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.
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.
Thank you, Lord
Three words that fit together perfectly throughout your life. I bet most of you can instantly think of a situation that stands out, your smile intertwining within those words, right? Now, think of the toughest time you’ve ever gone through. I bet there wasn’t much smiling from ear to ear while thanking God when that story was taking place. My unplanned pregnancy is a perfect example of that. (1*)
Back then, nineteen years old and pregnant, a smile on my face was hard to find. Was I, in the midst of it all, thanking God? Far from it. My pillow got drenched with tears more often than I’d like to remember those first few months pregnant. Peace was growing, however, inch by inch, after the toughest load of uncertainty got lifted off my back. A new me began the day my almost-husband moved back to California. (2*)
It’s hard to describe the peace that was beginning to form inside: me, my baby, and God—a perfect threesome of what I needed to focus my energy on. Accepting that fact was helping this new reality of becoming a mother not so hard to face. Not peachy-keen, mind you, because there I was, not even twenty, pregnant, and believing my hope of going to college was history. I was living with my parents, drowning in an overflow of questions on how to even be a mom, far from thanking God for all I was going through. But at least all that had been uncertain now had a bit more peace surrounding it. I wasn’t saying “Thank you, God, that I’m pregnant,” mind you, but ‘being with child’ wasn’t bringing me down nearly as much.
I was feeling more positive, thanks to conversations with those from church, along with solid preaching and constant love and support shown by my family.
Verses like Ephesians 8:28 – And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. – began sinking in.
‘All things work together for good’… Did that mean I was going to have a picture-perfect pregnancy and delivery, have the cutest baby who, once home, would sleep seven hours every night, and after being discovered, become a Gerber’s model, thus make millions of dollars? Of course not.
Paul wrote ‘for good’ to mean that the Lord intends all our circumstances, both good and bad, to be tools to help us get closer to God and grow more and more into the likeness of Christ. I may not have grasped all that right then and there, but I did sense, like I said, more peace was beginning to form as time went by. I was realizing that God allows all things that happen to those who seek after Him. The circumstances sure did not seem best for me at the time, but God designed and used the circumstances to be for my good. A hard fact to accept sometimes, but still true.
And sure enough, I could sense God by my side more and more in my pregnancy, which caused my faith to grow. I began clinging to His promises more, by faith, which led me to sense more of His help, which then caused more faith, had me see MORE of His help, then MORE faith, then, well… one of those snowball effects, in a way.
I’ll share in my next writing what practical blessings stood out as months passed. This list has stuck with me now for years, still amazed at all He obviously did for me during that pregnancy, and why my pillow began to hear me think ‘Thank you, Lord’ more often.
Romans 8:39 basically tells us that nothing big or small… “shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
To be continued.
Before continuing my story on the brain-affected illness called encephalitic that hit me hard in 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.
Remember 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.)
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.
God’s plans and timing are perfect, as my first blog about my encephalitis shows. *1
What started as one crazy puzzle seemed to have many pieces thrown all around. Thankfully, however, a few important pieces were obviously put together by God that first day. He knew when and where it was best to place me when I had my seizure, and who was best to have right there with me. That day I left the hospital, eighteen days later, was also perfectly planned.
If you are assuming that God’s plan for me was to be going home that day, with a quick stop at McDonald’s on the way, you are wrong. That stop was on my way to another hospital.
The first hospital I went to was the closest for the ambulance to take me to on that snow-filled day in December. It was there that it was discovered I was, for the most part, physically fine. Much worry still, for they realized that my brain was far from being fine and needed more care. They knew a hospital that specialized in brain damage was a must. The car ride that day—shared in my last blog—was to my next new home, the next hospital where I had to spend a few more weeks.
This part of the story shows, again, how God went the extra mile in planning, with love, this entire ordeal He knew I needed. That second hospital, a forty-five-minute drive from the first hospital, wasn’t even two miles away from Chris’s parents’ home. But that’s not it. They both worked at that hospital! Yes, you read it right. Both his parents worked there. Their hours were very flexible, and both were able to help immensely. I can’t write enough how thankful I am for that simple fact. Dorothy, Chris’s mother, was able to adjust her hours to help watch one or both of our two girls from the start. Their home was the perfect spot for Chris and the girls to spend many nights while I was in that hospital just down the street.
Having been sent to that second hospital showed us that God was putting a few more puzzle pieces together. It sure felt like it was one huge puzzle, but we were comforted knowing God was the one who made it.
As I started my next chapter of recovery, God kept His fatherly love right there. Even though the ‘why, God?’ question was still floating around, knowing my brain wasn’t affected nearly as much as it could have been sure helped. And, knowing that God was there helped the most.
We all just hoped He would put that puzzle—me—back together very soon, and that no pieces would be missing.
The first week of each new year gets me thinking of what the future holds. And, it also gets me thinking of what’s taken place in the past, specifically during the first week of January in 1991.
The next part of my encephalitis illness story fits perfectly right now. *1
Why? Because it was during the first week of January in 1991 that I left my eighteen-day stay at Highline Community Hospital. *2
I was fine physically, but my brain was dealing with remembering a majority of what things were for, or what they were called, and what many words meant. I didn’t have to re-learn so many facts. They were all still in there, but had to be pulled out over and over again in order for me to happily say, “I know that!” Thankfully, though, it would be getting better.
Leaving the hospital on that day, I was nervous, excited, and scared at the same time. Keep in mind how that hospital—because of my illness which caused me to not retain most of what took place in the past—was the only place I could ever recall living in. Leaving that place was starting, for me, one major adventure. My thoughts were filled with questions about everything I saw outside the hospital. I had no idea what life was like on that road ahead.
My husband, Chris, was chaperoning me to our car. As he opened the passenger door, I looked in as if I had never even been in a car. After looking all around inside, I eventually sat down next to Chris.
“We have this here to keep us safe in the car,” he said. “It’s called a seat belt.”
That was just one of many facts he was warned he’d need to tell me. For Chris, it was all a bit funny, but sad as well, with him wondering if I would be this way from then on.
My head was constantly turning back and forth, looking out the windows while the car was going down that first street. I’ll never forget thinking how all the cars looked so different from one another. It wasn’t long before Chris’s ears were drowning with my repeated three words: What is that? He knew it was best to keep the answers simple, so he tried to explain things in such a way that I could understand. One of the tougher examples was why some streets had weird lights that made you stop, while other streets, called freeways, didn’t make you stop nearly as much.
On one of those freeways I was feeling a bit down, because it started hitting me just how little I knew. That is, however, until I noticed something ahead. A sign off to the side began getting bigger as we drove closer. A smile on my face began to form. That smile began getting bigger the closer we got to that sign.
“What… what is that up there? It looks… it looks like I know what it is!” I still can remember how I felt, feeling a sense of hope was found!
“What do you see?” asked Chris. “What looks familiar?”
“The big picture thing over that building. Isn’t that some letter?” I said while pointing, feeling a spark growing inside. “Isn’t that some place where you can get these little, weird, long-shaped things? And then you put this… this liquid stuff on it. It’s a certain color. And isn’t it something people eat?”
My excitement could be heard and seen, as my smile extended from ear to ear.
Chris must have felt like I was some little girl who just thought she saw Santa.
“What are they called, those things with runny stuff on them?” I asked.
“Marianne, that building is a place everyone goes to eat, called McDonald’s. And what you are thinking about is called a french frie, with this red runny stuff you put on it is called ketchup.
My brain was soaking in all he was saying.
“That makes a lot of sense to me now. I sort of remember I loved eating that! Right? Do you think…”
“I’m taking the exit right now to go there.”
Happy as could be, I learned what a drive-through was as we got closer to that big sign which was now right in front of me. And a minute or two later those fries were also right in front of me on my lap. That first bite instantly had me remembered why I remembered that sign. Yum!
To this day, whenever I’m at McDonald’s, I feel this little piece of kid still in me, enjoying that weird red runny stuff on those fries.
As I continue my story, it’s time to share a piece directly from my book about my unplanned pregnancy which I dealt with when I was nineteen years old. The title is God and My Pillow because those are the only two who really knew all of my heart, soul, and mind during this difficult time. My last post shared what got me to finally make the hardest thing I’ve ever had to make: a phone call. Click here to read my last post
Ring, ring. Ring, ring. Ring, ri…
It was him. It hit me hard. It’s him.
“Hello.” Does he recognize my voice? “Is this Greg?”
“Yes, it is. Is this… Marianne?” I could tell from his tone of voice that he was surprised.
“Yes, it is.”
“Oh. Well, hello.”
Should I talk about the weather for a spell? No.
“If you’re wondering why I’m calling, I’m… I’m calling to let you know… I’m pregnant and that the… the baby is yours.”
“You’re–pregnant?” A little space between those words.
Silence. I knew I needed to allow him a little time to breathe and come out of shock, but finally I had to say something. I said, a bit slower than normal, “So, what are you thinking?”
His answer showed that he didn’t know what in the world to think. I was rather bold, and told him right up front that an abortion was not an option. I could tell he was disappointed, but thankfully he didn’t make a big deal about that decision. A sudden trap, I’m sure he felt.
We ended the talk by agreeing to go through this together, but that he would wait to hear from me on what I decided to do. I was a bit sad that there was no bold, mature, adult response like, “No matter what, I’m right by your side and will aim at making this the best thing for us both. I love you and will do anything that’s best for our baby. I’m eager to meet your parents, to show them I will take care of us all.” Instead, he had a more of a “yeah, whatever” attitude. I just told myself that it was better he be that way than have some selfish, mean, I don’t care attitude. He agreed it was his responsibility to do something, even if it meant we would get married and keep the baby.
Me? Getting married? Now? I knew I didn’t want to decide right then over the phone, so I told him I’d get back with him in a few days. I hung up, telling myself the talk went pretty well. But I also found myself needing to find something good out of everything lately.
After hanging up the phone, I felt like hiding from the world for a while. My thoughts of deciding what to do had begun, but they were too hard to share with anyone.
I could give the baby up for adoption and have no connection with Greg; have the baby and not get married; or have the baby and get married. I didn’t want to hear from anyone right then and I didn’t feel like deciding. I just wanted God to tell me.
Why am I sharing this particular part from God and My Pillow? To make up for not including more here of what followed with Greg. It’s better to wait to read what I like to call the soap-opera part of my book. I feel it’s best for my book to show how God carried me through this entire ordeal, from beginning to end, with this young man.
My story is written to help readers understand how God may decide to put you through your own soap opera, one you’re not sure you can survive. I want to show you He can, and will, get you through it, holding you tightly and never letting go.