JAN - FEB 2004
I was having a ball with wedding plans; my music program was a huge success; I was blessed to have had the opportunity to travel and see the world; I had friends and family to love. My life was full, and I saw nothing but blue skies above," she writes in her book The Last Dance But Not the Last Song. But in May 1988, after a romantic weekend as a prom chaperone with her fiancé, her life would take a dramatic dive-literally.
She went to bed filled with innocent anticipation of life ahead, but awoke "diving" off the foot of her bed. She simply remembers being in mid- air and thinking, "Huh?" and then hitting the floor. Filled with searing pain in her neck and shoulders, she thought, "I've really done it now. . . I've got a real kink in my neck."
Later at ICU, however, the doctor would tell her, "You'll never walk again. . ." and he would be right. That night, Renée became a quadriplegic, having no feeling below the top of her chest. He also told her, however, "You'll never be able to sing. . ." -and he would be wrong. He didn't know Renée, her fierce determination and passionate spunk; nor did he understand her faith that would propel her forward through any challenges she would face. Today, Renée has sold over 100,000 albums and she travels throughout the United States singing and speaking for Christian conferences, church events, and youth rallies. But the closest thing to her heart right now is simply being a wife and a mother, miracles that she acknowledge astonish her daily.
I arrived at the church to meet with Renée a bit frazzled, as my directions were confusing. I had also read Renée's book and I was experiencing a sense of nerves at meeting this inspiring woman. I no longer wanted to sit and just interview her; I wanted to have a relaxing cup of coffee and chat about how she had encouraged me through her honest and raw written words. I started out my conversation with her laughingly sharing how much I related with her frustration of not being able to wear cute, feminine shoes. It's those little things that make one feel an instant bond.
Despite our surroundings of being in a cubby-hole behind the stage where she would perform in a few minutes when she spoke it was Holy Ground where I would sit with her. Renée's deep faith and daily surrender were immediately evident.
hk: Many people find losing more abilities the hardest part of living with a chronic condition. How do you get through tough moments?
RB: I've often wondered what would it be like if I had something like MS where I wouldn't really know where I'm going to be in a year. One may wake up tomorrow with some paralysis or dysfunction. At the beginning we felt that way, but after fifteen years, I know what I have is pretty much what I have. I know what tomorrow is going to bring. I don't have the fear that you may, unless I don't take care of myself. What has helped me over the years is knowing that with God I can handle anything. I didn't have that confidence when I was young, but now I know that I can get through anything-including being confined to the wheelchair- because tomorrow is another day and it could be better. I don't want to sound like a Pollyanna at all, but I know I'm not going to stay this way forever. I can even have this outlook with the worst case scenario: let's say I get a pressure wound that gets horrible and infected and I get a staph infection and die. . . Still, it's not horrible. I will go to Heaven where I get to dance again and run and play and be able to use my body. What most people would call the very worst scenario isn't bad.
hk: I think that describes the "joy of the Lord is my strength" because a lot of people would say tomorrow could be worse.
RB: And it could be, but you're not doing yourself any favors.
You've had some time where
RB: I think what you can do when you're having a bad day, rather than being depressed about it, is to go ask yourself, "What can I do to make this better? Am I taking care of myself? Do I have the right medical care and attendant care? Have I made good amends with my family? Do I have a relationship with family members or are they estranged? What changes can I make myself?" Rather than dwell and woe about my life, I need to really ask myself, "What can I do?"
You've found a certain peace by having a ministry from your experience. How would
you encourage someone who is in deep pain, but still waiting for God to reveal
You can read the rest of Renee's story in the January/Feb 2004 issue. You can order this individual copy by request.
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