The following was written in November 2010 for Community Bible Study's opening session for the Bryant and Little Rock classes, read by teaching directors Mary Lee Dell and Sara Roberson respectively. Both are committed students of the Word and dear friends as well...
" On July 2, 2010, I was diagnosed with a motor neuron disease, specifically ALS. The disease first attacked the muscles in my mouth and tongue which caused me to have slurred speech in the beginning but has quickly moved throughout my body and is zapping my coordination, flexibility, strength, and balance. Because of that I have experienced several falls which have produced some pretty artistic bruises! Obviously, it is my constant goal not to fall, as well as the person with me. Since we know it can happen so quickly, I continue to hear the same phrase from whoever is "Nancy sitting" at the time. The phrase is, "please don't fall, not on my watch!" I thought it amusing at first but as I heard it more and more I thought, "are these people having a meeting without me?" or "did I miss the memo?" Even in the midst of such extreme disappointment that totally caught me off guard, we still laugh! And quite often I should add, praise
As we go about our normal daily lives we overlook so many things that are right in front of us, simple things. I don't mean this in a critical way, I had a normal life, too, until now. Things like: applying mascara or lipliner that actually ends up where you intended it to be, slicing an apple or cutting your own food, driving yourself when and where you need to go, ordering something to drink at a drive through, saying hello to someone you pass at the grocery store, talking on the phone as long as you want, multi-tasking,(how I miss that!) kissing your husband, children, or grandchildren with puckered lips, speaking and being understood, dressing yourself with no assistance, or tweezing your eyebrows or any other hair that has aggressively grown in an undesired place!
I could go on but I'm sure you get the idea. One normal thing brought to my attention lately in "the Natural" state of Arkansas are parking lots. I had never realized how sloped it is around here! Even places I thought were flat really aren't! My driveway is sloped, nearly every parking lot is sloped, and the designated handicapped areas are built on an incline most of the time. As a former runner, I thought at the top of every uphill comes the glorious downhill! That has somewhat changed for me. In other words, what is suppose to help me by being sloped to get around with a walker, really poses a challenge! I must work hard not to get ahead of my ability to keep up with myself! I have mental pictures of myself falling flat on my face in some designated handicapped area!
As my caregivers and I watch out for any possible mishap, we breathe a sigh of relief when we have successfully maneuvered through whatever we are trying to accomplish.
They think, yes!!, she didn't fall on my watch, while I check off another day without a fall. When I realized I was hearing the same phrase over and over, "not on my watch," the thought occurred to me, God never gets a break! His "watch" is endless, He isn't spending part of the day with me. He isn't scheduled in for the afternoon shift! He is AWAYS on "watch" for me. How else could I begin to bear this nightmare that has taken over my body and my plans for this stage of my life? How else could I have a moment of peace when I know what possibly lies ahead with this monster of a disease that has no medical cure! Hebrews 13:5 says, "never will I leave you, never will I forsake you." I know it by heart, I cling to the promise it provides and yet I still have the insecure feeling, why did this happen to me on Your watch?
When was the last time you read the "by faith" chapter? In Hebrews 11 we are told: by faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what is visible, by faith Enoch was taken from this life without experiencing death, by faith Noah was warned about things not yet seen and in holy fear built the ark that saved him and his family, by faith Abraham obeyed and went to a place he did not know, by faith Abraham, who was as good as dead, fathered a child to Sarah, who was barren and past the age to conceive but bore a child because she considered Him faithful who had made the promise, by faith Abraham offered Issac his only son as a sacrifice because he believed God could raise him from the dead, by faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born because they saw he was no ordinary child, by faith Moses refused to be known as the son of Pharoah's daughter, by faith Moses kept the Passover and sprinkled blood on the doorpost so the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel, by faith the Israelites passed through the Red Sea on dry land, by faith the walls of Jericho fell after the people had walked around them for seven days, by faith Rahab, who was a prostitute, was not killed like those around her because she welcomed the spies. Do any of these sound like normal life situations or more like the theme of some adventure novel or movie? Was God on watch while each of these events took place? I suspect these people were living what seemed as normal lives to them like I was, but each had the opportunity to move forward by faith or not. In each situation God did not leave or forsake those living by faith, but provided amazing moments of provision in what may have appeared at the time like He had left "His watch.". We all get to choose how we function in what might be the most horrific, disappointing, maddening, faith stretching event in our life! I am trying my best to follow Moses' example in verse 27 of Hebrews 11, "by faith Moses left Egypt not fearing the king's anger: he persevered because he saw Him who was invisible!." In other words, he trusted God was on "watch!"
You may not like hearing what I am about to say. Until now I have painted a picture for you of how this event has occurred, some real but not so difficult thoughts I have had, and scripture that reminds us that God does not forsake us when it appears there is little or no hope. I would be misleading you if I stopped here. To give you the cheerleader version with a few light lines here and there so we feel encouraged by positive highlights would be leaving the wrong impression. Not presenting the whole story would be unrealistic and untrue.
I pray none of you will ever experience a tragedy of this degree or nature. My hope is to utilize my experience in a way that will glorify God and plant truth in your minds and hearts to equip you. If we believe Christ's teachings, we can't overlook his words, "in this world you WILL have trouble." The truth is I have many moments of unrest, extreme sadness, complete disappointment, jealousy about things that have been taken away from me and things I may not experience that I have dreamed of experiencing, fear of the unknown with how this disease will play out in me, and embarrassment as I lose more and more independence. I hear conversations and watch interactions that remind me that I may never participate again on certain levels unless God heals me, and as of right now I see no signs of that happening. What I witness is more and more physical weakness and inability to do for myself, more moments of pushing myself to complete things I consider vital for Jeff, our children, children-in-law, present grandchildren and ones to come. I had begun a new phase of life that would allow more time with Jeff and our friends, the ability to actually choose how we spend our time and money because of less responsibility since our children are independent adults, all but Anna Grace who at the age of nineteen completely still needs my mothering touch in this critical transition from home to college. The thought of not being present when my children have babies is nearly more than I can bear no matter what I write so they will know how much I would love them or what I smock so they have an heirloom treasure from me. Whatever you can conjure in your mind to be a situation of utmost horror, I have emotionally been subjected to that degree in my thought processes. As long as I am being completely honest I will confess that even thoughts of heaven where I will see my Savior face to face have not brought me peace. I continue to think that will be great later but not now, not yet! The guilt from that has made me question how committed I am to the eternal perspective or if I am more tied to this world than I realized. I have tried to comfort Anna Grace when she has lost friends in an untimely stage of life. I have said to her that they are in a betterplace and wouldn't choose to come back if God gave them a choice. Even if it is true it isn't comforting. How shallow our explanations can be at times! I admit there is nothing in that type of statement that brings me peace. But because I tend to be a positive person that looks on the brighter side of life and in this case, possible death, I refuse to leave you in the depths of despair. The complete thought of Christ in John 16:33 was that we should take heart because He would overcome the world. Just as I didn't want to paint a picture that was unrealistic in a positive realm, the reverse is true as well. I must respond to the eternal place prepared for me because I completely trust I will be there when the time is right. I know God is still "on watch" where I am concerned! Let me close with this thought from Hebrews 13:20. May the God of peace who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen ! "