WHEN CHRISTMAS WAS SIGHTED — SIX HOLIDAY MEMORIES FROM THE TIME BEFORE I WAS BLIND

As Christmas approaches and the world descends into a frenzy of holiday activity, I take a walk down memory lane, and reflect on the six Christmasses with my family before I became blind. I don’t remember many of them as I was so young, but there are bits and pieces that I recall which form the fondest of memories and the warmest of feelings. And I want to share them with you.

Here are six special childhood memories that I will always hold close to my heart and take with me as I celebrate this and many more Christmas seasons to come.

I. Frosty in Footprints

One winter while my grandparents were visiting, Grandpa and I were playing in the backyard, when Grandpa said “follow me.” He began walking in odd patterns, shuffling his feet in the snow. I followed where he put his feet, and was entirely confused. After he was finished, we went inside and he lead me to the kitchen window which overlooked the backyard. There, in the snow, was the word “Frosty” which had been written out by our footprints.

II. The Snow Mountain

Every year, our side yard became home to the snow mountain. When the handyman came around with his bobcat, he shoveled the snow into a hill and carved out small steps in the side. And every year, my siblings and I spent hours running up the snow mountain and sliding down just as fast as we could!

III. Home from the Hospital… Just in Time

I was fortunate that, for the first year I was battling my cancer, I was able to spend Christmas at home with my family. But it was a close call. I was released on Christmas Eve, and when I walked in the front door, my entire family was waiting for me–my grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and cousins on my mom’s side were there! It was so sweet, being surrounded by family for the holidays. I remember some, but I’m sure not all, of the mischief me and my cousins got into, and as the youngest cousin, I’m sure I got out of all the trouble, too.

IV. The Christmas Eve Tradition

For most people I know, Christmas morning is the pinnacle of the holidays. It’s when stockings are opened along with the presents piled up beneath the tree. For me, it’s opposite: Christmas Eve was the night I awaited with such excitement, and continues to since I’ve brought its tradition into my adulthood.

My family attended the Christmas Eve service at church where we would sing carols, read the story of Jesus’ birth and light candles. Once home, we’d change into pajamas and open every present… almost. Except for our stockings and the gift from Mom and Dad, every other present was torn open and squealed over. Then came the movie, which as tradition dictated, was the classic, Miracle on 34th Street. To this day, I have most of that movie memorized!

V. Into the Wilderness!

The first Saturday of December was the most exciting day–it’s when we got bundled up and headed out into the woods to cut down a Christmas tree! My memories are made up of trudging through the snow, picking out the perfect tree, Dad cutting it down with a saw and dragging it back to the car, and me, exhausted from the day’s events, insisting on being pulled home on the sled. On Sunday after church, we’d decorate it, and my favourite ornaments to hang were always the musical instruments.

VI. The Reindeer

Dad was a forester for 30 years, and as a gift from a coworker one year, he received a uniquely “foresty” gift–a reindeer made of tree trunks and branches! It has survived many a move and still stands proud, albeit a bit wobbly, in my parents’ living room.

Christmas, both when I was sighted and now that I am blind, holds a special place in my heart. There are parts of the season I wish I could see still, but I’ve gained a new appreciation for the holiday as a blind woman. After all, it’s still a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, and that is something I can celebrate with or without sight.

What do you remember about Christmas and the holiday season when you were a child? Let me know in the comments.

THERE IS NO MEANING IN DISABILITY PRIDE WITHOUT GOD

My first braille Bible came a few volumes at a time. In the first box was the Gospel of Matthew and Acts of the Apostles, two books in the New Testament. I was ecstatic. And as they came box by box, my Bible filled up my bookshelf and at seven years old, I could read the Word of God for myself for the first time.

It was so exciting, being able to read the Bible like my family and friends at church. I took it to Sunday School with me and was able to participate in Sword drills and follow along with the passage during the sermon. I kept a volume next to my bed, and half the shelf in my bedroom was taken up with the 37-volume Bible from Lutheran Braille Workers.

In my early twenties, I decided it was time for a new Bible, one with crisp braille dots and edges that didn’t have permanent curves from leaning against the wall by my bed. I opted for a 20-volume, hardcover Bible in the New King James Version [NKJV]. It now sits on my bookshelf, taking four cubbies to hold it all. It’s made the trek with me from my home two cities and four houses ago. It still takes up most of the bookshelf, and I still keep a volume by my bed.

It’s been with me for as long as I can remember, and so has God.

But my relationship with my braille Bible is easier to define than my relationship with God. There was a beginning, a conscious decision to open the pages and glide my fingers over the sweet dots that spelled out the story of God’s love for me. But growing up in a Christian home meant that God was in my life while I was still in the womb, and before I could say the name of God, He was a significant part of my existence. There’s never been life for me without Him. No beginning, no divide between when I knew Him and when I didn’t. Along the way, there have been landmarks in our relationship, like my baptism at 14 and my decision to attend Bible college after high school.

Receiving my braille Bibles have been landmark moments in my faith journey, too, but it’s not only because of being given the ability to read God’s Word for myself. It’s because the Bible was in braille, and for the first time, my identities as a disabled woman and a Christian came together in a real, tangible way.

The immense pride I have in my identity as a disabled woman only has meaning when taken with my pride in being a follower of Jesus Christ. I never believed they could coexist before, but not only can they, it makes my life overflow with beauty and meaning in both.

My disability is beautiful because I know that God created me this way and takes joy in me.
My faith is bolstered because of what I have endured as a disabled woman and every trial I face points back to God.

As simplistic as it may sound, the Bible sitting on my bookshelf now and the one in my childhood bedroom is how I know this is true. In one book, my disability and my God come together. It’s the only way to have full and complete meaning in both my disabled identity and my Christian identity. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My disability brings me closer to God, and God brings me pride in my disability.

You all know that I’m very vocal about my disability pride and a bit less so about my Christian pride. My faith journey is a very private one, and I keep it behind a curtain for only me and God to see. But every time I write about disability equality, accessibility, rights and ways to become allies of the disabled community, it stems from my love for the God who made me disabled, and beautifully so. There’s no meaning in it if God isn’t the maker and the center, and I’m thankful that He is, and will always be, there.

How does your faith impact your relationship with your disability, and vice versa? Let me know in the comments.