Last Thursday, Deborah Wilson called me to ask me a favor. She said her feelings wouldnt be hurt if I said, "No." Would I do the devotional on Tuesday? "THIS Tuesday?" "Yesss," came her reply, in that sweet voice of hers. After a moment, I said, "Sure, I guess I could do that." What was I thinking? What do I have to say that would encourage you? But, before long, I was putting my thoughts on paper, and saying a prayer that the Holy Spirit would guide my words so that you would be uplifted.
I decided to tell you a small portion of the last year in my life. I know many of you know my story, so I apologize that you will be hearing it yet again. But, there are some of you who dont know, so Ill go back a year or so and give you a brief synopsis.
In December of 1998, I had a hysterectomy; mainly to fix some problems my childbearing had caused. So, a few weeks later, when I started to have headaches and blurred vision, I thought it was somehow related to that surgery.
About three months later, though, when the headaches were intensifying and incessant, I called my doctor for an appointment. She had no openings for three weeks, which is another story altogether, so she said I should go to ProMed. Instead, I called my mother-in-law in Searcy who secured an appointment for me to see their friend and doctor in Searcy, two days later.
So, after Ladies Class on March 30, 1999, I set out on the longest three-hour trip of my life. I look back on it now, and it seems like Gilligans Island. The three hour tour that lasted a lifetime! I loaded up my four-year-old and my tired 9-month-old and headed for Searcy, my head exploding with pain. We made it fine to Conway, but thats when Nash started screaming, and he didnt stop for the next 45 minutes.
I have told some of you that I must have been riding in Gods own hand that day. The next day I started to get ready to see the doctor. I got in the showerthe shower that nearly killed me. By the time I finished that quick shower, all I could do was fall into the bed, my head nearly splitting with every beat of my heart. I would soon find out why. The doctor looked into my eye, which had ceased to open on its own, and said, "I dont want to scare you, but I see blood behind your eye. I want you to see the eye doctor, and then youre going straight to the hospital. I suspect you have an aneurysm."
Sure enough, the eye doctor confirmed those suspicions. At the hospital, nurses prepped me for an arteriogram so doctors could find out where the problem was. It was after 6PM by this time, so when the team of doctors and nurses was called back to the hospital to do the procedure, I was beginning to realize that my next breath could very well be my last. I was beginning to understand the "Pray without ceasing" concept better than I ever had. I prayed for my family, that they would accept Gods will, whatever that was. I prayed for the doctors whose hands held my fate. I prayed that I would feel peace, come what may.
No mistaking, I prayed that I would live. I had kids to raise, to love, to enjoy! But most of all, I prayed that the Holy Spirit would comfort my family and give us all peace. I prayed that if I were to die, that I would accept that willingly. After all, Heaven is my goal, its the prize, and its better than this Earth could ever dream of being! For me to die would be a good thing for meI prayed that God would help me to accept that, even to want it, if that was to be His will.
By this time, I knew I had an aneurysm in the right front part of my brain. I could see it on the monitor above me. I was wishing that my husband could be there to see it, too. He has often wondered how my brain works, and now he was missing the opportunity to see it for himself!
I had to convince my mother-in-law to call Mike. She wanted to wait until we knew more. I finally told her that if I died and Mike hadnt had the opportunity to see me first, he would have a hard time forgiving us for not having called sooner. He was, after all, still in Fort Smith, working. He had not a clue as to what was taking place in our lives that day. So, she called, and he started the longest three-hour drive of HIS life. He got the "Pray without ceasing" concept, too.
When he got to Searcy, he found out I was now in Little Rock, having been transported by ambulance for emergency surgery. So, he hopped back in his truck and started the hour-long, longest hour of his life.
When I got to Little Rock, I met with the Neurosurgeon. He told me he could do my surgery now, starting at 12 midnight. He said he had worked all day, was very tired, and could not guarantee a good surgical team with whom to work. Or, he could do the surgery in the morning, after he had rested and with a fresh team. There was only one small hitchif my aneurysm burst in the meantime, I would die. Hmmm... some choice. Mike wasnt with me. Only my father-in-law was there. His advice was, "Id wait, but then, its not my brain!"
So, once again, I asked God to take care of me. I knew He had allowed me to live up to that point, so if it were His will, I would survive until morning for surgery. Now, this is where the most amazing thing happened. I asked God again to give me peace, and I must tell you that I actually felt an unbelievable calm settle onto me. I breathed peacefully and I wasnt afraid.
I was beginning to understand the scripture in Philippians chapter 4, which says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
No wonder I could sleep peacefully. I knew I was in the hands of the Almighty God! He knew my suffering, my pain, my fears. He had already given me the Holy Spirit to comfort me. He had graciously removed my sins with the greatest gift of allHis own Sons lifeblood! He had prepared Heaven for me! "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"
And also, Id had a little morphine, so I settled down to rest!
When my husband finally arrived, I told him I was at peace and I knew everything would be all right, whether I lived or died. I found out later that these words were comforting to my husband, and I was so thankful that I had been able to tell him that.
It didnt occur to me until the next morning that I would be having brain surgery on April Fools day. Theres a story there, somewhere. The surgery went as well as it possibly could have. And now, almost a year later, I still suffer a few physical problems, which is why I wear this eye patch.
But, you see, the best part of the story comes after all that. My Christian family started praying for me that night in March, and they havent stopped! Some of my dearest friends went to my house to clean it and stock the refrigerator for our return home. And for three months afterward, a sweet Sister or Brother was showing up on our doorstep with a meal for my family, including my parents, who were taking care of us all. Compassionate ladies came to care for my children so I could go to my room and sleep.
Each day, someone would go to the mailbox and return with an armload of cards. We would sit down with the Kleenex box and start reading and crying tears of joy at the love and encouragement we could feel. I couldnt read them myself, so Mother and Dad would take turns. They had to alternate so they could stop crying in between. I cant begin to tell you how your love encouraged them. They still talk about how this family took care of us.
Although my eye has not healed completely, it has healed nicely. I thank God for that. The opthamologist who saw me in the hospital and for months afterward, said she thought my eye would never even open, much less move on its own. I told her she didnt know the forces at work! I have my life, and I thank God for that! What is it He expects me to do?
In our current study, we are looking at women of the Bible, getting to know them, and learning how to apply these lessons to our lives, to be the women God wants us to be. I would encourage you to look at the women around you. Learn from them. I have. I pray that I will know how to better serve and to comfort, how to encourage, and how to "Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me."
I wouldnt trade the past year for all the tea in China. I have learned so much. In everything, there is a reason to rejoice. Sometimes, we really have to look to find it. We may not find it until years later. But dont let the hard times make you bitter and endanger your souls salvation. Learn from trying times. Grow through them and become closer to God because of them.
I want to leave with you the exhortations of Paul to the Philippians:
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirableif anything is excellent or praiseworthythink about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in meput into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."
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