God-Moments in Adversity
By Matthew E. Morgan
Ed and Stephanie Belmore of Rio Rancho, New Mexico, share a unique bond with one another. In 1983, four months after their wedding, Ed suffered a major brain injury, leaving him in a vegetative state. Stephanie faced a series of choices that no couple ever imagines when they say their vows to one another. With support from God and her family, Stephanie chose to honor and love her husband despite any surrounding circumstances.
She feels completely comfortable talking about the subject, but it was not always that way.
"I was angry at God," Stephanie said. "It wasn't about God's will at that point. It took me 5 or 6 years to feel comfortable about it being about what God's will was."
Stephanie tried support groups to help her but says they did not work.
Instead, she drew her support from two sources.
"You are not doing it by yourself; family support is something that I think I survived on. You take it one day at a time and allow God to help you. It is about letting God in our hearts, letting his will be done, and letting your life be encircled with His love and His grace."
Stephanie can relate to the husband of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman, whose husband fought and won a court case to have her feeding tube removed.
"I know what (her husband) feels like; God has a part in this also in that He has the decision. He creates when we were born and when we die; I never had one thought to make a decision that would not be God's."
Stephanie, also, understands what it is like to love someone in a brain-damaged state.
"A lot of people are fearful of giving their love because of attachment, expectation, or assumption. I know I can give my love away without anything in return."
Stephanie says that taking care of a brain-damaged person is different than caring for a child. Though she still needs to nurture him, care for him, and make his decisions, she is thinking for two.
"It's difficult. I cried when we bought our first home. I was worried if Ed would like it. Afterwards, I was joyful I was finally able to really feel by seeing him that it was okay."
She is connected with Ed in a way that most people could not understand.
"He is very connected with us soul, heart, and feelings."
After taking care of Ed in their home for 21 years, Ed has moved to a nursing home to receive full-time care. The difficult decision comes as a result of Stephanie's "epiphany" while at the Grand Canyon.
"I unloaded all sorts of things into that great big, deep, wide hole that God has made. I realized that I do not have to maintain control from God."
Even this event has changed people's lives. Ed reminds her that when people least expect it; they can bring light into other people's lives.
"Ed affects everyone around him even people who do not know him. Ed allows other people to view their own life to give them a chance to reflect and not take it for granted."
It is not just Stephanie's devotion to Ed that makes her a special person.
Her life is a pattern of selfless love. She has served 25 years in public education as a teacher, a sports coach, and an administrator. She is also in the process of starting a "Virtual Classroom" to allow learning over long distances.
Stephanie considered leaving her job to take care of her husband.
"Even before we married, we said we would honor each other's passion for a career and professional life. He would have wanted me to stick with it."
This author would be remiss if he did not mention his privilege to know of Stephanie's selfless love firsthand.
"As a youth pastor, I drove my North Dakota youth group to Albuquerque, NM for a Fine Arts Competition. Stephanie invited my youth group into her home all of us: six adults, two babies, and seventeen ravenous teenagers.
Stephanie fed us a delicious lasagna dinner and provided us with some much-needed leisure time. My teens' creative talents entertained her and Ed. Then we held a worship service in her living room filling the air with the sound of acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies."
Stephanie calls these "God-Moments" opportunities to see the hand of God work in wonderful ways: found in places like rainbows, the Grand Canyon, and the face of a suffering person.
"I have more God moments every day," she says. "I am amazed at the connections with other people. I remember running the tenth day after Ed's accident. I stopped and said 'Okay God if everything is going to be okay, give me a sign.' He gave me a rainbow on a sunny day wrapped around the sun. That rainbow represents color in our lives dark or light moments and it represents that God is with me."
Stephanie's living example of selfless love continues to affect everyone around her, serving as a reminder that love is truly about giving.
Matthew E. Morgan serves as a youth pastor in Canal Winchester, Ohio. His writing is assisted by his lovely wife Martha and their two cats who insist on helping with his typing by walking on the keyboard and swatting the cursor on the screen. You can write to Matthew through the Letters page of this magazine.
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