We’re so excited to start a new series! Between other, more devotional-type posts, we’ll be sharing the personal testimonies of women who are (or have been) in the valley of chronic illness. We hope their stories and words of encouragement can be a blessing to you!
Launching this series for us is Lorraine. Thank you, Lorraine, for sharing your story with us!
Tell us about yourself!
Two summers ago, my family moved back to Alabama, the very state I lived in the first six years of my life. I am currently a senior music major in college anticipating graduation this May, and was recently accepted into a grad program starting this fall. I’m planning to get my master’s in piano performance and pedagogy.
While my passion is teaching music to children, I do enjoy several hobbies including puzzles, crochet, cross-stitch, hiking, and cake decorating. I love to create, decorate, make beautiful spaces, organize, systematize, etc.
About two years after graduating from high school, I found myself overcommitted working part time as a graphic design secretary, teaching music to 3rd and 4th grade in my church’s school, running my own studio teaching 24 lessons a week, accompanying for my church’s choir, serving in Spanish ministry, taking college classes online, and practicing 20 hours a week for my own private lessons. I began to lose it, and for the first time, I had met my limits.
Over the following six months, I stripped myself of all my responsibilities as adrenal fatigue seemed to take over my life. Of course, I most likely will struggle with it the rest of my life. However, the past four years of experiencing God’s sustaining grace have been so beautiful that I now don’t see it as a limitation, but as a gift–a gift that brings me closer to learning God’s heart.
What has God taught you in your valley of chronic illness?
Perhaps the most important lesson God has taught me is humility in that every ability of mine comes from His strength and that every accomplishment of mine is by His enablement. When my condition is at its worst, I feel unimportant, useless, and unable to do anything impactful. I am weak and incapable, and my motivation to carry out my will breaks down.
Yet, God has used those moments to help me better identify with the humiliation of Christ. When Philippians 2 says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…” the description is that God “made himself of no reputation,” (a nobody?) and that He entered this world “in the likeness of man” (vulnerability?), and that He humbled Himself to the will of His Father (submission?). I might never have been able to identify with Christ in this way, had I continued to enjoy a life of perfect health.
What Scripture has spoken to you in your times of need?
“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; and crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that they youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”Psalm 103:2-5
God gave me this verse my sophomore year at college. For an entire year, I taped it to my laptop so I read it every day as I did homework. It still speaks to me and reorients my perspective of who God is to His children–healer, redeemer, lover, satisfier, renewer.
What is the best part of your chronic illness?
It has taught me how to say “no.” I still struggle with it especially on days I feel stronger than normal and I like to think I can do everything! But it is only a matter of days, or sometimes hours before I will crash.
How would you encourage other women with chronic illness?
To any person who struggles with chronic illness: in the pain, the discouragement, the flare-up, the crash, the let-down, the migraine, the panic attack, or the ______ (you fill in the blank), first, learn to cry out to God with a grateful heart. I find I cannot be bitter and sincerely thankful simultaneously, and this habit (which did not come easy) reorients my perspective, reminding me who God is.
Second, create a sacred space to worship in truth. For me this means getting alone and talking to Jesus, reading Scripture, contemplating lines from my favorite hymns, journaling my thoughts, and quoting verses.
Third, think of others. I try to pray for someone, call a close friend, send an encouraging text to someone, think of a gift to give someone for their upcoming birthday, etc.
What resources have helped you?
It Isn’t Supposed to Be This Way by Lyssa TerKeurst.
Can you relate to Lorraine’s story? What part of her testimony most encouraged you? Any words you would like to leave for her in the comments?