Image description: The featured image at the top of this page shows Amanda Gene smiling with her dog, Noodles. The photo was taken by Ms. Karen
Introduction: In January of 2019, I was appointed to chair the Disability Ministries Task Force of the Susquehanna Conference of the United Methodist Church. Since January, I have had the joy of getting to know so many amazing and fascinating people with disabilities. One of those amazing people is Amanda Gene Nelson.
The Susquehanna Conference Disability Ministry Task Force is honored to present to you this article by Amanda Gene Nelson. Amanda is a freelance writer from Florida and she has a story to tell that is full of God’s love and amazing grace. If you’re interested in learning more about Amanda and her writing, please be sure to check out this interview she recently shared with me.
Also, if you are a parent who has children with low vision or cerebral palsy, Amanda offers training and coaching for parents. Please feel free to use her as a resource. You can find her website here.
As a person with low vision, I know how hard it can be to find employment. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 80% of people with disabilities are unemployed. That is why I am inspired to do my small part to lift up the talents and the achievements of other members of the disability community. I hope that Amanda will have many more bylines and publishing opportunities in her future.
This article was originally published by the Disability Task Force of the United Methodist Church. It is reprinted here with permission.
Walking in God’s Grace and Receiving His Blessings
For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:13-14a)
I began receiving God’s grace and His blessings from the day I was born. My parents, Cindy and Charles, really wanted to have a family. The problem was my mother had a hard time starting a family due to medical problems. After a few years of trying, my mother finally received God’s blessing that she was pregnant. Her pregnancy was going fine until one day she didn’t feel me move. The doctors ordered her to rest. However, things didn’t improve. My mother was admitted to the hospital and doctors decided that after my heart rate dropped to a dangerous level the only way to save my life was to deliver me by C-section. I was lucky to be alive. I was born weighing 1 pound 5 ounces and I was only 12 inches long. I was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for 179 days. During those days I had many different health issues. After those long days doctors said I could go home. My parents were thrilled. However, my parents and doctors knew I would have problems because I was born so early.
Parents, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)
As I grew into a toddler my mother started noticing that I was having problems. I had a lot of colds and flus growing up. Once I started school, my mother and teachers saw more than just immunity issues. I had problems with walking, running, and writing. Tests showed that I had Cerebral Palsy and I would need physical and occupational therapy. I thrived in therapy with encouragement from my mother. Even though therapy helped and I had help in the special education classroom due to other learning issues, I still had issues with reading and my vision.
After my parents divorced, my mother and I moved to Texas. During second grade, I was diagnosed with Dyslexia. This was only part of the problem. My mother still noticed that I was struggling to see. She often had to help me with my homework or write notes saying why it wasn’t completed. This frustrated my teachers.
If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. (Mark 9:43)
For years my mother continued to tell the teachers that I had problems seeing. It wasn’t until fourth grade that the teachers started to notice that I was indeed having problems seeing. At the end of fourth grade, I was tested by the teachers of the visually impaired and it was decided that I would be registered as a student with a visual impairment the following year. I would finally get the large print material I needed.
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
My grades and self-confidence started to improve at school once I received my large print books. Things at home also improved. My mom married my step-father when I was eleven.
In sixth grade, I wanted to learn about God and I met a Christian friend who, for two years, told me about Jesus. In 2001, my family and I moved from Texas to Florida. During a father-daughter night I asked my dad to help me accept Jesus as my savior. I started reading my Bible. God put Christian teachers in my life to help me have strength in my new faith. That same year plans were made for me to transfer to a local high school that fall. Little did I know my life would change forever.
No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame (Psalm 25:3a)
Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. (Isaiah 50:7a)
My freshmen and sophomore years of high school were easy because I was a special education student. I made straight A’s. My mother and I were told that with a special education diploma I could not go to college. I wanted a better life for myself. I wanted to go to college and have a successful career.
During my Individual Education Plan (IEP) meeting my mother, some of my teachers, and I fought with the head of the department to get my IEP changed from special education to the regular education track. If I wanted to receive my regular education diploma, I would have to stay in school one extra year. I was willing to do that. The day that my IEP was changed I felt like I was doing what God wanted me to do. One month after this meeting my mother died. After a short stay with my father it was decided that I could live with my grandparents to continue my education. The only requirement was my father would only provide medical insurance until my twenty-third birthday.
My grandparents tried to get me help from the government, but no help was available. I feel very blessed that my grandparents were able to keep me, my dog, Noodles, and my bunny. I felt very supported in school. I was only bullied twice. Once when I was in my sophomore math class and once in my journalism class. Both my teachers stood up for me, and I talked to the class about why I was still in high school. After that the bullying stopped.
In May 2008, I graduated from high school. I had plans to go to college, however my family had concerns about how I would pay for it.
I started college in the Fall of 2008. I decided to major in journalism. I made good grades. The only classes I struggled with were math, one computer class (due to a lack of access to the print material), and a few writing classes.
In the spring semester of 2011, my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I had to learn how to balance my time between school and helping care for my grandmother. It was truly heartbreaking seeing her go through this illness.
God truly provides. With the help of Pell Grants, Vocational Rehabilitation, and scholarships, I was able to attend school without any debts.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:1-2)
Once I graduated from The University of West Florida in December of 2013, with a degree in journalism, I started job hunting. I have only had a few job interviews, and most of the time, I get asked, “Are you drunk or on drugs?”
I have a condition known as Nystagmus which causes my eyes to move. Nystagmus can make it difficult to control your eye movements. These uncontrolled eye movements can look unusual to people who are not familiar with the condition.
I am often judged based on my appearance by people who do not understand my disability. Because I have had a hard time finding a job, I am now on the self-employment track.
“ For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Since 2014, I have lost almost all my savings because a law was passed that required me to purchase medical insurance. I used my savings in order to pay for health insurance. I no longer have health insurance.
I have only held one temporary job which lead to no other job opportunities but got me some experience. I held an internship with a start up magazine. That’s when I got the idea to start my own company. God truly provides!
Since 2016, I have started my own Facebook group for those with nystagmus living in Florida. I have also gotten several other opportunities to write and help admin other Facebook groups. I have my own blog and YouTube channel. My goal is to empower and educate people with sight loss, parents of children with sight loss, and the general public. I hope that people with sight loss can achieve their dreams.
I am thankful to still be living with my grandpa and my dog, Duke. I am working with a business coach to start my own business. Yes, God does have a plan. I have a bright future.
Related Blog Posts
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Book Review: The Bright Side of Darkness with Author Interview– J.E. Pinto is an award winning author who is also blind. Her book is one of the best books that I have read all year and it is perhaps the best portrayal of blindness that I have ever encountered in fiction.
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