I was born on the first of November, 1966, in Richland's Kadlec Hospital (now Kadlec Medical Center), the youngest of three girls.
During the first five years of my life I was a very sick child. I had Spinal Meningitis three times: at three months, nine months, and eighteen months. From what I understand in talking to my parents and family, I experienced very high fevers, headaches, and convulsions. I was so sick that, what with the fevers and all, they didn't know whether I was going to live or die.
I also had Hydrocephalus, which is basically water on the brain. Sometime within the first five years of my life I had to have a tube (also known as a shunt) surgically implanted into my head to drain the fluid. In the process of trying to drain the fluid, the doctors didn't catch things quite in time and, as a result, I suffered optic nerve damage to both my eyes. By the age of five I was considered to be legally blind.
I attended normal public school through eleventh grade, in Kennewick and Richland. With the help of a special tutor, I started learning braille during Kindergarten, and was reading it fluently by third grade.
During fifth grade, while we were living in Kennewick, I got sick again with headaches, so missed quite a bit of school. I traveled to Yakima to see my neurosurgeon and he ran several tests to find out what was going on. Even though the cat scan showed there was nothing wrong with the shunt, I kept having the headaches. So they once again performed surgery on the shunt. They discovered that it was clogged at both ends, and that's what was causing the problems.
During that year I missed a lot of school, so I had the privilege of repeating fifth grade, which was a lot better. You see, during my first time through the fifth grade I had some problems with a couple of the teachers. So being able to take it again because of the surgery was a benefit in the long run. Also, the following year we went to the King Tut Exhibit in Seattle. It was my first time to Seattle, and the first time on a long distance field trip alone (well, maybe not alone; my sister Kathy was a chaperone for our group). It was a lot of fun, and I met a lot of nice people that year.
What can I see?
Well, I can see shapes, colors, and I know the difference between light and dark, and what all else I'm not sure. I can see enough to get around without a cane. However, I will use a cane if I'm in an unfamiliar area. Anything else depends on how my eyes are doing at the time.
How I came to know about Christ
When I was in Middle School a couple of friends invited me to go with them to Sunday school. I did, and that was when I first accepted Jesus Christ into my life.
This church had buses that would go around and pick up kids for Sunday school, so I went with the bus captain on Saturday's and invited the kids to go to Sunday school and church. We'd have contests to see who could bring the most kids.
At that time, I thought that's what it was all about. I've learned since then that it's not. It's about a personal one-on-one relationship with Jesus Christ. And He wants to be Lord of my life.
The Rebellious Years
When I came to Vancouver in 1985, for my senior year in high school, I attended the Washington State School for the Blind, and during that time (Praise God for all things!) I got into the wrong crowd. Why do I praise God for this? Well, during the time I was living at home, I was very protected and not allowed to do a lot of things. So when I came to the blind school I was 18 years old, and out from under my parents' roof, and I felt I was old enough to make my own decisions. So I did. I admit some of them were not the best decisions, but I couldn't have learned what it was about unless I had experienced them.
While going to the Washington State School for the Blind in Vancouver, I commuted by bus back home to Kennewick on the weekends.
In January 1986, I moved away from home and began living with a boyfriend. It all started one weekend when I wanted to stay with him and some friends off-campus at his apartment and party. I had called my mom and told her, and she said no. Well, to make a long story short on this part, I rebelled and stayed with them anyway. And then the next week I moved off-campus and began living with him.
This relationship lasted between two-and-a-half to three years. During this time things got real ugly. I got into drugs and alcohol pretty heavy. I also got pregnant, and had a miscarriage; I didn't understand why then, but I do now. I was also abused physically, mentally, and emotionally. When he'd get drunk he'd slap me around and yell and call me names if I so much as looked at him the wrong way. I later found out that he had also been abused in his past, and he had a lot of anger he didn't know how to get rid of. I also fell into adultery with a married man.
Having done all this - drugs and alcohol, fornication and adultery - I knew that I couldn't do this any more. I knew I couldn't live that way any longer. I'd been exposed in my sin. I was broken, and I knew I had to do something about it.
In 1987, my boyfriend and I attended a small home church for awhile while still living together. We did not stay long. Two years later, in March of 1989, while I was out and about, I met a brother from that same church. I was at the Transit Mall waiting for my bus when, all of a sudden this guy starts talking to me. I soon found out it was that church brother; he'd been doing ministry on the buses, planting tracts, talking to people, etc. We stood there for a few minutes, talking small talk. As I caught my bus, my last words to him were, "I'll call you."
During the next week the Lord really worked on me, because I knew way down deep I couldn't live the way I was living. I needed to get my life right with God. So I called this brother and told him that I wanted to go to church that Sunday. However, before I could be accepted back in the church he had to be sure that I was sincere, and all the immoral relationships had been cut off. I told him they had been. The brother, who had not been so sure, and was holding back feelings of his own, hugged me with great relief. And the church body was the same - they welcomed me back with loving open arms.
I was baptized in the Columbia River on April 30, 1989. Although I had broken things up with my (now ex-) boyfriend, I didn't feel I had anywhere to go. So we still lived under the same roof, in separate rooms, and no fooling around. In the middle of June, a church brother was returning me to the apartment one evening when we discovered the smell of chicken smouldering in the oven. My ex-boyfriend was drunk, passed out on the couch. We aired out the apartment, trashed the well-done chicken, and went to get some cat food. When we came back he was gone. I knew if I stayed there I might run the risk of him trying to hurt me again, so I left with the brother and stayed the night on his couch. After that I stayed with a church sister until I was able to get an apartment of my own.
Had it not been for the experience in drugs, alcohol, fornication, and adultery, I don't know if I would have appreciated what God has done for me. You see, once I repented and turned from my former ways, I knew the slate of my past sins was clean. And, within a few months, and after a long and often-frustrating battle, God even took smoking from me (I'll tell you more about that another time).
Remember that church brother I ran into at the Transit Mall? It was he who rescued me from the potential danger with my drunk ex-boyfriend. And that brother was my own dear husband-to-be Mark. Through him, God showed me His forgiveness. We began dating in June of 1989, and were married in July of 1990.
Whatever happened to my ex-boyfriend? Well, after going through the fire for year after painful year, trying to survive on his own, he finally came to the end of himself. He gave his life to Jesus Christ, got free from the drugs and alcohol, and has been living and working on our pastor's farm. He's not the same person he was. Where there was once a closed fist there is now an open hand of love. Where there once was selfishness is now giving and helping. Where there was once a hard heart of hate is now a broken heart in tenderness. I'm happy to say he's drawing closer to the Lord each day. And we're the best of friends. That's cause for rejoicing - Praise God!