Not long ago, I was talking with a friend who had recently been diagnosed with a serious autoimmune disease. My friend said, “Oh, but I shouldn’t complain. You’ve been through much worse. And if you can make it through what you have, I can surely make it through this.” I’ve heard this or something similar a number of times when someone has told me of a bad experience.
If anything I have experienced can serve as an encouragement to someone else going through a rough patch, I’m all for it. But I look at my life and see blessings instead of problems. Sometimes those were blessings in disguise, but blessings nevertheless.
On Thanksgiving, I give thanks for these blessings that God has so liberally bestowed upon me.
When people mention the hardships I’ve been through, they often mention my stroke at the hands of a chiropractor when I was 45 years old. I will confess it was difficult to regain the ability to sit up, re-learn how to walk, and to re-acquire basic skills. I still have poor balance and vision problems as a result of the stroke, limiting my mobility and ability to perform tasks requiring good vision. However, overall, more good than bad has come from the stroke.
First I was blessed to have so much support. I didn’t realize how much I was loved and cared for until I needed help, and everyone came through.
My husband Jack ran errands, took care of everything at home, made sure my business ran smoothly on a day-to-day basis, and arranged for my evening meal to be delivered to the dining room so we could have dinner together every day. After I was home from the rehab center, he also drove me back and forth to work every day and made whatever accommodations were needed at home and at the office/warehouse. He creatively solved problems, such as buying me a jeweler’s loupe that fit around my head to use as a magnifier so I could read. He was patient with me, but he pushed me when I was afraid to try something he thought I could do. Most of all, he never doubted that I would recover, and his faith encouraged me.
My sister Nancy did all the little things Jack didn’t recognize needed to be done or didn’t know how to do. She brought me personal items from home, washed my hair, and helped me with personal care when I couldn’t care for myself. She also worked as the maintenance manager in my interior landscape company; she and my brother Frank, who was installation manager, ensured that customers received plant service. My employees were wonderful—if Nancy, Frank, and my other employees had not continued to do excellent work, I could easily have lost my business. Although income decreased because of natural attrition coupled with the lack of new business since I was the only salesperson, the company remained viable throughout my illness.
My parents, extended family, and friends visited and called, sent cards and gifts, and encouraged me in numerous ways. My doctors and rehab team treated me like I was the only patient they had.
The stroke was one of the experiences that led me to accept my utter dependence on the Lord. I always saw myself as independent and self-sufficient. I thought I could solve my own problems, take care of my own needs. It was very humbling to lie in bed unable to move, talk, or do anything for myself. Even so, after I recovered, I needed another major lesson. I went through several years of myoclonic jerks (or seizures depending on which neurologist was talking). My left arm and leg flailed out uncontrollably and I made an involuntary sound that people often thought was “No” or “Oh.” My left side was cold all the time no matter what the temperature was, and over time the symptoms worsened so that I appeared to be having a stroke. Doctors couldn’t explain or treat the problem; I was even accused of “faking it” on one trip to the emergency room. There was no way I was in control—I had to accept God’s control of my life. Finally, I was healed by prayer.
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7, NASB)
Ultimately, the stroke led to a career change. I had always dreamed of being a writer someday, maybe after I retired. However, after the stroke, I realized I didn’t know if would have that someday. I decided if I wanted to live my dream of being a writer, I’d better start. It took several months for me to reach the point that I could type again and that I was strong enough to work at the computer on Saturdays, but as soon as I was able, I started on my first novel, Stroke of Luck.
I continued to operate my business for four more years while I wrote on the weekend. It was important for me to prove to myself that I could still run my business, and I wanted to build it back up from the loss of income during my absence. After I was ready to move on, it took a couple of years to find a buyer who would promise to retain our employees. We sold to a national company who could offer far better benefits than we could as an independent small business.
If it hadn’t been for the stroke, I would most likely have kept my business for many more years. Instead, I have been self-employed as a freelance writer and editor for seventeen years and have published a number of books, both fiction and nonfiction. I’m living my someday dream, and that might not have happened—it certainly wouldn’t have happened when it did—if it hadn’t been for my stroke.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28, NASB)
O MOST merciful Father, who of thy gracious goodness causes all things to work together for good to those who love thee, to those who are called according to thy purpose; We give thee humble thanks for this thy special blessing; beseeching thee to continue thy loving-kindness unto us, that we may continue to love thee and answer thy call, to thy glory and our comfort; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Adapted from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer)