What a Friend We Have in Jesus

Have you ever noticed that every single sea shell is different? Maybe you have never noticed or maybe, if you’re like me, you just don’t see them very often. One shell, though it may share the same overall characteristics as another, has something special about it that sets it apart from all the others. This diversity makes searching for shells along the shore much more exciting! You never know what you may discover when you scoop up a handful of sand.

People, just like shells, are all different. Some of us are extroverted; others are introverted. Some of us have blue eyes; others have brown eyes. Some of us are tall; others are short. Some of us love public speaking; others would rather crawl under a rock than face all of those people staring at us!

Some of us stutter; others don’t. I am beginning to understand that stuttering is just another one of those differences that sets someone apart from other people. Although it’s not as common as everyday differences like eye colors and personalities, stuttering is just another characteristic that distinguishes me from others. However, learning to accept this particular difference has been much more difficult than simply wishing I had different eyes.

I’m not going to lie. . .Recently, I have been struggling with my stutter.  I am battling some regrets about past experiences and countless fears for the future. Sometimes, as I lie in bed at night, I think about all that happened that day while also thinking about my future. Why didn’t you tell that person what you wanted so desperately to tell them? Why didn’t you ask that question or join that conversation?  Why didn’t you just stop yourself and use a strategy to help yourself out of that block?  Why didn’t you order what you really wanted?  How will you possibly ever speak for yourself? What about job interviews and college classes? Will employers even take you seriously? Why are you so afraid to let people hear your stutter? 

Is it just me, or do all of your deepest contemplations about life come flooding in at night when you are trying to sleep? 🙂

Somedays, I just feel completely overwhelmed and helpless; and I allow those thoughts to steal my peace and joy. However, the Lord has a special way of redirecting my focus and lifting my eyes upward. If He knows exactly how many stars twinkle in the sky and knows them all by name, shouldn’t we trust Him to hold our lives in His hands? “He telleth the number of stars; he calleth them all by their names. Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.” ~Psalm 147: 4-5~ 

Right now, it is hard for me to imagine what life will look like for me once I venture out on my own.  But I must make the choice to rise above my circumstances, keep doing my part to improve my speech, and trust God for the rest. I will not let my fears drown out the joy bubbling over in my heart because of this beautiful life the Lord has given me. I will keep trusting, keep praying, keep smiling.

I know that this journey will not be easy, but I have a close Friend to walk beside me. I have a Friend Who knows me inside and out and Who made me this way for a very special purpose that my finite mind just can not understand. I have a Friend who will be faithful forever.

What a friend we have in Jesus.

Much love, Makenzie

 

 

 

 

 

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How Stuttering Beautifully Changed My World

I haven’t always been who I am today. For the first couple years of my life, I was a talkative and outgoing little kid with a pretty feisty personality. When I think back to my earliest years, I don’t remember ever stuttering. In fact, I was completely fluent until one night, sitting at the dinner table, everything changed. I stumbled on a word and just couldn’t make it come out. My parents were completely shocked. What’s happening? Why can’t she say the word? Overnight, my world had changed dramatically. Nothing would ever be the same.

Over the days following that night at the dinner table, everything about me changed. As a young child and early tween, my voice was relatively low and powerful. Now, with my vocal cords suddenly drawn tight with the tension from stuttering, my voice skyrocketed in pitch. Although it has deepened somewhat since then, my voice is still high for my age and nowhere near where it used to be.  Some of my friends kindly asked me about the drastic change in my voice. They were genuinely confused, and of course, I couldn’t blame them. Later on, when I was probably fifteen or sixteen, a lady at a store told me that I sounded like a Disney princess. Most people would think that was a great compliment; but I left that store in tears. I was very embarrassed and insecure about my voice then. In my mind, I sounded like a little girl trapped in a teenager’s body.

Over time, God helped me accept my voice and move past my insecurities about it. I needed to stop focusing on myself and my own insecurities and start looking outward. This is the voice the Lord has given me, and I need to rejoice in that. However, I am still working on releasing some of that tension on my vocal cords so that I don’t damage them. At this point, my voice returning to its original pitch would just be an added bonus!

In addition to the voice change, my demeanor changed. The early years of stuttering were marked by tears and prayers for God to take my stutter away. I retreated into a lonely shell, virtually stopped talking to people outside close family, and shied away from most social opportunities. I went from being extroverted to painfully introverted. I traded boldness for timidity and confidence for insecurity. Again, people often remarked to my parents how much I had changed.  Through the loving support of my family and help from God, I have finally learned to accept my stutter and have started opening up again. While I’m still a shy person,  I firmly believe that God used those difficult years to mold me into what He wanted me to be. Don’t you love how God can take the biggest trials in our lives and somehow…someway…turn them into blessings?  I no longer want to be the person I used to be when I was younger.  I believe that He is using my stutter to teach me gentleness, kindness, humility, and the beauty of quiet confidence. These are lessons I need to keep learning each day.

Most of all, my stutter changed how I viewed others. Recently, I posted a thought on my Facebook page: My prayer is that my stutter never makes me stronger without first making my heart softer towards others. Life is not about making ourselves stronger. It is about strengthening and uplifting others. It is about empathizing with the struggles of others instead of only seeing our own struggles. I believe that we should have tender hearts that are never too full for someone else.

I can’t imagine life without my stutter, because without it, I wouldn’t even be who I am today. Your differences make you who you are. Embrace them.


Much love, Makenzie

 

The Legacy of Annie Glenn

In 1962, John Glenn, a former Marine fighter pilot, became the first American to orbit the earth. He was a true American hero, leaving behind an enduring legacy of courage. However, his wife Annie has her own legacy.

John Glenn and Annie Castor grew up together in the small town of New Concord, Ohio (1). John was a well-loved and admired athlete around town; but Annie, on the other hand, was fighting her own silent battle. According to a 2016 CNN article by Bob Greene, Annie suffered from a severe stutter~so severe, in fact, that it was categorized as an 85% disability (1). At school, her classmates often laughed at her, and at home, she could not even utter “hello” to answer the phone.

But somebody she had known her whole life loved her anyway. His name was John. As Bob Greene writes, “Even as a boy he was wise enough to understand that people who could not see past her stutter were missing out on knowing a rare and wonderful girl” (1). 

On April 6, 1943, John and Annie were married (1). As John’s military career frequently moved them to new places with new people, Annie struggled deeply. Sadly, as she once told People magazine, these frequent moves brought on tremendous heartache for her: “I can remember some very painful experiences–especially the ridicule. People would tell me to hurry up or start shouting at me because they thought I was deaf or dumb” (2).

In her personal life, Annie’s stutter often inhibited her everyday activites, such as going to the store, traveling, eating out at restaurants, and even caring for her children (2). According to an article by the Washington Post, when Annie’s daughter once stepped on a nail, she could not make the 911 call herself; instead, she had to ask a neighbor to call for her (3).

John Glenn poignantly writes about his wife’s struggle:

“For Annie, stuttering meant not being able to take a taxi because she would have to write out the address and give it to the driver because she couldn’t get the words out. It would be too embarrassing to try to talk about where she wanted to go. Going to the store is a tremendously difficult and frustrating experience when you can’t find what you want and can’t ask the clerk because you are too embarrassed of your stutter” (3).

Annie faced many obstacles in her public life as well. The normal stresses of life in the spotlight were exaggerated by her disability. When the wives of the Mercury astronauts were invited to speak on a televison special, Annie turned down the offer. . .a decision which she later regretted (2).

In 1973, after battling her stutter for nearly fifty years, Annie Glenn found hope in a new speech therapy program based out of the Hollins Communications Research Institute in Virginia (1, 3).  For three weeks, Annie practiced her breathing and studied how sounds were formed by intentionally pronouncing syllables slowly, beginning with two seconds per syllable and eventually reaching a normal speaking rate by the end of therapy (1). After three weeks, Annie was speaking fluently. Although speech therapy does not have this miraculous effect on everyone, speech therapy truly changed Annie Glenn’s life.

Annie’s newly found voice gave her a whole new confidence and a desire to help others who stutter. She eventually gave her very first full-length speech to 300 people in Canton, Ohio, and also spoke on behalf of her husband several times, who was then serving as an Ohio senator (1). In addition to her public speaking, Annie made the admirable decision to become an adjunct speech pathology professor for Ohio State University (3). In addition, the American Speech and Hearing Association awarded her their first national award in 1983 and later went on to create the Annie Glenn Award in her honor (3). 

Throughout their marriage, John Glenn offered nothing but love and support for his wife. He reflects, “I saw Annie’s perseverance and strength through the years and it just made me admire her and love her even more” (4). 

This final quote, however, might really pull at your heart strings, as it did mine. The love and admiration that John Glenn had for his wife is so beautifully evidenced by his words:

“We tend to think of heroes as being those who are well known, but America is made up of a whole nation of heroes who face problems that are very difficult, and their courage remains largely unsung. Millions of individuals are heroes in their own right. In my book, Annie is one of those heroes.”

 

Citation Information:

(1) Greene, Bob. “John Glenn’s True Hero.” CNN. http://edition.cnn.com/2012/02/19/opinion/greene-john-annie-glenn/index.html

(2) The Stuttering Foundation. “Annie Glenn.” http://www.stutteringhelp.org/content/annie-glenn

(3) Andrews, Travis M. “Annie Glenn: ‘When I Called John, He Cried. People Just Couldn’t Believe That I Could Really Talk.'”  The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/12/09/to-john-glenn-the-real-hero-was-his-wife-annie-conqueror-of-disability/?utm_term=.b9af73fc6289

(4) The Stuttering Foundation. “Annie Glenn a Real Hero and Inspiration.”
http://www.stutteringhelp.org/content/annie-glenn-real-hero-and-inspiration

 

 

The Importance of an Outward Focus in Taking Control of My Stutter

“The biggest communication problem is that we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply.” ~Anonymous

I love this quote because I think it is so relevant for our world today. I feel as if we, including myself, have forgotten what it really means to listen to others. Between politics and social issues, people are screaming their own opinions left and right, often with little intention to consider someone else’s point of view. Sadly, just a few minutes on social media reveals how unkind people can become in their efforts to be heard. People often resort to any means necessary, whether by interrupting, criticizing, or putting someone else’s opinion down, to promote their own opinions. Even in everyday conversation, we can become so worried about responding that we fail at the most crucial part of conversation-listening.

Why am I writing about this today? Every single day, I have to make a choice. Will I let my stutter dominate every conversation, or will I take my eyes off my own situation and choose to see others? Without even realizing it, I can become so inwardly focused in the moment of stuttering. My mind rolls through several rounds of mental gymnastics, frantically searching through my reserve of synonyms, imagining worst possible scenarios, silently practicing what I plan to say, and trying to subdue the normal anxiety that always accompanies stuttering.

Think about it for a second. . .If my mind is clouded with all of these extra things, will I have anything left to give to the person standing in front of me?  Will I ever truly see others if all I’m thinking about is my stutter? In other words, will I ever see others if I am only thinking about myself? The answer to each of these questions is NO.  

At any moment during a conversation, my mind could be in complete chaos, yet the other person never even knows it. But I know it, and I deeply desire to calm that storm in my mind so I can concentrate on what’s most important~others. This is why I am on a determined mission to conquer the fear of stuttering and to find speaking techniques that will least distract my attention away from the conversation.

Stuttering completely captivates me when it happens, but I must make the choice to break free. I can’t ignore it. I can’t hide from it. I can’t do anything to make it go away. However, I can take control of it with God’s strength so that I can truly open my heart to others, give them my full attention, and shift my focus where it is supposed to be…OUTWARD.  

I firmly believe that choosing to see others is a key to overcoming the anxieties that surround stuttering. Really, choosing to see others is the key to overcoming so many of our insecurities in life. If we’re focusing on others, listening intently to every word they say, hearing about their hopes and dreams, hearing about their interests, hearing about what drives them and makes their hearts sing. . .what time will we have left to think about ourselves?

Will you take the challenge with me? This coming weekend, determine to listen with the full intention to understand, not just hear.

I don’t know about you, but I think it would radically change our world.

Much love, Kenzie

Five Things I Want All of the Sweet People in My Life to Know

As someone who stutters, sometimes I start to worry.  Do people understand? Do I come across as highly introverted and even uninterested because I’m so reserved most of the time? Do people know that I really do care, that I love them, that I love talking to them?  All of these thoughts flood my mind whenever I’m in any kind of social situation, whether it’s with close friends and family or with less familiar acquaintances. On the toughest days, when my stutter is a relentless opponent in this battle to speak and I start retreating into silence, there are a few things that I just long to tell that person standing in front of me.

To all of the sweet people in my life…

(1) If we’re having a conversation one day and I let you do most of the talking, please know that it’s never because I’m uninterested. I LOVE talking to you. In fact, I could talk with you all day.  However, the truth is that stuttering can be downright exhausting sometimes. I might just be having a really rough day with my speech; and on those especially tiring days, I would rather listen to what you have to say. But I will always try my absolute best to add something in whenever I can.

(2) If you ask me a direct question, and it seems like I’m avoiding it by giving a vague answer, please know that I’m not trying to ignore what you said. Now, this one is extremely specific, but I felt that I needed to include it because it’s a constant struggle for me. Can I be totally honest with you? This is very hard for me to share, but it’s important. Sometimes, the stutter has been so powerful and so overwhelming that I have resorted to desperate measures to just somehow answer the question, whether it makes sense or not. This might look like pretending to forget the name of the drink I ordered when a friend asks me or even “forgetting” the name of my online schooling program because the words were just too difficult to say. This might look like beating around the bush until the tension subsides enough for me to answer you. That is the honest truth. When you ask me something, it might take awhile before you get the answer to your question, but I promise I will always try.

(3) If I ever seem distant or removed from a social situation, please know that it never has anything to do with you. Even if I seem really quiet, odds are, I’m as happy as can be on the inside because I’m with you! It’s normally never because I’m sad, or anything else. It might just be that my stutter is giving me enough trouble that day that I just prefer to sit back and quietly take the world in. I have many days like that, and those days teach me so much.

(4) If I do a terrible job at initiating conversations with you, please know that I’m trying to do better. It’s never because I don’t want to talk to you…because I really do! I have always struggled with initiating conversation. For some odd reason, it’s much harder for me than just jumping into a conversation that’s already started. Asking questions is especially difficult. Through the years, I have made slow progress in this area, but I have a long way to go. I know I’ll get there someday with God’s help.

(5) Most of all, please know that I care. One of my deepest concerns is that people won’t know how much they really mean to me and how much I love them. After all, communication is the most basic aspect of human interaction. It’s how we share our hearts and lives with others. It’s how we connect as fellow human beings traveling through this same life together. Life revolves around communication. Please know that I’m thankful to have you in my life. I have been so abundantly blessed with family and friends. Sometimes, I can’t express my heart the way I want to with my words, but I can still express it with actions…And I hope and pray that I have.

As always, thank you so much for taking the time to read this and for supporting me in this journey.

Much love, Makenzie

Defeating Defeat

What’s one thing that challenges you every day? Now think about that one thing for a moment. Are you letting it defeat you, or are you giving it to the Lord and letting Him use it in ways you never imagined possible?

For me, I can sincerely say from my heart that the one thing that challenges me every day is speaking. Something so simple, but so difficult sometimes. Over the past few days, I’ve had conference calls with the online schooling program that I use. And do you know what I have to tell them every morning? That’s right…MY NAME. The two words that seem to freeze on my lips every single time…the two words that make my heart pound when I just think about having to say them.

The past two mornings, I have hit that “call” button with shaky hands, praying and hoping with my whole heart that I will be able to tell them my name smoothly. But both times, I have gotten pretty stuck. For several seconds, the line went totally silent, as I tried and tried and tried, until my name finally tumbled out.

The first time it happened, I expected the usual flood of emotions to take over me; but something unexpected happened. God just filled my heart with peace, that kind of peace that can’t ever be explained by words. Sure, I felt really nervous and pretty exhausted; but at the same time, I felt completely surrounded by God’s peace.
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Every morning, my stutter is waiting for me. Every morning, whatever challenge you have is waiting for you. Determine that with God’s strength, you will not be defeated. Challenges will always come, but defeat is always a choice.
Let yourself be challenged, but never-ever-defeated.
Much love, Makenzie

To the Teacher Who Gave Me Confidence to Stutter

For my sophomore year of high school, I started attending a private Christian school after using a distance learning program from home for about seven years. Although I decided to finish my last two years using this distance learning program, my short time at the school impacted my life tremendously. Not only did I make great friends, but I was also blessed with a wonderful teacher. This particular teacher’s kindness, gentle pushes to challenge myself, and constant encouragement gave me confidence to speak without fear.

After being out of traditional school for so long, I was extremely nervous about going back. How will people react to my stutter? How will I possibly make it through mandatory oral presentations? Will my teacher understand? The first day of school was an emotional rollercoaster. My heart was bursting with excitement, yet racing with anxiety. As I walked up to the entrance, a few tears trickled down my cheek, but I quickly pulled myself together. I determined that that day would be a beautiful start to a new journey, no matter how scared I felt.

A few hours in, I could finally breathe again. I realized that I didn’t have anything to worry about, because everyone was so nice. I know that my classmates had to have immediately noticed that I spoke differently, but nobody treated me differently or made me feel distant because of it. However, what put my heart at the most peace was my teacher’s response. My parents had let him know ahead of time about my stutter, but I still didn’t know how he would respond when I was actually standing there in front of him, fighting with all my heart to answer his simple question.

Time and time again throughout that school year, my teacher handled my stutter with so much grace, patience, and kindness. When I spoke to him, he never—ever—averted his eyes or even looked away for a second. He would always just smile and nod in a way that made me feel like there wasn’t even anything different about the way I spoke. He made me feel at ease with myself. He never pitied my stutter, but rather, gently pushed me to challenge myself in new ways. He always listened with so much intent, patience, and genuine concern, no matter how long it took me to ask for what I needed. Most of all, he didn’t exempt me from doing the things that I feared most; rather, he gave me the confidence to do the things I feared most.

I still had to give all of the oral presentations and all of the speeches, and I am so thankful for that. Without being made to do those things, I know that I never would have. I never would have learned and grown as much as I did from pushing myself so far out of my comfort zone. Before my speeches, he would always encourage me to take my time and to be confident in what I had to say.  And as I stood up there in front of the class, I could always count on the fact that he would be standing in the back of the room with a smile on his face.

To my sophomore year teacher, if you ever read this, thank you. Thank you for being so kind, and most of all, thank you for giving me the confidence to stutter.