disabilities

Thankful Thursdays Guest Post: When Losing Is Gaining

Today’s guest post comes from my friend, Sara. Sara and I went to high school together, but we didn’t really become friends until this past year when we reconnected through Facebook and blogging. I am constantly inspired by Sara’s outlook on her life, by the way she clings to faith in difficult times, and by her willingness and desire to do whatever God asks of her. She has such a beautiful, tender heart. I got chills reading this piece which brought me into her experience of living with a “disability” and reminded me of the God who is in the business of redeeming our brokenness.

When Losing Is Gaining

I remember.

I remember the day I woke up and felt like my only hearing ear was stuffed with paper, or cotton, or wax. I remember the dizziness I felt as I tried to get out of bed that morning, unaware that my life would change forever as I lurched forward to vomit. Confused. Dizzy. Vertigo.

I remember.

I remember how it felt as people’s voices grew fainter and fainter and I grew angrier and angrier, placing blame at the people around me for my not being able to hear them. It was their responsibility to enunciate their words. It was their responsibility to stop mumbling. It was them and it was not me.

I remember. I remember the look my doctor gave my mother and the tears in my mom’s eyes. The emergency overnight flight to Memphis and the 3 day hospital stay. I remember doctors talking all around me, tests being run every moment, people frantically trying to figure out what was going on and I was unaware. Unaware. They were unheard.

She’s deaf. In her only hearing ear. Meniere’s Disease. Steroids. Diuretics. Exercise. Dizziness. Weakness. Sun that hurt. Feeling faint. So tired. More steroids.

I remember. I remember looking at my mom as tears rolled down my face and I handed her the dry-erase white board I now used for communication scribbled with “Will this ever go away?” We cried.

I remember the man who came to visit me who sat down in front of me and anointed me with oil. He prayed over me and though I couldn’t understand a word that came from his mouth, I remember. And smile.

I remember my friends forming a fortress around me, getting out their cell phones and texting me so we could have conversations in the car… Conversations in the dark that anyone else could have heard, but me. We formed a clan that summer, a tight-knit group there to support one another, and those bonds – they have never gone away.

I also remember seeing sign language for the first time and smiling as I thought “Wow, my life could really change if I knew that!” I remember learning and practicing so that one day I could communicate without reading lips or using my white dry-erase board.

I remember the tender moments with Mom as she spurred me on to keep exercising. “Sara, I know you feel weak and dizzy, but you’ve got to keep on.” I remember with thankfulness.

I remember my first hearing aid. I put it on and heard them for the first time in two years. Birds chirping. As birds chirped, my heart flooded with thankfulness. I’ll never forget it.

Going deaf was the best thing that has ever happened to me. Even now, I open my eyes every morning and put my hearing aid on and listen. With my level of constant fluctuating hearing loss, some days I listen to the birds outside my window and can actually hear them. Other times, I can hear them only if I close my eyes tight enough and imagine. With a smile I feel my puppy’s steady breaths beside me and imagine what they sound like.

I go to “Silent Dinners” that are literally just that, where instead of hearing with my ears, I hear with my eyes. It’s miraculous. I meet, talk, and bond with people I never would have known before. I feel thankful.

I feel thankful when I chat with someone I know and they smile- through silent conversation. I feel thankful when I go to church and have the privilege to lead worship to deaf brothers and sisters in Christ who have become so close to my heart. Because they are my people. They are my people and their God is my God.

I remember with thankfulness those 12 years ago when I was so sick and lost most of my hearing, then regained some. I remember with thankfulness, because that’s made me who I am today. Would I be where I am and communicate with those I do if that hadn’t happened? Would I see the deaf community as my own and be in their family?

Even today, when I sit with hearing people at the dinner table and I get lost in their conversations, not knowing who’s talking about what or when. When my hearing loss threatens to isolate me from those I love most and I feel most alone. When I feel that I cannot connect with anyone. When fear grips me during a job interview when I realize a major part of the job is talking on the phone… I’m still thankful. I’m thankful because I get a just little glimpse in my adult life what people in the Deaf community have experienced their entire lives. I get that little glimpse and because of that, God has enabled me to minister, to develop the dearest friendships, and to love to the fullest.

I wouldn’t trade it. Not for the world.

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SaraAuthor Bio: Since moving from her home in Louisiana, Sara has found herself living life in the mountains of east Tennessee with her puppy, Watson. When she’s not saving kittens from trees and puppies from rooftops, she’s reading about spirituality, love, and life and writing about life in her blog at scarmichaelblog.worpress.com.

Author Bio: Since moving from her home in Louisiana, Sara has found herself living life in the mountains of east Tennessee with her puppy, Watson. When she’s not saving kittens from trees and puppies from rooftops, she’s reading about spirituality, love, and life and writing about life in her blog at

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Thankful Thursdays Guest Post: Gratitude in a Nutshell

I first connected with Kelsey through my infamous Relevant article last summer, but it wasn’t until I wrote this post about friendship and social anxiety that we really got to talking. We have SO MUCH in common, both personality-wise and in terms of our experiences with the church and with faith. Although we’ve never met in person, I count Kelsey among my real-life friends because she is a true kindred spirit. She is also a terrific writer and you should read more of her posts over at her blog.  This post was, frankly, humbling for me. I hope you let it impact your heart, too.

Gratitude in a Nutshell

The intensity of the California heat felt jarring to our Washingtonian weather sensibilities and sunburned noses as we stood in line at California Adventure. There were Mickey ears and Disney shirts as far as the eye could see and horror-movie-quality screams kept floating through the air from the direction of Tower of Terror. But I wouldn’t have been able to scream if I’d wanted.

My throat was feeling restricted, as if a man had wrapped a giant, strong hand around my neck and was beginning to squeeze. Choking, suffocating. The clock was ticking, and every second counted. If we didn’t act quickly I could go into anaphylactic shock; if we didn’t act quickly … I could die.

My soon-to-be husband knelt by the bench I was sitting on as if he was proposing, but instead of a ring he was wielding an Epi-Pen. He called 911 and we waited anxiously knowing that if the epinephrine wore off before the medics arrived that the reaction would return in full force.

But soon the medics were running through the park. Soon I was lying in a bed at the ER, where I stayed until midnight.

I hadn’t noticed it until it was too late, but a woman next to me in line had opened a jar of peanut butter because her little kids wanted a snack. I hadn’t seen it, so I hadn’t had time to get away.

This is what life with anaphylaxis can look like. Everything is going along, business as usual, and the next moment someone’s jabbing you with an Epi-Pen and the medics are taking you on an exclusive ride, minus all the Disney characters, in the direction of the nearest hospital.

Even though I have an officially recognized disability, it’s invisible. So I look perfectly normal. But my life is defined by something people can’t automatically spot the first time they meet me the way they’d notice a wheelchair or a seeing-eye dog. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less present.

Like other disabilities, mine impacts, restricts, and defines every day of my life from choosing a new purse based solely on its Epi-Pen carrying potential to avoiding visits to most movie theaters and coffee shops because of the peanut-y treats that are served; from insuring my phone’s battery never gets too low so I always have the ability to call the medics should I need them to the very awkward introductions that go along with making a new acquaintance: “Hello. My name is Kelsey and if you eat peanuts next to me you could kill me. If I ever go into anaphylactic shock, if you could please use my Epi-Pen and call 911 immediately I’d really appreciate it. It’s so nice to meet you.”

After developing anaphylaxis after graduating from high school, there’s been a lot of grief, frustration, anger, and loss that have been a part of coming to terms of what living with a life-threatening invisible disability means. And for me gratitude — not some overly-perky silver lining kind of thing but the acknowledgement that there are still things to be thankful for — is what more than anything helps to pull me out of bouts of depression and enables me to enjoy my life even though it’s not what I planned.

I used to think of gratitude as a “but.” For example, “I live with a life-threatening disability … but I have a family who loves me so it’s okay!”  But I’m learning that, at least for me, gratitude isn’t a “but.” It’s really more of an “and.” Gratitude doesn’t negate problems or make things magically all better. Instead, it helps keep things in perspective: I live with a life-threatening disability and I have a very supportive family.

I hate having to ask for help with things like grocery shopping. And when peanuts are in season I can’t set foot in several of the stores in town. It makes me feel so much less independent and less like an adult. However, I’m also grateful for my husband and mom who are both willing to help out as much as needed when I can’t take care of something myself. I feel frustrated that I’m less independent and I’m also thankful I have support.

I can feel depressed or even angry that I have to deal with this, while also feeling grateful that I live in an age when there are life-saving inventions like Epi-Pens. I’m thankful for my doctor who helps me brainstorm about how to do things like go on vacation as safely as possible.

I feel so isolated from the world at large sometimes. And I’m also thankful for blogging because it gives me a community. I can interact with people all over the world; I can make friends and share life without ever having to worry about what someone next to us might be eating. For me, this is huge.

It can be challenging for me to make new face-to-face friends. And I’m also so very thankful for the ones I have. I’m thankful for the friends who have learned how to use my Epi-Pen so they’ll be prepared for an emergency. I’m thankful for the ones who are willing to be flexible about where we hang out or de-peanut their houses so that I can visit. I’m thankful for a friend of mine who is about to get married and ensured that not a single thing on the menu has peanuts because she wanted me to be able to come. It’s harder for me to meet people because so many things center around food and I’m also blessed with some extremely supportive people in my life.

I feel upset with my grandpa who uninvited me from family Thanksgivings and Christmases at his house because he likes to feed the squirrels peanuts. He keeps a very large bag of peanuts next to the dining room table, and was afraid the squirrels wouldn’t enjoy something else so I was uninvited. And I’m also thankful for my in-laws. They made their house completely peanut-free so that I can stop by anytime I want without having to call first to see if they’ve had anything with peanuts that day. I’m thankful that they’ve made sure every holiday dish is Kelsey-safe. I’m hurt by how my grandpa has handled my anaphylaxis and I’m grateful for my in-laws.

I feel grief and loss over my career dreams. During an interview my first questions would be, “Where do people eat? Is it possible for me to completely avoid where they eat? Does anyone ever bring peanut butter cookies to work? What about candy? PB and Js?” The hubby and I realized that a usual 9 am to 5 pm gig wasn’t safe for me. And there’s still grief associated with that loss. And I’m also so thankful that my husband’s top priority is keeping me safe, so he’s fine with us being a one-income family or me working from home even though that means we’ll have to be more frugal.

It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed, angry, and heartbroken; it’s hard to be grateful. But choosing to see the people and things in my life that make my life fuller, more beautiful, safer, and happier helps me to live. Gratitude isn’t a magic formula that makes everything perfect or happy or easy, but being grateful helps me to focus on the good and to keep a more balanced view of my own life. Gratitude doesn’t negate the negative but it helps me to not lose sight of the fact that there are some positive ands in there, too. Life is hard sometimes and it’s also beautiful.

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Hey Guys – It’s Lily here again. I just wanted to take a second to say that after reading this I was convicted to be more mindful about the foods I choose to eat in large public places. Researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies and the number of children with serious food allergies has doubled in the past decade. While I can’t possibly anticipate allergies in every person I come into contact with, there are a few things (such as peanuts and tree nuts) that are pretty easily avoided when in public that might make a big difference for someone else. One of my roommates from college suffered from debilitating chronic migraines that were often triggered by scents. It took some diligence, and I still forgot sometimes, but choosing to forgo the scented lotion or to paint my nails outside were barely noticeable sacrifices compared with the benefit to my roommate. Just something for all of us to consider as we seek to love the world around us well.

Kelsey bioAuthor Bio: Kelsey Munger is native Washingtonian who overuses hyphens, and is still undecided on her stance regarding the Oxford comma. When she’s not blogging, she enjoys reading about food, faith, feminism, and thanatology (but not necessarily in that order). Also loves fiction, a nice hot cup of tea, and marathoning too much TV with her nerdy husband. You can find her at KelseyMunger.com or on Twitter @KelseyLMunger.