I was recently asked to share my testimony at a women’s retreat at my church. Although public speaking is not my thing I felt as if the Lord would have me to share of the great things he’s done in my life. I thought I’d share it here as well.
I grew up in a loving, Christian home in Harrisonburg, VA. Although we had our share of problems, my parents were faithful and taught me the Truth of the Gospel from an early age. The Lord called me to Salvation at the age of 8 when I realized that my sin deserved God’s wrath and that a relationship with Jesus Christ was the only way to be reconciled to a Holy God.
The Lord continued to grow me into a passionate believer in my teenage years. My greatest times of growth were when I stepped out from under the safety and comfort of my parents home (which I found difficult) and went on a 3 month missions trip at the age of 16 and then when I went away to college. These challenging times were where I began to understand what it meant to rely on Christ.
The Lord used my college years at Liberty (where I majored in Vocal Music) to challenge and build me up in His word through a better knowledge of Scripture and through numerous Godly peers / professors He placed in my path. I met Keith during my junior year in a New Testament backgrounds class. I had been praying for and desired a husband who was full of passion for the Lord and along came this energetic, passionate, and spunky man who kept asking me to join his study group. I’d like to say that my knowledge of Hellenistic kingdoms really caught his attention but his version is a little different (you’ll have to ask him for that). Needless to say we were married the year following graduation and were off to seminary after being married a week. We quickly adapted to life in Louisville, KY and were blessed with an amazing church family at Third Ave. Baptist church.
The plan was for me to help put Keith through seminary and I began working as an administrative assistant when things suddenly changed. I came down with mono, an infection that most people fully recover from, but for me this wasn’t the case. After a few months of intense fatigue and weakness, I began to black out while standing and noticed my heart rate was twice as fast as normal. I tried to continue working but couldn’t. I often felt in a fog and disconnected from my surroundings. After laying on the floor in the grocery store a couple of times we decided to see if something more was going on with my body. It was a scary time and definitely stressful being newlyweds and in a new city. After numerous tests, we learned that the virus had damaged my autonomic nervous system and I was diagnosed with POTS syndrome, a form of Dysautonomia. One difficulty of POTS is that people tell me I look rested and healthy but I’m usually feeling dizzy and fatigued. While receiving a diagnosis was helpful, there is no cure. A few medications improve a couple of the symptoms but it’s a condition that often causes major lifestyle changes. Naps, water, salt and chairs became crucial tools to help me make it through the day without passing out. This was an emotional time for Keith and I as everything we had been planning on was being turned upside down.
Many people with POTS improve greatly within 3-5 years of diagnosis, but apart from a miracle from the Lord, it’s looking more and more like this will be a lifelong battle for me. I was never able to return back to work as basic tasks such as taking a shower or fixing dinner drained my energy and I continued to require daily naps. We waited 7 long years hoping that I would improve enough to have children. After that time we decided to step out in faith and rely on the brothers and sisters in Christ that the Lord surrounded us with to help us to care for a child if the Lord so blessed. Praise God, He allowed this miracle in Lillian 2 years ago. This September will mark 9 years of living with Dysautonomia and the Lord has worked in mighty ways. I’d love to tell you about a few (5) of these:
1. The first thing the Lord helped me to see is that I can bring Him glory even while resting. Early on, I especially battled feelings of worthlessness and wondered how this could be the Lord’s plan. Wouldn’t I bring Him more glory if I were full of energy and out doing things for Him? I am slowly learning that the Lord is pleased with my trust in what He’s done for me, rather than what I do for Him. I realized that if I submitted to His perfect plan for me and faced weakness with the correct attitude, that I could bring Him just as much glory. This realization led to my next battle.
2. I am called to Contentment. I am thankful that I can bring the Lord glory but have had to go to battle with my sin in order to rest in His perfect plan for me. Jeremiah Burroughs calls contentment the “inward submission of the heart.” I have had many seasons where discontent has crept it’s way in my heart and I’m realizing this will be a lifelong battle. One of the quickest ways to an unsettled soul and discontent is to compare myself to others. I’m slowly learning that no good comes out of these comparisons. Since I believe in the goodness of my Heavenly Father, I must also believe that His plan for me will ultimately bring about the most good. As John 15 explains, His pruning will bear more fruit.
Although I couldn’t read for the first 3 years after my diagnosis, as my brain was just too foggy, in the Lord’s mercy I’ve been able to read again during most evenings. In addition to Scripture, the Lord has used the writings of Jeremiah Burroughs and Jonathan Edwards to help show me where my heart should be.
3. The 3rd way the Lord has changed me through this trial is by showing me that living in dependence is a blessed state. I am forced to rely on my Father daily for the physical and Spiritual strength to persevere. I now see this as God’s blessing as I am sure I would fall into prideful self-reliance if it weren’t for this trial. I am amazed by the Lord’s loving hand in my life and how he protects His children.
4. The 4th way the Lord has worked through this trial is I now see Heaven as my true home. I used to actually fear Heaven and avoided thinking about its reality. The Lord has miraculously turned my fears and hesitations about Heaven into a true daily longing and is helping me to live with more of an eternal perspective.
5. The 5th way the Lord has worked is that He has used this to change and soften both Keith and I. Keith is quick to tell people that the Lord has been working on him and making him more merciful during these years. We believe that my illness was an instrument of God in equipping Keith to be a pastor. We pray that our children will have an unusual sensitivity to those who are weak and that the Lord would even use this to draw them to Himself in Salvation.
It’s been difficult and will continue to be, but the Lord is faithful and has carried us through while comforting and giving us strength. It is in His perfect promises that I am resting and finding the grace to persevere. I pray that the Lord will in some way be glorified and that I will be found faithful to the end. He is worthy!