy, for both myself, and the cashier, I try to shop at the same store so that people can get the idea that I always walk this way!  I’d love an endorsement on my driver’s license that reads:  I’m not drunk, I just have CP.

Today I was again challenged by the way my walk is perceived and remembered by others.

This morning I went for a walk at the Albertville Outlet mall.  Near the end of my stroll, a cashier who works at a grocery store in town noticed me from afar, and recognized me from her check-out line.  I was pretty bundled up, so my only conclusion is that she knew who I was because she could see the way I was walking.  I tried to tell myself that it’s not the reason, but with the 100s of people who check out groceries, and infrequency that I shop at her store, her instant recognition had to be triggered by the way I move.  (Note to self:  Never become a spy, your cover will be instantly blown.)

As I got in the car, I was a little disappointed, wishing I could remain a little more anonymous, a little more normal, and a little less distinct.

Then I had an epiphany.    

People notice and remember me for the way I physically walk, but do they notice me for the way I walk spiritually with God? Do I walk with Him in a way that is memorable and transparent, causing people to wonder what makes the steps I take so unique?  

1 John 2:6 says  Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.  Today I am inspired by my own kinesiology.  Today my prayer is that my walk with God is as distinct, transparent, and memorable as the one you see every time we meet.

Let’s keep walking like Him!

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