Welcome back to our Gauntlet Story Feast Community
This week’s story comes from Rachael. She is an eighteen year old warrior headed into fusion surgery on Tuesday, April 14th. Please pray for her and her family. Please pray for Dr. Henderson. Please pray for healing. Her beautiful heart of faith and courage will bless you. If you would like to donate to Rachael and her family as they bear the cost of this upcoming surgery you may donate here. Every drop makes an ocean.
Beautifully In Over My Head
By Rachael Wilson
“You were young, you were free, and you dared to believe you could be the girl who could change the world…”
Strong. Energetic. Hyper. Adventurous. Crazy. Daring. Random.
As a child, I did simple things, and I loved every moment of it. I was happy, healthy, spunky, and excited about the future.
I danced. I dreamed. I laughed. I lived.
I ran with my friends, and I ran fast. I jumped up and down, and I jumped high. Aside from schoolwork, I spent my spare time doing anything I could to stay active. I played with friends. I made crafts. I rode my bike. I explored nature. I went to church. I traveled places. Basically, I had enough energy to do anything I set my mind to.
“Then your life took a turn, and you fell, and it hurt. But you’re still that girl, and you’re gonna change this world.”
By the time I was in 9th grade, I was a dreamer; excited to serve God, and ready to follow wherever He led me. I began dancing at a Christian studio, and I fell in love with ballet. There was something magical about transforming into a ballerina and worshiping the Lord with movement. I was dedicated, and I became stronger than ever before. I could dance for hours and still have energy to spare. I had the typical dancer lifestyle: Eat. Sleep. Breathe. Dance.
I started noticing a change in the way I felt at dance class. I didn’t have nearly as much energy, and I had confusing symptoms. I blacked out when I turned. I saw stars when I stretched. My heart was pounding when I jumped. My legs felt like bricks when I would leap. My hands were shaking with tremors when I tried to make them graceful. I had scary chest pain. But I kept pushing through. I wanted to dance more than I cared about the odd sensations. Eventually, something was clearly wrong. Long story short, I was diagnosed with POTS syndrome, and put on medication to control it. The struggle to continue dancing was worth it to me. Fast forward a year, and I developed more symptoms. This time, it was pain. I was diagnosed with a genetic condition called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome.
Soon after, I started having relentless headaches. I began seeing flashes, blobs, and lines in my vision all day. I woke up with vision loss. I developed nearly constant vertigo. I started forgetting simple things. My arms began tingling and getting numb. I became exhausted after simply walking up stairs.
I wasn’t sure what God was up to, but I clung to my relationship with Him. I knew He could use my mess…somehow.
A neurosurgeon diagnosed the cause of these symptoms as cranio cervical instability, atlantoaxial instability, and brainstrem/spinal cord compression among other things. At my appointment, after he reviewed my MRIs, we were told surgery was necessary. There is peace in knowing this is what God has provided to get my life back, but fear in knowing what it will take to get there.
“I’m standing knee deep but I’m out where I’ve never been. I feel You coming, and I hear Your voice on the wind…come and do, whatever You want to.”
Having a chronic and often invisible illness presents its daily challenges.
You learn to constantly fight your body to do things that most people take for granted. The desire to be active is there, but it is trapped in a body that won’t allow it.
“Further and further, my heart moves away from the shore. Whatever it looks like, whatever may come I am Yours…”
You watch yourself fade, but you also watch yourself bloom.
You learn that every day God gives you…every moment…every breath…is a miracle as much as it is a blessing. A friends joyful laughter. A bright sunny day. A calming song. A silly joke. A perfectly timed devotional. The smell of the crisp spring air.
“Then You crash over me, and I’ve lost control but I’m free, I’m going under, I’m in over my head. Then You crash over me, and that’s where You want me to be…I’m going under, I’m in over my head…”
As a chronically ill person, you spend a lot of time resting. You have plenty of time to sit and think. You can easily find yourself thinking enough “what if” thoughts to write a novel.
It’s not always sunshine and rainbows. You will wonder why God is allowing this. You will wonder if He is still there. You will wonder why you have to suffer and feel extreme pain. You will wonder if you will ever find relief. The truth is, ALONE we are not able to handle whatever challenges may come our way.
“When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:2
Alone we are WEAK. With God we are STRONG. Alone we are AFRAID. With God we are BRAVE. Alone we are in PAIN. With God we find COMFORT. Alone we are WORRIED. With God we are HELD. Alone we CANNOT do this. With God we CAN.
Rest in knowing that your gauntlet, your struggle, and your fight is the stepping stone into the gift of becoming exactly who God needs you to be to fulfill His plan for you.
“Whether I sink, whether I swim, it makes no difference when… I’m beautifully in over my head.”
About Rachael in her own words:
I am an 18 year old recent high school graduate who is looking forward to pursuing a degree in the medical field or Christian counseling following recovery from my cranio-cervical fusion.
If you are walking a Gauntlet or are close to someone who is and would like to contribute to our Thursday community please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will send you the instructions for submitting. Share with anyone you know who might like to join our Gauntlet Story Feast. (Please use the hash tag #GauntletStoryFeast when sharing so we can find and follow one another.) Our Hope remains.
Photography by Cindee Snider Re. Used with permission.