Unlikely Megaphones 

His cerebral palsy made mine look like a cakewalk. His hand wasn’t simply weak or lame, it was so twisted you only shook his thumb, not his entire hand. His speech was perfect, but he could only smile with one side of his mouth. His gate was jolted, unsteady and scary to watch.

I was 10 the first time I realized he was married; 12 when I met his wife for the first time. His wife never stopped talking about how happy she was and it was obvious they both loved each other and loved life. If anything, at my young age, I was a little grossed out by how “newlywed-ish” they were. 

But, regardless, I couldn’t get over it. He was married and he and I had the same disability. He was proof that disabled people could not only make marriage work, but make it work incredibly well. As a kid who struggled with being accepted because of my differences, the idea of ever being married was an impossible dream.

Over a decade later, with my own marriage as an example, I know the truth. My friend and his wife were not blessed with Pollyanna optimism. They both had to choose Christlike joy no matter their circumstances on a daily occurrence. But it came at a price. Almost always that price was steep, and equally worthwhile.

He had to give up his pride; she had to learn how to serve.

He had to trust her; she had to affirm him.

She had to learn to see beauty when other’s saw awkward; he had to learn how let her.

They had to work together to find fulfillment despite the daily hurdles they faced. 

They both had to learn to laugh at the unknowns and giggle at their differences.

They both had to ignore what the world said of their marriage and focus on what Christ called them to: Serving Him together and giving the world a picture of love.

Personally, I cringe every time I have to ask my husband for help. Memories of my mother entrusted with the same tasks and doing them alone taunt me on an hourly basis. But asking for my husband’s help gives me a chance to sacrifice my pride, and gives him a chance to serve like Christ. In return, I have a chance to prove God never wanted us to fulfill His glory alone.

In Sunday School, kids are taught the mantra and Bible verse, “In your weakness, He (Christ) is made strong.” Physical disabilities are proof of such truth. Marriages which involve disabilities are megaphones of that truth to the world. 

This disability is no longer my disability — it’s our platform to show Christ. What a glorious opportunity to be entrusted with… together. 

A Lesson From An Atheist

Our differences are stark:
He’s a “man’s man who don’t need no woman.” I’m every type of tomboy imaginable but I still look for sentimentality in stupid places and love leaning on the man of my heart.

My friend is an atheist. I’m a Christian. 
He thinks I need more rights as a woman. I couldn’t disagree more.

He’s black. I’m so white I’m translucent.

He can’t stand “the system.” Though it rubs against my every day activities, I’ve learned to roll with the punches unless it’s biblically and morally uncalled for.

Our similarities crack me up:

We both love to argue.

We both like to argue.

In case you missed it, we both love to argue.

We both know how to source our facts.

We both hate politics, but our shared desire for justice makes most of our conversations about things we need to see change in this country.

There is nothing more comical than putting a determined atheist in a friendship with a stubborn follower of Jesus Christ. Many o’ times, one of us (usually me) calls a time out on our heated arguments about Jesus, religion, women’s rights, marriage, children and every other hot topic because our friendship matters more than our opinions. Too many times, I’ve wandered into the Throne Room screaming, “Why, Jesus?!” when the arguments can’t end on agreeable terms. I’ve been told a time or two this guy would love it if he could just program me to “get it.”

No matter how much our differences heat us up, though, we stop when our respect for each other is threatened. I have my boundaries, he has his. Crossing those boundaries is not allowed, especially if we feel like the other person’s value is undermined because of our disagreement. It’s acceptable to be passionate about something the other person is not. It’s also acceptable to shut up for a while. It’s even acceptable to decide talking till you agree isn’t worth sacrificing the friendship itself.

It is not acceptable, however, to devalue another person or attempt to strip them of their opinion because it makes you uncomfortable. 

Being acclaimed as right is nice, I’ll give you that. But sometimes, the people that are able to stand strongly by simply living out their views in how they treat others will leave the most impact.

Pain Helps Me

“Wait, my friend told me you have a pacemaker? I have a pacemaker!”

I’ll be honest, that was the last pick-up line I ever thought I’d hear anywhere. Subconsciously, I put my hand over the scar above my collar bone and made eye contact with the inquirer. I call my Vegal Nerve Stimulator a “pacemaker-like thing” to nonmedical people because most people couldn’t care less what epilepsy-related operations I’ve had.

What the heck was I supposed to do with someone who has an actual pacemaker?

Living in a small town affords for random people hearing my medical story from other super random people. Too often, self-made storytellers get my story wrong, though. I come to my quiet coffee shop in the mornings to get some alone time, but there has been more than one occasion where God whispers to my heart, “You and I have all morning. This person needs you.”

Sometimes, I act like I don’t hear Him. That’s when I discover God has a sense of humor as He throws me into super awkward pick-up conversations.

Twice I’ve been set up to chat with people who are still getting their minds around the fact that they need hardware in order to survive. Once, the man had only had his pacemaker for a month. This morning, my random new friend was processing having a pacemaker for a year and still facing complications. 

My story doesn’t feel similar. I’ve been post-operation for eight years now.

If it was up to me, I wouldn’t talk about my pain with these people. First off, I don’t know them. Second off, my pain is regulated and in the background. Their pain is most assuredly in the foreground. It doesn’t seem fair to them to be lumped in the same category. My pain means chest-pain and thirty seconds where I can’t control my head movement. Totally different from people who can’t trust their heart to keep beating.

But, it’s interesting how God shows up despite the fact that these strangers’ facts about my life are inaccurate. I’ve learned to chuckle when I’m asked about my “pacemaker scar” from someone I don’t know. Then, without much effort, I ask the only question I wish people asked rather than asking me if I was, “doing okay, today.” 

“What’s your new normal and how has that new normal made you look for Jesus?”

I sat with a total stranger today and discussed how pain is a conduit for God’s grace, rather than a cause for depression. As I walked away from my newest comrade, she smiled and asked a question I never thought I’d hear.

“Isn’t it weird how our pain makes Jesus’ love show up in a deeper way?” 

When Vanity Speaks

I growled at my reflection this morning (not a normal practice). “You have got to be kidding me!” I mumbled as I rolled my eyes. It was one red, slightly swollen pimple. On a 26-year-old. Skin allergies to my favorite stress food don’t take day off. As I quickly recounted my last three days of existence, I rolled my eyes even harder (is it possible to do that?).

One piece. Of chocolate. Uno. Singular. ONE! That’s what caused the stupid blemish on my face. Three days ago, I might add. As I glared at my reflection, I sarcastically confessed my “sin” of endulging in chocolate with with slight hopes that my action would make it disappear. No such luck. Apparently, the idea that acne disappears after you’re done growing up (at 5′ .5″, that’s a relative statement), doesn’t count for me. 

As I slipped into my comfy shorts, I sighed unhappily realizing that, though I’ve lost weight, I’ve gained muscle. All that means, for you patient men reading this, is the number isn’t shrinking as fast as I want it to (yesterday?). It’s just a number, but it’s a number that verifies I like eating, I’m comfortable in my body and… Well… I am well aware that my hips don’t react well to my addiction to salt and chips.

Because I spent my adolescent years drastically ill, my body didn’t have time to worry about weight or skin allergies. Eating chocolate meant I could wake up without drinking coffee — which often caused seizures. Eating chips meant my 85 pound frame might rise to a slightly more acceptable weight of 87; which I promptly worked off by having four or five more seizures. 

I may have looked model thin and not had to wrestle with the finer points of vanity, but it wasn’t worth it.

We often forget that blemishes, frustrations and the stupid things that distract us from God are there to prove we’ve lived. For God-honoring Christians, they’re also there to remind us that even in the mundane, we need God. 

It’s a stupid example, really. But this morning I was reminded that enjoying life often leaves its trace. May we learn to glory in the fact that the Creator has given us the ability to live. Maybe someday, we’ll learn to treasure the markings of life because the truth is, living fully is something not given to everyone. 

War-Filled Love Story

The Viet Nam vet hated me to his core. Every morning as I walked through the entry way to man my post at work, he was there. Hot cup of coffee in his hand, leg up on a chair, scowling at anything that dared to move in his presence. 

I’ve only been called names that made me blush out of hurt confusion four times in my life. The words this hurting man hurled at me almost every morning made the titles of Monster & Invalid seem petty. He didn’t even know my name. He never studied my nametag. 

To him, I didn’t need a name. It was much easier to hate me if my smile didn’t come with a name. 

I knew *Dan’s story well enough to know he battled nightmares, night terrors and flashbacks I’d never come close to understanding. I understood he hated my joy because he’d seen things in “‘Nam” that made joy feel like an impossibility.  I don’t think he understood that the harder he hated me, the more vigorous I strove to love him. 

I didn’t understand war, but I knew what it was like to feel as if I wasn’t worth the air I breathed. In an incomprehensible way, I saw myself in his anger. It still wasn’t easy loving him, though. 

I went to church with Dan’s dad. The 92-year-old had Jesus on his mind every single moment of his day. What his son, Dan, lacked in joy, *John doubled 100-fold. One day out of blatant curiosity and youthfulness, I simply asked John what I was supposed to do with Dan. To this day, I have no idea where that boldness came from.  

John didn’t think I was being imposing, though. He smiled a smile that lit up the room, chuckled and said, “Sweetheart, thanks for asking. So many people have stopped trying with Dan. If you can’t love him despite his anger, love him because you love me. You bless me every time you touch him, smile or question him. Just love him because you love me, but also because you love Jesus.”

It was that day in which I learned a reality I’ve never forgotten. Often times, people get hard to love because we’ve stopped loving Christ so deeply we simply can’t help but love his broken creation. 

When loving people gets hard, love Jesus more. 

Leave Me Alone

I smiled at the bright-eyed little boy and mouthed, “hi!” He slowly turned toward his mom, still studying me. His mom smiled reassuringly when he finally glanced at her. He then glanced at me, smiled a nearly toothless grin and waved.

Little kids are born with an innate need to look to their guardian for assurance. It’s this skill that teaches them everything. It’s a bit awe-inspiring, really. Admit it, watching an 8-month-old try to mimic your mouth as you talk is fascinating. Watching a kid show off talent like a summersault and then immediately look for approval does something to a person’s heart.

Somewhere along the line, kids stop looking at us as much. They gain confidence in how to walk, talk, and learn new things. It’s bittersweet that first time we hear, “No. Me do.” Whether they really can do it doesn’t matter in their minds. Our helpful hands get pushed away with as much strength as their little bodies can muster.

What if we didn’t treat our relationship with God in the same way? What if, no matter how good we got at life, we never pushed God’s hand away? Even though our relationship with with God is often described and portrayed like a child, father relationship, distancing ourselves from Him as we grow up is the one thing that shouldn’t be similar.

But it is.

What if we didn’t act as if our one dying need was independence and self-reliance? What if we never acted as if we were too old to look to our Savior as our example and our approval?

Open Letter to a 501(c)3

Dear Noprofit Advocates,

This is not meant as a shaming letter. I love your passion for orphans, refugees, sex trafficked victims and any other type of mission you’ve shared with me. I love knowing God gave you that passion for a reason. I even love your boldness in standing in front of hundreds of college students and presenting your organization’s financial needs. That takes guts. Good job.

I agree with you. All you’re asking us to do is give up four coffees a month in order to support your passion-focus. You even go as far to point out that if we set a goal with a friend, we would give up less. (We’re going to ignore the fact that people like me would give up bread before we give up our coffee.) It’s a doable sacrifice for an overwhelming need. It helps that all of you are immaculate storytellers. Good job only focusing on the needs and not giving past successes. That makes it harder to say no.

Is it possible that’s what you wanted? Why can’t this be about joining you in praising God for what He’s already done and merely talking about how we’re called to support these group together? Maybe becase that’d make it easier to walk by your table with the darling kiddos’ faces staring at me without opening my wallet?

Before I go any further, please know I completely understand what it’s like raising support. My parents were missionaries and there were a few times as a kid I was confused that a pastor would invite us to speak and then no one joined the bandwagon. It’s hard not shaming people into supporting you or your passion when you know the need firsthand.

Can I share with you what I learned as I watched God provide despite what I didn’t see coming from those churches? The reality is, if every family in the pews spread their resources through every mission that walked through the door, none of the missions would feel helped. They would all feel like the people were merely doing it for the tax write off or spiritual pat on the back – not because they knew God wanted to use them financially to support something bigger than themselves. 

So, I humbly ask you to not cheapen the gifts you receive by shaming those who can’t or don’t give. Certainly, there are those who can give and don’t, but that’s none of your business. That’s between them and the Lord. But many of the God-fearing Believers in your audiences don’t give because they are already giving all they have toward something else. 

I’ll say it again, I love your passion for your organization. However, please work against playing the Judge over how many people you need to join your cause in order to get your yearly goal met. If everyone gave, if every college student sacrificed, I wonder how much less applause God would get simply because you could explain it away as good busines and financial stewardship?

You have your passions. I have mine. You can be guaranteed I have searched my heart to see if God wants me to join you in your passion. Some of your missions He has given me permission to give money to; others of you, I am that dejected college student that has learned to walk past your table with her head down.

Challenge us to pray. Challenge us to speak our questions. Challenge us to pray again, then watch God work miracles without your help.

No shame necessary.

I will join you on my side of the world proclaiming God’s faithfulness if you promise to do the same.

Sincerely,

A Pensively Challenged College Student