Thank you, Leah, for sharing your story with us!
Tell us about yourself!
My name is Leah Kaiser and I am a 42-year-old wife and mother to 3 teenagers. We currently reside in Tucson, AZ, but have lived in various places all over the country. I am a former Navy Nurse and currently homeschool all of our children. We have 5 dogs, 1 cat, and we raise quail for their eggs.
I am on staff with the Diamonds Conference, a bi-annual conference for Christians living with chronic illness. I am also a coordinator for the Tucson, AZ Community Bible Study class, and an advisor for our state Youth & Government and local Speech & Debate programs. I enjoy reading (mostly listening to audio books these days) and crocheting. When my body cooperates, I love the outdoors too – hiking, rock climbing, and white water rafting!
I was diagnosed 8 years ago with Chronic Lyme Disease and coinfections, most likely acquired in my childhood and then passed to all 3 of our children in utero. I also have Chronic Epstein Barr Virus, Autoimmune Thyroid Disease, and Celiac Disease. During this journey, we have also discovered that we have heavy metal and mold toxicity. These things affect me most through chronic migraines, brain fog, joint pain, multiple food allergies, depression and anxiety, and fatigue.
What has God taught you in your valley of chronic illness?
Over the years, people have marveled at how “lucky” I am to be a nurse, so I can help my family get better. While this is true in many regards, it was also a great detriment to me for many years. I had this overwhelming burden to “fix” my sick child. I felt that God had given me the knowledge, resources, and skills to be able to “figure it out” and “make him better.”
I couldn’t have been more wrong. When my son’s neurologist suggested that we do an EEG (looking for seizures), I was certain it was a waste of time. If he was having seizures, surely I would have known. The day I got the call that he was indeed having seizures was the day I broke to pieces. I was overcome with guilt, disappointment (in myself for getting it wrong), and despair.
My Bible-study sisters walked alongside me, gently (and sometimes more sternly) reminding me that I was holding on too tight. That I had to open my hand and allow God room to work. Clearly He was going to work in my son’s life in ways I hadn’t planned or expected.
And you know what, He has. In the years since then there have been so many lost dreams, changed plans, and difficult paths, many of which have been related to our illnesses. But God is always faithful to remind me to loosen my grip, take a deep breath, and allow Him room to work. He is faithful.
What Scriptures have spoken to you in your times of need?
He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.Colossians 1:17
This may seem like an unlikely verse, but one day I realized that, if He truly holds ALL things together, that includes me! Jesus is holding me together, all my broken pieces, especially when I feel like I am falling apart. I love to thank God for holding all things together, even me, when I am praying!
1 Kings 19: 4-18
The Prophet Elijah has encouraged me so much. He was exhausted and broken. He had run himself right to the end of himself. He laid down under a broom tree and wanted to die. God gave Elijah what he needed in that moment – a holy nap and a holy snack (and then another holy nap, which I appreciate). The Angel told him, “Arise and eat for the journey is too great for you.”
You know that old line about God not giving us more than we can handle? Elijah would tell you that’s not true. But God was willing to give him what he needed to get the job done. The holy snack sustained him for 40 days and 40 nights as he traveled to Horeb.
Another interesting point is that Elijah earnestly believed that he was alone. Two times he told God “I, even I only, am left.” Boy, can I relate to that! I have felt utterly alone in this life of chronic illness. I have met many other mothers with chronic illness. And many mothers who have children with chronic illness. But a mother with chronic illness, raising 3 teenagers with chronic illness? No one could possibly understand what that is like! (God has been so good to show me there are others out there and I have to remind the devil that he is a LIAR when these thoughts pop up).
Just as God gave Elijah 7000 faithful people in Israel, he has given us a faithful remnant of chronic illness warriors who are empathetic and care for us greatly. Living in community with other believers who can meet you in your struggle is so important, and God will be faithful to bring those people into your life when you give Him the room to work and provide!
What is the best part of your chronic illness?
Having three teenagers with chronic illness has been particularly challenging. No two days are the same, especially since they all experience different symptoms from one another. I distinctly remember the day my (then) 12-year-old-son told me it hurt to sit on the couch – that his spine felt bruised when he sank back into our overly plush couch.
If I hadn’t already known what that felt like, I am not sure what I would have thought. Would I have believed him? Or dismissed it as silliness? That’s not something you can easily relate to, especially when it comes from a child. I believe my experience with chronic illness has given me empathy and understanding towards my children that I may not have had otherwise.
Also, living with chronic illness has given me an opportunity to meet so many wonderful young women and men who are also suffering. Being on staff with the Diamonds Conference I have been able to mentor and encourage a host of wonderful people I may not have otherwise met.
How would you encourage other women with chronic illness?
Look for the “God winks”
Early on in our journey, we felt very overwhelmed with our circumstances. We were looking for the big healing, while missing the smaller details of God’s day to day work in our lives. We learned to look for the “God winks” in our day. The small things that reminded us that “God’s working and He’s got this!” It was a song on the radio, a particular Bible verse, an encouraging word spoken through a friend, a meal provided, a refreshing (holy) nap. All of those things were God’s provision and they were worth noting. He was (and is) working in our lives and He won’t stop until the day of completion (Phil 1:6).
Living in isolation, especially when you are struggling with chronic illness, is not helpful. I know it can be hard to connect, but get creative! There are so many online resources to meet others with similar struggles. I firmly believe there is redemption in encouraging others, especially when we have been encouraged by God to endure a similar struggle. Living in community can bring our struggles full circle.
What resources have helped you?
The Diamonds Conference has been a huge blessing to our family. You can learn more about it here: http://sgwilloughby.com/diamonds-2022/.
Being a part of an in-depth Bible study has also been very helpful for our family. Community Bible Study is an interdenominational Bible Study that hosts classes all over the world. Many of our classes are even held online, which can be a huge blessing for our community! You can learn more about Community Bible Study here: https://www.communitybiblestudy.org/
The Chronic Joy Ministry has many wonderful resources and opportunities to connect with others. You can receive encouraging notes in the mail, download printables, or even contribute by writing articles or sending handmade prayer shawls for them to gift to others! You can check out their information here: chronic-joy.org.
Can you relate to Leah’s story? What part of her testimony most encouraged you? Any words you would like to leave for her in the comments?