Three Gifts of Life-and One More

by Karen Davis

Editor's note: It is not often that editors are privileged to handle a testimony such as this-in this case of someone we have known both before and after the onset of ALS, as a staunch and dedicated Christian. Allow me to introduce Karen, one of Our Lord's precious lambs. Until 2003, Karen's life was full, as a wife, mother, grandmother, teacher of public speaking and English at the collegiate level, then as a businesswoman, summertime child evangelism leader, and clarinetist with her church orchestra. Then Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis made its appearance. Here is her story of learning to accept the crippling disease as a gift from God.

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Walk with me. It is a nippy Canadian afternoon. I am about six years old. We walk into a rugged, old country church. I am holding my mother's hand and looking around at this strange new place. I hear many happy sounds, and then, suddenly my eyes look ahead. I am amazed to see a whole table full of presents

Let's unwrap three presents life has given me. First, let's open this one. I would not have chosen this package, but here it is. It is ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Commonly it is known as the Lou Gehrig disease. In Chattanooga, I know of only one other person who has this illness. In my family, I am the fourth person. There is a touch of irony in that my greatest life strengths have been talking and eating. Because the disease began in my mouth, my first losses were talking and eating.

More seriously, I rest in the truth that God's Word is true and His plans for me are perfect. Psalms 18:30 says, "As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him."

I find myself deeply thankful for a text-to-speech program that opens myriad communication possibilities. For example, it permitted me to "talk" to my church family during a Sunday morning service. They have adopted my family by praying a lot for me, preparing weekly meals for my husband, and showing genuine love and concern. That is a joy to me.

The second package I would like to open is this: my husband has gifts of humor, music, tenderness, and compassion. My illness now involves my breathing, stopped my walking and standing skills, and currently gives me only the use of my right lower arm and hand. Allen assumed responsibility for feeding, dressing, and caring for me.

He has taken over many household responsibilities. We also have some professional help. My hope is that God, family, and friends continue to hold up this gracious caregiver. Matthew 5:7: "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." This package is as fragrant as a bouquet of gardenias.

The third package is the biggest and best present. It is this: My hope in the Lord is the strength of my life. He reminds me to choose to trust Him day by day-for Matthew 6:34 says, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

For years, I have read the Bible nearly every day and prayed daily. I am thankful for the deep, eternal truths in His word. I am thankful that my daily life can glorify God. A verse that has been a controlling force in my life since high school is Revelation 4:11: "You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power, for you have created all things and for your pleasure they are and were created." My life has had purpose and all the daily doings of my life have had significance because God made me on purpose for His good purposes.

By God's grace I hope the following words will be true of me to the end: "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Cor. 4:16-18).

Walk with me again. I am a bit older. I'm in a place I've never seen before. The weather is perfect. I see bright and beautiful streets and amazing trees with lots of fruit. I hear many happy sounds, and then, suddenly my eyes look ahead and see the greatest present of them all-the resurrected Lamb of God. This is the ultimate gift.

A biographical note:

Karen was born in 1940, in Chicago, IL. At age 10, she became the first of her family to accept Jesus Christ as her Savior (during the next 25 years, all five members of her immediate family became Christians). She and Allen met at church, when both taught in Philadelphia. They were married in 1969. They have two daughters: Artistic Helen, who with her husband, Bill, has a 1-year-old daughter, Emma; and Susan, a creative businesswoman, who with her husband, John, has 4-year-old John and 2-year-old Kathryn.

Karen adds this note to her story: "We moved to Chattanooga in 1984 for Allen's teaching job. In 2003, I noticed a progressive decline in my ability to speak clearly. By mid-July Emory University's ALS Clinic confirmed that I have ALS."

She currently continues to serve as a trail guide with the Child Evangelism Fellowship Wonderzone on-line ministry.<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

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