As some of my readers are aware I’m a Christian. I have been since October 26th 2004 at approximately 9:50pm. I go to church almost every Sunday and often both the morning and evening service. Over the last eight and a half years I’ve seen some pretty amazing things happen. There have been healings, encounters with the holy spirit, visions and all sorts of other miracles. A whole bunch of stuff that just isn’t explainable in any other way than, God showed up.
Most of the time my personal experiences of God are very much that; personal. Someone I know refers to them as kisses from heaven. Little things that God does that only really mean something to me, but recently I had a big something happen. It’s not the first and I really hope it won’t be the last, but it was bigger than I’m used to and I wanted to tell this one, after all it is my occupation, telling stories. This one just happens to be true.
As many of my blog readers have been aware I’ve been going to hospital and doctors appointments a lot lately. I’ve never come out and said what was wrong but it was quite major so I’m going to finally explain.
A little under two years ago I started to notice, for no reason I could pin down, my body would reject food occasionally. I’d eat something, think I was totally okay and then about 1-2 hours later I’d get a lot of stomach pains and find myself having to rush to the loo. It wasn’t pleasant.
Originally I thought this might be some kind of allergy. I tried cutting out all sorts of foods, one by one. Caffeine, dairy, spicy foods, wheat, gluten. None of it helped and the problem slowly got worse and worse until, not only was this happening upwards of once per week, but I was also finding a really black substance coming out with everything else (I later learnt this was what digested blood looked like).
I also started to grow really really tired. It started to get difficult to go for the usual walks I went for. I couldn’t walk back up the Bath hills home after shopping in the city centre and I could barely cope with a few minutes standing at the sink to do the washing up. I felt tired, almost constantly. Getting out of bed took effort and sometimes I would feel like I’d walked 10 miles when all I’d done is showered.
For the first little while I went back and forth to the doctors, trying to get them to take me seriously and understand something more than stress was wrong with me. I grew quite depressed at finding every day was a constant process of decisions between the many things I wanted to do. Things I never used to have to choose between. If I worked for a few hours I wouldn’t be able to do the chores and if I walked to town to run this errand I would either have to stay there till I got a lift back or spend money on the bus. If I spent time with friends it would mean I couldn’t write as much. Every day was full of painful choices.
There was a week when I had family visiting and I had to take about a week off, both before and after they came, to rest because spending time with them and trying to have fun tired me out that much. Shopping and trying on clothes was exhausting, and on top of that I couldn’t eat a whole bunch of things and was on pills that had to be taken 20 minutes before I ate. No caffeine, no alcohol, no dairy, no insoluble fibre (bran, wholegrain, seeds, raw vegetables, fruit skins, coconut etc), no sweeteners and not too much carbonated drinks.
On top of all of that, timing taking those pesky pills to be close enough to twenty minutes before eating, when going out to eat was a nightmare! Not to mention the times my husband would start cooking a meal at home (I was often far too tired by then to help cook) it would get to about five minutes before it would be ready and one of us would remember I hadn’t taken a pill. The amount of times I’ve had a plate of food in front of me that was starting to get cold and I couldn’t eat it yet are too numerous to count.
And even after all that there was more. About half the time I had some kind of stomach pain, often dull aches but occasionally the pain would get so bad I’d be doubled up in agony. Pretty much the rest of the time everything would feel unsettled, tense and uncomfortable. The few times I felt okay for some reason I would usually notice and comment in surprise to my husband that I actually felt comfortable for once.
I had hospital test after hospital test (and lots of those were rather unpleasant too) and nothing showed up. All they seemed to know was my bowels were really not happy and I was bleeding somewhere as yet undiscovered.
Needlesss to say by the end of 2012 I had pretty much retreated into myself. I wrote when I could, spent most of my time on the sofa, except for Sundays were I went to church and tried to get my tired self through the service and encounter God in some way. Often I would have to fight my feelings to even get to church but it really was the highlight of my week. I mean it. I enjoyed church the whole way through. I know that’s a foreign idea to many people, but I loved going to church, I have ever since that moment in 2004.
I knew it would be all to easy to get angry at God, especially as I felt like I was watching my dreams all slip out of reach with every day that went by and I still felt too tired to do anything but sit, but somehow I didn’t. I cried a lot, I asked my husband how life could be so unfair a few times and saw the pained expression as he tried to answer but I never really got angry at God. I focused on all the little things God had done for me, all the little ways my life was still better than it had been before October 26th 2004, and somehow, week after week I kept going, trusting, and making the best of what I had.
At the start of this year though I felt my attitude changing a little. I stopped saying no to everything that required energy. I got angry, but not at God. I suppose angry isn’t quite the right word. It wasn’t really anger so much as defensiveness. I decided I was going to see my dreams come true, even though I didn’t have the energy right now. It wasn’t really as simple as that sounds though. I just knew I had to keep moving forwards. That every day I had to take a step towards something important or I’d end up sliding backwards.
I started looking out for opportunities to do something a bit more challenging. I even abseiled for charity (yes I did this while really sick. In hindsight I really don’t recommend it. I was dizzy while standing at the top and with the adrenaline I got buzzed with coming down, when I reached the bottom I almost went right over and getting down the rockface itself, well let’s just say that’s on my list of things I hope I never ever have to go through again).
I also finally started telling people what was actually wrong with me. I guess I stopped being proud and hiding it, but I think even now there are people that were fairly close to me who don’t know quite how sick I got. I just didn’t want to talk about it, but I think I should have. I also think I probably should have asked for help more often, but I know I got better at being open about it and I think that was a good thing.
As you have probably worked out by now this blog post is all written in past tense. That does mean I’m no longer sick. The first Sunday in March I was absolutely shattered. I remember thinking I was more tired than even I normally felt and I’d been to the morning service, eaten lunch with friends and really didn’t feel very good. I was in pain and only going to the evening service because things had been amazing two weeks before at our Church’s album launch and there was a part of me that really wanted to connect to God like that again. It was a struggle though. I hurt, I was tired and it’s a lot of effort to stand and worship, but I made myself do it.
Part way through the service a bunch of people were encouraged to come to the front if they felt like they had been silenced lately. I went up. I am not even sure if I really felt like I had been silenced. Technically I was still writing, but it was one of those moments where my body started moving and taking me to the front before I could really think about it. I just went up, on instinct or whatever you’d call it.
Oddly enough as I remember it now, as soon as I got up there the pain I was feeling faded. I worshipped and stood side by side by a whole bunch of other people. Then at some point our pastor said to put our hands up if we needed a body healing of some kind. Again my hand shot up, before I could really think about it. I wasn’t exactly opposed to the idea of being prayed for to be healed but I’d not gone out of my way to seek it either. But I remember thinking ‘What have I got to lose? I know God heals. I’ve seen him do it before. Maybe today’s the day he wants to heal me again.’
So a couple of people came up to pray for me and I have to say what happened next is really really hard to explain. I remember finding it hard to breathe. It was like I couldn’t breathe out though, like something kept wanting to come in and fill me up, and fill me up it did. If I hadn’t known it was God I actually think it would have been rather scary. I felt filled with something incomprehensibly powerful. Something not me, but part of me, all at the same time. I’d felt filled up with stuff before in the presence of God. I’d felt loved and a sense of peace but I’d never felt anything quite so full on ‘it could do anything it wanted to’ powerful before. I guess it’s what I imagine superman must have felt the first time he lifted a car or iron man when he walked into that first barrage of bullets and nothing harmed him. I do also remember thinking ‘holy crap’ a few times as well and I almost laughed aloud at the ironicness of swearing at being filled up with God’s power. I also remember feeling like my insides were on fire, especially my face behind my eyes. They tingled and yeah, it was weird. But eventually it was over and I went home. I felt like something had happened, but I didn’t know what. It really could have been anything.
It wasn’t until the Thursday after I noticed I wasn’t in any pain and I actually couldn’t remember if Sunday had been the last time I had been in pain. Over the next few days I just made a note of how my body was behaving and I noticed I could get up in the mornings. I woke up and I felt okay. Not amazing but I was actually waking up when my husband’s work alarm went off and I didn’t have to persuade my body to get up.
By the following Sunday I mentioned it to a few people. I just told them I felt really good and hadn’t been having any problems. I thought there was a chance I’d been healed. By Tuesday I felt sure enough to tell my church small group and Wednesday morning I stopped taking the pills. Thursday I went for a walk. A 4-5 mile long walk. I went with a friend and do you know what, I felt better than he did when we got back to the house. Other than a few achy muscles that weren’t used to being used I didn’t even feel like I’d been for a walk.
Since then, I’ve had alcohol, caffeine and re-introduced everything else back into my diet but the dairy (the caffeine was interesting. It turns out I’m now so sensitive to it I kept myself awake all night after having about 250ml of dr pepper one afternoon, so I think I’ll be limiting myself to how much caffeine I have, but not for medical reasons). I’m going to try the dairy as well soon but it had a worse effect than anything else so I’m going to do that one gradually.
I’m now sitting looking at my life with the energy I had before, there’s no pain and no problems. I’m not bleeding and I’ve got more energy than my husband! God changed my life. And I don’t actually think He did it because I did anything or followed some magical formula, or said the right words at the right time. I think He did it, just because He could, because He decided that He wanted, in that moment, to give me my life back.
The biggest thought I’m left with is this. I really hope I don’t forget how much I appreciate having my life back. How amazing it feels to be able to do everything I want to, when I want to. How great it is to have choices that don’t hurt. I really hope I choose the right things to do with all this extra time and energy I’ve got. I hope I put it to good use, because it’s a gift. One that can be taken away, and it wasn’t until it was gone that I realised how valuable it was.