Friday, February 11, 2011


Have you ever suffered an affliction in life that you later discovered to be a blessing in disguise?  Or endured a hardship from which you learned an invaluable lesson?

Everything has its wonders,
even darkness and silence… and I learn,
whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.
~ Helen Keller

In the film, The Piano, Ada McGrath (Holly Hunter) hasn’t spoken since childhood.  She has willed herself not to speak.  This is the story of a mail-order bride and mute woman’s rebellion. 

Her daughter, Flora (Anna Paquin), acts as intermediary between her mother and the speaking world.  They converse secretly in sign language. 

My silence was not for the same reasons as Ada’s.  Muteness crept up and struck me like a sudden cloudburst.  Not long after my mother died, my voice departed too.

I couldn’t speak above a whisper for well over a year. A singer’s worst nightmare.  Gone were the days of songwriting, recording, and performing.  

But I could still speak with my hands.  I could still write poetry, and reconnect with deaf friends.

 Kimberly M.

Poem to a Deaf Friend

As I head for my car near nightfall
a Wood Thrush captures my ear
with his flute-like melody
so sweet it seems he’s singing
solely for me.
I carry his joy down this road,
hear his voice distinct and clear.
The sunset has spread its glory
across the western sky.
I’ll bet you see it too. How daylight’s strength
has mellowed into a rose so deep
you just can’t seem to turn away.
As for me, this inner music begs release.
And when at last we meet again
for you I’ll translate with my hands.

During this silent time I taught my daughter the graceful language of signing.  Within two years she was fluent enough to volunteer at the school for the deaf.

Here she taught mime workshops to elementary – high school students, and also spent time in the classrooms, working with younger children.

Later, when she decides to do a presentation on the deaf culture for 4-H Congress, she wins gold medals at both district and state levels.  

Today she still shares the language with others. My friend Jane invites her to teach a scripture verse to her Sunday school class, and here she is in action, showing the children how to sign
Romans 8:28
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

 Back to the question of the day.
 Have you ever suffered an affliction in life that you later discovered to be a blessing in disguise?  Or endured a hardship from which you learned an invaluable lesson? I’d love to hear your experience in the comments.


 “Poem for a Deaf Friend” was first published in The Lyricist.         


  1. Debra thank you so much for stopping by and pondering with me. I am following you too. I also feel sign language is very important language we should all learn. There is so many people in this world that hard of hearing or are not of hearing. My oldest son studied ASL the whole time he was in high school. I so tried to get him to teach his younger siblings but he didn't think they would catch on. I think he didn't have patients. But we are learning and making it apart of our daily lives! Thank you again for the kind words. God Bless you,
    April J.

  2. Sometimes words are not necessary and the signs are more effective. There is something about sign language that you makes you really listen with awareness

  3. This is one of my most favourite books and films,I return again and again to them both! I play the music constantly.

    Your post today jogged my lucky we are to be able to both hear and see! Truly wonderful that you learnt to sign and how much joy your beautiful daughter must give to you. My brother-in-law the Retired Policeman I mention on my blog, learnt to sign.


  4. I have always thought that signing had a beauty all it's own. Your daughter is doing a wonderful service. Blessings jane

  5. April, I offered to our homeschool co-op ASL classes. It was a HUGE group. After two years the students were skilled enough in the language to go out in the field and interact with the deaf community. I set up a program with the school for the deaf, which allowed my class the rare opportunity to volunteer on site and gain firsthand experience with the deaf culture. It was a most rewarding and enriching experience. I’d advise you to keep it up with your daughters - and somehow coax your son into helping his sisters learn :)

    Savira, you are so right. We do listen with more awareness and more intently when speaking this silent language. Signing can be more effective than commonplace verbiage since it necessarily cuts to the chase. I’d compare signing to writing in the sense that one must pause and be more mindful of what is being said.

    Jane (Half-heard in the Stillness), I also have The Piano soundtrack. Though I haven’t played it in awhile, I recall its soothing and sometimes intense music, which invokes memories of scenes from the movie. Working with the deaf, and then subsequently losing my voice, made me all the more grateful for my hearing and ability to speak, graces I’d previously taken for granted. My daughter served as my intermediary during my loss of speech - as did Flora for Ada.

    Jane, sign language is like a dance form in its graceful flow. When I was stricken with muteness, I performed sign/dance programs, because I was not letting some affliction get the best of me and rob me of my joy in life:) And yes, I am so very proud of my daughter’s service. She is an exceptional girl and a blessing to many.

  6. Wonderful post. "As for me, this inner music begs release"- lovely.

    I believe every single place I find myself through this journey called life teaches me an invaluable lesson.I actively look for lessons now, in hard times, in good times, in neutral times. I have always wanted to learn sign language and now that I have read this post it has ignited a new interest in doing so.


  7. What an amazing story! God truly does work in mysterious ways, and always for our good.

  8. Thank you Raimi and Deborah.

    Raimi, I also pay close attention to the many lessons life teaches, no matter what form the lessons take: painful, pleasant, or whatever. Read Craters on the Moon and No One Stays (powerful!),as well as Pulling Weeds and Planting Flowers… and I hope you keep writing - because you can!

    Deborah, I appreciate your visit and affirming comment. I’m looking forward to reading Stepping Stones Along my Journey!

  9. Beautiful Deb.....You are also teaching your child to give back.

  10. i hear and see but blind and deaf because of dyslectcia they say it is a learning disability, but it is not it a communication disorder, i have learn to use it to my advantage by hearing an see thing that most people don't, i have work with the handy-capable people they know about life and it beauty.

  11. That was a beautiful movie. How sweet that you made something beautiful out of a tragic part of your life! A few weeks ago I started having vision problems. I thought I was going blind. My doctor said otherwise though, and he's trying a few things. But it really gave me food for thought, about what it would be like to be blind. How horrible it must be for those who can't see...or hear! We take so much for granted...

  12. Thank you Dianna, Roy, and Deborah Ann for your comments.
    Dianna… John Gatto Taylor beautifully sums up my own philosophy: “Whatever an education is… it should teach you what is important… how to find values which will be your road map through life… “And I can think of nothing more important for children to learn than giving of their time and talents.

    Roy… I don’t believe for one minute that you are dyslectic:) This is just a term invented for the school system’s purpose and convenience. You are a prime example of someone who has risen above the world’s myths. Working with the handicapped teaches us more about life than we’d have otherwise realized. You are one who most certainly does have “ears to hear and eyes to see.”

    Deborah Ann… this must be a frightening experience, having vision loss. I have a friend with macular degeneration, but she’s much older than you. How relieved you must have been when your doctor said you weren’t going blind after all. Hoping and praying for full recovery of your sight.
    Losing my voice for over a year taught me to never take anything for granted.

  13. I have never seen the movie! I would love to now. We take so many things for granted.

  14. Hi Debra!

    Your post always makes me think deeply in the end. I love that because it summarizes how excellent your post really is! Now for that affliction, I'm sorry I can't really think of one... but I know I have, just that it's not easy to recall it for now... But your post really inspires me. And it's good to know what a great achievement your daughter have gotten so far in life... Cheers to her! She's doing a very heroic job, I mean it's not easy to be doing sign language and knowing she does it to help and teach others is a good reflection of a unique individual with such an amazing talent.... Thank you for sharing such wonderful post again.:)

  15. Wow..this was an incredible post! I never saw that movie, now I'm going to have to make a point in checking it out with my husband. It's amazing how God uses experiences that might ordinarily undo someone or limit their potential to bring Him glory and do great things!

    And your daughter, well she is so inspiring...You must be a very proud mother!

  16. Debra, as always I find myself deep in thought after reading your post.

    I am also another one of those people that looks for a lesson to be learned in every thing I experience, in the good and bad times life is a barrel of lessons to be learned.

    I haven't seen the movie you speak of, but I am definitely going to now. I have always wanted to learn sign language, and when Noah was a young baby I looked into it "signing with your baby" but life got hectic and it was something put on the back burner. Seeing and hearing are things we take for granted that is for sure.

    Your daughter is truly a blessing to the children and the community in which she has been teaching, she is an inspiration. I know you are proud of her, and the greatness she is doing reflects back on the greatness you did at raising her and teaching her as she grew up.

  17. What a wonderful post! And the part about the sunday school class? That's very cool.

  18. Thank you Nelieta, Jorie, Jessica, and Debbie!

    Nelieta, The Piano (1993) is a story about Ada and her young daughter - and her prized piano. She is sent to 1850s New Zealand for an arranged marriage to a wealthy landowner. The movie also serves as a retelling of the fairytale Bluebeard. Just to warn you, it is R rated.

    Jorie, you are such a great encouragement. Most likely you can’t immediately think of an affliction that turned out to be a blessing in disguise because you live such a charmed life :) Some of these questions are hard to answer, but I only throw them out because my readers for the most part are thinkers. Thank you for the sweet comments about Abi. I’ll be sure to share these with her, as I know they’ll make her day.

    Jessica, it is amazing how God can bring redemption out of the most arduous situations and use these trying circumstances for his glory – and for our good. I have always encouraged Abi to let her light shine… Matthew 5:16. We all have this same commission. And btw Jessica, you’re doing an extraordinary job at it yourself!

    Debbie, your writing is versatile and reflects how many life lessons you’ve learned along the way. We are students in the School of Life, and take every lesson seriously, paying attention to the details as well as the big picture. On the subject of signing, mastery of ASL takes an extraordinary amount of time, and because the pace of everyday life is often so hectic, we get sidetracked from our goals. How grateful I am for your encouraging words Deb.

    ~ Blessings all

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  20. Good morning Debra,
    Back again to see your new post. Soothing site to come to. Lovely colors. Always good to see courageous people turn their possibly bad situation to triumphs.


  21. Wonderful post and beautiful poem.

    In my life I suffered few afflictions that turned out to be blessings in disguise.

    The biggest one would have to be when my husband lost his job and health insurance and my boy was hospitalized for almost three months for complications with diabetes shortly after.
    When the collectors came calling I had examine our life.

    It was the worst experience in my life, but 2 years later we are stronger as a family, I am closer to my parents and my sister, we enjoy the simple things in life, I learned (still learning)how to budget. We learned how to live on cash not credit.It's a great feeling.

  22. What a beautiful article! To answer your question, no I haven't suffered an affliction in life that you later discovered to be a blessing in disguise.

  23. being a young boy in a new country where yo have to learn the language and the accent to fit in was a triumph over still having black hair and olive skin.

    Is that an affliction?

    Cheers A

  24. I learned sign language once – it’s mostly gone – I of course recognize the I love you sign. Your daughter is inspiration. Which can mean only one thing.

    The apple fell close to the tree.

    Me? Only cause you asked - my “hardship”? A decade and a half with little to no sleep. It affects everything. It’s humbled me and given me compassion – I wouldn’t be the me I am without having gone through it – without continuing to fight it.

    God Bless and Keep You and Yours

  25. My daughter, Michaela, didn't talk at all until she was about 5 yrs. old. At 2, the volunteer sign language chapter came to our preschool, taught our family, the other children, and the teachers sign language so we could communicate with Michaela.
    Now, she is 13 and although her speech is still altered, she does talk. But we do find ourselves, when out in public and don't really want someone to hear us, we will sign to each other. Something special we have between ourselves that we can share forever:)

  26. Sahl, Sonia, Cascia, Ms. Bibi, and Sheila…

    Thank you Sahl. I’m interested in learning more and will certainly check this new info out.

    Sonia and Cascia, thanks visiting today and commenting. Welcome!

    Ms. Bibi, you have been through it girl. Your husband losing his job and health insurance and your son in the hospital for that long with diabetes complications... how distressing a time for you. But the lessons learned on what matters: strengthened relationships and a simpler lifestyle are invaluable.

    Sheila, somehow I missed you yesterday. But now I see that you were here. Yes, my daughter’s experience teaching the 4th graders was cool and she enjoyed herself, as you can see.

  27. Debra your daughter is a beautiful person both inside and out, to have overcome an affliction the way she has is amazing and to go on to use her talents to help others is commendable. You must be so proud of her.

    There is also kudos to you as her mother for with the love and support you so openly shared here, it goes to show that even in the face of adversity at a particular time you can use it to achieve so much.

    Hugs to you and yours x

  28. Welcome Alejandro, Craig, Mary, and Sarah Jane

    Alejandro, being a stranger in a strange land and having to learn the language AND the accent is an affliction and a triumph – yes? When my grandmother in law emigrated to the U.S. from Lebanon and attended Belmont-Abbey, the sisters said to her, “Learn the language or don’t say nothin’. “ Cheers!

    Craig, “I love you” is all you need to know… All we need is love – amen?
    Yeah, Abi’s a chip off the old block alright. All the good in her comes from me. Just kidding.
    About that sleep deprivation…. I’ve got you covered in prayer. Since I first learned of this I’ve remembered you every day, and will persist. But I find it miraculous how well you cope with the affliction… how you remain alert enough to keep up the inspired writing on a daily basis. A miracle!

    Mary, sign language was a blessing for you and Michaela then – and those volunteers coming to the pre-school and teaching your family, the other children, and teachers so you could all communicate with her was a godsend. After my Abi learned the language we signed in public too. Once when we were in a restaurant, some deaf people noticed us and came up and introduced themselves, thinking we must be deaf as well :)

    Sarah Jane thanks so much! Yes, adversity often does help us grow and learn invaluable lessons we would never have learned otherwise. Love this quote by Anne Bradstreet, “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”

  29. I once had an ankle problem that brought me to my knees. It was in 2008, and brought me basically to a breakdown. Long story, but the short version is that I grew closer to God and made lots of progress spiritually. So the rewards have been great beyond my imaginings. :)

  30. Kris, I trust that you’ve now fully recuperated from the ankle problem. Amazing how God can use these afflictions to draw us closer to him.
    I often remind myself of the proverb, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him (or her) out of them all.” These hardships teach us to lean on him all the more.
    ~ blessings

  31. This was so pure and beautiful.... Your post filled me with hope.. Thank you. And God Bless.

  32. Thank you Choco! Your words of encouragement mean so much. ~ Bless you.

  33. The depths of your posts always astound me, Debra. I hardly know where to begin. I'm reminded of Maya Angelou, for one, who once lost the ability to speak. It's extraordinary how this happens to those who have the most to say. Sign language is wonderfully expressive, and your beautiful poem has a similar delicacy. In the past, I had considered my sensitive nature as an affliction.

  34. Sweepyjean, your sensitive nature is what gives you such a powerful writing voice – you possess a clear, no-nonsense style that fully engages your readers. Everything of yours I’ve read so far is written with both passion and clarity.

    I never knew (until now) that Maya Angelou had lost her ability to speak. She was keynoter at the NC Women Writer’s Conference in Winston-Salem, where I also spoke and read my poetry. Now that you mentioned her, I feel inspired to write about the experience of hearing her speak in person. It was a moment to remember. I don’t know if I’ll ever do her justice though, or if I’ll be able to capture the moment with mere words. It was such a momentous occasion in my life. Thank you for reminding me.
    ~ Blessings

  35. Not always do I read comments.
    I don't want what another has said to affect my words. It can be a disadvantage in that a subject may already have been covered.

    Debra ...

    what brought you out of your time of silence?

    and what ... did you find as purpose is always served ... was purpose for you in this?

  36. I sit here wondering ...

    what it felt like to be audibly silent for two years.

  37. Kathleen, just now saw your comments.
    What brought about the time of silence?
    I just lost my voice. Just like that.
    A purpose was served. See quote by Helen Keller at the beginning of this post. I learned to be content in whatever state I'm in.
    How did it feel to be audibly silent for two years? Strange. Here I am, at a loss for words.

  38. What a heart-warming post. Your daughter is a blessing and an inspiration to many people. Helen Keller was one of my favorite authors. Words are very powerful.

  39. My depression and anxiety disorders were blessings in disguise. They pushed me toward a spiritual journey and I feel I am a stronger person now, even with certain social limitations, than I would have ever been even if I could be perfectly fearless in every situation. I'm very thankful for the path my life took and I wouldn't change it. I have many things today that I would not have had otherwise (my girlfriend of five years not the least of them).

    As Garth Brooks sings "I could have missed the pain, but I'd of had to miss the dance."

  40. @ little cousin doesn't talk yet (he's almost 3), and I'm going to mention sign language to his mother and grandmother. He is very good at letting us know what he wants but can't verbalize it. He is VERY intelligence and I think if he worked with the right teacher he could learn sign language.

  41. Justin, this is beautiful: "I could have missed the pain, but I'd of had to miss the dance."
    This I will not forget. Thank you!


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