God finally gave me an answer to my prayer…in His time
After all of the doctors we pursued came back to me empty-handed, with no answer or direction to offer me, my loving, caring Mom took it into her own hands to find an answer (she, my Dad, and Heath were just as consumed with finding an answer and a cure as I was). She completed countless hours of research and stayed up many a night in search of a solution. She was convinced I had Lyme disease and encouraged me to pursue a Lyme disease diagnosis. It took a lot of convincing because no doctor even mentioned Lyme disease as a possibility over the years and certainly did not test for it. But, we reached the end of a long line of doctors and still didn’t have a solution, so why not?
After much searching for a Lyme-literate doctor (it is a process, and there are very few doctors who specialize in Lyme disease), God blessed me with a Lyme-literate, holistic physician in Oklahoma City. She pursued a treatment-first approach, in which she treated me for Lyme disease since my symptoms supported the theory, and if it worked, we could assume I had it (at that time, the blood tests available for chronic Lyme disease were not very accurate and there was a strong possibility it would come back as a false negative). This was not exactly the clear-cut answer I had been praying for, but I’d take it. It turns out, my mom was right! She found the answer I had been searching for all those years, an answer no doctor was able to give me! For the first time in years, my health improved. I started to get my life back. I started to get off of the couch!
Just as I was making good progress – and in large part because I was making good progress – we took a leap and moved to North Carolina to begin a new chapter. We really felt God calling us here, so we came, and now looking back, we’re only beginning to discover the many reasons He has us here. Y’all, I can’t say it enough…God is always working, and He is always good. After we settled into our new life on the East Coast, it became increasingly difficult for my physician, who was now half the country away, to effectively treat me. I’m not gonna lie, when she told me she could no longer treat me and asked me to find a new practitioner in my area, I felt abandoned and let down—hopeless yet again…but not for long…God was at work again!
A new friend of mine introduced me to her friend, who invited me to a conference that I uncharacteristically agreed to attend. At the conference, I “just so happened” to sit next to a woman undergoing Lyme disease treatment with a holistic physician she loves and has had great success with. Hmmm…sounds like God at work, huh?! This woman gave me her doctor’s business card, and low and behold, I became a patient of hers too! This practitioner is an incredible Christian woman who is in tune with the Holy Spirit, who speaks Truth to us, and who prays with us! Since I’ve been seeing her, I have gotten even more of my life back, and in November 2017, I finally received the official diagnosis I had been praying for for 6 ½ years—Lyme disease plus 5 co-infections of Lyme (ticks are nasty little bugs that don’t just carry 1 disease), all of which were still active and wreaking havoc in my body.
For the first time in a very long time, I have hope for remission, and I have 6 months to 1 year left of treatment to get me there. Even if true healing never comes, and if how I’m feeling now is my “new normal,” I’m gonna be okay because my hope is anchored in Jesus. I believe that He is good, He is love, He is faithful, He is working everything out for my good, and therefore, all is well.
Unanswered prayers aren’t a bad thing at all.
My unanswered prayers for all of those years have produced incredible fruit in my life. I understand now what Paul meant when he said in 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10: “…and then He told me, ‘My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.’ Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” (MSG)
Along the same vein as the above verse, have you heard the Scarssong by I Am They? It is beautiful, and I highly recommend listening to it! I just heard it yesterday on the radio, and something in my Spirit told my ears to perk up. Have you ever had that happen…you’re driving down the road listening mindlessly to the radio and then all of a sudden, the words become so clear, and God speaks a sweet word straight to your heart? He does that for me through music, and He did it again with this song yesterday. I was touched deeply by the song, so I Googled the video with lyrics. Here’s the first verse and chorus:
“We came up to a new sunrise
Looking back from the other side
I can see now with open eyes
Darkest water and deepest pain
Wouldn’t trade it for anything
‘Cause my brokenness brought me to You
And these wounds are stories You’ll use
So I’m thankful for the scars
‘Cause without them I wouldn’t know Your heart
And I know they’ll always tell of who You are
So forever I am thankful for the scars”
I bawled like a baby listening to it again and letting the words wash over me. Taking this time to process my last 8 years (something I honestly haven’t taken the time to do because I haven’t wanted to for fear that it would be too painful) has been so sweet. I’ve had the opportunity to go beyond the pain, the dark days, the hopelessness to see, remember, reflect on, and be thankful for all of the good things that have come out of my illness.
I want to share a few of them with you.
If it wasn’t for my illness, I would’ve missed out on countless opportunities to see and experience God, to let Him be my provision, to let Him show up and awe me, to let Him love me and care for me as His adored daughter! Y’all, God is our PERSONAL God, and He delights in us! What He allows to happen shapes us, molds us, transforms us, draws us closer to Him.
I never would have experienced the power of prayer—there is nothing more sacred or powerful or holy than someone interceding for you while holding your hands and entering into your pain. There is nothing more special than someone believing healing and miracles for you when you didn’t believe them for yourself. Because someone did that for me, I’ve been able to do that for others.
I never would have learned how God’s strength can become my own if I hadn’t been ill. I am reminded of the story of the Israelites in the desert after fleeing from Egypt (Exodus 16). They had to rely on God DAILY for manna, for nourishment, for His provision. Like the Israelites, daily, deep dependence on God became the norm for me just to get out of bed most mornings. But you know what? He came through for me, day in and day out. He heard my cries and my prayers. His strength truly became my own. I often found myself driving home from work or at the end of a long day thinking, “Wow! That wasn’t me…that was God! Only HE could’ve gotten me through today!”
I never would have learned of His incredible provision for me had it not been for my journey. Jesus provided for me every day, not only strength, but resources and people. He provided ways for us to pay my bills that poured in—through the generosity of family and friends at work who graciously held fundraisers for me. He provided me with the love of family and community—people who were wiling to pour into me, even when I had nothing to give back to them. People brought meals (my sweet sister and friend Heather were the best at creatively cooking around all of my various dietary needs of any given day!) and sent cards and care packages, prayed for me, cried with me, sat with me and encouraged me. My parents sacrificed so much to take me to appointment after appointment all over the country and were there for all of my surgeries and the ugly aftermaths of them. It killed them not to be able to cure me or make me well or find the answers, but what they’ve done for my soul and heart are beyond words and beyond my gratitude. My sister and her family provided pet sitting for every trip we took while I was sick. They gave us peace of mind to not have to worry about our fur babies when we were worried about everything else. My sister even drove hours to pick up our pups and to bring them back to us. And Heath—he’s more than held up his end of our vows for the last 8 of our 11 married years. He has done things for me and seen things and experienced things that no husband should ever have to. He stuck by my side and showed me true love, unconditional love, a love I am so blessed to know. He’s shown me deep compassion and dedication. He was there for me every moment, every appointment, every trip, every surgery. He joined me on the couch night after night when I didn’t have the strength to go out. He cried with me in the middle of the night. He prayed with me when I was scared. He bathed me when I didn’t have the strength to move my arms.
I never would have grasped the idea of “anchored hope” or of true joy. This is the most valuable lesson Jesus has taught me through my illness, and a message I want to proclaim to you: our hope should be in NO THING and NO ONE other than JESUS! He’s the ONLY ONE who will not let us down. Waves can crash over us, life can crumble all around us, our bodies can fall apart, medications can make us sicker, doctors can come up empty-handed, but if Jesus is the HOPE that ANCHORS us, these things will not phase us like they did me during my illness. So if I can offer one thing to you, it’s JESUS! Keep your eyes focused on HIM and Him only and you have nothing to fear, nothing that can let you down, nothing that can leave you utterly hopeless.
I’ve been writing this post through tears streaming down my face, through ugly cries and gasps. Looking back at all of these moments, memories, hard times and good, I truly am thankful for my scars. I am thankful for my journey. I am thankful for the good fruit God produced from a seemingly terrible situation. God showed up and showed me His heart.
And thank You, Lord, for Yourtime and not mine. As you can see, if I had gotten my way 8 years ago, I’d still be the same person I was back then, unchanged, my heart untouched, and without this testimony to share. Although in those years things got dark and looked bleak, my situation appeared hopeless, and I often wondered whether or not I’d make it though, God knew what He was doing all along. I’ll leave you with the chorus of the Defendersong I mentioned last week, which speaks of God’s goodness and sovereignty and of His heart for us (even when what we perceive is bad and painful):
“Hallelujah You have saved me
So much better Your way
Hallelujah Great Defender
So much better Your way”
Thank you for taking the time to read about how Christ has undone me. If my journey sounds like something you’re going through and I can be of help to you, please let me know! I would invite you to click ‘Connect’ at the top of the page so I know who you are. I would love to come alongside you, as others (and Jesus Himself) have done for me.
Anchored in Him, Ash