Though born in Georgia, I call myself a Colorado native, as I only lived in Georgia for 6 weeks, grew up in the beautiful Rocky Mountains surrounded by natural beauty and wildlife and lived in Colorado for 22 years before moving to North Carolina in June of 2017. I grew up in a Christian family with my older sister, twin sister and younger brother. I really only attended church, read the Bible and participated in Bible studies because it was just what we did as a family, but I did not grasp why we did it. My early life revolved around myself and I wasn’t interested in God at all. I was bored in church and really just wanted to spend my time playing, reading or hanging out with friends. I have a strong stubborn streak, and this stubbornness led to sin as I defied my parents’ guidance and correction. One summer day around the age of 14, Christ thankfully and mercifully convicted me of my daily sinful actions as I was so fed up with the cycle of my sin and resulting consequences and lost with what to do with my sinful actions. I asked Jesus for forgiveness, gave my life to Christ, asked Him to take it over and enable me to glorify Him through my life. Slowly, I began to build a personal relationship with Christ, and my love for Him and love for serving Him grew deeper. My family and pastor in Colorado helped build up my faith and encouraged me in my walk with Christ as I learned more about Him. Little did I know, that within a short period of time I would lose countless things I thought were dependable and a sure foundation in my life, and I would have my faith and trust in Christ really tested.
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”1 Peter 1:6-7 (ESV)
When I was born, I was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis (CF), a life-threatening, genetic disease that mainly affects the respiratory system, and results in frequent lung infections that ultimately lead to respiratory failure. There is no cure for CF. For me specifically, it has also caused chronic pain, constant fatigue and low stamina, diabetic issues, and arthritis. Up until age 16, I had few issues to deal with besides my daily respiratory treatments and a bunch of meds to take. I had dreams of traveling all over the world, was right on track to study nursing in college, and had a goal of continuing to climb the ladder of competitive figure skating and ice dance by participating in this sport at the college level. However, I began to experience serious health challenges that challenged me to trust His plan for me and not my plans, and forced me to into the reality of whether I would seek to find my true hope, strength and joy in Him alone or if I would seek to find happiness and false hope in the vanities of this passing world.
At the age of 16, I developed a serious lung infection resulting in my first hospital stay since I was a baby. This snowballed into me being hospitalized on average 4-6 times a year for 2-3 weeks at time due to these lung infections that have over time caused irreparable lung damage and resulted in my lung function dropping to a current 39%. I have had 15+ surgeries, countless hospitalizations and numerous procedures for CF-related complications. In December of 2015, I suddenly lost complete function of my left arm due to a life-threatening blood clot requiring emergency surgery. This proved to be a significant struggle as I am left-handed and yet I was unable to do the simplest of tasks like writing, brushing my hair, typing, and picking up things. Thankfully, I have regained most function back in my left arm, but it still doesn’t work normally. The past few years, I have been dealing with severe back pain that’s just gotten worse, and after heavily pursuing answers and help, doctors finally discovered in 2018 that the pain was due to 2 different spinal deformities, multiple spinal tumors, 2 broken vertebrae and degenerating discs. Last year, we discovered through some testing that I have some kind of neuromuscular disorder, and I am currently in the middle of working with doctors to determine an exact diagnosis and treatment. Just this year, my digestive system has ceased to work normally as my esophagus is 92% paralyzed, my body is not absorbing nutrition unless it’s a liquid, and I deal with severe pain and a barrage of problems daily because of this system’s failure. These are only a few of the health challenges that I have struggled with in my life, and these challenges have not only caused great physical pain, but also deep emotional pain as they have crushed so many of my dreams and goals. Yet, God has never forsaken me, drawing me close to Himself through fiery trial. Yes, many times I have sought out purpose for my suffering through tears and frustration, crying out to God in deep pain. And many times, God has always faithfully reassured me of His truth, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness” (1 Corinthians 3:9). I believe that while God is certainly glorified through miraculous healing, healing does not need to occur for Him to be glorified. Perhaps sometimes He is glorified more when we are weak and yet continue to trust Him. I strive to ensure my life will glorify Him by pointing others to Him as the source of my strength in great weakness, and hopefully encouraging others with the comfort God has shown to me.
“My heart and flesh may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and portion forever.”~ Psalm 73:26 (ESV)
2 years ago in June 2017, I encountered a new trial when our family made the decision to move from Colorado to North Carolina in order to help my aging grandparents. I was uprooted from everything I had ever known, I didn’t know a single person in NC, and my heart ached as I deeply missed and longed for my friends and church family back in CO. Yet, my stubborn self refused to find and attend a local church. I stayed in my room every Sunday and watched the live-stream from my church back in CO, convinced that I would soon move back, and thus saw no reason to open my heart and connect with other believers in NC. Every time I flew back to CO, I met with my pastor who urged me to plug into the body of Christ in NC, but I just couldn’t bring myself to surrender to the Lord my plan of moving back to CO. I put God’s plans on the shelf and my plans in front of me, instead of trusting His good and perfect plan, though we do not always see it. We are called to walk by faith, not by sight, but I was certainly not following God’s instruction of this. Months went by and I was stuck in an endless cycle of desperation, depression, and felt lost with no purpose. Tears were a daily occurrence, and I mourned even life itself. I was broken and frustrated and I had hit rock bottom. One Sunday morning in 2018, I reluctantly agreed to attend a Sunday worship service at LIFE Fellowship with my family, and in prayer I surrendered my life plans to Jesus. From that point on, God softened my heart and I began to meet with a pastor, volunteered in small ways around the church, and gradually began to make a few friends. God was showing me the importance of surrendering to His will, and the value and need for fellowship with other believers. Fast forward several months, to January 2019 where I found myself in the role of Production Coordinator at LIFE Fellowship. I get the pleasure and honor to worship and serve Christ in each task I do whether I’m printing music, setting up meals for the worship teams, sending emails, or helping coordinate a Christmas choir missions trip to Germany. Furthermore, I have discovered a new way to get know Christ deeper and worship Him through the creative art of writing poetry, and I weekly spend hours digging through a variety of Scripture passages so I can write a poem centered around the verses. I have learned much about God from so many different people, and my passion to worship, trust and surrender to Him has grown deeper and I love it.
The challenges I have faced and continue to face daily have definitely made me question God’s plan for my life, but I know I can trust Christ to complete His good and perfect will in my life in whatever way He chooses. Jesus is truly the only One that can provide the comfort, love, mercy, grace, and hope I need to get through each day. He is the only constant and dependable thing I have in life; all else is a false foundation that fades away into insignificance. He has taught me to love, value, and enjoy every day of this life on earth, but to focus on using each day to glorify Him in all that I do. No matter what I encounter in this vapor of earthly life, I know that “it is well with my soul”, and I am content in finding my hope and reason to live in Christ alone.
“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”~ John 16:33 (ESV)
Abi, you are so precious. Thank you for sharing your story. It is inspiring and humbling all at once. ❤️ Blessed to know you and worship God with you. I’m SO glad you decided to try LIFE out.
Wow!!! Thank you for sharing. May God continue to bless and use you in a mighty way