Category Archives: Featured Story 1

A Race Against Time: Living With Lyme with Rosa L. NeSmith

               May is National Lyme Disease Awareness Month

Read as Nicole interviews Lyme Survivor, Author and Lyme Disease Advocate, Rosa L. NeSmith

 

BAM: Who is Rosa L. NeSmith? 

RLN: In addition to an entrepreneurial spirit, I am an active Philanthropist.  Over a four year term, I served as Co-Founder & Executive Director of a nonprofit organization for the insurance industry.  I have served the community for 25 years in various insurance capacities with various national insurance companies.  I am the mother of 2 young adult children.  I thrive with just one bottom line in mind:  A personal commitment to helping others solve problems and achieve their maximum potential.

BAM: How did you contract Lyme Disease? 

RLN: I contracted Lyme disease from the bite of an infected tick while working in my garden.  I had the symptoms within 10 days of the bite, but did not get diagnosed UNTIL 4 YEARS LATER!  The difficulty in getting diagnosed is what causes the infection to destroy internal organs.

BAM:What is Lyme Disease? 

RLN: Lyme disease is a serious bacterial infection transmitted by infected ticks.  Deer, Squirrels and domestic pets are carriers of infected ticks.

BAM: Is there a cure?

RLN: I am not a medical professional.  But to my understanding, there is no known cure at present.  Mainstream doctors can barely diagnose the infection because when the bacteria is injected into the body it takes the shape of a worm and has the ability to hide in the body’s cells and tissues, therefore not appearing in a normal blood test.

BAM: How were you treated?

RLN:  I am not a medical professional. But, I was treated over a 9 month period with 3 different antibiotics and holistic medications.

BAM: What type of symptoms did you have?

RLN: My symptoms were many; Very deep intense pain from head to toe radiating from internal organs, joint pains, severe insomnia, brain fog.  In the near death stage I rapidly lost 30 pounds.

BAM: How can we prevent ourselves from catching Lyme Disease ?

RLN: I am not a medical professional.  I am not sure we can prevent it.  Because the infected ticks are barely visible to the naked eye, many patients do not get the classic bull’s eye rash.  Cover up when you go outside (backyard barbecues, parks, camping, yard work, etc) even in warm temperatures. Many experts say use repellent.

BAM: What does it do to your body?

RLN: I am not a medical professional.  When the bacterial is left untreated it can destroy the internal organs and it feels like the body is starting to shut down, that is what happened to me.

BAM:  How did  it affect your day to day activities?

RLN: In my darkest hours with the disease, I was bedridden for almost 1 year.  I was handicapped.  Even after graduating to the walker, obviously it was a chore for personal grooming, there were no everyday activities.  At present, I have good days and bad days, basically my joints hurt daily, but I can’t stop living!

 BAM: Tell me about your testimony

RLN: Before Lyme disease, I raced against time as a busy insurance professional.   I believe God used the disease to get my attention.  Now I am vibrant for Him and I have nothing but time on my side.  I feel like I am being lead now by a higher power than myself!

BAM: BAM is a moment of hope,inspiration and solutions. Encourage someone that may be facing something similar to what you have faced and may feel like giving up.

RLN:  During my darkest hours of Lyme disease, I had to surrender from my own strength, literally I had no more strength it was all taken from me.  When I realized the doctors did not know what was wrong with me, I turned to prayer while on my bed of affliction.  I thank God for my mother for raising me up in the church so that when the storms and winds blew my way in life, I knew where to go for my source of strength.  When I was weak He gave me strength in my mind & body, soon my body, mind and spirit chimed together as a sense of balance was achieved.  He forced me to a place of stillness and I will be forever grateful! “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

 BAM:  Where does your strength come from?

RLN: My strength is in God who comforts me and dwells in my heart.  During my darkest hours of living with Lyme disease, my daughter took care of me.  She also gave me the will to live and not give up to the devastating effects of my body. This is one of my favorite scriptures:  Phillippians 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

To learn more about Lyme disease visit www.lsan.net.  To order the book, visit, www.lymesurvivor.net.  For media inquiries dial 1-888-600-9330, ext 2. In observance of May, National Lyme Disease Awareness Month, I am blessing individuals who wish to learn more by reading my book:  A Race Against Time: Living With Lyme.  Free quantities are limited, readers/viewers can email their mailing address to carl@lsan.net and indicate why they want to read about Lyme disease.

BAM:  Tell me about your book, A Race Against Time : Living With Lyme

I wrote the book A Race Against Time: Living With Lyme to bring awareness to Lyme disease by using my life experiences to highlight the difficulty in getting diagnosed and to expose the type of human suffering that comes from an infected tick bite when left untreated.

My vision for the book is to reach every household in America and for my life to be a blessing to the readers.  The disease, the book and the stepping stones made me realize my life is not my own!

BAM: What’s the cost and where can we purchase the book?

RLN: Thanks in advance.  The book can be purchased at www.lymesurvivor.net for $15.95, or www.amazon.com a portion of book proceeds will be donated to Lyme Disease Research. 

 

With a heavy heart and a thirst for more hours in the day, Rosa retreated to her colorful garden for a little introspection.  The deer enjoyed the magical colors of her garden, also!  She brought her thoughts with her and the deer brought a poppy seed sized terror, barely visible to the naked eye!  In only a split second, a blood sucking tick traced the scent of her blood and turned her life into a horrific nightmare!  How can something so small cause you to lose it all? 

A Race Against Time: Living With Lyme is a creative nonfiction memoir telling the story of a suffering Lyme disease patient’s tremendous resilience.  Rosa raced against time in a desperate search of a medical explanation for the rapid 30 pound weight loss and other debilitating symptoms.  Her shoulder blades poked out like wings on a beastly species and they remained glued to her loose fitting clothing for almost a year.  The pains tormented her frail body from head to toe, year after year, she suffered!  Rosa saw over 15 doctors in a 4 year period and nearly died before finally getting diagnosed with Lyme disease.

Never Give Up: Meet Monica Mazique Smith

Meet  Monica Mazique Smith: A 40 year old  African-American with a physical disability  (Congenital Hypotonia, a form of Muscular Dystrophy) which requires her to use a power wheelchair.

 May you be blessed as you read her personal testimony of faith, determination and never, ever giving up.

 

Monica’s Story

I was born on May 14, 1972 on Mother’s Day in Battle Creek, MI.  I am the youngest of five children. My mother was on her way to a  Mother’s  Day dinner with the family when she suddenly went into labor with me. After being in severe pain at the hospital she told the doctor that she was about to deliver. The doctor responded by telling her she had plenty of time before she would deliver. The doctor vanished to assist a young girl who was also in labor when my mother was ready to deliver I started coming out.  Everyone started calling for the doctor, but no one could find him.  As I was coming out, I turned around inside my mother.  The nurse didn’t know how to turn me around the correct way so I ended up coming out “butt” first.  I was born breeched and had  to be rushed into an incubator because I could not breathe on my own. It took me several months to learn how to breathe on my own.  When I was ready to go home, the hospital tried to convince my mother to place me in a home for the “handicapped” (1970’s language).  She told everyone “No!”, including my father,and that  she was taking her baby home. The doctors said that I was going to be nothing but a “living vegetable.”

My mother never stopped working with me.  She would place me in front of the television, even though my eyes would not motivate. She would put toys in my hands, even though I did not have enough muscle strength to hold them.  As a baby, I didn’t have enough muscle strength to suck from a bottle, so an elderly German woman brought my mother a lamb’s nipple which required little strength to suck from and that is how I was able to suck.  But even after all of that I was still not moving or responding.  One day, my mother cried out to God and asked Him to please give her a sign to show her that she was not doing all of this in vain.  All of a sudden, she felt something cold and clammy slap her in the face.  It was my little hand that had made its way up her face.  It was the first time that I had ever moved.  My mother was so excited that she jumped off the bed almost knocking me over, screaming my father’s name.  “Fred, Fred!”  The baby moved!”

Years passed.  I had several obstacles.  I acquired an upper-respiratory breathing problem.  My muscles were too weak for me to walk, so I ended up being in a wheelchair.  My chest began caving in, so I had to have surgery when I was about three years old to have my chest uplifted off my heart, lungs, and spine.  I later had a muscle taken out of each of my legs so that doctors could do a muscle biopsy on them.  Doctors determined that my muscles grow stronger, not weaker over time.

In school, I was a straight “A” student all the way through elementary to high school.  Throughout my years in school, I was harassed and teased.  I had no friends, never went to school dances, and was never asked out on dates.  I constantly kept my head held high and graduated from high school, earning a scholarship from the Springfield Lion’s Club.  Teachers told me that I would never make it going to a big university and that I needed to go to a small community college, so I began attending Kellogg Community College.  I soon became bored there, so me, my mother, and my father moved to Carbondale, IL where I began attending Southern Illinois University, which had a student population of over 26, 000.  I majored in Psychology there.  My mother and father would drop me off to class and then would go home.  On Thursday, February 27, 1992 about 4:30 PM, my mother and a lady came to my algebra class.  My mother was crying.  When she had gone back to the van to ride home with my father, she had found him slumped over the steering wheel and he was not breathing.  Apparently, my father had a massive heart attack and died. I immediately began crying hysterically.  That was one of the worst days of my life. My mother and I continued the dream of my father.  We wanted to be closer to family and familiar faces, so we moved back home to Battle Creek, MI.

I began attending the extension site in Battle Creek for Western Michigan University.  On April 22, 1995, I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Applied Liberal Studies.  I was honored at my graduation ceremony by the president of the university.  I was also interviewed by the local newspaper, “Battle Creek Enquirer.”  I didn’t stop there.  I continued for a Master of Arts degree in Public Administration.  I also completed two internships for two human service agencies.  On April 25, 1998, I acquired my Master of Arts degree in Public Administration.  Again, I completed a milestone that others said that I could not possibly do.

On February 24, 2000, I was appointed by our former governor, Gov. John Engler to serve a two-year term on the Michigan Developmental Disabilities Council as a council member and advocate.   I also ran for county commissioner that same year.  The primary election was Tuesday August 8, 2000.  Even though I did not win, I acquired new friends and great contacts. During that time,  I founded a local nonprofit organization in Battle Creek, Michigan called “Transportation Impaired, Inc.”  “Transportation Impaired, Inc.” was founded because I am deeply concerned about the lack of  transportationfor people with disabilities.  “Transportation Impaired, Inc.”  was a 24-hour, 7 days a week private paratransit service which provided door-to-door, curb side transportation for persons with disabilities, senior citizens, and also those with low income throughout the Calhoun county area..  I acted as president and CEO of the organization until May 29, 2002, at which time; it was closed due to lack of funding and volunteers.   For my efforts, I was honored in April, 2002 with the 2001 “George” award given annually by the Battle Creek Enquirer for being an outstanding citizen and showing community leadership.

In January, 2010 I had the biggest scare of my life.  I had been suffering with a chronic cough for over a year that had begun occurring only when I lay down at night.  I kept complaining to my doctor about it, but he just said that it was a chronic sinus problem and prescribed nasal sprays.  The coughing got worse and when I went in to see the doctor about it, he checked my oxygen level and it was down to 70.  The doctor told my mother and brother to drive me as fast as they could to the hospital.  It turned out that I had pneumonia.  I was admitted into the hospital for overnight observation but I wound up on life support and a feeding tube for a month.  Apparently according to my mother and brother, I was doing fine. I ate my dinner and was watching TV.  I complained about my stomach and one nurse gave me a shot for it.  About 10 minutes later another nurse came in and gave me another shot.  My mother told the second nurse that the first nurse had already given me a shot.  The nurse said that it was probably a different shot because the first nurse had not documented what shot had been previously given.  Well, when the nurses came to check on me around 4:00 AM, they woke my mother up and told her that I was not responding.  I couldn’t breathe on my own, I had to get a trach put in my throat, and I was on a ventilator.  It was a long, hard road but through the grace of God and lots of prayer I made it.  Since that time, I went through the graduation ceremony in May, 2010 and received a second master degree which is in Rehabilitation Counseling at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI.  I also passed the national certification exam and am now a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor.  I also recently applied to become a Limited Licensed Professional Counselor for the state of Michigan.

Earlier I stated that the death of my father was one of the worst days of my life, but THE worst day of my life occurred on June 28, 2012.  My mother died in our house on our living room floor.  She had been diagnosed in 2008 with breast cancer and had undergone 48 treatments of radiation using a new treatment called Tomotherapy.  After the 48 treatments, she was deemed cancer-free.  She remained on her medication, Arimidex and had tests every 6 months to ensure that the cancer hadn’t returned.  She had just received a good report in April, 2012.  All of a sudden one day, she began having an uncontrollable cough and shortness of breath.  She dealt with it for a while until she had almost passed out on June 1, 2012.  She asked my brother, Karlos to drive her to the emergency room at Beaumont hospital in Grosse Pointe, MI.  Although it’s almost 30 miles from Romulus, MI where we live, my mother liked that particular hospital.  Once she was at the hospital, they thought she might have had pneumonia or congestive heart failure.  After several tests, they detected a 6-centimeter cancerous mass on her lungs and suspected that the cancer might have been spreading into her bones.  Mom had Karmanos Cancer Center in Detroit, MI (the clinic who had been treating her breast cancer) to retest her as well as to give her additional testing.  Unfortunately, Mom died a day before she was to find out her results.  There had been a power outage that day and mom was using my oxygen concentrator whenever she had felt shortness of breath.  Once the power had gone out, Mom began using a new portable oxygen concentrator that my brother, Karlos had gone 1 ½ hours to Battle Creek, MI to pick up from my friend’s medical supply company.  Mom had been so happy that I had arranged for her to get the oxygen equipment.  She told me, “I’m so glad that God gave you to me”.  I smiled and told her, “I’m so glad that God gave you to me.  I don’t know where I would be without you”.  About an hour later, we sent Karlos to a restaurant down the road to get us some dinner.  After that it was like God had put me in a trance, I never heard my brother, Parrish and his wife from Battle Creek ring the doorbell nor did I see my mother walk with a flashlight to the front door.  But according to my brother, Mom answered the door, sat down in her reclining chair, and then collapsed.  It was really strange because right after that, the power came back on and I came out of my trance and heard screaming.  I was told to call 911 and that Mom wasn’t breathing.  By that time Karlos had come back and was doing CPR on her.  When the ambulance came, Mom had a slight pulse.  The paramedics tried reviving her for over an hour on our living room floor but couldn’t. My best friend. My partner in life was gone.

I feel lost without my mother but I know that she would want me to go on in life and be happy and to achieve my dreams.  With the assistance from my sister Sharon and my brother Karlos, I plan to do just that.

I’m telling everyone this story because I think that it can be a source of strength and hope for others to never give up.  No matter what obstacles and life challenges might come your way.  Never give up.

Don’t Give Up – Don’t Quit

 

An early photograph shows a bright-eyed three year-old with shiny hair parted neatly to the side and her legs crossed primly at the ankles. Like any other three-year old growing up in the 1950’s, Linda VanDeusen had a zest for life and a curiosity about the world around her. Her father, whose own education had been disrupted by World War II, taught Linda and her siblings to read when they were very young and was constantly, in Linda’s words, “trying to figure out how his kids could be better than he was.”

Linda was on her way to that goal until, after a seemingly routine case of Chicken Pox, her parents began to notice that something was wrong. “I began to limp. My hands began to curl under, my arms became spastic, and my back would arch,” Linda remembers. Linda knows now that she was born with the genetic code for a disease called Dystonia musculorum deformams. “Until I got Chicken Pox, my immune system had been fighting the Dystonia, but when I got sick, my body had to choose whether to fight the Chicken Pox or fight the Dystonia. I guess it chose the Chicken Pox.”

Because Dystonia was an unknown disease at the time, rounds and rounds of testing revealed nothing to Linda’s doctors. “They concluded that it must be an emotional disorder, and that I was trying to get attention,” Linda recounts. Thus began a two-year period of weekly drives to Pittsburgh, 50 miles away from her hometown, where Linda would spend an hour with a psychiatrist. Her doctor eventually convinced Linda’s parents that treatment would be more effective if she was inpatient, and at the age of eight, Linda was admitted to the Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh.

Linda’s case continued to mystify her doctor. Doctors know now that the body uses a chemical called Dopamine to help connect the neural pathways in the brain with the neural pathways in the muscles. Linda’s body only produced Dopamine while she slept, and when the day’s supply of Dopamine was gone, her body couldn’t replenish its supply. Without Dopamine, Linda’s muscles would not respond. “At breakfast time I could feed myself and move almost normally, but by lunch time my body had used up its Dopamine, and I would be unable even to lift my fork.” The fact that Linda’s ability to perform simple tasks came and went only further solidified her doctor’s theory that Linda’s problems were mental and not physical. Some of the hardest times, Linda remembers, were when she would sit there with a tray of food in front of her and no ability to get the food to her mouth. “Because the nurses thought I was capable of feeding myself, they wouldn’t feed me and eventually would take the food away,” uneaten by the hungry little girl trapped in a body that wouldn’t cooperate. Linda eventually lost even her ability to talk above a whisper.

She remembers “one good day when I was there. I woke up that morning and I could walk, I could talk, I could feed myself.” It was glorious. “And then I woke up the next morning, and I couldn’t do anything again. If I had known it was just going to be that one day,” she confides wistfully, “I would have done a lot more.” Linda’s one good day further reinforced her doctor’s diagnosis.

She was transferred to the Home for Crippled Children in Pittsburgh where she remembers a “nurse with purple hair. She was so mean, I wished her dead,” confides Linda. “The doctors were always telling me it was in my head and that I could do better. It would make me angry.” Two years later, she was transferred to a children’s mental institution where they tried different methods to motivate her to do things. Linda remembers most vividly the “ice water treatment. If I wasn’t doing what they wanted me to do, they’d throw ice water on me.” She also remembers the mean girl who would drag her around by the hair in her wheelchair.

But in the darkness of the mental institution, salvation came to Linda in a most unlikely way. Thirteen years-old now, doctors discovered that her hip was dislocated. They performed surgery and transferred Linda to the third floor to recover. In a body cast, the same nurse and nurse’s aide cared for Linda each night during the evening shift. “They were different from the nurses I’d had before. They were kind and patient with me. They told me about Jesus and presented the opportunity for me to ask Jesus to be my Savior. Of course I took it!” she says, with a lilt in her voice. “They would read the Bible to me every night and tell me, ’Linda, God is with you, and He will take care of you.’ I believed, even though I didn’t completely understand what it meant.” Linda’s surgery failed, and several months’ later doctors performed a second surgery. Back in a body cast and back on the third floor, Linda says, “I liked it ‘cause it was safe and I had those two nice nurses. They told me more about Jesus, gave me a Bible, and read to me. I couldn’t understand why they were so nice to me and others were so mean.”

Several years passed, and Linda approached her sixteenth birthday. “The doctors decided I wasn’t going to change, and I was getting too old to stay there.” They transferred her to Torrance State Hospital, an institution for the mentally ill. “I was put on a geriatric ward at the ripe old age of 16. It was a mixed ward with male and female patients, the next youngest female being 65 years-old.” There she met Beth Warner, a nurse who was a born-again Christian. She would feed Linda in the evenings, and on Monday’s, bath day, Beth would tuck food into her pockets to give to Linda while they were alone getting her bath. “I loved Mondays, because I would get milk.”

Where were her parents during this time? “They would visit when they could. Dad brought me a radio, and he always made sure it was on a talk show. That’s where I learned my current events. And he always made sure I had books. He was a carpenter, and he fashioned a special stand for my books. I would turn the pages with my tongue.”

Shortly after Linda was placed in the mental institution, her mother was involved in a serious car accident. She suffered from terrible headaches and consulted a neurologist about the possibility of surgery. Linda’s mother declined surgery, telling the doctor that she had a seriously ill daughter who was not doing well. She pulled out a picture of Linda and showed it to him. Her neurologist said a startling thing, “Bring her here. I want to see her.” This doctor had read about one case of Dystonia while he was in medical school, and he wondered if Linda’s physical manifestations might be symptoms of the disease that the medical community knew so little about.

 

Now eighteen years old, Linda remembers, “I had this serious talk with God. I said, ‘God, I can’t live this way anymore. It’s got to change or I’m going to die.” Five months later, Linda was admitted to Johns Hopkins hospital as a research patient. Within two days time, doctors had an accurate diagnosis for the first time in Linda’s life. On a medication called L-Dopa, she quickly regained her ability to brush her teeth, open a carton of milk, get dressed, and, eventually, walk and talk again.

The battle wasn’t over for Linda, though. Doctors knew that the levels of medication Linda was on were too high to maintain indefinitely, and that eventually they would stop working. They gave Linda two options — stay on medication and gradually lose the abilities she had so recently gained, or undergo a life-threatening surgery. Doctors gave her an 80% chance that she might die on the operating table. Linda’s fledgling faith was put to the test once again. She reasoned, “God didn’t bring me this far to let me die now. There’s a purpose for my life, and I haven’t met it, because I haven’t even lived yet.” The most frightening part for Linda wasn’t the surgery, but the fact that she would have to discontinue the very medications that had restored her ability to move, and, especially, to feed herself. “I was scared that nobody would feed me!” she remembers with a note of panic in her voice. “My doctor said, ‘I will come and feed you every meal. I will not let you be hungry.’ And you know what?” she states, shaking her head in amazement, “He did. Three meals a day until I had surgery.”

Her doctor told her she would need two surgeries, one on each lobe of her brain. They would require her to be awake during both, in order to give them feedback. The first surgery did nothing. During the second surgery one month later, the results were instantaneous. “I could talk. I could move my arms and legs. The surgery was a success!” Linda began eight months of rehab and, thirteen years after she had been wheeled into the first hospital, she walked out under her own power. “I knew I had a purpose in life.”

She remembers the emotions of re-entering a world that was so different from the one she had left. “All of a sudden, I was thrown out into a world that I didn’t know how to live in. I was 19 years old and was expected to act like a 19 year-old. I didn’t know how a 19 year-old acted. I had been living with kids and old people!” She entered a rehab center and began to learn some life skills. “I wasn’t real grounded in the Bible, either,” Linda remembers, “But I knew God was real in my life. I could see all that He had done for me.”

Like the divine appointment that led Linda’s mother to her neurologist, God was orchestrating another divine appointment for the next chapter of Linda’s life. Her doctor asked her to accompany him to New York for the International Dystonia Convention. There would be doctors from all over the world who were seeking to learn more about Dystonia. There would also be patients who had the disease. He wanted Linda to be one of them. “The doctor was in meetings all day, and there was no place for me to go,” Linda remembers, “so my doctor introduced me to this very nice family whose adult son also had Dystonia. They said they would watch out for me.” That son was John Van Deusen.

Over the course of the convention, John and Linda got to know each other. Dystonia had robbed John of his ability to speak, so he communicated with his parents through sign language. That wasn’t a problem for Linda. “When I was in the rehab center, there were many deaf patients. They helped me learn sign language, so when I was able to communicate with John and read his signs, he was stunned.” They talked for five hours, and then left with a promise to write each other. “We found love through the mail,” Linda grins. ”The mailman was our Cupid.”

Meanwhile life at home was increasingly difficult. “I couldn’t get into high school, because I had a business school degree from the rehab center, but I couldn’t find a job, because I didn’t have a high school diploma.” Meanwhile John was attending the Wil Lou Gray Opportunity School in Columbia. He became Linda’s advocate and secured a place for her at the school. Since most students were local, the campus virtually closed up on the weekends. “John’s parents started taking me home on the weekends,” Linda recounts. It was there that her faith really began to grow. Dynamic believers, John and his family didn’t just model Christian principles, they lived the Christian life. They demonstrated patience and grace to Linda. “I had a lot to learn,” she states, “I wasn’t always tactful!” As she learned to love their son, she also learned what it meant to love their Savior. John proposed on Linda’s birthday. The year was 1976.

As I listened to Linda’s story in her home in Columbia, South Carolina, I asked her, “Where was God during those dark days when you were institutionalized?” Her answer? “There was one person in every place that gave me hope.” She believes God placed them there to demonstrate His love. “Why aren’t you bitter, Linda?” I asked. “Bitter?!” she snorted as if I had proposed something preposterous, “What good would that do? Does it serve any purpose? Would it change anything? It will only make me angry and people not like me. Bitterness only hurts yourself.”

And where, I asked her, did she get her ‘can do’ attitude? “From my father,” she replied. “He would never let us give up. He would never let us say, ‘I can’t.’ He wouldn’t even let us say, ‘I’ll try,’ because that would give us an out. When you replied to his requests, you’d say, ‘I’ll do my best.’ That’s where that came from.” Linda hasn’t given up. She graduated from the Wil Lou Gray Opportunity School, received an AA in Medical Technology from Midlands Technical College, a BA in Biology from Columbia College, and a MED in Rehab Counseling from the University of South Carolina. She worked for Blue Cross and Blue Shield and the State of South Carolina until her retirement ten years ago. Today she works for her church and trains dogs in her spare time.

What advice would you give, I asked her, to people who are struggling? She replied immediately, “Don’t give up. Don’t quit. You don’t know what you can do if you don’t try. Do your best, and God will do the rest.”

~~~~

Lori Hatcher

 Contributing Writer –  Reach Out Columbia Magazine

Author of “Be Not Weary”

Member, Palmetto Christian Writers’ Network

 

 

Laughing Out Loud In The Face Of Divorce

Shall I begin with all the wonderful memories?

I think not!

I’ll begin where the devil thought he had me – killed and destroyed. But God wasn’t having that and neither was I. In a dream God showed me a vision of my husband being swept out of my arms with a group of women. This was long before I received the “I’m leaving you because I’m not happy” speech from my husband.

It was April 15, 2001 in Wiesbaden Germany. I stood smiling at him when the Holy Ghost whispered to me, “Ask him what it is about this young woman that makes him happy”. The Spirit told me to remind him that I was all the things he claimed she was. He made excuses, telling me I should try to be someone other than who I was. It reminded me of the Scribes and Pharisees trying to make themselves appear righteous by condemning Jesus. By the end of that conversation he was apologizing saying, “You’re right. Every thing I have ever asked you to do, you’ve done it. You have been a good wife”.

As my husband spoke those words, the Lord spoke to me again. “Divorce him and I will make your marriage better than it ever was.” Of course, I tried to reason and ponder these words in my heart, but I knew it was the Lord. I didn’t understand it, and I didn’t want to, but I knew it was the Lord. It was sort of like when He said, “My Grace is sufficient for you Paul”. Huh? Is that You, Lord?

My husband was perplexed because I wasn’t fazed by his decision. I wasn’t crying or begging. What my husband didn’t know was that I had just had a battle with the devil over my health  and my children’s health. My two-year-old son had just spent five days in the infectious disease ward of the hospital with an ailment the doctors couldn’t identify. The same infection tried to attack my three-year-old daughter and me. I commanded our bodies to line up with the word of God. Then I packed my bags and went home to my mother. I was an unemployed, homeless, single parent with nothing. This was not part of my plan, but I knew God was going to use it for my good.

Then things got even worse. I ended up having to take the children back to Germany to live with their father while I stayed with my mother. My heart was broken. My children were gone, my husband was confused and God had surely forsaken me. During a six-month period, I had sex with three different men in addition to my husband. I was spinning totally out of control and I knew it. Yet, I still hadn’t done what God told me.
I still hadn’t divorced my husband.

In February of 2003 I was living in Phoenix, AZ. I used my last $200 to process and file my divorce papers. Even though the path of righteousness was made visible again, my heart was torn into still more pieces.
I found myself in love with two of the four men I’d had relations with: my husband, and Mr. Right all the time. It was clearly time to wipe the slate clean. I knew there could be no more sex with anybody. That’s right, no more sex with anybody, not even myself.

I cried and wailed at God that this was so unfair. I pleaded with Him to help me. Finally, I decided I would throw myself into the ministry. I would forget about men and any promise the Lord had given for restoration. This effort proved useless because I was defiled on the inside. All I could think of was what I didn’t have.

No Sex
No Job
No Money
No Children
No Husband
No God
This is how I felt. I was disappointed with God! I couldn’t understand why He would allow the devil to do  these things to me. I believed I had done everything He had asked me to do. But if you look at my list, it was SEX and not God that was first. God was at the bottom of the list.

Laughing Out Loud
In light of this divorce I have begun to laugh again. Every little dirty and evil work in my heart has been revealed. God used this opportunity to deal with my flaws: haughtiness, low self-esteem, approval seeking, fear of rejection, childhood hurts, fornication, bad attitude and lack of patience.

I had plenty of good works and faith, but I had no roots; therefore no Fruits of the Spirit were visible. Jesus says, “Every tree that is not fruitful the Father will pluck up and toss in the fire”. I did not want that to happen to me. I was disappointed and I wanted to hurt God because I had trusted Him to save my marriage. But I knew it was the devil and I wanted retribution – a hundred-fold return, including seven times what was stolen and double for my trouble and shame. Well, the best way to stomp on the devil is to produce Fruit!

After dealing with my root issues I could smile and exercise the Fruit of the Spirit in my life, and see positive results. The Lord told me, “You have need of patience that after you have done the will of God, you might receive the promise.” (Hebrew 10:36) I asked Him, “Why do I need patience?” Then I was led to Luke 21:19 which says, “In your patience possess you your souls”.

This was life changing for me. I now looked at patience in a different way, not just dealing with other people, but also in dealing with myself. By exercising this Fruit of the Spirit I could gain control of my soul (my mind, my will and my emotions), because for me, my soul was the very thing getting me into all this trouble. This was a wonderful scripture in two parts. Patience helped me receive the promise of God after doing his will. I figured out the “do His will” part; now God wanted me to have the whole package. I was ready to let go of the past and press forward to the prize of high calling.

Now my mouth is filled with laughter. Divorce thought it would destroy me, but I just laugh in the devil’s face because I know I’m getting the promise of God for the restoration of my marriage.

It’s been four and a half years of celibacy and I wait patiently on the Lord. Why do I wait? Because, in my dream after my husband went willfully with those women, I was carried inside a church and became the wife of God. After doing a good work God let me go, and when I reached for the door my husband was coming in to get me.

Stephanie Walker resides in Phoenix Arizona.

Radical Hospitality: Inviting the Stranger into Your Home

Marcia’s voice cracked as she spoke. “Hello, Mrs. Clark, is your husband home? I’d like to wish him Happy Father’s Day.”

I handed the phone to Jim, smiled and said, “Your other daughter is calling.”

Months before, while sitting at my computer, an e-mail caught my attention. The subject line read, “Young woman, broken and alone.” The sender was Dr. Robert Campbell, a local internal medicine specialist who had opened an inner city clinic# to reach the poor of Augusta.

“Marcia fled an abusive relationship and is now in a temporary shelter. Will you meet with her?”

On my way to meet her, it occurred to me, I don’t even know what she looks like.

Fear and loneliness didn’t require a description. Twenty-nine -year-old Marcia Mitchell, an African-American woman, sat in the back of the restaurant and brushed tears from her face. She jumped at every noise; her eyes locked onto each customer who walked in.

When she saw me, Marcia jumped to her feet and wrapped her arms around me. “Are you the woman Dr. Campbell sent to help me?”Marcia’s voice cracked as she spoke.

I still had no idea what help looked like. The inside of my gut churned. “You hungry?” We sat and talked for two hours over diet coke and chicken snack wraps.I touched her on the shoulder. “Tell me how you came to be in a shelter.”

Marcia leaned forward. “I don’t earn enough money to make it. Bills I couldn’t pay kept coming. Then I met Jonathan# . He offered to move in and help with expenses. He was good to me, at first. After a while, he grew controlling. When I did something he didn’t like, I caught his wrath. One night, I thought he was going to kill me. So I just got out. I didn’t take anything with me. Just got out of there. I’m in Safehomes# right now, but I have to leave in two weeks.”

Safehomes (and most shelters) placed a time limit of 30 days on how long a woman could stay. Although they do their best to help battered women relocate, many have no choice but to return to their abuser when their options dwindled. At the time I met with her at McDonald’s, Marcia worked two jobs and still struggled to survive.

She continued. “What I did was wrong, letting a man move in with me, and I paid a terrible price.”

Indeed she did. Continued to pay.

Marcia Mitchell, without a home, adequate income or a family to “fall back on,” qualified as a modern version of both the widow and orphan. What did it mean for her to live in community with other believers?

Although risky and slightly insane, I believed the Lord called me to bring Marcia into my home. As I began to pray, several passages of Scripture came to mind. Hebrews 13 exhorts us, “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Job modeled radical hospitality when he said, “the sojourner has not lodged in the street; I have opened my doors to the traveler.” (Job 31:32, ESV). In Matthew 25, in the day of final judgment, radical hospitality is a mark of those on Jesus’ right. “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” or “invited me in,” as some translations read.

Marcia and I agreed to talk again in a week. Meanwhile, I prayed and pitched the idea of radical hospitality to my husband.

Jim, the engineer with a keen sense of detail, asked hard questions. How can we be certain that this woman’s abuser would not put our family at risk? Is Marcia sure she is ready to leave her abuser permanently? How wise is it to invite a stranger into our home?

A sense of relief filled my heart as I prepared to hear Jim’s rejection. Of course this was unwise, I mean, we can’t save everyone we encounter—

Jim squeezed my hand. “I think God is calling us to it.”
What? Had I heard the man?

I contacted a police officer in our church for additional advice. He told me Marcia’s abuser was well known to the sheriff’s department and a very dangerous man. “The cop in me says don’t do it, but the Christian in me says go for it. I can encourage additional patrols in your neighborhood. It’s a good thing you live so close to the police station.”

We waited a week before we invited Marcia to live with us. Perhaps she would find an apartment? As Marcia’s alternatives for housing dwindled, I realized how much confidence we placed in the secular community around us to care for the orphan and widow without ever truly understanding the limitations those agencies face. What did we expect someone like Marcia to do?

Dr. Paul Tripp writes, “We are not self-sufficient in any way. We are constantly dependent on God and others in order to live. Self-sufficiency is a delusion. Hundreds and hundreds of people have contributed to what we know, to what we are able to do, to what we have become . . . We were made for community.”

Our invitation shocked her. “Really? You guys would do that? I mean, what in the world? Are you sure? Listen at me. Thank you. Really, thank you.”

When our deacons learned Marcia had a large loan from Titlebucks that would take years to pay off at a hideous interest rate, they paid the debt in full.

I handed the title of her car back to her and said, “Promise me that Titlebucks and all agencies like them are part of your past. If you need help, we’re your family now.”

When tax season came, Marcia expected about a $300 return. Jim frowned. “That doesn’t sound right. May I take a look with you at your forms?” Together in front of a computer, Jim carefully typed in numbers as Marcia called them out. Two hours later, Jim said, “I double checked this, and it looks like your return is $1200, not $300. I like that number better, don’t you?”

Marcia burst into tears and hugged his neck. “No one had ever showed me all this before—helped me figure out a budget, and plan for the future. Nobody believed I had a future.”

After living with us for two and half months, Marcia located an affordable apartment downtown near several members of our church. She learned to maintain a budget. Since she has moved out, she ran out of money twice before the month’s end and she asked me for a loan. She took only half of what I offered. “I want to be able to pay you back.”

She did. Both times.

God does not call every family to the front lines of radical hospitality. I don’t claim to have all the answers to racial reconciliation, poverty and domestic violence. But I have to wonder. What would look different in the body of Christ if more of its members were willing to risk for the sake of another? I think part of the answer was in the Father’s Day phone call:

“Thank you, Mr. Clark, for showing me how things ought to be. You taught me how a man should love his wife and children. The love in your house spilled over to me. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.”

~~~~~

About the author: Gaye Clark is a freelance writer and cardiac nurse who lives in Augusta, Georgia, with her husband Jim and their two teenage children Anna and Nathan. She remains active in inner city ministry.

Sidebar: approximately 225 words

10 Things to Consider before inviting a stranger in:

1. In the case of domestic violence, ask the woman to commit to severing the relationship with her abuser permanently.
2. Be certain your entire family favors the invitation and is capable of maintaining basic precautions for your family’s safety.
3. Have the local abuse shelter or housing authority run a background check on the woman to insure the need is legitimate.
4. Communicate ahead of time in writing your house rules and expectations. Revisit that list frequently.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from church members. Accept offers for meals, help with moving belongings, or transportation to and from work, childcare, etc.
6. Make your neighbors and local police aware of your circumstances.
7. Be patient. A woman in crisis may have difficulty planning her afternoon, let alone the following week. Help her make lists and prioritize her needs.
8. Create margins in your schedule: this is no ordinary houseguest. Be available to talk, pray and listen. Limit unnecessary demands on your time and energy.
9. Encourage her to communicate often with friends and family with whom she had healthy relationships in the past. Abusers often cut off or discourage such contact.
10. Recognize radical hospitality comes with enormous risks. There is no “happily ever after” guarantee. While that may be true, seek to look at current disappointments through the lens of eternity. God often changes hearts over a matter of years, not months.

Daddy Issues

By Andrea F.K. Watson

 

As a young single Christian woman, I should clearly understand the concept of love.  I have a relationship with God and He is love. Since renewing my relationship with God, I had decided to become celibate. I decided I would no longer share my body with someone who would not be my life partner, i.e., husband. What I know now that I did not know then is that this would take more effort than I thought. The year I turned 30 years old, bells and whistles began to sound. I was still single, no children, working in a well paying-albeit-dead end job. Many of the accomplishments on my to do list were left unchecked and I was none too happy about it. It was time to do some self-reflection. I finally had to admit I had some issues and I needed to begin to deal with them.

One of the items on my list, would be “daddy” issues.  My biological father, whose genes and utter likeness I share, chose to step away from fatherhood after marital separation. It appears he thought he could convince my mom to stay with him by refusing to have a relationship with me unless she had a relationship with him. I guess it took for me to become an adult, for him to believe she was serious. I have often pondered the question how could he have truly loved me and made this decision. Let it be duly noted that  my mother loves me unconditionally. She is definitely a super mom and deserves to be on the Who’s Who list of Mommies. Our relationship is definitely filled with joyous love and mutual respect. I was nurtured by her in every way a mom should nurture a child and daughter. She married a wonderful man, who became my “dad” (step-father does not fit for him, because he was more than that). But birth fathers are very important to a girl’s development of self-esteem. Without my knowledge the absence of my birth father created a void. I have searched for the love of my father in many different ways and in many men to fill that void. But yet the void remained.

Originally I supposed if my dad walked away, then all men would eventually do the same. How could I remain close or allow myself to ever get to a vulnerable point with men emotionally, if the first man in my life proved to be unstable?  Secondly I had no concrete basis of the concept of father/daughter love. Since my parents separated when I was at a young age, man/woman love was even a foreign concept to me. As a young lady, my thoughts of receiving love from a man were from what my ears and eyes took in on television and by word of mouth from peers. The lesson learned was  that the only way to make a man stay around was through manipulation and/or sexual activity. Before my vow of celibacy, I could do the physical part, but asking me to share my mind and my heart came with a hefty price. I would constantly set great expectations on the men in my life that they could never meet.  Then I would blame them for being selfish and insensitive. I was only asking them to be perfect and shame on them for not stepping up to the plate. I simmered with questions, but there were no answers were available, yet. So at a very young age I started toward a path of looking for love in all the wrong places, only to be afraid that the “love” would eventually stray. Unfortunately I blamed my dad for my bad decisions and also some of the bad things that happened to me by the hands of other men.

I was pretty good at masking my feelings of sadness, unforgiveness, anger and low self-worth in regards to my father, because I never had to deal with them. All of that came to a crashing halt in 2006. My biological dad approached me and advised me that he was worried about his health and his future. He asked me if I would become caretaker of his financial affairs. I needed some time to ponder this. I eventually agreed. Then in early 2007, my father became ill, very ill. He asked me to me help care for him. This would mean moving in with him and caring for his needs. This was around the same  time I would be quitting my job and enrolling in a clinical psychology master’s program.

 

In August 2007 a new chapter in my life opened as I embarked on a new journey in career and school as well as my home life.How does one make a home for two people who do not know each other?  How does a grown-up woman, who feels like a little girl, begin to foster a relationship with her dad, who is unknown to her? The house physically needed so much work before I would even consider moving in. The house needed painting, the carpet needed cleaning, old furniture had to be removed, and the pipes in the basement were leaking, not to mention the smell of the old house. Only by the grace of God has all of this finally been completed. I had my dad’s bedroom and his den all set up. The living room, breakfast nook and kitchen are finished to my liking. The grass is cut and the bushes are trimmed. I began to think I just might be able to live with this man after all. I was quite proud of the accomplishment. If I had been paying attention, I would have realized a pattern manifesting. I was trying to pretty up the minor details (outer layers) without dealing with the major details (inner layers). I should have put more effort into the foundation of our relationship versus the house. I did not want to admit that I did not want to move in. But I was his only child, and he was ill. If I didn’t do it, who would? This could be the only opportunity to get to know him. And maybe as a young Christian woman, I could learn the necessary lesson of forgiving this man and be healed from some past hurts. Love would be the only way to get through this experience.

There is a song by Kirk Franklin (2005) called “First Love.” In the song, he talks about coming back to God, our first love, to receive our healing. For me it brings to mind the scripture in the Bible in Revelations 2:4-5, instructing the church members to return to its first love and to do the works it did at first.  Due to multiple factors such as molestation, absence of a father, premature sexual activity, and so on; my idea of love had become tainted. Love had become a physical act mixed with lust and sexual activity. These were my own thoughts that had gone astray. My mind had to be literally renewed and transformed.  Even though my biological father walked away, my Heavenly Father was always present. In order to learn to love my dad, I had to return to the first love of my Heavenly Father. He is the architect who laid the blueprint for my restoration.  If He can do it for me, He can do it for anyone. Essentially, God taught me to receive love by ultimately giving me the best of what He had, His Son Jesus. Because then all I had to do was receive Jesus.

This has not been seamless at all. Love is patient and love is kind, even when I am neither patient nor kind. But just because it is not easy does not mean I will not get through it. I have learned God really does give strength to the faint, and if you ask Him for patience He will grant it. I have learned that I am not perfect, but God is perfect and my weakness is made perfect in His strength. Also relationships are not always, if ever, truly 50/50; sometimes they are 60/40 or 40/60, sometimes even 70/30. I have learned that commitment and vulnerability are just a part of the game. I have learned relationships take work and effort, all relationships. Finally, I am learning it is OK to receive love.

Everything is not perfect with my dad but I believe everything happens for a reason and our relationship is being perfected. Maybe I need to heal him; maybe he needs to heal me. Maybe it is a little of both. I am open to the process.  Its not always easy. Its different learning him as I imagine it is difficult for him to learn me. I am no longer a little girl.  But the little girl in me needs this. I know in the future I will appreciate his contribution to my life. I hope he will appreciate mine. I am not always sure of the end result but I do believe God has a plan with this thing. I will be wiser, better, and more than anything, I am able to give and receive pure love.

 

 

***My Dad passed away in October of 2008 peacefully after kissing his little girl goodbye and leaving her with a peace and love that only God’s love could orchestrate.

 

 

Excerpt  from  thesis and manuscript, The Experience of a Girl Learning to Receive Love Without A Sexual Touch.

By: Andrea F. K. Watson

 

One Single Mom’s Story

Overwhelmed The Life of a Single Mom BookCoverAs the nurse left the room of the local, free health unit, tears began to roll down my face. My 17-year-old frame began to shake uncontrollably. The nurse confirmed that I was indeed pregnant. I was six months along, homeless, and alone. I had no money, no job, and no future. What would I do with a baby? Just a few months ago, I was Class President, Valedictorian, and on my way to a top-notch university with a full paid scholarship. Now, my life was over. And there was nothing I could do.

As a child, I had already walked through my share of heartache. My mother was killed when I was only a year old. Consequently, I was raised by my father, who used alcohol to mask his pain. My father married a total of six times and my home became a revolving door of misfits of every kind. I was but three years old when I began being molested by my stepbrother. This led to a series of sexual abuses over the next nine years at the hands of step-relatives, neighbors, and family friends. With the incoming of each new stepmother, I experienced a different agony. The loss of a “mother” became quite common. My stepmothers were rarely kind. I suffered beatings, malnourishment, and emotional torture at their hands.

Is it any wonder that I fell into sexual promiscuity at the ripe, old age of thirteen? Although I was a bright student, I never quite felt that I measured up. I never felt good enough. At 13, I became desperate for attention, love, and validation, and became sexually active. This led to a series of mistakes. By the time I was 17 years old, I found myself pregnant for the third time. Two miscarriages should have been my clue that my life was quickly spiraling out of control, but here I was, a 17-year-old graduating senior with a third baby in my belly.

It wasn’t long after my father found out about the pregnancy that he quickly ushered me from the family home, never inviting me to live with them again. I was on my own. Where would I go? What would I do? I had the clothes on my back, a few items in a luggage, and that was it. That was all I was left of my past. My future had been flushed away and I was certain I had ruined my life. The father of my child traveled away to college and offered little support. It was in that moment that I had a choice to make. Would I allow this to defeat me or would I pull myself up by the bootstraps and make a way for myself and my soon-coming child? I chose the latter and began my new life immediately.

The future seemed bleak, at first. The best I could do was obtain government housing and used food stamps and welfare to help make ends meet. I landed a full-time job ten days after giving birth and started college full-time during the evenings. I had little furniture, no extra money, and an old clunker of a car that left me roadside weekly. But I was making it. It wasn’t glamorous or perfect, but it was a life. I began to see a glimmer of hope. However, my long-term boyfriend came home from college on summer break and in an instant, I found myself pregnant again.

I was embarrassed and ashamed. I was emotionally devastated and was the closest to suicide that I had ever been. I began to take a hard look at my life. Where was it going? Would I always be a single mom living below the poverty line, unable to give my children the things they needed? How does a 4.0 scholarship recipient go from the fast track to a dead end so quickly? I began to toy with the idea of going back to church. Despite my past, I had always been in and out of church. I knew the ways of God and the things of God. But how could I go back? I had two kids outside of marriage and a barrage of other mistakes lingering in my past. They weighed on me like the weight of a thousand years and I was certain the walls of the church would cave in when I walked through the door. But……………I went anyway.

I would like to tell you that I had some life-changing, God-encounter on my first trip back to church, but I didn’t. However, I did commit to continue going. Before long, I found myself attending two to three times a week. Slowly, very slowly, I began to have a new outlook on life. I was refreshed, optimistic, and more at peace than I’d ever been. During one of the Sunday services, the pastor began to speak on the principle of tithing– giving ten percent of your income to the church. This was not the first time I’d heard the concept, but my instant thought was “How can I give the church money when I barely make ends meet?” Over the next several months, I could not stop thinking about tithing and what the pastor had said. I decided to give it a try.

Within six months of writing my first tithe check, I landed a job almost doubling my meager income. It wasn’t enough to get me off food stamps, but it was a start. I remained faithful. There were plenty of bumps in the road, but I never wavered with my church attendance or tithing. Within two years, I landed one of the most coveted jobs in our area and eventually became a highly-recognized corporate executive in our Fortune 500 company. To God be the glory! With his grace and mercy, he had chosen to pull me from the depths of financial poverty and put me on solid ground. I was living the life I had only dreamed about – taking lavish vacations, driving a luxury car, and purchasing a lovely home. I didn’t deserve any of this, but my Father in Heaven loved me enough to bless me with those things. He didn’t care about my past mistakes, the choices I’d made. He loved me. It wasn’t long before he brought me the man of my dreams and we married shortly, thereafter.

I eventually left that Corporate America job and all its lavish amenities to pursue my God-given passion of ministering to single moms. I embarked on a journey of reaching out to the poor and hurting – the widow, the teen mom, the divorcee. Through the generosity and leadership of Healing Place Church of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, we opened the HPC Single Moms Ministry, now working with more than 200 women on a bi-weekly basis. Praise God that he never leaves us where we are. Praise God he hasn’t forgotten a single one of us. Praise God his word is true and all of us have a story for his glory!

Jennifer Maggio’s new book Overwhelmed: The Life of a Single Mom details her gut-wrenching tale of drama and hardship through her single mom journey, but ends in praising God for all he taught her along the way. The book offers a 12-part Bible study ideal for single mother’s ministries. Jennifer has personally counseled more than 400 single moms and currently travels sharing her story. She has been featured on CBN.com and The Carolyn Gable Radio Show, along with many others.

Lessons

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I arrived at the writer’s conference early on Friday. I stood in awe at the beauty and vastness of the redwoods. The Creator’s design drew me to pray, “Thank You God for bringing me here. I come to you with open hands and open heart in submission to You. Take me and teach me the lessons You have for me. Amen.”

Having come alone, I believed that God would bring the right people my way. I just didn’t know when. I thought, Maybe at dinner?

When the doors opened announcing the evening meal, I headed towards the cafeteria. Once inside, I sprinted towards a chosen table. All of a sudden my toe caught the side of a wheeled luggage cart; I couldn’t brace myself for the impending fall. My left knee crashed through the paper-thin carpet and seemed to meld with the concrete below.

I heard voices but couldn’t respond to flying questions, “Are you okay? Can we help?”

I wondered, Is this how I’m supposed to meet people?

After a few moments, I finally stood with assistance. I hoped that food would heal all things: Hunger and Pain. However, when I started to walk, the knee screamed ‘OUCH!’

All day Saturday I grunted and limped on the tips of my toes. The knee grew in size and warmth. Titles of afternoon classes flashed like neon lights beckoning me to attend, but the mental and physical distress provoked me to ask, “Lord should I go home?”

At super, Cheryl shared that she used to be an Emergency Room nurse. She suggested that I go to the ER for x-rays to make sure that it wasn’t fractured; I agreed. Another woman offered to drive.

As I waited for x-rays, my mind recalled the story of the Good Samaritan. Two people passed by the man lying on the ground, but finally a Samaritan came and showed compassion for the injured man. He furthered his love my administering medical attention. Oh Jesus, I thought, this is so amazing. The people who came near to me in my time of need showed their love by reaching out in compassion and helped me get medical attention. Thank You for giving me a new understanding of the story.

Four hundred and fifty people attended the conference, but not all could or would be there when I fell. God brought the perfect ones to be my friends.

X-rays revealed torn ligaments and bruising. I now owned a leg brace, crutches, and a wheel-chair. But above all, I learned how to be a recipient of love and how to trust my God. It was worth it just to be in the ER, even at midnight.

The next day I attended classes, met other writers, and talked with two editors about previously submitted manuscripts. God met all of my needs. What an amazing God!

Kim Kress lives in Ferndale, Washington where she write under the name of Priscilla Tate Gilmore because it means cheerful follower. Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of my faith, my work. I take no credit. I have been published in women and teen magazines and just finished my first novel, yet to be published.

Turn it Around

Kim Tolbert PictureThere was a time when I turned my back on God. Imagine me, a mere mortal having the gall to turn away from the Creator of All Things, The Giver of Life. But, it happened to me and continues to happen to people everyday.

For six long years I couldn’t “see” God because of being disobedient. I knew he was there, but I felt that he was ashamed of me and didn’t love me anymore. I often thought that my trials were like that of Job during the time that he was persecuted and lost everything. However, the difference was that Job was a righteous man and was being persecuted for God’s namesake. I, on the other hand, probably got everything I deserved.

From 1991-1997 darts and arrows stabbed me from all angles. It started with my mother, who was my best friend dying suddenly of a stroke, congestive heart failure and an aneurysm. Secondly, my husband left me and my then 4 year old son, because after 8 years he decided he didn’t want to be married anymore. I lost a government job of eight years which led to my financial ruin. I lost my house, cars and had to file for bankruptcy. If that was not enough, during the time I was estranged from my husband, he refused to pay child support which was $225 a month. When I had the child support court ordered, he was so mad that he concocted a home made bomb, sent it to my son and I through the mail, in hopes that we would open the package and it would kill us. He did 13 months in prison and the government agency he previously worked for, rehired him after he was released.

During this time, I had left the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses after being a part of it for 20 years. Though my husband had abandoned me, we were not divorced. I felt that since my husband initiated it, he could pay for it. Anyway, not being divorced, I began to date and fall in love with someone and began to have relations with him. Even though this person was the only person I had been intimate with, other than my husband, God still looked down upon me for committing fornication. The church ostracized me and my son so that we had nowhere else to go. If you can’t go to church, where can you go? They even went as far as to oust my son from the Jehovah’s Witness run daycare.

During court sessions for bankruptcy, child support, domestic violence attack and lost job there was no one to encourage or support me. I was all alone trying to raise my son. I felt that my life was over; and I was often told that” your son is paying for the sins of his mother.”

Job 22:23 says: “If you return to the Almighty you will be built up. You will remove iniquity far from your tents”. But, even though I kept hearing God’s voice saying “Return to me”, I was so weak spiritually, ashamed and felt that I was at the “point of no return”.. For six long years God kept asking me to come back to him. He kept sending people to me and putting reminders in my path. He kept asking me to return, but why? Was I worth salvaging? The years progressed and I was still walking in a spiritual daze, couldn’t read the Bible, was still not attending church. Not finding fulfillment in anything, just wanted to give up on life, if it hadn’t been for my son.

God kept redirecting me to different jobs until I met a dear man and his family who invited me to church. He didn’t “cram” the bible down my throat, but gave me bits and pieces so that I could digest it. Pastor has often said that “you may be the only bible that somebody will see”. Because of his example and the way he lived his life, I was helped to see that God never turned HIS back on me.

When I made the decision in 2004 to accept Christ as my personal savior, shortly afterwards, I had a heart attack, flat lined and made the decision to stop straddling the fence if God would spare my life so that I could care for my autistic son. My new church family rallied around me, took care of my son, provided meals on a rotating basis, but most of all loved and prayed for me. Doctors call me the “miracle woman” and don’t know how I survived, but I do. I tell people every time I get the chance, I have even told strangers in the grocery store!

My walk with God and Christ is a lot closer today than it ever was. I continue to try to improve upon it, daily. God blessed me with a government job that surpasses any job I have ever had, I started my own greeting card business and am able to give a testimony on how HE has used me to write words that comfort and sustain people. My son is growing up to be a fine young man, and has defied the odds in school and life, despite a disability. What’s dearest to my heart is that he loves the Lord.

It amazes me how God is using me to witness and talk to people. Me? Imagine that! My former friends see how I have changed for the better, which is a testimony in itself.

Even though I have not accomplished all I have to do in the work of the Lord or in my personal life, by turning back to God, HE is giving me back what I lost. But, the best thing HE gave me back…was my life!

Kim Tolbert is a strong autisim advocate and author of the the book, “Waffles Everday“. Listen as we discuss Autism, raising her son as single parent and her new book.

You Never know what a Day will Bring

gone-to-soon“You never know what a day will bring.”

That is what someone told my daughter seven years ago. When it comes to losing a loved one, I wish I could say that I don’t know how it feels. But I can’t. I know exactly how it feels, and it hurts.

Whether your loved one is terminally ill and fighting for his life or something tragic happens and he is gone, it hurts.

With us, it was sudden; totally unexpected. I’m still not sure why it happened, I just know that, (and this is from what I was told), John was in the wrong place, at the wrong time when someone who was mad at the world took out his frustrations on him.

John was beaten so badly, he had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance; not the one nearby, but to one downtown that deals with severe trauma.

Christina was only 12 years old, and we were not close anymore. She kept everything inside and turned to her friends. I was a basket case, reaching out for help that was not always there. In fact, people were telling me to be strong. How can you be strong when your dearest friend on Earth, your husband, was dying?

I didn’t have a home church yet, which made it worse because there was almost no support system. My mother-in-law flew in from Michigan after John was hurt and two months later when he died. She was such a blessing. Even John, lying in the hospital on life-support was comforting. That might sound weird, but we were so close, I really believe that he wanted to “be there” for us.

But that was John; always “there”.

We were only married a little more than eight years. We had a small wedding; simple and sweet. He made our life wonderful because
he was wonderful.

I miss everything about him; his sandy hair and blue eyes that twinkled. I miss his quiet laugh and gentle spirit. He was adorable,
and I wish my mother could have met him. She would have been thrilled.

John was so smart and articulate. He could talk for hours about history and music. He loved jazz, the blues, and played several instruments. I used to say that he forgot more than I knew. And he was so humble about it.

John was such an animal lover, so of course we had pets; two cats and a dog. Once he figured out their personality, he would “talk”
for them. It was hilarious.

I miss his cooking. I miss his laugh. I miss the way he used to open his mouth in a happy, welcoming smile, and lift his arms
shoulder-height to greet me when I stopped by at his job, and when I came home. Kisses and arms!

He was a precious husband and a wonderful stepfather to Christina, taking time to read to her and help her with homework. But he
never tried to take the place of her dad. Many weekends we’d drive to Newport News from Richmond, and back so she could spend time with him. If John couldn’t go with us because of work, he’d worry about me falling asleep at the wheel.

So when he was in the hospital, I always told him that I would call and let the phone ring just to let him know I made it back safely.

I know God was there. And I’m grateful for the precious people He sent to encourage and pray for us. Christina kept her distance a lot, maybe it was God’s way of protecting her from so much pain. But there were times when she could sense His Presence. She said she saw angels near John, and a couple of nights before he died; she told me that she saw Jesus comforting him.

After Jesus carried him home, I wanted to go too. Christina spent more and more time with her friends, so I was alone a lot. I started thinking about the old hymns that talked about dying, Heaven, and Jesus Coming back again. Lyrics that once were just words now became my life support.

I eventually found my church and plunged in. When the former pastor died, I had the honor of running the sound system at his funeral. The service was precious and comforting. I took in every word. The speaker quoted the verses from the song, “It Is Well”. My spirit jumped for joy. We sang that the night of John’s memorial service!

God didn’t forget Christina either. He is so faithful. The Easter Season is a glorious reminder that He Who raised Jesus from the dead shall also quicken our mortal bodies one day. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Hallelujah!

Dana MacDermid is a freelance writer based in Richmond, Virginia