Leary of Heaven

The idea that epilepsy, cerebral palsy or even my Tzeitze Disorder won’t be in my body when I get to Heaven breaks my joy. Seriously. Though I understand disabilities are perceived as “imperfect” so therefore, they won’t be in Heaven, I still want mine.

All I want out of Heaven is Jesus… and I met my Jesus because of my shambled body. Looking Jesus in the eye with a perfect body in my possession terrifies me.

To be fair, I often times forget this desire. When a 15 minute seizure wracks my body at 1am, the thought, “I get this blessing forever!” is the last thing on my mind.

First thing on my mind? “Dear God, please help me remember my name if this episode gets much worse.”

Second thought? “Lord, are you taking me home?” Though that possibility is so slim doctors rarely talk about it, most nights are met with some kind of test for my peace of mind that I have no idea how long God will allow me to love on this side of Heaven. When my body is in that much pain, the desire to be in that type of pain forever is a huge turn off. I’m still human.

But still, I met the Jesus of my Childhood face to face because of these disorders. I have countless stories of moments when loved ones remember me going crazy and all I remember is kissing the face of Jesus. Or days when I couldn’t remember my name but I was too busy literally hearing Jesus sing over me that He “knows my name”.

What most people see as a “disability” or an “inconvenience” I see as my first and final moment where someone muttered, “Meet the Lover of your Soul.” That doesn’t mean my life is impeccably perfect, but anyone who is in love with another human being will tell you- even the heart-wrenching moments are endearing and precious if they’re shared with the person that holds your heart.

Because of that, when people tell me the suffering will be over “soon” (Lord willing in another… oh…. 70 years?) I cringe. Not because I can’t wait, but because I can.

I met my Jesus because of the aches most people would call a curse.
I gladly gave God the right to the deepest, most intimate parts of my heart because of the pain that often leads me to consider the “joy” of going Home.

People often misunderstand me when I say I can’t wait to go “Home to Heaven”. They’ll pat me on the back and say something like, “I know, a painless eternity must be your greatest anticipation.” The reality is, that’s not what equates joy in my mind.

What makes me smile is the fact that some day, I’ll get to heaven and Jesus’ nail-pierced hands and scorn-pierced heart (which I’m ashamed I added to) will carry the words, “This is what pain looks like. You were so worth it.” My own pain will remind me of the value of those words.

I never want to give that reminder up.

Strange Resentments

Someone forgot to tell the guy he wasn’t allowed to run my trail when I’m on my trail.

I got away from humanity tonight and, man, did it feel good. I was having an absolute blast tickling the ears of God, asking questions I’m told I’m too old to ask.

“So, Lord… why can’t the trees talk? What story are they telling that I can’t hear?”

“So Lord, how come you can mix pink, green, brown and yellow on the inside of bark and it doesn’t look like a disaster? I mean, humans tried that in the 60’s and it looked awful…. this looks amazing!

“So, Lord, what’s up with the way the ice melts and freezes? How do you come up with all those different designs?”

“So, Lord, how in the world do you preserve some plants to pop with color in the dead of winter? That plant was bright red! Why??”

I love those moments when God whispers, “Just enjoy me, Baby Girl.”

But then the guy ran by. In as uncreepily a way as possible, I watched him until I could no longer see his legs. This man was in his mid-50’s and in better shape than most 20-somethin’s. But for whatever reason, I got stuck on the image of his legs. (We interrupt this blog post to affirm I am not a stalker.)

He could run.
His muscles reacted when he commanded them to move.
His hips weren’t popping in and out of joint every other pace.
He could run. He could do something my legs have never done without injury. Resentment for this stranger (who had no idea he had bothered the community’s loudmouthed midget) crept in quickly.

My joy died. I was no longer making up fun conversation starters with God. I was going through the list of the things God withheld from my body. Seamlessly working limbs were definitely at the top of the list. Dang it, I want to run…. Why can’t I run?

Right before I threw myself on the dirt to throw a tantrum (you think I’m kidding??? Thanks, but not really), I looked back at God’s creation. Only moments ago I thought the dead leaves, bending trees and gurgling brook were the only things I needed to make me remember the goodness of God. Yet one thing came across my path and I forgot that goodness.
As my heart calmed down, I heard the heart of the God I love.

He simply reminded me that if I was capable of running, I wouldn’t have taken the time to slowly enjoy the things most people ignore. It felt as if He kissed me on the cheek as He muttered:

You and I can run in Heaven. Enjoy me now anyway.

The Secret Death of Joy

“Fear of not understanding everything about Me cripples his heart. He’s more disabled than you are with your own limitations, Cass.”

There’s a gentleman I used to rub shoulders with who was constantly being scrutinized for the way he presented Truth. Most days, the Biblical stance that spewed from his mouth was most assuredly sound. He knew his “stuff”. But still, there was just something that made people more angry than accepting of what should have been his greatest impact on those around him.

What most people didn’t see (and what I’m still trying to understand) is this man believed in God and spent every waking moment striving to understand God. It was beautifully precious to watch. But he strove so hard to know everthing of the heart of God that he forgot to enjoy God. It crippled him.

Those of us that knew him well respected him and treasured him. But we knew what many people didn’t seem to understand. He was scared. Scared of what, no one knew. But that fear made him bitter. It crippled him.

Those years spent begging my loved ones to enjoy a man who let knowledge define him taught me something I’ll never forget.

It is incredibly possible to be crippled with bitterness- that bitterness can often times be seen as intimidating… and your life changes.

I learned through that experience that my greatest disability wasn’t epilepsy, tzeitze syndrome, or even Cerebral Palsy. Those three things that people see as limitations actually benefit me. It’s easier for me to relate to the broken, love the unlovable, and it gives me an audacious yearning to feel the heartbeat of God. They aren’t what define me, but they have made me slow down so I can see God.

What crippled me most was my bitterness towards the unknown. That one thing broke me of the ability to love well — I struggled the most with putting aside my bitterness to love anyone with any diversity. As a disabled person, that meant everyone; even other disabled people.

When that same gentleman came to mind this past week, God took the time to remind me that at times, bitterness is seen as a private issue when in fact, it cripples you more than any doctor’s note can.

Choose joy before you choose understanding and knowledge… watch God free you.

I Know that Muslim

“I married him because, well, you know what I look like. No self-respecting American could bear being seen with me. I became a Muslim because that was the only way I could get married to have the children I want.”

“Tracy” had decided that at 21, if she wasn’t married yet, she never would be. Though I don’t know how she gained her information, she went to her last resort before despair overtook her- an online Muslim dating site. It’s actually a thing. The rest of her message told me about the shotgun wedding, the trip to her new husband’s homeland and the positive pregnancy test. As a 23 year old myself, I was overwhelmed with questions Tracy wouldn’t answer and prayers I had no idea my heart could pray.

As I read Tracy’s goodbye message, three thoughts went through my head.

First, I vehemently gained a hatred for instant messaging overnight. I wanted to see my sweet friend’s face to know what was going on inside her head as she arranged here new home. It didn’t make sense.

Secondly, the image of her shadowed face and body she produced as her profile picture was permanently stamped in my mind. She was filled with shame over her body and thought that was all she had to draw men. It’s what she had been taught, and it had consumed her life. I recounted the countless times all I did was hug her instead of call her beautiful… or told her about the Christ that would and did love her at 45 pounds or 900. How could I have never seen her pain? I was 9 when we met, but I grew up with her– Did I have an excuse?

Thirdly, I choked back a scream as I realized every Muslim that made the news and every killing that was attributed to certain Muslims would now hold a deeper meaning because Tracy was now of the assumption it was required and acceptable to teach her future children that Holy War was their goal. She did it out of fear, but every time she defended the way her husband trained their children in the years to come she sounded more and more convincing.

For those of you that call yourselves Christians, as ISIS killings, Islamic Terrorism and “Allah Akbar!” become even more frequent in the background of America, please remember a few things:

Posting your rage on a social media site does nothing. You have to devote your life to being sheltered from the world to not know what’s going on with the different aspects of Islam. Devaluing these who kill Christians for no reason is just as sinful as the act of murder in the first place. Romans 3:23 says that, “All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.” There is no discussion of what sin is more offensive… nor is there any discussion of the sin that cannot be forgiven. We can’t understand the sin of murder for religious reasons (honestly it makes me sick), but I guarantee you we’re just as confusing to them.

I challenge you to pray for these individuals with just as much passion as you’re willing to convey in the safety of your home.

Secondly, although it’s heartbreaking, confusing and infuriating to see brothers and sisters killed or imprisoned… realize the bondage of the fanatical muslims are in and the prison their hearts and minds are in without even knowing it. Defense of your family is wise, but I challenge you to realize that every Muslim, no matter how supportive of the Jihad they may be, are one of the creations Christ desires to draw to Himself. How you talk about, debate and defame these people conveys much about how deeply you believe your Christ is bigger than the idols and fake gods of any other culture.

Thirdly, understand that the Christians you’re passionate about bringing home and avenging are either captured or have passed away because they stood up for an absolute Truth of Christ they wanted those very muslims to cling to someday. Islam is not a “faceless cult” to me because of Tracy and a few others who have crossed my path in recent years. The faces behind the guns matter, as hard as that is for even myself to remember.

Make sure your heart can handle the fact that Heaven will prayerfully be filled with Muslims who came to Christ despite the fact that they killed the man they’re standing next to worshipping the same Lord you are.

The Shadowed Life

Christians are weird.

If it wasn’t for the fact that I’m partial to ’em, I could say a lot more. But what cracks me up is the weird way we dive deeply into conversations with strangers.

People at bars? “Sup, whatcha drinking? Anyone drinking with you?”

People at a park? “Is my son playing with your kid? Aren’t 5 year olds an adventure?”

Not Christians. Nope. When faith comes up – as it often does – we ask one terrifyingly open ended question, “What’s your story?”

I don’t mind that question, I really don’t. But Dude… give me some guidelines. You want my story from the time of conception or just the emotional highlights that make people cry? You want the story that highlights Jesus or lets you see how selfish I can be? The question was easy when I was 12- my story was maybe two sentences long- “I came to Jesus when I was 4. Then I grew up. I’m still growing up.” (Okay, that was 3 sentences. Numbers aren’t my thing.)

This past month I have met a conglomeration of new people. Most of them family members of friends and loved ones or acquaintances of acquaintances. Most of them were Christians, so “The Question” came up a lot.

I learned when my disabilities didn’t matter and what did was the fact that I’m proof God can completely transform a discarded mess into a heart that loves people.

I learned when to allow my story to be all medical terms and no emotion but all scientific proof that God still exists.

I learned when to make my story a story of forgiveness.

I even learned what it meant to let someone else tell my story for me… and then love them anyway when they stopped telling my story and just talked about Jesus. I learned to strive for the shadows and to let God shine so brightly I was no longer seen as the subject. No matter what.

There’s one blessed thing about being asked that ambiguous question a trillion times in 31 days.

You realize Jesus can look completely different depending on what story He asks you to tell.

No matter the perspective of my story, it’s the same Jesus.

My Name Doesn’t Matter

The inside joke around my friends and I is that names don’t matter in my world because I use sign language more than English. I hate admitting this, but… it’s actually true. You should feel impeccably special if I can remember your spoken, English name after the first time we’ve met because, well, in Sign Language (what I call my heart language) names are flexible. Literally.

It’s too culturally endearing to fully describe, but the reality is, when you walk into a room of Sign Language dependent people, they give each other a sign that represents that person. You can have a “Sign name”, but if anyone else’s Sign name looks like yours, one of you has to adopt a different one for the night…. Have I lost you yet?

Regardless of what all that meant, my point still stands. I’m not being disrespectful by not learning your name… I’ve just learned to act as if it’s not the number one important thing about you cuz it can change.

My boyfriend Peter is learning how to sign. Some days I’m astonished at what he knows after 3 months of learning and some days I want to hurt him for not knowing enough. He got all the patience and logic between the two of us. It’s slightly unfair. When it comes to learning the cultural understanding behind Sign names he’s just as confused about the whole thing as anyone else.

Yesterday, he was informed by someone else who uses Sign Language that a person can have more than one name depending on the circumstance. For whatever reason, he took that to mean he got the right to “name me.”

I don’t think he understood what he did when he randomly switched to a signed conversation in the middle of our friends’ kitchen (who praise God, don’t know Sign Language) and let me know what I get to be in his mind.

Once I caught on, I just about started crying…. Peter named me. In deaf culture you just don’t do that on a whim very often. If you have the audacity to give someone a different Sign name, especially when they don’t need one at the moment, it better mean something and better be for a darn good reason.

I had to fight back tears even more when I walked away and I heard God chuckle. I could almost hear Him saying,

“If you get choked up about ‘secret names’ now; I can’t wait to tell you the name only I have for you. Just wait, Baby Girl… this is only the beginning.”