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.

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