One month ago, I moved back inland to begin the next leg of my health journey. I’m home!
This year has been the hardest, most thrilling, and most rewarding year of my life. I can barely process the goodness of God!
Humility, repentance, forgiveness, and walking in freedom…BOY I was getting some upper-level education in those departments. 😉 Furthermore, beginning in the spring, I learned the painful task of cutting ties with several different people, and I’ve breathed deep, shaky sighs of relief each time. Forgiveness is a daily decision, though – it’s like working a muscle. On the particularly trying occasions when I’ve had to stand up for myself or for others, I often felt so awkward because confrontation is another unused muscle in my social makeup. However, I’ve learned two things: in Christ, I am a much stronger and tougher person than I realized. Secondly, He stands up for me, too. And what a relief to know that my personal Bodyguard has my back – my own muscles are flabby. 😉
On this path, I’ve wobbled after Christ…and He’s shown me the good pleasure of strengthening bonds, boundaries, and my own self-respect.
In the midst of these lessons, I’ve gone down to near-overwhelming depths of embarrassment, despair, and anxiety. I’ve learned new levels of empathy. But here’s the thing I keep discovering: God wastes no trial. For every wound and doubt, God gifted me a stronger faith, renewed righteousness, and new members on my “team” who poured back into me. These very lovely brothers and sisters in Christ who made my time on the seaside so much easier…well, they made bidding farewell that much harder.
Three years ago, on a night around early March (the weekend after this new weird virus had completed its maiden voyage to the United States and set up shop), I was crying out to God for direction. What was His will for my career, for my life? Should I take a new opportunity to learn Traditional Chinese Medicine at a master’s program, a thousand miles from home?
Immediately, the Lord revealed His five-year plan for me: Go down there and learn as much as you can, and then come back and practice and teach what you learned. His plan for me never wavered, and I never lost sight of that goal. With advice from my parents, I waited for His perfect timing to move, and when He gave the green light, I moved. It was the first of May, 2021. 2021 passed into 2022, and 2022 morphed into 2023.
2023 was the summit of my Florida adventures. I have a smorgasbord of 2023 items to choose from! It’s delightful. Let’s see, I’ll start with Cars, Breakdowns, and Harrowing Escapades.
For the first time in my life, I drove myself to the ER to what I can only attribute as my first-ever panic attack. Diagnoses: “chest pain, unspecified.” That was in November, towards the end of my time down south. But before that? Oh man, before that…
I spent about 15-20 hours in the car each week. On the interstate, I drove past burning trucks, melted cars, shrouded gurneys, and countless ambulances. The highway has claimed many tires, including my own. (By the way, I can now change a tire! Woohoo.)
I’ve tampered with ACs in the sweltering tropical summer and cried over defunct PayPal and bank systems. I’ve looked in shock upon the remains of my smashed side-view passenger mirror, having just peacefully backed out of a garage, blissfully unaware that I’d shredded the mirror against the garage wall.
I’ve had the luxury of exploring quiet beaches alone, and I’ve stumbled upon tumultuous ones, too. From a respectful distance, I observed EMTs perform life-saving CPR on drowned victims right there on the sand. It was Labor Day. Both swimmers lived! A shark bit another person on that same beach on that same day (That person lived as well! Yay).
Through it all, God has protected me supernaturally again and again and again.
But I didn’t really… REST. Suddenly, “out of nowhere,” every few months, I felt a weird squeezing sensation in my heart. The odd feeling departed as soon as it occurred, and I tried not to think about this new phenomenon that would come and go so quickly and infrequently.
For the next category, I think I’ll take Blessings and Landmarks.
I lost thirty-four pounds. In the thirty months I spent in the tropics, I rarely missed a family birthday, holiday or special event back home. I’ve flown alot and I’ve flown light. (It turns out that when you have two abodes, both containing your clothes, your purse will do just fine as your sole luggage. Traveling is more fun that way!)
As a client advocate at a medical clinic, I’ve offered assistance to scores of women, encouraging them to keep their pre-born children while helping them to address their spiritual, mental, and physical needs. One day, I’ll sit down and remember the words to describe how I felt when I read the text “she decided to keep her child!”
In the counseling room or elsewhere, people have shared their deepest joys with me, ranging from children to new-found life in Christ! With joy, I’ve also known sorrow. I’ve sat with people who lost their hope. They’ve told me about their addictions and their pasts, filled with the pain of abuse and loss and betrayal. I’ve cried with their broken hearts.
I did all this in God’s strength. I just didn’t take advantage of His Sabbath rest, waiting for me routinely.
In those long, dark commutes back home from school, my heart began to squeeze a little more frequently.
God gave me the unutterable privilege of sharing the gospel to many people, face-to-face! I had the blessing of helping my church worship through music. These precious moments of ministry filled my heart up to the brim each time, but the physical exhaustion demanded rest on Sundays…
It’s just that I spent a good deal of my Sunday afternoons mindlessly scrolling and binge eating. “Curiously,” my heart began to squeeze a little more frequently.
I threw a benefit concert for pro-life ministries, I continued with my music, I finished my master’s degree and bachelor’s degree, published an album, printed and sold my very first batch of CDs, and experienced thrilling new heights of my burgeoning healthcare education! From the homeless to the wealthy to the insane and the healthy, I have treated hundreds of people with acupuncture, Chinese medicine, and massage therapy. And, by the grace of God, I reversed my insulin resistance, a.k.a “pre-diabetes.”
The opportunities have been absolutely breathtaking, and THIS IS ALL GOD. I can’t believe what He has accomplished!
God also offered me His Sabbath rest, freely. Again and again. I just didn’t take it that often.
One day, moments before starting one of my last work shifts, I felt the worst heart squeeze yet. This painful sensation traveled around my left chest and down the back of my left upper arm. Parts of my left hand went numb. My heart pounded. I couldn’t catch a proper breath, and I began to hyperventilate. My temperature rose, and I began to overheat…
In a panic, I drove myself to the nearest ER, answered my phone, and explained to my sweet and worried manager, between short and staggered breaths, that I was going to be okay. Later, I debriefed her again as I was waiting for my test results:
Me: “I’m so sorry for this short notice!”
Manager: “Don’t worry, that’s perfectly fine!”
Me: “I feel so bad that you guys had to cancel my clients…”
Manager: “Oh no, they all understood. There was only one person who gave us a hard time, and that’s okay. We don’t like her anyway.”
Two hours later, after clean tests, the ER doc discharged me.
And then…THEN I was forced to take the Sabbath rest.
For three days, I did absolutely nothing…and I finally began to listen. I listened to my crying body. I listened to God. I listened to my friends. I listened to my family. All of my God-given resources were screaming one word: “REST!”
I rested. I breathed. I walked in the sun. I read the Word – but slowly, deeply, unhurriedly. Exhausted and emerging from the shadows, leaning on the arm of my Saviour, I approached the Holy of Holies. The Holy Spirit took my soul to a cool, deep mountain spring, and I drank from the Water of Life. My heart stopped squeezing. I was at peace. Joy reigned.
That was mid-November. Graduation was just around the corner.
And then, just like that, I completed the work that God had for me by the sea. I played my last worship service, ended my last ministry shift, said goodbye to my last client, received my degrees, donned my white coat…
I’ve “summited the mountains” and seen some pretty terrific views. But I gotta tell you, I’ve never felt more normal, human, and at ease than when I’m with my family. My closest confidants have always been my parents and siblings who were right there with me, a thousand miles away. I missed them, frequent flights notwithstanding. I’ve drawn magical unicorns for my niece and chucked foam blocks at my nephews in a ball pit…
And in those moments, I feel right.
So now, I’m home. I’m right where I belong.
I’ve begun studying for my boards. I did some interviews and procured a great new job, courtesy of my previous boss! Every day, I’m going to the gym, planning meals, and taking supplements. I organized my room, got a haircut, and started my new life once more.
Better than all of this, I’m resting. I’m resting in Christ. And I get to do it WITH my family.
God has made 2023 the hardest and best year of my life. Furthermore, I’m so glad I got to share it with you!
Tune in next time for a health update! 😀