Overcoming Illness: I Had to Believe What I’ve Read and Written About (Part 1)

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Dear Brothers and Sisters:  As you can surely attest, life has a way of turning on a dime, throwing us curve balls and suddenly placing us in the fiery furnace. During those “in the furnace” seasons, much is revealed about our faith, our trust in God, things God needs to shed from us and where we need to shore up our gaps to persevere and remain steadfast. This is a two-part writing I authentically share with you during a present season of trial. It’s more information than I would normally share publicly though I am led to do so in hopes to encourage and equip you to endure your current or upcoming trial. God is indeed with you.

My trial comes in the form of being extremely healthy for many years to suddenly battling and overcoming illness. I have learned and continue to glean much from this experience—particularly, where I thought I was in my faith walk, was not entirely so. Even so, God knows this and has still chosen me as His Daughter, His servant and co-laborer in His Kingdom. In my shortcomings and areas of weakness, His call on my life remains irrevocable for which I am grateful (the same applies to you too). I know for sure now more than ever that His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). He is indeed my Strength and I am learning to fully lean on Him. This has also been a season of great vulnerability and reaching out to others for help. I am thankful for dear friends, dear prayer partners and family who have truly lifted me up in this time.

Faith: Not Where I Thought Was

In overcoming illness, I’ve had to believe what I have long read and have faithfully written about: The Word of God.

I invited Jesus Christ into my heart and life at age 12. I’ve been reading and studying God’s Word since then with a fervent desire to grow more in Him, to be more Christ-like, to truly advance His Kingdom in the earth; to encourage, equip and instruct the saints in His Word. I’m led to help the Body of Christ walk out their calling while also hoping to reach the lost and point them to true freedom in Christ Jesus. I’ve recited and stood upon scriptures more times than I can count. I am a Godly woman of faith. I have refuted Satan on numerous occasions during his attacks. Yet, it is this particular trial, testing and building up of my faith that has been unlike anything I had previously endured.

It began with contracting the flu or a virus on Thanksgiving Day 2017. I felt a tickle in my throat the night before and considered it to be my allergies. However, by midday Thanksgiving, came the onset of body aches, chills and a fever. For the next week and a half, I was laid up in bed with little to no appetite, weak, and frankly feeling like I was fading away. Just before contracting the virus, I experienced great energy, health, walked at least an hour or more six to seven days a week. I hadn’t had the flu since I was a kid. I am rarely sick. Life was zinging along well. Grad school was done and because of, there was more time to dedicate to ministry and mentoring. However, with limited energy, I was forced to reach out to others for help—something those close to me know that I rarely do. Dear friends in their generosity and thoughtfulness brought me soups, bottled water, had groceries delivered, made teas, etc. I am truly loved and cared for. God blessed me through them and in turn, I prayed that God would pour out His favor on them.

To provide some background to the situation: Prior to contracting the virus, I had begun mentoring youth at a school in the most violent, crime-ridden, impoverished part of Washington, D.C., which is southeast DC.  Of the District’s more than 650,000 residents, at least 142,000 residents call SE DC home. The area experiences a high rate of poverty, violence, drug trafficking, gang activity and unemployment or underemployment. In 2015, D.C. suffered a 54 percent increase in homicides with an estimated 75 percent of shootings committed by Black and Hispanic males ages 16 to 25. A number of youth that I’ve spoken to in SE DC have witnessed violence and because of, are unsure about their future and longevity.

In short, I had entered the enemy’s territory or as another person called it, “Devil’s County.” In addition, this past September, we ministered to students at two North Carolina colleges where strongholds were brought down and life, futures, and hope were restored. We experienced great victories at both colleges that did not go unnoticed. You can bet the enemy is displeased when you begin taking territory away from him for God’s Kingdom. You can expect spiritual opposition, spiritual warfare.

As I began to recover from the flu/virus, I felt like I was getting back to myself. I felt great and my colleagues could see this as well. It seemed to bring relief to all of us. In this time of recovery, I had been praying and crying out to God. In those times, He assured me He would heal me step by step. True to His character, I would see improvements a bit each day. I praised God!

Then one night, I got ahead of what God had promised me and attempted to “fix” or “hurry along” an area that still needed healing. In my need to “fix it,” I worsened my situation and had to go to the ER. I spent 12 hours in the ER undergoing several blood tests, waiting on results, then underwent a PE (pulmonary embolism) DT test to rule out a blood clot due to a rapid heart rate I was experiencing. The very thought of possibly having a blood clot gave me great angst and actually made my knees buckle when the nurse went to escort me down the hallway to the room and machine where the test would be performed.

As I laid on my back (I was by myself at the ER), hands folded above my head as the doctors slowly ran me through a tube to scan my chest, heart and lungs for a blood clot, I prayed to God under my breath as I had to be very still for the test. How did I get in this situation?? I was escorted back to the ER room where many patients were waiting, or in their rooms coughing and hacking from terrible colds or the flu. The ER was packed with patients seeking treatment for whatever ailed them and I was trying to stay in peace as I sat and awaited the PE scan results. As I waited, I texted a dear sister in Christ to pray for me and she did. Praise God, after about an hour of waiting, I was told I was clear–no blood clots.

I was released and headed home. I was relieved. But this would become one of at least six late night to wee-morning hour additional trips to the ER as the rapid heart rate (tachycardia) returned, my anxiety increased about my health (not knowing exactly what was causing my health issues), and inflammation with my GI system. I was losing weight because of a loss of appetite and a sensitivity to certain foods. And at times, I was losing my focus on God’s Word and His promises as the situation held more of my attention, awake and asleep. I also had to temporarily suspend some activities and pass on a great opportunity in order to make wellness a high priority. This saddened me as I am known for being reliable and following through on my commitments. I felt like the “me” of who I’ve been known as was crumbling.

I cried out to God like a child. As they say, “The struggle was real.” From bent knees to curled up fetal position, I was crying out for the Lord’s mercy and help. The battle was revealing to me areas where I needed to shore up my faith. I was battling the enemy’s onslaught of attacks on my thoughts, lies about my future and God’s plans for me. I began meditating on God’s Word “day and night” as written in Joshua 1:8, reading scriptures on healing, scriptures to cast my cares/burdens on the Lord (Psalm 55:22), to not be anxious for anything (Philippians 4:6), to stay in His peace (Isaiah 26:3, John 14:27), and to look to the One who bore our infirmities and heals our diseases (Psalm 103:3).  My bible is marked up and highlighted, flagged and dogeared; His Word tucked in my heart. Yet in this trial, was I believing what I had read and had written about? I’ve written a number of blog posts using these very scriptures. 

Bible Psalms

In this time, I was beginning to understand some of the root causes of my anxiety other than the enemy’s attacks. I’m only a few years older than my mother was when she passed at the young age of 40 in 1989 from colon cancer when my brother and I were teens.  She had been healthy as far as we knew and her diagnosis that year before hit my dad and our family like a freight train. We felt blindsided. In all of our praying, she still passed and I felt like her life was cut short. Today, I know that such things are God’s business and His ways are not our ways. Even in understanding this, the enemy would send thoughts that my life would be cut short. The thoughts seemed to come one after the other, like fiery darts that I would thwart with the shield of faith, yet some of those lies found their way in the chink of my armor and would ruminate in my mind far too long. I also spoke with others about this to release it.

I am growing more to trust God in the process of healing and trusting in His promises. This means forgoing my need to “fix” situations my way and rather to be Holy Spirit-led in how He would have me to approach issues. I am also rejecting the anxious and fearful thoughts that have waged war on my body, recovery and confidence in God’s Word. I am also so very grateful for my prayer partners who have undergone and some still going through their own seasons of illness and have encouraged me with their words and prayers. This process has also given me a deeper compassion and sensitivity for those battling illnesses and a greater connection in praying for them.

In the course of this battle with days of progress and setbacks, I still don’t have solid answers as to what is causing my health issues. By God’s grace and prayers, I am improving. I am awaiting my next doctors’ appointments to learn more. During a good portion of this process, my need to understand “why” and “what” was becoming too much of my focus. Yes, it is good to seek answers so we can learn more how God would have us to address the situation, but those answers may come slowly. So how should we respond in the meantime?

-Nicole

NEXT: Stay tuned for Part 2 of “Overcoming Illness: I Had to Believe What I’ve Read and Written About” as I share excellent Godly counsel received from a dear sister in Christ that reframed my thinking, who I learned to forgive, what God has shown me in this process…and the next health scare.

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Sometimes It’s the Way You Think

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Hi People! While Satan uses fear as a tactic to hinder our progress, could he also use your deceptive ways of thinking and processing of information against you? Yes. Sometimes it’s the way you think that is hindering you. I call this ‘distorted thinking.’

For your consideration and equipping in Christ Jesus against your and my stealth (but defeated) enemy Satan, I share with you a devotional written by one of my Regent University Robertson School of Government professors, Dr. Gary Roberts. Thank you Dr. Roberts.

 

 

Godly Reasoning

1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

As servant leaders and human beings made in the image of God, one of the primary weapons that Satan uses to discourage and defeat us is fear in its various forms. However, fear is not the first weapon of choice as most people suspect. Satan uses our flawed mental information processing patterns as a weapon of deception.

For example, we all possess the tendency to accept the first reasonable cause or answer to a problem given our inherent impatience and desire to minimize time and effort. This is an example of a heuristical (mental shortcut) that subverts our reasoning and logic.

The bottom line is that we are “hardwired” to draw inaccurate and flawed conclusions from our mental analysis. In other words, we engage in both magnification and minimization of danger and risk based upon our personal circumstances and experiences.

Distorted thinking patterns cropped

If we had a painful experience at the dentist as a child, we then project a much higher probability of future dental problems than logic and experience warrants. We hence avoid the dentist increasing the probability of experiencing serious to life-threatening medical problems from decayed and infected teeth. Depending on our mood and personal experiences, we either affix positive or negative blinders. When we are discouraged and depressed, that molehill looks like a 25,000-foot mountain, and when we are inspired and optimistic, that march up the 25,000-foot mountain appears to be a jaunt up the hill.

negative-thinking-patterns-full

Man trapped in jar by his negative thoughts.

However, the greatest deception is to reason without God’s presence and power, the absence of spiritual reasoning or intelligence. With Godly reasoning, we recognize when God is ready and willing to move the mountain to the sea, and when what looks like a “jaunt in the park” becomes a time of life and death struggle in the desert.

Irrespective of which vision is accurate, the antidote to killing fear or a lukewarm complacency is the presence of the Lord granting us the strength and wisdom to face whatever circumstance with His life-giving power and protection. Reflect on the faithful promises of security in Psalm 91, and seek his wisdom!

Thank you Dr. Roberts for this equipping and encouraging message. If this message resonates in your spirit and you recognize your distorted thinking patterns, I pray right now that you would allow the Lord’s power to renew and transform your mind to His ways, to His Godly reasoning. For “you can do all things through Christ Jesus who gives you strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

God bless you,

Nicole

Nicole D. Hayes is the founder of Voices Against the Grain, a bold teaching ministry launched in May 2013. Nicole’s purpose in creating Voices Against the Grain is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

It Can’t Hold Me

 

Herbert Bowen, Jr.  Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Herbert Bowen, Jr.
Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Job 4:14 -“Fear gripped me, and my bones trembled.” (New Living Translation) 

 (This is dedicated to RR) Fear is nothing more than a deceitful agent that robs us of our hope. Fear is nothing more than a cataclysmic event of our consciousness warring within our souls. Fear is nothing more than venom, which seeks to systemically shut down each one of our bodily functions, until the color leaves our faces. From dust we were configured. From God’s breath we were made alive. From His love and sacrifice we were made whole. Therefore, may we seek confidence over the likelihood of defeat. May we seek strength over the crushing vice of of uncontrollable circumstances. May we seek comfort over the bed of needles this world provides for rest. For the mission is a laborious one, packed to the brim with disappointments and unlikable scenarios. But it is God who leads us to the path of victory. Hence, our FEAR slowly transforms into COURAGE. A trait that will lead anyone to the promise land flowing with milk and honey. Amen

About Herbert G. Bowen, Jr.

Born in King of Prussia, Pa., Herbert G. Bowen Jr., accepted the Lord Jesus Christ at the tender age of 5. An active member of the Central Church of God in Charlotte, N.C. where he resides, Herbert serves as a youth/discussion group leader, where he has preached and taught Sunday school, as well  as Wednesday night service. In addition, he has preached at Second Baptist Church in Pottstown, Pa., Destiny City Church in Salisbury, N.C.  At his current age of 24, Herbert is the youngest board member on the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Leadership Council, where he serves to lessen the costs of tuition for African American students. Moreover, Herbert serves on the pureHOPE advisory board, where his commitment to “wait until marriage” fits perfectly with PureHope’s mission to bring a Christian solution to an immoral culture.

Finally, Herbert through the will of God writes weekly devotionals to combat the decreasing morality in the 18-30 age group a.k.a., “the transition gap.” This is an effort to re-introduce Jesus Christ to this spiritually starved generation. His devotionals go out to 2,000+ people and continues to grow under the Lord’s watchful eye.  He is a graduate of Purdue University with a degree in Business Management. He provides business expertise to help others start their businesses.

Worry No More

James 1:8- “Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.” (New Living Translation)

Herbert Bowen, Jr.  Voices Against the Grain Blogger

Herbert Bowen, Jr.
Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Today has afforded me great clarity. Moreover, today is nothing more than a siren to alert all who are fearful of their future lives. For today or tomorrow is not merely a time for relaxation in prep for our upcoming work week, but a time to prepare our minds to reflect on all that God has given us. In 2 Timothy 1:7 it says, “For God did not give us the spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.” Therefore, fear shakes throughout the resurgence of power from the supportive words of our elders, friends, and family. Fear quivers throughout the warmth of love, which covers a multitude of sins, and is the reason we know grace. Fear trembles throughout the reading of The Word as it steadies our minds amidst the distractions of the world. Therefore, allow God to be the anchor that grounds your ship. (Thank you Mr. Shipley for your guidance) Amen

About Herbert G. Bowen, Jr.

Born in King of Prussia, Pa., Herbert G. Bowen Jr., accepted the Lord Jesus Christ at the tender age of 5. An active member of the Central Church of God in Charlotte, N.C. where he resides, Herbert serves as a youth/discussion group leader, where he has preached and taught Sunday school, as well  as Wednesday night service. In addition, he has preached at Second Baptist Church in Pottstown, Pa., Destiny City Church in Salisbury, N.C.  At his current age of 24, Herbert is the youngest board member on the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Leadership Council, where he serves to lessen the costs of tuition for African American students. Moreover, Herbert serves on the pureHOPE advisory board, where his commitment to “wait until marriage” fits perfectly with PureHope’s mission to bring a Christian solution to an immoral culture.

Finally, Herbert through the will of God writes weekly devotionals to combat the decreasing morality in the 18-30 age group a.k.a., “the transition gap.” This is an effort to re-introduce Jesus Christ to this spiritually starved generation. His devotionals go out to 2,000+ people and continues to grow under the Lord’s watchful eye.  He is a graduate of Purdue University with a degree in Business Management. He provides business expertise to help others start their businesses.

GO Past Fear of the Unknown

Ana Martinez, Chef and Voices Against the Grain Blogger

Ana Martinez, Chef and Voices Against the Grain Blogger

FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real. GO past it.

As a young girl, I won a beauty pageant in our small Michigan town.  I became “Little Miss Hispanic Princess.” During the pageant, I planned to do a tap dance number. However, technical failures with the music stopped my routine.  The judges then evaluated us according to how we looked and the answers we gave to their questions.  I responded with a desire to help children and those in need.  At that young age, I am unsure if I fully understood such a concept.

Following that victory, I wanted to enter our town’s main beauty pageant called “Little Miss Blueberry.” However, my mother’s friend told her that the only girls who win have “blonde hair and blue eyes.”  I was neither. I had golden tan skin, brown hair and deep chocolate eyes. So, we did not enter the pageant. Fear held us back.  I remember the confidence I had from winning the first pageant quickly dwindled away as if I was inadequate to even enter the next.   go-button

My Mother is White and my Father, Puerto Rican. Interestingly, I won “Little Miss Hispanic” and didn’t even speak Spanish.  I write this not to criticize race or people’s opinions. I write this to encourage you to not allow fear to prevent you from stepping into the unknown.  At that point in time, I could have been the first Spanish girl to win “Little Miss Blueberry.”  God sees our heart and judges by our inward condition.  We judge by outward appearances.  I would not be here today if a Puerto Rican man hadn’t fallen in love with a White American woman.  In spite of my parent’s differences of race and language, they shared a strong common denominator that brought and has held them together. They share a love for Christ and they were both determined to fulfill His Perfect Will for their lives, and thus they have.

1 Samuel 16:6-7 (King James Version) 6 And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the LORD’S anointed is before him.

7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance. But the LORD looketh on the heart.

Ana

About Ana Martinez

Ana Martinez was born in Michigan. When she was age 4, her parents Pastor Juan and Deborah Martinez founded the Potter’s House Christian Fellowship in Almont, Mich.  Ana grew up in the church and in a humble, loving Christian home.  Her parent’s faithfulness and commitment to ministry for over 27 years has been a testimony to her.  In her youth she was like the prodigal son.  She knows what it means to walk away from your call and to stray from the Word of God.  Her life experiences have taught her that God’s way and His principles are worth upholding.  She is a God-fearing Christian woman determined to do the will of The Lord.  Her heart’s desire is to reach the lost and win souls for the kingdom of heaven by sharing the Good News, according to Matthew 28:19. Ana truly believes people are hurting and need to know that there is forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give ye rest.”

Ana has served on the Missionary Field, and has served in and led praise and worship, web design, children’s ministry and youth ministry.  Ana’s most recent initiative is Georgia Peach Ministry, a non-profit she founded that serves widows and orphans.  Ana is also on the board of the Potter’s House Christian Fellowship. Ana is a private chef and has worked with professional athletes over the past five years. She is also an entrepreneur and is part owner in an interior design business, a chef placement business, and is entering into the food product industry.

Ana resides in Southern California with her three beautiful children and seeks daily to model this scripture from Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”