Snapshot taken during my drive to Asheville, NC
So here is the story of my healing...girded by prayer, written by God and laid out as only the great Creator could...
I wasn't going to go. It wasn't even an option in my mind when in April of that year, Asheville popped up as the next city that we would go to for Time to Revive. I didn't have the energy and I certainly didn't have the desire to put myself in another situation like Flint. This is totally childish, I know - but I love April. I was born in April and it's my favorite month. I got sick in April and I really didn't want to ruin another one. One long year spent in bed, getting up only to pick up kids and go to another doctor, was enough for me. So I said thanks, but no thanks, I would sit this one out. Kyle kept persisting and I kept saying no - and I'm not even good at saying no (I'm a total pushover) - that's how bad I felt and didn't want to go! It wasn't until God began to persist that I gave it thought. He had been strangely quiet during my year of sickness, so when He started speaking to me through song, pictures and scripture, I started listening. What if this was the time for my healing as Kyle had said? What if I didn't go and missed out on something God had for me? So before I knew it, I was on my way, sick and miserable but headed to Asheville. It was one year later, to the month, week and day. I was finally ready and I let God know. I was tired of searching and finding nothing. I was tired of being tired. And I was tired of trying to run this new life I didn't even want.
Side Note: Remember the night God called out my name and showed me the butterflies? Well, it didn't stop that night and He kept showing me pictures/visions. With time, they came more and more frequently, revealing different images that had to do with the ministry and the cities we were headed to. At the time, I only shared them with Garth and my family, because it still felt so "not normal" and I was pretty certain people would think I was totally crazy. It was also something I was still trying to understand myself and talk through with God. As strange and foreign as the whole thing was to me, I'm so grateful for how gentle God was as He began to teach me what each of them meant and how He wanted me to use those visions in the different cities, to encourage others and edify His name.
So before making the decision to go to Asheville, NC, God had begun, once again, giving me very specific visions for this city. The "theme" of the Asheville visions seemed to be one of hiding...behind masks, behind life, behind the hurts. I had my pages of visions written down in my journal...a few of which were: the face of a pale boy with dark hair hiding behind a wall, an older woman wearing ridiculously oversized pink sunglasses, an owl on a wall, colorful tattoo-like patterns of flowers and scrolls, a brilliant blue light over the mountains and the letters "JR"...and I was excited to see how God would play the story out. But I'm going to be honest - making the trip to Asheville was a big leap of faith for me...there was that ridiculous amount of fear and uncertainty in full force after all. The last revival experience didn't really go so well for me. I felt with all my heart though, that God wanted me there - that there was a reason for me to go and I wasn't going to miss out on what God had planned.
The minute my feet hit the ground, things got interesting as we headed to a drum circle in downtown Asheville. What happened that evening is a whole other story in itself that I'll share sometime later - but what's important to know for now is that there was a battle going on that night - showing even more evidence of spiritual warfare. I witnessed with my own eyes the boy with dark hair that God had shown me earlier. It was a physical and verbal battle in which Satan was trying to keep hold of a boy he thought belonged to him. Through witnessing the encounter that evening and being able to see a vision come to fruition, I knew that God was starting to work on growing my faith and my belief...that He is bigger than I could ever comprehend. And I believe it was through that growth, that slowly my healing began.
The weekend continued; serving the community, fixing up homes, praising God through song and worship and more confirmed visions. We prayed for the older lady with the ridiculously large pink sunglasses and saw the owl on the wall of a building confirming the darkness engulfing it. Then, before I knew it, it was the last day of reviveAsheville and my hopes of healing were dwindling. Sunday morning came and we got ready to visit a local church. I hadn't been feeling awful up to this point, but had little energy and random pains throughout my body. This morning, however, I woke to a tremendous headache, swollen lymph nodes and a lot of pain. The kind that made my eyes tear up and my heart ache at the fear of this being forever how I would feel. My mom and dad saw my misery and during the service, in a time of sharing testimonies, my mom felt God nudge her to the front. As only a mom could, through her tears...she made a plea to the congregation to lay hands on me and pray for healing. As uncomfortable as it made me, I felt blessed that this group of people, many of whom didn't know me, would eagerly gather around to pray. As we were circled up praying, I suddenly remembered something from earlier in the week. A friend had called to share a dream that God had given her, and at this moment, I realized it was playing out before my eyes. She had seen a group of people wearing blue shirts surrounding me in prayer and that God healed me. Most people who showed up at the church that morning were wearing the blue reviveAsheville shirts and they were the ones now surrounding me! I was suddenly excited and anxiously awaiting the overwhelming feeling of peace and healing that I was sure would come. There were lots of tears and prayers...but no changed feelings. I'm ashamed to say it, but I couldn't help but feel a little disappointed with God, which wasn't new to me in this season, but a feeling I didn't like. My friend had seen me healed, I was ready for great things and all I felt was a worse headache than before because of all of my crying.
I went through the day getting ready for the evening worship service, keeping busy and not allowing myself to think much about the morning. Doubting God? Probably a little at the time, but I was still holding out hope that He would show up the way I thought He was planning to. The evening worship service began and when the band started playing, God started talking to me. One by one, the screens in front of me that showed the lyrics to the songs, began displaying the visions of flowers and scrolls that God had shown me before Asheville. Every single one, to the T. Once He had my attention, He spoke directly into my heart and said three words that will forever be etched in my mind: "It is done." I'd love to tell you that the amazing healing I was looking for happened right then. It didn't. But what it did, was give me a peace that God meant what He said...It is done. I believed Him. I decided in that moment that I was going to move forward and this crazy sickness was not going to follow me. I was not going to let it and I trusted that God had my back. That was good enough for me! I texted Kyle and told him what God said, feeling the same, but rejoicing in those three words.
Shortly after, the evening wound down and the convention center started clearing out. As I was gathering my things, Kyle came up to me and told me he had someone I had to meet. The next sentence I heard is another one of those moments I'll never forget. Kyle said, "I'd like you to meet Jim and Rhonda". Strange that that would stand out, right? Do you remember earlier, my list of visions? At this point all of them had come to fruition except two and the one that had popped into my head a couple times throughout the day was JR. I looked at Kyle and we both knew. I didn't even know what this couple wanted to talk about, but I knew that they were the J and R that I was looking for. After talking to them, I found out they had been praying for reviveAsheville all week, but had not been able to participate. Tonight, however, they felt God prompting them to come. And they have the gift of healing. What?! That got my attention. They explained that when God tells them to go, they go and tonight was no exception. As they approached Kyle and said their names, he knew exactly who they were looking for and brought them to me. What followed was an experience that only God could have ever orchestrated.
Jim looked at me and said that he saw a waterfall flowing over me and his wife Rhonda saw green mossy rocks and sensed a cleansing. What was crazy was that Jim didn't know anything about my sickness. As I shared with him that I had Sjogren's, an autoimmune disorder where my body attacks its own moisture glands and is basically drying up my insides, my eyes, mouth, organs - tears welled up in my eyes. To think that God was replenishing what Satan had taken away was simply overwhelming. Jim laid hands on my stomach, his wife laid hands on my throat and stomach and they prayed. Honestly, I should be able to tell you what they were praying, I wish I could, but I can't. All I can tell you is that in that moment, God moved. I felt heat in my stomach unlike anything I can explain. It radiated up and out and my body got intensely hot. I then felt a sensation behind my eyes, like God blew a burst of air. It was then that I knew. God had come and He had healed. He countered my lack of faith and gave me what I needed. Not only a healed body free of all sickness, but also that specific feeling of peace that I seemed to need. He came and did and I will forever be humbled by His amazing act of grace.
I walked away that night with a new hope and a deeper love for Christ. I felt like my old self, with a few adjustments that God made in me along the way. It was my Mark 5:41& 42 moment - "Taking the child by the hand, He said to her, 'Talitha kum!' (which translated means, 'Little girl, I say to you, get up!') Immediately the girl got up and began to walk..." I cancelled all of my doctors appointments and never looked back. Someone told me once to wake up and to thank God every single morning for healing me, no matter how I was feeling - and that's exactly what I did.
As I look back, I can now see that the one thing I needed, was the very thing that I pushed away. Sure, I prayed...and of course I never doubted God. But I wonder, as I look back over my journey, if it all wasn't just lip service, a front for the real hurt I was feeling inside - the place where the only one who really knew how I felt was God...and He still didn't make a move. I got my feelings hurt...I mean, why, in the middle of my closest time with Him, doing exactly what I felt like He wanted me to do, did He allow the rug to get completely pulled out from under me?!
It struck me hard when, during a recent Bible Study by Beth Moore, I heard her say, it's time to get over being offended by whatever we think God has done or allowed in our lives and move on to obedience. We can't serve God if we are mad at Him or blame Him. Instead, I've had to take a really deep look inside and realize for a year, I was mad at God, blaming Him for pulling me from His word, like it was His fault and not mine. So, instead of praying and asking God for help...I mean you can't do that if you're mad, right?...I went on my own search for answers. Doctors, tests, tears and pain...and yes, I got some answers. But not the answer I wanted from God. And not the answer He wanted to give me - the one He could give me only when I was ready, the on-my-knees kind of ready. Trusting and believing in the only true answer to my healing, because this journey for me wasn't about a medical sickness, but more of a spiritual sickness. The kind of wound you get when you are in the middle of spiritual warfare.
I know now that this year was one of preparation. God was and is getting me ready for my role in the battle that is ahead. He allowed me a glimpse of the intensity of the war, not to scare me, but to ready me for battle. I'm not all the way there yet, but I am healed and willing and I believe that's all God is asking for now. Head up, eyes on Jesus, I walked out of the building that night and as I stepped into the rain, I realized that God had in fact shown me all the visions. There was a healing in the mountains of Asheville that April, the month I was born and loved and He had shown it to me before I even went. It was waiting for me - I just needed to walk into it.
"And He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction." -Mark 5:34
Best ending ever.
This picture taken in Flint, MI, is a constant reminder of that for me. When God calls us to be obedient, we are to go - no matter what the enemy tries to do - God will get us through. And lives will be changed because of it.
It might just be our own.