Headshot of Irena, a young adult with blond hair and a big smile.

Differences, But ‘Perfectly Imperfect' (Breaking Barriers Spring 2022)

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This article is part of our Breaking Barriers Spring 2022. This installment features articles on  several young adults with disabilities ranging from tumors to limb differences to processing disorders and lupus who tell their stories of what it has been like for them. If you'd like to read more stories from this issue, please subscribe to Breaking Barriers.

I’m 25 years old and am just like you in many ways. I have family, friends, and pets. I have gone to school, church, and enjoy many things in life, such as good food. But when people see me, they see my differences, not our similarities. I am created in the image of God like everyone else, even though I don’t look the same as most other people do. I was born with a rare condition called Phocomelia syndrome, which causes limbs to be malformed. For me, this means no left arm, a right elbow that’s fused, and having legs with only tibia bones (no femur bones), making me only four feet tall. Growing up, there was a lot of trial and error as I didn’t know anyone with my condition, which meant there was no one to learn from. My relationship with the Lord was challenging in the beginning because I questioned why I was so different from everyone else and why I had to have these differences. Looking back now, I am discovering what God may be doing through this rare birth defect. First, I am a very determined person. I work hard for what I want and what God wants for my life. I’ve also met so many amazing people in my life that would not have happened without my differences, including Bethany Hamilton, the 13-year-old surfer whose left arm was bitten off in a 2003 shark attack. I have been fortunate to travel a lot and meet so many people; an opportunity provided by the RCA allowed me to spend a summer in San Francisco working with the homeless population. Everyone faces difficulties in life. When people see me, they often feel they can relate to me because they assume that I have struggled also. I believe there can be joy from struggle—the true joy that comes from God. My relationship with the Lord is very strong. I have learned to say I’m “perfectly imperfect,” meaning that while I’m human, make mistakes like everyone else, and have these physical differences, I’m perfect in God’s eyes, and that’s what matters.

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Thanks Irina. Love this! Reminds me of Poet Jack Ridl's insightful and funny Tedx talk: Perfectly Imperfect.