November 13, 2016

I wrote this blog last year after Thanskgiving and had no intention of sharing it. However, while it was a day filled with so much sadness, it was also a day filled with joy and hope as I expressed my love for Jesus through baptism. I decided to share this exactly one year later just as I had written it back then without changing anything about it…

What an amazing day this was going to be. After 41 years (yikes I’m old!), on November 13th, I was excited to share with you a decision I had made…to show my dedication in following Jesus Christ through baptism!! November 13th is also my father in law’s birthday so I had even made some homemade ice cream for him to enjoy at the lunch we planned for afterwards. But plans can change fast and now you will know why it took so long for me to write about such an important event in my life.

Again, for those who don’t know my story, I grew up in a Lutheran home where I got “baptized” as a baby and was confirmed my freshman year and while I did accept Jesus as my personal savior when I was younger, I did not develop a meaningful relationship with Him until many years later.

My 20s were difficult on me, well, even in to my 30s…and I got lost in what I wanted…what I thought could bring me happiness. And while I was diagnosed with my rare disease at the age of 27, with doctors giving me no more than ten years to live, I did begin to reach out to God. I started going to church again but really, that was it. I was consistent in prayer but my prayers were always asking for God to change my situation…to make me feel physically better…to make this nightmare of bad health disappear…to give me what I thought I needed…selfish prayers really.

Tim and I got married and while I would like to say we had the true romance and that fabulous honeymoon phase, we didn’t. The struggles just got harder…life got harder. Tim and I were faced with so many challenges to the extreme shortly after our marriage with not knowing if we would be able to have any children together and an ectopic pregnancy that was physically and emotionally draining on me…then my health drastically changed for the worse…his extreme working hours…extreme financial struggles…and watching many of our loved ones facing challenges as well. There was absolutely nothing on this earth that could help me and while I had loved ones trying to support me, they couldn’t even begin to understand what I was going through with my health, or the strain of our life that was being put on Tim. I mean, everyone has health and marital struggles right?

And even some of my loved ones agreed with doctors and felt there was no hope for me. Absolutely nothing…or nobody could make me feel better about our situation. I was in a very dark place and I realized God was the only one I had left to depend on. Life was so difficult for us and if I was going to get through it I knew I needed to be an active participant in my relationship with Jesus because while church was great and made me feel refreshed on sunday…it wasn’t getting me through the week, let alone barely through the day!

Aaron, Tim’s brother that I have mentioned on occasion, was diagnosed with leukemia back in 2013 and what a difficult time that was for Tim, to say the least. In the midst of all of our marriage struggles Tim and I just couldn’t understand why life had to be so hard. I mean, I had just been hospitalized two months prior due to a blood clot in my chest so wasn’t that enough? Now his brother had cancer??? It was all just too much in such a short time and none of it seemed real!

And then just like that, within only a month after Aaron was diagnosed with cancer, Tim was back in the doctor’s office sitting with me, holding my hand, as I sat there crying and listening to doctors tell us that my disease was progressing quite rapidly, my lung was worse and now my heart was being affected as well. I was diagnosed with another rare disease called pulmonary arterial hypertension with a life expectancy anywhere from 3-5 years…this new illness now a result from my first rare disease of fm.

All doctors could promise was that they would TRY to address my symptoms as they arose while doing the least amount of damage to my body as possible. This was my only option?! Reality hit me hard that I was not going to get better…that this disease would still continue to attack my body and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it.

2013 is the year that I finally broke…but in my brokeness is where I found God’s mercy and grace.

Month after month I still prayed for God to cure me, to cure Aaron, to make life a little easier on my husband. While I continued to go to church and pray…

I also started digging more in to my bible and Tim and I joined a small group. We surrounded ourselves with other believers and as I read more and prayed more, I knew God was working my heart as I felt a new sense of peace being washed over me. I finally was starting to have a real relationship with Christ and seeing Him for who He is. I was finally starting to get it, not only from what I was hearing on Sundays in church but also from what I was reading in the bible. And that brought me comfort not only during the good times…but also during the bad times because in the next three years…things would only get worse…

I had been praying all wrong and I was only praising God when what I thought was good happened in our lives. I mean God did bless us with two more children when the odds of having anymore were highly against us, but it just seemed like everytime we took one step forward, something forcefully slammed us ten steps back. But God was there all along and working in us! I hadn’t been using my suffering to glorify Him by seeing and appreciating the true beauty in things…the true beauty in our Father and his unfailing love for us! God really was doing amazing things in my life and even though circumstances were getting harder…I had this overwhelming sense of calm as I started to focus on Jesus instead of my situation…and this is when I started thinking about baptism.

Aaron and I were once talking about how we were two very physically sick people yet we were still happy. And while we talked about our own situations and the ridiculous amount of junk we have both gone through, we also acknowledged how sad it was that so many people were looking for joy in the wrong places…like Aaron and I admitted doing before, and even in the midst of our sickness when we shift our focus from God to ourselves. Aaron made the comment that if people would just stop and actually look for God, they would find Him because He is always with us.

I was growing in my faith throughout all of my trials and knew that God only wants the best for us…even if that is through suffering…because there is good that God will bring from suffering…I truly trust Him in this, even though I might not see the goodness.

So Sunday November 13th I decided would be the day to get baptized.

My whole testimony was based on circumstances and how for so long my faith had really fluctuated in the outcome of my circumstances instead of my faith in God. A whole three minutes on me encouraging the congregation to trust the Lord in all things and to truly believe that no matter the outcome, have faith in God and who He says that He is. He is a God of love, kindness, mercy, grace and so much more. And I was able to share my testimony boldly because I am finally starting to understand who God is and I am confident that He is exactly who He claims to be. God is faithful and steadfast in His love for us no matter what bad…or good circumstance we are in! Yes our circumstances change but God doesn’t!!

And then the phone call came just three hours after I was baptized as we were all sitting around the table finishing up our meal…Aaron had passed away. My husband just lost his brother, only 39 years old.

Of course I cried because I was sad and I was angry but then guilt set in because not only my parents, but Tim’s father and sisters had come to my baptism, minus his mom who was with Aaron. If I wouldn’t have gotten baptized maybe his family would have been there with Aaron instead.

And then more guilt because I was the one who was sick, the one according to doctors who shouldn’t be here. Apparently Aaron had always been the healthy one up to three years ago when he was diagnosed with cancer…yet I was diagnosed with diabetes at age 17 and now had been fighting multiple rare illnesses for the last 14 years so why Aaron? This isn’t fair God!!!

And then it was like God took my line out of my testimony and smacked me right in the forehead…”no matter the outcome, my faith is in God and who He says that He is”. And comfort instantly consumed me. Aaron is with the Lord…what an amazing peace to know that!

Needless to say it has still been hard, and of course so much worse on my husband. How do we function with so much heartache? How do we go about living life with smiles and happiness? How do we do Sunday dinner without Aaron there cracking his jokes and making us all laugh, causing us to choke on our food?!…”No matter the outcome, my faith is in God and who He says that He is”.

Most of my tears are over Tim as I cannot begin to understand the grieving that he is going through. I can see the struggle and just a glimpse ofย how hard this must be for him. I knew Aaron for almost ten years through family gatherings and Sunday dinners. Once he was diagnosed with cancer, we began to visit and encourage each other more often through text messages because we were both “sick” and could relate to one another. But Tim had known him his whole life for 37 years…a true brother. Here are Aaron and Tim when they were younger…my hubby is the one who looks cranky…but still so cute!๐Ÿ’ž ๐Ÿ˜‰

And then there’s also the selfish part of me that cries because I have seen my husband stop living and become angry and bitter and grieve over the loss of someone so close, so what if my health takes me next? And I cry because I know Tim thinks the same thing…in fact he’s even said that is one of his biggest fears.

“No matter the outcome, my faith is in God and who He says that He is”.

This is extremely heartbreaking to share but at the same time, we have to keep our eyes on Jesus. I wanted to share the happy news of being baptized because while I am ashamed to admit that I am a sinner, I can declare that God sent His son Jesus to die on the cross for me! I am grateful to know that He has accepted my forgiveness and I am doing the best I can to live and love for Jesus.

Life is hard and it’s okay to grieve. A “new normal” is going to take a long time to find and adjust to especially with the holidays coming up. Thanksgiving was hard and to be honest Tim and I didn’t want to do anything…but some pretty awesome friends invited us over and were patient with us as we decided last minute to join them for lunch on Thanksgiving Day. A couple hours out of the house did us some good and it was nice to see my husband’s gorgeous smile again.

There is definitely sadness and a piece of our lives will forever be missed but Aaron is no longer suffering…he’s done with the tests and needles and never ending guessing games of what chemo to try next. He has a new body and is probably running around in his undies as Tim told the kids, making all of the angels blush! Because one thing was for sure..the cancer did not take away Aaron’s sense of humor!๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ’•๐Ÿ’•

I can now look back and see that while the progression of my illness has given me the opportunity to grow in my faith…over the last three years it also gave Tim and me the opportunity to see Aaron more often…usually at the hospital when I had appointments. But Tim also stopped over for coffee on occasion to get some brother time in as well…and that meant some great in debth conversations with Aaron that we will have to cherish forever.

Aaron loved his family which was his main focus…and he also had his faith so while I continued to pray that healing miracle for him, Aaron knew God was the one in ultimate control and he was accepting of how his ending might turn out…which is really his beginning because of his personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Aaron will now always be a special part of such an important day in my life….and, as hard as it is, if you think about it though, the whole day is such a representation of ย what believing in Jesus Christ as our personal savior is really all about…

Now is a time for grieving and trying to get back to living which is hard no matter how much faith you have. It pains me to see Tim hurting so deeply but I continue to pray that my amazing husband and his family can find a little more peace and healing with every day that passes knowing that Aaron is with the Lord…and some day they will all be reunited. And if Aaron were here I would tell him that’s a “win win.” ๐Ÿ’ž๐Ÿ’ž๐Ÿ’ž

“No matter the outcome, my faith is in God and who He says that He is”.

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