"I have no reason to believe He is up to anything but good for my life and His plans for my heart are absolutely perfect."
I met Michelle two years ago at my House Church. I distinctly remember her white- blonde hair and strikingly lovely, blue eyes. As we are prone to do as humans, I guessed that she led a charmed life – she and I have since shared our initial reactions to each other; we were both terribly misreading the other at the exact same time. What I’ve come to learn, and deeply respect, about Michelle, is that she has an innate strength that continually leads her to point the people around her back to the Cross. Jesus has used Michelle in numerous ways, big and small, to bring me back to Him, kneeling at His feet. It’s true that I could spend an entire piece of writing sharing all the ways Michelle is unparalleled in her honesty, loyalty, and tight hugs, but her story, and Christ’s love for her are a much better tale than my ramblings.
“I used to think that being born and raised in a home led by a mom and dad who loved and celebrated the Lord meant that my faith was signed and sealed – If I attended church every Sunday and participated in Bible study every Wednesday, life would fall into place – my existence would be an easy one; being a witness to strong faith in my parents was equated to everything going according to plan,” confesses Michelle.
She quickly learned that that wasn’t how things worked. Faith is a relationship founded and built upon God and what she put into it; her parents’ faith was very well a model for what she wanted, but the trials and triumphs to get there were hers for the learning. At 28, she finds herself still learning these lessons – allowing the Lord to weave the beauty of His grace and love into her heart to combat against what the world would prefer she chooses to follow.
Early on Michelle was handed a hill to climb; at the age of 10, her parents started noticing that she would be in conversation with them and stop talking for five to seven seconds and then return to the conversation as if nothing had happened. These staring spells came and went, but it wasn’t until she was in the 6th grade that the severity of the episodes became apparent. She was leaving for church camp when she had her first grand mal seizure. Following this, the trips to Cleveland Clinic, EEGs, and the long trial of a variety of medications began.
“It was in these moments – of waiting for answers and not knowing what might happen next – that I learned to lean into God with my trust and to rely on my faith.” Since then she has had seven to eight more seizures; some were for unknown reasons and some were as a result of her trying to write her own story by going off medication. “The grace in the midst of these treacherous situations is that the Lord never stopped protecting me – I was never alone in the moments of seizing – my sister has been with me every single time.”
“I am confident that the Lord made me in His image and, even in the midst of questioning why the Lord might allow me to experience this, the health issues I face are not a mistake or an oversight on His part – His plans and the authorship He takes with my story is perfect.”
In 1998, on a family vacation, Michelle’s dad informed her and her sister that they were going to have to move from their small country town to Cincinnati. Anger and furious questions began to surface in her heart; how could God allow a new job for her dad to mean that everything she’s ever known would be taken away from her. It was in this difficult move that the Lord grew their family closer together and swiftly illustrated to her that He is a God who will take away, but He is simultaneously a God who gives.
“He gave our family safety, comfort, and resounding love in the midst of this change.” The Lord continually shows up and gently reminds her that He is in control, He sees the bigger picture, His plans are right and true and consistently on time.
In 2009 Michelle met someone and began a relationship; as their relationship progressed she began to notice herself pulling away from the church and putting this man and their relationship at the front of her life – he became an idol.
“There were flags throughout the relationship, but I continued to push them aside and invest myself deeper into what we were building together.” In 2011, Michelle accepted his proposal of marriage. Through the excitement of the proposal and the planning of a wedding, she continued to stifle any concerns that arose in her mind and heart.
Michelle recalls, “We would discuss how we had fallen away from our faith and our church and that we needed to return to it, but it quickly became apparent that they were merely words that had no follow through of action.” Her family began to voice concern about the changes they were seeing in her and where the relationship was heading.
In February of 2012, they voiced these concerns, asking if the wedding should be delayed. “I recall hearing their words, but internally, telling myself that he would make a good husband, we would be a good team, this would all work out. In the midst of all of this, I continued to pray that the Lord would make it clear to me whether this was my plan or His.”
In March of 2012, God provided an answer for Michelle when her fiancé announced he was leaving her. “With this revelation, I crumbled; I felt all the emotions I had hidden make their way to the surface along with some emotions I didn’t know I was capable of feeling,” she says. “I returned my ring to him and ended the relationship – the Lord had answered my cry – even in the moments, I wasn’t strong or brave enough to say them aloud.” I found myself left with a broken picture of what I thought my future held and nowhere to turn to except my family and to my God.
Michelle has shared this story with our house church before - sitting before her family as someone who has learned from the trials set before her, who has seen, and continues to see, the hand of God in and over and above every moment of her life. “I am fully committed to Him. There are, of course, moments where I question this path He has asked me to walk; moments when I question just what exactly He is writing out for this daughter of His, but He has protected and guided me the past 28 years and He has never been wrong or mistaken. I have no reason to believe He is up to anything but good for my life and His plans for my heart are absolutely perfect.”
Author: Steph Duff
Photographer: Sarah Maigur