God Is With Me Through The Fire

It all started with a knock on my door at 3 AM. I stumbled from my bedroom to the living room, noticing as I went that my socks were wet. When I finally got to the door, it was a downstairs neighbor telling me that water was coming down from the ceiling.

After calling my husband, who worked night shift, and maintenance, it was determined that the hot water heater had broken. After temporarily moving in with my parents, who lived in the area, we decided to break our lease and move from Maryland to Pennsylvania.

God provided an apartment for us to live in, we signed the rental agreement a day before we moved. It reminded me of the saying God is never early, but He is never late. I started a job as a security officer about a week and a half after moving.

While I was on my first shift, I got the worst headache of my entire life.

Along with this headache came floaters in my vision, so I called my mom, a nurse, and asked what I should do. She suggested I go to an eye doctor. The optometrist said there was nothing wrong with my eyes and that it was a migraine. The only problem with that diagnosis was I didn’t have any light sensitivity or nausea; however, I accepted the diagnosis.

Fast forward a week and a half and I still had the raging headache and vision problems. I went to Urgent Care, and they told me to get insurance as quickly as possible and go to the ER to get my head scanned. So, I did as I was told, and bought insurance that would start in twenty-four hours.

By the time I got to the ER, the headache and vision changes persisted for nine days.

The doctor quickly ordered a CT scan and an MRI. Both were new experiences for me. The CT came back abnormal. He said it showed something going on, but the MRI would tell us for sure what it was, and he admitted me to the hospital.

I didn’t have the MRI until late that night and by the time my results came back, my twin sister had driven up from Maryland to be with me while my husband worked his new job. So, she was with me when I got the news that I had an occipital, meaning vision center, stroke. I was thirty-one years old. Over the next two months, I had several mini strokes and I lost 60 degrees of peripheral vision between both eyes. I was heartbroken.

My husband was very caring and lived up to his vow of “in sickness and in health.” We lived on the third floor and the steps were very narrow, so I tried to stay in the apartment most of the time.

I could not have gotten through this time without God.

He was my Strength. He led several people to give me verses in Isaiah to lift me up and encourage me.

Isaiah 43:1-3 “But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

God used those verses to comfort me.

He helped me believe I would not die from a stroke. I didn’t feel like he was promising my vision would come back, but I did feel certain this would not kill me. It was determined that the reason for my strokes was due to a hole in my heart, and I was scheduled for catheter heart surgery three days before Christmas. I was terrified, but each verse gave me strength and assurance that this too would not overwhelm my life.

In March of the following year, I asked my church to pray for the recovery of my sight by anointing me with oil and God answered that prayer. Today, I have a small black spot in my vision, but it doesn’t affect my daily life. Doctors are always shocked when I tell them my vision came back, because that doesn’t usually happen with the kind of stroke that I had.

My medical journey has not ended. Since that first day at work until now, I have had a headache every single day. Medication is starting to help but it is still in the background.

But do you know what also hasn’t ended? The truth that God is still with me through the fire. The truth that He has a purpose for me and my life.

Now, as I face down the flood waters of a possible epilepsy diagnosis, God gives me the strength to get up every morning and live each day.

LJ Matarese is the published author of Scene 38 Take 3 a Christian young adult novel. Published in 2014 she has been busy working on a sequel and two stand-alone novels. She has also written over 40 short stories. You can find her on social media @storieswithlj all one word. She has a Facebook, Instagram and YouTube channel. She does her YouTube channel with her husband. They review young adult books and do author interviews. If you would like an autographed copy of her book, email storieswithlj@gmail.com.

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