As a child, Jennifer Rothschild was fascinated by colors and shadows. She loved to draw and paint, especially caricatures. But her passion for art and her happy childhood in Florida were dealt cruel blows when she was 15. She developed a rare form of retinitis pigmentosa that left her blind by the next year.
Jennifer’s handicap could have derailed her and put strict limitations on her future. Instead, it helped her better recognize her strengths and focus more on what really mattered to her. “Blindness showed me that I was wired with more tenacity and was smarter than I realized,” she told me in a recent interview. “It also helped my brain wake up in some areas that it wouldn’t have otherwise.” That wake-up call had a major impact on the arc of Jennifer’s life.
Rather than limit Jennifer, blindness opened the door to a tapestry of achievements. After graduating from college and marrying her college sweetheart, she went on to become a well-known motivational speaker, author, composer and singer. Among her 10 books is the bestselling Lessons Learned in the Dark, in which she shares her insights on finding a path to freedom and fulfillment when facing formidable challenges, as well as her latest work entitled Invisible: How You Feel Is Not Who You Are. She has also enjoyed the joys of motherhood by having two sons.
Jennifer has taken her message of encouragement across the country, speaking at national and regional events attended by busy professionals, dedicated volunteers and overwhelmed parents. She has been a featured speaker for the nation’s largest conference for women, Women of Faith. Thousands have come away from her gatherings with a new vision for their work, their family, and their future.
Faith and family provided Jennifer Rothschild with a solid foundation
Jennifer Rothschild often acknowledges the importance of her well-grounded faith and devoted family in helping her rise above her blindness. Her father was a Baptist pastor, and she benefited from strong bonds with her parents and siblings. Experiences were always shared during family dinners and an eagerness to help was ever present.
It’s not surprising that one of Jennifer’s favorite Bible verses is 2 Corinthians 4:16: “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” She has tapped her own inner self in so many ways, and has shared that inspiration with countless women via her speaking engagements and website. She is especially proud of helping to form womensministry.net, an organization providing resources and support for women who lead congregations.
“I began to notice that lots of women had great hearts and wanted to be ministers, but didn’t have the best tools for it,” she said. “So we started an online magazine for women so they could be the best leaders they could be in their local churches. The greatest strength is women reaching other women, so they can become resources to each other.”
Blindness closed door in art but opened another in music for Jennifer Rothschild
Unable to express herself through art after losing her sight, Jennifer Rothschild found a new means of expression: music. “I had taken a couple of years of piano lessons, but was not very good,” she recalled. “But I began to play by ear when I lost my sight. That opened up a whole new world for me. I began to write songs. It was a way to communicate through sound, the way I used to do with visual arts.”
Jennifer has done much more than just communicate via her music. She became an accomplished songwriter and recording artist, with six albums to her credit. Her musical achievements are a testament to how losing one road to fulfillment can lead us on new paths to unexpected rewards. “We have so much more potential that we realize, and sometimes a limitation helps us find that potential,” she said.
While focusing on music may have been expected for Jennifer, she has also done many things that people with perfect vision have not dared attempt. “I’ve bungee jumped, para-sailed, ridden elephants, played with baby tigers and climbed the Great Wall of China,” she told me as I listened in near disbelief. (Less adventurous but also impressive is that she puts on her own makeup, which she learned to do by counting strokes of the blush brush and mascara wand.)
The value of faith and positive thinking could hardly be better exemplified than by Jennifer’s life. She discovered that there are many avenues to fulfillment, and that the inner light carries a lot more weight than any external one. Everyone can find new capabilities in themselves if they look deep enough. While Jennifer possesses talents that many people may not have, she also learned that great joy can be discovered every day in ordinary experiences. Her life shows us that there are so many ways to inspire ourselves, express ourselves, reach out and help others, and have enriching and exciting lives.
“The greatest success is not what you do, but what you do with the next step,” Jennifer said. “It’s about having the integrity to make that next right choice.” Clearly, Jennifer has made many “right choices,” for herself and for the many people she has empowered to lead more fulfilling lives. With her words, her music and her indomitable spirit, she is an inspiration to us all.
Be sure to visit Jennifer Rothschild’s website: www.jenniferrothschild.com.