These days having a daughter who is deaf is a part of our norm. We don’t dwell on it. We don’t even think about it for the most part. SJ is deaf and it does make life different for her than for a hearing person but she has proven over and over that it isn’t going to hold her back.
Although, looking back 6 years ago to when she was diagnosed, it wasn’t that simple. It was pretty devastating to be honest. If you’ve followed my blog for a while you know the story. My husband was a worship leader in Texas when we felt God calling us to Kentucky. We left our home and our ministry to see what He had in store. Only two months later when we had no job and were living with my parents we learned that our daughter had profound hearing loss.
Everything we had built together as a couple was shaken.
The very first time I ever saw Jeremy he was leading worship, singing and playing the guitar. Music was an enormous part of our lives and we felt the Lord had blessed us with the gift to lead others in bringing God praise through music. Finding out that your child is deaf is a big shocker for most but when what you feel is your calling revolves around being able to hear it is especially tough. We felt so lost. It was like being stripped of our identity.
That wasn’t in the forefront of our mind at the time though. My biggest concern was figuring out how to communicate with our baby girl now that I knew she hadn’t been hearing me for the past two years.
I had already taught her a handful of signs that I learned from a baby signing curriculum my parents got for our first born. Now it was time to really dig into sign language.
I devoured everything I could find that taught ASL. I contacted friends that signed or that knew anyone who was deaf. I wanted to learn all that I could. I bought books about ASL. I watched videos about ASL and I integrated into our home daily. It was SJ’s first language. One of the things that really helped me in that season was worshiping in sign.
I will never forget the first song I learned. It was Matt Reman’s We Are the Free. I practiced over and over. No one saw me except my Heavenly Father.
I started learning new worship songs and I would occasionally sign in church while we sang, but for the most part it was something I did privately. It got me through that difficult season and it also helped me become more familiar with ASL so that I could continue moving forward with finding a language for SJ.
Fast forward 6 years and SJ now has cochlear implants.
She can hear music now and has learned to speak. Also, Jeremy is leading worship again. It’s been a long journey to get to this point but the Lord has recently brought even more healing to my soul.
When I found out that deaf singer-songwriter Mandy Harvey (the golden Buzzer winner from America’s Got Talent) was going to be a special guest at our church I was ecstatic. I was also told that the pastor wanted me to sign during worship. The idea of interpreting worship songs and expressing my love and adoration to God through this beautiful signed language made my heart so full. I dove right in.
As I started working to interpret the songs panic set in. I would be signing in front of a lot of other people on the platform for the first time and some of those people would actually be deaf and use sign language to communicate! This terrified me. It’s one thing when it’s just me and Jesus but this was a whole new ball game. These are just some of the thoughts, fears, and lies that went through my mind.
You can’t do this. You aren’t qualified. What if you accidentally sign the wrong thing? What if you forget the words? What if people think you are showing off? What if the deaf community thinks you are foolish? What if they find out your daughter has cochlear implants? You know how cochlear implants are perceived. They are going to hate you and see you as a fraud. What were you thinking to agree to this? Back out! Back out now!
I let the anxiety cloak me and I texted my friend who grew up signing because she is a CODA (child of deaf adults). She was going to help me but I tried to cancel. I told her I was “chickening out”. I typed out the words “I don’t think I’m strong enough or fast enough”. She texted me back encouraging me and told me why she thought I needed to do it, but also told me I could decide after meeting with her and going over the songs.
That Sunday I stepped up to the x on the stage and as the band began to play I took that music that I heard and I formed it into a visual with my hands. It was incredible. The beauty behind American Sign Language is amazing to me.
I was completely overcome with emotions as I felt the Lord healing me in areas that I didn’t even know it was needed. He did though. This was a full circle moment that I would have never envisioned in a million years. I let my hands sing as I signed the words
“I am chosen, not forsaken. I am who you say I am. You are for me, not against me. I am who you say I am.
Who the son sets free is free indeed. I am a child of God, yes I am. In my father’s house, there’s a place for me. I am a child of God yes I am”
I mentioned that when we were in that dark place after leaving our home in Texas we felt lost and confused about who we were. When we had to choose how to help our daughter by either fully emerging in the signing community or having the cochlear implant surgery we felt lost and confused about who we were. When I was asked to sign but felt completely unqualified those same emotions were back but as I motioned my hand back and forth to form the words “I AM WHO YOU SAY I AM” I knew it to be true.
No matter what obstacles or lies we are up against we can stand firm on the truth about what His word says about who we are and who He has called us to be.
I am chosen!
There is a place for me!
I am a child of God!
Who knew how this story would play out. The daughter of a worship leader profoundly deaf did not receive the supernatural healing prayed for.
It sounds bleak, but instead, God took us on a faith journey like no other. A journey that at times seemed so dark I felt like I was going to accidentally stumble into a pit. I had no idea where we were headed.
That Sunday as I stood next to my husband while he played the guitar and led the congregation I interpreted the words into sign language and it was like I had an aeriel view of the journey and I saw how God’s hand was at work all along.
I have had several more opportunities to sign since then and will be worshiping in sign this Sunday as well. I have had such generous feedback from my church family and I appreciate the kind words. Whenever someone told me that it was powerful and touching I wanted to share with them the story of how I got to that place and how it was all because of God. This little testimony took over a thousand words to type out though so instead all I can say is: Thank you. I feel the same way.