by Jackie Preece
When I was a year and a half old, I was diagnosed with spastic diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy (CP), which affected my legs, my gross motor skills, my speech, and my eyes. My parents were told that
I would be mentally disabled because I had too much white matter in my brain—NOT true.
I would never walk—NOT true.
I would never talk—NOT true.
I would never be a normal kid—TRUE (or so my mom says).
I have a lazy eye and have vision of 20/200. As a child, I wore a patch over my right eye in order to strengthen my left eye. I have worn glasses all my life, which has kept my eyes straight (for the most part).
Having a speech impediment, I could not pronounce most words and could never pronounce my Rs. Being in speech therapy for ten years taught me how to pronounce words. However, there are certain words I still avoid. You can imagine if I had to speak Spanish, trying to roll my Rs.
My leg muscles were so tight that not even a piece of paper could fit between my knees. My feet turned inward badly. Mom said changing my diaper was an hour ordeal. I took my first step when I was three and a half and used a walker until I was four. Then I could walk on my own but took many, many tumbles. I always had bruises and scrapes because I tried to keep up with my older brother.
I wore braces for my legs and feet and had a special metal brace I wore at night; it strapped my legs into a straight position so I could not bend them. Going to bed was never fun for me! Once in a while, I could con my mom and dad into giving me a night off, if it was a special occasion.
When I was ten, I had surgery on my legs to lengthen my muscles. The surgeons cut my legs and feet in twelve places, cutting the bones in half on both feet, and adding bone wedges to create an arch. I was a teenager before I realized where bones at a bone bank actually came from. That was a shocker! The pain from the surgery was so intense, and the recovery was so difficult—especially since I spent my entire summer between the hospital and home, lying flat on my back, not being able to sit up for weeks at a time. I had to learn to walk all over again. Even a year later, I still had to walk with a walker and, at times, use a wheelchair. Today, I walk funny, but praise God I can walk!
When I was in high school, I felt a call to missions. I told God NO. If I cannot even walk well in America, how did He expect me to walk well in a foreign country where there are no sidewalks or handicap ramps?
That is when I stumbled upon 1 Samuel 16:7: “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I had nothing to say but YES. (Have you ever tried to tell God no?)
It is safe to say I wish I did not have CP, but I know I would not be the person I am today without it. If God can receive more glory for His kingdom through my serving Him with cerebral palsy, then I am willing to do so for my Lord. If it helps just one person receive Christ, then I consider it worth it all.
Many people might look at my life and say CP is my greatest burden, but I see it as the greatest gift of all!
Jackie Preece is a clerical assistant in the Graduate School of Theology at Global University and is currently enrolled in the counseling program at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary.