Have you ever been to a conference? Have you ever spoken at a conference? Have you ever had a deep-down inside question finally answered after a conference? Why do I ask these three questions? Because after this last weekend, I can say ‘yes’ to all three. Let me explain the first two.
I mentioned in my last blog how getting a surprise can mean a lot. Time to share that getting a surprise can also change a bit of your life. I had received a phone call from a total stranger who heard about my illness and wanted to talk. She wanted to hear how it had affected me, as her daughter had also come down with Encephalitis. (1*)
That was the very first conversation I had ever had with anyone who experienced the serious illness I had gone through. Indeed, one priceless conversation. One piece of information she shared stood out.
“Marianne, you should check out this certain website,” she suggested. “It will get you contact with many others with your illness.”
My mouth dropped. “Really? Others who had what I had?”
I eagerly grabbed a pen and quickly scribbled down that website on the closest piece of paper I could find. After passing our thanks to each other for sharing our stories, I didn’t even blink before typing that website on my computer. I found it! Encephalitis Global. (www.inspire.com)
I saw titles of different letters from different people. Titles like . . .
– My Hardest Encephalitis Problems
– My Family Doesn’t Understand
– Who Else Is Feeling Alone?
– Five Years Since I got Hit With Encephalitis
The list went on and on. After clicking the first one, I couldn’t believe what I was reading.
This person knows exactly what it’s like! (I bet I even said that out loud.) Then I checked another person’s title. I can relate to his problems, too!
Time to fit in that saying “died and gone to heaven,” because I felt like I had. My computer had just become my new best friend.
Slowly, my eyes were getting damp. I read more. Tears were accumulating.
Tears of joy, yet tears of sorrow. I guess those ten years of loneliness had piled up inside and it was time to pour them all out. Now sure, I did have my dear husband, children, plus family and friends, but my heart still ached inside feeling alone, so having found people who could understand caused me to let loose many tears.
Soon, however, tears of joy took over. People understand! I’M NO ALONE!
“I understand how you feel,” I replied to at least ten different people. I can’t even begin to describe how great it felt sharing parts of my story to people who understood. I felt even better when, only a few minutes later, someone replied back.
I’m talking to someone who knows what it’s like! They understand me, I understand them, and we can chat back and forth! That website became my new companion, and I checked it out a few times every day. It felt like God was telling me, “Marianne, I know what I’ve planned for you can be tough, but I’m still with you. I love giving you surprises.”
Now, years later, I’m still connected to that website and can’t even begin to explain what a treasure it’s been reading and relating with many, even having few of those now as dear friends.
Let me share one simple fact I learned as time went by after that call. God wants us to pray for and, when possible, comfort those in need.
II Corinthians 1:3b-4 says – God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
At the beginning, the website helped and encouraged me immensely, talking with others who have gone through what I had gone through. Well, with years behind me, I now use it as my opportunity to encourage others. I’ve even Skyped and talked over the phone with a few, watching or listening to some shedding a few tears while giving them my ear. I savored their thank-you e-mail letters they later sent.
About six years ago, an opportunity arrived for a few of us to begin an annual lunch gathering for those in the Northwest. Worth the drive each year, indeed.
And this summer, a yearly encephalitis conference will be in my Seattle area for the first time. I am ever-so thankful I can help put it together.
I’ll end here saying how I’m not in my own little world anymore, and God still hears my many thanks.
Question – Should you ask yourself if you can reach out to any who may be going through something you’ve experienced? Believe me, it feels great if you do. Just keep in mind what Christ says in Luke 6:31 – Do to others as you would have them do to you.
I’d love it if you could pass me a note if you’ve used your rough road you’ve been on to help others.
Fast forward twelve years from the snowy day in December when I had that life-changing seizure. (1*) Yes, I can share much of what went on during those years, but I can’t. I mean, I can, but before I do, I’d rather show how, about twelve years later, God used a total stranger to help me.
But first I need you to do something. Imagine you went through a huge life-changing ordeal that came out of the blue, hit you hard, and altered your normal way of thinking. Now, imagine what it would be like if, for years, no one could fully understand how hard it was for you in remembering names of very common things, places, and people. What if, day in and day out, week after week, month after month, and yes, year after year, you often had to think twice as much before you said things that, for most others, were easy to remember and say? And what if that illness was rare enough that finding others with that ailment was impossible? Well, readers, that was me.
I felt alone.
For years I had not talked to one person who had the same illness, who could fully understand what I was going through. A few years after my illness hit I did meet one man who sort of had a memory problem from an accident, but still, not the same.
“I have a taste of what it’s like forgetting names,” people often said (and still say).
No, you really don’t, soon became the first thought that followed (and still does).
As years went by I got used to it, thankfully, as God used family and friends to show me love, support and patience when I couldn’t just pop so-and-so’s name out or say what the movie was called I had seen the night before, along with using simple words in explaining things. However, it still was hard not knowing even one like-minded (literally) individual who could truly understand what it was like.
God knew it was finally time to do something on one particular day. An unforgettable phone call came from a dear friend.
“Marianne, I told a friend yesterday about you having had Encephalitis twelve years ago. She wants to talk to you because her teenage daughter had it.”
My eyes got bigger. “Really?”
“Yes. She was wondering if she could call you. Can I give her your number?”
“REALLY? Oh, my word! You sure can!”
Later that afternoon. Ring, ri… (yes, I was patiently waiting with my phone close at hand and grabbed it as soon at I heard any ring.)
“Hi. I was wondering if I can talk to Marianne Petersen.”
To be continued.
As Chris began opening that door, I asked again, but this time just to myself, “I live here?”
That was the last sentence of my last post about the first time visiting my home while staying in the hospital. That illness called encephalitis affected my memory big time, keeping me from remembering anything about that sweet little apartment my husband, myself, and our two young daughters called home. (1*) Continue reading “I Live Here? (Part 2)”
What do you think it would be like for a twenty-three-year old to forget what Christmas is all about? Go back a few years, and that’s exactly what happened to me the Christmas of 1990. Continue reading “I Live Here? (Part 1)”