Published by Chronic JoyMinistry - https://chronic-joy.org/back-to-blind-finding-spiritual-sight-sea-darkness/
BACK TO BLIND
After a long day with an aching eye, going from a walk-in clinic to the emergency room to the specialist’s office, I was told to remove my contact lenses for the foreseeable future. I sadly dug into my purse for my magnifying eyeglasses that dig into the temples and slide off my nose; glasses that give me about a foot’s worth of vision. I felt my heart sink and sighed, resigning to the reality I had feared. I was back to blind.
BORN BLIND: IN THE BEGINNING
Over 28 years ago, my vision journey began, entering this world without sight. Taking their infant daughter, my parents found great specialists at one of the best hospitals in the country to begin the first of many attempts to restore my vision.
After removing the initial problem from both eyes, the path towards sight only began. Doctors experimented with eye drops, contact lenses, eye patches, glasses and surgeries to give me the best chance at a life with as normal sight as possible.
From one month old, they would hold me down and place hard plastic contact lenses upon my eyes. A practice that would make our neighbors question our home environment due to the morning and nightly shrieks coming from our house.
RESPONDING WITH HUMOR INSTEAD OF ANGER
Thankfully over the years it became routine and the ritual had become one I was familiar with. As a little girl, they also tried to strengthen one eye by patching the other. For several hours a day I would strain to see out of my weaker eye and simultaneously try to ignore the snide comments from onlookers.
Do you have an eyeball under there?
This question came from one of many curious children and by this point in my life; I had chosen to switch from anger to humor in my responses.
No, I don’t, but I do have it here in my pocket!
I can still see the horror on the kid’s face as he bolted down the hall. He never made eye contact with me again.
BORN BLIND BUT SOME SIGHT REGAINED
Over the years, with corrective surgeries and medical advancements, I grew to have fairly normal (corrected) vision and was able to lessen the frequency of my trips to the doctor.
Although minor surgeries were needed every few years, we praised God for the incredible sight I regained. Contact lenses, drops, and check ups became routine and I was even able to get my driver’s license. While never being cured, I was stable and simply went about my life.
BACK TO BLIND – EVERYTHING CHANGES
Until one month ago.
Sitting in the office of the on-call specialist, I was crushed to hear that my eyes simply had had enough. Eyes which were stable for many years suddenly were deteriorating and in desperate need of rest and healing. Taking away the tools that gave me one of my greatest senses left my head spinning with questions and anxiety.
How did it come to this? Everything had been fine for years! I had a check up not long ago! How could this happen after all we’ve done? However, my pleading and questions did nothing to change the fact that my eyes were not stable anymore and I prayed for the courage to ask my most ardent question.
Am I legally blind now?
He answered as quickly as blinking. No hesitation or even a glance up from his desk where he was vigorously writing notes.
Placing my only source of sight on my face, my whole world, as I knew it had changed. Driving, cooking, caring for my kids, it all looked impossible now. All those years of struggle and pain to give me a future with sight seemed to be going down the drain. I was back to blind.
These two simple yet powerful words can change everything. Through all the tears, grief, anger and sense of loss I’ve felt over my eyesight, there is a grounding in my soul. It’s a source of strength that has been growing day by day, as I face my new reality. While I still feel all the emotions and desire to simply slink into despair and self-pity, a small still voice pushes me forward.
This voice tells me to not give up and give into the darkness, to fight for independence and stand firm on the truth of who I am in Christ. This strength is not some Christian cliché that is said to sound spiritual and humble, but is instead is the bewildering power of the Holy Spirit from of which I could never conceive. It is in this power I can put my trust, knowing it’s not my willpower or positive attitude that will undoubtedly fail me one day, for in my strength I can do nothing.
BACK TO BLIND – THE ROAD AHEAD
Though I am back to blind, I do not know the future of my vision. There are several treatments we are looking into and I am immensely grateful for my big “coke bottle” glasses that allow me to see the screen before me and other things within a short range. However, it is possible that this is permanent and it’s scary and sad. It makes me wrestle with the hard questions like: Why did we go through all that pain and struggle over the years only to have the rewards stripped away?
I do not know the answer and may never fully understand my physical disabilities on this side of eternity, but therein lies my hope. Eternity. Not just for a healthy body with perfect eyesight, but remembering that this life is a grain of sand. Yes, it contains heartache and brokenness but that doesn’t change God’s plan for my life. In fact, this may bring about something great for God in my life!
So for now I will cling to eternity and remember the words of Charles T. Studd:
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
I may be back to blind, but because of Jesus, I have all the sight I’ll ever need to live my life for Him.
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. ~ 2 Peter 1:3
Kids are many things. They are hard work, messy, expensive, and of course bundles of joy. They transform your life and throw you unprepared into the storm of parenting. It is our job to love them, care for them, point them to Christ and try not to kill them in the process.
Sometimes as a parent I get overwhelmed by the crushing responsibility of raising a hard working, respectful, and (Lord-willing), Christ following adult. Not to mention an adult others actually want to be around. I read countless parenting books, blogs, listen to sermons, devour my Bible and pray. Oh man do I pray! Only He can truly shape my kids, so I beg Him for that daily!
I can get so focused on shaping my child, that I end up seeing them as just lumps of clay. Instead of little humans with personalities, likes and dislikes, who deserve the same amount of respect as anyone else.
I'm a passionate mom. I believe parenting is not something to be taken lightly or passively. Loving, disciplined, well adjusted children then adults do not just happen. We need to be passionate. We need to use our wisdom, unique skills, and resources to step up to the plate and proactively PARENT our kids.
That being said, too much of anything...well you know the saying. Yesterday I got a dose of humbling from my oldest son and it reminded me that my kids are not just mini-me's that need to be turned from sinners to saints. They are incredible little people who see, hear, and absorb the world around them and are certainly not meant to be "seen and not heard".
I have Chronic Illness. Several conditions that can, on a good day, leave me with chronic pain and fatigue to bad days when I'm hospitalized and fighting for my life. Being a parent while managing Chronic Illness is HARD. Some days I handle my limits with patience and grace, and other days not so much. Yesterday I woke up on the extremely grumpy side of the bed. Literally snipping and lecturing my son just because he dared to crawl into bed with me for a snuggle. I spent the next few hours whining about my messy house, saying no to anything the boys asked for, and burying myself in my phone. Out of habit, I grabbed my Bible and prayer journal but I had absolutely no desire to use them. I was in pain and tired. I deserved to pout.
I knew my attitude sucked so I skimmed through the Psalms and read the devotional accompanying it. No change. I let the boys watch a tales (movie) so I could spend time writing in my prayer journal and wait for my mood to disappear. Nope.
Now feeling grumpy, tired, in pain and frustrated, I sent out a text to a dear friend who I knew would pray for me.
*Do you have someone in your life that you KNOW will stop what they are doing and pray? It's an incredible blessing.* - (If not, contact me in the Resource tab to connect about prayer)
I didn't get a response but I knew her, and I knew she was praying. My mood did lift a bit and the morning went on. While making lunch I nicked myself on a knife and the pity party started all over again. With a huge sigh I handed the kids their lunch and without even thinking I asked my 5 year old to pray for me. Realizing that it was a kind of vague and random thing to ask your 5 year old, I was expecting him to ignore me or at least ask why.
Instead, without hesitation he jumps right into a prayer asking Jesus to take away Mommy's bad attitude so we could have a good day. Also asking that I would feel Jesus closely and of course thanking Him for the macaroni and cheese.
It was a simple, humble, honest prayer that shattered me right then and there. I cried and laughed at the same time and sat down to my own lunch with a huge smile on my face.
I don't know what amazed me most; seeing my son display authentic childlike faith, my attitude completely changing, or the fact that he didn't need to ask me what to pray for! I was such a grumpy whiny mess that he already knew what I desperately needed. A heart change.
While I fumbled around all morning stuck in self pity and trying to use God as a vending machine, my sweet boy who saw EVERYTHING showed me compassion and didn't hesitate for an instant to go to the Father for help. There was no "if it be your will..." in his prayer, nor was there reservation or fancy wording. It was an act of genuine, humble faith. It was an act of love, for his Mommy and for God.
I can honestly say, his prayer was answered. As I humbly apologized to both my boys for the whole morning and for my sinful behaviour, I praised God deeply within my heart. Not only were they eager to forgive me but Gabriel could hardly wait to tell Daddy that God "fixed" Mommy.
In 2016-2017 I was pregnant with our second child. We were greatly surprised to find out we were expecting again while our eldest (Gabriel) was only 6 months old.
My first pregnancy was hard. I had extreme morning sickness that made me very sick, requiring multiple hospital trips for dehydration. I was always nauseous and throwing up, struggled with my liver, and in general, always felt terrible. Of course on March 15th 2016 when our Gabriel came into the world via c-section, everything was totally worth it.
Six months later, I had that familiar nauseous pit in my stomach and didn't fancy the thought of eating. One morning at about 5am, I got out of bed and took a pregnancy test buried deep in our bathroom cabinet. It was positive.
This pregnancy started out like my first, very sick, and extremely tired (especially having a baby to take care of on top of everything). However things escalated quickly and this pregnancy became dangerous. Our little baby inside me was growing normally and healthily but my body was falling apart. I was too sick to get off the couch most days, let alone care for Gabriel. My husband Adrian was home as much as possible to look after both of us and we really learned about relying on God's provision for us during that season.
Of the many hospital trips I had to make during those 9 months, one stands out. I had just passed the halfway point (20 weeks) and woke up vomiting so hard that blood began to pour out of my mouth. I had to get help right away. Thankfully just up the road, dear friends of ours rushed over to watch Gabriel so my grandparents (who also lived nearby) could drop me off at the hospital.
I felt so bad for my sweet grandparents in their 80's to see me in such a state. I think they were a little traumatized, but I was so grateful they rushed me in and stayed by my side until my husband and mother could get to me. I was quickly assessed and scanned. Baby was fine but I had torn my esophagus and stomach lining, my gallbladder was inflamed and my blood pressure was in the toilet. I was sent to the step down ICU at Grand River Hospital and got hooked up to many machines. It was a horrible few days. I had little rest, couldn't eat and continued to be in pain.
They desperately wanted to scope my digestive track to see the extent of the damage, but being pregnant meant using heavy sedation was off limits. I consented to trying the procedure with minimal sedation in hopes they could get even a small picture of what needed fixing. Funny quirk that runs in my family is that I don't respond to sedation or freezing very well. It takes multiple needles at the dentist to do even one filling and heavy amounts of knock out gas to get me even the slightest bit sleepy. So this time, the doctors planned to shove a long plastic tube down my throat into an injured esophagus while being awake.
My mother got as close as she could to me while the nurses and doctors set up. (Adrian had to leave the unit temporarily and he wasn't allowed back in until the procedure was over). I wanted her right near me to try to talk me through it, but the lead doctor pushed her out of the way. The next thing I knew, I was gagging and crying followed by muffled screams as they shoved and shoved. I heard the doctor shout "Hold her!" so the nurses pinned me down. I couldn't breathe or think or shout. I felt like I was suffocating and then everything went black.
I was only out of it for a few seconds but when I opened my eyes, everyone had backed off. My mom was there, drying my tears and reassuring me that it was over. Her eyes red and puffy as well, comforting me with shaky hands. She later told me, it was the worst thing she had ever experienced as a mother, as she watch them seemingly torture me. I glanced at the clock and couldn't believe that almost an hour had passed, and after all that agony, it had all been for nothing.
Over the next several days, my terrible pain was monitored and I was given medicine to heal my digestive track. I also had bouts of contractions and fevers that were being watched as well. After I was deemed stable enough, I got to go home on bedrest, awaiting the next physical disaster I was unknowingly going to face. I wish I could say this was the climax of troubles during my pregnancy but it was not. This story also doesn't have a warm and fuzzy take away message. The truth is, this event shook me to my core. It was terrifying, painful and traumatizing. I was so grateful to have people visit me and pray with/for me. I knew I was surrounded by loved ones and I knew God hadn't left me, but still I felt so alone.
Sometimes we can look back on difficult circumstances with grace-given hindsight and see what amazing things God was doing in all the madness. This was not one of those times. I look back and see pain. I'm learning that we will not always see God's hand in things on this side of eternity, even though I know He is tirelessly working beyond our limited viewpoint.
God says to praise Him in the good and the bad. I didn't do that then, but I choose to do it now. I choose to cling to the Truth that says "He will never leave us nor forsake us."(Hebrews 13:5) I know Jesus stood beside me every second of that terrible week and I know He did not stand there idle. So I praise Him. I also surrender the pain, trauma and even my resentment up to God, confessing I should have done that ages ago. Instead of pushing this awful event from my memory, I choose to make it a week NOT to forget by writing about it here. Not every story is wrapped up nicely in a bow, at least not from our perspective, but I need the reminder that God never promised "pretty" or "easy" or even to give answers. He promises us that His plan is best, and to trust Him, regardless of circumstances or outcome.
What's a story on your heart that's left you with scars and unanswered questions? What's your dark cloud right now? Sickness? Divorce? Death of a loved one? Battling addictions? There's a saying: "God is good, All the time. And All the time, God is Good." An easy mantra when things are going well, and (though slightly less easy) quotable when you can see the silver lining beyond the black cloud. However, it's when we can't see anything at all, that makes this quote so vital to our lives. It may not be a quoted Bible verse, but it definitely comes from Truth, and something to cling to, especially when there seems to be no evidence to support it.
I don't have all the answers to my questions and my life circumstances are certainly not all wrapped up in platitudes and inspirational testimonies. This is just one piece of the jigsaw puzzle, that is my life and it's a dark one. I'm just thankful one day God will show me the whole story, and I trust that although I don't understand everything now, one day, by His grace, I will.
Working to pay the bills but also making your family a priority. Eating healthy meals but not obsessing over everything that goes in your mouth. Being active and faithful to exercise but also allowing time for rest and relaxation. Practicing self-care without becoming self-focused.
We deal with this concept everyday. It's a topic that doesn't have simple answers and what may be a balance for one person may not be for another.
As a Christian ( a Christ follower), I try by God's grace to "balance" the areas of my life through Biblical eyes. God says to "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness" (Mathew 6:33). So first and foremost on the priority list is my relationship with Christ and advancing His Kingdom. Next comes our family with Christ being at the centre. "For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God's church" (1 Timothy 3:5)? And in the family, because marriage makes you one flesh, your first priority is your spouse (Gen. 2:24), followed by your children (Eph. 6:4), and relatives etc.
These Biblical priorities help us set up the framework for our work, ministry, and home life in a balanced way, but we know it isn't always that easy. It takes huge discernment to know how to identify God's boundaries in every situation. When to stay at church to help prep for an important event or go to your child's soccer game. How to navigate the many needs of your new baby and try to prioritize time for your spouse. Where to draw the line on providing for your family's financial needs and spending quality and quantity time at home.
Only by following the Spirit's leading can we answer these personal and ever changing situations we face. It's a daily discipline to discern God's will for our walk with Him, our families, our work, our ministry, and our days. Sometimes it's minute by minute, hour by hour, asking the Spirit to show us what to to do when the Bible hasn't given us a simple black and white answer on a particular decision.
I find that very hard, and it's a discipline I'm not even close to mastering.
Then we bring in a new factor, chronic illness.
In high school, I would stay out late, participate in several extra curriculars, hang with friends whenever possible, and in general just be busy! I lived on a couple hours of sleep a night and I functioned fairly well. Yes, I was dealing with some health issues, but they weren't a huge concern for me at the time. I just lived. Then post high school, I worked for a year before going to College. I lived with a friend and worked 2 full time retail jobs. I would start at 6am at Payless ShoeSource until mid afternoon, when I would work until 9:30pm at Laura Secord, and then go out with the staff at night. I was living it up. However, during this time, my health really began to decline. I started going to one doctor's office after another and I knew my undiagnosed symptoms were getting worse, but I didn't let it slow me down. You can guess how that ended...badly. Several months after living this lifestyle of work/play all night and all day, my heath did a nosedive. I had to break my lease on my apartment, making a huge financial mess and destroying my friendship with my roommate. I moved back home with my parents and spent most of my time in bed.
During this time, I was treated for Lyme Disease and depression and I basically spent each day just getting to the next day. Day by day over many months, my mind and body got stronger. I had intense treatment and therapy and got back on my feet. I was able to go to college for Business Administration and even get an office job afterwards. During this time, my high school sweetheart and I got married and started our life together. The diagnosis of Lupus really helped me understand my limitations. I was able to recognize what I should or shouldn't do to keep symptoms at bay. It took trial and error and several hospitalizations, but I felt at that time I knew my "balance" in life. I decided for my health, a 40 hour work week just wasn't sustainable and I had to have limits on activities. I learned to swallow my pride and say no to things, and accept that people may not always understand. I learned that if I wanted to do the things God was asking of me, (I was a part time Youth Pastor at the time), I had to say no to other things I wanted to do. During that short season of life (2 years), Adrian and I had so many incredible experiences together. We experienced the joy of being newlyweds, working as a team in ministry, discipling young people, growing in our faith, and really learning about the Gospel in our daily lives. We are so thankful for those years in our little basement apartment in Brantford where we served Jesus together. It was a beautiful short season that God used in powerful ways. I'm grateful to look back and see how God lay the groundwork of balance, letting go, acceptance, surrender and obedience. He needed to lay the foundation of healthy and Biblical priorities in my heart because He knew in a short time, my idea of balance would be challenged and stretched like never before.
Fast forward 2 years - We live in another city, serve in a completely different ministry, currently pursuing deeper paths of Kingdom living, and are raising two little boys aged 2 and 1. Our lives are totally flipped upside down and believe me when I say, in this new season, I don't have the "balance" thing figured out yet!
That's how old I was when the first medical crisis started. My dad was changing my diaper and noticed my left eye wasn't responding to light or movement. Unsure of what to do, the Paediatrician set us up with an Ophthalmologist, and I was quickly diagnosed with a Cataract. At one month old, I had my first operation. They removed the lens in my eye and began putting a contact lens on top of my eye. Several months later, the other cataract developed and they repeated the surgery on my right eye. Two more eye surgeries followed in the next couple years to remove scar tissue and tighten the muscles. I've worn contact lenses on my eyes ever since.
Looking back, my parents joke about how the neighbours must have thought they were torturing me every morning and night as one of them held me down, screaming while the other placed or removed the lenses. In those days contact lenses were relatively new and quite finicky. They were a rounded, hard, plastic-like lens that if not placed perfectly on the iris, were quite painful. They were removed each night by a tiny little plunger that suctioned them off of my eyes. For many years, to not mix them up, they were given two different colours. Most of my pictures of me 10 years and under, are of me with one blue eye and one green eye.
Next came the eye patch. After the cataracts were removed, poor vision remained, and my left eye was substantially stronger than my right. To improve my vision I wore an eyepatch over my left eye to strengthen the right. How I despised that eye patch! It was itchy, hot and pulled my skin, not to mention made me a target for onlookers with questions and jokes. Once standing in a line at the bank with my mom, a man behind us looked at my mom and said "So did you punch her eye out?" Kids were more curious than cruel. I would get asked if an eyeball existed behind that patch on a regular basis but I didn't mind. Sometimes I would even come up with silly responses to freak them out. "Oh no, not behind the patch, but I do have it here in my pocket!" It was just part of my daily life and we learned to deal with it all. My dad had a hard time getting my lenses in and out (he was the one who'd pin me down while mom did the lens job), so on nights when mom was working, he would pack me and my brother up and drive to her work so she could take them out there. It made things like sleepovers and being watched by babysitters tricky, but we made it work. Eventually technology improved and lenses became more like the soft pliable material we use today. I was then able to put them in and out myself.
Along with the cataracts came an eye condition called glaucoma, which means the eye has a high build up of pressure from the fluid. Every 6 months or so, we would make the trip to Sick Kid's Hospital to see Dr. Levin. He performed a few of my surgeries and remained my doctor for several years. I would take eye drops to keep the pressures down and he monitored them closely. My other doctor who maintained my contact lenses was Dr. Brent, a kind and caring man who actually was part of the team to first use them on children. He was passionate in his field, extremely intelligent, and so gentle. I never left his office without a handful of smarties. I continued in his care until his retirement in 2016.
Other specialists became involved and I was bumped around to handle issues that came up over the years. Further surgeries were needed to tighten my eye muscles, correct double vision and combat my glaucoma. I was even once involved in a clinical study to advance research on children born with cataracts. My parents did genetic testing when I was a baby but no explanation was found as to why my eyes are the way they are.
Did God make me this way on purpose? Were my eyes just defective? Is it just a result of living in a broken world? I don't have the answers either, but I do know some things.
I know if I had been born 50 years before my time, I would have grown up blind. I know God doesn't make mistakes. I know that I appreciate my eyesight everyday. There are many children who were and are born like me and aren't able to get the care I received, and even some that did, are still considered blind. I know that God works all things for good and that He used the struggles we went through to tell a story of redemption and provision. I also know that our bodies are a gift, a beautiful and complex gift and all of us are fearfully and wonderfully made.
I don't know what the future holds for my vision. I still see doctors who monitor my sight and pressures and I know more surgeries will probably happen as some point. Will I keep my vision for the rest of my life? I really don't know. Some doctors have told me it will deteriorate with time, others say my glaucoma could suddenly knock it out all at once. What I do know, is that God has given me the ability to surrender it to Him. I pray that I will see our children get married, our grandchildren be born, and my husband's stunning eyes as a 90 year old man, but I trust that even if those things don't happen, I will be okay. My sight was a miracle as a 4 week old infant and it'll be a miracle for the rest of my life.
Follower of Jesus, on a journey to glorify God and to advance His Kingdom while battling Chronic Illness in the everyday life. Diagnoses include Lupus, CVID, POTS, IBS, Hemiplegic Migraines and other Autoimmune conditions.