Brokenness to Beauty

Transforming Your Brokenness into a Beautiful Life


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Surprise!

God is always surprising me.

When I was asked a few weeks ago to present a workshop on prayer at a women’s retreat, I silently gulped and said, “Yes, Lord.” Then I responded (audibly) in the affirmative to the lady asking me if I would do the workshop.

It is humbling to have someone ask me if I’d do a presentation on the subject of prayer. I’m still a learner in that field. I always will be, of course. And to consider speaking publicly, well, that is nothing short of miraculous.

That I can say “yes” to speaking in front of people, and on the subject of prayer, is a wonder to me on two fronts:

1) I can physically do it and

2) I have material already compiled from which to draw to put together such a presentation.

A few years ago I never could have agreed to talk in front of people for an hour. I have MG (myasthenia gravis, a severe muscle weakness) and have been extremely weak for most of my life. The miracle is that I have been stronger for the past eight-plus years than I have been since I was thirteen years old, and I now can do public speaking!

Even though I planned this workshop to be an interactive Bible study time, not an hour-long lecture, I still had to do a lot of talking. My ability to speak this much is the gracious and miraculous work of God. It is the answer to many prayers prayed over the span of more than forty years.

I also had what I needed to present in the prayer workshop. A few years ago I had finally said “yes” to God about writing the book Brokenness to Beauty (and I’m now writing the Bible study guide to go with it; a work in progress), and I had already thought through and written much of the material I used for this workshop on prayer.

Though I wasn’t at a loss for what to say, I did earnestly pray for direction from the Lord to narrow it down. Volumes could be said about prayer (and volumes have been written on prayer), but it certainly wouldn’t fit within that one hour time frame. I needed to speak to what these ladies needed to hear. Only God has that information. He again answered prayer.

Most important to me when I speak or teach is to direct women into the Word of God. If they forget what I say but hear what God says in his Word, I will have been successful.

I initially thought I was going to the women’s retreat (hosted by our former church) in order to take it all in for myself, enjoy the beautiful mountains around the retreat center, and especially to see many dear friends I hadn’t seen since moving from Bakersfield to Colton last fall.

As it turned out, not only did I get to do those things, I ended up with the privilege of serving God by serving the women who came to the prayer workshop. What a great weekend we had!

 

Did I mention God is always surprising me?

I was mighty tired after driving the three hours it took to get to the retreat center, the busy weekend and the three hour drive home, but I give thanks to our great God for giving me the strength to do it. He truly “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV).

Photos of women’s retreat by Alayna Condon and Lindsay Long.

Scripture taken from Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. https://www.biblegateway.com.

 

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Chapter 1: The Backstory–The Story Continues

The next few months following my MG (Myasthenia Gravis) diagnosis became a blur of hospitalizations, tests, and adjustments to medications which had very unpleasant and sometimes embarrassing side effects. Instead of getting stronger, however, the weakness and debility increased. Within six months of my diagnosis I was unable to go to school, feed myself, or lift my arms to comb my hair. I became bed bound.

Back to the hospital once again, this time for two weeks of bed rest and then a major decision by my parents to allow a surgical procedure which seemed to help some MG patients. It would mean the surgeon would open up my chest, breaking the sternum (breastbone), and remove the thymus gland, which lies above the heart. My parents were told the prospects were slim I would survive the surgery, and on top of that, it was uncertain the surgical procedure would even benefit me if I did survive. But there were no other options for me. Or for my parents.

Looking back, I cannot begin to imagine the agony of my parents. The closest I have come to this was when our youngest son was hit by a car while riding his bicycle. What a nightmare, until later that day after several tests were done, we knew he had no serious injuries; he was fine, just some road rash. His helmet took the brunt of his head colliding with the windshield of the car that hit him. God mercifully spared him.

My parents, however, had watched my decline from a healthy, active teenager to one who now was fading from this life day by day. The prognosis was grim. Little hope was given them.

I remember sitting propped up in the hospital bed, my parents and the doctors in the room asking me my opinion about the surgery they were proposing. Was I willing to go to surgery? I don’t remember all they told me, only that this surgery might help me. I gave my assent almost cheerfully. My optimistic nature, coupled with my ignorance of my real condition, made me hopeful this surgery would make me better. What could I lose? Little did I know.

A few days later I awoke from surgery with an elephant sitting on my chest. Well, it felt that way. At that moment, though I don’t think I’d ever taken anything stronger than an aspirin before, I was glad for pain medication. I was cold and realized my chest was exposed, an embarrassment for a young lady of fifteen years. But I had a raw incision about eight inches long in the middle of my chest, with tubes protruding from under my rib cage—one for the left lung, one for the right. When I tried to speak to my dad standing there next to my bed, a different kind of pain etched on his face, I discovered I couldn’t talk. I had a tube in a hole in my throat to help me breathe, a tracheotomy, he explained, through which I was hooked up to a breathing machine. It pumped air into my lungs, breathing for me since I couldn’t breathe on my own and this made it impossible for me to talk right then. So began sign language, and writing in place of speaking. I learned the frustration of not being able to clearly and simply communicate.

For weeks after surgery I was in and out of consciousness in the ICU, those tubes protruding from my lungs, and a hole in my throat. Finally, after what I thought was a couple of weeks, I was released from hospital and taken home. It was not until years later, in a conversation with my mom, that I found out I had been in ICU for six weeks. I was shocked! I had no idea I had been there that long.

The reason I was there such a long time, my mom said, is because I had almost died. I was on my way out of this life, declining daily. The doctors had known this was a possibility and had tried to prepare my parents. They were doing everything medically that they could do. Lots of people were praying for me, though, many I had never met. My dad had been “wrestling” with God for weeks to save his little girl, but on my worst night when doctors didn’t think I was going to live to the morning, he finally gave me up to God for Him to do with me as He pleased.

The night he let go of me and let God have His way, my mom related, was the turning point in my recovery. I began to improve.