God recently told me he wanted me to,
“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
Then I became sick. He also told me,
“…When you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” (Isaiah 43:2)
I grew up believing in Christ as far back as I can remember. My Mom recalls a conversation we had when I was about four…
I told her I remembered being on a bridge with God before I was born.
I had what many would call a “boring testimony”. I grew up a believer, strayed from church in college, and found my way back one day in my early twenties at Mars Hill Ballard. I read the Bible infrequently but had a good general knowledge of many of the stories. Even knew a few verses.
The last study I did before I got sick was on the attributes of God. Though I grew up knowing Him, I felt something was wrong with my understanding of his love. I proofed statements like, God is sovereign and God is loving, with scripture.
Unfortunately, I spent my life up until August 2012 worshiping a God that I believed loved me but also punished me whenever he wanted to. Like an abusive dad.
Reading scripture about God’s wrath and how he brings calamity further cemented this lie into my mind.
I could tell you I believed the Gospel. I did. I just couldn’t understand that God really loved me unconditionally, without stipulations.
God created me with a desire to steward the body He gave me, well. I actually believed I had control over my health. My greatest fear was, strange as it may sound, having digestive disease. I ate well, avoided undercooked foods, exercised, didn’t drink much, stayed away from drugs, took vitamins and so on.
My second pregnancy was hard. And my son, Gideon was premature. I believe this was because my health was failing.
I hadn’t realized how much I expected to be healthy.
I’m young therefore I’m healthy, I thought. Nineteen minutes after arriving at the hospital I was holding our sweet baby Gideon. It was a joyful time gazing into the eyes of my barely preemie, nearly eight pound boy. The nurses asked how I was feeling. I said I had a lot of pain in my upper right abdomen. They offered narcotics. I declined. I didn’t want to put that stuff in my body.
The pain continued.
I began to have difficulty digesting fat. I underwent a huge battery of tests and an irregular mass was found in my pancreas during a CT scan. Further imaging confirmed it wasn’t a fatty deposit or other benign mass. The weeks preceding my pancreas surgery I was very sick and restricted to a fat free diet. I was advised surgery was necessary because they couldn’t be certain that I didn’t have cancer.
Patients with pancreatic cancer have, at best, a five year post operative survival rate.
I prayed and told my husband I’d hope he’d re-marry. He would be a young widower and our boys would need a Mom. I prepared myself mentally for losing my long hair through radiation treatment. By God’s provision I went to Virginia Mason in Seattle, where they have a nationally recognized center of excellence in pancreatic surgery. The type of surgery I underwent is very rare and somewhat risky. But, my surgeon assured me whatever they ran into they would take care of. He said I would spend up to a week in the hospital then be just fine.
At that time I put a lot of faith in doctors, seeing them more as a god over my health.
I had surgery August 2, 2012 and two days later an artery from the surgical site pulled loose pumping blood into my intestines. I couldn’t sit up without blacking out. I signed an informed consent for a procedure I still don’t know the full name of.
The world around me became very quiet and I was rushed into a sterile room. I was given six units of blood, plasma and platelet’s. I lost about 2Liters of blood.
God saved my life through the hands of that surgical team!
I spent the next day in a Critical Care Unit. Because of the sensitive nature of what happened there I will just tell you, I was very humbled as I could not do even the most basic things for myself.
My surgeon had failed me, and my health had failed me too.
A lot happened between August 2012 and January 2013.
I spent nearly 100 days inpatient at Virginia Mason, developed sepsis a handful of times, an intestinal infection called c. diff., had stomach paralysis requiring all my nutrition through a PICC line, had my faith questioned, went through opiate withdrawal twice, developed blood clots in my liver so large that my liver and spleen swole until they could be easily felt through the front of my abdomen, fevers of 102 to 103.4 for weeks on end, round the clock vomiting for 5 days straight, medical wasting, stomach ulcers, oral thrush, passing blood, medically induced anorexia, spiritual attack, blood transfusions, severe anemia and the list goes on…
I was given more medications than I can count. I suffered. I cried out to God,
“How many fires must I go through? Jesus, bring me home.”
I was prayed over several times by our community group and Pastor Bubba and Pastor Aaron. Everyone I know was praying.
- So many of you prayed for our family.
- Churches of people I’ve never met prayed.
- Still the suffering continued.
- The doctors were perplexed by my case several times.
I learned what it means to have faith:
what it REALLY means to believe when you cannot see.
I cannot say I did it gracefully on my own, but, by GOD alone. He gave me faith. During the hospital stay when they found the first clot, I had been admitted with sepsis and c. diff.
A nurse assistant I had met during a previous hospital stay came to my room and said, “I had a dream about you. God told me He will heal you here,” and she placed her right hand over her upper right abdomen.
Then the doctors found a clot in my liver. Over the next few weeks I became very ill and the clot grew aggressively then replicated. The blood specialist told me that they could not figure out why the clots in my liver were growing rapidly and that I would die within three weeks. My liver would fail and my intestines would die. I was faced with the very clear reality that the vitamins I took couldn’t save me now and the doctors certainly couldn’t either.
But, God said He would.
I looked up to heaven and said, “Ok God.” and went to sleep.
The following day after weeks of blood cultures showing no infection, one culture did. The blood specialist came back to me to tell me I had a systemic strep infection. It is treatable, I would live. I praised Jesus.
The suffering continued for a while longer.
I learned that though I had faced death a few times, I hadn’t fought for my life. I just lay pitifully weak at the foot of the Cross.
At one point I told Jesus,
“If I vomit until I die, I will STILL praise your name.” It was then that He made the vomiting stop.
I can say my testimony includes walking through fire and not being burned.
The song by Unspoken, “Who You Are” explains it well…
”You refuse forgiveness like it’s something to be earned.
But sometimes pain’s the only way that we can learn.
You can never fall too hard, so fast, so far
that you can’t get back when you lost where you are.”
Before I became sick I would have thought God makes us suffer to teach us a lesson, as punishment even though that is inconsistent with the Gospel.
Jesus paid the price for my sin so I don’t have to. God isn’t mean. He loves me without stipulations.
I can also say that through horrendous physical, emotional and spiritual suffering; God showed me His perfect love.
I now know I am a participant in my health because God wants me to be, but, ultimately he will do whatever it takes for me to be still and know that He is God. Today I still have the clots in my liver. It turns out I grew extra veins to compensate for the blockages caused by the clots. I no longer depend on morphine and dilaudid to ease severe pain. Through the suffering I learned how deeply I need God more than anything else.
I saw that he waited until the circumstances were Impossible, to deliver me, so that there would be
NO DOUBT it was Him.
I will walk away from this. I am no more deserving of God’s grace than anybody else. Nothing I did or could possibly do would have caused my illness, or stopped it from happening. It’s not punishment. It’s not about me.
It’s ALL ABOUT JESUS!
And the mass on my pancreas, it turns out was benign and won’t reoccur. And it’s only found in women so my son’s won’t have it.
Today, my testimony is this: I am Alive because of Christ!
Thank you to the many people, who brought us meals, cleaned our house, watched our boys, supported us financially, prayed fervently and witnessed God’s grace. Thank you Mars Hill Church for walking along side our family. Most of all, thank you Jesus for your abounding grace. Amen.