The packing is finished and we are ready to continue on our holiday further north when I suddenly feel a numbness and tingling in my left hand. Stroke! That was the thought that came into my mind. It was hard to imagine that this could be happening. We immediately left for the local hospital where tests were done.
Diagnosis unsure, but definitely not a stroke. When the same symptoms appear in my right hand, we leave for home on the advice of my local doctor. God surely looked after us on our long journey home.
The relief I experienced driving into the local doctor's car park was hard to explain. My doctor assured me he'd book me in to see a specialist in the next day or so. No specialist was available. After a week the only way to see a specialist was to put me into hospital, which he did. As a result of seeing many doctors and moving to another hospital, a diagnosis was finally made: vasculitis with mononeuritis--an autoimmune problem where the body's nerves are gradually inactivated.
Friends ask, "Why you, when you have lived a healthy lifestyle?" But why not me? God has allowed this to happen. Maybe He's saying, "Be still and know that I am God. Come away and rest a while." This is difficult for one who has enjoyed being busy for God and loves the presence of people. The isolation is difficult, as are the physical affects of the strong drugs, and sometimes dignity seems to go. Depression comes and the body becomes exhausted, the brain becomes numb and one wonders whether one will ever be "normal" again. Where is God in this? He's right there when the nurses confide in me and share their joys and troubles, sometimes in the early hours of the morning. He's there when the neurologist with his odd jokes is happy to accept Ben Carson's book Gifted Hands. He works through the doctors, who were and still are very patient with me and very caring and concerned. He's there with my husband, who faithfully cares for me and makes my fruit juices, even though he hates cleaning the juicer. I see Him in the face of a friend who unexpectedly comes a long distance to cheer me up and pray with me; the meals dropped in; a friend who phones while at the market and arrives later with an abundance of beautiful greens and fruit. There is the neighbour who arrives with a beautiful bunch of my favourite flowers; the cards that express friends' concern and bring tears to my eyes; and the love of my family. God is there.
The ordinary things of life become so special when you can no longer do them. There is significance in just seeing people walking along the beach or using their hands; the excitement of doing up shoelaces unable to be done up for a while; the sadness when your writing is no longer the same, and yet the excitement when you look at the signature not quite as good as it was before. We take so many things for granted.
It is wonderful to be able to slip into the back row of a church and feel the warmth of tears streaming down my face as I experience the precious moment again of singing praise to God.
Last week at my church at the end of the foot-washing service, a woman said to me, "You are beautiful." Then turning to my husband she said, "She always looks beautiful, doesn't she."
It was quite unexpected. I wonder how this person knew I needed to be reassured God was there, and I hope it was His beauty shining through that she saw. It is her beauty that has prompted me to share my story.
It is now six months since I began this journey. Every time I go to the rehabilitation centre, it takes me into a world of which I have not previously been a part. God's love sustains me day by day and I know His promises are true and sure.
I will lead blind Israel down a new path, guiding them along an unfamiliar way. I will make the darkness bright before them and smooth out the road ahead of them. Yes, I will indeed do these things; I will not forsake them. Isaiah 42:16.
Violet Lear lives in Dingley, Victoria.