Writing this is going to hurt, but I want to share it with you because it’s a big part of my life story.
Maybe you’ve noticed, the title for my blog comes from a verse in Isaiah.
The wilderness and the desert will be glad, And the Arabah will rejoice and blossom; Like the crocus
(Isaiah 35:1 NASB)
I want to tell you about an area of my life that has been a wilderness for me.
I was born deaf. Due to the tenacity and hard work of my parents, I learned to speak and listen with a hearing aid in one ear. The other ear was so profoundly deaf that I couldn’t hear a thing with even the best hearing aids.
Growing up, I often felt the pain of having a handicap. Because of my need to lip-read, I couldn’t participate well in activities that other kids especially enjoy, things like talking around a campfire and talking on the bus while traveling home late from a field trip. Sometimes people mocked me. My family is very musical, and I could not be part of that even though I longed to. Overall though, I could function fairly well with what I had.
Two days after I turned 16, I took out my hearing aid to shower before going to church. When I put my hearing aid back in after my shower, the rest of my hearing was gone. Poof.
The next six months was the darkest time of my life. It was a whirlwind of doctors, medications, diets, people trying to figure out where my hearing had gone and trying in vain to retrieve it. And I was at the golden age of 16, just when a youth is so pleased to get his driver’s license and start escaping to youth group parties. Instead, I was spiraling downward into a terrible tunnel of loneliness and despair.
Here is a paragraph I wrote in my youth about how things were for me during that time after the sudden hearing loss (with minor edits):
The conversation is flowing around the room. Rigidly I sit on my chair, pretending to join the frequent bursts of laughter. The group starts singing, but music brings me no pleasure. I notice the ease with which my peers relate to each other, and I think of all the times I have struggled to communicate, the times I felt backward because I could not express myself. I am deaf. As Helen Keller once said, “Ours is not the silence that soothes the weary senses, it is the inhuman silence which severs and estranges…a silence which isolates.”
Finally, since nothing was working to bring back my hearing, I had a cochlear implant surgery at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. The next year or so, I worked hard to re-learn to hear. The sound from an implant was different from what I got from my hearing aid, and I needed some therapy to be able to use my implant.
At first, I heard very well with my implant. But due to some complications, I had to be reimplanted two years later, and since then I’ve never been able to hear as well as I did at first.
My life is normal on the surface. I started a girl’s club for community girls when I was 20. I completed nursing school at 23. I married an amazing man a few months before graduating, and had four spunky kiddos over the next ten years.
But my hearing loss still feels like a desert to me. I’m not sure that it’s even God’s will. (Is a broken world His will?) I feel like I’ve always been trapped within this set of limitations, and never been allowed to fully flower into who I could be.
For instance, my need to lip-read makes it hard for me to engage in impromptu conversation. Someone says something behind me while in line at the grocery store, I probably won’t get what they said. A clerk talks to me while I am writing out a check, but I can’t look at the checkbook and at her at the same time. Someone whispers confidentially in my ear–oh dear! That’s no good. As a result, I am much more reticent in social situations than I would naturally be.
How can I show love to a hurting world, without being able to communicate easily? This is what wrenches my heart out, because I do very deeply care about people.
I watch people walk down the street past my house and I want to cry. I see broken people sitting in church, and I want to cry. I notice the Dollar General cashier looks frazzled, and I want to cry. It’s not that I absolutely can’t talk to them–I can. But it’s just more difficult for me. The way I have to communicate can feel too confrontational. I can’t just call out to someone from a distance, or sidle along someone and comment on something we are both looking at. I have to talk to people face-to-face.
God, why did you give me this love for people if I can never show it?
If I can’t communicate well, what do I have to offer the world? I have so little.
Many things that I like to do involve hearing or relating with people. Gardening and reading are two exceptions–I feel completely at rest with my hands in the forgiving soil, or with my mind pondering a book. Most of my other passions I can only pursue with help from other people. Some things I just can’t do at all.
I have largely been able to accept my handicap, about as well as anyone can accept a knife between the ribs that never leaves. Life brings me much joy; I have a thousand gifts from God to delight in. But every once in a while, the knife twists, reminding me of its presence.
Recently, I was sitting in a Sunday school class at a church here in Medicine Lodge. They’re using the Lifetree series, and this story was about a deaf singer, Mandy Harvey. All too soon, both the story and questions were striking deep, and before I knew it, I was weeping.
So, I don’t have a glowing testimony about getting through a terrible trial, and being restored. I’m not convinced my hearing loss has really made me a better person. Certainly not a more effective person.
But God has often shown me love, and people have shown me love. The Sunday school class I just mentioned stopped the Mandy Harvey story and clustered around me to pray for me while I cried.
When I think of the story of Job, I think about what God gave Job in the end. Sure, Job got a bunch of family and possessions back, but anyone knows a new family is no substitute for a much-loved family that was lost! Job’s most priceless gift that sprang from his experience was getting to know God. The kind of knowing that rested deep within his spirit.
In this scorched land, this is the hope I am reaching for: to know God, and to know that He is love.
And in His time, this fallen world will be put to rights, and new life will spring out of the barrenness. Even the Arabah will break out in rejoicing.
And the ransomed of the Lord will return and come with joyful shouting to Zion, with everlasting joy upon their heads.They will find gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
(Isaiah 35:10 NASB)
33 thoughts on “Arabah”
Oh Rosina, how painstakingly precious to bare your heart. You’re on to something incredible…you know, the Biblical picture of the wilderness is that it is God’s sanctuary–where man meets God. I’ve witnessed in the land of the Bible the astonishing exquisiteness of the “desert blooming”; it is something entirely different than what you might picture of lush PA landscaping that smacks of mans’ minds and meddling. It is far flung and lavish and wild and free and fragile even in it’s incredible fortitude… and pure. It is miracle among utter desolation and ruggedness. Oh my heart aches, nay, rages, for your pain… yet the pristine glory that I see in you (now, on earth, already) is clearly the true picture of God-creation that yes! comes from the work of His hand, from knowing Him. Do you think you might still be sometimes expecting it to look like Holmes County instead? It would be a deathly trade. For as often as I have wished to utterly take this story away for you, I feel utterly, weepingly humbled to have been granted to live it with you. You ARE the Aravah blossoming as a Rose…
Yes Rosina. You are a beautiful sister and you have fought this disability so bravely. But that doesn’t make up for the hurt. You have taught me so much about dealing with my struggle with bipolar. I weep for the pain you have and can only begin to imagine how horrible growing up in a musical family must have been. But your life has not been in vain. You don’t see the results maybe of your kingdom work, but you will one day. Thank you for being such a beautiful gut wrenching story of grace. I love you.
Ah Victoria, you are brave too! Love you, sis.
Elana, this makes me cry. You are a beautiful sister! (And poetic, too!)
Your question, “Do you think you might still be sometimes expecting it to look like Holmes County instead?” caught my attention. Maybe I do…God’s picture of things is so different at times than what I expect or wish for…
I’m glad we have a new earth to look forward to! 🙂
This makes me cry. Your journey has been so incredibly difficult. Your line “I’m not sure that it’s even God’s will” struck a cord in my heart. If the bad things that happen to you and me are really “God’s will”, then we have no right to feel any kind of emotion about those things; we are victims of a God who plots painful experiences for us. Thankfully, the Bible does show us some of God’s thoughts, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). Still, I ask how we reconcile painful situations with a sovereign God who thinks kindly toward us, yet allows things to happen to us in this fallen world when He could prevent them. Our human minds certainly cannot understand God’s mind, but we do know that His way is perfect (Psalm 18:30).
Thank you so much for sharing your story. There is so much beauty springing from the barrenness that has drawn you closer to God’s heart. May He bless you!
Yes, that is the tension I feel–knowing that God is loving and kind, and yet wondering why He allows so much suffering in the world. I love the verse about God’s good thoughts toward us. Thanks for commenting!
Thank you for your vulnerability! Thank you for giving me a glimpse into how it feels to be in your shoes! I never thought about how out-of-it you would feel. It makes sense because with my own little bit of hearing loss I find it hard to hear in certain settings.
I feel like I just want to give you a hug after I read this. I am so sorry for your loss. You are not alone in your hard place. Yours just looks different than mine.
I see you as such a beautiful person! Your pain and loss is not wasted. Your heart is beautiful. God has just the niche for you. Praying you can find that place of fulfillment. Is there a school for the deaf or others with cochlear implants where you could use your deep love for people? I can see you really shining there because you know how it feels.
Someday we will be free from all loss and pain!
Your second paragraph about not being alone in my hard place although it looks different than yours is something I’ve thought about. I’ve noticed that people don’t have to go through exactly the same thing to be able to show care to another hurting person. Anyone who has been softened by sorrow is capable of showing care.
I’ve prayed that God will give me spiritual hearing to make up for the loss of physical hearing. I like to pray for people I think of or see pass on the street outside my kitchen window. Hopefully some of that will make a difference. 🙂
Thanks for commenting! I’d love to chat with you again!
My sister introduced me to your blog….and I’ve enjoyed reading here since then. This is sooo gut-wrenching, but I love the way you’ve written honestly and freely about this. I think you are a most beautiful and courageous person! Thanks for writing. Peace!
Good to hear from you, Ruth Anna! 🙂
I know you well enough to catch some of those moments when you lose the thread of the conversation, when you’re floundering in the sea of sound. I hate those moments; they pierce my heart.
But beyond the deafness (which is not your defining characteristic) is a complex, interesting, sensitive and thoughtful person with silvery veins of humor, mischief and beauty running through the layers. Refined by the pain of deafness, God has developed in you gentleness, compassion and awareness of others.
You have done so much with what you do have–girls’ club, nursing school, midwifery, homeschooling, writing, Medicine Lodge, besides creating a full, rich life in your private world. Your heart and your spirit are sensitive and finely-tuned; you hear more than many hearing people do. You have done much with your life, far beyond what many hearing people ever achieve. You are not a victim; you are an overcomer.
We’re blessed to have you in our family, and so proud of our Rosi.
I am finally catching up a little… This is breathtakingly beautiful and heartachingly sad… Love you so much!!
Thank you so much for sharing your story. Your loss has been so great. I wanted to rebel for you when I read the part about completely losing your hearing at age 16. I wish we would be sitting face to face because I would love to hear so much more. I’m especially interested in how you found joy after walking through depression.
I’m reading When God Weeps: Why Our Suffering Matters to the Almighty by Joni Eickson Tada. Have you ever read it? I notice some of the same themes here–how our suffering is surely not something that God delights in, but that in our suffering we learn to know Him.
The last few years have been difficult for me with health problems that we couldn’t get answers for and therefor no healing. One of the things I’ve struggled with most is the frustration of moving to Atlanta as a missionary, but not even having the strength to get out of the house. How could I minister to my neighborhood if I couldn’t even take care of my own family? It’s a long, long story.
I am learning that while sickness and pain are not part of God’s original plan–they were part of the curse–God can redeem any brokenness!!! The parts of us that we think make us unusable can become incredible tools for His Kingdom.
In one paragraph you described ways that easy conversations for most people are very difficult for you. You ended the paragraph by said, “I have to talk to people face-to-face.” I sat for a moment thinking of so many situations when this would be isolating. But that sentence also grabbed me. So many of us have a hard time slowing down enough to sit with someone and really look into their face for meaningful conversations. I don’t know, but it seems to me that this can also be one of those ways where God can use something that has been so difficult for His glory.
And the picture of the Sunday school class gathered around you praying. Girl, you were ministering that day. I know that being in a place of vulnerability and need is hard, but God works through us even in our brokenness to draw other people closer to Himself and to each other.
Okay, this is seriously becoming a second blog post. haha. I’ll stop, but sending you lots of love.
I haven’t read When God Weeps–I will have to check it out! About your health…the book These Strange Ashes by Elizabeth Elliot spoke to me (and I find some of her books a little intimidating) because it talks about how life as a missionary can look so different than what we wish for, and God mysteriously redeems what feels like ashes to us to accomplish a greater good. I think about this often here in town–how I imagine “ministry” to look may not be exactly what God has in mind, and I have to be ok with flexing, letting things happen differently, being willing to come alongside people here with what they are already doing instead of being in charge and forcing our own agenda.
Regarding finding joy after depression–that’s a hard one. Several things that have helped me a lot: getting counseling and becoming more comfortable with who I am, learning to relish small joys in life, even if the big picture looks dark, and similar to that, praying for God to give me the garment of praise instead of a spirit of heaviness (Isaiah 61:3). Sometimes Will and I spend time reviewing the ways that God has taken care of us, and it doesn’t take that long until I start feeling better!
Thanks so much for the book recommendation. I’ll definitely be looking for it. And I’m sitting here agreeing with what you wrote here. So often I think that we really should not be missionaries–that we are not nearly qualified. But, yes, it does look so different than we picture in our minds, and I’m finding that as a broken person I have more in common with my neighbors who have had a very difficult life. I guess my picture of a missionary has been the whole person who comes in and bandages all those wounds, but maybe sometimes learning together in our brokenness is how God can best use is.
Through the entire time I was reading this I thought how blessed you are, to have such a close connection with your Creator.
This world is filled with people who God has bestowed with perfect sight, hearing, mobility and yet they couldn’t be further from the truth. Forgetting the infinite gifts they have been blessed with. Forgetting to reason, think, ponder about the purpose of life. Forgetting to think about someone else besides themselves. Getting lost in the worldly pleasures which are only temporary.
“And He gave you of all that you asked for, and if you were to count God’s favors, you would not be able to number them” [14:34]
Know that very tear that you shed is being recorded by the Most Just, The Reckoner, The Sufficient, Most Loving. He knows what is best for for us even when we can’t see it. Every struggle you go through is seen by Him. The One who created you understands you best.
“He knows what is in every heart.” [67:13]
And We have already created man and know what his soul whispers to him, and We are closer to him than [his] jugular vein” [50:16]
What you have gone through, everything that which you can’t describe or explain or remember, and all that you will ever go through is something you are made strong enough to bear. We aren’t tested beyond our capabilities.
“Do not be afraid, I am with you, All Hearing and All Seeing” [20:46]
“God does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear” [2:286]
“And indeed the Hereafter is better for you than the present (life of this world).” [93:4]
And He does not beak His promise.
Keep on searching, you will find Him. “Indeed, my Lord is near and responsive.” [11:61]
“So be patient. Indeed, the promise of God is truth.” [30:60]
“So endure patiently, with a beautiful patience.” [70:5]
Thank you for your kind words, Maemi!
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There is a new Apple App that does voice to text conversion. We only started to utilize it at our church for a couple who started attending. She is profoundly deaf. They were made aware of it while it is in Beta test. It definitely not perfect and depends a lot on the clarity of the person speaking. If I understand correctly it can even be used on your cell phone in small group settings.
It’s amazing what technology can do! Church actually works pretty well for me because it’s a controlled environment in which I can see the speaker. But I can think of other times when such an app might be useful.
God bless you for being sensitive to the needs of the deaf lady in your church! Such kindness does not go unnoticed by those of us with special needs.
The program is Ava-Communicate Beyond Barriers by Transcense, Inc if you want to check it out. It isn’t perfect yet by any means but she does use it in small group settings. It is amazing to watch and hear the minister speaking and see his words coming up on the screen. Not always accurate but most times very close. Occasionally there are those humorous ones that you wonder how did they ever come up with that. We 2 sound techs enjoy our technology and are only too happy to play with something new. If it benefits someone else that’s even better.
Should be available on the Apple App or Google App store.
Thank you! 🙂
You are a beautiful person, and I want to be just like you when. I grow up! 🙂 Your words touch my heart and make me yearn to reach out to the world around me. I’ve always been a sensitive person too, and have so often wished I could just relax and not worry or stress about others feelings, because I can literally get a stomach ache when I know someone else is hurting. I have grown “tougher” from helping my husband, Wayne, working with the public at his auctions, and I have been known to “brag” (oh dear:( ) about the fact that I’ve become more calloused. I am reminded that’s not really who I want to be, a person that can turn their heart off when seeing the pain of others. Seeing you open your heart and share your love for people makes want to be ok with that sensitive side that is sometimes a burden to me and use it to love and give to the world around me. God has used the pain in your life to make you an amazing gal! You have touched my life in ways that you don’t realize.
Emmy, your gift of mercy is a precious one. You were the girl who stood up for me when I was a child, and said you wanted to be my friend when the other girls were mocking me. That is a kindness that sticks with a person for a lifetime. I want to be like YOU when I grow up! 🙂 I’m so pleased to have connected with you again! God bless you as you use your love and sensitivity to show Jesus to hurting people!
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You have an incredible gift of communication of which most can not relate. Your writing is an inspiration.
Thank you for your kind words!
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This was really nice. I found your blog because I was looking for the book by Joy Hart about raising traumatized children. You clearly do a lot of thinking about God and suffering. Many people do, but because of your own experiences with it you’re learning grief is legitimate, and valid to express. Thanks for posting my comments. I also suffer a lot, but when I comment on blogs, my comments are usually deleted.🙄
I’m enjoying your comments and hopefully will respond to more of them over the next days! I’m sorry you’ve been censored, since you sound like an interesting and thoughtful person.
Suffering is never easy, but I’m thankful for the way God has revealed Himself to me through those dark times. I pray you find comfort in Him as well!
Thank you very much. I am sick in bed, which is why I’ve had time to be blessed by your blog, and time to write the comments. Only respond if you want to!
Thank you for your prayer!
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As I was searching the meaning of the word Arabah which I just read in Deuteronomy 1:1 , I stumbled on your blog.
Your gift of words & heart for God come clearly through as you share your journey of faith so candidly.
Many of us live with a knife in the ribs , as I do having a child with Autism; the pain is bearable, praise be to God, but not ever gone. Thank you for being so open & sharing your history with God with a hurting world.
Karen, I’m sorry about the pain you’ve experienced. May God be always near to you and the ones you love!