A Little Girl Lost

Archive for the ‘spinal cord injury’ Category

A Plan I Didn’t Want


Many people have told me, “I don’t think I could ever live like you.” What they mean is live paralyzed, in a wheelchair.
I’d heard it said, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” 


As I began my spiritual journey, I had no thought that God’s plan for me would include a wheelchair.
I had eight awesome months of spiritual growth between my acceptance of Jesus and the automobile accident that injured my spinal cord. My life was full. I was happy. Not every day was great, but every day was good – because I loved Jesus.
After my injury, I recovered.
I recovered physically through surgery and rehabilitation. I recovered after years of depression that delayed my spiritual recovery because God loved me in my self-hatred and questions of why. I recovered spiritually because God had a unique and special purpose for me.
I began to share Jesus in small steps seven years after my injury. I testified by handing out a piece of paper with two-hundred and fifty words printed on it. I only taught Sunday school once a month for fear I would teach something wrong.
My first try at leading a Bible study failed. My first prayer group went from eleven women and Jesus to me and Jesus in just five weeks. My amplified voice could barely be heard at my first conference.
God has a plan for me and He has one for you. Thankfully, most people won’t have to live paralyzed – but some will. For those who do, and for all, I pray they know the joy and the love of their Lord and savior, Jesus.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV).
God has a wonderful plan for your life.
In Christ,
Berta
Friends, Remember to share with your friends. People are being blessed around the world for God. I am so thankful to be a broken vessel in the hands of a loving God. May He bless you as well.

The Living Tree


Courtesy of Flickr

After my accident, I developed pneumonia and the doctor put me on a ventilator. He told Earl if I lived, I’d be brain damaged, ventilator dependent and bedridden for life, and he was too young to be stuck with an invalid wife. Then, the doctor offered to let me die – comfortably.
Earl remembered his wedding vows, chose life for me, and had me transferred to a rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. As soon as I arrived, they cultured my trach. It grew MRSA—that hard to kill staph infection. The staff moved me into a lonely isolation room.
Spring had always been my favorite season, and I had a birds-eye view of the treetops outside my second floor window. I watched tender red shoots and delicate buds appear on tiny limbs, followed by the smallest pairs of green leaves. Those signs of new life brought me comfort.
One sunny morning, I noticed a tree that hadn’t grown new branches or buds. Each day it remained the same ash gray color, and I decided it was dead. I told everyone who came into my room that I wished someone would cut it down so I wouldn’t have to look at it.
After ranting about that dead tree for a week, I looked out my window and saw tiny pairs of leaves on that living tree. I began to weep as I realized that what I’d said about that tree was what the doctor had said about me. Ugly. Useless. Not worth keeping alive.
I knew then that God was with me, telling me my life wasn’t over. After all, by then I was ventilator free, in my right mind, and mobile in my power wheelchair. My attitude changed and I looked forward to visitors. I told each one about God’s grace, the living tree, and the new life he offered.

“Then he told this parable, ‘A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, “For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?” ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down” (Luke 13:6-9 NIV).


“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NKJV).

In Christ,
Berta
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Thank you,
Berta

Planting Seeds

Looking back over my life, I see God’s hand in every day, even before I knew Him.

Though I had made a profession of faith in my twenty’s, I was far from Christ. I felt I was drowning in a sea of personal sin I didn’t dare share with my Christian friends.
Fear of their judgement scared me in to my own private hell.

Then I went to a retreat where I heard Christians talk about their sins and God’s forgiving heart. My shell shattered and I cried out to Him and found freedom in the love and forgiveness He held for me. I made a promise then, “I’m going to tell everyone I meet about Jesus.” And I did. Friends turned away and “perceived enemies” became brothers and sisters.

Eight months later an accident severed my spinal cord. I came home weak and weary six months and nine days after my injury. My power wheelchair had one true asset then—it reclined. I withdrew from life, laid back and hid behind veiled eyes. I refused to face my future.

The cost was high in body, mind and spirit, but God’s blessings are phenomenal. In His infinite wisdom, He prepared the way. Earl had served as a hospital chaplain on a reconstructive surgery floor where many of the patients had a spinal cord injury. In rehab, the staff taught us how to take care of me at home. According to them, I would live to within five years of my natural lifespan if I had something to look forward to and got out of the house routinely.

Earl took me on nearly every pastoral visit and preachers meeting he went to, but I just leaned back in my wheelchair with my eyes closed. He encouraged me to keep a journal and try teaching Sunday school. He loved me even when I failed.

As I filled those roles with study and preparation, I learned more than I taught. I read the story about how David sinned but was a man after God’s heart.* Job lost everything yet said, “Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him.”** I began sharing my story of God’s faithfulness again and grew stronger in my faith each time. I wrote my brief story and passed it out as a tract to everyone who spoke to me.

While in a small group studying Steve Harper’s Devotional Life in the Wesleyan Tradition many years later, a friend pointed out my seemingly fearless sharing of my faith. I made light of it, “I just tell what God has done for me, but I’ve never led anyone to accept Christ.”

She said, “You may not have, but you have planted many seeds. You may never know until you get to heaven how many people are there because of your testimony.”

Those words have encouraged me to be bold as I tell my stories of His faithfulness to friends and strangers. Old and young. Churched and un-churched. In stores, in doctors offices or on the telephone with sales associates. Earl says, “Imagine that, Berta’s talking.”

Jesus tells us to make disciples. You too can plant and water to prepare hearts for God’s harvest. Trust Him and tell what He has done for you.

Paul wrote, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6 NRSV).

In Christian Love,

Berta

*Acts 13:22 KJV
**Job 13:15 KJV

God’s Timing

Do you ever feel like God has forgotten you? Or forgotten a promise He made to you? I have. A few months before my injury I attended a spiritual gifts workshop. We filled out surveys then broke into small groups. My group determined my gift was “healing,” a repeated theme in my spiritual walk that I had ignored because everyone knew I was a nurse. That day I believed it and it scared me.

I talked to a friend who listened and prayed with me. When he got up to leave he said, “You have to be healed before you can heal.”

I didn’t understand. I wasn’t sick.

After my injury, I believed God would heal me instantly—so I could begin my healing ministry.
God’s timing is not our timing. It requires us to persevere in our trusting God. This may mean years of patience and longsuffering. What gives us strength to wait upon the Lord? We must focus on His promises and the fulfillment of them. We must be careful not to go before Him as Abraham and Sarah did (Genesis 16 NIV).
God will do His part but we are responsible to do ours. We must move in great faith, being ready to answer His call. Remember that acting in faith builds faith. God starts us with small things, and if He finds us trustworthy, He will give us authority over many things (Matthew 25:23).
There will be battles. Satan will try to steal our destinies. Trials and travail bring us to new levels in our walk with Christ. We must recognize our need for help, humble ourselves and ask for prayer, counsel, and encouragement.
Stand together with your brothers and sisters in Christ knowing He is with you carrying you when needed. He promises that He will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).
His timing may surprise you today.
“To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away; A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings (1 Peter 5:8-9 NIV).
In Christian Love,
Berta
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God’s Plan

The New Year had come and I was driving to meet my Emmaus reunion group. The next thing I remember was my husband, Earl, telling me, “You were in an accident.” I’d been in the hospital for seven weeks with a spinal cord injury. Paralyzed and on a ventilator, I had little to look forward to.

After three months in ICU, Earl had me transferred to a rehabilitation hospital that focused on spinal cord injuries. I felt comfortable there, surrounded by others in wheelchairs with injuries like mine. Yet once at home, I felt lost. Who am I? A pastor’s wife? A mother? A nurse? I’d had those roles before the accident. 

“God, why did you let this happen?” I prayed. “I’m a Christian. I read my Bible. I go to Sunday school and Bible study.”

Rather than answer me directly, God spoke through the people of God.

The church we were serving, Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church, remodeled the parsonage, held fundraisers and gave me time to recuperate. The churches in our Conference, and people everywhere, who had heard about my accident, prayed and took up special offerings for us. Strangers visited, prayed with me and lay down checks. 

Each new appointment fell heavy on my heart. Another remodel and the pressure of learning new names to place with new faces overwhelmed me. But God blessed me as He gave me a ministry at each new church. 

At our second church, Maple Spring UMC, I tried my hands at teaching Sunday school. At the third, East Dyersburg UMC, I wrote for the church newsletter, taught Sunday school and started a telephone ministry with women who had difficulty getting to church. While serving our fourth church, Concord UMC, I added many areas of ministry within the local church, the district and the conference.

God’s love and the continued prayer and encouragement of you who are reading this carry me through the hard times. Today my life is everything I thought it couldn’t possibly be.

“Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare” (Psalm 40:5 NIV).
In Christian Love,

Berta

Please take a moment to read about God’s love for orphans and pray for the Flowers family as they move through the adoption process to bring their son home from El Salvador. www.facebook.com/Bringing.Carlos.home

My Hiding Place

I talk about my injury with people everywhere I go, and I hear this often: “You’re easy to talk to, but I don’t know what to say to most people in wheelchairs. They seem angry. How do you do so well?”

Honestly, I only do well sometimes. I have to face my enemies every day. I had just accepted the unconditional love and forgiveness Jesus offers eight months before I drove through an intersection and under a logging truck.

After coming home from rehabilitation at Shepherd Center in Atlanta, GA, I felt worthless. I refused help from everyone but my family. I sat day after day, and year after year, with my eyes closed. Sometimes I was asleep, but mostly I was hiding. I was ashamed of being an invalid and prayed God would take me home. I can’t describe the depth of my pain, guilt, depression, and frustration of facing life as a quadriplegic.

I can tell you, “God is good!” He uses people like you every day of my life to bless and minister to me. A Sunday school teacher invited me to teach once a month. The church secretary asked me to write for the newsletter. Friends asked questions and I began telling what God was doing in my life.

Do I believe Gods will for me is healing? Yes. Does that mean complete healing of my earthly body? I know I’ll have a glorified body in heaven, but today I have healing of my mind, my soul, and my spirit. I’m no longer “in-valid.” I’m a person—a wife, mother, sister, and friend—with a disability.

I pray my testimony blesses you. Though we may never meet here on earth, we are all sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus and heirs of the Kingdom of God.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-6 NIV.)

In Christian Love,
  Berta
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Tested and Proven

My physical therapist is doing sensory testing on me today. With my eyes closed and head turned away, she begins. Following a dermatome chart, she touches different areas of my upper chest and arms with a pin. I respond “sharp” or “dull.”

Laughing she says, “That’s incredible, Berta. What level are you supposed to be?”

“I’m a C-4* complete. My spinal cord is severed.”

“That means all you’re supposed to feel or move is your head.”

“I know.”

She checks her chart again. “You’re testing at T-4** on your chest, C-6/7 on your arms, and even some distant sensation that is difficult to classify. Tell me again about your injury.”

“The initial classification was C-5/6 complete with very little strength, and no stamina or control. A year after the injury I was still struggling with weakness in my arms, and I couldn’t hold my head up. An x-ray revealed that my neck wasn’t fused, and I needed surgery.”

“In surgery, broken pieces of my fifth cervical vertebra were removed, and a piece of my hipbone was wired in place from C-4-7.”

“Four months later I returned, and after several tests were completed the surgeon began the exam. He seemed perplexed, rude even, as he tested function and sensation. I was able to do most of what he asked. He looked over my chart and shook his head. ‘Well, I’m going to release you to go home and I recommend you go to physical therapy.’”

“Seventeen years later a friend, who is also a radiologist, encouraged me to have a cervical MRI, ‘Just to see what’s going on in there.’ What was going on was an obvious lack of spinal cord from C-4-7. I’m thankful no one told me that little bit of information in those early days. I might have quit trying.”

“That’s amazing. What do you think it is?” She’s still looking at the chart.

“A God thing.”

“God is healing you, isn’t He? “

“Yes.”

In Christ Alone,
Berta

* C: cervical
** T: thoracic

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