God’s Promises – Jenni’s Story

Through my young adult years, God has shown me how to really trust Him for things out of my control. In 2002, my body became so severely ill with chronic muscle pain and fatigue that I had to quit my job at the pool, quit playing and teaching music, and eventually quit dancing, as well as my teaching job in Japan. Doctors couldn’t diagnose any specific disease, but did find out that my immune system was being attacked, and my organs were in dysfunction (all which affected my muscle pain and inflammation). My life gradually turned upside down. I used to be very physically active and strong. But in the course of three years, my diet changed drastically because of newly discovered food allergies, I could no longer drive, cook or clean for myself, and I could not pay for the doctor bills that were piling up. Things were looking very dark, and countless times I cried through painful and sleepless nights that seemed to last forever.

I didn’t ask “Why me?”, but I did ask God what He wanted of me. I asked for His strength to make it through this trial of pain. Many times I told Him I couldn’t do it anymore. I wanted to give up. Often times, the only thing that kept me trying was just knowing that I was still breathing, which meant I was still alive. And that if I’m alive, God must still have a purpose for me to be living. I realized it was, and still is, my task to keep going till I find out what that purpose is. The Purpose Driven Life was book that had a great impact on me during this time.

In year one of the onset of my ailments, before I had completely quit dancing, I met David through the Portland Swing Dance Club. I was dating someone else at the time, so I didn’t ponder on David’s attractiveness or take as much notice of him at first. But as things ended in my dating relationship, David was a comforting and respectful friend to have around. In time, I took closer notice of David because I admired his quiet, and gentle nature; not one to show off to catch a girl’s eye. He was nice to dance with because he took care of his partner on the dance floor. I felt safe with him. We began talking after dances, which then turned into hanging out at Mary’s with Tracy, which then led to taking road trips and even flights to various dance events together. My admiration for David was always there, but throughout the summer, our friendship was becoming “friendlier,” especially because of our great dance connection. By fall, something happened that made things completely awkward.

We love dancing together. Photo by Clark WachsmuthSince we danced well together both of us had an unspoken desire to partner together in competitions. I’m sure it surprised and frustrated David that I responded with a “no” when he asked me to partner with him. Everything in me really wanted to say “yes!” But through past experience, I learned that my own weaknesses couldn’t allow me partner with anyone unless they were just a friend, or someone I could possibly grow in love with and be able to marry someday. Since David was not a Christian, and since I was very much attached to him already, I didn’t want to break his heart or mine by furthering a relationship that I knew I couldn’t stay in. I tried explaining as much as I could over email without letting him know I liked him. But he persisted in asking me a couple more times, wanting to know why I refused him. So one night at the Viscount Ballroom, we sat at a little table where I caved in and told him he was “too darn likeable.” It was a relief to know we liked each other, but at the same time, it was insanely frustrating to try to not fall in any deeper.

Things were uncomfortable for a while, but we resumed getting to know each other at a respectable distance. He asked lots of questions over email to which I let him know what I believed, how I viewed relationships, and where I stood on many issues. I had learned enough about David to know that if he ever did accept Jesus into his life, he would do it with integrity of heart. Never would he do something fake just to get me to date him. I was nervous, but I gave him a Bible (recommending he start in the book of John), and a letter telling him about God’s love and plan for salvation. I also gave him the Case for Christ, which gives logical insight to the evidence of Christ being a historically true human being who was/is also God. When I found out David was actually interested in learning more about Jesus, and that he started getting up at 5am to take the max to work so he could read the Case for Christ, I said to God, “I don’t know what You are doing, but keep doing it ’cause You’re doing a lot better job than I could ever do!” Needless to say, God pursued David with His love, and David put his faith in Jesus Christ on February 13th, 2004. We began our courtship the next day, February 14th.

Posing with some Japanese girls with tea ceremony outfitsSomewhere between the “Viscount incident” and February, I had accepted a teaching job in Japan. So while I was excited that David and I could now begin our romance, I was torn between my year long commitment to teaching English in Japan and my intense desire to be with David. I debated breaking the contract and staying home, but I had God’s peace that I was still to go, and a peace that if things were to last between David and I, God would take care of us while we were apart.

The saying, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder,” was very true for David and me. We wrote long emails, handwritten letters, and made many long distance phone calls. I missed him terribly, but everyday was busy with prepping for class, teaching, grocery shopping and cooking. Knowing what foods were safe for me was very difficult, and with the resurgence of parasitic infection that had actually delayed my trip in the beginning, I became very sick. This was the beginning of my darkest times.

My pain, insomnia, fatigue, and isolation overwhelmed me. God took care of me while in Japan through my friend and supervisor, Mary Sata, who took me to doctors and interpreted for me. But I wasn’t finding the doctor help I needed and my health was rapidly getting worse. Everyday was a major struggle just to get out of bed, and finally, when I could no longer work, I decided it was time to go home. I lived in Japan for two months before I moved back home… to my David.

Sick at homeShortly after I returned home in May, I had an encounter with God that has impacted me ever since. I had a sleepless night where no position I lay in gave any relief to my body. I tossed and turned, trying to shut out the fears that plagued me. I knew I wanted to marry David, but it broke my heart that if he did marry me, he may never have a healthy wife. It saddened me that my mom had to quit her job to care for me. I felt like such a burden because I was costing my parents so much money. Not knowing when or if my pain would ever stop was way worse that the pain itself. I wondered what would become of me. I was terribly afraid. By the early morning hours, it dawned on me that I was actually wrestling with God. I wanted control of my situation. All of a sudden, I felt God say to my heart, “Everything is going to be ok.” My bitter tears turned to tears of release as I surrendered my fears to Him, and I felt His peace wash over my by stressed out body so that, while the pain didn’t disappear, I found a resting place there in Him.

Sick at home, but with DavidThroughout the months following, my illness would have repeated cycles of slight remission, and then flare-ups. Just as I would be making progress for a while, discouragement would come crashing down on me as yet another cycle of parasites emerged. But God was there, reminding me of His promise He had spoken to me that night in May. Not only that, but the promises He gave in His Word were a constant source of hope to me. Psalm 57 became a special passage to me that starts out with a cry that my heart echoed:

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by. I will cry out to God Most High, to God who performs all things for me.”

Sick at home, but with DavidDavid was there for me too, carrying me when I couldn’t walk, feeding me when I couldn’t feed myself, holding me as I cried, praying for me, and reading Scripture to me when I was bed ridden. Often I would ask him to read some of my favorite verses:

Zephaniah 3:17 “The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Isaiah 40:29-31 “He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

Couch potato friends

My mom was with me through most of it all, and she tirelessly cared for me every day. My dad and brother would play guitar for me in my room, and sing to me. And I have such dear friends that gave great encouragement. Many people, especially from my church, prayed for me through it all. I was so surrounded by God’s love, and was so in love with David, that I often told him “I’m the happiest miserable girl I know.”

Day after the proposal at Lucia FallsDavid proposed to me for my birthday in July, 2004. Nine months later, we wed on April 23rd, 2005. I had been making some progress in my health, but still needed a lot of care leading up to the wedding. Old fears crept up in me again. But I remembered God’s promise to me, and I trusted that since He has never failed me before, He would not leave me now. I also had to take David at his word that he still wanted to marry me, even if he had to quit his job and work from home so he could take care of me. He told me that even if I never got well, he wanted me to live the happiest life I possibly could. I am in awe of how he stepped out on faith, with so many uncertainties and obstacles in our way, to take me as his wife. Over all the uncertainties we faced, we both knew that God put us together for a reason, and that the difficult times are often His tools to make us stronger.

Only four months after the wedding, I experienced some signs of recovery from my ailments. I knew it was the hand of God, doing His plan in my life. I made progress in my therapy workouts. I became able to do more housework and cooking (which I’m sure David was grateful for). I could drive our car, and even dance with more people again. At first, I’d been asking God questions such as “What are You doing now?” and “Am I really getting better, or is this just another remission?” Then I stopped myself. This was not at all putting my trust in Him. Instead of focusing only on knowing all the answers, I should seek to know Him no matter how many answers I get. Thinking back through this experience, I remember concluding that I would much rather be in my broken state with having a close relationship with Jesus, sharing the bond of suffering with Him, than to have perfect health without knowing Him at all.

Many more amazing things have happened on my journey since those first three years including God enabling me to get pregnant and have children, and him leading me to Dr. Carol McMakin who has diagnosed a bulged disc in my neck, and found some vertebrae instability that can be hopefully corrected through strengthening exercises. She’s also helped me immensely with pain management through Frequency Specific Microcurrent. That, along with a health team of physical therapists, naturopaths, and support from my amazing husband, family and friends, I’m experiencing incredible moments of heaven on earth through this journey.

Back when I gave David his Bible, I wrote something in the cover that expresses my heart for everyone to know and experience no matter what life throws your way. I guess if I had a life verse, this would be it:

“And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in Him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:17-19