Healing is most definitely a process & I am learning that the Lord wants us totally healed, whole & complete.
Nearly six years ago I decided to go to Africa, convinced this would be the answer to all of my problems.. that doing for “the least of these” would automatically wipe away my sin & put me in good standing with God. However, I neglected to even ask the Lord. I selfishly made my plan & asked Him to follow me. There were many signs, I suppose you would say along the way, that should have gotten my attention that this excursion was forced & not at all in the plans for me.
I was not in church at the time. I had no accountability or community surrounding me. I was not in the Word. I was not armed with Truth. Therefore, spiritual warfare hit hard & I was not prepared to fight back.
Although totally unaware, for the first time, I was experiencing debilitating anxiety.
For me, anxiety affects my mind so much so that my body reacts in the form of intense nausea, which leads to vomiting. I lose my appetite. My thoughts become irrational & race nonstop. Often times I wake in the wee hours of the morning obsessing over things.
It was quite some time before I realized that the “sickness” I experienced when I got to Uganda was manifesting itself as anxiety.
I became so ashamed of myself. I did not want anyone to know because those I did confide in did not understand. It’s crazy how you can seem “fine” on the outside when a literal war is raging internally.
Fast forward a few years...
I was approached by a friend to go on a trip to Romania with our church, Public Church. I had so much fear because of how the Africa trip went that I did not even entertain the thought. I was terrified of failing the Lord again.
Reluctantly, I agreed to go to the informational meeting about the Romania trip. I knew I didn’t have the money, so that was my out. Someone mentioned writing support letters. Hhmm.. something began to stir in my heart. So, I wrote letters, with zero expectation of receiving any funding, I might add. Literally within a few weeks, I was fully funded. Wait... what?! I had to go?!
Go I did & it was the most life changing, freeing & healing experience of my life thus far. Being in the center of God’s will & completely surrendered to Him in obedience is an indescribable feeling. This trip changed me. I had to go back.
I went back the next summer & it was even better. The Lord allowed me to share some of my story with the ladies there, & relationships established the year before continued to grow.
By the third summer, this past summer, going to see my second family in Romania was a given for me. I got a little more comfortable with each trip & I so enjoyed loving on these precious people.
We left on a Thursday afternoon & everything was going well & as planned. We made it the long journey to Romania & got settled in. Sunday at church I had the privilege of teaching the children the story of Lazarus. Monday night we had a ladies night & I formed bonds with some little girls whose mothers were involved in the ladies night.
Tuesday morning, I woke up feeling a little funny. I text my team leader that I wasn’t feeling well & I was going to skip breakfast. Once I met up with the team at the church, I was still not feeling well at all. I tried to be a trooper, but it was obvious I was sick. Midafternoon, I went back to the hotel & got in bed. I fell asleep for a couple hours & when I woke up a horrible sensation overcame me. I ran to the bathroom & got so, so sick. This continued for the remainder of the stay. I was literally miserable. I could not eat & I had no energy. I was so out of it I did not even check my phone. At one point I either fell asleep, or passed out on the toilet. I remember waking, head to my chest, in a cold sweat, completely disoriented.
Friday, we were to drive the three hours to Bucharest for some sightseeing & shopping before we flew out the next day. I had not even packed. I seriously contemplated leaving my belongings. I did not care about anything but getting well. I was supposed to go visit my best friend for a week in Europe after leaving Romania. I had worked everything out beforehand, but there was no way I could travel by myself as sick as I was. I made the difficult decision to come home with the team.
This was when the guilt & shame started to take hold. I missed out on the last half of our ministry in Romania. I missed out on saying a proper goodbye to my friends there. I missed out on getting to see my best friend face to face & spend time with her. This was not the plan. I felt like I let so many people down. I got on the bus with my team with tears streaming down my face. I did not understand why this was happening.
I had so much fear that everyone would think this was an Africa repeat, or extreme anxiety that I could not control. It was hard to not feel anxious since in the past I experienced nausea, vomiting & other stomach issues when anxiety filled me. However, I knew this was different. Something was not right.
I was glad to be coming home to get to the doctor & get well, but I was also mourning things not going the way I planned for months beforehand. We got back home late Saturday night. Sunday, my mom took me to the doctor. I was diagnosed with the Norovirus & extreme dehydration. I was given two bags of fluids & other medications.
After about a week, I finally started to feel somewhat better. It took nearly three weeks for me to get back to “normal”. I have never been that sick in my life.
I was so embarrassed. I did not want to talk about it. I tried to act like it didn’t happen. If anyone asked me about Romania I felt this tingly feeling inside.. I now realize that feeling was anxiety because I was so ashamed. I felt like I had done something wrong & had again failed.
The strangest thing was that on the flight back home, I noticed a numbness & tingling in my fingers & thumbs on both hands. Two weeks after being back home, the numbness remained. It was driving me absolutely crazy. It was like this constant reminder of that horrible sickness & situation I experienced.. & all of the people I let down.
I went to my doctor & she did blood-work. My B12 was “in the tank”, she said. She also explained that this neuropathy in my hands was most likely permanent & probably got set off by the Norovirus. Unbelievable.
It has been almost four months & I still do not have feeling in my thumbs & a few finger tips on each hand. I have gotten used to it, but every now & then I am reminded of the cause.
This past weekend, a friend who went to Romania with us this last summer contacted me about an art project for one of her college classes. She said she had been thinking of how I got sick in Romania & the numbing in my hands.. she asked to mold my hand. Not fully understanding the project, I agreed, trusting Julie’s vision. She came over & molded my hand. As the mold was setting up, I asked what her project was. She said that she wanted to mold hands that had a story & she thought of me.
You see, the finger tips are cut off of the mold & covered with greenery, representing life & growth. When Julie finished explaining the project idea to me, I was so choked up.
I went to Romania to serve. Most often when we think of serving, we think of serving with our hands. My hands were the body part most affected by the virus.. oh, but God. He has grown me in this situation. He has shown me so much about His limitless power, His control, His plan & His unconditional love.
It was like the Lord was reminding me of this story, His story, that I have tried so hard to stuff away.. but, He wants me healed. Totally, fully, & completely healed. He has also shown me that stuffing this story, & others, is giving it power over me. So, with Julie’s beautiful project, I knew it was time to share my story.. His story. As my favorite scripture says, “... His power is made perfect in weakness...” - 2 Corinthians 12:9.
[Notice: Julie molded my left hand, which is the wrist I happen to have two tattoos. Yes, I know, prob not the best life choice.. nevertheless.. my white cross is a constant reminder of the price Jesus paid for me. The other is the Hebrew word for Truth.]