February 17, 2009

The Healing Power of Facebook

"When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed..." - Joshua 6:20a (NIV)

'"As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes...' - John 9:5-6 (NRSV)

I am not technologically illiterate. I love that I live in the era of the internet. I was made to be able to answer arcane questions (In what year was George Washington born? What can I make with three zucchini and a can of diced tomatoes? Who is the current president of Zimbabwe?) with a click of the mouse.

But social networking web-sites? That's another thing. I am intimidated by them. They are so nosey! What are my interests? My favorite rock band? Who are my friends?

Since I am The Sister Who Never Bothers to Take Pictures, my sisters have urged me to get connected. So now I have a Facebook profile (FB, a friend in the know tells me. No, that does not mean "football.").

Suddenly, my past has opened up before me like an old school yearbook. Names I haven't heard in (ahem) 23 years keep showing up on my computer screen. I got an e-mail from a woman I went to kindergarten with.

It feels like doors and windows in my mind have been opened and a cool breeze is blowing through. Remember? I didn't know I had so many closed up places. I am remembering some things I didn't know I had forgotten and other things I thought I wanted to forget.

God works in the most unexpected ways. He makes the walls fall down with a trumpet blast. He heals blindness with spitty mud. He cleans out the closets of my life on a Facebook page.

February 14, 2009

Sound Booth

A sound booth is a strange, unearthly place, like a room without air, except that you can breathe – although not comfortably if it’s your first time and you have your three year old son sitting anxiously in your lap. This, as it happens, was not our first time but our third. It is a ridiculous understatement to say so, but it would not be our last.

Our first foray into the sound booth had been seventeen months earlier. It was a different sound booth, a different audiologist, and a different outcome. She assured me that his hearing was fine. How can she tell? I wondered to myself. Even I, his mother, couldn’t tell whether he was really hearing those tones, which sounded vaguely like the signal from the Emergency Broadcasting System, or whether he just looked around until he saw the bear or the rabbit light up in their boxes. But she’s the expert! And she had just told me what I wanted to hear.

Hear? Of course he can hear. He loves music. He sings along! He talks too, only a little, but he’ll catch up. His sister was a late talker too. She didn’t talk, not at all, until she was 26 months old, and then she was talking in sentences. He’s just like his sister.

That was what I told myself, and that is what I believed in my heart, so when the audiologist told me his hearing was fine, it was quite what I expected to hear. But it wasn’t true.

Now we sat for the third time in this padded room where sounds sound flat and dead, unless they don’t. I listened and watched the bear light up, then the rabbit, but only as the sound grew loud and louder. Then my little boy would turn and smile. The tone or the voice would come again and I’d hear it, but there was no bear, no rabbit, because he didn’t look, just stared around, waiting, waiting to hear what I heard.

The second time we’d been in the booth it was the same booth, the same audiologist, the same outcome. He’d had a cold, so we needed to wait, come back in a few weeks, just to be sure.

Sure? I was already sure. I was there in the booth, and I heard what I heard, heard what he did not hear. This audiologist was sure too, the look on her face, as flat as the sound in the booth. Who wants to deliver bad news? How bad?

“What will it mean if we come back and the result is the same?” I asked, because I wanted to know, even as I did not want to know.

“He’ll have to wear hearing aids…”

That is most of what I heard. The rest was noise, like the pure tones, meaningless. What? As if I could not hear. Hearing aids. What had I expected to hear? People who can’t hear wear hearing aids. But my little boy can hear.

That day, before the world changed, and we became a family-with-a-child-with-a-hearing-loss, my vocabulary didn’t include the words “hard of hearing,” let alone “moderate, binaural, sloping, sensorineural, hearing loss,” only the words hearing and deaf. Now I use words like otolaryngologist and Conceptually Accurate Signed English and amplification technology in casual conversation. It’s hard to believe that a few very, very long months ago the words “hearing aids” had made me feel afraid.

So our third visit to the sound booth brought us no surprises, just verification. More pure tones, not so pure when your baby can’t hear them, more vain attempts at calling his name. Daniel. Daniel, can you hear me? No.

And yes. Daniel can hear his name. He can hear it when I say it as I hold him and rock him and put my voice near his ear. He can hear it from across the room when he is wearing his blue earmolds, their curving tubes connected to loaner hearing aids, flesh-colored – when we get him his own, they’ll be sparkled and spangled, bright, demanding to be seen and admired. Because now hearing aids do not make me feel afraid. They make me feel hopeful and grateful and only a little tiny bit sad.

February 13, 2009


"For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." - Jeremiah 29:11 (RSV)

You'd think I'd learn. God holds my future in his capable hands. He can act to prepare me today for things I cannot begin to imagine.

When I was in the fourth grade, I first learned the manual alphabet. I fell in love. I was fascinated by sign language and deafness. I got myself a book of signs and practiced them. Then, when I was in high school, I had a chance to take a class. Once a week for eight weeks I drove across town and sat for an hour after school to learn about deaf culture and to master a few dozen signs for which I had no use. I never forgot them.

That was more than twenty-five years ago. Then, five years ago, my third child was born. Everything seemed fine -- beautiful, healthy boy. But time went on and he passed his first and then his second birthday without talking. Questions, tests, speech therapy yielded nothing. It took another eighteen months before we knew: My son has a moderate-severe hearing loss.

When my mother died, I read a proverb somewhere that said, in essence, if you put everyone's problems on a shelf and had to choose one, you'd always choose your own. If God had told me I would have a child with a "disability," I'd have chosen deafness, hands down.

Of course, it's not all I imagined, and I don't ever think of my son as disabled. He uses oral language, although we toy with signing. Maybe he'll learn it well some day, so he can communicate with deaf friends. Maybe I will too.

Meanwhile, I marvel that, years and years ago, my God, who knew I would have this precious boy, prepared me so I would be neither afraid nor unprepared to love and care for him.

February 3, 2009

Letting Go

What is it about letting go that's so difficult? Particularly baffling is the way I hold onto things that I don't even want. It's not just the big stuff either. For years I kept this very, very ugly gravy boat in the shape of a turkey. We're really talking about Not Big Stuff here. Why did I keep it? I never intended to use it, but I couldn't give it up.

It's the same thing with my sins. I say I don't want them. They're ugly and useless. Worse than useless. And yet... They are mine. They are familiar. They are always there, like that gravy boat that I used to see every time I opened the cabinet. They have been with me a long time. I've wrapped, packed and upacked them as I've moved from place to place in my life, my sins and the gravy boat. They're part of who I am.

You see, it's my identity I'm loathe to part with. Who will I be if I am not who I have been, the woman with the ugly turkey gravy boat? Who am I when I am not judgmental or dishonest or phony or shallow?

Eventually I got tired of taking care of the gravy boat, of moving it out of the way to get to the silver or the china. I put it in a box, set the box on the porch, and watched some burly guy come and take it away in a truck.

The fact is, my sins have long since been packed up and taken away, in the waters of baptism. The old me, the turkey gravy boat me, has already been replaced by something new. I just need to catch up to what is.

"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." - Galatians 2:19b-20 (NRSV)

"So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! " - 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NRSV)