My life has been a lot like yours. I've had some wonderful, mountain top experiences. But, I admit there have been times when I’ve heard the phrase, “God never gives you more than you can handle” that I’ve looked up at God, shook my fist, and screamed “I’m not as good at handling this stuff as you think I am. Stop it, already!”
But my life has included some of the big ones: divorce, even though it was not my choice; single parenting; remarriage; a blended family of six children (who were NOT the Brady bunch!); a child custody battle where I lost my then 6 year-old daughter for 6 months; unemployment; foreclosure, holding my stillborn granddaughter in my arms. And some of you may have heard me talk about God’s steadfastness during these trials. How every time I couldn’t figure out how to manage, when things looked so hopeless, God found a way.
E V E R Y S I N G L E T I M E he had a plan in store that was better than I could ever have imagined!
So you may be a little surprised to hear that three years ago, I had forgotten all this. In fact, I had forgotten about so many of my blessings. I was working at the University, overloaded beyond belief, due to budget cuts and demand for services at the community research program I directed. The program took me all over the state of Iowa – something I loved, since my greatest joy was in working WITH people who are affected by public policy, as opposed to making and tracking public policy – the profession I was trained for years ago.
Yes, I was running at top speed. And I was loving (and probably hooked on) the speed and the good feedback I was getting from it. I felt like I had the best of two worlds: work I loved and work that provided a decent living. But, slowly, things began to change. I became overly tired and could never seem to get enough rest. If you ask my husband, he’ll tell you I wasn’t the most pleasant person to be around sometimes (don’t shake your head too hard, Richard). I began noticing problems with a tremor in my hands and my head. My balance was changing, I began running into walls, my knees crumbled under me sometimes. Worst of all, in reviewing my work output, I found mistakes in the data analysis and writing that were an integral part of the work I was doing.
My response to all of this – work harder! As the saying goes, “say a prayer, pull up yer bootstraps, and keep on keepin’ on.” Then, on June 21st, 2008, my world crashed. I couldn’t face work and life anymore. I drove to the parking lot at work, and I couldn’t get out of the car. I couldn’t go on. I felt like I was watching myself, but could ONLY watch. I could not DO anything.
God spoke to me that day and told me to get help. I literally heard him say "Kathlene, go to the hospital!" And I received wonderful help. My husband stood by me in a way that has given me a new faith in him and our marriage. Since then, I’ve been healing…my doctors have found lesions in my brain that pretty well explain the physical, emotional, and cognitive symptoms I was and still am experiencing. I have had to learn to live my life at 5 miles per hour, instead of 75. I have had to learn to live with a unknown diagnosis and an uncertain prognosis.
But here’s the issue: As recently as a year ago, even though I knew of God’s love, though I believed I’d lived his plan for my life, I still felt empty a lot of the time. I wondered why God put all of the opportunities -- the work I loved, the scholarships and education I treasured in my path, if he was just going to snatch it all away 20 years later?
My doctors have said I should not return to work. And so I was left with wondering…is that all there is? Is this failure? What’s left?
About a year ago, I asked a friend of mine that very question. What’s the point if so much can be taken away in such a short time? He looked at me and said, “Kathlene, what’s left is love.”
In Psalm 139, we hear “Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast…..For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
In the Balti language of northern Pakistan, there is no word for failure - the closest equivalent translates roughly as "transition." I know that I am in transition now. I continually remind myself of God’s presence in my life through prayer and listening to a daily Bible reading. My life is not over. It’s true I still run into walls occasionally and sometimes come up some weird non sequiturs. My memory is gone, and I usually have to ask my husband what day it is.
Slowing down has helped a lot of my symptoms and I’m happy to say that the number of new brain lesions has slowed dramatically. I am able to play the piano, which gives me so much joy. I have 17 beautiful grandchildren and we’re anticipating the birth of #18 in June. I’m married to an amazing man and I belong to a wonderful community of Christians in this church. I have three wonderful adult children who are married to wonderful, fine partners.
I have SO MANY BLESSINGS!
And I know there is more….
I believe...God has the Power to heal and restore.
I believe he has the power
- to bring miracles into my life and yours,
- to create events so wonderful that we can never begin to
- provide blessings so numerous, we could never begin to
Yes, today, I believe there is more in store for us all!
Testimony for “I Believe There Is More”
April 24 & 25th, 2010
First United Methodist Church