This Story Starts in Africa
It begins in a small house in the gold mining area, the house of a strong confident African woman pastor who housed me in Ghana. A woman lovingly referred to as ‘Madame’ (because she was a teacher in her younger days). It is then, and hugely because of her, that I fall in love with Ghana. I promise to come back. It was the summer of 2006 and I was studying development at university.
Fast forward this story 11 years. I´m traveling back to Ghana for the wedding of amazing friends. And this time, it´s even more exciting: my husband is coming too and we are not on a student budget! I take a picture of us happily setting off (picture above), interestingly the last one on my phone before all hell breaks loose.
Narrative Climax and Dénouement
And then there´s the part of the story where it all turns sour: instead of African wedding outfits, endless red beans and plantain (my favorite Ghanaian dish red-red), exotic locations and African drums I end up with a bacteria-ridden eye that goes blind. Oh, and the pain, don´t forget the pain!
Again, fast forward two months (and about a dozen different doctors in three different country codes, painful biopsies and procedures) and I am still blind. And add in that I´ve had to temporarily move to a whole other country for treatment, being separated from my children, and face a long road of treatments ahead-including what doctors call ‘a complicated corneal transplant´.
Ok, that´s the dramatic version, the tragedy, the sorry-for myself story, the why and why-me version. Don´t get me wrong, to my dislike, I have relived this story in my head many times before. But now, give me a chance to re write, to edit and see how this goes.
Rewriting my story: Exercising my creative license
(Repeat First Paragraph). Fast forward this story eleven years. I´m traveling back to Ghana for the wedding of amazing friends (and take a picture as we head off). And this time, it is great, but for reasons I never suspected. My husband is coming too, and although I don’t know it then, when we come back he will also be my hero. I am coming back too, but when I do, I will be changed. Especially from inside. I am about to be faced with impossible pain, but will experience God’s never-ending love and peace throughput this storm like never before.
I will also experience the love of friends and family from across the world, as people gather to pray and root for us. I will see my family –and my husband´s family who I’m so grateful to call my own- rise up to the challenge of taking care of two small children back home as we seek medical treatment abroad.
I will get to meet many amazing and kind-hearted doctors and nurses throughout this journey, of trying out innovative treatments (would you believe they can now use amniotic membranes from placenta to regenerate eye tissue?) and get two entire months of grown up time in Miami with my husband.
(Note to mums and wives out there: you certainly know how hard and rare it is to make even date night work with young children, jobs and all the lot, so you can appreciate why two months of potential date nights in South Beach is completely surreal!)
I hold the Pen, I Write the Story
Through this journey I´m learning that I hold the power to tell my story however I choose to. And so do you! Because even though we might a) have gone through b) are currently experiencing or c) will one day come face to face with incredible pain- either physical or emotional, and need to suddenly traverse unexpected difficult waters, the truth is we continue to have control over how we see and speak of our situation.
For we are asked to “not conform to the pattern of this world [what we see with the naked eye], but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God´s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).
Even though we might not get a choice over the battle (because believe me, I would have never guessed or picked this one!), I will continue to actively choose the path of hope, to seek out the hidden blessings, owning the spiritual and personal growth that comes from pain and choosing to see beyond what the naked eye reveals.
Don´t get me wrong, I have also cried many tears. The pain is real, and so are we. And yet, we are still holding the pen, and God, he continues to hold us in the palm of his hand.