Overcoming Deafness by Listening to God - Conclusion

Posted by Gayle Raif on

Three years after John and I married, he was let go from Gallaudet because they were replacing hearing administrators (even if they signed fluently) with those who were deaf.  Seven months later he was offered the position of Vice President for Academic Affairs at a small college in Dover, Delaware.  We made a down payment on a beautiful house and moved in, just as the last of our severance pay ran out.


Our time in Delaware was almost idyllic.  I say almost because I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a 12-hour bilateral surgery with reconstruction at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.  I came home on Sunday, but by Monday I was so weak I could walk only a few feet. That night John took me to the ED at the local hospital. The reconstruction on one of my breasts was failing.  My blood pressure had dropped to 47/25 and I needed two units of blood. As I was waiting for the ambulance to return me to JH in Baltimore, I kept singing a praise song I knew.  Part of the words are “All that I am, all that I have, all that I hope to be, I give to You.”  At some point the words changed to “…all that I’m meant to be….”  I felt I could die, but I was at complete peace and felt surrounded by God’s love. I hadn’t realized the effect my faith during this time had on many of the women faculty.  They couldn’t understand how I could have such peace.


The surgery was successful.  As a surprise, my oldest son came from Texas to spend a week with me while I recuperated.  That was the last time I saw him because he died quite suddenly a year later.


That summer Mark cut ties with his dad and came to live with us for four years until he went away to finish college. We started a coffee house for young people to have a place of entertain- ment that was alcohol- and smoke-free.  John retired from the college to help out.  After two years we sold the coffee house because physically we could not continue the hard work. Several months later John took a low level job, by choice, in a sheltered workshop, KSI, in order to get affordable health insurance.


For two years John urged me to consent to moving to Texas.  I loved living in Delaware and didn’t want to leave.  But I finally said yes.  Shortly thereafter we put our house on the market and I came to Texas to look for a house.  While I was still on the road, John said the house had sold (in five days) for $10,000 more than we were asking.  If I had ever needed to know where God wanted me, I had no doubt now.   John came in June, we found a house, and then went back to Dover to pack. I moved with all our things in early September. John came the first of October when I was eligible for Medicare.


One morning in January, John announced he was going back to Delaware to live with the woman who had been his boss at KSI.  Further, he said he felt God was calling them to start a ministry with the mentally challenged.  I had no clue this was coming.  None of his or our friends could understand what he was doing.  We had been married ten years, but he was gone three hours later.


I was in shock.  I felt as if John had plunged a knife into my heart and was slowly twisting it.  For hours I sat in the swing on the porch and talked to God.  There were two verses I clung to:  Heb. 11:1 says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.”   I knew God didn’t want John to break our covenant marriage, so I clung to the hope that he would come back.  Over a period of several weeks my understanding of the verse changed.  I couldn’t have faith for an outcome, but only for what God wanted for me.  The other verse was Rom. 8:28:  “All things work together for the good….”  But I had to let God define “good.”


Gradually I began to come out of my depression.  That fall I made a trip to visit my friends in Delaware and Maryland, who offered to help me find a job and a place to live if I would move back.  I was tempted, but told them I felt that God wanted me to stay in Texas, although I had no idea why.


Back in Texas I was miserable.  I was reading a book by John Eldredge where God told him during a difficult time in his life, “John, you’re going to go along a different path now.  You have to give all this up.”  I heard God loud and clear: I had to give up my desire to live in Delaware.  I told God He’d just have to help me be a happy Texan.


About three months later, I was busy vacuuming one day when God told me to go sit down.  He gave me a vision:  I was sitting in His lap.  With one hand He was stroking my hair, with the other, He was wiping tears from my face.  He said, “I know you’ve grieved because John left.  I’ve grieved with you because he was my gift to you.  But my gift to him was freedom of choice and he took it.”  That is when God ceased being Father to me and became Papa.


After two years in a Baptist church where I felt I didn’t belong, a friend took me to St. Michael’s and All Angels Episcopal in Longview.  I had finally found a family.


God still was not finished with me, though.  Again, He closed many doors, and pushed me through the one He left open.  Three years ago, at age 70, I again walked across the stage to pick up a degree: a master of Social Work/Counseling.  Because I am deaf, my education, including commute costs to Arlington, was free.


My first job paid a fabulous salary, but I quit.  I felt I was selling out for the money because it was not what God wanted me to do.  As I was pondering what I was going to live on, I went to read my e-mail and was offered a job in an agency that helps people with a disability, for which I was being considered for a board position.  I worked there for seven months, but still felt that was not what God wanted.  A week after I quit, I was approached by the director of a Christian counseling center in Longview, who asked if I wanted to work for them.  I jumped at the chance, even though all the counselors are volunteers.  I love what I’m doing.  I know without a doubt I am where God wants me, doing what He wants me to do. This is my ministry and God had already provided the means.


About a year before I graduated from UTA, I attended a meeting in Fort Worth.  I thought I  recognized a man there, but since it had been 57 years since I’d seen him last, I wasn’t sure.  We had been each other’s sweethearts in seventh grade, had gone to the same church, and our parents were life-long friends.   He didn’t know I was single, and I didn’t know he had been a widower for 16 years.  Two years later we were married and he joined SMAA where he is on the vestry and has been senior warden.  We have a loving, God-centered marriage.


There’s more.  One day during a conversation with Papa, He said, “I know the plan I have for you and it is something you never even dreamed of.” I calmly said, “O.K.  You’ve got a lot of debts to take care of.”


I could no longer use my original music major, but that didn’t stop the music in my head.  Two years ago a young family joined SMAA.  Both Rami and Anna are band directors, although Anna now stays home with their children.  She writes and records music.  One day I handed her words to two songs and asked her to see what she could do with them.  I didn’t even hum a tune.  The music she put to the words was almost exactly what I had been hearing in my head for as long as 20 years. I still have my “day job,” but now Anna and I are putting music to my words. I’m not a poet, but God is.


At Anna’s urging, I joined the East Texas chapter of the American Songwriters’ Association. They were planning a concert and Anna wanted me to be a part of it. I laughed and said, “Doing what!”  She said I could sign the words to a CD she would make of her singing my songs.


My time to perform was just before intermission. I was on the stage and Anna was sitting on the floor in front of me to lip synch the words because I couldn’t hear them on the CD.  I had almost finished the first song when I made the mistake of looking up.  All 300 people there were standing, with arms upraised.  I lost it and began to cry. I couldn’t see Anna or the words,  but somehow I managed to finish.  While the techs loaded the second song I was able to compose myself.  During intermission there was a long line of people waiting to tell me how much my songs had blessed them, and I’d asked God to let me be a blessing to just one.  That was the most awesome experience I ever have had in my life. I knew it really was a God thing.


I have no idea what God has for my future, but there is one thing I know for sure:  He always has surprises and He always enables.  I’m living the most exciting and rewarding time of my life.


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