I don't know that I would have chosen to be that dedicated to my own personal growth if I hadn't been brought to my knees. I was in my mid-twenties, and my husband and I, unexpectedly, became pregnant with my daughter. Her name is Jade, and she had a rare genetic condition called Pierre Robin syndrome. It just knocked me for a loop.
The first five years of her life, there were many, many surgeries, procedures, and I was as broke as anyone could be. We were young, and as often happens with those kinds of stressful life experiences, our marriage was not successful, so I ended up pretty much living as a single mom. I think most of my prayers then were just, "Help me survive."
At that time, I came across some reading about gratitude, intentional gratitude, and I did the best I could. So I was working in education and my daughter and I were doing fine. We were getting on our feet, and I decided to get married again. I met a great guy, and we had been married for about six years and doing good, just a really happy season of my life, and he started having severe back pain. And then it just kept getting worse and worse, until one weekend he actually said, "I feel like I can't get out of bed. I'm going to have to go to the emergency room." We checked him in. The doctor came out and said, "Does he have any kind of a cancer diagnosis?"
He passed away about seven or eight months later, and it wasn't pretty. It was about 3:00 in the morning, and I was just sobbing, just in shock about what had happened. And I, again, prayed, "God, I need a lifeline. I need to frame my thinking around this."
Grief is not a linear process. It's not something where, "Okay, you have processed the first stage of grief, now you can go do this." It is a jumble of things, and you can grieve and live at the same time. That was something that I held on to, the statement that I can grieve and I can live at the same time. I don't have to sit here in a dark house wearing black for the next three years. It's not what my husband would have wanted, and that's not what I have to do, that there is another path. What's next for me? How am I going to move on in my life from this? And just a few short months later, the Valley Fire swept through Lake County and my house was burned to the ground. I wasn't home. My beloved pets were home. They were lost. Everything was gone.
I did not have one possession to my name other than the clothes that I had been wearing that day. I said to myself, "How often does somebody in their forties get to completely start over?" And I got a call from the president of Adventist Health Clear Lake, and he called and said, "I have this idea for a position. It's called a community wellness director. You'd be great for it." I was immediately filled with just this incredible passion and awareness of the opportunity.
I remember my first day of work. I hadn't stepped foot back in the hospital for about two months, at this point three months maybe. I get to work, and I use the bathroom and I wash my hands. And you know how our sensory wisdom is so strong? The smell of the hand soap caused me to immediately flash back to the days and days and days that I spent in the hospital with my husband just a few months before, and I actually had a visceral reaction and threw up in the bathroom.
The Apostle Paul says, "I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” There are things that happen in life that are not good, and it's shallow and over-simplistic to say, "Oh, I'm glad that happened. Everything ... that worked out for the best." Nevertheless, I do believe that in every one of those situations is a pathway to blessing and purpose. Those are some of the experiences that led me, I think, and prepared me to find a home in healthcare and really be so proud of the work that I get to do now.
Now, when I walk through a hospital, I might have a little bit stronger tug at my heart for the young mom that I see there, because I've been that young mom trying to figure out how I'm going to pay rent and spend time in the hospital, choosing whether I was going to buy formula or gas with that last 20 bucks in my pocket. I mean, I've been there. Every single individual living on the planet today should have the opportunity to live to their full potential, regardless of where they live, regardless of the situation that they were born into. It is my responsibility to do everything I can to be the leader that I believe God has called me to be for this work.