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.