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!?
Have you ever had someone look you in the eyes and say, “Dream bigger! Your dreams just aren’t good enough.”?
Well, me either. Not really. It wasn’t so much a person as the Lord’s voice in my head one day as I was praying. He was very clear, though; my dreams were not up to His standards. So I upped my game.
First, I brought Him all of the dreams I did have: a house, family, good job, blah, blah, blah. Basically, all of the typical girl dreams, including a nice guy with a ring and a wedding eventually. Yeah… I’m pretty basic.
Then, I gave up my dreams and asked God what it was that He wanted me to be dreaming of. (That is an absolutely terrifying question to ask Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent God… Do it. I dare you.)
His answer wasn’t what I was expecting. Actually, He rather surprised me.
It was as if my dreams were pieces of clay that I had molded and spent so much time perfecting myself. They were well thought out and I had taken pieces of each of my dreams from different places: a detail from my best friends dream wedding, a characteristic from the storybook prince, a spark of life from my past experiences. But all of my hard work wasn’t good enough…
The thing is, God didn’t just waltz in, snatch up my dreams, and throw them by the wayside. Instead, He asked. He requested that I willingly surrender the things I had worked so hard on, but He also promised something better. So I did. I gave them all up. And what He offered me was so much better than I ever could have imagined.
I gave Him my dream of a house in the country with a wraparound porch and a swing. He gave me a massive house ready to hold friends and family from near and far, ready to serve anyone who walked across the threshold. He gave me a home filled with love and joy that echoed off of every wall. He gave me a wraparound porch for all of the kids I love and teach to run in circles throughout the day. He gave me a swing to sit with friends and family and converse about life and to sing to the kids around me as we swing away from the worries surrounding our lives.
I gave Him my dream of a family which had been shattered by the diagnosis of VEDS. He gave me a home filled with kids from all over the world. He gave me a family of adopted kids better than anything I ever could have imagined on my own. He gave me a church family bigger than any biological family I could ever have.
I gave Him my dream of a good job with good pay. He gave me a better job than I ever could have found on my own. He gave me experiences I didn’t know I needed. He gave me coworkers who would support me in Christ. He gave me my mission field in the midst of my work life. He gave me everything I would ever need, provided by His hand, not mine.
I gave Him my dream of a nice guy, of prince charming or whomever else girls dream about. He gave me a man to stand by my side when no one else could. He gave me a man wiling and able to support me when I forget to support myself. He gave me a man better than any prince charming, shadowhunter, Mr. Darcy, or superhero could ever be. He gave me a man who kneels in prayer with me and worships beside me. He gave me a man who would never run away, no matter how bad life gets.
Then, He gave me a new dream: to travel. To see the world He had so deftly created and continues to create and renew each and every day. But He didn’t just give me the desire to see it on a TV or computer screen. No. He gave me beauty beyond my wildest dreams and joys I never knew I could behold, all with my own eyes. Adventure. Journey. Explore. Travel. To see it all for myself and enjoy every step of the journey, every moment of the adventure that takes me wherever He leads.
The Lord didn’t take my dreams and toss them in the trash. He transformed them. He remolded them into something more beautiful than I could have imagined, something I never knew I wanted.
So go ahead. Dream bigger. I dare you.
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.