A Broken Body
In early June of 2020, I found out some exceedingly difficult news and it has taken me a while to adjust. To help you better understand why this news was so difficult, let me first give you some back story.
In early 2017, not sure of the exact month, I noticed slight changes in my body movements, or should I say the lack of body movements. I began having problems with my ring finger and middle finger on my left hand not working. I called it locking up. I also started noticing a tightness in my left foot, but it was random and not every day but happened more and more over time.
As time progressed, I began to notice my left leg having difficulty moving in and out of the car. You know when you are sitting in the passenger seat and you go to get out of the car, your right leg goes out first and then your left leg follows all automatically as it is a normal part of how it is supposed to happen. My right leg would go out and then my left leg would be frozen. I had to physically pick it up with my hands and move it out of the car. At first, I thought this was because I had fallen recently and had injured my left hip but it continued to do the same thing even after the pain from the fall had gone away.
I noticed problems in daily tasks such as doing laundry; I struggled with moving the clothes from the washer to the dryer with both hands and now had to do it with one hand. I noticed I was struggling with typing, struggling with driving, and holding the steering wheel, and struggling with walking. These things became worse over time and not over a short time but over a long time.
I was struggling with great pain in my left foot because my toes were permanently curled up as if there was a Charlie Horse in my foot and pain in the ball of my foot. My left hand was no longer useful for typing, cooking, laundry, or even bathing. I even began to hold my left hand to my side and no longer had the natural swing to my arm as it was frozen to my side. My girls often (almost daily) encouraged me to use my hand and arm to do exercises. In fact, they got me hand squeeze tools to help with hand exercises, but I couldn’t work them and those tools just sat.
I had been a regular walker trying to at least walk a mile or so three days a week but had to stop because it was so painful to walk because of my left foot. With the lack of movement to my left leg, it became swollen and painful. I began to seek more medical attention as this was interfering with my daily tasks and function.
I first saw my primary care and told him I was having difficulty with my left leg, foot, and hand. I even told him I felt like I had a stroke because it was just my left side affected. He told me to take magnesium and even sent in a prescription. I took the prescription for several months with no change to my body, other than getting worse. I sought out another specialist such as an Endocrinologist who ran lots of lab work. Lab work showed possible Lupus and was referred to a Rheumatologist. The Rheumatologist ran labs and told me I had rheumatoid arthritis and meds were prescribed. I took the meds and at the same time I had also sought out a Vascular doctor. The Vascular doctor looked at my leg and said I had lymphedema and prescribed lymphedema therapy. The lymphedema therapy seemed to help some of the swelling and pain in my leg but did nothing for my foot.
I continued the lymphedema therapy for months. I mentioned to the therapist some of the problems I was having and could they all be related and she said most likely not and it sounded as if I had a stroke. The therapist recommended I talk to my cardiologist to see if that might be the case. So many doctor’s and hoops to jump through to figure out what was happening, but I was willing to do it.
During these months and I mean months, I prayed and prayed. I asked the Lord if he was trying to tell me something.
Was he trying to tell me to slow down?
If you know me, I am busy all the time doing twenty different projects. (Well, maybe not twenty projects but many projects at once.) There have been many years in my life where I have worked three jobs and done ministry as well. At one point, I had quit my more than full-time job and was taking some time for me and just ministry. I eventually took a part-time job along with my already ministry work and I was happy with this pace, but the physical problems did not subside. In fact, they continued to get worse.
Okay, Lord really! Lord, come on help me! I cried out to the Lord many times in desperation for healing.
I even thought, if it is not all the jobs and projects I usually have on my plate it must be our financial stress and stress of other things happening in our life that were causing the problems.
Tony had quit his job in August of 2019 and was not sure he was going back to work. With him quitting, this also meant our daughter Cassie who worked with him lost her job as well. She tried to stick out after he left but endured sexual harassment because she was a girl in a plant with all men. They told her verbally and non-verbally that was no place for a girl. Upper management did not do anything, so she never returned.
Our two other girls seemed to be doing well as Vivian was off to the Navy starting her career and Yvette was now separated and in the process of getting a divorce from an abusive man. Their lives were looking good and I did not have to worry as much about them. Do not get me wrong, I still worried about them.
Shortly after Tony quit his job, my part-time job had gone from two drivers to one driver because work for the one driver was so slow, he could not afford to pay me. Then two months later my only driver broke his leg and had to let me go because he was not working enough to pay me. Okay, Lord! Lord, now what are you telling me??? We had just moved into the church parsonage for the church where I am an associate pastor. This was a saving grace for us; a saving grace for me! Thank you, Lord, for your provisions!!
Talk about stress!!!
I asked, “Lord, are my physical issues caused by stress?” My mom thought I might be having a breakdown and had better put the brakes on everything before it got worse. I did not think I was having a breakdown, though I did cry a lot and often. Maybe crying was a good release for me. I prayed, “Lord, guide and direct me in the way you want me to go.” I figured the Lord wanted to show me or teach me something during this time so I was hoping he would just tell me what it was, but we all know the Lord is not like that, He reveals those things to us later. I kept praying for answers. Answers were about to come but would it be what I was looking for?
Months later I met with my cardiologist and shared with him my concerns and what I was dealing with. He ran tests and recommended I talk with my primary care doctor to keep them in the loop. In the meantime, I was seeing another doctor at our primary care doctor’s office who not as busy as the others so I shared with her what I had been dealing with now for going on three years. She didn’t prescribe me meds, instead, she promptly ordered a CT-scan and referred me to a Neurologist.
I completed the CT-Scan and met with the Neurologist. The Neurologist listened to all my issues and my concerns even through my tears. I had been dealing with this so long, I just wanted a fix to my physical problems. The Neurologist had me do some movement tests and asked lots of questions and after all that he said he was going to send me for an MRI to confirm no stroke. The CT-scan showed no stroke, but he then proceeded to tell me that until he sees the MRI results to confirm, he was not going to give me a complete diagnosis. He went on to explain that I most likely have Parkinson’s Disease. I began to cry as he was sharing his thoughts. He told me if I did indeed have a stroke, he could not fix it but was 99% sure I had Parkinson’s. I was not sure how I felt about all of this as I was still crying. The doctor went on to explain that if it is Parkinson’s he could fix my issues with medication and give me another good 15 years.
I realized he was giving me hope but was focused on the 15 years. My first thought was, “what, only 15 good years?” What in the world did that mean? What did “good” mean? How will this affect my life? How will it affect my ministry? I know God has called me to be a senior pastor and now what? I already had one strike against me for full-time ministry as a senior pastor because I am a woman and now strike two because I would have Parkinson’s. How would I continue to take care of my family? My mind is running a mile a minute about all these things as the doctor is talking in the background of all my thoughts.
On my way home from the Neurologist, I began to talk with God again. My favorite time to pray is when I am driving alone, and I had forty minutes to do it now. God and I would have a long talk. I prayed and asked for God His will in my life like always but not without questioning him “why” and I wanted some answers. Again, we know God does not work like that. Anyway, I am getting off track as to my end goal in this writing. I am headed to a finish, so let us get there.
After I got home, I Googled Parkinson’s, and here are some of the symptoms (parkinsons.org): (Underlined my symptoms.)
- Cramping (dystonia): sustained or repetitive twisting or tightening of muscle.
- Drooling (sialorrhea): while not always viewed as a motor symptom, excessive saliva or drooling may result due to a decrease in normally automatic actions such as swallowing.
- Dyskinesia: involuntary, erratic writhing movements of the face, arms, legs, or trunk.
- Festination: short, rapid steps taken during walking. May increase the risk of falling and often seen in association with freezing.
- Freezing: gives the appearance of being stuck in place, especially when initiating a step, turning, or navigating through doorways. A Potentially serious problem as it may increase the risk of falling.
- Masked face (hypomimia): results from the combination of bradykinesia and rigidity.
- Micrographia: small, untidy, and cramped handwriting due to bradykinesia.
- Shuffling gait: accompanied by short steps and often a stooped posture.
- Soft speech (hypophonia): soft, sometimes hoarse voice that can occur in PD.
It all made sense. The lightbulb came on but now I was even more concerned. Now to wait for the MRI results and see where we go from there.
Shortly after this visit with the doctor, Tony and I had planned a trip to Georgia to get our remaining belongings in storage. We made the trip despite Covid. We took all the precautions and did not stay with friends, we stayed in a hotel. We didn’t tell anyone we were going because some would freak out due to traveling during Covid. We got there safely but during the loading of the truck, I fell and broke my right wrist (keep in mind my left hand is useless). Now I was down two hands!!
The Body of Christ
God began to speak to me during this time of losing the use of my right hand and without the use of my left. He began to talk with me about the Body of Christ. Most of you know, I am a pastor’s kid (PK). I have been in many churches during my dad’s ministry and now in my ministry and have seen how the Body of Christ functions or in some cases does not function.
Romans 12:4-5 says this, “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”
God began to speak to me about the importance of the body function, specifically the function of the Body of Christ. I began to realize He was telling me that my body function is much like the function of the church. If part of my body is not functioning properly or not at all, things cannot get done. Well, maybe things get done but it wears out the other part of the body because it must do all the work.
Here is an example of only half of the body doing the work of all the members (in this case hands), typing.
When you type you use two hands, unless you hunt and peck with a couple of fingers (but still most likely you use two hands with one finger and each hand). When I began to have problems with my left hand I got to the point where I could only type with one hand. Typing sermons or lessons became a chore, took me longer, and I no longer enjoyed doing them because it took me so long. I was thankful I still had the use of my right hand because it was my dominant hand. I could not imagine losing my dominant hand.
Oh wait, I did…when I broke my wrist. Now I could not type at all. I had to preach during this time, and I had to write a sermon. I also had a part-time job as a call center customer service representative taking insurance claims and I had done it with one hand for months. With one hand I was slow, but I did the job and still did it well, but it took a lot out of me by the end of my shift. I was frustrated more than anything because it was such a struggle to type in the claim information with one hand but now, I could not even do that job.
Think about this. What would happen if you had people in the church doing the work and someone became ill and could no longer do the job they were doing or they moved away because of job relocation? Here is a worse scenario, what happened if the person who was doing a job in the church just said, “I have done it for many years and I do not want to do it anymore” or if they just came in one Sunday and quit greeting and said, “I am just going to sit and wait until service starts?” There are many more reasons people in the church quit the jobs they are doing.
Now, I am not saying that quitting a job in the church is bad, we all need a time of rest and restoration, but we then need others to step up and fill those positions of need.
Do you know what happens when those positions are not filled by people in the church? I will tell you…the pastor does it, or the pastor’s family members take on the job. Let me tell you, I have taught many Sunday School classes as a teenager and did many other jobs such as cleaning the church, mowing the church property (it was great when they had a riding mower), fixing the broken things in the church, painting, restoring, refurbishing, folding bulletins on Sunday morning, and the list goes on. If you are a pastor of a church that is lucky enough to have staff, then the staff members and their families pick up those jobs.
Please do not get me wrong, the staff and their families are also part of The Body of Christ and need to do their part. What I am trying to express and I hope I can do it well enough here that you get what God has been sharing with me and not get offended (though I am sure I will offend some, then you need to check your servant’s heart). It is important for all of us to do something, even if it is 15 minutes of greeting others at the front door on Sunday morning. The church has jobs from small to large. We all have gifts given to us from the Lord and no matter our age, we need to be using those gifts. I encourage you to pray and ask the Lord where you can serve in your church. You will be amazed at how He can use you.
Just like my left side of my body was not working as it should, it made it difficult for the whole to work well and complete jobs or tasks in a timely manner and I become weary. It is the same with the church. If only part of the people or staff and their families are doing the work of the whole body, they cannot do their job well and they will become weary.
Let me finish my story of the findings of the MRI and my Neurologist.
I had the MRI and met with the Neurologist right after I broke my wrist. He confirmed no stroke, and yes, I indeed did have Parkinson’s (this is also what contributed to my fall in Georgia). He did tell me he could give me meds to help me have better movement on my left side. He would have to start with a small dose and over time work up to the correct dose.
Here we are now in November 2020, and I have full movement of both hands and can type this blog. I can walk normally, I can get in and out of the car like normal, and I can cook, I can even do laundry efficiently. It took six months to get to this point from losing it all over three years. I thank the Lord for doctors and medications and scientists who help people live life in the best way possible despite the difficulties they have.
Romans 12:6-8 says, “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”
A Challenge For You
Here is my challenge to you. Look at what side of The Body of Christ you are on.
- Are you on the side that is not doing anything and have become rigid, frozen, uptight, a wet blanket, quiet, slow to respond?
- Or are you on the side that is functioning and taking on more jobs because the other part of the body is not doing their part and becoming weary?
Ask the Lord where wants you serving in the church and then do it.
Just like my meds for Parkinson’s was a small dose to begin with while working up to the correct dose. Do the same in your serving in the church. Start small and work up to the correct (dose) job.
In talking with God, He has shared with me that there needs to be a healthy balance to everything. He gave us two hands, two legs, two feet, two sides of the body for a reason. It is okay if one part of one side is lacking because the other side will pick up the slack for a short period but if that one side is picking up the slack for too long, it will eventually give out, and then there will be no hands and no feet to do His work. We are all called to be the hands and feet of God and to do His work.
I pray your church does not have a stroke on one side of The Body of Christ but just Parkinson’s and it just needs a dose of restoration. Over time it will be in full motion working well together.