I am a believer, a dreamer, a traveler. I love learning, experiencing new places and cultures, and climbing to the highest point simply to check out the view. Music and singing can occupy me for hours. Reading, not so much. My faith, family and friends are the most important things in my life. I find a reason to laugh and smile every single day and I will never (ever) turn down ice cream! Does that give you a pretty good picture of who I am?
If you happen to know me, or if you met me for the first time and that's all I gave you, you might think I've left out a rather obvious, important piece. What I didn't tell you is I have cerebral palsy and I walk with canes. I was born 13 weeks early and have had 15 surgeries. And while this disability has been a part of making me who I am, I left it out on purpose. I intentionally left out the description of my handicap because I wanted you to see me as I see myself – not as a person with a disability. Those of you who wear glasses can probably relate to this.
If someone were to ask you to describe yourself, you wouldn't immediately proclaim that you wear glasses. Glasses aid you in seeing the world clearly, but they do not define who you are.
While I am somewhat reluctant to admit that I walk with canes, I also feel that my disability has been a catalyst to trust and walk by faith, literally and spiritually. My newest physical challenge is learning to walk without my canes. Sometimes my steps are short and slow. Other times, my strides are long and steady. I always insist on having my trainer, Chris, directly behind me before I begin to take a step. My fear-stricken face lets him know that I am afraid to take the step. I am afraid to fall. He always looks at me and says, "Go! Have I ever let you get hurt? I am here to catch you. I will pick you up if you fall." There is rarely a day that Chris and I practice walking and I do not stumble. But every day, he is there to catch me or pick me up if I fall. Despite the difficulties associated with this new endeavor, sans canes, I feel so free!
Learning to walk without my canes, has shown me the struggle and the joy of the Christian life. My relationship with Christ has not been easy. But it has meant that I have Christ walking with me, every step of the way–through surgeries, college, living in my own apartment–picking me up when I fall. And in that relationship, even when my steps forward are short and faltering, I have found freedom.
I do not like to describe myself as a person with a disability. It seems unnecessary to focus on the things I am unable to do because of cerebral palsy. My cerebral palsy does not define who I am. I want to show you the full life that I live; all of the things that I can do. Things such as driving a car, cheering on my favorite sports team at the stadium, or having coffee with a friend. There are, however, aspects of daily life that are much more difficult for me because of my disability such as riding escalators, climbing into the bathtub, or trying to navigate an icy sidewalk. But, I do not let these things stop me! Philippians 4:13 says "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." That's the way I like it! Claiming a disability is only good for getting a close parking space!