Communication and accessibility are basic human rights.
Will you join me in the fight for equality?
Will you join me in the fight for equality?
I hadn't heard of "No Ordinary Hero" until a few days ago. One of the youtubers I follow, Rikki Poynter, explained the plot of the film and talked about why it's an important film for Deaf children and their families.You can watch Rikki's video by clicking here. Although the film is marketed towards children, I was interested. I then saw that it was on Netflix and planned to watch it soon.
Yesterday, I was at a friend's house and I told her about the movie. She was interested too and we decided to watch the movie with her kids. We all loved it! Not only were the kids very into it, but it kept us engaged as adults too. One of her younger children (who can't read completely yet), kept eagerly asking us "What are they saying?!" during the scenes that were in sign language with subtitles. One of us would read the subtitles out loud. If there's anything I love more than being fascinated by sign language myself, it's seeing a child fascinated by sign language!
Let me briefly explain the plot of the movie. This movie followed the lives of a Deaf child and a Deaf adult, portraying the challenges that their deafness presents in their lives. The young boy attends a mainstream school and is in a hearing classroom. The film shows how he is unable to participate in class because he is not able to understand most of what is being said and he does not speak. There are also a few heartbreaking scenes where the child is bullied by a classmate.
When the young boy gets home from school, we briefly see him signing with his mom. He then excitedly flips on the TV to watch SuperDeafy. The show serves as an escape for him; it's a show in his own language that he can understand. As you might imagine, this is a quite a relief after being in a classroom all day where he was unable to communicate effectively.
A little later in the film, we see that the child's dad has a much different attitude about his deafness than his mom. His mom is doing the best she can to immerse her son in Deaf culture and sign with him, but her husband opposes her efforts. He believes that his son will never be able to succeed if he can't speak and lipread. He expresses a desire for his son to be "normal". It's heart-wrenching to see the child stuck in the middle of all of this while longing for the basic need of communication. To learn more about why lip reading is problematic, I highly recommend you watch the video titled "What It's Like to Read Lips", which I have posted at the end of this post.
The film also follows the life of a Deaf man named Tony. Tony is the man who plays SuperDeafy on TV. But, we soon learn that his everyday life is not as easy as it's made out to be on TV. Tony is treated very poorly by his coworkers on the set. This serves as a good reminder that adults can be bullies too. Tony has to reconsider what he really wants SuperDeafy to represent. Tony connects with the deaf child when he goes to do a performance at his school. What happens when they cross paths? You'll have to watch the movie to find out! I highly recommend it for all ages. As I mentioned earlier, it's available on Netflix. It is also available to purchase on Amazon.
Please comment if you've seen the movie and let me know what you think!
Sometimes, even though I absolutely love to sign, I am tempted not to do posts in sign language because it's more work. I have to record the video, upload the video, and then caption the video as opposed to just typing. It can also be harder for me to word things exactly the way I want since it's my second language. But, because I am passionate about ASL and I want to encourage all different types of communication on this page, I remain committed to doing ASL posts! Here is an ASL post about some things God revealed to me while I was studying 1 Peter. As always, it is captioned in English, so it is accessible to those of you who don't sign as well.
On Monday, I took a very big step into a new season of life; I moved into my own apartment! This is not the first time I have lived on my own, but this is still a very exciting accomplishment for me. Allow me to share some background information: for the past 2 years, I have had various health issues. 13 months ago, in the midst of all the health issues, I separated from my husband as well. I was unable to work due to my disabilities and moved back in with my parents. I lived with them for the past year (plus a month). I have spent the past year rebuilding my life from the ground up (by the grace of God). It has been the most difficult year of my life in many ways, and also the most amazing year of my life in other ways. I focused on getting my health under control, rediscovering my interests and passions, improving old relationships as well as starting new ones, and, ultimately, I got saved in September of last year.
I still struggle with my health, but I am in much more stable condition that I was a year ago. I have learned how to live my life in a way that accommodates my illnesses. Part of my disability is a short and long term memory issue (more about that in an upcoming post), so I have also spent the last year relearning how to do a lot of things that most people my age would probably consider pretty basic.
There was a point a few months ago when my parents and I discussed when I might possibly move out into my own place. At that particular time, I was starting to feel better and getting eager to enter that next season of my life. We learned of a house that was for rent, and we looked into it a bit. In order to rent the house before another potential renter, I would have had to make the decision within a few days. At this point, I did not have any income, so that would have been a major issue. I had been praying about my future living situation before this, but I began to focus on this issue more in my prayer time. I prayed that if this move was God's will, that He would give the go ahead. That He would make a way for it to happen. I could feel God telling me this was not the time or the place. I talked to my mom and she had also been praying and feeling the same way. I felt surprisingly peaceful about giving up that house.
Even though I gave up that particular house, I did not give up praying about my future living situation. I prayed that God would give me wisdom and discernment to know when the timing and the place were right. I was praying that He would give me and my parents unity so that we could all be on the same page with this decision. I prayed that if and when I needed to change anything in my life, He would show me how to follow His good, pleasing and perfect will and then give me the strength and courage to obey. God definitely gave me a sense of contentment with staying with my parents. I find it very amusing that I didn't get the house I wanted when I was eager to move out, but I got the apartment we found when I was thinking that my moving out was still a long way off! All in His timing, friends.
Although I had prayed a lot about my future living situation, my parents and I hadn't talked much about it until about a week before finding my apartment. We discussed that we may be able to look into finding a place again now that I had some income. We were thinking it still may be awhile down the road, but we weren't sure. On Saturday night, my mom decided to check out available apartments in our area on craigslist just to see what was available. She came across a studio apartment in a really nice location that was within my budget. She called me into the living room to look at it. It was late Saturday night, so we decided we would call the owners the next day. So, Sunday we called the owners and they told me they had rented the apartment I had seen online. I thought to myself "Ok, guess this isn't going to work out right now." But, the woman then said she had another studio available in the next building over. So, my parents and I went over Sunday afternoon to take a look. The place was small, but completely doable for one person. We all liked the apartment, the location, and the owners. My parents asked me if I wanted to really do this. I said yes. This was really happening!
Much to my surprise, the owners told me I could move in the next day if I wanted. I decided that if I was going to do this, I might as well jump in! The timing felt absolutely perfect. I knew God was giving me the go ahead on this one. Monday afternoon, I signed my lease and my parents helped me move in. I have now been here 3 days and I am very happy so far. It is evident to me in so many ways that this move was part of God's plan for me.
So, what does all this have to do with communication? We have to be communicating with God on a regular basis in order to understand His plan for our lives. Of course, we never see the whole picture, but He reveals pieces to us in His timing. If we're not taking time each day to listen for His voice, how will we know when He presents us with opportunities? His ways are so much higher than our ways; we need to make sure that, when we make decisions, they are the ones God wants us making. I spent countless hours praying about my living situation. I could have jumped into renting the first house even though it didn't feel right. I know that would have been a disaster. Because I was taking the time to communicate with God, I was able to make decisions that were part of His plan for me. My living situation is just one example of how important it is to listen for God's voice each and every day. Every time you are in a situation where you're not sure what decision you need to make, bring it before the Lord. It doesn't matter if it's a trivial decision or a life altering one; God wants you to stay in tune with His plan for your life! Take time each day to be in the Word, pray, and fellowship with Christian friends. God will speak to you and you will get better at discerning His voice as you build your relationship with Him. Yes, we will make mistakes. But, that's where grace comes in! We live in a fallen world and we cannot be perfect. But, we can trust our futures to a perfect God.
Slow internet and all, I managed to get my first post in ASL up and running--captions and all! If you need the English captions and are not seeing them, click on the CC button on the bottom of the video and they will come on. In this vlog I explain what the blog is about and what some of my goals are for the blog/vlog. As you can clearly see in this video, I am not perfect at signing. I considered redoing this video because I made too many mistakes, but I decided to keep it the way it was. I think it's important for you all to be a part of as many experiences in my life regarding communication as possible, and that includes practicing and getting better at ASL. So, enjoy and feel free to laugh at my bad signing when necessary! (I know, I know, I really gotta work on that grammar!) And, a side note, the photo thumbnails of me signing are always so unflattering. I wonder if other signers have this problem.
I have been signing for about 5 years now. I never anticipated sign language would be as important to me as it is today. The first Deaf person I ever met was my cousin. I live in New York and she lives in Virginia, so we don’t see each other often. However, as we grew older, we were able to keep in touch more using technology. Consequently, we grew closer. One day, I asked her if it would be easier for us to communicate if I learned sign language. She said yes. I immediately began teaching myself out of love for her. I had no idea what type of journey I was about to embark on. I had no idea that I would be exposed to such rich language and culture. I pictured myself using sign language only to communicate with my cousin and had no idea it was going to permeate many areas of my life.
It didn’t take long for me to get hooked on ASL. I realized very quickly that ASL wasn’t just a visual version of English. It is its own distinct language with its own grammar and syntax. The grammar even involves facial expressions and body language! How cool is that? Then, I discovered that there is an entire Deaf culture. I learned that deafness is not viewed as a disability in Deaf culture. On the contrary, it’s viewed as something to be proud of; it is viewed as a crucial part of one’s identity. I learned the concept “deaf gain” (see the video link at the end of this piece to learn about deaf gain). I was immediately fascinated with Deaf culture and dedicated just about as much time to learning about Deaf culture as I did to learning ASL. There is so much more to Deaf culture than I can fit into this post, but please know that it is a very rich culture with its own norms, jokes, idioms, expectations, etc.
I was excited when I finally knew enough ASL to communicate better with my cousin. We would sign together and she would help me when I made mistakes and show me new signs (which she still does). It was (and still is) an amazing bonding experience! Our relationship has flourished so much because of ASL. There is just a bond between people who use ASL that is hard to describe.
Soon, I realized that I loved ASL and Deaf culture way too much for its use in my life to be confined to communicating with one person. It became very clear to me that God exposed me to this language for multiple reasons. As I continued to immerse myself in Deaf culture as much as possible, I learned that the Deaf population is highly unreached in terms of ministry. I learned that, in the United States, only 2% of Deaf people consider themselves Christians and that only about 5% will ever have the gospel presented to them in their own language. There just aren’t enough people in ministry that know ASL. I was immediately shocked and knew this was wrong. I knew in this moment that God had placed ASL in my life for multiple reasons, and that one of them was to make a difference in His kingdom. I began to research Deaf ministry and was even more motivated to improve my ASL.
Another misconception I had when I first started learning ASL is that I would use it solely to benefit others, not realizing the benefits available to myself. I learned all about the numerous benefits of ASL for deaf people including earlier language development, better ability to communicate, feeling a sense of community and belonging, higher reading and writing levels, higher likelihood to graduate from high school; the list goes on and on. But, deaf people aren’t the only ones who can benefit from ASL. After all, it’s already been proven that using sign language with hearing babies enables them to communicate before they are able to speak, which decreases frustration and improves speech development. I’ve seen hearing children with special needs use sign language to fulfill their communication needs, sometimes exclusively and sometimes together with English. With all the known benefits of ASL, doesn’t it only make sense that hearing adults can benefit from ASL too?
ASL has become such an important part of who I am. When I realized I was interested in Deaf ministry, I began to learn how to sign worship songs. I realized that, not only did this benefit people who couldn’t hear the music, but it benefitted me because it helped me express my feelings during worship. That is how I realized that ASL helps me express myself. I am an extremely emotional person and I sometimes have a hard time articulating how I’m feeling; this pertains to both positive and negative emotions. I’m also a very visual person; visuals have always helped me learn. There are times when I can express ideas and feelings in ASL that I can’t express the same way in English. ASL is, by nature, a much more expressive language than English. It helps me express myself because I can move around more and I can make more exaggerated facial expressions without it being “weird”. I also have a memory problem. When I sign, it sometimes helps me remember and/or apply things better than when I listen and speak exclusively. People that know me well know that I sometimes accidentally sign while I speak without even realizing it or that I sign to myself in lieu of talking to myself at times. They’re also not surprised when I say: “I need to sign while I say this.” But, when I sign around other hearing people, it’s not just for me; it’s for them too. I know, of course, it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to be proficient in sign language, but what a wonderful world it would be if everyone was at least exposed and knew how to treat deaf people with respect. I sign for the person who has never seen sign language before and asks me “what were you doing with your hands?” I sign for the small children imitating my signs and asking me how to sign words or fingerspell their names. I sign for the people that come up to me and ask me how they can learn sign language.
So, ASL holds a special place in my heart both for the benefits I receive from it and the benefits I see others receive. I’ve built a stronger relationship with my cousin. I can more effectively express my emotions. I have the privilege of teaching other hearing people about ASL and Deaf culture and the privilege of talking with and learning from some pretty awesome deaf people. I can be a part of bridging the communication gap that exists far too often between hearing and deaf people. I am still not completely fluent in ASL, but I am continuing to improve both my expressive and my receptive skills. My ultimate dream is to be completely fluent and fully engaged in Deaf ministry. God willing, that will happen. But, even if it doesn’t, I know I will never lose my love for the Deaf community and for ASL. ASL, and all signed languages, can benefit all different types of people (although, hearing people who use ASL should take the time to learn at least the basics of Deaf culture since the language and the culture correspond so closely). Signed languages should not be viewed as less than spoken languages, as visual aids for spoken languages, or as some sort of last resort for people who don’t benefit from spoken language. Signed languages have so much to offer our world, and the more we spread awareness, share our stories, and expose people to sign language, the more we can all reap those benefits.
Ted Talk: “Navigating Deafness in a Hearing World”
“Can you read my lips?”
I woke up around 9:00 this morning. It felt good to sleep in; I hadn't done so in awhile. I got up feeling pretty rested. I made myself breakfast, ate, and then began picking up the house. This is all pretty typical for me. I had only been awake for about an hour when I started to feel tired. This is also not atypical, but there was something different about it today. My anxiety level was high, which I knew because of the heavy feeling in my chest.
I seemed to be disproportionately anxious about things that didn't matter much. One of the causes was that I had started reading a book that I didn't feel it was the right time to read, but I felt like I should read. This book has a corresponding Bible study and I felt overwhelmed by the thought of trying to do this study along with the things I was already doing with my devotional time. I tried to just read the book without doing the study, but that made me feel guilty--like I wasn't getting everything out of the book that I should be. I hadn't even realized how much anxiety this was causing me. That anxiety was causing my brain to worry about other trivial things as well. Why was I doing this? Was this the beginning of an out of control spiral, like similar feelings have triggered in the past?
Then it came to me: my devotional time the last few days had been pathetic. I was either waiting until I was too exhausted to pay attention to anything, or I was trying to cram too much in before I got too exhausted. While quantity does not equal quality, quantity is not entirely invaluable. I was significantly reducing the typical quantity of my alone time with God for sub-par reasons. I am usually pretty diligent with my devotional time, but, when I'm not feeling well, I tend to slip up by sacrificing quantity, quality, or both. This really doesn't make any sense! When I don't feel well, I should be seek God MORE, not less!
So, in this moment of being anxious about enough small things to make a big thing, I decided to make an intentional decision to break the cycle I had unintentionally started. I lavished some grace upon myself by removing the bookmark from the previously mentioned book and moving it from the spot on my bookshelf where I keep the book I'm currently reading. I was still feeling trapped in my anxiety. I looked outside and observed that it was a beautiful, sunny day. I needed a change of scenery from the familiarity of my house. I am not a person that typically just randomly goes outside. I thought about going for a walk, but that seemed too daunting. My body was already feeling worn out and the thought of exerting it more sounded awful. But then I thought: why not just sit outside? I continued to entertain this thought, realizing that I had a beach mat in my closet that would be perfect to use for sitting on the lawn. I still tried to make excuses: "what if it's buggy? Wouldn't it just be easier to do the same stuff inside the house?" No. I needed the change of scenery to break the cycle.
So, I headed outside to intentionally get right with God and get away from all the pointless junk that was causing me unneeded stress. I left the unfolded laundry on the couch and took my beach mat, my Bible, my notebook, and a book I had been wanting to read. I was unsure if this time would go in the direction of digging into the Word or reading my cheesy YA novel (by the way, I'm not suggesting that we should substitute cheesy YA novels for the Bible or Christian books. But, if I'm spending time on growing in God and the other book is not a substitute, an idol, or something that will hinder my relationship with God, I should be able to enjoy reading it. So, I brought it along as a symbol of the grace I was giving myself.) I also intentionally did not bring my phone, my computer, or my shoes.
I'm sure you can probably guess that the reason I left my phone and my computer behind was to intentionally unplug and keep my focus on God. But why no shoes, you ask? Because I am a very sensory driven person. I knew that feeling the grass on my feet (along with looking at all the green trees, listening to the birds, and feeling the breeze) was going to be an important part of this process. And it was (and still is, since this is originally being written in my notebook in the midst of this experience I'm on the 5th page and, honestly, I'm starting to get hungry. But, I'm determined to finish this!) I took my tings to a sunny spot in my yard and "set up". As I lied down on my beach mat and felt the sun and the gentle breeze, my anxiety began to melt away instantly. "Ok, that was fast. I Iike this", I thought. I knew God deserved a shout out for helping me so much in such a short period of time, so I started praying as I moved my hands and feet along the grass. "God, thank you for your beautiful creation. My devotional time was been pathetic lately and I'm so sorry. Please forgive me. I want to know You more. I want hear Your voice. This time is for you, Lord."
I continued to pray for awhile, for both myself and others, and to just feel and hear my surroundings. Every once in awhile, I'd open my eyes and look around, too, thanking God again for His beautiful creation and for the fact that I live in a place I can just sit in my yard and have this experience. Then, I started writing this. I love how even writing can be an act of worship and a way to spend time with God. I keep wanting to stop and fix things as I'm writing, but I've decided to to fight the urge and just let my words flow from my brain onto the paper in an act of worship and leave the editing for later. I've been out here for awhile now and still haven't read anything, but that's totally ok! God chose to speak to me through prayer, my senses, and writing right now, and I chose to let Him do it!
It's so important that our time with God is led by His will and not by some plan we've created so that we can check it off our to-do list. When you think about it, the fact that we attempt to reduce an omnipotent, omnipresent God to an item on a checklist is pretty foolish on our part. I think I will read Ephesians 6 now since I've been studying Ephesians this week. (Funny story: my pen literally ran out of ink in the middle of that last sentence and I wasn't ready to go back in the house yet. So, I did my reading and the rest of this is being written later in the day). In addition to reading Ephesians 6, I went back over my notes from church on Sunday since I remembered that I had wanted to re-examine a few things. At this point, I had been outside for about two hours and was truly hungry for lunch. I gathered my things and went in the house.
I was afraid I'd lose the peaceful feeling I'd attained, but I didn't. I ate my lunch, folded the laundry, reorganized my to-do list for the remainder of the day, and took a nice peaceful nap. I had effectively broken the cycle. Obviously, the answer to our problems is not always as simple as sitting outside in the yard. However, it does always involve laying our worries at God's feet and trusting Him. And, when the answer is simple, shouldn't we take advantage of that?
What do you do to improve your communication with God when you feel yourself drifting? Comment down below!