My last post (which was a while ago, sorry!) mentioned my cousin, Ricky Wilson, who’s life was changed instantly when he suffered a stroke due to a brain aneurysm. Ricky was a senior in high school, completely healthy, with a bright future ahead. He has overcome every obstacle and was even able to participate in his high school graduation – even walked to get his diploma! But in this rollercoaster of life where the ups and downs can come without warning, Ricky is in the valley again; this time with painful kidney stones. Ricky’s father recently posted the following message in a social media page dedicated to prayers for Ricky:
“Well, I did it. I couldn’t help it. It came on like a flood …and I just couldn’t withstand it. I questioned God. And once it started, I couldn’t stop, so I questioned Him as I walked and cried from KKI to my truck at 6:00 this morning. I questioned Him for the entire drive from KKI to the Ronald McDonald House, and I wept. I questioned Him as I pillowed my head at almost 7:00 in the morning, after pulling an all-nighter in the ER with Ricky. I question Him. I can’t tell you how ridiculous I feel even telling you that. I questioned Him, who is Faithful and True. After all He’s done, I questioned Him.
On this new and beautiful day, I don’t question Him. I can’t. I shouldn’t. I won’t. There’s 10,000 reasons why, but here is the big one today…
He answered my question. In the stillness of my solitude, when all of the emotions I was feeling had subsided, He answered. That truth alone stirs my soul this day, that my great God answered me. He didn’t have to. His answer has made all the difference and I want to declare it to the world….
John 9:3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
Instead of doubting and questioning, I want the works of God to be made manifest, or known. God is doing something. He is working. And today, I praise His name, and I once again thank Him for who He is and for all He has done.
Psalm 107:31 Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!”
What beauty comes from some of our deepest pains.
John 9:3 has to be one of my favorite passages of scripture. I have been where Rick is and still have days where I question God and His plan. The past year has probably been the hardest one in my life yet. It’s truly been a battle of the mind, which is so much harder than I can ever truly express. I can preach positivity all day long, but I’ve been in the fire and I feel like a total failure. I was addicted to opioids. People hate to see me in pain but some seem shocked that I became addicted to pain pills. I became someone I didn’t recognize. I needed help, and I got it. This is literally the second day in… I can’t remember when, that I haven’t had any oxycodone. I’m still trying to take back the reigns of life and let go of my fears, though. Fear of the same issue coming back, fear of going back in the hospital, fear of pain so unbearable it’s hard to breath, fear of letting my family down, so many fears. But fear is not of God.
There was a recent discussion about the recent suicides of celebrities. People who seemingly had everything needed to “make it”: money, fame, success, sex, the best cars, the best houses… What more could you want? Nobody understands. I do. All the money in this world can’t satisfy when your heart is empty. You can only fill the void with alcohol and drugs for so long before you begin losing your mind. You can only hide your demons for so long before you have to unleash them – even if they slip out. People commented that “sometimes people just need to be thrown a lifeline.” That’s a nice thought, isn’t it? But we’ve already been handed one; it’s in the shape of a cross. The cross literally holds all human life together. Don’t believe me? Do a Google search for the term “laminin”. It’s a protein of the extracellular matrix, literally described as “a protein that holds the body together.” And it just so happens to be in the perfect shape of a cross. I don’t believe it’s just a coincidence.
I know what depression is because I have experienced it. I have more anxiety than I’d like to admit. Please seek professional help when needed, there is no shame in asking for medical intervention when there are chemical imbalances or you simply need a little relief. But the road to help shouldn’t stop there, for medication can only do so much. Please heed my words: when the Bible says to “put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil”, there is no greater form of protection you can have in this life. Psalm 73:26 says it all: My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Satan unfortunately doesn’t get tired in his mission to make children of God suffer, fear, doubt, and become completely incapable in furthering the Kingdom of Heaven – which is our most basic purpose in this life as believers. And Satan finally got to me. I was so cocky before last year’s battle began – I really thought I had this whole “life” thing down pat. Boy, was I wrong. But I’ve made the decision to stop living in defeat. And it’s hard. And I’ll have to make this decision every day I wake. But He’s worth it, and I’m done wasting this precious gift of life. I’m tired of screaming for help, I’m grabbing hold of the lifeline that’s always been right in front of me. “This is do or die. The time has come to make a choice, and I choose joy.”
I’m a thinker in case you haven’t noticed yet. My mind is constantly jumping from one topic to another, rarely pausing to rest in between. My thoughts keep me up at night unless I muzzle them with medications. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the human heart. The human body and organs are truly an amazing work of art. Did you know the heart pumps 2,000 gallons of blood through our bodies each day we’re alive? It is vital for life, yet it only weighs 7-15 ounces. It beats around 100,000 times a day, usually in perfect synchrony. The human heart begins beating only four weeks post conception. And some say all this just happened by chance? Think about that.
In my latest hospital stay I suffered from a very sudden “minor” heart attack, according to physicians. Since being admitted, my blood pressure was scary low – so much so that I couldn’t get any pain medicine for fear I would crash. Later the second night of my stay, my nurse was instructed to administer epinephrine – a drug given to help raise blood pressure to a stable number. We discovered very quickly that I am allergic to epinephrine. One second I’m carrying on with my mother and a visiting friend from church, the next I’m feeling like I was hit by a freight train. I looked at my sweet mother: “Mom, help! It’s my heart.” Looked over at my monitors and everything was crashing – my heart rate, my blood pressure, this was bad. Mom runs out in the hallway screaming for help, and so many people came rushing in: doctors, nurses, technicians, respiratory therapists… I had a large ICU room and it was full of staff. “Amber, are you OK?” “Amber, I need you to talk to me.” “Amber, tell me how you feel.” Asking all kinds of questions, all while barking orders to the others to administer meds, stop others, and put in a arterial line to monitor my heart rate and blood pressure on a second by second basis. I looked at my mom, my best friend, and she’s sobbing. She thought this was the end too. Everyone did. Dad and my pastor came immediately. I just can’t bare to see her so scared, so I did all I could do; “Mom! Look at me! Keep your eyes on me. I’m OK. I’m going to be OK.” Over and over and over I said those words while deep down I’m screaming “PLEASE DON’T TAKE ME HERE!! I’m not finished and I can’t leave my family!” It’s quite a surreal thing to have one foot in this world and one foot in the next, and still making the choice to stay down here and keep pressing on. It’s easy to quit, but it’s more rewarding to stay and fight. It took a while and felt even longer, but eventually they got me stabilized, and there was peace.
Like the heart, the human brain is just as much of an incredible organ – so incredible in fact that the most renowned scientists have only begun to scratch the surface in understanding all of the phenomenal abilities it possesses. The average person has around 70,000 thoughts per day. Contrary to popular belief, we use our entire brains rather than parts of it. The brain uses 20% of the total oxygen in the human brain, and when awake generates enough energy to power a light bulb. There are more brain neurons and neuron connections than there are stars in the entire universe. The brain processes information at an approximate speed of 268 miles per hours. You get the picture; the human brain is another amazing creation of God.
In a perfect world, the heart would always function perfectly, there would be no need for modern medicine, and the human brain would be absolutely limitless. Unfortunately, Thanks to Adam and Eve and the entry of sin into this world, we suffer from pain, sickness, disease, and other tragedies that God never meant for us to endure. However, in His goodness, God can take what Satan means for evil and use it for good if we trust Him.
My cousin is lying asleep now in a bed at the John Hopkins Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, recovering from a traumatic brain injury in which he had a stroke and a brain aneurysm. He’s a senior in high school who has also dedicated his life to sharing the message of hope through Jesus Christ. His chance of survival was next to nothing when he was brought in, but God has much bigger plans for Ricky, and through this trial God is being glorified and Ricky will learn to lean on God in a way he’s never had to before, making Him a true warrior and giving Him a very special relationship with his Heavenly Father that only some of us have the privilege of knowing.
The point I am trying to make here is that life is very fragile and can change literally in the blink of an eye. One minute everything is great; the next you get T-boned on your way to work, or disease enters your body, or your heart stops beating… And your life is changed forever. Are you ready to face the uncertainties of this life? Because in one blink everything can change. “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand” is true and I can testify to it. When the ground shatters beneath you, hold onto the hand of God and He will carry you through. It won’t be easy and it might not even end the way anyone wants, but I promise that going through Hell with God is much better than going it alone. Be prepared, friends. Take it from someone Satan loves to mess with: he can destroy your body and wreak havoc upon your mind, but if you have put your faith in Christ, at the end of it all you can still sing…
“When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul.”
Man, time flies. I’ve been in and out of the hospital over the past three months, suffering from serious stomach issues, then last week I broke my arm getting out of bed. My timing is impeccable! It’s hard to believe this Sunday is Easter. I am still healing so will be spending this Easter in my recliner not moving, which is best for now.
Several times over the last few months I have questioned why God has allowed me to be afflicted with such agonizing pain. I have gone through so many battles in this life, but I thought many times that this one would take mine. The Bible says that God collects our tears; His collection must be overflowing with mine.
We celebrate Easter to remember the sacrifice that the son of God gave so very long ago to save humanity from eternity in Hell if they believe. We remember the betrayal He felt when the people who cheered for Him one day demanded His death the next. We remember the pain He endured as His flesh was literally ripped off His bones with the worst kind of whips imaginable (more specifically a cat-of-nine-tails with pieces of sharp bone and metal attached to the ends). We remember how after His horrendous scourging, Christ was forced to carry a very heavy wooden cross a long way up to Calvalry alone until His body gave out completely. Then His hands and feet had 7-9 in. nails driven into them. Studies show that “the nail had to be driven in-between the bones of the forearm up close to the wrist while not severing any major arteries or veins. There is a space between eight small bones which is structurally suitable to permit a full body weight to be supported for a time.” Christ’s feet were together but turned outward, so the final nail was hammered inside the Achilles tendon. This was serious, grueling, agonizing, torture. His side was pierced and blood and water poured out of Him, ensuring His death many hours later. But three days later, the burial tomb was found empty (which was sealed with wax shut, by the way… Not to mention the stones usually used to seal tombs at the time weighed around 1-2 tons).
I tried to paint a picture here. Christ’s life was anything from a cakewalk. On the cross He cried out “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” If you only knew how many times I’ve cried out the same thing…. “Where are You, Father?” “I can’t handle any more.” Yet, just as God didn’t save Christ from the cross even when He couldn’t handle any more, He didn’t remove this huge thorn from my side. I went through so much in the hospital; blood pressure bottomed out, then had an allergic reaction to blood pressure medicine which gave me a minor heart attack. When I say I’ve seen death I’m not exaggerating. My vitals crashed because I couldn’t keep anything in my stomach. And I’ve been angry… Not necessarily at God, but at the situation. I don’t understand. I can preach all day about how faith can get you through anything, but when you’re in the fire and can’t find the savior it’s not so easy.
Jesus understands this feeling. I’m confident He felt the same on the cross. One thing Christ commanded His followers to do is to “remember me”. We must remember the price He paid so that we might live. But, unfortunately, we humans are rather stupid creatures who easily forget the past and thus need reminders. What if pain, heartache, and suffering are necessary reminders of what Christ did for us so we appreciate His ultimate sacrifice? What if trials are allowed to make us long for our Heavenly home where pain and heartache are no more? Maybe I’ve lost my mind. Maybe all my pain meds are messing with me, but I still believe in God’s will. I also believe that He makes everything beautiful in His perfect timing. Guess what? I’m finally healing. I’ve been feeling so bad for so long I thought healing was impossible, but it’s finally happening; slowly but surely. It’s just past 1:00am. Good Friday has just passed, though I’ve never understood why it’s called “Good Friday” since it’s a memory of such a terrible day. But Sunday’s coming! And as with everything, joy comes in the morning. I’m still fighting, and this time I’ll win. Just as my Jesus resurrected, He will raise me up again as He always has.
Happy Easter! He is risen!
After much consideration, I have decided to share a chapter from my book. Yes, I have written a book. It’s not published because it’s not finished and I’m still adding life events, but I have a book. Here is one chapter:
One of my favorite passages of scripture can be found in John 9:1-3:
Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.”
“Why do bad things happen to good people?”
This question plagues people worldwide, regardless of religious affiliation, race, age, or region. Why would a God of love let His children suffer? Does He even care? Is He listening to my prayers? There are just some things in this life that we will never be able to understand until we reach Heaven, and that’s OK. However, there are some things of which I am sure of:
God does care. He loves you more than you can fathom.
He hears every single prayer you say aloud and those you store inside your heart.
He answers every prayer, regardless of whether it’s the answer you want.
He is unpredictable, but His plans are perfect and He is good.
Let’s really examine this question of “Why do bad things happen to good people?” First, define good. What constitutes as a good person? Because according to scripture, none of us are good in comparison to the God of the universe. In fact, according to Isaiah 64, all of our righteous acts are like filthy rags. Do you know what “filthy rags” translates to? The term originates from the Hebrew root ‘ed for filthy and refers to results of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Disgusting, right? The point I am trying to make is that none of us are good to begin with, and so the question in essence is invalid. We are worthless, and yet God lovingly bestows grace on us time and time again. Also, if Jesus Christ, who was a perfect image of God made in flesh, had to face suffering Himself, what makes you think that you deserve better than Him?
See, as many already know, God’s original manuscript for mankind was a perfect utopia in which evil could not enter. The original version of man and woman, Adam and Eve, were created by God Himself to rule over the Garden of Eden, and they were given one commandment and dominion over everything else. Unfortunately, they chose to sin against God and blew their shot at a perfect and carefree life in face-to-face fellowship with God. That one act of eating from the forbidden tree brought sin into the world forevermore. It was not God’s fault in the least that mankind betrayed Him in going against His will and thus tarnishing the original concept of a perfect sin-free world, and once it was done it was done it couldn’t be undone.
The story of the origin of sin still doesn’t help you cope when you’re in the middle of a storm, though. When your child has just been diagnosed with Leukemia, you don’t want to hear Bible stories or philosophies on why this tragedy is happening. Life is not always logical, and we as humans are not able to see the bigger picture because we are not God. We are too blind to realize that every trial that comes into our lives is simply a new opportunity for us to strengthen our faith and encourage others. I heard a quote once that went something like this: life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.
I don’t know why bad things happen to good people, but I believe that if I wasted precious time searching for the answer, I would miss out on some great blessings God has given me. Life is so much better when I accept the inevitable, give God all my heartache to God, and enjoy life to the fullest. I have a horrible disease, but I love my life because of the joy I have. People that go through hell on earth and come out victoriously are the ones who have unshakable faith. When coal is forced through levels of extremely high heat, diamonds are formed. You’re a diamond, darling – now is your time to shine.
I don’t understand why I’m suffering, going through the hardest trial of life thus far. I don’t understand why we can’t find the answers to help me find relief yet. But I still believe in the omnipotence and sovereignty of God, even when all seems lost. I watched “The Star” tonight – GREAT movie, by the way – and I particularly loved when the Mary character sad “just because God has a plan doesn’t mean it will be easy.” Man, what a true statement that is. I don’t have the answers to my questions of why, but sometimes the only thing that holds me together is holding to the promise that God has not forsaken me even in the darkest nights.
I don’t enjoy the majority of sports. They just seem silly to me. People chasing a ball around or pummeling each other seems barbaric to me. Don’t get me started on NASCAR. While I love that my own parents get such enjoyment out of it, I still hold to the sarcastic definition of NASCAR: non-athletic sport centered around red-necks. Sorry guys, but I love you so. Basketball is the one sport that I tolerate/kind of like and that’s only because my brother played it in high school and I volunteered as our team’s official water girl (or “high quality H2O deliverer!”). Wrestling and boxing seem sadistic to me; why would you risk your life and endanger the lives of someone else’s for money? And how disturbing is it that people actually pay money to watch this game of cat and mouse? No thank you, I’ll read a book.
I just don’t get the whole point of wrestling, which is ironic considering I’m in a match myself. My opponent: Lucifer. We’ve been going round and round for twenty-seven years now. Every time in the past I’ve come out victorious thanks be to God; sure, maybe some scratches and bruises……. A trach, a ventilator…. Big things, but things I could always bounce back from. Nothing could steal my joy. I had actually grown rather prideful in this aspect. “I can handle anything he throws at me”, I’d tell myself, and I believed it too. I didn’t realize that God had carried me through every trial. On my own I am capable of nothing.
I have been having serious stomach problems for quite a while – about two years if I’m being honest. Over the past six months it’s gotten increasingly worse. Tomorrow will be two weeks I’ve been an inpatient at Johns Hopkins Hospital. I’ve had two surgeries to try to repair an open hole in my stomach which causes unimaginable pain both inside and on the surface. The last surgery I had was supposed to completely seal the hole to keep stomach contents from pouring out of me. I haven’t been able to keep food/drink or any other forms of nutrition down for weeks now. Once admitted, they discovered I was showing signs of starvation. This past Wednesday I had a central line (aka a Hickman line) successfully placed. A Hickman line can be described as a semi long-term intravenous catheter placed in the chest that can be used for IV medication administration and nutrition administration. I had a new groundbreaking surgery done last week where surgeons sewed the skin, stomach lining, and stomach muscles together to close the hole and keep stomach contents from leaking out. Though this surgery had only been done on six people before me, five had been successful and so I was hopeful. Two days after the surgery, my stomach started leaking: the surgery failed. And my world was unraveling. Nothing was working. The pain wasn’t easing. I officially felt hopeless. This pain is excruciating, and the pain medicine has made my GI tract stop working which is a whole other problem in itself. It has not helped that my regular medications are all messed up, making me highly emotional.
Normally when Satan shouts lies to me I can easily ignore them, but I’ve been through so much the past two weeks that I’m very weak in every way imaginable. My jaw’s been sore from endoscopies, I literally look like I’ve been in the ring with a champion what with all the bruises covering my body. Moving is very painful. And so when the enemy says things like “they’re missing something” or “you won’t make it through this one”, with my heart unarmed I began to believe him. Day after day, complication after complication, I was beginning to loose myself. I was crying all the time. I was loosing my joy. I was loosing my will to fight this round. And that was a very dangerous place for me to be in my position, because mental stability can make or break you when your mind is the only thing you can control.
I was in one of the darkest places I’ve ever been in, and I was scared. I tried to find blessings around me because I knew I was headed down a very slippery slope. Ultimately it wasn’t hard to find them: the floor clerk who’s a Christian (and absolutely hilarious!) stopped by to cheer me up. Then my new friend and floor custodian stopped by to make me an animal out of towels like he does every day. Then I got flowers from a dear friend. I am loved. I have a purpose. I will fight and I will win. I am stronger than I think I am because God is within me. I will make it through this.
Life is hard. It is not fair – God never said it would be. He did say He would be with us every step of the way, though. It can’t always be sunshiney outside, we need rain. It’s cold and dreary, sure, but without rain there would be no flowers, and flowers bring beauty to life. These one-on-one battles with Satan do the same thing to our lives.
I am still in the hospital. I still can’t eat. I’m still in pain. But today I got up in a wheelchair and rode around my floor. I will Lord willing go home very soon. And I will come out victorious. If you’re going through something harder than anything you’ve ever imagined, you can win too. Just don’t give up.
Much love. Please keep me in your prayers.
To believe is to place one’s trust in someone or something. You can believe in a being or place even if they can’t be seen by human eyes, though skeptics call this foolishness. Children believe in the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny. Some believe in parallel universes and extra terrestrial beings. I believe in a God who came to earth several millennia ago just so He would understand my pain and die a horrendous death only to be resurrected so that today, here, and now, I could know Him. I’m delusional, some say. “Whatever helps you deal with life”, others say. I don’t think I can ever explain the depth of my relationship with God, but it’s not hard to believe in Him – it’s not hard to love Him. To quote one of my favorite Christmas movies, The Santa Clause , “seeing isn’t believing; believing is seeing.” I have seen the hand of God at constant work in my life. Talk to any physician specializing in my diagnosis and they’ll tell you there is no medical answer as to how I’m still alive and am the most functioning patient they have. Why is it that some (not all) terminal patients who believe in a higher power have a higher quality of life as well as a longer life expectancy? There are scientific studies on this, look it up. And I know what some are thinking: how can she love God in her condition? My question to that is, how can I not?
To believe in God is one thing. Many people, if asked, will say that they do believe in God. It’s a whole other thing to believe that God is good; but take it one step further and choose to believe God is good to me. Or you. Because He is, and if we only open our eyes to see His unyielding grace, the act of believing is as easy as the act of breathing (says the girl on the ventilator. HA! Anyway, you get the picture.). It is then obvious that God is faithful and in control of all. And in believing, we are given a sense of purpose and peace, even when trials come. Everything happens for a reason if you believe in a sovereign God.
The year 2017 was a very difficult one for me, filled with more pain than I can say. I thought 2016 was rough, but it was a cake walk compared to this past year, which I truly feel was harder than the previous fifteen years combined from a medical perspective. I used to boast that I can handle anything, and Satan has sure enough put that to the test. I can’t count the number of nights I’ve cried myself to sleep from the pain. I don’t understand the reason for this current storm, but I’m certain that one day I will. Come Hell or high water I believe in the goodness of God and will persevere. I will be going to John Hopkins Medical Center tomorrow morning for surgery to move my feeding tube to a different location in my stomach in hopes of relieving severe pain that I’ve been dealing with for several months. We have tried every other option and nothing has worked. Nevertheless, I still believe God will bring deliverance as He always has.
In a world where people refuse to believe that which they cannot see and don’t value their fellow man, believing is a difficult practice to exercise. People are cruel and demeaning and enjoy crushing the spirit of believers, but the ones who remain steadfast in following Christ shall be rewarded in eternity. Life is hard but God is good, and He takes care of His children like the good father He is. Hold fast, dear one, for some day, you will look back on all God has brought you through and smile knowing there is no better place to be than in His will. Did God promise to never leave those who love Him? Did He promise to strengthen the weak? Did He promise to make you shine like the sun and hold you in the palm of His hand? Yes He did. And if God said it, you can believe it.
Until next time!