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Sunday, January 1, 2012

The saga, His saga, continues.


Blog posts two days in a row...setting myself up for failure, for sure.

Today is the first day of the new year, 2012. My boys are multitasking on either side of me. Both are reading –Charles the Sunday paper and Joseph a book—while watching the NFL games. It has been so good to have Joseph home for the past 10 days. I could get used to this. He flies back to Denver on Tuesday and we will hopefully fly out to see him in March. He will launch back into the job search when he returns to Denver, so please pray God will open the door for a job for Joseph in Denver, or that God will show Joseph where and what is His next step for him.

Back to the story... the year was 2000.

So, after some research I found a local community college that offered an Interpreter Training Program (ITP). It was fairly close (about 30 mins. from my home) so I registered for classes; they were all day classes, as I did not want to miss any precious time with my children during their school years.
I have to admit that returning to school at the age of 41was daunting, to say the least. It had been 23 years since I had taken a college class and now I would be taking all the necessary classes the ITP degree required, since none of my previous college credits transferred.

When classes started the fall of 2000 I soon found that I was not the oldest student in the ITP classes and I was able to, fairly quickly, get back into the routine of reading, taking notes, and studying. As far as the ASL (American Sign Language) classes, I was surprised at how many of the signs I remembered learning from my one ASL class I had taken as a 17 year old at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. The vocabulary was not the problem, but the correct way of producing that vocabulary with the appropriate non-manual markers (ASL grammar) was very challenging. I practiced constantly.

In college, while dating, Charles and I both decided to take an ASL class (but not at the same time), since I had hereditary deafness in my family. We figured should we get married, and we planned to, it would not be out of the question for us to have a deaf child. I am not sure why we thought one ASL class would qualify us to parent a deaf child, but...

Dr. Jerry Seale was the instructor for the ASL classes at UT, back then. I am so thankful that I had the advantage of a true ASL class and not a SEE (Signed Exact English/Seeing Essential English) class. Of course, at the time, I had no idea there was anything but ASL. I know many ASL students who have struggled interminably because they thought they were learning ASL, in the beginning, only to find that in reality it was SEE, or some form of SEE. Trying to break those SEE habits and change to ASL is not an easy task.
Jerry and my mother and grandmother were fast friends. My maternal grandmother and grandfather were Deaf, but my mom was hearing and the oldest child. My grandfather, William H. Chambers, died in 1953 before I was born, but as a child, I was taught all about him and the legacy he left at the Tennessee School for the Deaf in Knoxville. Since my mom was the oldest hearing child it was natural for her to became the family interpreter for my Deaf grandparents at a very young age. She confided to me several times what an overwhelming responsibility that was for her.
One would naturally think that I would have learned ASL from my Deaf grandmother. I do remember, as a very young child, running to the knees of my grandmother to practice the manual alphabet and some basic signs with her. However, I also remember as I grew older I stopped this practice. It is sad to say, but I assume I became more fascinated by other things than signing with my grandmother. I NEVER had a meaningful conversation with my grandmother that I can remember, before she died.
I mentioned yesterday that there was a specific question during my BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) study, in the fall of 1999, where God really caught my attention that He meant business for me to return to school. That question was, How can you trace the hand of God throughout your life? As I read that question I was instantly reminded of several specific ways God had His hand on me through the Deaf. First, was the legacy of my Deaf grandparents, second, he reminded me of a comment Jerry Seale told my mother after I completed his ASL class at UT 24 years prior, and third, was God moving our family to a church with a Deaf Ministry. 
Of course, God alone is the one who gave me my Deaf heritage through my grandparents, my Deaf aunt and uncle and their four Deaf children—my cousins. God is also to credit for the impression and comment Jerry Seale shared with my mother about me after completing his ASL class—She has...the gift! I had no idea what he meant then and in 1999 I still did not know. I just knew that if I had some sort of gift, it had to be from God. And only God could lead us to a church with a Deaf ministry whose director was none other than, Joyce Smith.
I finally had the opportunity to reconnect with Jerry Seale in 2009 at a Deaf marriage retreat. I knew him instantly---that pony tail is unmistakable. Yes, Jerry has had that pony tail for as long as I have known him—more than 35 years. Once I reminded him who I was and began signing to him my story of returning to school, learning ASL, and becoming involved in Deaf ministry he told me, You have the gift! I did not ask him what he meant, so I am not exactly sure what the gift is, but what I do know—IF I have the gift--whatever it is--it is completely from God. Part of His hand on my life!

Note added February 3, 2013:  Last month, I met with Jerry again and I finally asked him what he meant by "the gift" .  Nonchalantly he responded, "The gift of deafness inside you, even though you are not physically deaf."  Still unsure what all this means, but ultimately sure God does and pray He will use it for His glory alone! 

To be continued...

Some of you say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to some city. We will stay there a year, do business, and make money." But you do not know what will happen tomorrow! Your life is like a mist. You can see it for a short time, but then it goes away.  So you should say, "If the Lord wants, we will live and do this or that."  But now you are proud and you brag. All of this bragging is wrong.  Anyone who knows the right thing to do, but does not do it, is sinning. James 4:13-17

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