Thank you, Rebecca, for sharing your story with us!
Tell us about yourself!
Hi, my name is Becky. I currently live in the piedmont of North Carolina, although I spend my best days hiking in the Smokey Mountains amidst pine forests, wildflower meadows, and lofty vistas. My first love is writing; my second is landscape painting, especially the Impressionist style. I have always felt tethered to the Lord through nature. Even before I became born again, I knew as a child there was a Creator God who had made everything I saw in the fields and forests in which I played.
I currently have a website, www.nature-reflections.com, where I use Scripture to help readers see how our natural surroundings reflect the Lord’s character and love. In that light, I published The Artistry of God: Devotional Beach Walks to Inspire Your Soul, which offers a series of walks on Nantucket Island written in a devotional style. I write both fiction and non-fiction, as well as memoir and kids’ books. You’ll even find a cozy mystery, Secrets of the Disappearing, for which I am currently writing a sequel.
My journey into the land of chronic illness started in my early forties. I caught a virus that triggered an auto-immune disease of my kidneys. The symptoms of this disease mimic Lyme and Lupus, making it difficult to diagnose. It was the Lord who brought me to a specialist who could identify the disease using a new blood test.
In those days, this form of vasculitis was rare. Not so today because the blood test is more well known. But years later, doctors still do not know what causes it, how to prevent it or cure it. The disease inflames the filter cells of the kidneys, killing them. It is deadly in its intent.
The first time it appeared, they tried to treat it with high doses of prednisone and Cytoxan which only made me feel worse. After six months, my prayer partner, who had moved to Illinois, flew me to their church, and a group of believers prayed over me for more than two hours. When I arrived, I could barely walk. When I got home, the blood tests were normal, and the disease stopped.
But that was not to be the last episode. Over the years, it has come back at least six times. And each time, it has only been prayer that has sent it packing. One of the last times, I remember saying to my friend while we waited to see my doctor at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, “I don’t think I have the faith to believe this time.” She looked me in the eye and said, “Then I’ll be your faith.” While I still take an immuno-suppressant to keep the antibodies at bay, it is the Lord who has control over it.
One time, when I was waiting with a friend to be called down for a second kidney biopsy, the Lord told me to speak to the woman in the next bed about the Lord. But she didn’t speak English! However, my friend spoke Farsi and told her about the Lord. Timing is everything with the Lord.
Unfortunately, auto-immune diseases also trigger other conditions. For me, it was fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and chemical depression. The latter came upon me suddenly one morning. I had no symptoms before. When I finally went to the doctor and asked him, he wasn’t surprised and explained that these three often come linked to an auto-immune disease. Over the years, I have gone through cycles, with varying symptoms, sometimes more debilitating than others. For years I got up at five in the morning two days a week so I could spend an hour doing hot water hydrotherapy before going to work.
The kidney disease was not the only trial I would need to pray through. One month after I took early retirement from AT&T, they diagnosed me with breast cancer. The Lord was at work even while I was recovering in the hospital from a double mastectomy. One morning, He told me to give the salvation message to the woman in the next bed who was dying of stomach cancer. My response was, “Now? Really?” I was still in tremendous pain, but I obeyed.
After the surgery and reconstruction, I witnessed to many women about the goodness of the Lord. He had provided me with believing cancer and plastic surgeons. I soon gave my miraculous testimony to a group of women in our church. Shortly thereafter, several women who had heard my message were diagnosed with breast cancer. The Lord was at work.
My next encounter with God’s directive was in the ER when we thought I had appendicitis. Again, He asked me to pray. This time it was for the young Jewish resident that was taking care of me. I obeyed, much to her surprise, wondering why she needed prayer. I told her only the Lord knows why.
That ER visit was a precursor to what happened a year later. I entered the ER in the middle of the night with a twisted colon. The pain was so severe I remember being embarrassed because I was crying out in pain. At one point, I left my body and was looking down on myself lying on the table with a blanket up to my neck. I said, “Lord, I don’t know what you are doing, but can we please get on with it?”
The Lord provided. The surgeon on duty that night was the hospital’s head of surgery. He knew even before the CT scan what was going on and was impatiently trying to get me into surgery. He later said I was “lucky” as my intestines had already started to die. “No.” I said. “Luck had nothing to do with it. The Lord put you on duty that night to save my life.”
And so it has gone, year after year, the Lord building a testimony to His faithfulness and love. While it’s not always easy having a condition that can kill you at any time, it provides ample evidence of who is in charge of my life.
What has God taught you in your valley of chronic illness?
Patience. With myself, when I have a bad day and think that I cannot take another step in the grocery store. Courage to rise to every occasion. Not to fear the future, as it’s in His hands. Gratitude for being alive, being able to testify about His faithfulness. Compassion for people who have invisible chronic diseases and go about their lives sometimes in quiet desperation while still deeply loving the Lord. When others can’t see what you are experiencing, the Lord can.
Stay tethered to the Word. There is no way you will live your life with joy that doesn’t depend on circumstances unless you are deeply embedded in the Word. When you can’t sleep, the scripture that you memorize will save you. Regardless of how long it takes to memorize it! It’s food for your soul and spirit.
Look for the treasure. My best friend taught me this. In suffering, there is always treasure. Expect the Lord to reveal it to you.
Sing, even if you can’t carry a tune. It’s good for the soul and the spirit.
Live the life the Lord has given you, not the one you wanted, expected and didn’t get. His grace is sufficient. Receive it.
Every day isn’t going to be great. But every day is still one more than the one you had yesterday. Keep your wicks trimmed and your oil jars full. He’s coming again, and He’ll be looking for you.
What Scriptures have spoken to you in your times of need?
I will not die but live and will proclaim what the LORD has done.Psalm 118:17
This scripture was spoken over me in a prayer session. It has remained my theme.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.II Corinthians 4:7-9
So often I have felt like the second sentence and had to remind myself of the first part of the scripture.
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV
One of the hardest things about invisible illnesses is that most people don’t get it because they can’t see it. However, our Savior does. And so do readers like you.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”Jeremiah 29:11
We are a future oriented species. Jesus wants us to focus on the now and trust Him with our future.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”Isaiah 43:2
We, like gold, are being refined into His likeness.
What is the best part of your chronic illness?
Learning to trust in the Lord completely, for the present and the future. Witnessing to others of His healing and compassion.
How would you encourage other women with chronic illness?
Find the people around you that truly understand and don’t judge you. Accept that the Lord has given you this challenge knowingly and lovingly. Use it to glorify Him. Be gentle with yourself when you have days that seem too much to handle.
What resources have helped you?
- Sick and Tired of Feeling Sick and Tired: Living with Invisible Chronic Illness by Paul J. Donaghue, Ph.D, and Mary E. Siegel, Ph.D. This was one of the first and best books I ever read.
- Rose From Briar by Amy Carmichael. This book tells of her finding joy amidst deep suffering.
- In the Shadow of His Wings: 40 Uplifting Devotions Inspired by Birds by Roslynn Long.
- The Valley of Vision, A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett. These prayers are wonderfully refreshing to pray and meditate on.
- The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey. This is a touching and profound true story of a woman confined to her room and bed and her unlikely friendship with a wild snail that her friend brought to her in a woodland terrarium.
- “In Jesus’ Name (God of Possible)” (Katy Nichole)
- “Shepherd” (CityAlight)
- “Goodness of God” (Bethel Music)
- “It is Well With My Soul” (Phillip Paul Bliss, Horatio G. Spaffford)
- “You Raise Me Up” (Josh Groban)
- “The Prayer” (Andrea Bocelli)
Can you relate to Rebecca’s story? What part of her testimony most encouraged you? Any words you would like to leave for her in the comments?