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Post Tile: Vision-Impaired | Fixing My Eyes on Christ

Nothing ever happens in isolation. Life is so busy, and mine is no exception. I’ve been balancing my cashier’s job at the supermarket, meal preparation and caregiving for about a year now.

Except for wearing a mask at work, COVID has not impacted me. I wear a mask to prevent me from catching and transmitting COVID or any other illness to my brother, who is immune-compromised.

Sometimes we go along in life and we think everything is up to us. We forget our heavenly father has a purpose and a plan for us to fulfill at every juncture of our life.

The Start of Emergencies

From December to mid-February, my brother was in and out of various hospitals. All at once, he had several serious health issues, involving his heart, kidneys and lungs. He also had the added complication of Type 2 Diabetes. We’d had a period of no hospitalizations, simply following up with specialists but no major incidents. We were seeing if my brother was a candidate for a kidney transplant. I was an initial match and hoped to donate one of my kidneys. We had not yet explored what all this would entail.

Meanwhile, as a back up plan, the vascular surgeon advised him to undergo a procedure to prepare him for dialysis. He had a series of appointments and screening in preparation for that procedure.

About a month  later, the surgeon completed the procedure. My brother had a terrible response and a day after, he became extremely weak. So much so, that I felt something must have gone wrong. It impacted his balance, his energy and his strength, even his speaking.  I phoned the specialist, who told me that was not a normal response and gave a spiel about us going to the ER if we felt this was an emergency. In one week, he had three falls, which alarmed me. I had to get the neighbor to help me lift him up. I also didn’t feel comfortable leaving him to go to work.

I met with his blended case manager to voice my deep concerns. Later that day, a visiting nurse detected an elevated heart beat and low blood sugar. He needed to be hospitalized and went by ambulance. They found his blood count low and had to have a blood transfusion. That was only the start. He faced several emergencies, one right after another.

A week or so later, my brother wanted to come home, and did. But the previous two weeks had taken a toll on him. He was not strong enough to even lift his feet onto the sofa. He needed to rebuild his strength. So he went back to the hospital and two days later, went to a nursing home for rehabilitation. All these emergencies took a toll on me. When would they ever end?

COVID Strikes Me

I continued to work at my job. I had to find rides to and from my job site, which was only a five-minutes drive away from home. My neighbor typically took on the task of driving me. After one ride back to the house, he called to tell me he had tested positive for COVID.

The next morning, I walked to work and picked up a COVID test and walked back. I didn’t have any symptoms and tested negative. So I walked back to work that day and home at the end of my shift.

But the next morning (Sunday), I had definite symptoms—sore throat, runny nose and a cough. Since I had gotten only one test, I had no way to further test myself. In the end, my family dropped off another COVID test and I took it. But it was invalid. I didn’t know what I did wrong. But being vision-impaired didn’t make giving myself the test easy. I felt in my gut, I had COVID.

Proof of COVID

In order to receive COVID pay at work, I had to have a professionally-administered COVID test. But how to obtain this? I couldn’t expose anyone so how would I get to a testing site? Being legally blind, I don’t drive.

On Tuesday evening, I sent an email to a friend, who works with the visually-impaired, asking for ideas.

She mentioned an accessible pharmacy and talked about how the Be My Eyes app could help me administer it to myself.

How the Be My Eyes App works

The app works by pairing the blind or low-vision user with a sighted volunteer based on language and timezone. The first volunteer to answer the request is connected to that specific user and receives live video feed from the rear-facing camera of the user’s smartphone.

So the volunteer could read the instructions to me.

I have the app installed on my phone and it is a great resource! But I didn’t need it after all to read the instructions.

The Erie County Health Department

On Wednesday morning, my friend phoned the Erie County Health Department and explained my dilemma with work. The agent phoned the Sight Center of NWPA, who, in turn, sent one of their  employees to my house to test me.

Although the test was immediately positive, because it was still a “home-administered” test, my job would not accept the results as required to ensure I received COVID pay.

As I liaised with the Health Department, they went one step further, and agreed to send their mobile testing team to my house the next morning. Again, I tested positive. This time, the Health Department sent an official email to my job with the positive results of the COVID test. With this proof, I was eligible for COVID payment for that day and subsequent days missed until my quarantine was up.

In Touch Ministries

Since I’ve become a caregiver, I have felt an even greater dependence on God. And yet . . . I wonder if I wasn’t still living in my own strength?

Every night, I listen to In Touch Radio, a twenty-four-hour teaching ministry hosted by Dr. Charles Stanley. I access it via my phone. It contains practical Bible-based sermons. For months I’ve fallen asleep listening to him speak.

But suddenly, I had nothing to do but listen all day and all night long. It was God speaking His word through Dr. Stanley’s examples. It was the living word speaking to me.

With my brother facing emergencies, I desperately needed grounding. Dr. Stanley always says “Obey God and Leave all the Consequences to Him.”  But what did that look like? I didn’t know exactly how to do that.

I asked my friend, a blind pastor, “What should my response be?” Of course, I knew “Trust God.” But what did that look like? Feel like? I was stressing about my brother, missing work, documenting the COVID test, falling even more behind on my memoir and feeling overwhelmed. I knew my question to my friend sounded silly. I’m a Christian, after all. Of course, I need to trust God.

Girders and Reinforcement

But I needed girders. Reinforcement. I needed to know how to trust him. I needed a step-by-step plan.

I listened to Dr. Stanley nearly twenty-four hours a day soaking in his faith messages.  By Wednesday, I had turned a corner. Something had shifted inside me. I had fixed my eyes on God and not my problems.

God made his purpose clear. He wanted me.  All of me. Surrendered.

The Dream Comes Back

In January, God warned me through a dream it would be a tough, wind-filled year. But looking back at that dream, God said to hold on to him and we would make it through the ferocious storm. Instead, I held onto the flap of the tent alone. I dropped his hand and tried to handle the cyclone on my own. Not on purpose, of course.

When I was in the thick of advocating for my brother, he was facing many challengers. I thought it was up to me to look after him. I took every fear and emergency on myself. Until this week when I had nothing to do but focus on God, I thought I had to be the strength.

God is my Real Strength

But now I realize, God wants to be my strength, my brother’s strength. The Holy Spirit is living in me and He will give me wisdom each day. The Holy Spirit living in my brother will give him wisdom.

Fixing my eyes on Christ is something I feel deep inside. Not only do I struggle to see what’s around me, I had also struggled to see what I could not anticipate with all the emergencies.  Satan has taunted me with phone calls from my brother—Satan commands me to fix the situations—if I can. He wants to tear the alliance between God and me apart.

But God tells me He has it under control. I’m trusting God.  I can feel the difference already.

I’m grounded. I’m holding tightly onto Jesus’ hand. The wind is billowing around me and I’m flying near the entrance to the tent just as I was in my dream. But I know the purpose and the plan Christ had in giving me COVID. He has taken a firm grip of my hand. I’m not alone handling the crisis anymore. I’m partnering with him.

When I was twelve years old, I placed my trust in him. God drew me to him. He made me sensitive to His presence. I realize all over again, it is by grace I am saved. I am that dependent young child again.

I may not see objects in the world very well anymore with my sight loss. Or even the physical word of God. But God showed me a scripture I had earmarked in 2006 and I j-u-s-t read it with the magnification from my phone. Palms 107:27-28. I underlined it in my Bible. It now holds and even more special meaning of healing to me.

They reeled and staggered like drunkards; they were at their wits’ end. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. Psalm 107:27-28

I’m so grateful it’s not up to me anymore. It never should have been. I can turn to the Holy Spirit living within me when I’m overwhelmed and scared for me or my brother.

I know it sounds crazy that it took testing positive for COVID to learn (or re-learn) this lesson. Being yielded, learning to surrender and turn over our fears is never easy in our culture. But I want to trust God in the hard places–health, work, my writing, the everyday life, in any and all of my decisions.  I’ll tell you how it goes.

When have you surrendered your fears to God to the best of your ability? What changed for you? 

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