Embracing Brokenness 25+ years of overcoming Cryoglobulinemia Vasculitis
My body went numb as I collapsed. The doctor stammered, “Are you alright?” I had no answer. Pain became my constant companion at the age of twenty-three. The words, "incurable, life threatening, chronic" overwhelmed me. When the attacks came with sudden vengeance, all I could do was helplessly watch my body deteriorate. Flu-like symptoms made working, socializing, shopping, and performing the simplest of daily chores unbearable. In addition, insomnia and the gnawing pain of fibromyalgia that began when I was 15 became more intense. I cried out, “God, help me!”
I lost everything that mattered. Divorce and homelessness led to suicide ideation and confinement in a psychiatric hospital. I prayed for death to come quickly. I didn’t care how. God answered me by directing my focus from my misery to Jesus. The Bible taught me that peace could be mine despite the storm that surrounded me. Finally, embracing my complete brokenness, I saw my life as God saw it—worthy to be lived. I met a hero named Paul. He proposed less than a month after our first date. Eighteen years later we are still beating challenges together.
In 2005, we rescued a broken dog. She rescued me back by becoming the world's first rescued Italian greyhound service dog helping a woman with an incurable blood disease. Together we go where no woman and dog have gone before visiting prisons, schools, orphanages, hospitals, wherever we are invited to share our message of hope and songs. The good news, I haven’t been hospitalized since we rescued each other. She’s been the best medicine with no negative side-effects.
There are still times of despair. Recently as I battled what appeared to be kidney failure, pain shivered through my body, I shifted Gracie, her closeness creating lifesaving heat. Teetering in and out of coherency, wondering how much more agony my body could take? "Oh Lord," I prayed, tears pooling around my lashes, "how am I supposed to serve You when I’m so broken? This is not how I dreamed it would be..." I burrowed into my damp pillowcase, praying for help. Just then, I beheld a vision, a room, its lone occupant a pedestal displaying a crystal bowl. Light shimmered down upon its beauty, but as I approached I saw the bowl was deeply cracked. A water pitcher appeared, and in dismay I watched sparkling water cascade into the basin and immediately stream out through the holes and cracks. I sighed. "Yes, Lord, that’s me. Broken. A useless vessel; a terrible waste." Then the room went dark. Slowly the glory of the Lord emerged and emanated from below the pedestal and beamed up through it toward the bowl, which was now upside down. Within moments, the room filled with brilliance. Yet it was through the broken parts that He shined the brightest.
I understood. In spite of and because of my weakness He is able. He is strong. God continues to help me survive the darkness so I can be a light to shine for His glory. He likes to breath life through the most unlikely of candidates. Whereas my brokenness once dragged me into the pit, it now lifts me up into the open arms of a loving God who allows me to help people I may never have met. The disease hasn't left yet, but sometimes wellness isn't the absence of sickness. By letting my mess become my message and my tests my testimony, day by day, I’m an overcomer and I remind people they can too! Like Peter, when I keep my eyes on Jesus and not the storm, I can do more than I've ever dreamed. I’m strong and courageous in spite of persistent challenges because I’ve learned the key to happiness: focusing on the needs of others, just as Jesus did.
I believe in miracles. Gracie, Paul, my foster and adopted children and all who live with uncommon courage no matter what, are proof.
Administrative Director, TX
I first heard about Diane on Michael W. Smith's FB page. We became friends. When I found out she would be traveling through Texas I decided to find a way to get her to stop in my small town of LaPorte. She agreed to stop in for one night and it turned into three! We went to my church Wednesday and God saw to it that she gave her testimony... so many lives were impacted. People stayed after and a long line formed to meet her and of course Gracie.
On Friday, she spoke to several classes at LaPorte High school. It was amazing! So many students came up to tell her what an impact her message had on them. She has a wonderful way of connecting with people of all ages and attitudes! It's hard not to hug her and let her know she and Gracie are loved and have caused healing because of their message. It was a great few days that I'll treasure forever.
Paul and Diane are down-to-earth, genuine, sincere people who want to help those who are hurting. It was amazing to watch them minister to all ages everywhere we went. Their mission in life is to provide hurting people with the knowledge that they can “BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS”. That is hard to do sometimes, but when you look at Diane and see what she is going through, you can know that God is there through thick and thin and will bring you through the storms. I wholeheartedly recommend that you go review this website and get to know her. Once you do you will want to tell others about her remarkable story. She needs us just as much as we need to keep her out and about, speaking of God’s goodness and raising awareness about CVO. She has an incredible message!
To know Diane is to love her. I've joined SCwSG/CVO's volunteer Dream Team. I'm thankful to be apart of this important outreach, using my gifts and talents to be all I can be. I'm helping to transform the world and you can too!! I don't have cryo but like Diane I've had the pain of fibromyalgia and all the other symptoms that go along with it for almost 40 years.
Overall Team Support and Goodsearch Queen, MN
Greetings from MN! I am a member of the amazing Second Chance with Saving Grace/CVO volunteer team. I help Diane with the Foster/Adoption outreach work by gathering supplies, toys and items from the wish list and shipping them to headquarters in Colorado. I'm helping the children's outreach department by sharing my love for creative fun with children through posts in the SCwSG blog called, Making Memories with Mary. I'm also a grateful member of the prayer team. Prayer is important to me and has been a constant factor in my life.I grew up attending church and can remember praying by myself when I was 3 years old. I also remember praying hard when I went to a new school when I was 5 years old. It was that moment on the steps of that new place that I felt the power of God in my life which is a major reason I love to work with children. I come from a family of faith with one of my ancestors coming to this land in 1644 from England as the result of persecution because he was a Quaker. However, that does not mean that my family was perfect. Like the vast majority of us, I grew up with adversity and conflict. Jesus is my rock through it all. I've been surrounded by Christian friends and their parents who could see what I could not and helped me in ways that I only realize now. All of this has come into play through my college years and well into adulthood. God has led me and continues to lead me through times with my own sons and having adult children living at home.
I also come to the realization that anyone can be a blessing from God to others with words of encouragement, prayer, and a caring attitude. That is what I try to do by sharing SCwSG/CVO information on Facebook and with my friends. I became involved with Second Chance with Saving Grace through online connections with Christian friends. I know that God is blessing Diane and our team with many opportunities to help hurting people and animals while offering everyone ways to share their gifts and talents with a family that is making a difference in the world. I look forward to all the ways God will use me to transform lives through the many outreach efforts of SCwSG/CVO.
Social Sites Manager, AZ
I am a former teacher. Graduated from Northern Illinois University, in 1983 with a BA in elementary and special education. I’m constantly amazed reading Diane’s Facebook wall posts, the issues that she has gone through personally, with family and how she was there at the end for her Mom, best friend Jan, Jan’s husband Dave, and last but not least, Diane’s precious service dog Gracie during her cancer ordeal. I know that Diane is the "real deal" and to see that kind of love pouring out, even after all she has gone through, is exceptional. Diane’s life experiences help us all to keep our own pain in proper perspective and to realize we can help others to find God and bring them closer to Him no matter what tough times we may be experiencing. We just need to be willing to reach out.Shortly after I met Diane online, I was recovering from a hysterectomy and a blood clot when she surprised me with a gift of hope and encouragement by way of a SCwSG “Love Kit.” It was exciting to receive her books, a t-shirt, the card, bookmark and Gracie baby. Her autobiography, “God Made Only One Of Me” inspired me to use my own hard times for good and it was nice to know that there was a group of people I’ve never met who cared about what I was going through. This made me feel special and loved!We became forever friends and I wanted to join the team to help her and SCwSG/CVO to “spread the love.” The way she has struggled and yet overcomes serious daily challenges brings healing to my soul. Diane helps me realize that I too can "be strong and courageous" – words Diane posts in her messages. I see Diane and SCwSG/CVO team members as compassionate and loving people. Each member takes time daily to pray for one another as well as others who are going through tough times. And anyone who understands what a gift a 2nd chance can be is welcome to join the team and share their gifts and talents to help hurting people and animals. Wow.Diane's goal is to help make your dreams come true. She is helping make mine come true by allowing me to write, share encouraging prayers, help manage the Facebook and other social site pages, and to share my rhyme – some thoughts and lessons to be taught: Freestyle writer, wanting to make the world brighter, a freedom fighter. I hope to help others understand Attention Deficit Disorder and the challenges people with ADD have. Ready to shine God's bright light and share that helpful insight with what I write.My interests include: church, photography, writing, arts and crafts, scrapbooking, community fests, volunteering and traveling. My Mom is from England where I taught students. I am blessed with many lovely family memories. Thank you Diane for caring enough to reach out to me, send me a “Love Kit” and welcome me to your amazing dream team. The best is yet to be, I do believe. GO TEAM, GO!!
Card Ministry and Team Matrique, WA
"And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever doesn not have the Son of God doesn not have life." 1 John 5:11-12
Prayer Team Leader, FL
From my earliest memories, I attended church. Raised in Baltimore, Maryland, a city that has more churches per capita than any other in North America, I had going to church down cold. I knew all the right things to say and do. I had memorized the entire service, all the prayers, what I was expected to do or say. I even figured out the best place to sit to quickly leave and avoid the traffic jam in the parking lot.Growing up, I tried to do what was right, but failed at every turn. I would ask God’s forgiveness, but couldn’t even get that right. I would talk about things on the surface, but not the core problems that festered deep inside of me.In high school, I made friends by joining the basketball team, a handful of guys who seemed radically different from anyone I'd ever met. Though certainly not perfect, there was just something about them. They treated one another like the real friends I so desperately wanted and needed. They befriended me, inviting me to play basketball at their church on Saturday mornings.On one fateful day, in the parking lot of a bowling alley, Michael told me that God loved me. I cursed and told him God was responsible for all of my problems, an arrogant attempt at denying any personal accountability. But deep in my heart I knew I was wrong. In spite of my angry response, Michael said he absolutely knew God loved me because Jesus had died in my place.Michael invited me to come to a youth meeting where, for the first time in my life, I heard people talk to God as if He was really there. The conversation was real and heartfelt as they shared their hopes, hurts, needs, pain and joy. I felt absolutely crushed and started to weep uncontrollably. They had something that I desperately wanted and needed, but had no clue on how to get. So, for the first time in my life, I actually spoke to God. Through my tears of shame and guilt, I said that I did not know God but desperately wanted to. I had this gaping hole in my soul that failed to fill at every point.Michael, Howard (the youth pastor) explained the incredibly good news that God wanted a relationship with me. The three of us knelt down, and I agreed with God that I was broken, lost and could not fix myself. I told God that I needed Jesus to repair and restore my relationship with Him and my personal brokenness. I asked Jesus to become my Lord, my Savior and my God. With tears of release, I knew for the first time in my life that I was truly forgiven.I walked out a new man in Christ, radically transformed. Several areas of my life were immediately transformed, for which I am truly thankful, and others I struggled with for years. God continues to mature me, pointing out areas that need to come under His greater control. I am so thankful to God for His patience and kindness to me.Finding SCwSGI first heard of Second Chance with Saving Grace when Diane visited Christ Community Church in Winter Haven, Florida. I got a chance to speak with her about how God was moving in/through her life and her calling to this ministry. Since that time I've been following SCwSG through the website and Facebook. God has been moving in my life and calling me into full-time ministry. I included Diane in my blog and e-mail distribution. Her words of encouragement and appreciation meant so much as I started from scratch.
Hopes and Dreams
I am humbled that God has gifted and called me to teach the Bible in a very real, practical, interesting and culturally relevant way via technology and the Internet through SCwSG. To that end, I’ve created GLAD Associates with a unique vision and mission to reach people with the believable good news about Jesus Christ.Everything God brought me through has been to bring me to this unique time and place with SCwSG. My hopes and dreams are to be a unique and valuable resource to SCwSG, encouraging both staff and the people they serve. I am so excited and look forward to sharing the love and grace of God through writing, prayer and Bible teaching on behalf of SCwSG.
Writing, Blogging and Editing Specialist, TX
I talked with Diane and immediately knew I was home. I stumbled on the Second Chance with Saving Grace website when I was looking for places I could volunteer my time and writing skills. I was impressed with the way the organization reaches out to adults, children, and animals who experience suffering of all kinds.
Like Diane, my father also had a rare form of vasculitis known as Microscopic Polyangiitis. Its an autoimmune disease that can attack any organ. Most people with the disease go into kidney failure, but with my dad, it went for the lungs. After walking a few steps or speaking for more than a sentence or two, he'd have to stop and catch his breath. He was treated with chemotherapy to suppress his immune system and keep his body from attacking itself and it appeared the disease went into remission. Then, in early 2014, he had a sinus infection that would not go away and landed him in the hospital with pneumonia. After many tests, it was discovered that he had acquired another disease-- myelodysplastic syndrome, a form of cancer that leads to leukemia-- as a result of the chemotherapy used to treat his vasculitis. Both of these diseases together was terminal, and he passed away in September of 2014 at the age of 56-- too young. Dad was a registered nurse by profession and had dedicated his life to serving the sick; in the end, he spent more time as a patient than at work.
I believe that God has a plan here and I'm trying to have the faith to continue into the next chapter in my life. I have seen too much tragedy, too much illness, both mental and physical. Sometimes, the best way we can cope is to give of our time and talents to others who need them, and maybe life will become just a little bit easier and more enjoyable for all of us. I am thankful for the opportunity SCwSG has given me to do that.