Closer to my own experience, I have mentioned in the past that, while I even now, still have some (quite mild) facial asymmetry (especially noticeable to trained therapy eyes), I am very thankful that severe and lasting facial droop is not one of my ongoing deficits. Satan knew several very specific and painful low blows to deal me and he hit hard in many areas I have not publicly discussed so far. Yes, Christ would have been just as powerful in my life, had I lost other specifics that have not been my cross to carry, but I am very thankful for those areas that were little (especially in the long term) effected, such as not being "locked in," serious paralysis of one side of my face, loosing ability to communicate, permanent double vision and/or blindness. Especially in those earliest years, I don't think "I could have handled" those things.
Of course, I could not handle many of the things that really were/are on my plate (for instance, my eyes WERE really messed up for several months, and vision loss was on my "I could never handle" list, but I included in my thankful list because I have most of my eyesight back now). Only through Christ could I get up each day and live through all I have! All I'm trying to express is my thankfulness for what I am not facing, in the context of this blog post, facial difference is what I'm focusing on.
That said, this brings me to my friend Katherine Wolf of Hope Heals, the beautiful model for the letter F in this final "FAST" image below. Katherine was just getting established in a professional modeling career when her brain aneurysm ruptured in her 20s, so after two years of hospitalization, not only did facial droop have to be tackled on an emotional and personal level, it also meant the end of a promising career!
It's been well over eight years and her facial droop is still noticeable. In her situation, the stroke is the bottom-line reason, but the immediate cause of her lasting facial difference is the permanent surgical severing of some facial nerves as a result of extensive but life-saving brain surgery. With further surgery and more therapy than any of us can imagine, her facial control is actual quite improved over early years, but it will never regain full symmetry in this lifetime, baring another (her very life today is a major one!) act of God to the contrary!
Katherine too, has learned to celebrate the life she wouldn't have set out to have chosen. One of her favorite phrases is, "Redefine Healing; Manifest Hope." Along with her husband, Jay, this girl is all about true healing on the heart level while also celebrating any and every moment of this earthly life! (Chocolate (Kat Chat)? Cupcake, anyone? Any reason will do!) They share their amazing story in the book by the same title as their ministry, Hope Heals.
I have cognitive delays neither of these women face. My Emotional Incontinence (PBA) is a journey our entire family faces daily. Our journies share some struggles while other areas differ between these women and me. I'm not calling them out to point out, like a Pharisee, that I don't have facial difference so I "feel sorry" for them or that God somehow loves me more because He allowed this for them and spared me this particular struggle.
I share their stories because God is gradually changing, softening me, so that when I look at them, I see their strength, joy, grace, yes even true beauty! As He's teaching me to see their beauty, He's also working on my own heart to not be quite so critical when I look in a mirror or see a photograph of myself.
My brokenness may not be quite so obvious at first observation, but it doesn't take very long to see I'm different too, and that difference is something I'm working hard to embrace, redefine, celebrate. I wanted to introduce you to a couple heros who are helping me to learn how. Your struggles may be fully hidden, but you carry brokenness with you every day too, it is part of the human condition. May these faces encourage and inspire you as they do me!