My Third Birthday and a Blank Spot

      – My Third Birthday and a Blank Spot –

Bday cake

We all naturally think a birthday marks that special day a person was born. But I like to say I’m one who had three birthdays. The first of all three was when I popped out of my mommies tummy fifty years ago. (1*) Yep. Good ol’ April Fools day.

My second birth, September 10, 1985, was when God graciously had me start a new life with a new heart, soul, and mind, letting me know I was one of His children. (2*) One word – AMEN to being born again!

That 3rd Birthday, on December 20th, is what I’m talking about now being it’s this date another new life for me began. Twenty-seven years ago God knew it best for me to endure a certain type of brain damage. One that, in a way, had me start a new life. He knew it best that day start a total of five weeks at two different hospitals. Not much made sense to me during those weeks. Speaking of sense, God knew it best for me to even loose two of my five senses for a while. To top it off, God felt I, along with family and friends, needed to go through months of worry, fear and uncertainty. And even to this day, He sees it best to keep it difficult for me to remember who or what many people, places, and things are and/or called. You’re right, not fun. Not much fun at all. (3*)

But when every December is here, I can’t help but thank God for that day. What, Marianne? Are you crazy? Thanking God for December 20th, when that traumatic brain injury you were forced to endured began?

Yes, and I’ll do my darnedest to explain why.

Life was almost back to normal as years went by. Noticed I said almost.  Much was still difficult because my brain had been perminatley damaged. Things going on all around me were – and still are – hard to keep track of.  Pulling out many historical facts or even current affairs that many can just relax while thinking about were (are) darn-right difficult for me. Pursuing things that took much thinking to do was almost impossible as well. Just doing the necessities of being the mother of two, and later four, even with the most helpful husband in the world, was all I could grasp. What did I focus on aside from getting through day by day? The best thing possible: God.

empty-headIt’s like my brain had tons of open space back then, being so many facts and information were now gone. If I wasn’t able to fill it with all the other facts surrounding me, then I just got my simple mind loading up with Christ centered thoughts instead. Details and facts about Jesus sure weren’t picture perfect right after being hit with my illness, but I knew He was my support – who ever He was. The more I was remembering about Him, via reading or hearing, the more I appreciated His presence inside my heart. As years went by I found myself grasping onto Him more than before, feeling He was holding me more tight than before my illness. To this day I still feel that way being the fact my mind just can’t pop up different people, places, and things to just start thinking about. (I jokingly say I have a noun problem.)

I’ve learned that the best way to fight emptiness is to fill it with the best thoughts possible, and I can’t help but encourage you to do that as well.  How? 1- Get in the habit of thinking of our Lord . . . often.

Isaiah 26:3 – You will keep him in peace whose mind is stayed on You.

And 2- look at what’s good, not bad, with the trial you have or might be going through.

Romans 8:28 – And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God.

Remember, I love songs. This one stands out being it has those words I’m with you. They are words I often feel God tells me. As this song describes, sometimes God calms the storms in our lives, and sometimes He just rides them with us. If you remember how that very tear we cry He holds in His hands and never leaves our side, you will still praise Him in the storm . . . and even years later.

Even though a few tears of sadness from what took place may still show up as years go by, as they still occasionally show up for me right around this time each year, let your thoughts of God replace any negative thoughts that may have formed. Or perhaps you’re more like me, letting thoughts of Him, for the rest of your life, fill in that little blank spot.

 

1* – Birthday One  2* – Birthday Two     3* – Birthday Three                                                         

Three Important Questions – Part 1

 – Three Important Questions – Part 1

 

HNSA-Conference-Speakers

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.

Sure, I’ve been to conferences before, but this was my first time going to one in my area for people who have suffered from a brain illness call encephalitis. This was my first time I got to meet many who, like me, look fine & dandy on the outside, but who’s brains sure don’t work fine & dandy on the inside. No way was I going to miss this conference, especially since it would be given by that encephalitis website I found years before. (1*)

Being I’m one who lives here, six or so weeks before, I was asked to be the opening speaker, sharing whatever I felt is best about my illness. As I pondered and prayed, a few days later I said yes.

I had what I was going to say all figured out before I drove to the hotel. Peace with how it was going to end, however, was not totally there. I planned to share what I went through with my illness, ending it with how I was determined to work ten times harder than most people need to in order to meet a few big goals I’ve had.  I wanted to encourage them by having them see that if I could do it, they could too. All I was thinking about while driving to the conference was how I wish I had a little extra spark to end my speech with. Then this song came on.

 

 

“That’s it! This song has encouraged me this last year. The words are perfect! ”

I pulled over, pulled my phone out, and pulled out the words of that song. (I love google.)

songFrom start to finish, I was finally at peace with what I was going to say.   The wording of that song, I felt, was the perfect spark needed to explain my main point of telling my story. And when someone the next day told me how that song was perfect to hear, I grinned ear to ear.

 

 

God sure heard my thanks to Him for, again, timing things perfectly. This time it was the timing that perfect song came on.

But before I end, I want this song to encourage you as well. Do you feel like you are on empty? Do you feel like all your efforts just don’t mean anything, and that nothing good is coming out of all your attempts? do you find that question “When God?” forming? If you know what you are doing is truly worth it, pray for God’s guidance and perseverance as you keep giving it your all.

Galatians 6:9 — And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

Romans 5: 3-4 — And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

1* – Click here to read how I found that encephalitic support group.

 

Marianne Petersen’s book God and Your Pillow is now available. (Amazon) – You can follow Marianne on Twitter at @marimemoirs and read more on her blog, marimemoirs.com.

The Word ‘Thankful’ All Folded Up (Part 3)

           – The Word ‘Thankful’ All Folded Up (Part 3) –

back pocket

Did you ever predict you would learn something but didn’t know what the lesson might be? That was me a few years back. After a few tougher-than-normal trials had taken place, and a few years went by, I grasped the fact that I would learn something from them, but just wasn’t sure what. Here, let me explain.

As my last two posts shared, (1*2*) two somewhat life-changing ordeals had my thoughts of thankfulness all folded up and tossed in the back pocket of my jeans. (Pictorially speaking, of course.) But God guided me to understand that He was writing the story and had bigger plans I couldn’t yet see.

As years went by, I took a few verses to heart:

Proverbs 16:9 A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.

Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

So, I waited . . . and waited . . . and yes, waited, as our family of four turned into a family of six. I had shared my unplanned pregnancy and illness story with many by this time. As each year passed, comments of “You should let others know about what God did for you” kept popping up. Slowly but surely, the question of why I’m thankful for these trials was beginning to get answered.

First, my pregnancy. An older post shares how different comments and requests to share my pregnancy were God’s way to get that story in writing; thus my book, God and My Pillow. (3*) Helping others going through that same ordeal is now a must, knowing God’s been encouraging me from the start.

Second, my illness. In another older post (4*) I shared about connecting with that encephalitic support website, meeting others who had gone through the same type of illness. I wound up encouraging others who were recently hit with similar brain damage. They needed to hear from one who had experienced what they were, at the time, dealing with. A book is now in the making to cover that, in hopes of encouraging those, showing how God held me and how He can hold them as well.

Hearing others tell me how helpful these efforts have been has caused me, in a way, to be almost thankful for these two events. I appreciate so much more now, knowing that if you never experienced pain, sorrow, and hurt, you would never recognize good health, the simple joys in life, and just how precious having Christ by your side can be.  

Most people have had their share of hard times and I’m certain they are far from over. But instead of being sad, frustrated, and/or angry about them, I hope my stories help others pull that little piece of paper with the word ‘thankful’ on it out of their own back pocket. 

1-thessalonians-5-16-18

 

Marianne Petersen’s book God and Your Pillow is now available. (Amazon) – You can follow Marianne on Twitter at @marimemoirs and read more on her blog, marimemoirs.com.

The Word ‘Thankful’ All Folded Up (Part 2)

             – The Word ‘Thankful’ All Folded up (Part 2) –

back pocket

In my last post, (1*) I wrote about the word ‘thankful’ and how that word didn’t fit too well inside my heart as I underwent my two extremely tough afflictions. (2* & 3*) No one found me relaxed on a recliner, smiling ear to ear while thinking, “I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m so thankful God is having me go through this incredibly tough time.” Nope. Thankfulness was tightly folded up and hiding in the back pocket of my jeans.

After each ordeal took place, however, my mind knew God was in charge. I began realizing more and more that as things were getting better, I was actually thinking of pulling that Thankful sign out of my jeans and putting it on the table, but of course still folded up. As more positive things began to appear through each ordeal, I actually unfolded that paper. Sensing God’s help via family, friends, doctors, and the like, I finally decided to unfold the paper and read it each time I walked by. More thankful thoughts were growing in size and frequency. I finally got a magnet and —drumroll, please— stuck that Thankful sign up on my refrigerator!

I wasn’t becoming thankful I was pregnant, or for my month-long stay at a hospital. Not yet anyway. Thankfulness was there for feeling Christ was supporting me, caring for me, and letting me know He wasn’t just King, but my Father.

I was growing in the understanding that God is the One who puts us through what comes our way, good or bad. I was on the road that was planned by Him, whether smooth and serene, or unpaved, or one filled with countless sinkholes. I still felt a bit shattered and broken, not able to do what I had planned in life. But what sure helped was finally understanding that God’s plans are perfect, and that He was going to use me somehow, some way. 

Peace was growing inside as each year went by, and a few verses began to stand out.

bible

Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Proverbs 3:5-6, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. 

This song shows what I began to slowly feel as time went by, using words such as…

– With my very next step – be on the road that was planned by you

– Lord, wherever you’re leading me – that’s where I want to be

Even though I did not know which direction that path was going, thankfulness, tied with peace, permanently got pinned to my heart and I was eager to see how He might use what He put me through to serve Him.

Finally, doors were opening and I began to see what His plans were. 

To be continued.

 

Have you also found the word ‘Thankful’ come out of your back pocket during a tough time? I’d love to hear about it.

 

Marianne Petersen’s book God and Your Pillow is now available. (Amazon) – You can follow Marianne on Twitter at @marimemoirs and read more on her blog, marimemoirs.com.

The Word ‘Thankful’ All Folded UP (Part 1)

         – The Word ‘Thankful’ All Folded Up (Part 1) –

back pocket

Time to do something: think. Think of an extra-tough time you’ve gone through. Okay, maybe not the most joy-filled request.

Now, look at the definition of thankful: 

1. Aware and appreciative of a benefit; grateful – grateful and appreciative

2. of, relating to, or expressing thanks – a thankful feeling – thankful words

Curious why I’m asking you to think of an extra-tough time, as well as defining what thankful means? It’s to help you understand what got me—as years went by—to be closer to being thankful for these two, somewhat life-changing hardships I’d gone through.  (*1) (*2)

Thankfulness. Do I want you to think that from day one I was filled with thankfulness when my teenage pregnancy soap opera started? Or, do I want you to think I was overflowing with thanks a few years later when my brain-damaging encephalitis hit, that had me unable to even understand who God was TO thank? Am I saying that that one question, ‘Why, God?’ was nowhere to be found during both of those times? Of course not. As a matter of fact, if it could have been visible, “Why, God?” would have been bubbled over my head more hours of the day than not. I bet all of you reading this have had that bubble at least once, and that it seemed, at the time, impossible to pop.

God, having saved me when I was eighteen years old, was who I gave most of my thanks to, as most things went by pretty smoothly that first year. This verse fit perfectly:

Ephesians 5:2 – Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,            

 But about a year later . .   download   . . things changed.

I was so young when I was hit with the first of these two trials. Young in age, at nineteen, yes, but I’m mainly talking about young in my Christian life. There had only been one year of God’s word and guidance before that larger-than-life trial unplanned pregnancy occurred, followed by the brain illness only a few years later.

Thankfulness was difficult to detect. It was hard to even find a little drip-drip-drip of thankfulness. Yes, I did sense God’s Fatherly care, but thankfulness as to why I needed that care sure wasn’t standing out. That word ‘thankful’ was folded up at least ten times, put in the back pocket of my jeans in that closet I never wore.

Hearing those common words, ‘God has reasons,’ caused me to think ‘But what are they?’ That question was glued in my thoughts as every day, week, and month I was pregnant went by, and especially after every day, week, and months, even years, after my illness went by.

As time did go by, however, I—how shall I say it—started wearing those jeans tucked in the drawer, sensing something was going on in that back pocket. Something was unfolding.

James 1:12 slowly began making sense.

james-1-12-2

To be continued.

1* First trial

2* Second trial

Marianne Petersen’s book God and Your Pillow is now available. (Amazon) – You can follow Marianne on Twitter at @marimemoirs and read more on her blog, marimemoirs.com.

God, a Stranger and Tears (Part 2)

   – God, a Stranger, and Tears (Part 2) –

on phone

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.

Business woman typing on keyboard

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.

E GROUP

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Screen Shot 2018-01-18 at 6.08.52 PM

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. 

God, a Stranger, and Tears (Part 1)

         – God, a Stranger, and Tears (Part 1) –

unnamed

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. 

loneliness

 

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.

images

“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.)

“Hello.”

“Hi. I was wondering if I can talk to Marianne Petersen.”

To be continued.

1* – Click here to read about that life changing seizure.