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It’s crazy to think that two years ago I was engaged at this time! I had met a handsome, kind man at church and he had proposed on Valentine’s Day 2019. Long story short, we ended the engagement two months before the wedding, which turned out to be a huge blessing. He confessed that he never truly loved me and I finally understood why I had been feeling like a passenger on the ride of his life, always doing the activities he wanted to do, but rarely finding time for what I really enjoyed.
Through this, I had to lean on Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose”. This verse is such a great reminder of God’s goodness, no matter the circumstances. Especially as my circumstances got worse.
My name is Maddie, and over the next few paragraphs, I am going to walk you through how I learned the power of relationship through loss. Like I just shared, I was engaged and “lost” that relationship in a very good mutual decision. It was hard, and I am still working through it but what I have learned and have been able to step into becuase of it has been so rich. I pray my story will encourage you in someway!
During the six months leading up to what would have been my wedding day, my vision began to noticeably deteriorate. In the Fall, I started noticing the center of my vision in one eye becoming cloudy and causing everything to be blurry. It was just in the middle, so I could function fine but it was still pretty alarming. So I went to the eye doctor and he told me I have juvenile cataracts. I am one of only two patients he’s ever seen this in! Yay for me? Come Spring, my vision had continued to worsen and I started to think about getting cataract surgery before the wedding so I could see clearly and take in every detail and moment of my “big” day. The doctor convinced me to wait because of recovery time, so after ending the engagement, my focus returned to correcting the sight that I seemed to be losing.
It’s interesting how it’s as though God was taking away my vision to teach me what it looks like when my focus is no longer on Him but on my own wants and desires instead.
I had my eye on my fiancé long before he first asked me out and I was caught up in thinking that everything about our relationship was meant to be. I had become blind, solely focused on my relationship with this boy and thinking it was God’s will, but not actively pursuing Jesus in the midst of it. All along I thought God was at the center of our relationship, so how could I have been so off? Perhaps this was His intent. As a friend once told me, sometimes God puts us through things to teach us, and I believe He was doing just that.
As I continued to solve the problem of my vision, my doctor called me in for a new test he hadn’t thought of trying before. I rested my chin on the ledge of the machine and with one eye, I stared at a small speck within this large, white, backlit semi-sphere and used my peripheral vision to look for any flickers of light on the contoured surface. He reviewed the results and noticed a strange pattern, and suggested I see a neuro-ophthalmologist about it. That made me nervous. Neuro refers to the brain, so what could this mean?!
My grandma once told me the importance of advocating for myself, especially when it comes to my health, so I took her advice and did whatever I could to get one of the coveted appointments at the major hospital downtown. There were some days when I was on hold for over an hour and never got through, but finally I was given an appointment and my grandma’s lesson paid off. That being said, little did I know that was only the beginning of the journey ahead.
At that first appointment I had with this downtown doctor, I was sent to have an MRI scan of my brain to see if there was anything noteworthy. I laid on the plastic bed inside of a tube making loud thumping and whirring noises for 45 minutes, with no music, since the headphones they normally provide would have affected the image quality. Shortly before this appointment, I had been introduced to the song, ‘I Will Sing’ by Martin Smith and as I laid in that super loud and uncomfortable MRI bed that song came to mind.. “I will sing because I love You…I will sing because You’re near“. The lyrics comforted me as I hummed the melody to myself the whole time.
After that appointment, I headed back to work and received a phone call from the hospital right in the middle of a meeting. I hate being rude, but I knew I had to sneak out to take the call. The doctor was on the other end and what she shared completely shocked me. She went on to explain that they had found a mass, 2.5cm in diameter, that was at the base of my brain pressing up on my optic nerves which was causing me to lose my vision. And let me say that at this point, my vision had become so bad, I couldn’t read anything with my right eye, no matter how big the font. Everything was fuzzy with that eye and honestly, I probably should not have been driving due to my lack of depth perception. The doctor went on to tell me that I had what’s called a meningioma growing on the lining of my brain. They didn’t know what caused it, and many people have them, mine just happened to be in a place where it affected other noticeable functions. After sharing with me the news, she said that she would schedule me to meet with the neurosurgeon’s fellow the following week.
When it was time for that appointment, I asked my dad to come with me and I decided to dress up to give myself a boost of confidence going in. I knew I was going to need it. The MRI showed a giant white spot in the middle of the screen which was alarming in itself, not to add the doctor then expressed this was a ‘complicated’ case, given the location with optic nerves, an artery, and the pituitary gland all in close proximity. The only way to remove it was to perform a craniotomy. I wonder what my dad thought when he heard that! Personally, I think I was in shock. 1 Peter 5:7 says, ‘Leave all your worries with Him, because He cares for you’, and I clung to those words during this time as it is one of my favorite verses and I needed to go to God for comfort in all that was happening around me.
A week later, I went in for a five-hour long surgery and spent the following five days recovering in the hospital. Before the surgery though, the Lord gave me such peace. I was praying that those in the OR with me would somehow see Christ through this procedure, and I found myself telling people ‘see you on the other side’ because I had no idea how my brain function would be post-surgery, but I trusted God would lead me where He saw best.
During my time of recovery, my dad spent every night with me besides one so I wouldn’t be alone. I don’t remember much from that week except some friends and coworkers coming to visit. I have no idea what was said, but it meant a lot to me to know that people showed up during that time. One friend told me that she sat next to me, holding my hand the first night and I guess I asked her if I was dead! But she was there with me and everything was okay.
This all might sound terrible, but I want to pause here to say, it’s okay! God is so good. My vision will never be perfect, but most of it came back! The surgeons weren’t sure if any of what had been lost would return, but they were surprised to see the nerves spring back into place once they removed the growth, which I had named by the way. It was SID (like the neighbor boy in Toy Story), which I decided stood for Sins, Idols, and Doubt, all of which I wanted permanently removed! It’s fun to make meaning out of things in life, it also sometimes makes the situation a little more light hearted!
After leaving the hospital, I spent another five or more weeks recovering at my dad’s house, watching lots of the Great British Baking Show. Sadly, I have yet to try any of those recipes myself, but it was such a soothing show to watch during that time. My dad and my younger brother were amazing. They watched TV with me, rubbed my feet when I felt sick, treated my new scar, and took care of me, especially my first week home. Never have I ever felt so blessed. Friends showed their love and care in countless ways during that season too. A coworker’s daughter even became my weekly cookie deliverer! And on the day my wedding would have been, we invited friends and family over to celebrate. I couldn’t have asked for a more special day.
I think Galatians 6:2 speaks well to this that we are to “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.” I didn’t fully understand what it looked like to carry each other’s burdens and how lasting of an impact it has until I witnessed it from those around me during this season. I am so thankful for everyone who loved and supported me, I don’t think I would have been able to get through it without them!
At the time, I didn’t know what a blessing it would be to have that chance to live with my dad and brother that summer. I was able to enjoy sunny, summer days on the deck, convince my dad to forgo a workout or work so that he could watch the GBBS with me, and I was able to slow down and enjoy the company of friends and family who called or stopped by. The sweetest memories were of my time with my dad. And that especially rings true, as not even a year later he would die of cancer. It was a hard transition and, again, I am still working through it but I have so many more fond memories of him because of that season of being home and recovering with him.
Life is all about relationships. Some are hard, some come naturally, but all of them teach us something and leave a lasting impact. God made us because He is love and wanted to have a relationship with each of us. He also made us to be in relationship with each other.
The stories that I just shared with you are not easy stories to share. They are full of a lot of heartbreak, pain and loss. I have had to grieve, lament, pray, and cry a lot but through them I was able to grow closer to the Lord and to those around me. And I learned a lot about myself!
So the question I want to pose to you is:
Be open to where the relationship goes. It may not be what or where you expected, but it’s all beautiful because God is forming you ever more into who He designed you to be, and He’s using you in the lives of others. Cherish the good memories, and look for the silver linings in the hard ones, and cling to the hope that God is good.
One of my favorite verses is ‘I love You, O Lord my strength’ which is found in Psalm 18:1, and I want to leave you with that one right now. No matter what, I will choose to love God, who first loved me, and who gives me strength to endure everything that this life throws at me. I hope you’ll choose to lean into Him, too.
My name’s Maddie and I am from Woodinville, WA (yep, I’m a local!). I have 2 brothers, Sam, the oldest, and Bo, the youngest, of the three. I grew up playing all kinds of sports and went on to row for Stanford and then race on their cycling team. I work for a medical device company on the design engineering management side and in my free time I love hiking.
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