BY DEB KELLEHER, GRACE ATTENDER & SUPER VOLUNTEER
I’ve been wanting to share my story for several months, but have hesitated for one reason or another! Since sharing it with several of my Grace friends who I volunteer with at the front desk and Care Center, they gave me the strength and encouragement I needed to share it with the world. I am also active in a women's Bible Study and, as they visited me in the hospital, they said you need to share that NOW because it’s exactly what we’ve been talking about in weekend services. Our Formerly Known as Christian series has focused on what role we, as Christians, play in the world and it has become very apparent that we are NOT called to sit back and keep quiet. We are called to share our stories so God can use them to touch the lives of others. So after watching the sermon, I was moved by the stories that were shared. After connecting with each and every story, I finally got it. I’m hoping that my story might move someone as these other stories had moved me.
For the past five plus years, I had been struggling with my faith. I have always believed in God, Jesus, and the whole story but I felt I was at a plateau. I wasn't motivated to learn more. I didn't feel I was on God's radar. I had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis about ten years prior. During that time, I was taking care of my parents who both passed away three years apart. Shortly thereafter, my husband became ill and died at the age of 46. While this was going on, I had undergone nine surgeries due to my disease. I felt lost and without a real purpose. I was suffering from that disease called "God, why me?". With some encouragement from my son, I decided to get more active in Grace. I guess I was looking for answers. I joined a women's bible study and started volunteering. And, I started asking questions. I wanted answers but still didn’t feel like I wasn't getting them.
So here I was volunteering at church, thinking, "Okay, God will notice me now! He will tell me what to do so that I will feel I'm making a difference." In the meantime, my arthritic foot, which was operated on two years prior, was so painful to walk on that I had to use a cane. My right hip that had been replaced five years earlier (which was the second replacement since they did it incorrectly the first time), wasn't getting any better. Come to find out, the doctor had had to remove a major hip muscle in order to complete the surgery, and it would never get better, which somehow had not been included in the discharge information! So not only was I not getting questions answered, I was getting more frustrated. Ultimately leaving me with more questions! But I continued my quest to read the Bible all the way through in chronological order (New Year's resolution!), go to Bible study and volunteer. I was at least satisfied as I was learning more and giving back and that was okay. God never gives you more than you can handle.
This past May, health issues struck again. As I threw my purse and cane on the kitchen table after getting home, I fell to the floor with this severing pain shooting all the way through my body. I was terrified and knew something was seriously wrong. I didn't understand what had happened, but my brain was still working. I realized that if I didn't do something and just laid on the floor, it might be three or four days before someone would realize something was wrong. I knew you weren't supposed to move if there was a possible neck injury, but something was telling me to try and crawl to reach the phone which was two rooms away on a table. As I lay there, I had a thought that turned into a voice telling me to move. I started crawling and it was agonizing pain. I would stop and the voice would come back. I don't know how long it took but it was light when I started and I slowly lost the sunlight but it didn't exactly go dark. I would quit and the voice would say keep going. I finally reached the table that the phone was on, totally exhausted. I tried eight times to climb and reach that phone. I just couldn't do it anymore. But the voice said just one more time, and at that, I somehow knocked the table over but managed to catch the phone. That's the last I really remember. Apparently, I called 911 and the fire department came. I guess I couldn't remember my code to get in but my neighbor just happened to see the lights and came out and was able to give them my code. The next thing I remember was being in the hospital and being told I had broken my neck (C2, the hangman's vertebrae which is what Christopher Reeves broke). No one could believe that I had crawled with a broken neck and survived.
All I know is that I had been looking to God for something. Since my RA, I had felt unfulfilled. I wanted to know there was a purpose to all of this and I really wanted to know where I fit in. I don't think I needed a broken neck for a wake-up call, but I have no question in my mind that that was God's presence with me that day. Since my last appointment with my neurosurgeon, I learned that only 3% of people who suffer this injury live and/or do not become paralyzed. Every day, I learn how lucky I was and how God spared me to tell my story. But, this isn't the first time He's healed me. In college, I almost died from salmonella poisoning. So, needless to say, He continues to surprise and heal me. I still have questions, but I don't doubt any longer.
I feel I'm here for a bigger purpose and maybe it starts with sharing my story.
Do You Have a Story to Tell?
Who are you kidding? We ALL do, so tell it. We are called to share our stories because you never know whose life it might change.
I want to share my story