Illness – Encephalitis

The Word ‘Thankful’ All Folded Up – part 2

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In my last post, (1*) I wrote about the word ‘thankful’ and how that word didn’t fit too well inside my heart as I underwent my two extremely tough afflictions. (2* & 3*) No one found me relaxed on a recliner, smiling ear to ear while thinking, “I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m so thankful God is having me go through this incredibly tough time.” Nope. Thankfulness was tightly folded up and hiding in the back pocket of my jeans.

After each ordeal took place, however, my mind knew God was in charge. I began realizing more and more that as things were getting better, I was actually thinking of pulling that Thankful sign out of my jeans and putting it on the table, but of course still folded up. As more positive things began to appear through each ordeal, I actually unfolded that paper. Sensing God’s help via family, friends, doctors, and the like, I finally decided to unfold the paper and read it each time I walked by. More thankful thoughts were growing in size and frequency. I finally got a magnet and —drumroll, please— stuck that Thankful sign up on my refrigerator!

I wasn’t becoming thankful I was pregnant, or for my month-long stay at a hospital. Not yet anyway. Thankfulness was there for feeling Christ was supporting me, caring for me, and letting me know He wasn’t just King, but my Father.

I was growing in the understanding that God is the One who puts us through what comes our way, good or bad. I was on the road that was planned by Him, whether smooth and serene, or unpaved, or one filled with countless sinkholes. I still felt a bit shattered and broken, not able to do what I had planned in life, but finally understanding that God’s plans are perfect, and that He was going to use me somehow, some way sure helped. 

Peace was growing inside as each year went by, and a few verses began to stand out.

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Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Proverbs 3:5-6, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. 

Attached is a song – The Very Next Thing – by Casting Crowns, which shares how I had began to slowly feel as time went by, using words such as…

– With my very next step – be on the road that was planned by you

– Lord, wherever you’re leading me – that’s where I want to be

Even though I did not know which direction that path was going, thankfulness, tied with peace, permanently got pinned to my heart and I was eager to see how He might use what He put me through to serve Him.

Finally, doors were opening and I began to see what His plans were. 

– to be continued.

The Word ‘Thankful’ All folded Up -Part 1

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Think of an extra-tough time you’ve gone through. Okay, maybe not the most joy-filled request.

Now, look at the definition of thankful: 

1. Aware and appreciative of a benefit; grateful – grateful and appreciative

2. of, relating to, or expressing thanks – a thankful feeling – thankful words

Curious why I’m asking you to think of an extra-tough time, as well as defining what thankful means? It’s to help you understand what got me—as years went by—to be closer to actually being thankful for these two, somewhat life-changing hardships I’d gone through.   (1*) (2*)  

Thankfulness. Do I want you to think that from day one I was filled with thankfulness when my teenage pregnancy soap opera started? Or, do I want you to think I was overflowing with thanks shortly after my brain-damaging encephalitis hit, that had me unable to even understand who God was TO thank? Am I saying that that one question, ‘Why, God?’ was nowhere to be found during both of those times? Of course not. As a matter of fact, if it could have been visible, “Why, God?” would have been bubbled over my head more hours of the day than not. I bet all of you reading this have had that bubble at least once, and that it seemed, at the time, impossible to pop.

God, having saved me when I was eighteen years old, was who I gave so many thanks to, as most things went by pretty smoothly that first year before these two time periods began. This verse fit perfectly:

Ephesians 5:2 – Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

But bang, things changed. I was so young in my Christian walk when I was hit with the first of these two trials. There had only been one year of God’s word and guidance before that larger-than-life trial occurred, followed by the next one only a few years later.

Being thankful for trials, along with understanding what God’s providence even meant, were both still hard to fully understand. It was hard to even find a little drip-drip-drip of thankfulness for either. Yes, I did sense God’s Fatherly care in both, but thankfulness that He decided to have me need that care sure wasn’t standing out. The word ‘thankful’ was folded up as many times as possible, put in the back pocket of those jeans I never wore.

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I knew God was holding me, but the fact that He had reasons for it all was hard to find as those early years went by.

Hearing those common words, ‘God has reasons,’ caused me to think ‘But what ARE they?’ That question was glued in my thoughts as every day, week, and month I was pregnant went by, and especially after every day, week, and month after my illness went by.

As time did go by, however, I—how shall I say it—started wearing those jeans I seldom wore, sensing something going on in that back pocket. Something was unfolding.

James 1:12 slowly began making sense.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

To be continued.

1* First trial –  Unplanned pregnancy

2* Second trial   – Brain Injury 

June 12th- One Special Day

heartsToday, Monday, the day I put up my new posts. But that’s not all. It’s also the perfect day to bring up what took place on June 12th, twenty-nine years ago. What am I talking about? Find out by reading my journal  from 1988. 

 

 

 

January 2, 1988 — Why begin, how to begin, why now to begin? What am I beginning anyway? Being almost a month into my marriage engagement to THE most wonderful man alive,  I’ve realized that being engaged is something very special. Our courting/dating is over, but our marriage is not yet underway. Praying that this will be the only time I will be in the engaged part of my life, I want to cherish this time and enjoy every part of it. I guess the reasons for starting a new journal, that only covers the remaining five months, will be to look back on my feelings about all the planning and emotions involved. But the most important reason is to see how God is bringing Chris and me closer together, and closer to Him.

I assume you have a good clue what this post is about. Just incase you still don’t know, here is the last clue from that last page of my special journal.  (Notice the date)

June 12, 1988 — Thirty minutes or so to go until I say ‘I do’. I’m all dressed and have enough time to collect my frame of mind, being I am now the only one in this room. It’s been stressful yet so worth it. It’s nice to know that God is in control of all things – even spark plug problems.   (don’t ask. You’ll just have to read my memoir to learn what that last sentence is all about.)  I’m all ready, and I hope Chris is surprised.


I’m sure I would have written more but, as soon as those last words were written, I saw my father outside the door waving his arm, telling me it was time to walk his youngest child down the isle. That was my last journal writing as Marianne Houstoun.

I’ll assume most of you have figured out by now with these clues, that twenty-nine years ago my husband and I said ‘I do’ and that today is our twenty-ninth anniversary.

These two writings are the first and last of thirty-one times I had put my heart of paper. Some were only a few sentences long while others were a few pages. It’s a gem looking back at how Chris and I decided on what type invitation to order, how him and I found our first apartment, to the joy we had blowing up all these balloons the day before our wedding.

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What was most often shared on those good old pieces of paper wasn’t so much what took place in those five months, but how thankful I was to God for the man He had brought my way.

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It’s always on our anniversary that one of my favorite verses come to mind.

Matthew 6:33 – But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (like your ‘love at first sight’, and man of your dreams) shall be added to you.

 

Unforgettable Forgettable Pictures

There is nothing new except what has been forgotten.

—Marie Antoinette

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Memories. Memories can be tough sometimes. Sure, everyone has things here and there they don’t remember. But for me, I only had things here and there I DID remember when I walked into that new hospital to help me recuperate after being hit with encephalitis. (*1)

My stay at Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup, Washington, was much different than the first one I had stayed in close to three weeks before. Different types of therapists had well-structured class times in different rooms, covering different subjects, day after day. Much of my time was still spent in my room resting, because the more I had to work so hard to think caused me to get worn out. Believe me, I really appreciated my room.

Here’s a sample of what one of my many classes was like.

“Marianne, for starters, I’m going to hold up little pictures of things that are very common to most people,” my speech therapist said while holding up a photo taken from newspaper ads. “Let’s see if you can tell me what it’s called.” 

Looks easy, right? Wrong.

Of course, I don’t remember that exact first picture I was shown, but I’ll never forget how I felt: dumb.

Here’s one of my common responses. 

“I think I know what it is, but I’m not sure. What’s it called?”

The first time seeing each card was almost impossible. Usually, though, after being told what it was called, along with what it was for, it would finally click! I remembered the name…for a few seconds, anyway. I’d say it a few times over and over. Next, a new card. Once again, she told me the name and explained what it’s for. Then, oh, darn it, that first one again. Great. Back to square one.

“Don’t worry, Marianne,” she said, “This is very normal. Trust me, it will get better.”

Slowly but surely, as minutes went by, I remembered the names of the items. Then she added a third picture. Then a fourth. Not too hard anymore to swiftly see one, say its name, do the next, and then the next. 

I felt so much better at the end of that first class.

Don’t get your hopes up like I did, because the next day I came close to starting from scratch. I remember how sad I felt after seeing that first picture. But thankfully, that day I got them all down a lot faster, even adding more. It put the day before to shame, making me one happy camper.

“Soon you’ll have no problem remembering what it’s called the first time you see it!”

YIPPIE!

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These are actually a few of those original pictures I was given to take home. They probably assumed that years later I’d like to reminisce on how sweet and simple my thinking was. Why the names of each with the photo? Days later, once it had become easy for me to say the name of each, then the hard part – writing down what they were called. Not fun.

But my speech therapist  wasn’t done, and continued. “I do need to warn you that often, as soon as you try to say some words out loud in a sentence, that word may suddenly seem to disappear,” She told me that is an effect because of what happened to my brain. Thankfully, she then taught me how to describe things in such a way that would hide my new problem.

As an example, she showed me a picture of a dog. Now, in 2017, I can say dog without any thought, but back then, dream on. (Just don’t ask me now what KIND of dog.)

“So instead of telling your friend ‘I love your new… oh, sorry, I can’t remember what that type of animal is called,’ say something like ‘I love your adorable new family member.’ Does that make sense?”

“You mean, I can still sound like I know what I’m talking about even though I don’t know the right word?”

I never forgot how relieved I felt. There was hope. That was the best advice I think I got the entire two weeks I was there. Seriously, at least once a day, I still hide the fact I can’t pop that word out I had just thought. I am proud to say, I have mastered that skill. 😉
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I saved this one picture for last being I still have to think about this here batch of cool threads often used for knitting.

1* Click here to read how all this started 

How Sadness Showed Me God’s Presence

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Are you one who makes your own abbreviations for words you find difficult to spell or those that are really long? For instance, ‘E’ is the letter I type instead of encephalitis, the word used most often to describe the illness I had years ago. (*1)

That illness caused me to forget what the names of many people, places, and things were called. (I jokingly call it my noun illness. After all, I have to find some humor in it.) It also affected my spelling, making it harder for me to glue in certain words: ‘E’ being one of them. Excuse me, I mean encephalitis.

My last post (*2) shares how ‘E’ caused me to lose my senses of smell and taste, as well. Since there were many other things I was working on recalling—who my family and friends were, what certain items I was being shown were used for—food was far from the top of my list of what to work on to remember.  But, I still had to eat.

From that one day in the first hospital when I ‘woke up,’ (*4) they slowly but surely got me back to eating. However, sitting up on my bed was, to me, the only place to eat, having known of no other place…yet. Finally, one unforgettable day took place in the second hospital. I had my first experience eating in a room with other patients. No biggie for most twenty-three-year olds to eat with other people around, but for me, it was a day I’ll never forget.

“Now, Marianne, many patients eat together in this room,” my nurse told me as we walked down the hall to the dining room. “Everyone here is like you: all healthy enough and physically able to eat in this room together, but having a tough time remembering things. A few of you will sit at different tables, while a few people who work here will bring you your food.”

fotolia_106265296As I slowly looked around at all those tables, the nurse showed me where to sit. I’m glad she did, because there was no way was I able to think where to sit when I didn’t really love the idea of sitting next to strangers. Even people I’d known for years still seemed a little like strangers to me, but I knew these people I’d eat with really were strangers.

Once sitting, I was just like all the others: silent. While looking around, I noticed that the majority of those around me looked down-and-out. Sure, illness was to blame, but it still seemed far too negative to me. I had a brain-damaging illness, also, but I just didn’t get why I felt a bit more peace-filled than most of the others seemed to be.

After we got our food and as we slowly started talking, I sensed quite a few of those people were showing a bit too much anger to the other patients or to those who were serving us. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the ones who had this negative glow around them.

They shouldn’t seem so upset about so much. It just makes being here harder. I feel sorry for them. They should be happier.

Seeing all that hit me hard, for some reason.

“Why are they like that?” I asked one of my nurses later that day.

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“Their brains have similar problems as yours and most patients can’t help but react that way. Many get mad at almost anything because they are sick and tired of working hard at remembering. There are really only a few like you who do not get angry while here working on memory.”

I ate in that room many times, eventually getting a bit more comfortable sitting with those few who were willing to be more positive. That first meal, however, is the one that stood out. Because of that time, I realized God was with me in that hospital. Even though I couldn’t understand it all at that moment, as days went by I realized it was because God, my Father, was holding me, the Holy Spirit was inside me, and Christ was sitting right there next to me. Those three are the ones I give credit to for keeping that little extra peace inside of me, which I felt and needed.

Thank you, Lord, for living in your children, even when we aren’t clear what it is we are going through.

Romans 8:26 – Likewise, the Spirit also helps our weaknesses. for we do not know what we should pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  (NKJV)

Romans 8:27  –And He that searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because he makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.  (NKJV)

1* Click to read how my encephalitis began.

2* Click here to read my last posting about my lost senses.

Encephalitis – Time to Make Some Sense

Before continuing my story on the brain-affected illness called encephalitic that hit me hard inbrainpuzzleillo-worked my early twenties, some twenty-six years ago, I want to give a brief overview of what I have covered in my posts thus far.

I had an unexpected seizure on December 20, 1990,(*1)  causing me to spend over two weeks in the hospital. It took the doctors a few days to realize I had been hit with encephalitic, an illness that affects the brain and, often, other parts of the body.

After being there eight days, I showed the first sign that there was hope, hope that my brain was on the long road of improving, hoping to get as close to normal as possible. However, it wasn’t going to be easy.

After two weeks, I was physically almost back to normal and ready to finally leave that hospital. But because I still needed much work to improve the function of my brain, I was not able to go home. Uncertain what most things around me were used for, let alone what they were called, it was obvious I could not yet go back home and be a wife and mother of two small children. After all, how could I if I wasn’t even sure what being a wife or mother even meant. That second hospital, to focus on my brain’s ability to remember the many necessities in life, was a must.

But, before I get into explaining what took place after getting to that second hospital (*2), I first will share a bit more about my illness. With encephalitic, it depends where in the brain this illness hits to what effects will show, and to what extent. Thankfully, because of where it hit, it didn’t affect me as hard as it could have if it had taken place elsewhere. Because of where it did hit my brain, two of my senses were noticeably lost: my sense of taste and my sense of smell.

So there I was, not only forgetting what food was called, where and how in the world food even came to be, but I also lost the best part about eating—tasting – which I’m sure you can then understand why eating didn’t make it to the top of my list of things I wanted to get back to doing.

 2975f38df60b37e9d172ba700c2da448Remember my story a few posts back about me getting excited about McD’s french fries and ketchup? Read it if you haven’t (*3), because as you read, you’ll notice I loved them because I remembered them! I did not say I loved them because of the taste. How could I if I was unable to taste those fries with ketchup. I loved them because I remembered those long things with red stuff on them.

Losing my sense of smell also made no sense to me (no pun intended.)

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If food—or anything, for that matter—was brought right up to my nose, giving it one strong sniff, I smelled nothing. Food, no. Soap, no. Perfume, no. Flowers a few people brought me, no. My then seven-month-old daughter’s dirty diaper, no. But it wasn’t really that bad. I didn’t really miss the smelling of things if I wasn’t able to remember what I missed. Make sense? (Pun intended.)

But, overall, that part of life in that hospital wasn’t all that bad. I was still like a little kid, trusting all those doctors who told me what to do. But I was also an adult who was doing my darndest to show improvement, knowing there was a normal-thinking Marianne soon to be found.

To be continued.

1* Click here to read how my ‘E’story began.

2* Click to read how I started it all in that second hospital.

3* Click to read why I’ll never forget Mc D’s French Fries.

Why Start a Blog?

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Ever ask that question, why people start a blog? Here are a few of the many reasons I found:

1- To market or promote something

2- To establish oneself as an expert

3- To connect with people with similar interests

4- To make a difference

5- To stay active or knowledgeable in a field or topic

6- To make money

I’ll now add the reason that caught my eye: 

7- To help others.

Why did I notice that the most? Because that is the reason I have.

These types of blogs are written to help people going through similar situations as the writer has experienced. Many parenting and marital blogs are written, along with health and financial guidance. Many topics can fit into that ‘help people’ category. Everyone wishes to find blogs that encourage, guide, help, and even bring a smile. Well, that’s my goal.

One verse I strive to follow is from Matthew 7:12, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. 

Being as I craved encouragement from other Christians during my unplanned pregnancy, those who truly could understand, I want to do unto others who are also looking for that. Thus, my blog.

I needed to read about Christians who felt like giving up but hung on. Thus, my blog for others needing that kind of encouragement. I wanted help finding a possible light at the end of my tunnel. Thus, again, my blog is written to bring that light to others.

Throughout many years, different women were asking for my story to help themselves, a family member, or a friend. Finally, after many requests, my story got underway to become a book. (*1)

I started my blog to help you, the reader, feel a face-to-face connection if you are going through these same type of ordeals. (*2) (*3)Even if it’s not an unplanned pregnancy, or a very tough illness, but something else is causing you to be anxious or worried, I hope my writings can help. 

One piece of hope I want to share in this post comes from a verse that was brought to my attention through a book I’m reading. I remember this often for the two ordeals I went through. Much peace it’s given me.
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Unexpected events can sure pull us out of our comfort zones, dragging us in a way that might hurt for a while. We could be one that feels very little, if any, speck of peace. Just try to remember, God’s plans are perfect. He understands and has reasoning for it all. That fact alone can help us re-animate our lifeless dreams. Clinging to God, who holds His children tight, gives rewards that can be astounding.

An unplanned pregnancy,  a brain damaging illness, or any tough trial is not the end of your life; it just might be the miraculous beginning.

I am going to be bold and ask anyone who’s willing to share this post/blog with your followers. Share it somehow, some way, believing it just might reach someone who needs encouragement or a listening ear.

Thank you.

*1 – Click to read what got my to start my book.

*2- click to read about my unexpected pregnancy.

*3 – Click to read about my getting hit with the illness Encephalitic.