In August 2018, I began a journey that we all endeavor to take... retirement! For more than a year prior, I worked diligently to set into motion all the effort required to pull up stakes and return to my home state of North Carolina. In 1982, I relocated from there to Florida and was ready to return home. It was an exhausting effort but one that came with rich rewards.
I spent nearly 37 years as a Floridian... some of the best and worst times of my life. What stands out the most for me is discovering a deep and personal relationship with God. Oh, I received salvation long before but I stopped at salvation and never learned that a real relationship with God could be so life changing. That all changed during late-Summer 1998. Construction of Raymond James Stadium in Tampa had just reached completion. The very first event booked for that stadium was the Billy Graham Crusade. My former husband and I attended one night and rededicated our lives to God. That led us on a road of discovering the very real nature of God and began a spiritual growth journey that unfortunately was cut short due to our own weaknesses and lack of sustaining faith. However, the experience sparked true love in my heart for such a loving God and exposed me to abundant life through Jesus Christ. In my weakness, I fell away from my walk with God and began wondering through the wilderness, relying on my own self-sufficiency. It was a very lonely and difficult road filled with bad choices.
Now back to August 2018. Such an exciting time! With my worldly possessions carefully packed and on their way, my pooch and I set out to find our new North Carolina home. Within the first week, our new home was under contract and by late-October 2018 it was ours. The remainder of 2018 was filled with nesting activities and celebrations of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and a very promising New Year. Life was good.
The Winter of 2019 was tough for this former Florida girl. I blamed my lack of energy and ambition on the thermometer. As Winter changed to Spring, I began indulging in my favorite gardening activities. Something was amiss. I began feeling weakness in my legs. An injury to my lower back was the presumed culprit. A flurry of physical and medical therapies failed to resolve the problem. By July 2019, my physical abilities had become significantly impaired.
It would be late-October 2019 before the mystery would be solved... Lambert Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome, aka LEMS, a very serious and rare neurological disorder. LEMS is an autoimmune disease that developed in response to a malignant tumor in my body. It attacks the communication between the central nervous system and the muscles, primarily affecting arms and legs but capable of interfering with respiration and other vital functions. The disease robbed me of my independence... a not-so-subtle irony for a woman steeped in self-sufficiency. A very worthy reason to have a colossal pity party and believe me, I did.
The fact that LEMS was even diagnosed is a miracle... there are only an estimated 400 patients in the United States. Having the illness diagnosed as early as it was is another miracle... some patients take years to reach diagnosis. Yet such an ominous diagnosis has also saved my life because it brought timely attention to an aggressive cancer rarely found in Stage I condition as was mine. A cure is possible... yet another miracle.
This new reality has been an overwhelming roller coaster ride of emotions. The process of treating my diseases has been brutal. In response, God has opened my eyes to His amazing presence and grace. These events have not been a surprise to my Creator. Long before my awareness, He began putting into place everything I would need for this stormy season. I do not lack anything... not one single thing. Family, friends, and even strangers have stepped up to meet every need. Their love, prayers, encouragement, and deeds lift me up, provide for me, and sustain me. I am so very grateful for their faithfulness. The depth of His preparation cannot be measured but I can testify that He has left no stone unturned.
A very wise cousin once said “if God brings you TO it, it is His responsibility to bring you THROUGH it.” The journey has brought the bravest and most amazing people on the planet into my circle of influence. My perspective is forever changed... I so clearly see what truly matters.. The experience has brought me out of the wilderness and returned me to a nurturing and loving relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. I know that I cannot stand alone and was not created to. I have learned to give it to God and leave it with Him. At a time of such great tribulation, my faith, peace, and joy are restored. God is carrying me through in the palm of His mighty hand. My cup runneth over. These are such rich rewards for this prodigal daughter. Now I have but one desire, one purpose... to bring glory to God all the rest of my days. Hallelujah!