Please bear with me for the long-haul on this post. There is a lot I want to say, and the purpose of it is much more than a physical update about my back. Like most of you already know, God uses a lot of my daily situations to teach me something spiritual.
A praise report for today and a somewhat long testimony of what I believe it has all been a symbol of.
Two years ago, I was told that at some point in the near future, I would need surgery on my lower back because of the deteriorating disc on my L3-L4. The neurosurgeon told me disc was gone and the others above it didn’t look any better. I had already had a cervical fusion several years ago, so his report came to me as no surprise. But the thought of a lower back surgery and two bolts in my spine was scary to say the least.
At the time, a 20% risk of surgery failure and paralysis didn’t seem like a doable option, so I chose to put my faith in God and believe for healing. For 18 months, I started taking care of my body- drinking lots of water, researching natural supplements and spices that were good for me, and running every day. The pain disappeared, for the most part, and I felt like a brand new person, and I certainly did my fair share of bragging for the efforts I had made.
A couple of weeks ago, the severe pain returned, and I have to admit that fear came with it. Yesterday morning, I woke up to get ready for work, and my back literally went out on me while I was in the bathroom. I could not move; I could not use my legs; all I could do was scream. I have never felt that kind of pain in my life. My girls called an ambulance, and I ended up at St. Vincent’s ER. While I was sitting there with my family waiting for the results of the CT scan, I was pricked in my spirit to start praising God despite the fear and pain I was experiencing and recite the Scriptures I had memorized. The doctor returned with the news that my nerves around my deteriorated L3-L4 were inflamed and bulging. He gave me several shots and sent me home with medication.
I stayed in bed all day yesterday with my husband and slept all day today. Today, I got out of the bed with little effort. I can still feel the tension and strain, but I can walk.
I am not quite sure why God has allowed me to walk through this again, as I know He is completely able to restore the discs in my back, and that is what I am trusting Him for. But I do know that He has used the past day-and-a-half to remind me what all I am thankful for and to also point out some much needed areas of my heart, which still need reconstruction.
First, I am so very thankful to the sweet ambulance workers and the nurses and doctor at St. Vincent’s. They were compassionate, sensitive to my needs, and literally had me in and out of the hospital within a few hours without having to wait.
Second, I am thankful for my girls. They are two of the kindest, most compassionate, helpful prayer warriors I have ever encountered for girls their age. They took care of me like they have taken care of me for so many years. These girls are two-of-a-kind. They have so many responsibilities here at home, and most of the time, do them without complaints or reminders. They get up an hour early to have their private Bible studies and prayer time, and faithfully pick up the house, make my hot tea, lunch, and water for the day, as well as anything else I need. They keep excellent grades in school, participate on their tennis team, and are very motivated to pursue their future through dual enrollment at UA, as well as a two-hour study session for the ACT at night. They are two of the most giving and unselfish young women I have ever met—and God gets all the praise for who they are turning out to be because I certainly had little to do with it.
Third, I am so very thankful for my husband. He took off work all yesterday to take care of me and wait on me hand and foot- as he has on so many occasions. Daniel is such a patient, humble, intelligent and loving man. He has put up with my nonsense for over 9 years and never stopped believing me when I was anything but a Godly wife. My husband has a 12-hour work day from the time he leaves home until the time he returns. He does more than his fair share of chores around the house- including the dishes, general cleaning, paying all the bills and making sure our finances are in order, and the yard work. He never complains about anything, and he speaks God’s Word over me on a constant basis. He is a wonderful father, and he engages our girls in conversation, as he also encourages them in the Word. My husband is by far the greatest man I have ever met. He spoils me nearly rotten, and leaves me wanting for nothing. I do not understand how I ended up with him, but for the favor, mercy, and grace of the Almighty God. Our marriage shouldn’t have lasted a year- but we are working on #10 now, and it just keeps getting better and better.
Fourth, I want to praise God for the amazing friends and Church family I have. Three years ago, we were invited to the Church at Bethel in Thorsby. After the experience I have had in most every other church I have attended in my life, I was more than hesitant. I had quit trusting people many years ago, especially within the walls of a church. From the moment we stepped foot in the church, we were welcomed with loving arms. It wasn’t a big surprise, given that was the experience I had at many churches…but it’s been the experience I have had and the relationships God has helped us build within this church these three past years. These people have seen me at my best, and they have experienced me at my worse….and have loved me regardless. They pray for me on a constant basis; they encourage me to pursue God; they have cried with me and rejoiced with me; they have pursued relationship with me when I tried pushing them all away. My pastor and his wife have genuinely made us part of their family, as the rest of the families at Bethel. I am beginning to understand what a church family should really look like, and I am so thankful that God led us there and has kept me there even when I wanted to run away because of past pain I have experienced.
Most of all, I want to thank God for what He is teaching me through all of this. My heart has been wound up tightly with a million thorny vines. Many times, I have tried to throw it out there, only for it to be returned with more holes, and emotional rips. But God has used several prophetic words over the past week to show me that He is beginning to gently unravel those vines from my heart- in His perfect timing and way- not my own. I spent many years not believing I had any real value and feeling utterly worthless and unlovable. Although I have always been a friendly person who appeared to hold nothing back when I met someone new, it was honestly somewhat of a facade, as I was always holding back and awaiting to experience more rejection- where once it happened, I would snap and resort back to the monster that had always kept me safe from any more emotional harm. I believed for most of my life that I was full of the devil and that God was disgusted with me. Every day, God is making me more the real Joyelle that He created me to be. It is painful at times to realize how selfish and immature I am, but I am encouraged by the fact that God loves me too much to allow me to remain that old person.
I have spent the last two years, relentlessly wearing myself out by trying to make myself what I thought God wanted me to be. I unknowingly ignored the message of grace and refused to receive it freely. I bought into the idea that there was more I needed to do to ensure my salvation and keep myself from returning to the horrible person I used to be. I have been critical and judgmental of others, always looking for a problem, whether it was myself or others. I reached a place where I was becoming my own savior, and God allowed me to come to the end of myself. I believe the last week of the pain I was experiencing leading up to not being able to walk yesterday was a prophetic reminder that I can never ever do for myself was God has already freely done for me.
Saturday morning, I was hit with an emotional pain in my heart that I have never experienced before in my life. I laid in my husband’s arms and literally wept like an infant. 42 years of bottled up pain gushed out of me, and all I could do was sob and gasp for air. I recognized that I have allowed the enemy to torment me with the concerns of what others thought or felt about me, trying to please people and force relationships. I felt utterly downcast and hopeless…and God showed me the picture of the heart wrapped tightly in thorny vines, as He gently asked me to allow Him to begin unwrapping it – His way – not mine. I submitted.
I believe the pain I experienced Monday morning was God’s way of forcing me to recognize that human effort always fails when it comes to salvation. I am in great need of God’s power to change my life, and I do not have to wear myself out trying to force it to happen. Because of Jesus Christ, I am loved by God PERIOD. There is nothing I can do to earn more of it, and only the Holy Spirit has the power to transform my life.
I truly believe God works on His people in seasons and patterns. This is my season where God is completely tearing down the old temple of my heart, and rebuilding one fit for Him to dwell. I am ready for Him to have all the junk I have hoarded in my heart- all of the pain, rejection, and past experiences that I have hidden away – those things which have kept me from fully receiving God’s best for my life. He is not looking to punish me; He desires to bless me and clothe me in bridal attire.
I don’t know what you have or are experiencing in your life that might keep you from completely recognizing that God wants total control of your heart. But do know, my friend, He wants to possess every area of your heart, which means you must let Him completely empty it first. If you are holding on in prayer for a loved one that is lost; maybe it is you that has not completely surrendered….but I want to encourage you that God is relentlessly in love with you- there is not one thing you can do about it except receive what He is freely given you through Jesus Christ.
Don’t expect complete change in one night. The gift of salvation happens in a moment, but the act of salvation is a journey that God will be completing in your life until the day He returns. Don’t be deceived by the battles you see around you. Don’t waste your opportunity to praise Him – He deserves your constant praise simply because He is God- don’t let your circumstances determine your thanksgiving.
The Word of God says He inhabits the praises of His people. He literally comes to dwell in your praise. Don’t let the enemy use your circumstances to rob you of giving God His rightful dwelling place- in the praises and thanksgiving of you your heart. He will not force His way inside of your heart, but I truly believe He will allow circumstances to stir you to a place of giving up and letting go, so you can embrace His grace.
I have known of God my whole life. But I am just learning what it means to let Jesus be Lord of my life- every area of it- which means I must let go of the hurt I have wanted to keep for future ammunition. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal- but mighty to the pulling down of strongholds. I have tried fighting this emotional and spiritual battle with my own arsenal….today, I am picking up my spiritual armor and declaring that the enemy has been defeated in the throne of my heart.
I praise God today- no matter the pain I feel or the hurt I might experience at times caused by others. I choose to live my life as a constant vessel of praise. I am excited about the new season I am entering and knowing that my value comes from Jesus Christ- not from my talents, not from my intelligence, not from all my futile religious human efforts.
There are many bad things going on in this world around us….but people are spending too much time with their spiritual magnifying glasses, honing in on the work of the enemy – rather than the knowledge of a Savior that has already defeated him. I understand the temptation to point out all the evil that surrounds us- just go back and read my past blogs I have written over the last two years….but God has not called us to point fingers at evil people. He has called us to live out the life of Christ- the man who met people right where they were and showed them a life changing unconditional love—they surround us -people who do not deserve the love of God anymore than we do—-people we have been called to show love and grace—-just like Christ. And they need you to introduce Jesus to them- not the accuser of the brethren.
Abraham was old.
Isaac was a daydreamer.
Leah was ugly.
Elijah was suicidal.
Joseph was abused.
Job went bankrupt.
Moses had a speech problem.
Gideon was afraid.
Samson was a womanizer.
Rahab was a prostitute.
The Samaritan woman was divorced and a fornicator.
Noah was a drunk.
Jeremiah and Timothy were young.
Jacob was a cheater and a liar.
David was a murderer and an adulterer.
Jonah ran from God.
Isaiah preached naked.
Naomi was a widow.
Peter denied Christ three times.
Paul persecuted Christians before becoming one.
The disciples fell asleep while praying.
Martha worried about everything.
Zacchaeus was too small.
Lazarus was dead.
I once embodied the lifestyle of every villain in the Bible, but God has used His people to show me His love and grace- mighty weapons that defeat evil every time. It wasn’t the religious people who pointed their fingers at all my sin who nudged me toward a loving Savior….it has been those people who loved me while I was in the pigpen, and became the symbol of the Father who embraced the prodigal son, who ran to him when he saw him returning to him, and wrapped him in royal garment, and put a ring upon his finger—-those people who have loved me despite myself—-and praised God for my deliverance when I was too weak to praise Him myself.
Sometimes, God has to get us into a horizontal position of helplessness- just like He has me the past several days- to finally help us recognize that only He has the power to heal us from the inside out. I am so thankful for the rest He has given me these past two days- this place of learning to trust Him and believing that He is accomplishing something awesome in my life despite what circumstances I see with my natural eyes. I am quite sure He is restoring my heart, as He purges each thorny root, and fills the empty holes with His Holy Spirit-
I don’t know that any of this made any real sense…but I pray that whoever needed the encouragement receives it.
For each of you who have loved me, prayed for me, and stuck by me when I didn’t deserve it- thank you for letting God use you as a symbol of His mercy and grace. That is what being a child of God and used for His kingdom is all about. When you see me clothed in my bridal attire, know that your love has helped me to embrace what I will never deserve.