Disease has morphed my life into an arrangement of days and weeks and months which have been altogether strangely beautiful. Of course, I wouldn't have always called it that. During the first 5 years, I logged thousands of hours bed-bound and voiced a litany of nearly hopeless cries to God. Desperate for answers, for support, for understanding.
From late 2011 to early 2016, I believed physical healing was the best kind of reprieve available and if I did not receive it, something was wrong. Either my faith was not persistent enough or God heard every knock on the door and didn't hear or care. Right? If you're someone like me, you start repenting for anything you can think of, periodically checking your faith measurement levels. How was my belief today? Healing-worthy? I would constantly assess myself and think of ways I might gain more of his attention—as if then this God who was Creator and Healer would give me what I was sure I needed. When nothing changed after awhile, I started to think it was less to do with me. Maybe he just wasn't as kind or good as I'd been taught?
People in the church assumed a miracle in my body was my only need or request for prayer. I kept right on thinking God's highest form of wholeness and redemption for my brokenness would be physical healing. Many grace gifts were around me in those early years but I was too disappointed to see or enjoy them. I was like an angry guest, demanding an exchange or refund at the counter. This wasn't what I ordered. Take it back. My theology had only a toe-sized space for suffering.
I won't detail the winding road here, but it's important to note in December 2015, I'd received my long-awaited diagnosis and started treatment. For at least half a year, all efforts seemed futile and only costly. There was some visible improvement in 2016, but transformation was largely inward. Grief led to comfort, questions to peace, self-pity to empathy for others. Only God could bring such change, saving me from the rulings of disease and my personal quest for a pain-free life. I began to marvel at his great sovereignty though admittedly, it still freaks me out at times. I also began to know Jesus as the Man of Sorrows and it's his intimate care—his offering of hope for my soul—that gave me life again. Healing was happening inside, and it was the healing I didn't know I needed.
After 15 months of unemployment and being confined at home, I entered the job search and jumped into work I'd never done but felt suddenly and tremendously pulled to: working alongside people with disabilities. I had no work or volunteer related experience but what I had was my personal journey of chronic illness and the way it birthed empathy for those with disease and disability. My former boss took a chance on me and my struggling health. Her trepidations were made clear but her belief in what God could do were even clearer. It was there, amongst the students, I came alive.
When I moved to Georgia, leaving the school and students was probably the hardest. We'd shared so much together already, celebrating academic and therapeutic successes to processing life to having dance parties. Some were ambulatory while some used wheelchairs. Some were hilarious and some were sassy. Some loved computer games and some preferred music. Some communicated through devices and some used their gaze. All had primary diagnoses of physical disabilities and all bore the remarkable, wonderful image of God. I love them and yearn for them to live in a world set up to support them.
Most recently, I enrolled in a course to learn how to better reach families affected by disabilities. These individuals and families desire so many things aside from physical healing. Grace to endure. Funds for therapy and schooling and equipment. Healing from societal wounds. Vibrant relationships. Supportive communities. Less pat answers, more compassion and listening. Babysitting. Date nights. Shattered perceptions. Invitations to Bible studies and birthday parties and book clubs. Dignity. Opportunity. Value. Hope. Their voices are the ones I want to hear rising around me—especially from within the church. I want to give these families the right resources they need so they might flourish.
It excites me to be following God in the direction of disability ministry and I'd like to share an opportunity I'm beaming over with you. In June, around my 25th birthday, I'll be joining Hope Heals Camp for a week in Alabama to give Christ-centered resources, rest, and relationships to individuals and families with disabilities. Katherine and Jay Wolf have been faithfully pointing these families to hope out of their own suffering and this camp is another extension of their mission.
My application has been filled out for weeks but when I thought it was impossible I could go, I emailed the coordinator and told them I wouldn't be coming. But last night, God nudged me to move forward and at 10 pm I sent off an email again, asking if I still might be able to join...to which they said YES!
I have a big ask and four days' time to make it happen. Honestly, I couldn't imagine a better gift for my 25th or a better way to spend it than in Nauvoo, Alabama with the campers. I need $600 by May 1st so I can serve and so we can pay for a family to attend for free! If you'd be willing to give, I would be so grateful. Many of you've encouraged me to keep persisting through the years, and I'd love to now come together and encourage others to do the same!
For the souls fastened to God forever, healing has already happened. Restoration for all things is coming. I have seen what hope can do and I am convinced—it really does heal and make whole. Let's see hope multiply. Let's give it away.