I wrote this a few years ago as I reflected on the scene of the nativity. To think of God himself, come to Earth as a tiny newborn babe, with the weight of all the world’s sin upon him. To think of that little, perfect body that one day would be spent and scarred and ruined for the sake of people who defied him. TO think that he would choose to lay down his glory and power to become the humble son of a carpenter, and then refuse to take hold of that power even in order to escape a torturous and gruesome death on the Roman cross. It is just beyond comprehension… but I suppose I should let my little rhyme speak for itself.
I was spending the afternoon at a friend’s house a couple of months ago. Her son, who was about 16 months at the time, loves books. I’d sat next to him and his mama while she read to him, but this time, he brought the book to me.
“Uh-oh.” I said, as he put the book in my hands. I wanted to read it to him, but it was in print, and I couldn’t. My friend laughed at my expression.
“It’s okay. Just make it up. He won’t know the difference.”
I did, with the book upside down for a while hahaha until he went and chose another book. I kept making things up, and my friend was right, he didn’t seem to mind. Still, I shuttered to think about the moment, months or years down the road, when my child would bring me a book that I couldn’t read to her. Would I react so calmly in that situation, or would I break down because I couldn’t do it for her.
It makes me sad that I can’t read any old book to her, that I have to have specific books brailled out or in digital formats to be able to share them with her, but that’s not going to change, and in reality, it wouldn’t be any different if I were a sighted parent. Sure, I could read books to her without a problem, but I’d have other failures, distractions, difficulties as an individual that would be challenging in other ways, a detriment to her. I know without a doubt that my blindness has shaped me as a person. Would I be as good of a mom to my baby if I hadn’t been molded so? Considering I believe in a sovereign God who shapes every one of our experiences I don’t think so. He made me the way I am for a purpose, and he chose me, out of billions, to be my daughter’s mama.
When encountering those moments, I think it is important to remember a couple of things.
1 God will use my deficiencies to shape my daughter, just as I have been molded by them and those of my parents. He is a good God, and he will redeem every one of them for his glory and good purpose.
2 It is inevitable that I will fail my daughter, and frequently, but when she feels the weight of my failures, she has a heavenly father to run to who will never fail or forsake her. Every single time I prove inadequate in some way, there is an opportunity for her to turn to the one who lacks nothing, who gives graciously of his own perfect being to each of his children in abundant measure.
And thus, what appears to me utter insufficiency will become for her wholly sufficient, not because she has all in me or in any created thing, but because she has Christ, and in him, she has everything.
I have an adopted sister. She was adopted by her parents too, although not my parents. She was four years old when her parents adopted her as family, and 20 when I did. It’s funny when you adopt a sister apart from your parents, because there’s no legal process, no way to make the bond official to anyone else but yourselves, but the sisterhood is still there. She witnessed me grow up from a 16 year old, hot-headed kid to a 26 year old married, possibly still somewhat hot-headed mother. I have been there as she has navigated multiple college degrees, study-abroad, the loss of a parent, and marriage. God willing, we will share decades more of this life together, and she will be no less a sister when we are in our 80’s than she is now.
Maybe that’s part of the reason I’ve always had the desire to adopt a child. There has never been any doubt in my mind that the bond between parent and progeny is far more than biology. On this #WorldAdoptionDay, I can’t help thinking about that desire. In some ways it’s frightening to acknowledge. No matter how smooth the process, adoption always comes from a place of brokenness, and there are consequences for that. I know even from adopting an adopted sister that the trauma of loss from those early days of life can echo throughout the rest of a person’s adult years. We know from the Gospel that bringing such a child into your family is no easy task. Christ had to die on a cross to do it for us. Thus the adoptive parent must also take up their cross, and that daily, even hourly.
And yet, the love that Christ has shown to us beckons me to love as he did, to share, as our father in heaven does, the love of a parent with one who would otherwise be orphaned. So the desire remains, and I struggle in prayer as I ask God to one day make it possible. I know that the desire for children is a good one, and we believe that God will place whatever children he has for us in our lives through whatever means he intends, whether through birth or adoption or otherwise. We know also that he will provide for those children, so as doubtful as it seems now that we, a year married with an infant in a tiny one-bedroom and a rather limited income, will ever be able to raise the funds to afford an adoption or have the sort of house we would need to pass a home study, we know that God is capable of far more than anything we would ask or think. It seems impossible that we, rebellious and rejected children, could ever be accepted into the family of a perfect and holy God, and yet through Jesus, that is exactly what we are. I believe it is possible in this case as well. Even if legal adoption is not in God’s plan for our family, I know that he will give us opportunities to lavish His love upon other unofficial family members, like my sister. For that,I am thankful, and will praise God as I continue to pray in hope.
“Behold what manner of love the father has lavished unto us, that we should be called the sons of GOd.” (1 John 3:1)
I have written about forgiveness before on this blog. It’s one of those things we always want for ourselves, but not something we find easy to extend to others. This is true in even the most superficial relationships, but perhaps particularly true in our most intimate ones. Around this time last year, my husband and I were working through a conflict. We knew that we had promised to love one another, and even in absence of such a promise, we had a Christian calling to forgive others, no matter how difficult it was to do. I wrote this as I was reflecting on that calling, and praying for the Holy Spirit to soften my heart and make me gracious beyond my own ability. I wanted to share it here in case one of you is struggling to extend grace to someone in your life.. Perhaps someone has wronged you, and perhaps very gravely. You do not have to pretend that the person’s actions were justified in order to release them of any debt to you. Instead, trust in Christ, who extended you forgiveness in dying for your sins, who can empower you to love when you have no love, and who has an answer for every injustice ever done, either through His saving work on the cross, or in the work of judgement at the end of the age.
A Sinner Lies Beside Me
A sinner lies beside me. A sinner in my womb,
A sinner at the grocery. A sinner in the waiting room.
A sinner on the TV talking, a sinner in the uniform,
A sinner with the law book, writing, a sinner dead, a sinner born.
A sinner in the jail cell, a sinner in the court,
A sinner who is laughing, and a sinner who mourns.
A sinner in the window, a sinner on the street,
A sinner every man, woman, child that I meet.
A sinner lies beside me, a sinner in my womb,
A sinner in the mirror, He bled for me and you.
While I was yet a sinner,
He humbled himself to die,
To save the souls of rebels,
And them to justify.
And will I now forget it,
The grace I have received?
Deny to give it freely to,
A sinner just like me?
I must extend as he did,
The crimson love he poured,
To rescue me from trouble,
That I might be restored.
A sinner is beside me,
And to him must be given,
The blessing of forgiveness,
For I have been forgiven.
Today, all well and good. Tomorrow? Next week? Five years? Ten? Sixty? Only by God’s grace, and oh Lord, that you would grip my soul so powerfully with your gracious hand, that I might never be released from its holy power. Forgiveness is in and through your spirit. Seventy times seven, you said. Oh let it be so in my life.
When I heard this was my then fiancé’s favorite hymn, I had it in my head to arrange it for him, but every time I sat down to do it I felt I couldn’t quite capture the mood I wanted to. It is a hymn that has meant a great deal to many over the decades, and I wanted to do the words justice, even if the words wouldn’t actually be sung in my version. A few months ago, we had the occasion to record some hymns for a church event facilitated by one of our friends. Deadlines are always immensely helpful for me in the creative process, so at last, I managed to record an arrangement I was happy with.
“When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
it is well, it is well with my soul.”
In this hymn, we find someone reconciling the good and the hard, as I have written about before. Whether times are easy, or fraught with trial and difficulty, the speaker is able to say, “It is well with my soul.”
But why? You may ask. Indeed, the writer of this hymn had recently lost his children in a shipwreck. How can one possibly say, “It is well?” in such a situation?
“Though satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blessed assurance control:
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate
and has shed his own blood for my soul.”
Thus, it is the blood of Christ which gives the speaker the ability to rest. Even in the darkest shadow of grief, he has hope through Jesus, who secured eternal life for all who trust in him when he gave himself up on the cross.
“My sin–oh the bliss of this glorious thought–
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord oh my soul!”
The speaker recognizes that he, like every one of us, was born into bondage. No matter how hard he tries, he cannot free himself from his sin nature, that is, that part of him that compels him to think, say, and do wrong things. This is a problem, when you consider that a perfect and holy God must be perfectly just. There must be an answer for evil, including all the evil that you and I have done. God’s answer is found in Jesus. He took the punishment I deserved, and praise the Lord I can agree with the speaker in saying I bear my sin no more, and praise God, so do you if you trust in Jesus.
The hymn finishes with a triumphant vision of Christ’s glorious return at the end of the age. The speaker has such security in Christ that even as that dreadful time of judgement approaches, and those who have rejected Christ draw near to destruction, he can confidently say, “It is well”, because he knows his salvation is sure in Jesus.
“And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.”
Note: Though I think the theology of this hymn is sound, the writer, Horatio Spafford, had some very erroneous theological beliefs, and should not be considered an example of a faithful believer. When I use the word “speaker”, I mean it in the sense of poetic analysis, rather than in reference to the author. As we have seen many times throughout history, God is a mighty redeemer and can use even the lost to produce great works to encourage and uplift his people. I think that is the case here.
Do you have a favorite hymn? Why is it your favorite? Let me know in the comments. Perhaps I’ll be inspired to arrange that one, too.
Not far into pregnancy, I quickly discovered, as I’m sure many women do, that morning sickness is one of the great misnomers of our time. Morning sickness? You mean all day sickness? And if you’re referring to the time of day that it’s the worst, rather than the time of day that it is there (AKA nearly all the time), I would have to call it afternoon or evening sickness. The first time I threw up during my pregnancy was around two Pm. My husband noticed I was losing color, and encouraged me to lie down. He had to run out for a few things, so left me with a pot, just in case. I wasn’t expecting to do anything with the pot; so far over the last 12 weeks I only felt like throwing up, but never actually did… but only a few minutes after my husband had departed, I reached for the pot and clutched it to my chest.
Maybe it’s called morning sickness because you throw up everything you ate in the morning, I theorized vaguely as fragments of my first meal made their rather uncivil reappearance. Why IS bringing new life into the world such a painful process, I wondered then, returning shakily to my pillow. Sin, I think, is the answer to that question, but we needn’t stop there. After all, there is an answer to sin, that is, Jesus, and he endured discomfort, pain, and humiliation to bring new life to all of God’s children.
I am struck by the way pregnancy and birth, with all the associated difficulty and sometimes embarrassing side-effects, can point us to the cross. In John 3, Jesus tells Nicodemus that in order to be saved, he must be “born again” (John 3:1-7). This is because Nicodemus, like you and I, was first born with a nature prone to hating and rebelling against God. That is, he was physically alive, but spiritually he was “dead in his transgressions” (Ephesians 2:1).
But how, as Nicodemus quickly asks, can one be born again? How does this “second birth” take place? Jesus says that it is through Him. In order for us to be reborn, Jesus, the Son of God, became also the Son of Man. He was born into the humblest of human situations. He endured the difficulties of daily life, including being tempted in all ways as we are. Though he remained always without sin, he chose to take on the penalty of our wrongdoing and suffered death on a cross.
Christ knows, more than anyone, what it is to suffer on behalf of another. He knows what it is to endure discomfort and even agonizing, unimaginable pain in order to bring new life into the kingdom of GOd. When I remember what Christ did for me, that I might receive new life, the trials and tribulations of pregnancy not only become easier to bear, but become also an opportunity to share, if very shallowly, in the sufferings of my savior. Through my discomfort, I get the joy of bringing a new life into the world, just as through his suffering, Christ granted new birth to every believer.
It’s not the comparison itself that matters. Any potential pain in pregnancy and birth will be nothing compared to the infinite anguish born by our Lord, but only the fact that it points me to him, that in every step of this process, from headaches to nausea to labor, I can reflect on the things Christ endured to make me new. Not only that, but in the moments that I start to think “I can’t do this” (I’m sure that thought will come in labor if not before), I can throw myself upon the one who identifies in every way with my struggles, and in fact knows them far more profoundly than I. It is truly wonderful to have a God and savior who sympathizes in every way with our weaknesses.
Have any questions about life as a blind person, guide dog user, or blind parent-to-be? Feel free to comment here or on Youtube! Are you a blind parent yourself and want to help inform others about the capabilities of blind and vision impaired people? Share this video, and drop me a comment to let me know what might be good topics to discuss here and on my channel.
I’ve had a few false starts with publishing youtube videos, but it’s mostly because I feel a bit uncomfortable with the vulnerability of filming. Somehow it feels much less personal to publish written posts on my blog, rather than record something with audio and visuals, but I have felt for a long time that I have a responsibility at some level to share my experiences as a blind person, and now particularly as a blind parent, in order to inform others about the capabilities of blind people.
I’ve always enjoyed watching pregnancy updates on youtube, but have never seen one by a blind content creator. I thought making my own might therefore be a great way to reflect on my experiences throughout pregnancy, while also sharing about blind parenting techniques. More than anything, I hope the thing people take away from this video is the utter “ordinariness” of my experiences, despite my unusual perspective as someone with a visual impairment.
In this first video, enjoy hearing how we found out about our precious little one, plus symptoms and the equipment/products we’ve acquired so far.
“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:13)
I took a moment this morning to consider this verse. I thought about what it meant to forgive. I thought about the people I had had difficulty forgiving. Exhibit A. my speech teacher in college, whom we will refer to as Dr. X. I went out of my way that semester, a semester that I began with an emergency surgery and three day stay in the hospital, I went above and beyond in her class, and I received an “A/B” on all of my speeches. A/B? I had never received such a mark in my life. What did it even mean?
I requested clarification from her and she replied that she “hadn’t decided yet”. Keep in mind this was on assignments I had turned in over the course of weeks and weeks of classes. She hadn’t decided whether my assignments were worthy of an A or a B marking after that long? Why? And how could I improve without a clear understanding of where I stood grade wise?
In the end, she never gave me a proper answer, despite my repeated queries, and eventually gave me a B in the class.
The injustice of it all made me furious for years, and I had to take some time every time I thought about forgiveness to forgive her. She was just doing her best to grade her students fairly, I told myself… trying to quench my anger, Only to realize I didn’t believe that. I believed she was biased, I believe she graded me unfairly because she didn’t like the views I had expressed in speeches and didn’t like the fact that I missed three of her classes and still did well. I had plenty of evidence supporting those claims, and I stand by them. I don’t have to abandon them in order to forgive her. Our culture often seems to define forgiveness as finding a reason that someone’s behavior might be excusable, and then excusing it on that basis. But is that really forgiveness? Is that the pardon that Paul is referring to when he talks about forgiving others as Christ forgave us?
When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, he didn’t die for a bunch of things we did without knowing any better. We have the law. We knew what was right and wrong and we did The wrong thing over and over again anyway, and he forgave that.
I must conclude, then, that merely excusing behavior as somehow acceptable when it was not is not what is meant when we are told to forgive others. God, even in his magnificent grace, does not abandon justice in his response to wrongdoing. He does not explain away our deceit or adultery or covetousness as “understandable in our situation”. No. He is the righteous judge, who demands a price to be payed for all evil.
For the believer, this price is paid in full by the blood of Christ. We are declared innocent not because we are, but because Christ took on the sentence we deserved. This means that any evil committed against me by a fellow Christian has not gone unanswered. Like my own sin, their’s has been paid for by Jesus. A sobering thought. Can I really remain unforgiving when I realize that the same blood shed for my own evil was shed also for their’s? Equally sobering is acknowledging God’s answer to the non-believer’s sin, that is, hell.
God’s response to evil is wholly sufficient, whether through the cross or through his eternal judgement. Thus, I need not fear recognizing my neighbor’s offense as truly wrong. As angry as I may be, reflecting on God’s provisions for perfect justice must lead me to forgiveness and even tenderness, not because what they did was okay, but because what they did has been, or will be, rightly dealt with. I cannot, and need not, add anything to God’s justice through my own retribution. Furthermore, if the offender was a non-believer, I should, at least at some level, be moved to compassion knowing that this person is facing eternal damnation. This is someone who, like me, needs the Gospel and if I, a Gospel believer, respond to them with hate and vitriol, I venture to say that they will be no more likely to turn to the one I claim as savior.
Forgiving a professor for an unjust grade may be a small thing, and indeed it is, but God’s answer is the same for little injustices as for immeasurably grievous ones. The Lord does not ask us to excuse evil. He commands us to forgive, knowing that he will handle every evil great and small with righteous judgement. I think that is a much more satisfying model of mercy than anything our culture could offer.
I know we weren’t the only 2020 couple that got our wedding plans totally derailed by Covid restrictions. Fortunately, our August date fell at a time when we were allowed to have 20 some people in person at the ceremony. We had to let go of our hotel wedding with over a hundred guests, including all of my family and friends from America. I wouldn’t be able to wear my grandmother and mother’s wedding dress, as I had hoped. My mom wouldn’t be there to help me get ready. My brothers would not be groomsmen. My best friends from the States wouldn’t be standing with me. My Dad wouldn’t be walking me down the aisle, and the toasts and dancing I had imagined for our reception wouldn’t happen either.
But praise God we could still get married! I ordered my 27 euro white dress on Amazon. I set to making wedding vests for our flower girl and ring bearer, that is, Prim and my nephew puppy. Several of my sweet friends from church helped me put together decorations and set up the church hall for ceremony and reception. My dear friend’s mother-in-law gathered beautiful arrangements of wild flowers and greenery for the tables and window sills. Our family gifted us the money for our reception meal, and friends offered us white table cloths and silverware to dress up the dinner.
Here again was the good and the hard. I didn’t forget everyone and everything I was missing that day. My heart ached for the presence of my loved ones far away, and for the traditions we wouldn’t get to take part in because of the lockdowns. All of that is true, and yet also true was the anticipation I felt as I waited, dressed and ready in my friend’s car, with my flowers and Grandmother’s Bible clutched in my arms. Prim was excited too, sweet in her burlap vest covered in pink hyacinths and pearls. I was breathless as my maid of honor helped me into the church and hovered with me at the door of the sanctuary. My stomach lurched at hearing the harp begin to play. It was almost time!
“Are you nervous?” my friend asked in a whisper.
“I’m so excited!” I whispered back, feeling like I might actually choke with the thrill of it all.
It took seconds for my friend and I to walk down the aisle, and then I was beside him, and all there was was joy. His hand found mine, and I held on. We smiled and laughed and sang our way through the ceremony, and walked out into the August sunshine, officially husband and wife.
God seems to have made the human heart with the capacity to enjoy blessing and endure trial at the same time, to live through hard things, and know that they can still be good, or at least, that good still exists because the God of goodness remains. I don’t understand how our wedding day could be as blessed and sweet as it was with all the hard that was attached to it, but by God’s grace it was, and I smile every time I think of the day I became my husband’s bride.
God makes the same commitment to his church as my love and I made to one another on that August afternoon.
“I take thee”, Jesus says to his bride, “For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health…”, though our Lord, in his sovereign kindness need not finish, “until death do us part”. Instead, he can truly say, “And death shall never part us.” because of what Christ did at Calvary.
As my friend pointed out, the Gospel is our greatest example of the good and the simultaneous hard. Jesus, though blameless, lived a life of difficulty, “A man of sorrows acquainted with grief”. Though innocent, he died the death of the worst criminal, and suffered the wrath of his father. And yet, he rose again on the third day, and it is because of all of these things that the Christian can be declared righteous before God. The “Good News” of the Gospel is wrapped up in the most difficult experience a human has ever endured. While there may be times where blessing and trial come in tandem, as it did on our wedding day, it is ultimately this good news that gives us hope even when it seems blessing is altogether absent, so that even then we can say, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”