10.23.2015

Dyslexia can be used for God's glory - and our good!

This morning I sat next to my oldest son in a room filled with 250 people who all had something in common. Dyslexia.
It was the first time I have ever been in 'community' with others who struggle with dyslexia or teach/care for/love someone who is dyslexic. And I was overwhelmed.
Overwhelmed by the comfort of being with people who "get it."
Overwhelmed by the testimonies of hardships and shame and misery experienced in the school setting when they were children.
Overwhelmed by the frustration of prejudice and misunderstanding and ignorance projected onto people who are dyslexic.

The seminar kicked off with the testimonies of three incredibly successful dyslexics who had to overcome tremendous odds to get where they are today. I was surprised by the emotion evoked by their stories. My eyes were wet with tears at least a dozen times, but I would not give in to the feelings bubbling under the surface. "This is not the time or the place, Michelle! Why are you so emotional anyway? Pull it together!" But it was difficult. Many of their statements struck a chord deep in my heart, and I found myself experiencing an empathy I didn't know was possible.

They made me laugh because they have learned the art of creating "a joke between us, not about us" and are brilliant at bringing comic relief into a serious topic.
Learning disabilities are not funny. They are real. They are painful. They change lives - and they ruin lives.
But it doesn't have to be that way.

Dyslexia is a GIFT.
The brain works differently in a dyslexic person which forces them to think differently. Creatively. Sometimes illogically. Because they have no choice. They can't do things 'like everybody else' so they forge a new path. They fail over and over when trying to accomplish things the traditional way, so they possess a resilience which enables them to push through difficulties until they find success.

Tears, frustration, anger, embarrassment, shame ... all of these accompany dyslexia in some form because it is almost impossible to hide. Even without a label there is a perceived difference and comments are made, judgments are formed, and prejudices are created.
Though these dyslexic adults have achieved great success (international fame), there is still a shadow that crosses the face and a quiver in the voice when they tell their stories ... when they tap into those dark days when they were told they were stupid, lazy, and not willing to apply themselves.
The wounds have healed, but the scars remain.

The beauty is - they did not let their dyslexia DEFINE them. They let it DRIVE them.
They played up their strengths, their gifting, and their brilliance in ways that were not conventional or understood. They pushed the boundaries. They ignored the rules. They convinced people their way was better.
And they were RIGHT!

I was captivated by their stories.
Encouraged.
Challenged.
And convicted.

Listening to them share with ears seeking information and knowledge was one thing.
Listening with the ears of a mother who is raising and educating four dyslexic children was quite another.
Certain words, specific phrases, and overall attitudes they expressed drew my mind to the ways I have addressed dyslexia in our family. I have done some things well, and I have failed in others.
Once again, I was overwhelmed.

We were given a 20-minute break, Micah stepped outside to stretch, and I stood quietly to the side watching the group interact with one another. (95% of the group were educators/therapists.) As I stood there, the emotions I had ignored for the last 90 minutes refused to be held back, and the tears began rolling down my cheeks.
I moved back to my chair, sat down, and cried.
Right in the middle of the George Bush Conference Room.
I cried for the mistakes I have made.
I cried for the ignorance I possessed in the early years, and the choices I made based on that ignorance.
I cried for the humiliating moments when people shined a spotlight on the seeming shortcomings and inabilities of my dyslexic children - when my children knew they were being mocked.
I cried for the children I don't even know who are treated like they are 'lesser' simply because they cannot do things like everybody else.
I cried for the adults who still carry the pain of decades of shame placed upon them by the parents and teachers in their lives who should have been protecting them.
I cried because I needed to find that place inside of me that could empathize with the pain a dyslexic person feels ... and feel with them.

Whether anyone noticed me sitting in the middle of the room wiping away tears, I don't know. But in those isolated minutes, I felt like I was living in their skin - for the first time.
I am not dyslexic. I cannot and will not try to pretend I understand their struggles, their battles, or the war that requires constant awareness, attention, emotion, and fight.
But I want to understand.

Micah returned from the break to discover my watery eyes and immediately asked, "Mom, what's wrong?"
"Nothing. I'm okay." (How does one explain to her firstborn dyslexic child that she did not know enough to DO enough for him? That she pushed him too hard in some areas and did not encourage enough in others?)
He didn't buy it.
"Mom. You are sitting in a seminar crying. Something is wrong."
I looked at him through my tears and said, "I am just mourning the lost opportunities and mistakes I made with you and Caleb and Josiah. I could have done so much more."
And that is when I saw it. A glimpse of the young man he is becoming.
He responded, "Mom, you haven't done anything wrong. You did the best you could with what you knew. It's just another chance for redemption. God knows. And He will take care of it."
That did it.
Truth trumped emotion.

None of my children are DEFINED by their dyslexia.
Their identity - their intelligence - their skills - their everything is defined by CHRIST!
God created each of my children in His image, and He knows the plans He has prepared for them to give them a future and a hope. Even with a learning disability.
He can break through any learning barrier - any physical, mental or emotional barrier - and His glory will be seen when they accomplish things DESPITE their dyslexia because they can do all things through HIM who gives them strength!

Imagine how thrilled I was to return home after the seminar to find a box waiting for me which contained a Bible for Josiah.
He has to fight so hard to read - to recall the sounds of letters - to remember a word he just figured out two minutes before.
If he can only learn to read one book I want it to be the Bible!
And today - he did. He read a sentence from the Bible for the first time.
He had to work through each word, but when he finished the sentence he looked up, an enormous smile on his face, and declared, "I read the Bible!"

The world thinks it decides intelligence - who, what, where, when, why, how. But it does not.
My children were formed in the secret places of the earth by a God who chose every detail of their mind and body, and He will use their strengths and their weaknesses for His glory. And for their good.

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and His understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40

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