This is my story. It isn’t anything fancy or extra special and I don’t tell it often. It doesn’t hold wild tales of adventure or encompass actions that led to close calls or brushes with death, but it does reveal a great deal about me. It reveals why I am the way I am, why my faith is at the core of who I am and why I view the world a little bit differently than some. This is my story and I want to share it with you.
When I was just four years old I became deathly ill with what would be diagnosed as Viral Encephalitis. I had been sick for a few days with what seemed like a normal virus but instead of getting better I continued to get worse. Soon, I was lethargic and lifeless and my parents knew my life was at risk. I was hospitalized and became paralyzed on the right side of my body, my left lung collapsed, I was in a coma and kept alive by a breathing machine. I remained in this condition for a few weeks and the doctors gave my parents little hope that I would survive and if I did, they were certain the swelling in my brain would likely leave me in a vegetative state. This was the early 1970’s and while medicine has come a long way since that time, those were the days when little was known about this illness and very few options could be found.
We serve a big God though and He didn’t need the advancement of medicine or the permission of the doctors to bring about a healing like they had never seen. He just saw a four year old child, surrounded by prayer warriors, heard the cries of a mother and father and He intervened.
I was completely restored from that illness. The breathing machine came off, life came back to the right side of my body, I learned to walk again and soon, I resumed life as normal.
Fast forward a few years to the age of 9 and once again, the illness returned. This bout was not as bad as the first, there was no coma, no breathing machine but the left side of my body was paralyzed and I was afraid. You see, I was older this time and I was more aware. More aware of my condition, the reality that I could die and the knowledge that I might never walk again. I remember being afraid to fall asleep for fear I wouldn’t wake up. I remember wondering what my friends were doing at school and if I would ever run on the playground again, play the piano again or experience life in a normal way and I remember the looks on my parents faces.
But, in the middle of everything I also remember a peace. You see, just before I became sick again I had come to know the Lord as my savior while attending VBS in my home church. I was a new Christian and I was secure in my faith. So, while I was afraid to sleep, because I thought I might die, I knew where I would go if I did. It was a calm assurance in the middle of a raging storm and it made all the difference!
Again, we serve a mighty God and he saw fit to bring complete restoration to my body and brain and so after just a few months, I had regained the use of the left side of my body, learned to walk again and left my wheelchair in the dust!
I spent much of my adult life feeling guilty for having been sick, the stress it must have caused for my parents, the sacrifices my older siblings had to make and the difficulties they must have faced. It was only a few years ago that God actually set me free from those feelings and taught me that I needed to extend grace to myself, not just to others. Now, I try daily to give myself grace and not take myself too seriously.
So, what does any of this have to do with who I am today? Well, just about everything! Because I know what it feels like to close your eyes and wonder if you will see another day, I try not to take a single day for granted – that doesn’t mean I don’t, but I really try not to! I don’t like wasting time in pursuit of meaningless endeavors, I don’t want to spend time being angry or unhappy, I love going on grand adventures, I never ever want to be in a hurry and I don’t want to miss any opportunity to show God’s love.
Because I know what it feels like to sit in a wheelchair, unable to get out on your own, I smile every morning when I swing my feet off the side of the bed and stand up, ready for a new day. It’s a gift, and I don’t take it lightly. I also have a deep understanding of that helpless feeling and as a result I find that I am drawn to the wheelchair bound and they have a special place in my heart.
I’m 49 now and I find that my body hurts a little more than it once did. Some days I’m tempted to complain but then I remember how fortunate I am and do my best to keep my attitude in check. Because there was a time when I didn’t think I would see my 10th birthday, I consider being 49 a blessing. Every year that I’m still here is another year longer than it was believed I would be and I figure it’s all just icing on the cake at this point.
Knowing what life could have been like for me, short of God’s intervention, keeps me humble, grateful and light hearted. It keeps me focused on the joys in life and is most likely the reason that I feel emotions really big. I like to focus on the positives and I simply never, ever want to forget how differently it could have all turned out. This part of my story shaped my faith and when I walk through challenging times I simply work to remember “But God” because I’ve seen him show up in big ways and I know that he will do it again. That doesn’t mean I don’t have questions, doubts, frustrations or fears. That doesn’t mean I don’t have days where my attitude is in the tank and I have to be reminded to get it together. I have all of those but at the core of who I am is a little girl that knows she’s experienced several miracles in her life and that she can trust God with all of the details and the outcome.
So, that’s my story – that’s very much the meat and potatoes behind Joy in the Journey. Life is short and I know how quickly it can change and I’m passionate about reminding myself and others to look for joy, seek it out, watch for it and choose it! Maybe that makes me hokey or weird but I think I’m ok with that.
Now, what is your story? What has shaped you and made you who you are? We all have a story, those things that make us unique and I hope you’ll share it with me… I would love to hear it!