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If you go
What: Fresh Grounded Faith Christian women’s conference with Jennifer Rothschild, Lisa Whelchel and musician Michael O’Brien
When: 7 to 9:30 p.m. Nov. 9 and 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Nov. 10
Where: The Chapel, 2505 W. Hamilton Road, Fort Wayne
Tickets: $44 (general seating), $49 (premier seating), $59 at the door; groups of 10 or more $39 (general) or $49 (premier) at 1-800-859-7992, or in person at The Chapel.

Blind musician shares story of strength


Jennifer Rothschild was in the middle of, as she puts it, learning “how to do everyday life when you’re blind” when she realized that wasn’t really going to be the big issue for the rest of her life.

After starting to lose her eyesight from a rare kind of retinitis pigmentosa when she was 15, Rothschild says she endured the world going gradually black around her until, by the time she was in her mid-20s, she was virtually surrounded by darkness.

She had to relearn how to walk, dress herself, eat – the things she’d taken for granted – without the benefit of sight.

But, she says, “The challenges were not just how to do life when you’re blind, but how do you navigate emotionally when you’re blind. I had to make a decision – I either have to go forward in life or go hide and be defeated by life.”

Daughter of a pastor, Rothschild decided she would walk by faith and not by sight. Today, at 48, she has a career as a Christian musician and inspirational author and speaker, a life as a wife and mother of 23- and 13-year-old sons and a message to share.

She’ll bring her insight to “Fresh Grounded Faith,” a regional, multi-denominational Christian women’s conference Nov. 9 and 10 at The Chapel, 2505 W. Hamilton Road.

Nine area congregations, mostly evangelical, are co-sponsoring the event, which is expected to attract more than 800 women.

Sharing the platform will be actress and mother Lisa Whelchel, best known for her role as Blair on the 1980s sitcom, “Facts of Life.” She recently resurfaced on the current season of “Survivor.”

Which inadvertently fits in nice with the theme of the conference, “SurvivHer,” Rothschild says. She says the event is aimed at women tempted to give up when life doesn’t make sense.

“We’re going to help women be a survivor, but not in a feeble sort of way,” she says. “My message that weekend is helping women … live a tenacious faith, not a weak faith. I’m going to help women say ‘I can, I am and I will.’ ”

Tenacity, she says, is what she learned as a teenager. When she couldn’t see the chalkboard, she learned to listen closely and memorize – a skill that has served her well now that she is solidly into middle age, she says.

When she couldn’t read a text, she found people who could be paid to read to her. She persuaded college instructors to make alternative arrangements for her to take tests.

What was most heartbreaking, she says, was that she had to give up a dream of becoming a visual artist. “I always liked to draw and wanted to be a cartoonist or do illustrations,” she says. “Obviously, that was no longer an option.”

But, she says, she began to play the piano – by ear. Then she started to write songs. Now she has recorded several CDs.

“I think what God did for me, very graciously, was he allowed me to move from palette to piano. I was actually a psychology major and thought I wanted to be in private counseling. But when I recorded the first album when I graduated, the music took off,” she says.

Concerts led to writing and speaking, says Rothschild, whose latest book is a Bible study, “Missing Pieces: Real Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense.”

“Blindness in many ways gave me a gift in that it allowed me to make hard choices early in my life, so that those decisions could really shape my life,” Rothschild says, noting that she has now lived more years blind than she lived being able to see.

“Walking by faith,” she says, “sometimes you don’t get it until you have to do it.”