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Karen's Health Faith Story

My name is Karen Smith; I am a believer in Jesus Christ. And I am a child of God. I am here before you as a product of 'God's Grace'. Several years ago I found myself having to take inventory of my life. I lacked inner peace and purpose, and the loneliness and emptiness I felt was more than I could stand. I had been in an extremely abusive marriage, which ended in divorce; my children were growing up and going their own ways; my health was detiorating with no hope of recovery. And I was forced into early retirement going on disability at the age of 39.

All of these things left me feeling abandoned and unloved. As an abused person I had put up walls around my heart that kept me from being happy. My soul was empty and unsatisfied. So, I began searching for ways to become fulfilled. I finally reached a point where I just knew that there had to be more to life than what I was experiencing. I felt that the right kind of love was my answer so I tried attending church. And there is where I found Jesus Christ. I prayed and asked Jesus into my heart, receiving salvation, God's greatest gift of grace. It wasn't until I made the choice to develop a personal relationship with Jesus that I was able to experience God's grace in my life. Now Jesus makes me feel whole and I feel the aceptance of God's love for me. My love relationship with Jesus fills all the voids in my life that I tried to fill by myself. It is only through knowing, loving, serving, and embracing the word of God in my life, that I am able to draw on God's strength, power and grace to deal with my current chronic illness. And it wasnít until I met Jesus and developed a personal relationship with Him, that I felt whole. I never knew I could experience joy in my suffering until I started to live for Jesus.

I want you to know that there have been happy times in my life; my husband Dennis, my children, grandchildren, a loving family, but on the whole, my life has been filled with suffering and pain in one form or another, for as far back as I can remember. Over the years, I have had to deal with many difficult issues; health problems, abandonment by my real father, a dysfunctional marriage, divorce, being a single parent, empty nest syndrome, rape, physical abuse and more.

It is my hope that by sharing some of my health history that you can see just how wonderful God's grace is. That no matter what the problems are His grace is truly sufficient for every need. I praise God and give Him all the glory.

As I reflect back over my past, it has been a life full of hard knocks. I had more than just the 'normal' childhood illnesses, as I was growing up. At age 1 Ĺ I received 3rd degree burns on my hands and feet. At age 8 I was hit by a speeding car spending about a week in the hospital. At age 10, I was paralyzed by the deadly poliovirus and at the same time I developed paralytic scholiosis. My body was left paralyzed, and deformed and my breathing was severely restricted. After about a year I was able to learn how to walk again, for the third time in my young life. During the next 8 years I was to have many surgeries, corrective shoes, braces and months of physical therapy.

I was never able to take part in the normal physical activities of a young person. I spent a lot of time in and out of the hospitals. Because of the scholiosis, the curve in my spine was so severe that I had to have almost a complete spinal fusion from C6 through L3 vetebraes. During which time I had to be in a complete body cast for 9 months.

As an adult my health stabilized from the polio problems for a few years. During which time I was married, raised a family and then divorced. During my first marriage I suffered great emotional and physical trauma. I don't need to go into the details of that marriage, but that sick relationship left me with severe scars, that only Jesus Christ has been able to heal. Godís grace is again sufficient.

In order to support my family as a divorced-single parent I worked 6 years at a physically challenging job that damaged my body. At this point, I was forced into early retirement on disability. During this time I was made aware just how severe my health was and how fragile my body would become.

My medical records read that I have spinal stenosis, scoliosis, heart disease, that I will take medication for the rest of my life. I have acute degenerative arthritis in most of my lower spine and my cervical spine, also I have acute degenerative disc disease in 3 of my lumbar vertebrae. I have lung disease, that was caused by the polio, which requires that I use a breathing machine nightly. I have had to have a full hip replacement. I have arthritis or joint disorders in most of my other joints, plus I live in chronic pain. And if that isnít enough there is more. I am not supposed to bend, lift, twist stoop or go up and down stairs. I have Post Polio Syndrome (the late affects of polio, which include muscle and nerve atrophy accompanied by chronic pain). And I use a wheel chair to save on energy, because the more I do the less I can do. At the present time I am losing the use of my arms and hands. My worst scenario physically is to be completely paralyzed, as I was when I first was attacked by the poliovirus. But if that happens I have been told that it will be a slow gradual and painful decline.

You might ask yourself how any one person could deal with all of these problems? Well, they canít. It is because of Jesus Christ alone that I make it through each and every day. I am not saying it is easy, because it isnít. Sometimes things become more that I can bear, but Jesus always comes to my rescue. Sometimes it is through a helping hand, a personís kindness, my prayers and my meditatiion on His word, where He soothes my heart. But most often it's through my tears. Godís grace comes in many forms.

As a child of God, Jesus gives me His supernatural strength and power to face each day. What comfort that brings me, knowing that I have to live with chronic pain day in and day out. Jesus gives me an inner peace that is always with me, no matter what my circumstances are. I have found that by developing a close dependent and personal relationship with Christ, that I experience His joy in and through my suffering.

I have learned that God uses chronic pain and weakness, along with other afflictions, as a chisel for sculpting our lives. My felt weakness deepens my dependence on Christ for strength each day. The weaker I feel, the harder I lean, and the harder I lean the stronger I grow spiritually, even while my body waste away. A quote by J. I. Packer reads that 'To live with our 'thorn' uncomplainingly-that is sweet, patient, and free in our heart to love and help others, even though everyday, you feel weak- is true sanctification. It is true healing for the spirit. It is a supreme victory of grace. The healing of our sinful person thus goes forward, even though the healing of your mortal body does not.

God does His part, He extends His grace, the desire and power to do His will. What we choose to do with His gift is left up to us. My hope will continue in the Lord, He is my everything. I know that someday Iíll have a pain free life in eternity, but until then my time here on earth is short and I choose to focus on Jesus no matter what my circumstances are. I choose to be productive for as long as I can, to be joyful and full of faith knowing that my real joy comes through knowing and pursuing Christ.

Today, I personally, am striving to let Christ control all of my life. He has given me a whole new set of priorities to live by, as well as a purpose for living. With God's gift of grace I will continue in His strength to walk my talk and live for Christ. Using the failures and struggles in my life as stepping stones, not as stumbling blocks. And knowing that my hope is in being with Christ in eternity.

Christians with Chronic Illness/Pain Award