A Testimony

My Themes

In thinking over my adult life, I realized that there have been two scripture verses that have not only touched me, but represent my path.  When I was a child, I attended a “Backyard VBS” at the home of a neighbor.  It was something to do during the hot boring summer, and even though I was a child, I recognized that she was so enthusiastic that she seemed fake. The theme had something to do with colors and each day we had a lesson, craft, and food based on the color of the day. But one of the memory verses of the week struck a chord with me and I’ve carried it with me the rest of my life.

"Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you." I Peter 5:7.   It was simple, yet significant, and was my first favorite verse.  As a young adult. I thought of it frequently. But as hard as I tried, I never quite got the "cast your cares" part, as I kept my worries in tact.  It wasn't lack f belief, as I earnestly believed in God and knew He could do this. Later, there were a series of events that happened when I had PROOF in my mind that God not only existed, but was looking out for us. In 1982-1984, there were so many events surrounding the time of Keith's onset of blindness that were too "coincidental" to be anything but God's doing.
 the Background behind the Coincidences

After the years God saw us through dealing with changes in our lives, things worked out pretty well once Keith started his career in assistive technology, then later, computer programming and development. I began teaching at the School for the Blind, we had a few more kids, and later moved to Oldham County. In addition to our work, our children’s schedules kept us busy. I coached the boys’ soccer and basketball teams, chaired multiple school committees, and we were both active in our church. Keith led the music and I worked with children.  Life was good.

Then I started struggling to do simple things. My joints hurt and I felt exhausted. I was pregnant and just thought it was due to being pregnant at age 35 while still keeping up our busy schedule so didn’t think much about it. After he was born, I didn’t bounce back the way I had with the others, but still didn’t worry. The worse I felt, the more time I spent in my garden, enjoying the sunshine. By the time school started back that fall, I was noticeably struggling. It felt as if I had the flu for weeks. When I suddenly had trouble holding my pen, I decided enough was enough and went to the doctor.

He told me he was pretty sure I had rheumatoid arthritis and was testing me for lupus as well. Since I’d never even heard of lupus, it didn’t bother me a bit. A few days later, the doctor’s office called and told me to come in. That was strange, but I did as they requested. It turned out that I did have lupus as well as RA and he was sending me to a specialist because he didn’t know a lot about lupus. He said the specialist would explain it all to me. When I met with the specialist, he wasn’t very friendly. As a matter of fact, he was pretty pessimistic. He explained how lupus would attack my body and said there wasn’t a cure. He even said, “you might make it 5-8 years since you don’t have any organ involvement yet.”

When he told me that, I was shocked. How could this disease I’d never even heard of be this serious? I did some research and discovered that contrary to what they’d thought for ages, if it DOESN’T involve the organs, people could expect to live a fairly normal life as long as they take a few precautions. For one, I needed to avoid direct contact with the sun. This explained why I felt worse following more time in the garden because the UV rays had caused a flare which attacked my joints.  Not liking his pessimistic attitude, I fired the specialist and told my doctor I needed a different one. Yet, even though I knew I was still okay, I couldn’t get his dire prediction out of my head.

A few months later, I hit rock bottom. The lupus diagnosis worried me and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I had found an internet mailing list of people with lupus. While this should have provided comfort and support to talk to others, it scared me to death because I learned about some of the terrible ways lupus had attacked people. At this time, organ involvement was a death sentence for sure. If the disease didn’t kill you, the treatments did.

One night I couldn’t stop crying. Fearing I’d wake Keith up, I went downstairs to the living room because I didn’t want to discuss my worries. If the original specialist had been correct, I wouldn’t live to raise our children. I’d be lucky if I managed to see Jonathan graduate from high school, but might die when Ben was in kindergarten. When it occurred to me that our daughter would hit puberty with a blind dad and no mom to help her, it tore me up.

Just as I had many times, I prayed. More than anything, I wanted to be able to cast my cares on God, but it hadn’t happened. That night, I couldn’t stop crying and there were no words in my anguish. Yet, I reached out to God, praying for help dealing with lupus and whatever might happen down the road. Selfishly, I prayed that I live long enough to raise my children.  I knew that I couldn’t handle it on my own. As soon as I admitted that, my tears stopped. Somehow, I felt a sense of peace and knew that it would be okay.  It wasn’t a feeling that the lupus wouldn’t do anything, but I knew God was helping me worry.

It is ironic that I hit bottom when the only thing wrong with me was some joint pain. The fear of the unknown and worry for our children was terrible for me. Later, lupus did attack organs, several of them, as a matter of fact. It took longer than the original doctor had predicted, but it definitely happened.  Yet even when lupus got more involved, I kept that same sense of peace most of the time. Stress can cause lupus to flare, so peace was good. My cares had been turned over to God for sure.

In late 2006 and early 2007, about 10 years from the original diagnosis, I had another message from God.  By then, the joint pain had spread to the spine, and discs were crumbling. My lungs had been affected so that I had a permanent case of pleurisy, and both the liver and kidneys had suffered damage as a result of flares over the years. My father was diagnosed with cancer and by the time he died in the fall, I was feeling pretty rough. My kidneys started failing a short time later and by winter, I was preparing for dialysis.  If I didn’t have dialysis, I’d be dead shortly.

In January of 2007, it was a struggle to keep going and I was dismayed that I would be having a student teacher in my classroom. I’d never had one before, and didn’t ask for this one, and certainly didn’t feel capable of mentoring another teacher when I felt so sick myself. But when I spoke with her, I learned that if I didn’t accept her, she wouldn’t be able to do her student teaching and wouldn’t graduate that spring. Reluctantly, I agreed to allow her to come and prayed to God that I might survive the winter.

When Lynette came to my classroom, she needed little guidance. She’d been substitute teaching for several years and had a natural gift of teaching. She asked if she could begin teaching right away, rather than ease into it week by week and I agreed. The first week, she took one class period. One day, as I watched her, I kept thinking, “Wait.”  It happened several times during the day until I was convinced that it meant something, even though I couldn’t imagine what it could be.  On the way home, I put a new CD of Christian music in to listen to. One of the songs said, “Wait on the Lord” and I had to pull over because I began crying. “Wait.” Why was this message coming to me that day? This was very unusual for me.

That night, completely exhausted, I prayed for strength to get through the winter, and especially, to be able to mentor my student teacher.  After I prayed, for strength and guidance, I looked in a concordance for a Bible verse on strength, thinking it would help me. The scripture I was given was Isaiah 40:28-30. It said,
Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.  Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:  

Not a new verse to me, and it was about strength, but somehow it really didn’t touch me… until I continued past where I was “supposed” to read and saw verse 31.
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Oh my! There it was again, WAIT. That was the message God had for me. I needed to wait, to be patient, because it would be okay. I just knew it and trusted Him completely. In the past, the image of eagles soaring and people continuing filled my head when I read that verse, but I never noticed the waiting part.

Lynette and I worked well together and as she taught in my place, all I had to do was observe and take occasional notes. It was just what I needed and I managed to be able to keep coming to school.  Slowly, I started feeling stronger and by the time she left, I was able to take back my classroom, something I wouldn’t have been capable of when she came.  When I thanked her and said I would miss her, she told me that she had a feeling she was supposed to be there.

That night, I wrote Lynette a letter and shared how I’d felt about having a student teacher when I heard she was coming. Then I told her about getting the message “to wait” and what a difference the time had made to me. The same night, she wrote me a letter as well. She explained how she didn’t want to do her student teaching at my school at all. Her intention was to wait until the next fall and teach where her children attended. In the meantime, they needed her income from substitute teaching. But even though it wasn’t a good time financially, and she didn’t like the location, she had felt moved to turn in the application to student teach that semester, trusting God would work out the details. She was glad she had and said she’d learned so much from me, much of it about faith and life, not just teaching.

We knew then that God had worked this out. It wasn’t a coincidence that she did her student teaching at that time and place. She was willing to be used by God and He knew I needed help. We were a perfect match for one another.  We didn’t have any openings at our school when she graduated, so she taught in another district. Then, when she was ready to do her Teacher Internship, we had an opening and she applied. The principal told me he’d hired a new teacher and she had requested me as her Mentor for the Internship program. At first I said no because I was avoiding extra duties as a means of survival, but when I learned that it was Lynette, agreed to do it.   

By the end of the year, I knew I had to leave the classroom. It was with great joy that I learned that she had been hired to take my place! It just seemed to be part of God’s plan from the very beginning.

Shortly afterwards, my doctors told me that I was dying, that lupus had won. Yet, I knew that lupus did not beat me because I’d overcome my fear of it. Dealing with the news didn’t worry me personally because death isn’t scary to me. I’d learned this when I witnessed my parents’ deaths. Yet it was hard to deal with leaving my children because I didn’t know how they would handle it.

Now, living knowing that doctors were again wrong, I wait, sometimes more patiently than other times. Retiring allowed my body to build up strength that teaching took from me. In addition, I think it could be because so many people have prayed for me, the love of family, and because of my grandson Noah. He got very sick his first winter, at a time when I was barely hanging on myself, and holding him brought me peace and strength to keep going. Now, I have no idea why, but for some reason, I am still here. 

Those two verses, about turning my cares over to God, and waiting for His plan to be fulfilled, have been the most important verses in my life. They are still a part of it as I wait to see what is coming next.

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