Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Thoughts on Thankfulness

I sat across from a seminary student in a restaurant booth this Christmas, eating breakfast together while we discussed a theology of suffering.  Suddenly, he leaned forward and asked, “How can you be so thankful in the midst of the challenges you face?”  His question surprised me; I took another long sip of coffee before I began to answer.  

It’s true. I have hard days when I am discouraged by the reality of my limitations.  In those moments, I do try to make a conscious effort to be both positive and realistic.  The more time I spend with others who live with disabilities, especially others who also live cerebral palsy, the more I am learning that the simplest things we do in life, the abilities we often take for granted, are the most profound.  I am thankful that when I open my mouth I can speak and sing with clarity.  I’m thankful that I can drive.  I’m thankful that I can live independently.

I’m thankful that in my moments of weakness, God shows Himself to be strong and able.  I used to assume that God didn’t care about the struggle people face when confronted with disability, because if He did, He would do something about it, intervening like Jesus did in the Bible.  My mind has changed as I continue on my journey.  I believe God is very near; He meets us in our struggle and walks with us in our pain.   

Living with a disability has not taught me that I need God more than anyone else, but it has been a vehicle that has helped me become more aware of my need for Him.  It has also helped me to hold a more eternal perspective.  Our troubles really are light and momentary.  Someday I will move with flawless grace, but until then, I love the invitation that Paul gives, to fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen because what is seen is temporary.  What is unseen is eternal.  

This song has been an incredible encouragement to me this week.  I hope it will be for you too.

What are your thoughts on thankfulness?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs

           Lately I’ve felt trapped in a conversation that seems to be going on in stereo around me at the lunch table: everyone seems to be talking about having kids: pregnancy, breast feeding, field trips, doctor’s appointments, lunches.  It’s a beautiful conversation really.  Many of my colleagues have within themselves the capacity to teach children during the day and then turn around and tend to their own families after the school bell rings.  This is a capacity I do not see in myself.  I don’t know how to enter into this conversation with others, so most of the time I tell myself to be quiet and keep chewing.
            There so many challenges that would lie before me if I chose to become a mother, but that might be a bit presumptuous….finding a mate is a whole other issue.  Last week I witnessed a man checking me out as I walked from my car into a coffee shop.  At first I thought it was flattering; I wondered if he liked my hat that I picked out from Charming Charlies…then I realized he was watching me walk, and then he frowned.  I don’t think I even have words to express what it feels like in those rare moments when you realize that in the eyes of the man standing in front of you, you are physically disappointing.  It makes me feel speechless and numb, like I should just be quiet and keep chewing. 
            As I was working my way through my chicken salad on Tuesday, with the baby conversation in full swing, I began to wonder how many days it would be before someone would ask me how I was doing.  I even had the vindictive idea to get up from the lunch table, walk back to my desk, pull out a stack of brightly colored post-its, and start a tally.  As I was about to slide open my desk drawer, I heard a whisper, Please don’t Jenny.  Love keeps no records of wrongs.  I realized keeping a tally was a terrible idea, for many reasons, including the fact that I’m not very good at asking people about how they are doing either.

            The next day I ran into a colleague in passing who I don’t get to see very often.  She immediately smiled, gave me a hug, and asked, “How’s school going?”  I answered and then she said, “I’m praying for you, for your classes then for your husband.” 
            I walked away, glad that I refrained from marking my post-it, and happy, that if I had, it would already be time to crumple it up and throw it away.  Perhaps I should keep another record, one that keeps track of how often and how deeply I am reminded that I am loved.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

El Roi

There’s this scene that keeps rolling around in my imagination where I’m standing before the Throne of God at the end of my life.

“I know you asked me to write about disability but that just wasn’t very…popular.”  I look down at the golden ground, stuff my hands in the back pockets of my jeans, and bite my lip for a moment before continuing.  

“I just never really developed much of a following.  The page view stats on my blog were really low, not enough people “liked it” on Facebook, or promoted it on Twitter.”  

I breathe deep before continuing, letting the rest of my confession come out in a rush:  “No one seemed to be watching.  It didn’t seem like it was worth my time…so I  quit.”

The room is silent for a beat while we stare into each other’s eyes.  God is pondering my explanation; I’m waiting for His answer.  Suddenly, He turns His head with compassion says, “I was watching.  It mattered to me.”


This isn’t how I want things to end.  

But, what do I do with how I’m wired?  I have one phone where I receive text messages, two degrees in Information Media,  and three e-mail accounts where I regularly respond to messages.  I’m enrolled in online coursework, am planning a dissertation about the administration of social media, and write a weekly blog.  I have a Facebook page, YouTube Channel, and Twitter account.  People have tried to get me to use LinkedIn and Pinterest, but I have to draw the line somewhere so….

One weekend I did. 

I turned off my computer and TV for 48 hours….

And wept.

Not because I missed my social media tools and constant modes of communication, but because I didn’t like the influence they were having on my life.

My life is too fast, too loud, and too much in front of a screen; except I didn’t know that until I stepped away for a few days.  

I’m concerned about the amount of envy, jealousy, and comparison that is stirred in me when I scroll through my Facebook feed. 

I’m haunted to find that I don’t miss communicating with people online when I take a break from social media.

What does that mean?  Is the whole thing a waste of time?  In a culture that is continually promising to connect us through the miracle of the Internet, are we really being disconnected and isolated one iPad at a time?

I don’t fundamentally believe that technology is evil, but I do think how we use it matters.  

On March 28th, I decided to step away from Facebook for at least 40 days.  I’m about half-way through my hiatus and I am finding that I feel…

Less Distracted

Less Excluded

Energized to engage in face to face relationships

More and more I want to meet El-Roi, the God Who Sees, and let Him redefine some terms in my life, especially what it means, to be “big,” “important,” and “seen.”

I love this testimony from Mike Weaver of Big Daddy Weave where he tells about how he encountered the God Who Sees in his garage:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RornLHjfma8

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Acceptance Week

Tired of being left out and left alone once again, I ran to the very edge of the playground.  Gripping the metal playground structure for support I turned away from everyone and faced the wind.  I fought hard against my lips that wanted to frown and quiver and my eyes that started to fill with tears.  Eventually, I couldn’t hold it in any longer, “God!  I don’t have any friends!”

This week was Acceptance Week at the elementary school where I work.  Every year we focus on a different aspect of diversity; this year the focus was on disability.  I volunteered to speak to our students about my experience of living with cerebral palsy.  Instead of holding one large talk in our gymnasium, I talked individually to each of our 26 classes, grades 1-4, over the course of six days.

It turns out that honestly sharing with others about the reality of living with CP feels a little like unzipping your heart.  

I showed each class a picture of myself as a baby and how I looked when I first learned to walk.  I showed them a picture of my body cast, knee stabilizers, and braces.  I took my shoes off and demonstrated how I get ready in the morning; first putting a brace in my shoe and then special inserts.  I had students practice saying “cerebral palsy” and I had them open and clench a fist so they could feel movement in their own bodies, and then I got to the last slide with this picture:

“This is a picture of me when I was in elementary school.  What do you think was the first question I was always asked by other kids at school?”

Hands shot up almost immediately, “Why do you walk funny?”

“You’re right!”  I’d answer with a smile, “What question do you think I would have liked other kids to ask first?”

“Why do you walk different!?”


“What happened to your leg?”

 I shook my head.

 “Are you okay?”

“No, that’s not it.”

At this point in the conversation some classes were silent for a moment.  Then usually one student, often someone who also has a disability, would slowly raise their hand, “Do you want to be my friend?”

Last week I wrote about struggling with the invisible qualities of God, but this week I was grateful that God has the ability to work in unseen realms.  I know that kids who are born with physical differences struggle in a very public way, but I can tell you from experience that the deepest pain they face is internal.  That’s why this week I loved the invisible nature of God just a little bit more.  As I looked into the faces of the students sitting in my reading well, I was encouraged that God has the ability to reach into the depths of our souls and heal places that human hands cannot reach.  God can bring healing to us, whenever and wherever we are: crying on the playground as a second grader or standing before them as their teacher. 

Thank you to everyone who prayed for me this week.  It’s been years since those painful days on the playground and since then God has richly blessed my life with many beautiful friends…who accept and love me just the way I am.

---Miss Hill