Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Incredible Woman #24 - Kristie Harker. Wednesday's Question

KARA: "What kinds of lessons have you learned from the trials you’ve had in your life? How do you get through trials?"

KRISTIE: "November, 1980. Married for 2 months. As far as I can tell, the day I got pregnant with my first child Pain knocked at the door and entered my life. This intruder settled in my back and spawned other problems until it took over my previously enjoyable life and darkened the windows of my bright future. Having married at an older age, I felt the need to get my family here, but having my four sweet children in 5 ½ years was not exactly what I’d planned! The suffering was excruciating. Exhaustion, severe headaches, serious brain fog, and itching joined Pain’s team in assaulting me.

I can’t count the number of times I tried to think of a way to end it all without causing my wonderful husband and dear children shame or permanent emotional damage. Since I couldn’t figure out a way, I just prayed for help to get through every day. Other unsavory health tenants entered the door opened by chronic pain and kept piling on. It finally got so bad that I prayed for help through “the next 10 minutes” over and over again. And God did help me. He helped me hang onto life by my fingernails for about 7 years. Finally, I got smart and asked the right question. “Show me where to go –I don’t know where to go to get help! I will go anywhere, do anything, as long as it is legal, moral, and ethical…” Within days, a telephone call came out of the blue from a friend who had moved away. When she asked how I was, I didn’t respond, “As good as ever, thank you!” For the first time in years, I told the truth—“ Horrible.” She hesitantly told me about a place she had gone where she’d received much help. Though unorthodox in my mind, I could not ignore the timing of the call. I quacked out loud as I drove to my appointment. But, when I left I cheered aloud like a cheerleader. I knew…..I knew I had been led to a source of help.

I regained a good amount of energy during the next few months, sufficient that I could care for my family and other responsibilities. And the intensity of my headaches declined. Though it’s been with me twenty-four-seven for 28 years, it sure helped. But, my ugly tenant, Pain, and his cohorts stayed on. One by one over the years, God granted me a new piece of the health puzzle, and by fractions I improved. I came to understand that God expected me to do all that was in my power to evict my undesirable bodily tenants. I aggressively pursued every lead, exercised faithfully (despite pain), and generally ate well. I have to admit that is has been a substantial drain financially, but I have a sweet husband who has my best interests at heart who said, “Go for it!” Just a few weeks ago, after a 28 year battle, another avenue opened up for me which has given me a great deal of hope and noticeable improvement already. I will never give up. I have a 3” X 5” note card posted with this reminder: “Whether you view yourself as active and responsible for your life or as a victim of circumstance is a personal choice.” I believe that is true, and have acted accordingly.

Currently, I enjoy my life. I laugh and smile and love and have fun. I still have chronic problems, but the intensity of each one has diminished considerably. I don’t know how people make it through life without including God. I have an intimate relationship with Him. Some people get bitter and reject God when they have trials that He doesn’t solve immediately or completely. My trials flattened my knees. It was there that my spiritual roots sank deep-- so deep that the storms of life cannot topple me. When I dropped to my knees in despair, I always arose with a grateful heart, feeling loved and at peace. My trials humbled me and made me teachable. They softened my heart toward others who suffer, and tempered my judgmental attitude. Being good and doing the right thing did not excuse me from the trials and tests of life. Why should it? So, I concluded that I could either take the easier way and end up on the couch eating bonbons and popping Lortab, or commit to live the life I would have chosen without my trials. So, I go places, do things, learn things and enjoy life as fully as possible—even when it hurts. I’m glad to be alive and see beauty in each day.

A number of years ago, I had lunch with a friend I hadn’t seen for quite some time. She said, “So, Kristie, is your life just going along perfectly, like always???” My other friend and I exchanged astonished glances. I said, you mean like (blank) and chronic pain and my son nearly dying? Because of the things I’ve gone through, I realize that we see the rosy, public part of people’s lives. Everyone has problems. Some are visible, but most are not. So, when others say or do something unkind, I try to remember that they might be having a problem that I just don’t see, and cut them some slack."

KARA: "Can you tell us about some of the service you do for others? What have you learned from doing service?"

KRISTIE: "I believe that love is the most powerful force in the world. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I embrace his counsel to “love one another”. “If ye have done it unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto me.” I try to serve or be kind on a daily basis. When I had young children at home, they were the focus of those efforts. Now, I find that it has easily broadened in scope. I don’t always have the opportunity, but I welcome each one that comes.

During the past few years, I’ve had two friends with serious health problems. I tried to pay a visit to each of them weekly, and take them a little something to eat, or a video or book. One died last year of cancer. The other of these good women has been my best friend since we were eight years old. She got rheumatoid arthritis at age 29, and has had nearly every joint in her body replaced. Unfortunately, she was also among the 5% whose lungs shut down from RA. She was eventually on feeding tubes and oxygen to maintain her life until she could get a lung transplant. It was one of the great pleasures of my life to be able to drive her to Salt Lake City to the doctor for about a year preparatory to and following her double lung transplant. Two years later, she is in chronic rejection. I still try to call, visit or send cards weekly. I love her and admire her upbeat attitude entirely. I try to be like her when my body is hard to live with.

My back door neighbor is truly an incredible woman. She runs a charitable foundation which is behind two big projects during the year. One is to organize a Sub for Santa program for about 140 families a year. Her own Christmas is put on the back burner. I help with that project to a degree, but since my business is always heaviest in December, I am more involved in helping with her other project, called “Pack to School”. Her Shadowlight Foundation tries to provide backpacks, school supplies, shoes, clothing and coats to indigent children before the start of school every year. I have had so much fun shopping the big winter clearance sales and gathering supplies for them. Last year, I contacted the local schools and picked up their lost and found coats after school ended for the summer. I scrubbed and washed them all, sorted them by size and gender, bagged and stored them in my hot tub until they could be distributed. That was so much fun that I have expanded this year, and have already processed a large batch of coats, hats, and gloves left at a local ice skating rink. Brittany loves to help me with this, and the men help with pickup. Gratitude for an abundant life flourishes in this kind of service."

I'm really enjoying getting to know Kristie better. I've been the recipient of her service as I fought breast cancer last year. Kristie brought food and stopped by for visits several times. She is an angel - one of the women behind why I started this blog. Come back tomorrow, and read about what inspires Kristie.


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