My name is Rita Phillips, and I’m a 62-year-old retired public school teacher. I am also a mother, grandmother, wife, sister, and daughter. I taught in three high schools and three middle schools during my thirty-four years of service. In addition, I mentored first and second year teachers for two years after my retirement, and currently I occasionally substitute teach in two nearby elementary schools.
Although I was saved the moment I asked Jesus into my heart as my Savior when I was twenty-six years old, I don’t believe I ever allowed him to be my Lord during all the ensuing years until 2017.
On Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017, the Lord reset my life. Always a sports enthusiast, I had been training for a 100 mile bicycle ride in Bend, Oregon which was to take place in late June. I had put in many miles of training during that spring, so it wasn’t unusual for me to ride forty or fifty miles a day. On this particular day, however, I had just returned from a full day of mentoring teachers, which involved observations, note taking, and individual meetings with said teachers. It was 3:30 pm, and I was vacillating over whether I should go on a ride. In the end, I opted for a short twenty miles.
The rural terrain was relatively new to me, as I was living in our new trailer. My husband and I had sold our home because we planned to move to Spokane, WA to be near my husband’s daughter and our grandchildren. He had left for Spokane early Sunday morning in a moving van with all our worldly belongings. His job was to put our furniture in storage and begin looking for a new home for us. My job was to complete my mentoring gig which would end May 31st.
I began the ride at a good clip–17 miles per hour–since the road was fairly flat. Only two miles into the ride, I saw the railroad tracks. Common sense should have told me to slow down, but I had ridden over these same tracks on Sunday with ease, so I kept my pace steady. Unfortunately, the railroad tracks were not perpendicular to the road, and the front wheel of my bicycle caught in a groove of the tracks propelling me off my bike head first. I carried the bike with me as I was wearing clipless pedals and was basically stuck in them.
I don’t remember hitting the ground. I do remember awakening to a crowd of passersby who saw the accident and blessedly stopped to help me. I tried to get up, but was discouraged from doing so. Soon the ambulance arrived, and I was whisked away to a nearby hospital where the X-rays quickly revealed the extent of my injuries: a broken collarbone (the third time I had broken it), seven broken ribs on my left side, and a pelvis fractured in three places. I cannot tell you how painful it was, but I’m sure you can imagine.
I spent four days in the hospital, but the doctor didn’t want to release me until he knew I had a place to stay where I could fully recover, and the trailer was out of the question because I would be confined to a wheelchair for seven weeks. My husband, having been notified of my accident, beat a hasty path back home and made every effort to find me a “rehabilitative care facility.” That’s a euphemism for nursing home. I lasted in that facility exactly 24 hours. Everything you’ve ever heard about or imagined nursing homes to be was what I experienced. I won’t go into the details, but suffice it to say I told my husband I was going to crawl out of that place if he didn’t find something else for me.
blessed friends & family
All of our so-called “friends” did not offer their homes. One actually did, but then withdrew her offer. What were we to do? Well, the Lord stepped in at this point. I had been attending a Bible study regularly at a home of a wonderful Christian couple, but we were acquaintances, not close friends. We did become friends, though, because this caring couple offered my husband and me a place to live for the entirety of my recovery. I cried. I cried because the offer was so generous. I cried because I was in constant pain. And, I cried because I knew I would never ride a two-wheel bike again. You see, just weeks before my accident, my rheumatologist had told me that I had a severe case of osteoperosis. At the time, the news meant little to me. I had always been very active, and this diagnosis was not going to stop me from doing what I loved. Talk about pride.
The seven weeks of recovery at the home graciously provided by our Christian friends was a time of discovery for me. Always independent and strong-willed, I was now humbled. My husband cared for ALL my needs with love and a smile. He never complained. From washing my hair to bathing me and helping me with bathroom needs, he was a trooper. Our new friends made wonderful meals, introduced us to their friends, and included us in their activities as if we were family members.
I was also awed by the number of individuals who came to visit me, some of whom I did not know well at all. They all brought gifts, food, and good cheer, and they came often. I knew these people were gifts from God. I also knew that God had allowed this accident to happen. Without getting into details, I will tell you that my life was not one of serving the Lord. In fact, I was dabbling in things I should never have been. More importantly, I was filled with way too much pride as I alluded to previously.
the good shepherd
I read something interesting about shepherds not long after the accident. An article discussed how good shepherds would break a lamb’s legs if it kept wandering off. During the healing process, the sheep stays very close to the shepherd and learns to recognize his voice. Often the shepherd carries the lamb on his shoulders. I don’t really know if this is true, but it made sense to me. I had been wandering in the wrong direction and Jesus needed some way of helping me learn to hear his voice while I healed. The Good Shepherd was literally carrying me on his shoulders.
I grieved for months after my accident for what I had lost, but I was never angry with God. It was clear he needed to get my attention. Since that time, I have grown closer to the Lord, allowing him to guide me and listening to his voice. Recently, I started a Bible study in my home, and of course I began this website. I feel a real urgency to spread the Good News of the gospel, and I get so much joy out of creating my podcasts and inspirational movies. I hope you will find this site useful and a blessing.