It is Well With My Soul: Hope in the Healer When Healing Doesn’t Come

This past April marks one year since I stumbled into the ER, body trembling, muscles rigid, with a steady decline in coherency. Just days before I had started on an anti-depressant. I was in one of the darkest times of my life. Like I was swimming in the dark with no end in sight–no air, lungs burning, and hopelessness weighing me down like an anchor.

It seemed like an ill-fitting answer to prayer, that just two days later after begging to want to live, I was facing death.

It was just over a year ago that I sat in yet another doctor’s office as she sat on a stool, clipboard in hand, with a diagnosis of Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome.

Everything she said after that faded out until the only thing I could hear was the rapid beating of my own heart pounding in my ears. At some point, she handed me a sheet of paper with a list that stretched from the tip-top of the page all the way down to the bottom.
A bullet point list of all the things I would need to do every day in order to get my condition stabilized.

Bullet point after bullet point, my eyes scanned the page as we made our way out to the car on a blistering hot day.

One after another,
like bricks set in mortar,
I felt exhaustion hit me as each item on that list thickened the barrier between me and normalcy.

And thus began the process of putting my life back together after it had crumbled down.

I haven’t written very much in the last year, aside from a few posts produced right after leaving the hospital. I have wondered why writing has become such a difficult task. Something I have to fight for. Something that doesn’t really feel right anymore. And I think I figured it out…

I cannot tell a story that is fake. I cannot write words that do not echo what is within my heart. But I also haven’t really wanted to tell this story…

…how do I tell this story in all its ugly, splintered truth, when it isn’t the story I wanted to begin with?

This story isn’t what I ever imagined mine would be.
And I think I’ve been waiting for the story to reach some kind of resolution before telling it. I’m waiting for the melody to reach a crescendo so that it can fall back down peacefully, leaving the audience with the order and precise finish of the piece. Because there has to be a better ending than this, right? Surely it can’t end with, “and she lived the rest of her life in pain”?

What do you do when God doesn’t flip the script the way you think He’s going to? The way you’ve been begging and begging Him to?

I didn’t leave the hospital in April 2022, and bounce back to the life I had before or really anything close to it.

Chronic illness was the dissonant chord that struck my life, one that has not, and most likely will not, resolve. The melody, of course, plays on, despite being a little off-beat; despite the dissonance that leaves a lingering sense of unease in the pit of one’s stomach.

Every day holds some variation of pain–always.
Some are worse than others. But it’s always there.
And every day is spent minimizing my pain; managing my symptoms.
And I have struggled with bitterness in that.

I’ve struggled with all that I have lost to this illness that I am not promised recovery from–that will most likely stay with me my whole life. I mourn the times I’ve had to decline outings with friends because I knew if I went out, I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed for days afterward. That was the hardest part in the beginning–the missing out. Adjusting to a new way of living my day-to-day.
But as time has ticked by, reality has shifted to a different perspective, and suddenly there are things ahead that I hadn’t thought about before when all I could see were missed events and canceled date nights.

Because there is simply so much that is unknown about this debilitating condition.

It’s easy to spend my days wondering.
What if I regress back to the state of complete dysfunction I was in before?
What will my marriage look like during longer-term flare-ups, when my husband has to support us financially and physically?

And then the even scarier, twists-your-heart-until-it’s-bruised kind of questions…

What if I can’t have children?
Will I get to be a mom one day?
What if I have children, but am too sick to be the kind of mom I want to be?

It feels like I’ve been trying for so long to figure out how to live this new kind of life, and I still feel like I’ve only just begun to figure out the routines and rhythms necessary to function at my best.

But then again, doesn’t it seem like that is the rhythm of life? That the moment we think we’ve found reassuring restfulness in navigating less-than-ideal circumstances is the exact moment we’re thrown off beat all over again?

But I realized something as I looked back at the weeks leading up to my hospitalization from last year.
I asked God to make me want to live.
And I’ve never wanted to live more.
My prayer did not go unanswered.
This chronic illness–it’s not a punishment or a curse.
It saved me from myself. It has forced me into humility as I have had to accept new limitations–physically and mentally. It has instilled in me compassion and gratitude that I wouldn’t have without it.

This story doesn’t have an ending yet. I don’t know where it’s going. Truth be told, the past few weeks have been wearisome as I’ve battled one of the worst flare-ups I’ve had this year. But it has forced me to trust the Lord with my family’s future. He has walked with me through the fire, through deep waters.

Sometimes, I find myself wanting Jesus to be my telescope instead of my compass. He promises to guide me, direct me, stay with me as I walk through every valley, and that’s fine and everything, but I just want to scan the horizon so that I can know where I’m headed and–more importantly–what’s headed towards me.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you”

-Isaiah 26:3

A mind stayed on Him is a mind steadied, a soul stilled.
His Word–His promises–guide me like a compass through every minute of uncertainty, of pain, of disappointment, of overwhelm.
I have found that even in the most unsteady of circumstances, what remains at the end of the day is the truth that He is always faithful.

Faithful to always provide me with the grace and strength, moment-to-moment. Even when I feel the debilitating pain seep into my bones, stretching its way through my muscles and joints. Even when I do all the things I am supposed to do–take the medications, follow the right nutrition and exercise plan…

I have checked off all the items on that bullet-point list for as many days as humanly possible for over a year now, and still, there are days when I can’t even get out of bed.

Even in my best attempts, I cannot escape a broken world, where bodies ache and break, and hearts are bruised by gut-punch “what-ifs,” and questions that knot up my stomach in the middle of the night. Coming to terms with that has been anything but easy.

I can often be found chasing perspective.
I will unravel myself until I can find purpose in my pain.
But sometimes… pain simply is.
And the story–the song–of my pain does not need to be put into poetic words for it to still matter, for it to have purpose, for God to be good. And I, in my pain, do not need to be a poet to matter, to have purpose, and for God to still be good.

Sometimes, the only perspective to be found is the kind found on our knees, wounded and bleeding hands wrapped around a bitter cup of suffering, right next to our Savior, The One who knows, more than anything, the bitter taste of sorrow. Sometimes, all I have to say to Jesus is that I’m tired. I’m in pain. I’m overwhelmed. I’m confused. And He listens, just as His Father listened to Him, and He weeps with me, for me; He folds His scarred hands over mine.
I want to cling to the fringe of His garment; lie in the healing power of His shadow, and beg Him to remove the pain. And I do.
But still, the cup remains.
Yet, so does my Savior.
No matter how dark the darkness gets, no matter the clouds that roll in, and no matter how deep the valley gets, still He remains firmly by my side. Not once abandoning me in my despair.

You see, I’m no longer waiting to be healed.
That isn’t to say I don’t pray to be healed, or ask daily that God strengthen my body and help it to function; to give me the energy I need for the day; to give me the grace I need to handle the pain. I do.
And I believe He does.
He gives me good days–sometimes good weeks, good months. And maybe, yes, maybe, one day I will wake up and realize my body has indeed been healed.

But it is no longer something I’m waiting on so that I can begin living.
I don’t know if this is something God will take from me this side of Heaven.
But I do know that His power is made perfect in my weakness, and in my weakness is where I find strength.

I wanted to want to live.
Now I do.

And through my chronic illness–through my disability–I have the unique opportunity to empathize and encourage those in trials.

My hope is not in a change in circumstance, it does not rest on an ending I am satisfied with.

My hope–true Hope–lies within knowing and believing that His promises are true, and that they will be fulfilled. Because it is only through Him that there is any satisfaction to be found.

I don’t know what you’re waiting on. I don’t know the limitations you face, be it a physical disability, struggles with mental health, financial stress, a broken heart, or simply a worn-out soul searching for a bit of peace. I don’t know what kind of ending you’re hoping for or what kind of “I-never-wanted-this” story you’re living.

Your hope can be found today, not in what you wish would happen, but in what He wills and promises to fulfill.

There is much to be told of this story God has been writing. I’ve avoided writing it because I had hoped for so long that the trajectory of the plot would shift a little. But I think I can write about it now because I think the humility of my disability has enabled me to see a life beyond getting the ending I wanted and instead rejoicing in the present, and in the gifts He has given me now.

Like wildflowers, I collect each blooming blessing and tuck them between the bricks of the wall I once saw as a prison, but now see as a canvas upon which buckets and buckets of grace can be poured out, turning it into a mosaic of unexpected miracles.

My gaze has shifted from the horizon to The Son.
It’s not about the healing anymore.
It’s about knowing the Healer.
Pain colliding with Peace;
hurt with Hope;
loss with Light;
all tied up with grace that always,
at the end of every broken, defeating day, sustains me.

Slowly, steadily, no matter the condition of my body, I find a soul made well.

“When peace like a river attendeth my way;
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, You have taught me to say:
‘it is well, it is well with my soul.'”

Anna Ferrill

What it Really Means to Have Courage

In, 2, 3, 4. Out, 2, 3, 4. 
Chest rising like a barely-whispered prayer to the sky. 
Breathe in, 2, 3, 4, and out, 2, 3, 4. 
I try to take into account my body and ground myself, but my body is the very thing keeping me from being grounded. 

My body is a catatonic air balloon that pulls my soul up, up, up into the atmosphere. One arm has a blood pressure cuff and the other an IV. The familiar—albeit uncomfortable—hospital blanket is scrunched up in a pile at the foot of my bed because seizures make my body feel like it’s on fire. 

I tell myself over and over again to breathe. 
My head and stomach lurch as the world around me spins out—dimensions shift and the very ground upon which I wish I could walk loses integrity and I find myself falling, falling, down, down, down. 
I force air into my lungs, but it only makes the fire inside grow hotter and it seems there is nothing I do to fix a problem that doesn’t create another problem. 

The spinning in my head slows and I see the people surrounding my bedside. To my right, my pastor grips my hand—or rather, I grip his—holding on for dear life, a steadying force in this raging wildfire. 
I look into his eyes, then the eyes of my friend, and finally the eyes of my mother. Then the world goes dark. 

Since that hospital stay, I’ve been grappling for courage. 
Whatever that looks like. 

When I think of courage, my mind drifts to knights in moon-silver armor, triumphing over their enemies, running towards that which most people run from to save someone.

I wish I could do that. 

There is no doubt in the knights’ courage as they run toward dragons and dreadful castles guarded by even more dreadful monsters. But I think that in times of suffering, it is also an act of courage to be the one waiting in said dreadful castle guarded by dreadful monsters—watching from a tower as your only hope for salvation plunges into the thick of danger, hoping and praying they make it through to the other side alive (or without giving up and turning back altogether). 

It takes great strength to be weak. 

It takes a certain kind of bruised and broken to break open one’s soul and pour out its contents in raw vulnerability. To wait when we want to run. 

I don’t like waiting. 
I don’t like watching. 
I don’t like being trapped and dependent on someone—something—else to rescue me. 
In so many ways it would be easier to don myself in armor and take up my own fight. But I can’t. My head cannot lift itself off this pillow, let alone my arms lift a sword. My legs cannot withstand the weight of my body, let alone carry me through to the other side. The reality sets in like a heavy rock in my stomach. 

I cannot save myself. 

And then I think I catch a glinting glimpse of understanding across this cracked and crooked soul. 
Have courage, Dear Heart. 
Have courage and let go. 
Have courage and ask for help. 
Have courage and wait. 

Gather courage as one gathers wildflowers—not stopping to count the petals or measure the length of each stem, but a joyful, bountiful, bringing in of beauty with no regard for what beauty is. I gather these wildflowers—this courage—and clutch these fistfuls of bravery and strength to my chest. I breathe in the scent of soul-healing hope… and I wait. 

Where are you seeking courage? 
Perhaps it is to be found in an unlikely place. 
Maybe, gathering courage looks a lot like giving up. 
But isn’t that the way of Jesus? To go against what is typical, predictable, or expected?

Courage isn’t always the crescendo to the grand symphony of our lives. It does not always lead us to higher places or leave us with tales of victory. 
Sometimes, courage is letting your Love untie your sneakers when your shaking hands cannot.
Sometimes, courage is admitting you need help, that you’re drowning and you need a life preserver. When you need someone to bare this burden alongside you. 
Sometimes, courage is realizing that being dependent instead of independent is actually the harder of the two. 

Sometimes, courage comes softly. 
Not like the rise and catastrophic fall of a wave. 
But the gentle, nudging laps of water that come in after a storm. 

Sometimes courage is found at the bottom of the well we call endurance. 

After we’ve extrapolated all our energy trying to save ourselves because we’re too scared to leave such a task in the hands of someone else, we find that it is then that courage is required. 
Fighting battles is scary. 

Letting someone else fight your battle for you is terrifying.

It requires a letting go of control. 

Over and over again, I will find that I am brought to a place of inevitable surrender. 

No matter how many times I strategize and plot my way to win, I am reminded that it is on my knees—head bowed, hands raised—that I find my seas parted, my mountains moved, my goliaths slain, my tomb’s stone rolled away.

One of these days, I’ll stop looking for courage and let courage come forth in whatever form He wills it to. Because really, that’s always how courage works. It never comes in the way you expect. It comes softly. Slowly. Step-by-step. The journey to slay the dragon begins with the single act of picking up your sword. 

Laying in an ICU bed and fighting for life for 7 days taught me a lot about courage—and it isn’t at all what I envisioned. 
That was one of the scariest moments of my life, yet it was one completely change my mindset on what it really means to have courage. That courage would be desperately needed as I would face months of learning to manage a chronic illness following that hospital stay. I would find that courage was often choosing to be soft and gentle in a world that told me I had every right to be angry and bitter.  

Where do you need courage today?

Is it in a relationship? In your finances? Facing a diagnosis that has rocked you to your core? Maybe the courage you need for those things isn’t what you think it is. Maybe it is stillness, softness, a quieting of your soul.
Maybe it is asking for help when you would rather hide away. 

We all need courage to face the world around us, it just might require letting go of what we think courage is and taking up the ways He leads us down.

We win the battles ahead when we surrender our here and now to the only One who can ever, truly save us. 


When Your Dreams Fall Apart

“By prayer let your requests be made known to God”

-Philippians 4:6

She’s white and made of stone. She holds her hands clasped in front of her, almost like she’s giving up something. Her head downward-bent as if in prayer. Behind her stretch out wings in all their rocky holiness. I wonder who carved her. I wonder of what she was before she was—a block of nothing turned into something. Humanity chiseled into stone. At her base is a plaque that displays Philippians 4:6, “By prayer let your requests be made known to God.”

I want to ask her, this stone-cold angel, what her requests are. She has never had to balance a dream precariously in her much-too-weak arms and lay them at the feet of the one higher than herself. Requests? I can hand those over. But dreams? The strings that tether me to who I think I am? To gently lay them down, to hand them over, to quietly whisper through delicate breaths, “Lord, please, please be careful,” seems like a difficult task.

“There is pain in giveness, an ache in surrender. To give up what we desperately long for, and hand it over to the One who longs for us.

I would stamp FRAGILE across the side of these dreams I’ve so carefully carved out if I thought it would change the outcome. But the truth of the matter is that these dreams are but clay, and I’m handing them over to a potter—The Potter—who will do what He does best: mold, shape, contour, and shift. 

A block of nothing turned into something. 

Holiness chiseled into a heart of stone. 

There is pain in giveness, an ache in surrender.
To give up what we desperately long for, and hand it over to the One who longs for us.
But He is the Giver of good gifts, the God of gifting the extraordinary, the unexpected.

I think of the gift of the cross. The splintered, stained-in-blood tree that upheld the person of Peace, of Love. I cannot think of something uglier and more broken than innocence nailed to wood.
But from it was birthed our salvation.
Splintered grace.
A mercy pierced.
Our hope came from darkness, our life from death. Our peace came from sweat-and-blood requests laid down before the Lord in the spirit of “Not my will, but Yours.”

“A center of gravity found in our own little kingdoms will eventually fall victim to its own law–it will fall every time. “

But isn’t that what He does–this great Potter?
He takes hopelessness and molds it into something glorious.

I sat in front of that angel and contemplated my blocks of nothing–my requests, my dreams–and I wondered if I was willing to lay them down to be broken down, built up, and reshaped to fit into something bigger than myself. All that I love, all that I depend on, all that I wish and hope to be and become… can I hand it over?
Can I trust that the One who used a bloody, broken, driven-through-by-nails Son to bring forth light, life, and love to take my bloody, broken heartache and use it to bring forth something greater?

I can stand on this side of a difficult season and see the way God worked. I can see how He labored to drag that morning-joy up over the horizon of my sorrow, and I rejoice in the many dawns that have shattered my darkest nights. But it’s harder to see that in the moment, as I make my way through the ruins of a self-made kingdom now fallen.

Dreams that are built in this world are dreams founded on sand.
They will crumble and fall and collapse at the slightest of winds. A center of gravity found in our own little kingdoms will eventually fall victim to its own law–it will fall every time.

Dreams become idols the moment their direction shifts from Him.
Good things become dangerous when they begin to overshadow the One who gives us good things.

“…no matter how many times we break and ache and long for other things, He will always break and ache and long for the hearts of His children. “

But when our dreams come crashing down, He is there with hammer in hand, ready to help us rebuild something founded on the One that will never fall. He gathers up our brokenness because no matter how many times we break and ache and long for other things, He will always break and ache and long for the hearts of His children.

We can hand Him our dreams in all their fragility. We can anchor our hearts in Him. Really, it is only when our hearts are tied to the One who shaped them that we are ever truly anchored. So let your requests–your hopes, dreams, whispered wishes, unspoken wantings–be made known to your Father. And trust Him to carve your heart to curve around His and carve your dreams to curve toward Him. He knows your heart and all its longings. He knows your deepest desires, the outcomes you’re desperately praying to see.

He sees you grieving the life you thought you would have, the love you thought you had earned, the peace you thought you had won.

When your dreams fall apart–when life is all wrong and you feel like you’ve been plunged into a perpetual spiral of unexpected outcomes, and it feels like everything is falling apart and out of place–know that the One who hung on a tree that you might be His is hanging on to you now.
He sees you holding what remains of your heart and hope.

He molds and shapes our hearts–He carves out of stone this holiness undeserved. And we rise on our own, trying to make our way in our own way, stumbling and falling over the piles of heartache–and we fall from our way into The Way, who gathers our heartache and soothes our burning souls.

Sometimes, when it feels like our dreams–our lives–are falling apart, they are really falling into place.

There is a falling apart that leads to a falling in–falling in love with the One who knows even the hidden parts of you and calls you Beloved.
The One who holds you and your heart-carved dreams through every break and detour of plans. The One who holds together when everything else falls apart.
He knows, He sees, and He’s here, even when your dreams fall apart.


The Space In between

This time of year always brings about a sort of reflective period for me. It was on this day two years ago, with 2019 only barely dawning on the horizon, that I walked into Children’s Hospital for what was supposed to be a one night stay but ended up lasting 9. I would battle doctors who didn’t believe me and tried to make me admit to an eating disorder, with a plethora of painful, traumatic medical procedures, and the absolute misery of refeeding syndrome.

But there was a space in between, when standing at the precipice of despair, begging God to take this cup–take this cup and pour out the aching journey it is brimming with, because it is not one I can bear–when He stilled my soul.
My throat was too sore and swollen from the tube that stretched down into my intestines to dare to verbalize a prayer, so I just sat. Sat in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows, tracing with my eyes the skyline of buildings that stretched up to scrape the darkened sky. I sat with arms wrapped around myself, trying not to fixate on the way my ribs were protruding from underneath my gown, or the way–if I wrapped. my arms tightly enough around–I could count each and every vertebrae.

I was living in a state of sustaining grace, while also balancing the ever-growing realization that I just might not get better. This cup might not be passed from me. This just might be my journey of ache to walk, and I wasn’t entirely sure how long I could do it. It was a sobering reality, but it was my reality…

“For though we are facing a world of endless tribulation, it is a world overcome, a world overtaken, a world ever-conquered.”

But God.
That beautiful sentence that speaks to the divine intervention of grace.
The grip that locks hands with us in our dark, dark nights, refusing to let us go. He breaks through our spiraling chaos and waltzes with us in our grief. He binds up our broken hearts and downtrodden souls, covering our scars with His. But our suffering is not our destiny. For though we are facing a world of endless tribulation, it is a world overcome, a world overtaken, a world ever-conquered.

“The night, however dark, however long, is always shattered by dawn.”

Suffering has never been—nor will it ever be—our final destination as His Beloved. It always, ultimately, ends in glory. It will end in joy. The night, however dark, however long, is always shattered by dawn.
He is Dawn.
Our Dawn.
The Breaker of midnights. The Conqueror of sorrows. Hemming us in, keeping us within Himself. He takes on our pain, meets us in it, and beckons us to lean on Him for hope.

But we are hard pressed for hope. We live in a world of pain, of grief, of trauma.
We find ourselves so often pressed between trials.

A Red Sea on one side, an Egyptian army on the other. Wedged between the impossible. The agonizing space in between. But the space in between is where He happens; the space in between is an opportunity to draw near.
But far too often, our only goal is to get to the other side of that space.
Cross the sea.
Escape the lion’s den.
Defeat the giant.

And the other side of a miracle is wonderful, elating even.
But we cannot live a life of constantly looking to the other side of parted seas and fallen giants.
And our hope, our joy, cannot be found on the other side of whatever it is we’re facing.
Because not all giants fall.
Not all seas split the way we expect or lead us to where we wanted to go.
Our hope must come not from the miracle, but from the Miracle Worker.

I have found that it is in the space in between pain and healing where the Healer is found. It is in that space in between that we experience the intimacy of God. 
But our natural response is often to curl up within ourselves— 


away from others, away from Him. 

There may be giants that will not fall this side of Heaven.
There may be parted seas that lead to shorelines you weren’t expecting.
But one thing remains certain: He is God, and He is good.

He is good, right here, right now, in this space in between.
He is at work, whether we see it in a tangible way or not.

The space in between can feel agonizing. Like a breath you cannot exhale, like a jaw you can’t unclench, like a knot in your stomach that never unwinds.
Turn toward Him.
Fixate on His goodness.
He is here in this space in between.

He is the peace we are all looking for.
He is wisp of a May wind, curling around the gentle contours of your face, beckoning you to breathe in–in and out, Dear.
He is the song of your soul, the unsung hymn you carry with you throughout the day.
He is the ledge that catches you as you slip from the precipice of all your overwhelm.
He is the hand that reaches into the deepest of pits to grab hold of yours and pull you out.
He is the hum of sustaining grace that fills your ears on dark nights when all hope feels lost.
He is the guiding light of the moon, wrapping its rays around your soul to cradle you through the night.
He is the edging break of dawn, slipping past the horizon of mountains and trees, breaking past every object in its path to rest upon you in warm, restoring, joy-in-the-morning glory.

Rest assured, oh weary traveler, wandering your way across this scorched earth, that you are not ever–not for moment, not even a little–alone in the space in between.

“I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.”

-Psalm 3:5


Take This Cup

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.”

-Luke 22:42

On a dark night in a garden, with no doubt a heaviness in the air so thick it clung to everything it touched, He sat, asking for that cup to be removed from His hands. Jesus grieved so openly, so vulnerably. He was so transparent in His request. Yet, in His asking, He emphasized “Not my will, but Yours.” 

I think of the night in the garden of Gethsemane often. I think of how He endured the worst of the worst, the greatest of agonies, for me. I think of how He prayed: honest, vulnerable, and eager to do the will of His Father. I want to be eager to do the will of my Father, to lay down my meager portion of grace-filled faith at His feet. But oh-so often His will feels impossible, and the cups He passes down seem to be overflowing with pain. It seems easier to hide away from it all. Because when I go to pray that this cup be removed, I am reminded of my Jesus in that garden, who wanted to honor His Father’s will above releasing that burden. But I am also reminded of the bloody sweat and the desperate tears He cried on that night.

“Jesus wept,” oh yes, He wept. He wept that we might weep, knowing that our Savior is not a stranger to affliction, not a man unacquainted with the depths of grief and sorrow. Because of this we have hope, that even when our cups seem heavy and our souls feel burdened, He stands beside us and helps us carry the load. 

Perhaps the goal is not to convince God through tear-filled pleas to remove our burdens. 
Perhaps the goal is to find God in those burdens.

“He wept that we might weep, knowing that our Savior is not a stranger to affliction, not a man unacquainted with the depths of grief and sorrow.”

There’s one moment in particular where I held my cup before the Lord. 
It was after having my feeding tube replaced in a torturous 45 minutes of being held down as they attempted over and over again to place it correctly. My nose and throat burned as though acid were filling it. My lungs ached as I sought small gasps of air. I could feel the tube as it looped in my throat. But being unable to speak, I couldn’t tell them that they were literally choking me to death. It was all I could do to tap the nurse’s arm and try with every fiber of my being to communicate “Please stop,” through my eyes. It was, to this day, one of the worst experiences of my life. 

After it was done, I remember so clearly thinking that I wanted to die. I just wanted the pain to stop; I just wanted the certainty of further pain to stop. This was the only time I truly wanted to give up. I thought God must have made a mistake in choosing this path for me because I was not in any way strong enough for this. But the Lord sustained me with unnatural grace that kept me from breaking down every day. 

“…there is little else like the time spent with our everlasting, always-loving, constantly- gracious, overwhelmingly-good God. “

But later that night, as I laid awake, unable to calm my body down enough to sleep, my mind thought of my upcoming surgery.
1,000+ miles away, 3 weeks away from home, 6-inch incision down the middle of my abdomen, and roughly a year-long recovery period.
Suddenly, I became overwhelmed. I looked out the window at the moon as if it held the answer.
My vision blurred with silver streaks of moonlight and tears as I begged God to make it end. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t be held down again. I couldn’t go through something that made me weaker. I couldn’t go through more pain. I couldn’t feel so out of control of the things happening to my body. I just wanted rest. I was too tired to do anything more. This had to be it. This had to be the end of the road. If I had had it my way, the earth would have opened up and swallowed me whole.

I prayed that night that God would take me in my sleep.

I felt hopeless. Terrified. My heart ached for my true home. I longed to be held in the arms of Jesus, in a place of no pain. I begged for that cup to be taken. But I’m not sure I followed up with a “not my will, but Yours,” because His will felt impossible. His way felt traumatic, and painful, and overwhelming.

Throughout my journey of MALS and the physical and emotional pain I endured as a result, I can only point to a handful of moments where I almost gave up, one of them being that moment. There were so many more moments of sustaining grace. A grace that latched onto me, refusing to let me fall into the deep, dark abyss of absolute despair. During that particular moment, on my bedroom floor, I was once again reminded of that grace. My body was emaciated–still recovering from my near-death experience with re-feeding syndrome. My mind overcome with freeze/flight senses. Dark canyons underneath my eyes soon overflowed with rivers of sorrow. My IV pole was next to me, holding the pump that I was connected to. As I sat there on the floor, surrounded by moonlight and heavy dread, I once again remembered Gethsemane. In that moment, I felt just a little bit less alone in knowing that He was right alongside me. Another portion of grace handed down, sustaining me from one moment to the next.

Maybe we’ve been so caught up in staring at our cups of affliction that we’ve missed the Savior sitting right next to us. With a scarred side and hands, He is there to catch our tears; He is there to hold our weak frames, and remind us that we are not alone in our suffering. We spend so much time waiting for dawn to break that we miss the scattered diamonds that light up our darkness here and now. It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel known as grief, trauma, physical and emotional pain. It is no easy task to lay those before The Lord and whisper through our sobs, “Not my will, but Yours.” It is a call not easily answered, that we should hand over our ideas of what healing should look like in exchange for the healing He has for us. But it is a call worth fighting for, because there is little else like the time spent with our everlasting, always-loving, constantly-gracious, overwhelmingly-good God. 

There will be nights spent with a still-aching soul, but the same grace.  
The same sustaining melody of promise, a promise to lift us up above the ache, above the hurt, above the late nights spent asking why. 
And because of what He’s done, we can trust in what He’ll do. 
Because of who He is, we can trust in who we are in Him. 

I’m thankful He held onto me that night. 
I’m thankful He didn’t grant my wish to cease in existence. 
Because even though life was dark and scary, and it seemed as though I would never see light again, I made it. I survived. He sustained me.
And now, I’m surrounded by an army of people I love.
Now, I’m still around to write, to lead worship on Sundays, to spend time with people that make my soul glad. I’m here to hold my baby niece, be in my friend’s wedding, and trace the constellations from the shores of a beach with friends who are more like family. I’m here to eat homemade Oreo Blizzards, have midnight snowball fights, and snuggle my baby sister at night.
I’m still here to pass on my story, no matter how messy, no matter how uncomfortable–and goodness knows that the part of the story where I wanted to die is more than a little uncomfortable.
I’m here to string together words in an attempt to offer a little bit of hope to someone in that dark place tonight. To use the affliction I have endured to lift up others in theirs.

I don’t know what cup you’re holding before the Lord today. Maybe it is one of physical pain, a body that betrays you at every turn. Perhaps it is emotional, mental–I am well acquainted with the valleys of mental health struggles. Maybe it is a broken relationship, a wayward child, a job loss, an overwhelming workload, a heartbreak, grief. Maybe you’re just tired. Whatever it is, He is right there in it with you. Right alongside you in your ache. There to wrap His hands around yours and that cracked, overflowing cup. We do not carry them alone, we never have. And because of Him, because of what He did, because of the cup He drank, we never have to.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction”

-2 Corinthians 1:3-4


The Valley

Around 2:30 AM, if the night sky is clear enough, the moonlight streams through my window and cascades across my quilt. I say my quilt, it’s my mothers, a gift from her grandmother. It’s worn and torn and stained. Its patchwork has become threadbare. But the crisscrossing pattern made from my mother’s childhood clothing has always been a comfort to me. So, when I start having trouble sleeping, I will often hunt down this quilt and lay it out on my bed. Even at 19 years old, when I’m stressed or having bad dreams, I just want to hide under my mother’s quilt.
I know that the moonlight finds its way to my side of the house at about 2:30 AM because recently I have been up till then. Not in a night-owl-Netflix-binge kind of way. More like a desperately-need-to-sleep-but-my-mind-won’t-be-still kind of way.

My attitude towards the resurfacing of my insomnia varies, given how sleep deprived I am. Sometimes, I think that were Insomnia a person, I’d like very much to sucker-punch them. Then other times, I sit up in bed after too many failed attempts to shut down my mind and take a slow, deep breath. I listen to worship music. I pray. I talk to Jesus. I write, as I am now. Sometimes there is a peace that settles over my soul. An acceptance that I will rise in the morning void of energy, completely dependent on my 4th cup of coffee around mid-afternoon to get me through the day. Other nights, not so much. I often can’t sleep because of dreams. Dreams or memories. Sometimes they become so intertwined it’s hard to say which. On such nights I become overwhelmed. I’m not sure I can adequately describe what those nights are like in a way that does justice to the ache it causes in my soul. You know when you almost have a wreck? You slam on the brakes or swerve into the other lane, narrowly avoiding a vehicular disaster. In a flash, you can see the possibilities of how that scenario could have unfolded. Your heart skips and your seatbelt locks. For a few moments after, your heart rate remains elevated as you remain shaken, and your seat belt remains locked. That is how those late nights sometimes feel. It feels like my seatbelt is locked. I move, shifting my shoulders back and forth, but it only serves to crush my chest more. The more I fight, the longer it stays locked, and the longer it stays locked, the more my instinct to fight grows. 

Most of us here in the Bible Belt of the south are familiar with Psalm 23. 
The Lord is my Shepard. 
I shall not want. 
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you are with me. 

I’ve known the Psalm by heart for what seems like forever. I learned it to song the same way I learned my ABCs.
Repetition does not often breed fondness. A song replayed 10,000 times eventually becomes mind-numbing. I’ve read, sang, heard, and recited that Psalm so often that its words are lost on me. But a portion of that Psalm was recently sent to me to encourage me in my restlessness. Despite knowing the Psalm by heart, I pulled out my Bible, with all its markings and sermon notes, and opened to Psalm 23. It was highlighted in bright green and purple, and I traced the markings with my finger by the light of the moon. I don’t remember highlighting it. But I have a habit of flipping through to commonly known verses and highlighting them as soon as I get a new Bible. I was given this Bible almost a year ago, so no doubt it’s been highlighted for at least that long.

“…agony turned beautiful… anguish turned song. A valley of death being so surely defied by the refusal of fear, as the Psalmist so boldly proclaims that The LORD is with them.”

I love the Psalms. If ever there were a book in the Bible that speaks to my soul, it would be Psalms. I was created with a heart that leaps at poetry. 
At agony turned beautiful. 
At anguish turned song. 
A valley of death being so surely defied by the refusal of fear, as the Psalmist so boldly proclaims that The LORD is with them. A weary soul restored. A cup overflown. A Shepherd, leading His Beloved into green pastures. A table, so lovingly laid out in bountiful feast. A declaration of the promise of eternal dwelling in the house of The LORD. 

I changed my mind about Psalm 23. I no longer find its familiarity boring. I’m thankful that I can recall it by memory. Because on those dark nights, when it feels like only the moon sees me, I can whisper it. I can pray it. I can sing it. I can ponder the Psalmist. I can allow the imagery of a pastures of peace and calming waters to fill my mind. I can picture the writer, perhaps on a dark night like this one, praying for the peace of his Shepherd to restore his soul. And sometimes, not every time, but sometimes, the seatbelt unlocks. Or at the very least it loosens, allowing me to breathe more deeply. 

I wish that I could tell you that reciting scripture is a cure-all for those nights where sleep abandons me. I wish I could say the calming words of Psalm 23 lull me to sleep. That’s not always the case though. But it does loosen the seatbelt. And it reminds me I am not alone. I never have been. 
Neither are you. 



If you sat me down and asked me to tell you about all the people I’ve struggled with bitterness against, we’d be there for hours and hours. I seem to have accumulated quite the collection of perpetrators in my 19 years of life. This time last year, my struggle with bitterness was at its highest. But fortunately for me (and I mean incredibly fortunately for me), I have found myself in a community that welcomed my struggle and patiently helped me navigate through it. 

Bitterness is interesting. Its relation to anger is undeniable. At least, as I speak for myself, I have found it undeniable. Bitterness is borne from initial anger that has gone unresolved. Bitterness is anger gone stale. I found that once the initial rage subsided, a quiet, gripping feeling grew around my heart. I felt cold. Apathetic towards both person and situation. 

Someone planted a seed through their actions towards me, and that seed was watered by my tears and anguish as I tried to cling to what stability I could. The soil around it was solidified and packed in by the pressure of my knees on the ground as I begged for understanding. For comprehension as to why I had been chosen for such a weight. The soil was nourished by the blood from my hands as I cut them, trying in my own strength to piece myself back together. Then the roots dug deep, wrapping around my heart in tight constriction. And there was birthed bitterness. 

Bitterness is tricky because in a lot of cases, and most certainly mine, the anger was justified. The wrongs done were evident, not only to myself, but to the people around me. I was reminded over and over again that anger is not a sin, that I should be angry at what happened because it was wrong. The trick with that is that it so easily spills over into bitterness. And when it does, it stains like wine on a white dress. It taints everything surrounding it. The apathy that often accompanies bitterness extends into every part of life. That bitterness—aimed like daggers at the people sprinkled throughout my life who broke me in one way or another—shifted to God.

Whether I was willing to speak it aloud or not, I was angry at God. I was angry about what had happened. I was angry that He knew what happened. I was angry that those who had done it had not been punished. I was angry at those who stood by and watched as I, in all my defenselessness, was broken. I was angry at the burden of shame on my shoulders that I shouldn’t have had to carry. But mostly, I was angry because I felt ashamed. I blamed myself and I lamented the fact that I carried that shame when in the presence of the Lord. I was terrified that it changed how He saw me. I had taken that shame and weaponized it. Because it’s so much easier to be angry than it is to feel the weight of shame, my friend. It’s so much easier to let that anger subside into a steady flow of bitterness than it is to admit how much pain you’re in. 

Though I’m thankful for the godly counsel I have received in navigating this, the ultimate turning point had to come when I sought the Lord with it. Over the course of many months, I have grown in my prayer life. I am more comfortable in prayer. I am more confident in prayer. I am bolder and more honest in my prayers with God. So, I told Him all of it. I told Him, with a cloud of grief looming heavily, that I was angry at Him. That I didn’t want to be, but that I simply didn’t understand. I was quiet and still. Whispering as though it lessened the weight of what I was admitting. I didn’t want to tell Him that I felt alone or that I felt like He had seemingly dissipated in the moments I needed Him most. I didn’t want to tell Him of the lies and doubts I was having. But I did. 

“But He reminds me that the roots of His grace reach so much farther than the roots of my shame. He reminds me that no matter how strong I think those roots will cling to my soul, His love clings so much stronger.”

I realized something. I can’t point to a specific moment of revelation, but instead a slow unfolding of comprehension over a long period of time (A growth that has not stopped and will not any time soon). 
You see, He met me there. 

He caught my tears in His hands as they mingled with His—because our God is grieved by the consequences of sin.
He knelt beside me in the dirt and showed me His own bloody hands. 
He sat with me in my shame, the Man of sorrows. Jesus—scoffed at, betrayed, hurt by those closest to Him. Jesus—far from a stranger to suffering and shame. He reminded me of His broken body, of His tears, of His shame. Because we do not have a Savior unable to sympathize with our pain. He took on our pain. And slowly He has raised me up.

I stumble and fall and get frustrated by how often it seems to occur. But every single time—every single time—He raises me back up. He helps me as I seek to rip up the roots of bitterness. It’s a long, grueling process. Because they are deep and have had years to weave their way into the ground. But He reminds me that the roots of His grace reach so much farther than the roots of my shame. He reminds me that no matter how strong I think those roots will cling to my soul, His love clings so much stronger. While the roots of bitterness seek to invade and poison, the roots of His mercy seek to surround me with peace and trust. 

Tonight, as I write this at 2AM—unable to sleep—I read and reread my very own words and pray that my heart finds a way to trust in them. To trust that He can reach farther than my expansive pain. To trust that He sees me and is not unmoved by my suffering. That He saw the darkest, cruelest moments, and He stood by me through it all. I take a deep breath and say a prayer. The tension in my body remains, and the knots in my stomach barely loosen. Despite my most eloquent prayer, my heart still aches. Mostly though, at this time of night, I’m too exhausted for eloquent prayers. My prayers are whispers. Single words. A general cry for help, sent out into the seemingly endless night surrounding me. But it is not without hope. Because my hope isn’t here. It never was. My hope is in the One who holds my bloody hands in His and sits with me in the dirt that so often resembles my life and the memories that encircle it.
Slowly, the roots of bitterness are being uprooted. 
Slowly, the roots of redemption grow stronger, and from them grow small buds of hope. Small, green, delicate buds of hope. 

“He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:8


Driveway Lament

I lament in my car.

There is pain I would wish on no one.
The pain of a 2AM panic attack that leaves you terrified and exhausted.
The pain of chronic illness, the frustration of a body working against you.
The pain of depression. Anxiety. Insomnia. Trauma. The general agony of living in a broken world.
I hope you never have to lay awake in the dead of the night, when it’s so late and so dark that it feels like you just might be the only person awake in the world.
I hope you never find yourself on the bathroom floor.
I hope you never feel the need to sit in your car to scream out all of the frustration you’ve had bottled up for so long.

The truth, however, is that so many of us find ourselves there.
We can hold it together for a length of time. But after a while all the anger, all the pain, all the fear accumulates until the dam breaks.

It’s a cliché, I know, to say I wouldn’t change a thing. I know it’s a feel good statement that has lost its meaning in its overuse. But it’s also the truth. I wouldn’t.
Because those moments and those places, where hope feels nonexistent, are some of the most intimate moments I’ve ever had with God.
For many years, I was caught in the web of legalistic rituals that left little room for a personal relationship with God.
But now?
I lament in my car.
My bright blue Toyota. My first car and my favorite place.
I lament there.

Lamenting is different than complaining. Lamenting is grief voiced aloud. Where in complaining there is no hope found, in lamenting there is. Lamenting is an admission of inadequacy and inability to be okay on our own. Lamenting is how we rely on God alone in the darkest places. It’s knowing who you are in Christ, and knowing that He takes you at your weakest and most broken. So I lament in my car. A Driveway Lament, if you will.
I scream, and curse, and cry out in pain there.
I pray raw, broken prayers in there. I fumble my words, I ask questions that might seem childish to some. But I think that’s the point. I am His child, so it makes sense that I would come to Him as one. I sob until I can’t anymore. I mourn the pain inflicted upon me, I repent of the pain I’ve inflicted on others. I beg for comfort like one would beg for oxygen if deprived.
Sometimes I turn a song on at full volume and sing at the top of my lungs, my voice cracked and strained. It’s not pretty, but somehow it’s beautiful. Beautiful in the way only God can make it.

I lament in my car.

Mind you, I don’t announce to my family when I’m headed out to sit in my car for the next two hours. I also don’t give them the run down of how it went when I return. But once, after a particularly long week, and a particularly long Driveway Lament, my mom told me that my youngest sister saw me in my car and asked her, “Mom, is Anna in her car praying?”
I don’t know what made her think of that.
But I was struck by it.
I’ve never mentioned that when I go out to my car it’s to pray.
We don’t typically advertise those moments. Which is fine. They are private moments with our Savior. For me, they are the most intimate moments that I hold close to my heart.
But my sister assumes that when I get upset and retreat to my car, it’s because I’m praying.
I hope as she grows up, as she goes through her own pain and heartbreak, that she remembers how her big sister sat in the car when she was upset. I hope she decides to try it out herself. I hope she finds her own version of a Driveway Lament.
A closet.
An empty room.
A porch.
An empty church.
Or a bright blue Toyota in the driveway.
Wherever you find yourself retreating to in those times of overwhelm, I hope you retreat to Him.
Because He is there.
Among the clothes in your cluttered closet.
On the front porch swing.
On the bathroom floor.
In the passenger seat of your car.
I hope you find your place of lament, and I hope you go there often. I don’t want you to be driven into that kind of pain, but I also know that my despair has led to many precious moments with Jesus.
With lamenting, the problems do not cease, but I have yet to leave my car as the same person who got in.

So maybe the next time your fear threatens to overwhelm your soul, or the memories become too strong, or the pain becomes unbearable, maybe you’ll find your own place of lament wherever you see fit.

Because whenever I get into that place…

I lament in my car.

“Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry come to You! Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call!” Psalm 102:1-2


“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).

He came to redeem that heavy weight on your shoulders. He came to cover those scars you try so desperately to hide. He is there in the darkest parts of your life, in the parts you keep tucked away from the world. He is there in the things you don’t want to talk about, the things you want to forget ever happened.

We all have a story.
We all have moments in our lives that never really go away.
I think my favorite thing about that verse is that He calls us by name.
It’s easy to think of ourselves as one in a crowd of many saved by Jesus. It’s a little harder, at least for me, to remember that He specifically and intentionally chose me.

Have you ever had a moment where the intentional comfort of God was so incredibly clear that it blew your mind? I had a moment like that recently, while listening to a sermon when the words I didn’t know I needed to hear were spoken.
Sometimes we don’t know what we need. We get too caught up in what we’re going through. But God knows His children so well. He sees our hearts. He sees all those broken places, all the doubt and shame we’re carrying. He puts people in our lives to remind us we aren’t alone, to come alongside us in our darkness.

But what about when you don’t feel very redeemed? The nights when you feel like all the things you carry everyday weigh a little bit heavier. It’s one thing to be told that you’re redeemed, it’s another to believe and feel it. To me, the opposite of redeemed is misplaced. There are so many things we go through that seem to dislodge our identity. Whether it’s something that happened to you via the circumstances of life or something intentionally done to you; some things break us in a way that sticks.

Sometimes, things happen that feel unredeemable.

The idea of redemption often irks us because we often don’t feel worthy of it. Our identity takes so many hits that it starts to unravel. We lose our sense of worth, our trust deteriorates, and all of the shame we’ve accumulated over the years makes a home in the recesses of our minds.

Isn’t that the point of redemption? If something is worthy of being redeemed, doesn’t that take away the entire point of it all? Something has to be broken to be fixed. Something has to be unworthy to be given grace. That’s what makes redemption so glorious. That’s what makes His grace so overwhelming. The idea that something that feels so, so unlikely to prove to be anything but painful, can be turned around.

I’ve seen Him work overwhelming trials into beautiful testimonies. Redemption rarely results apart from crisis, apart from pain. Healing comes from a place of trauma.

Life leaves us disjointed. It shakes us up, knocks us down, and kicks us in the stomach. People hurt us, they break us, and then leave us to pick up the broken pieces and try our best to fit them back together. But we don’t have to pick it up alone. God meets us in this place. He kneels down beside us and arranges our broken pieces into something more beautiful. It doesn’t mean we don’t still hurt, or that we don’t sometimes get fixated on all the tiny cracks, or that we don’t forget at times that we’re redeemed. But that’s okay, because redemption isn’t a feeling, it’s a fact. It’s secured in our identity in Christ, and remains so even when we don’t feel it.

He has redeemed me. He has called me by name. I am His. He is the God of all comfort, and He meets me in my afflictions. He sees me.
He sees you too.


You’re Still God

You’re still God, even on the days when I can’t understand how in the world this could possibly be good for me.
You’re still God, even in the middle of my overwhelm.
You’re still God, even when I can’t find You.
Even when You feel a million miles away.
Even when I wonder if deliverance will ever come.
You’re still God.

I won’t listen to the lies from the enemy that You’ve abandoned me, or that I’m on my own.
Self-dependence is something I fight against. As a Christian I can’t rely on myself, no matter how tempting it might be, but as someone who has been let down in many different ways, my natural instinct is to trust in myself alone.
So on the days when I look around at my circumstance and wonder, “What on earth are You doing?” I will choose to look back.
I will remember all that You’ve done.
I will remember all the saving moments. All the moments when I couldn’t understand You, but now looking back it all makes sense. So now, when I look back on things I still can’t understand and still don’t make sense, I can lean on what I know you have done and trust you have just as good a reason for everything else.

You don’t follow traditional deliverance methods. You don’t adhere to the movie scripts, or the books, or what we humans imagine when we think of rescue. Sometimes You’re loud, but often You’re quiet. So, so often You work in the mundane details. The smallest thing that we don’t think twice about becomes the most important thing a year later.

Last year I was angry.
Today I am joyful.
Last year I was alone.
Today I can say with 100% certainty that I have found my place with my church family.
Last year I didn’t know if I would sing again.
This week I worshipped with the most precious people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing.
Last year I struggled to understand God’s Grace.
Today I rest assured in my salvation.

Last year I was sick, and dying.
Today I am still sick, but healing, and when that weighs too heavy, I seek prayer and I remember.

A few weeks ago, as I reflected on all God has brought me through spiritually, this was shared with me by someone God has used profoundly in my life: “Being in the wilderness makes you even more grateful for the oasis. Hunger leads to thankful satisfaction. Your joy today is a harvest from seeds planted during times of despair. Let this be an altar of remembrance in your heart.”

We humans forget so quickly. We fail to remember all God has done for us within moments of Him doing it. We pray, pray, pray for deliverance, and when it comes we move right on to the next thing we need delivering from.

Let this be an altar of remembrance in your heart.”
That has stayed with me. I’ve mulled it over and over again in my mind.
Brick by brick, blessing by blessing, I want to build an altar of remembrance in my heart.

Within each stone etched a praise to God.

Thank You, God, for the spiritual bondage broken for me and the people I love.
Thank You, God, for healing.
Thank You, God, for my church.
Thank You, God, for the people you’ve blessed me with.
Thank You, God, for all the answered prayer. For all the deliverance, for all the mercy, and grace, and love. Thank you for every moment you were there, even when I didn’t feel You. Thank You for being here in all the here and now moments, if I don’t always see You.

I will lift my hands, unashamed.
I will lift my voice, and praise You from the rooftops.
I will pray, and I will ask for prayer boldly.
I will seek You in every moment of my life.
Because even when I feel so far from You, I can rest in knowing that You’re still God.

You are the same God that spoke the stars into existence and sprinkled them among the heavens to light up the dark. You are the same God who paints the skies in brilliant splashes of orange and pink. The same God who whispers through the wind how much You love me. The same God who held me all those nights in the hospital. You are the God who took away, because You had better things to give. You are the God who allowed me to feel the depths of loneliness, that I might rejoice all the more with my faith family. It would be impossible to list them all. It is impossible to fully describe the depth of joy You bring. It is impossible for me to find another phrase more comforting than “You’re Still God.”

He is still God, Beloved.
Even when you don’t know what He’s doing.
Even when you hate what He’s doing.
Even if you never know what He’s doing.
He is still God.
We can rest in that, because our faith isn’t in our emotions, our faith is in an unchanging, unending, ever-present, miraculous God.
He is still God.

Praise the Lord, He’s still God.

-Anna C.

Small Hope

Today is one year since I was admitted to Children’s hospital for malnutrition.
To describe what life was like at that time is agonizing. I was always exhausted, always cold. My hair was falling out in clumps, my skin was cracking, my eyes were dull and glazed over. My days consisted of trying to do what I needed and wanted, only to collapse from exhaustion into bed. Every thing was hard. Getting dressed was hard. Taking a shower was hard. Brushing my hair was hard. I could feel life swirling around me, just out of reach. I did my best to retain as much life as possible, but it was as if I were trying to draw water with a cracked bucket.
I arrived to parties after the food was put away. I left early. I barely left the house, except for doctor appointments. I was the only person in my world experiencing what I was experiencing, and you can’t imagine how lonely that is. How do I relate to someone who has never been held down while a nurse crams a tube up your nose and down your throat? How do I explain the weeks after, of panic attacks and insomnia because I just couldn’t shake that flight/fight/freeze response? How do I casually mention that to this day I have nightmares of not being able to breathe as the tube loops again and again in my throat? I watched friends go out, date, start college, finish college, but I was stuck. Frozen in time, unable to move from the agonizing state I was in. By the time I was admitted I was beginning to lose hope.

We had a phone call scheduled with Dr. Hsu to see whether he would confirm the MALS diagnosis. But that week in the hospital, with psychologists doing their best to make me admit to an eating disorder, I felt myself dying a little.

I can vividly remember going out into the hall of the floor I was on. Mom was asleep. I rolled my IV pole with my feed bag out to the end of the hall, the barely there hum of the feeding pump alerting me to the incoming sensation of cold liquid slipping through the tube. At the end of the hall there were floor to ceiling windows that overlooked Birmingham.
The city looked so peaceful at night. In the quiet of that hallway, with the occasional machinery beeping and nurse button calls and the distinct smell of rubbing alcohol, I looked out at the city and wondered if this was the what the rest of my life looked like.
I wanted so desperately to exist within the peace the nighttime city portrayed.
I wanted to become one with the horizon of skyscrapers, the empty parks, lone pedestrians. I wondered about their lives. I wondered about the offices still alight in the late hours. Was someone working late? Scrambling to meet a deadline? Or the person jogging on the sidewalks. Why were they running? Perhaps they are like me and can’t bear to be alone with their thoughts. I have often found that the pounding of your feet on the pavement to the beat of your favorite song can successfully quiet the overwhelming thoughts.

I would have given anything in that moment to be just about anyone else. I see why Paul pleaded 3 times that his burden be taken. Why not once? Because if there’s a chance the answer might change, you have to take it.

The 9 days spent in the hospital were quite possibly the hardest days of my life. I was at the end of my rope, unsure how long I could physically and emotionally continue. I wanted to do so much, be so much, but would I ever get the chance? I had already missed a semester of school, I wasn’t able to work. Was this really the grand plan God had for me? A slow painful death via starvation? I contemplated this and much more on that dark night in the hallway of the hospital.
When Dr. Hsu called I couldn’t breathe. I was terrified. If this didn’t work then I didn’t have a backup plan. I rolled my IV over to the hospital couch to sit beside my mother. It took me a moment to realize that he was indeed confirming my diagnosis of MALS. Suddenly, the floodgate of hope was burst open. The possibility of relief, of healing, became so real, so tangible. Maybe there really was more than this. Maybe this wasn’t the end after all. Hope flickered, like the office lights in the buildings from the window. Faint, but there.

There were many moments when I wondered where God was. I struggled to feel His comfort and peace.
He didn’t feel near. But then again, wasn’t He? Wasn’t He there in that quiet hallway? Wasn’t His comfort illuminated by the faint lights from the buildings just across from me? Wasn’t His peace found within the unspoken poetry I seemed to be able to find in something as small as a beeping IV machine? Small, quiet, sustaining moments of hope. Grace, moment to moment. A verse, a song, a quote brought unexpectedly to mind right before I slipped under the dark waters of pain. Acting as a piece of driftwood, of which I clung to for survival. It wasn’t dramatic, it wasn’t loud or deeply profound in the everyday sense of the word. Just a still, small voice. Quietly whispering grace and truth between the nightmares and despair. He was and is there. Always.

In a world that prides itself on being the loudest, the most dramatic, it can be hard to quiet the room around us. But I promise you, if you listen hard enough, you will hear Him. You will see Him. The new song that makes you feel a little more motivated to get out of bed, the pastor who comes alongside you to encourage and pray, in the brief moments of stillness throughout your week. Small respites from the chaos surrounding. Small moments of grace. Small bits of comfort from a God who is always faithful. Small hope, from a God who is always there.


Oh, To Count It Joy…

Pain. It has become a very familiar thing these past few months. I don’t think I remember what it feels like to wake up and not think, “Okay, I’m gonna lie here for a little bit and try to see how bad we are today. Is this gonna be a clean-my-room-maybe-eat-more-than-crackers kind of day? Or a stay-in-bed-all-day-and-try-not-to-die kind of day?”

So for nine months I’ve been sick. Can’t eat. Can’t exercise. Can’t exist without pain. It’s a reality I have slowly begun to accept. Don’t get me wrong, I am waiting for surgery, and will do all within my power to get back to health, but until that happens I’m trying to make the most of my life.

I would say the thing I’ve lost the most through this is probably my dignity and pride. I pride myself on my ability to achieve. I’m a people pleaser, what can I say? I take pride in being the strongest base on the cheer squad, having the cleanest room in the house, being disciplined in my workout routine and meal prep. I’m constantly in a state of bettering myself. It’s honestly a hobby (Okay, maybe an obsession) for me to push my limits and see how far I can go.

But when you can’t eat? When you can’t walk up a flight of stairs without pain? When you are dependent on a feeding tube to stay alive?

I couldn’t cheer like I used to.
I couldn’t workout, most days I couldn’t get out of bed.
I couldn’t eat.
I didn’t have the energy to make my bed.

So, what did I do? Looked to the heavens and found immediate peace? Yeah, not exactly. Try ugly cried my guts out. To my credit, thats only happened like four times which I think is a pretty good track record, considering.

It took time. I had to grieve the life I lost. I still do. Then I had to figure out where my worth was. I had to look to Christ to find my peace, my worth, my confidence. I was stripped away of all my earthly boastings, and I had to find joy in Christ and Christ alone.

Do I always think like this? Nope. But hey, sanctification is a process.

The point is, we all have things happening in our lives that makes us feel like giving up. We can complain or we can seek the Lord, and let me tell you, the latter is much more fulfilling. When you’re in the ER at 2AM, or lying in your bathroom floor unable to move, your ability to please people doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is God. He’s the one you’re gonna be crying for. He’s the one who is gonna get you through that. Through anything. Through financial stress, relationship struggles, heart break, breakups, loneliness, grief… He is there for it all.

I can’t wait to not be sick. I can’t wait for the day I can run again, eat again, take a full breath again. But while I’m waiting, I will cultivate a heart of contentment. I will pursue Christ with reckless abandon. I will let God work through me during this time. While I’m waiting for this storm to pass I will praise Him endlessly. I will look for Him in everything. I will look for Him in the stars, in the friends who are always by my side, in the not so bad days, in the nurses at the hospital who make me laugh, or the moon in all its glory. He is there. I promise. He promises. He is everywhere. He knows what you need moment to moment in order to survive. In order to thrive. It’s okay to break down, it’s okay to be weak, and sad, and scared, and tired. His strength is perfected in our weakness.

Just know that He sees you. Despite your emotions, despite your doubt, despite your inability to see how on earth this trial is for your good, He is there. He is faithful in spite of our faithlessness. Isn’t that wonderful? Cause boy, I’ve had a whole lot of unfaithfulness in my life. I’m thankful for a God that loves us through that. I’m thankful for a God who forgives our past, present, and future sins. He wants you to come to Him through these trials. He wants your messy, your ugly crying, your fear of the future. He wants to hear about your dreams, about the people you love, about the fear that swells within you. He wants you in all your imperfect, selfish, sinfulness. He wants it all. He wants to wash you white and make you new. When we’re scared, when we don’t know what the future holds, it’s easy to focus on our anger. It’s easy to get into comment wars, it’s easy to blast a politician on social media, it’s easy to put your rights and opinions ahead of your faith. It’s easy to use times of stress to state your opinion, and what you think needs to happen, but it’s hard to have grace. It’s hard to admit that you are scared and you have no control. But it’s necessary.

Look for Him. In everything. In the flowers, in your morning coffee, in the sweet smiles of your children or siblings, in the wind, in the sun, in the rain, in the car that cuts you off, and in the family member who won’t give you a break.  Look for Him everywhere, and praise Him for all of it. He is using every bit of it to mold us into what He wants us to be. He has blessed us so much, sometimes you just have to pay attention to it. He is always teaching us and it’s easy to miss those moments.

Every moment is an opportunity to grow in patience, love, and joy. If you can praise God when the car has a flat (because, hallelujah, there’s a spare in the back), then you can praise Him when life is out of control (because, hallelujah, we have a God who is in control). If you can be joyful when things are bad, then you can also be a light to the people around you. To your children, your friends, your parents, your siblings, to complete strangers. It’s why I will never not be thankful for my feeding tube. If I can find joy in having a feeding tube on my 18th birthday, then I can find joy anywhere. In all honesty, it’s not even about finding joy, it’s about opening your eyes to the fact that there is joy everywhere. God has sprinkled joy throughout our lives and most people don’t even realize it. But look for it, friends, look for it when you’re broken.

Just when you’re feeling alone, He’ll remind you of His love.
Just when I’m tired, and in pain, and lonely, because pain is so isolating, Mom tells me that whole churches are praying for me. That there are people in other countries that I don’t even know who are praying for relief for me. That, friends, is a soul-healing, heart-mending, prayer-answered, overwhelming kind of love. That is a Jesus kind of love. He is everywhere. He is blessing us all the time, and sometimes we don’t even know it. He is so good. There aren’t enough words– there aren’t enough ways–to express how good He is.

I’m terrified of the future. Of surgery, of recovery, of the uncertainty of it all. But He hasn’t failed me yet, and He won’t now. I know He’s working this for His glory.

All I need to do is be still and trust.

~Anna C.

(For more information on MALS, which is the vascular condition from which I suffer, click on    )

(Update: I’m currently waiting on surgery, but for now I’m on a nerve medication that is helping tremendously with my pain)