Monday, December 28, 2009

Peace ... Ours for the Taking...

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.”—John 14:27, NIV

Last year, I struggled with teaching a new course at the college, and two new courses at the high school. In some ways, my life felt like it had fallen apart. I had new vision loss (a much bigger chunk) and added hearing loss to the equation. I was told I should use a blind man’s cane … well, for the rest of my life. I was not reconciled to living my life with these obstacles. In fact, some of my friends insisted I was in denial!

This year, the scripture above changed my outlook. I realized that God had a plan for my life, and that plan included Retinitis Pigmentosa and Usher’s Syndrome (the names given to my vision and hearing loss). I realized that I had two choices: to accept or rail against these changes. As far as I know, God has no plans to remove them. So, little by little I allowed God to change my heart toward my circumstances. I began to see myself in a different light and to be proactive—to develop the skills I would need to cope with these problems long-term. Once I took that step, God placed a much greater peace in my life. Needless to say, this year I’ve taken greater steps in my personal spiritual growth.

January started out with despair. I still pretended to be in control and acted as if I didn’t have any vision problems whatsoever, which, of course, only enhanced my inability to deal with it. I thought I was hiding it from my colleagues and students, but really it controlled me, and left me appearing inept in both professional situations and personal circumstances. One day, in tears, I asked my sister-in-law, “Why can’t I tell my students what is going on? Why can’t I get the words out?” How could I be so self-conscious … and flawed?! I put myself down all the time. It came out in the form of jokes with my friends.

But once I began my cane training in February or March, my attitude began to change. Each time I went out for cane practice with my mobility instructor, I came back with more confidence. God led my principal to ask me to share my experiences with the high school student body. Shocked, I didn’t think I would be able to follow through on her wishes. But by May, God not only enabled me, He gave me such an enthusiasm for sharing that I brought every visual and hearing aid tool I could think of. I wanted to give our students an idea of how God provides so abundantly for us in our circumstances!

When I began to read Braille, I bubbled over with more excitement. I began to practice every day. It was simply another language to me. By this time, I had developed an excellent rapport with my counselors at the
Blind Center. My mobility trainer suggested I get more intense training in Louisiana. Instead, God provided another training opportunity closer to home in Cleveland where I could learn these same skills.

I spent three weeks blindfolded, at my insistence, to learn adaptive techniques that would make me successful when more vision loss came my way. My trainers and colleagues all had less vision than me! I learned that blindness encompasses a range of loss-from legal blindness to total blindness. Exposure to other blind people taught me that none of us were flawed in the way I once envisioned. Instead, I felt empowered.

Every time I turned around that scripture came to mind. When I felt overwhelmed, God would remind me who was in control and peace would seep back into me.

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