I don’t know about you, but I love when the Lord connects numbers for me. Now, that may sound ridiculous or you may have no clue what I’m talking about, but don’t worry, I’ll do my best to explain myself.
Today I have 40 days until my wedding.
40 is a big number. If you look in the Bible, the number 40 pops up A LOT! It rained on Noah and the Ark for 40 days and nights when God flooded the earth. Moses and the Israelites had to wander the desert for 40 years after they were freed from Egypt. After Jesus was baptized, He went into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days, during which time He was also tempted before He started His ministry. Jesus also appeared to His disciples and other people for 40 days after His resurrection.
Those are all that I can think of off the top of my head right now, but there are more.
The number 40 is typically linked to a time when someone or a group of people are going through a test or trial. It’s used during Lent, the 40 days before Easter, as a time of fasting and prayer as well. But my interest is not in numerology. I just like the idea that the Lord has used 40 multiple times in His Word, which I think means that 40 is an important time frame.
I think these last 40 days before our wedding are going to hold many things for Brandon and me. There will definitely be tests and trials galore, but I also think that there will be blessings galore as well. Besides, James said that we should “consider it pure joy when [we] face trials of many kinds because [we] know that the testing of [our] faith produces perseverance” (James 1:1). So any trials we face during this time will not only be used to help build our faith and perseverance, but also to mold us into the man and woman that God has created us to be so that we can do the things that He has created us to do.
I’m going to use these last 40 days as a specific time of prayer over our entire marriage. Not just the wedding day and all of the things surrounding that. I’m praying for our marriage. The thing that lasts long after the flowers die and flower girls grow up. I’m praying over the life we will have together and the years we will share with one another. I’m praying over the trials we have not yet faced and the joys we do not yet know. I’m praying over the people we influence and the people we allow to influence us. I’m praying over the gifts and talents the Lord has blessed us with and will grow or develop within us as His perfect timing works itself out. I’m praying over the love that we share and the lives that we impact with that love, given by the Lord. And so much more.
* * * * *
As much as I like the 40 days until our wedding, there’s another number related thing I’ve been thinking about a lot lately too: When Brandon and I get married, we will have been together for almost 6 whole years.
Now I know that 6 isn’t really a big deal in the Bible, but I like to think of it in relation to when God created the heavens and the earth. He worked and created for 6 days, but on the 7th day, He rested.
That’s how I see my relationship with Brandon. We have been working for almost 6 whole years. We’ve been living life apart and dealing with a long distance relationship for a long time now. We have and still are putting in a lot of work, cultivating our relationship and helping it to grow over all of this time.
But praise the Lord, this time of separation and distance is close to an end! The 6 years are almost over! The work that we have been putting in is not necessarily about to end, because marriages take work, but it will definitely change. This season of our lives is ending after 6 years. And what is to come?
The 7th year. Rest.
During our 7th year together, we will finally be able to live together and be a part of each other’s every day life, rather than spending a weekend together once a month. All of the work that we have put in the past 6 years will be completed and we will no longer be working towards marriage. We will finally be able to rest in our marriage. We will be able to rest in our union and covenant. We will no longer be two separates striving toward each other, rather, we will finally be one and we can rest in that unity.
Oh how I look forward to that rest…
Oh how I pray that we rejoice and revel in that rest, rather than allowing the difficulty and negativity to pull our joy and rest away from us.
Many people say that the first year of marriage is the hardest. I believe them. Wholeheartedly. It won’t be easy. It won’t be pretty. It will be chaotic and hectic and we won’t have anything figured out. It will be absolute insanity and we will likely drive each other crazy with the little things we used to think were cute and indeering. Words will be said and understood in ways they weren’t intended. Feelings will be hurt and balloons will burst. Negativity and frustration will likely win out over joy and peace some days. Days will grow long and tempers will grow short.
But at the end of the day, when all is said and done, I will be there for Brandon and he will be there for me. We will be a united front against the enemy’s schemes to steal our joy and rob us of peace. We will be an unbreakable team forged in the refining fires of the Almighty’s Hand.
It certainly won’t be perfect, but we will be together. Finally.
So here’s to 40 more days and a 7th year of rest amidst the chaos.
I look at my watch. Again. Five minutes. I only have five more minutes until he has to leave. Again…
This happens every single time. He comes to visit for a weekend and it’s absolutely wonderful. But at some point the weekend ends. At some point our time runs out. At some point he has to leave. Again…
I wrap my arms around his waist and lean close into his chest. I’ve learned that if I grit my teeth and look away, I’m less likely to cry… He wraps his arms around my back and leans his cheek against the top of my head. I grit my teeth harder and will the tears farther back.
This is how it always ends.
This is how every goodbye begins.
Standing beside his car, still trying not to cry, I decide that talking might help me change my pattern of thinking. If I can get my mind off of the inevitable goodbye, off of the negative time between, and onto the next visit, the next time I’ll see him, maybe I can get through this with a little more grace than I typically do.
“It’s only three weeks this time until I get to see you again!” I say in what I hope is a light, happy tone. Of course, in my head I’m thinking, Three weeks. Three weeks of long distance. Three weeks of feeling like half of me is missing. Three weeks… “That’s only 21 days and that’s shorter than our normal four weeks apart.” Sigh. 21 days is so short until it’s the 21 days he’s not here…
“I know,” he responds as he hugs me tighter.
He’s always so much more positive than I am. It’s like I have this root of negativity in my mind that pops up whenever it pleases, which is often. I’ve been praying about it…
“I’m gonna miss you, Brandon. A whole heck of a lot.” There they are. I feel the tears stinging the backs of my eyes, begging to be loosed. Deep breath.
“I’m gonna miss you too. A whole, whole heck of a lot.” He pulls away and looks at me. He’s so serious, but a smile is playing at the corners of his mouth.
I smile up at him as a tear finally falls down my cheek. How swiftly he wipes it away and another follows. Dang it. I was going to be good this time. I wasn’t going to cry! I think to myself. Granted, I think those things to myself every time. It only rarely works.
“I love you,” I say, trying to smile and keep the wobble out of my voice.
The answering gleam in his eyes is enough to pull me over the edge. I tuck my head back into his shoulder and squeeze tight. “I’ll see you in three weeks. Not long at all. You’ll be back before we know it.” Even I’m not convinced… The wobble in my voice gives me away even when my face is hidden.
I look at my watch. Again. Two minutes…
“You need to go,” I say against his chest.
“I don’t want to leave.” He squeezes tighter again.
“I know. I don’t want you to leave either but we’ll be together again soon. And one day I’m not gonna have to miss you so much. One day you won’t have to leave me and I won’t have to leave you.” Please let that day come soon, I silently pray.
He pulls my chin up and forces me to look at him as he says, “236 days.”
“236 days,” I echo. “Then I’ll be your wife. Then I’ll be able to see you everyday. Then when we say ‘goodbye’ it’ll just mean that I’ll see you later that day. I can’t wait to marry you. 236 days.” So. Far. Away…
“I can’t wait to marry you either,” he says as he puts a hand on my cheek and wipes away the tears that are quickly replaced by new ones. “I have to go.” His words are so at odds with what I can see so plainly in his eyes: I want to stay. He kisses me one last time and pulls away. “I love you.”
It’s strange. The moment he pulls away it truly feels as if a piece of me is left there, with him. “I love you too,” I whisper as he turns away for the millionth time to get into his car to drive away for the millionth time. I wipe at my tears.
I’ve endured five years of this. Five years of waiting a month to see him for a weekend. Five years of making the most of the time we have together and trying not to fall to pieces when we’re apart. Five years filled with so many goodbyes…
I hate goodbyes. Hate them. Especially when they happen so often. Especially when they are filled with so much emotion that you can’t even think straight. Especially when they mean so much.
He turns his car on, rolls his window down, and tells me again that he loves me and will see me soon. I return the sentiment and give him one last kiss before he pulls out of the driveway.
I stand on the porch, tears streaming down my face, as I watch him back away. Just before he leaves, he holds up the “I love you” sign and smiles through his window. I sign and smile back through my tears as he drives forward… Away from me… Again…
Every single time he leaves, I watch until I can’t see him anymore. Until he rounds a corner or gets too far for me to see. Sometimes I wait there for a while. Sometimes minutes, sometimes longer. Most times there are tears. Most times the tears come more quickly and forcefully after he is out of sight… But there’s something about watching him leave me. Again. And again. And again…
Sometimes I catch myself thinking, This isn’t fair! What did I do wrong? Why does everyone around me get to enjoy their relationship all the time and I only get monthly visits? Why do we have to suffer this over and over again? For years! Why didn’t my friends have to wait this long? Why do they get to love each other so easily while we suffer again and again?
No! I would NEVER wish this on anyone. It sucks. A lot. Knowing that someone is your husband and knowing that you have to keep waiting and keep being apart is awful. I wouldn’t want anyone else to have to go through this. I’m thrilled my friends didn’t have to wait 6 years like I will. I’m so happy that they are able to love their people as often as they can. And I know that I also have friends who haven’t yet found their person and I know that is extremely difficult: to watch everyone else experience what you are dreaming or praying or hoping for while you still can’t or aren’t. And I know that there are so many other people out there waiting longer and traveling farther. No, it isn’t fair, but as a wise woman once told me, “Life isn’t fair. Fair only comes once a year.”
No one’s life is easy. No one’s life is perfect. If you think that it is, you’re either wrong or blind to the imperfections in your own life. Sometimes it’s just harder than others…
I have to remind myself each time Brandon leaves that God has a plan for us. And not only does God have a plan for us, but that this is His plan for US, not other people. That God wants us to be in this exact situation at this exact moment for this exact amount of time. I have to remind myself that the Lord is the only one who can help me get through the negativity, and the depression that comes with it if I don’t surrender my negativity to the Lord, when we are apart. That may sound dramatic, but it’s the honest truth. When we are apart, Satan uses any bit of negativity and turns it into something I fixate on if I am not careful to keep my eyes on God. It is in those moments that I have to remember that regardless of what I want or think I need, God knows best and He has it all under control.
So, here’s to 230 days until our monthly goodbyes become a thing of the past and something we thank the Lord for teaching and guiding us through. Here’s to 230 more days of learning through the distance and loving across the miles.
Remember that post I just did on surrender? If you don’t, you can read it here. Basically, it was about me struggle bussing to surrender my plans and desires and life to the Lord even though I know that He is definitely the one who should be directing my life. Not me.
Well, yesterday the Lord blew me away.
Not only did He heal my shoulder miraculously, he also provided something I have been praying a very long time for.
Let’s start with the shoulder.
I have had pain in my right arm/shoulder for eleven weeks now. Yes. Eleven. That’s almost three months. I can’t tell you what in the world happened to injure it, especially to injure it for a full eleven weeks and counting; I just woke up one morning with sharp pain in my neck (which is nothing new to me considering that neck pain is a chronic, daily reminder of my life with VEDS) as well as my shoulder, which was very new. The strangest part was the decreased range of motion in my right arm/shoulder. I couldn’t lift my arm to the side past a 45 degree angle and I really couldn’t shrug my right shoulder either.
This pain and reduced range of motion, as well as some surging/traveling pain down the entirety of my right arm, have been consistent for eleven weeks now. The surging comes and goes, but the limitation of movement and pain has been a consistent companion. Many people had mentioned that it sounded like a rotator cuff injury, so after putting it off for so long, I made an appointment with my doctor. He did some x-rays and decided that he thinks it is a problem with the vertebrae in my neck, not my shoulder. So, an MRI of my neck was ordered and I am still waiting for them to contact me to schedule it.
That night, I went to the Monday night prayer meeting at my church, like I always do. I told the ladies about the persistent pain and what the doctor had said. This isn’t the first time that I’ve brought physical pain to prayer. In fact, I bring that with me almost every week. Those ladies are always faithful to pray for whatever new pain exists or the lingering pains that cling to my muscles or joints and refuse to be released. They prayed for me, as they had done many times before, and we all went home.
That night I couldn’t sleep. My whole body ached all night and when I woke up yesterday morning, my neck was so tight that my right shoulder was one to two inches higher than my left shoulder at rest.
I tested out my arm to see how badly the neck pain and tension was affecting it.
It went passed the 45 degree mark all the way above my head. I tried it again. And again. I just did it again now. It still pops and my neck hurts some, but my range of motion is back!
I shrugged my shoulders to test the movement there. It went passed the typical stopping point. Although my neck still hurts and I don’t have full range of motion back, it is definitely a God thing!
You can’t look me in the face and tell me that going to the doctor and getting proof of an injury and then waking up the next day with the evidence almost completely gone is just a coincidence. That, my friends, is some divine healing! A touch from the Lord’s hand! Can I get a hallelujah!?
So, needless to say, yesterday was already shaping up to be a phenomenal day. However, that was just the beginning.
Yesterday I also received a letter containing a check that pretty much covers the rest of my graduate school tuition. Read that again. And again. Now, that may not be impressive to some people, but that is a direct answer to my prayers followed by an overflow of blessing on top.
I have been praying fiercely that the Lord would provide the money that I need for my tuition each semester, which is no small sum. I asked Him to surprise me and I have have no doubt in my mind that He would provide in one way or another. The past three semesters, God has provided my tuition in a myriad of ways and on a timeline that I could never understand, but He has never delayed and He has never let me down. He has been more than just faithful. He has been… Wow. There aren’t words. There is no way that I could contain how good and perfect and absolutely, miraculously, indescribably incredible the Lord has been to me. There just aren’t words. He cannot be contained in a paragraph or a phrase. He cannot be described with the meager words of my unremarkable language. He has certainly surprised me more than once just in how He has provided for this one particular area of need and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He will continue to surprise me and He will continue to be the Almighty, Sovereign God that I know Him to be. I know that He will continue to defy the odds and do the impossible. He is good. All the time. And all the time. God IS good.
So. Yesterday was an absolutely phenomenal day. I saw the Lord answer not one, but two major prayers in my life right now. I had been praying for another $4,000 just to get through the coming Fall semester. The Lord did one better and provided enough for this semester and the next! Thank You, Lord! Thank You, Lord! Thank You, Lord!
And thank YOU! Thank you to everyone who has prayed for me and with me. Thank you for believing and trusting that the Lord would answer. Thank you for encouraging me in prayer and in person. Y’all are awesome and I pray the Lord blesses your socks off and reveals Himself to you in new and awe-inspiring ways.
God is good! Can I get an Amen!?
At the beginning of my time as a graduate student, one of my professors had us write a letter to ourselves and seal it in an envelope. This was done so that we could read our letters one day. When things were tough and we couldn’t remember the joy we had at the beginning of it all. When the insanity that surrounded us never ceased and rest was no where to be found.
Today was that day.
Life is tough as is. Throw in graduate level classes, clinic schedules, enough homework to drown the most studious of individuals, financial struggles, and work responsibilities… Well, you get the picture. Basically life is crazy and we’re swamped. I mean, I’m sure there are some phenomenal women in my cohort who are thriving and pushing through this insanity with grace and ease. Sadly, I am not one of them. Not even close.
Today my professor brought our letters into class and I opened mine.
I pulled out the envelope to see that I had written quotes on the outside of my letter:
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” -Philippians 4:13
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified or discouraged for the Lord Your God will be with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9
“Who by worrying can add a single day to his life” -Matthew 6:27
“Cast your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” -1 Peter 5:7
“________ is a big problem, BUT GOD IS BIGGER!”
The one that caught my eye was the last one. It is something I came up with for a lesson on David and Goliath and one day I want a plaque with those words to hang in my home at the height of Goliath. I made each child a laminated bookmark so they could write and rewrite their problems on the line and then realize that although it was a big problem, our God is bigger. God is even bigger than the insanity of the Speech Pathology graduate school program!
Once I opened the first part of the letter, I realized I had written even more things on the next flap of paper before I was able to read my letter. These grabbed my attention even more than the first verses and quotes because they are all things that God has said to me. Whether through a time of prayer, a song, or a Bible study, each of the following has been the voice of the Lord in my life speaking directly to me. (If you need the Lord to speak to you, maybe He can use these!)
“It’s gonna be worth it all.”
“Seek Me and be still.”
“Quit worrying. I’ve got this. Now, let Me got this.”
“I will provide.”
“Don’t give up. I AM here and I always will be.”
“Be [I AM] still.”
“I will give you rest.” (PRAISE JESUS FOR THIS PROMISE!!)
“Circle, then shout, Gentry. Then I’m going to bring the walls down. This battle will not be won with muscle, mighty warrior. This battle will be won by faith.” (this refers to the battle of Jericho when the Israelites circled the city in prayer and then shouted in victory)
And the real kicker:
“I’ve gotten you this far. Do you really think I’m going to give up on you now?”
I don’t know about you, but that one just slapped me in the face. Duh! Of course God won’t give up on me. He’s been faithful and gotten me through every hardship up until this point and I firmly believe that He will get me through this insanity.
If you would like to know what my full letter of encouragement said, please feel free to continue reading. I hope these words can help even one person remember that God truly is in control and He has a purpose and a plan for everything that is happening in your life. Don’t give up. He’s got you.
Take a deep breath. You’re fine. The Lord’s got you in the palm of His hand, remember? Everything that you are going through has a purpose and He will reveal that purpose to you when you are ready for it. Don’t forget about all of the other times that He’s been there for you and literally walked you through.
Remember when you sat in a quiet room with your family and two doctors seated around a big table. Remember how it felt when you heard the doctor say, “you tested positive for Vascular Ehlers Danlos Syndrome.” Remember the days and weeks after that appointment when you realized that your mom and brother had VEDS too, that you would probably never have your own children, that life with Brandon would forever change, and that your life would forever be marked by a bracelet with a label on it. Remember that feeling of being completely overwhelmed?
Now, do you remember how the Lord got you through all of that? How He walked with you through every question and every valley of darkness. How He sent people to pray for you and help you through it. Remember that? If He got you through every part of that valley, don’t you think He will get you through these two years of grad school?
“You will get through this. It won’t be painless. It won’t be quick. But God can use this mess for good. In the meantime, don’t be foolish or naive, but don’t despair either. With God’s help, you will get through this.” –You’ll Get Through This, Max Lucado
Calm down, be still, and seek the Lord. All you have to do is ask Him and He will give you what you are lacking. So ask. But make sure that you aren’t too far away to hear Yhwh speak. This graduate program is only two years of your life, but your relationship with God is eternal, so make sure you are putting Him and keeping Him first. “Seek first His kingdom and all of His righteousness and all of these things will be aded unto you” (Matthew 6:33).
You’ve got this because He’s got you. Don’t worry. It won’t help anything. Instead, pray like the overcoming warrior that you are.
-Your Wiser Self
In case you were wondering why I spelled Yahweh without the vowels, it was purposeful. Try to pronounce it without the vowels. It’s a whisper! Yhwh is a holy name of God that is literally only a breath. The thing is, you can’t hear Yhwh if you’re not close enough to hear His whisper. So get close and listen up!
Just a little food for thought. It’s one of my favorites.
After I got diagnosed with VEDS, my relationship with Brandon took a negative turn. If you want to read the beginning of our story, you can find that here.
A few days after I was diagnosed, as I was driving to work, I prayed that the Lord would give me something to hold onto while I grappled with living with VEDS on top of every other thing I was dealing with.
So He did.
I was sitting in my car with tears streaming down my face. I was praying. Asking God to give me something, anything to hold onto. I felt like I was drowning. I felt like this new knowledge that I did in fact have Vascular Ehlers Danlos Syndrome was going to send me into the darkest pit of despair. I needed something to cling to; to keep me from falling into the pit that threatened to ruin my life and steal every ounce of joy I had ever known.
So I pleaded with the Lord to give me something. Anything.
And then it happened. In my little two door car, trying to see past the tears that filled my eyes, hearing the cracks in my voice as I cried out for help. I saw it.
It was about five years into the future. Brandon and I were married and we were in our room getting ready to go to sleep. We walked over to the bed and he reached out his hand to me. I took his hand and we knelt down beside our bed with our clasped hands between us on the quilt. We closed our eyes and started to pray. Just like we did every night. When I opened my eyes, our clasped hands were old and wrinkled. We had the hardest time getting off of the floor with our old knees. But we still knelt beside our bed and prayed together every night. Just like we always had.
I was frozen.
That was it. That was my hope. That was my promise. That was the thing that I could cling to for the rest of my life. When my world started to crumble again, I could remember that promise that came straight from Heaven.
I had been given visions before and I’d had dreams that I knew were from the Lord, but nothing had ever compared to this. It was so vivid and I knew it was just for me in answer to my prayers. I had asked God for hope. I had asked Him to give me something to cling to; to keep me from slipping into the darkness. And He answered me. He is so good.
He gave me hope. But not just a fleeting hope. This vision that He gave me filled me with joy and hope and peace. It has continued to fill me with joy and hope and peace. Through every trial and every temptation to give up and sink into despair, this vision has been a reminder of God’s plan for me.
Just because a doctor says that my median life span is 48 years doesn’t mean that I can’t live to grow old and kneel with my husband in prayer every night. Just because a doctor says that I’m at an incredibly high risk of rupturing anything in my body at any moment doesn’t mean that I can’t live a full life. Just because a doctor says that it’s really risky for me to have kids doesn’t mean that I can’t adopt the sweet kiddos that need someone to love them. Just because a doctor says something doesn’t mean that God can’t turn what he says into a new dream, a new blessing.
Just because I have VEDS doesn’t mean that I can’t live a long life with the man of my dreams. It doesn’t mean that I have to live in fear. It doesn’t mean that God has turned His back on me and I have to walk this road alone. Actually, it means the opposite.
Being diagnosed with VEDS has opened my eyes to just how near God is every single moment of every day. The vision He gave me has reminded me of that more times than I care to count. Chronic pain and a different issue every day makes life a little more insane. But it also makes me a little more thankful for each day I see and each moment I get to live. It makes me realize how incredibly blessed I am to have a man like Brandon who is more than just willing to walk through this insane life with me. He wants it. He is actively choosing me, with all of the crazy complications that come with a life entangled by VEDS.
He chooses to stay with me instead of walking away like most rational people would. He chooses to help me through the nights that I’m plagued with negativity. He chooses to hold me when the tears overwhelm my joy. He chooses to pray for me when I don’t know how to pray for myself anymore. He chooses to pray with me and help me to see the good all around me. He chooses to point out the positives and remind me of all of the blessings the Lord has given me. He chooses to walk with me through each of the painful moments, letting the Lord lead us on this crazy path that we call life. He chooses to love me, in the rare good moments and the frequent bad ones.
So, Brandon, it means the world to me that you actively and presently choose me, regardless of every problem we have faced and all of the craziness I’m sure we will face. You are my sunshine. Truly. When skies are gray and all I can see is the negativity, you help me to see the sun hiding just behind the clouds. You remind me that the Lord is still there and He is ready and willing to carry my burden and give me joy. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you. And I pray the Lord never takes you from me.
This post is going to serve two purposes. The first is to take a look back at a year ago, September 17th 2015, when I was diagnosed with VEDS (which in turn, led to this blog). The second is to continue my story with Brandon as it relates to that fateful day. If you would like to read the beginning of our story, you can find it all here. If you would like to know more about VEDS and how I explained it, you can find that here.
One year ago today I was diagnosed with Vascular Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, otherwise known as VEDS. When I walked out of that doctor’s office, I knew my life would never be the same. One year after that day, I can say that I was definitely right.
The doctors gave me so many limitations: don’t lift more than 20 pounds; don’t exercise with any repetitive motions or heavy weights; don’t run; try not to do anything that makes your blood pump harder in your veins; oh yeah, and if you ever get pregnant, it will immediately be a high risk pregnancy and you have a 50% chance of passing VEDS to your kids. Just to name a few. They even threw in a median life span around 48. Have they stopped me? No. Did they give me pause? Heck yes.
The thing that gave me more pause than anything else had nothing to do with me. It had to do with my mom and Brandon.
First, let’s talk about my mom.
She’s literally one of the most incredible women on the planet. I’m pretty sure she knows everything and I’m not the only one who would say that. She is asked about anything and everything, unless it’s sports. But I don’t have to defend her to you. If you know her, then you know how fantastic she is. If you don’t, then you are missing out on knowing an amazing woman of God.
When the doctor told us that based on the data they had, VEDS patients had a median life span of 48, my first thought was, “I can’t lose my mom. That would only mean a few more years with her. That can’t happen.” I held it together in the doctor’s office, but trust me, I had more than my fair share of tears over that thought when no one was around.
Yes, it was an awful thought. Yes, I cried over it. And yes, there have been many prayers over that whole situation. But a few months later our suspicions were confirmed when my mom’s dad was also tested and diagnosed with VEDS. Considering that we have some semi-distant cousins who also have VEDS, we are also assuming that my great grandmother and her sister also had VEDS. Why is that important? They both lived to be in their 90s. My grandfather is currently in his 60s.
Know what that means?
We are defying the odds and making the doctors eat their words! Life span of 48?? Ha!!
There is so much peace in knowing that the Lord has been watching over my family with VEDS for decades. He has been helping us defy every odd that has been placed in our path. That, my friends, is one of the many ways I know that God is good.
Now let’s move onto the second thing that gave me pause: Brandon.
Before I was able to walk out of that doctor’s office, it was as if moments of my future life were flashing before my eyes. The problem was, they weren’t very nice ones… *insert dramatic blur to dream vision* I was in my 30s sitting in yet another doctor’s office and he had no answers for why this was happening. I had to visit what seemed like a hundred doctors each year because of all of the problems I was having. I was being wheeled into the emergency room because a major organ had ruptured and they were going to try to save my life, but the likelihood of them being able to save me was minimal. I was slipping away while giving birth to a child, realizing that I would be leaving my husband wifeless, perhaps childless if the baby didn’t make it, and that baby may have the same disease that caused me so many problems if he or she made it… A life of pain. A life of heartache. A life of frustrations and trials and worries… *insert blur back to reality*
Needless to say, I had a lot on my mind.
My brother, Parker, was diagnosed with VEDS a couple of months before, which is why we were tested for VEDS at that time. Since Parker had already been diagnosed, we knew what to Google. We knew what the geneticist said about it and we had some resources to look at, so the 6 weeks between when the blood work was taken and the results came in were filled with learning more about VEDS and how it could potentially affect us for the rest of our life.
Brandon and I had talked about the fact that I was in the process of being tested for VEDS. (Granted, I waited a few days to tell him that my mom, sister, and I had gotten tested… He wasn’t too happy about that…) So when I called to tell him that the blood work had come back positive, it wasn’t a big surprise. We had been planning for that.
I’m sure that Brandon wasn’t too thrilled when I basically told him that I thought it would be better for him if he let me go and found someone else to be with. His life would be better. He would’t have to deal with all of the doctors and medications and bills and problems. His life would be easier and probably a lot simpler without me in it. So I offered him an out. I gave him a way to leave without guilt and without any hard feelings. I didn’t want him to be stuck with me and VEDS for the rest of his life. He deserved better than that.
The problem with that whole conversation was that he didn’t agree.
A year ago we were 21. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many 21 year old guys who hear that their girlfriend has a progressive and chronic genetic disorder with many limitations and still decide that they would rather live that life with you than leave you for anything or anyone else.
That moment made me realize how much Brandon really did love me. It wasn’t that he felt obligated to stay with me or anything like that. He had prayed about it and thought about it deeply. He actively chose me, knowing everything that came with that choice. He chose me knowing how many sacrifices he would have to make. He loved me not only in spite of all of those things; he loved me because of them.
Here are a couple of the things he told me after I was diagnosed with VEDS:
“Let me be your leg to stand on when you can’t stand on yours. Let me be your rock when you need it. I’m here for you and I’m not going anywhere, so you better get used to it because you have a long time left with me!” and “I know that there’s a lot that I’ll have to deal with in this life if I’m with you, but who’s to say that it’ll be easier without you? No one!”
Each day and each moment that has filled the last year of life with VEDS has taught me so much. But most of all, it has made me realize how short life is and how quickly it can all change. Brandon not only loved me in that moment, he loved me for every moment after that. The good, the bad, and the ugly. He held me while I cried and suffered through an insane diagnosis. He kept telling me it would all work out and God had it under control. He worked with me through one of the roughest seasons in my life and he continues to do so each day. I guess you could say he’s a keeper.
The Lord was able to take that crazy day and turn it into a blessing. It has definitely been a rough year, but I have been blessed beyond measure since that day.
However, as blessed as I was and as loved as I was after that day, I went through a rather difficult time. I felt guilty for dating Brandon because I felt like I was dragging him into a terrible life. I felt bad for the people around me who had to deal with everything too. In reality, I would have preferred leaving everyone I knew and living by myself and taking care of myself so I didn’t burden anyone else. Granted, that didn’t really work. At all. But I did still slip into a short season of not understanding why this was happening to me.
One day on my way to work, I prayed that the Lord would give me something to hold onto while I grappled with living with VEDS on top of every other thing I was dealing with. So He did.
But I’ll tell you about that next time.
If you want to read the beginning of the story, you can read it here.
So now you know that I lived out a Hallmark movie and got my first boyfriend for Christmas in 2012. Today’s part of the story, however, is about a mere seven days later on New Year’s Eve.
It started out just like every other New Year’s Eve had over the past few years. I was getting ready to go to a friend’s house to celebrate with the girls in our youth and college group. Of course, throughout the entirety of my readying, I was texting Brandon and trying to wrap my head around the fact that I, for the first time in my life, actually had a boyfriend. What a weird word! Boyfriend. My boyfriend. Weird. Of course, I hadn’t seen him or anything like that… We do happen to live a small distance away from each other; though the distance is great enough to limit our visits to one weekend each month, except for special occasions. However, on this particular New Year’s Eve, we had yet to see each other since our first encounter, six months earlier at summer camp.
It was our one week anniversary! (I know. Gross.) However, the conversation we were having was short and seemingly one-sided. I was suspicious. It turned out that I was right to be suspicious. The boy was acting upon a plan that had been in the works for quite some time…
You see, Brandon was a tricky little booger. Well, he still is if I’m being completely honest. Remember that whole boyfriend for Christmas over text message thing? That isn’t exactly how he had planned for that conversation to go. He had talked with a few people and had already planned to come up to visit me for New Year’s Eve and that is when he had planned to ask me to be his girlfriend in person rather than over text. Which, by the way, he has apologized for profusely since that day.
So, there I am. Almost finished with the daunting task of blow drying my insanely thick hair. My sister also happens to be in the room with me, though she is standing on the edge of the bathtub to better see herself in the mirror above the sink. We also just so happened to be singing at a not so quiet volume…
There was a knock at the door. I turned the blowdryer off, we stopped singing, and I opened the door to see my mother standing there with a big grin on her face. “You have a visitor,” she trilled as she walked away.
I was in shock! There was no way that the absolutely insane boy that I had just recently agreed to start “dating” (remember that previous discussion about the difference I hold between “talking” and “dating”) actually took the time and spent the money to drive 250 miles just to see me. I walked out of the bathroom mumbling, “It better not be…”
It was. I turned the corner and there he was. He was actually there! Standing in my living room and grinning from ear to ear was the boy I hadn’t seen in half a year. Needless to say, I rushed over to him and gave him a long awaited embrace followed by a few laughs. Apparently my face was priceless or something like that.
Standing there beside him for what felt like the first time, I realized something. He was tall! I mean, I knew he was 6’4, but seeing as I hadn’t really been around him, I had honestly forgotten how much taller he was than I.
As we walked out of the house and made our way to the New Year’s Eve party, I felt every bit like an awkward teenage girl going on her very first date. I mean, it wasn’t a date. It was an ambush. But that’s beside the point. The smiles were radiant and the laughter was genuine.
When we walked into our friend’s house, everyone laughed and started talking at the same time. Brandon had brought two of his friends from home and they were waiting there for us as well. Apparently everyone had been a part of the ambush except me. I was bitter at first, but that faded away rather quickly. I guess my joy at seeing him in person and actually being there with him overshadowed my bitterness.
Now, our New Year’s Eve parties aren’t really anything like, well anything. That night we sat around the room, watched Pitch Perfect, and talked about life. There was also a toast around midnight with some sparkling apple juice and perhaps a hand was held here and there, but that’s as close to a typical New Year’s Eve party as we get. I think it’s absolutely brilliant.
We left later on that night and I got another first for the New Year: my first kiss. It wasn’t anything super romantic. Actually it was rather awkward because he just so happened to miss the first time… Got me right on the side of my mouth! He’s a keeper, I know it! He redeemed himself a moment later and met his mark. Only for a short moment, but it marked the beginning of a new year with a new guy. Actually, it marked the first year with the first guy that will hopefully be the last guy. But I guess we will have to wait and see what God has planned for us.
I know it’s been a while since I posted, but life has been absolutely insane. Today, I am going to talk a little bit about something other than VEDS. I want to tell you about another way that I am walking along “A Path Less Traveled” in my life: my relationship. This will be the first in a series of posts because this story is a rather long one.
Let’s start at the beginning. To set the scene, we were at church camp during the summer of 2012. Now, if you know anything about being at a camp with high humidity, southern heat, no A/C, late night services, and a ton of games that get you hot and sweaty, then you may understand that I never actually looked presentable. I’m not one of those girls that gets dressed up for the services at night, though I applaud the girls who do because they are better women than I will ever be. Summer camp is also usually a place where teenagers have what I call a “Camp Fling.” A camp fling occurs when a guy and girl decide that they kind of like each other and then proceed to flirt with each other throughout the week of camp. It never escalates to more than just flirty comments or sitting together at meals and service, and by the end of the week, it is over. Thus termed a camp fling.
I had been known to have a camp fling or two over the years that never lasted beyond the last day of camp. However, that year I determined that I would focus all of my efforts on the Lord and refuse to have a camp fling. Yes, I am completely aware that this should have been my focus from my very first year at camp, it just took me a while to get there.
So there I was, seventeen years old with a heartfelt desire to serve the Lord and forsake any camp fling that was flung my way. I had literally spent hours in prayer during the months before camp praying that I would be completely focused on God and what He had planned for my life, rather than trying to find a boyfriend. (That was a big deal for me to pray considering I had never had a boyfriend before and I longed for it, despite the people who said I was better off alone.) Little did I know, the Lord had a different plan.
He allowed me to complete my week at camp without a single camp fling. After that week, however, all bets were off. I came back two weeks later to counsel at a camp for younger kids just like I had in the past. That week, the Lord placed a guy named Brandon right in the palm of my hand. Literally. There is no other way that he would have gotten to that camp.
Brandon had never been to this camp before. His friend Stephen called him the night before camp started and let Brandon know that his church would pay for him to go. His dad said yes and they left the next morning for camp.
Brandon met the director of the younger camp while he was at our camp two weeks before. No, we hadn’t actually met while we were at camp together during that first week. Well, not unless you count me almost refusing to give a random guy (who just so happened to be Brandon) a tissue because his nose was bleeding during a game of ultimate frisbee. Yes, I know I’m a terrible person. The Lord dealt with me in that moment and I did end up offering him a tissue and repenting for my bad attitude. I’m very competitive and their team was being particularly snotty during our game. But now I’m getting off topic.
The director of the younger camp asked Brandon and his friend Stephen to come back to counsel her camp and they were only barely able to. They came up the day the camp started rather than coming the night before, like the rest of the counselors did. I was already set up in a cabin and had two other guy counselors on my team with me. The following morning, however, I got moved to a new cabin which put me on a team with Brandon and Stephen, otherwise known to me as “the funny guy (Stephen) and his tall friend I don’t really know at all (Brandon)…”
But I’ll save the rest for another time.