Editor’s Note: We received so many comments about the three testimonies shared at our recent women’s meeting that we asked the ladies for permission to share them here on the blog, which they graciously granted. This is Stephanie’s story, as shared at the breakfast.
I have been asked to share with you how God met me in the busyness and trials of this past year. There has been just that: both added busyness and unexpected trials. To be authentic with you, I will admit that I have not been a model Christian this past year. In my busyness, I neglected regular disciplines of prayer and failed, yet again, in my Bible reading plan. Nonetheless, God proved faithful to this inconsistent daughter and was consistently near and teaching me.
I would like to start by recounting the onset of the pandemic last March. I, like all of you, was caught off guard by the deadly virus that suddenly reached our country and caused our routines to come to a screeching halt. Chaos ensued as my two children transitioned to schooling from home. I am sure we could fill this room with stories of that mess! Meanwhile, in those early days, though I would have liked to have caught my bearings by sheltering indoors with my family, I continued going to work as a Physician Assistant in a busy primary care clinic in the center of North Philadelphia. I remember those first few weeks, being so scared to touch everything, washing my hands vigorously after interacting with each patient, and becoming germophobic. We had limited personal protective equipment, and for several months, I would use one mask for an entire week. I was terrified to bring the virus home to my loved ones. I was working extra days in the clinic, evaluating and testing patients for COVID 19. My job seemed to become a triage gatekeeper, keeping people out of the hospitals that did not need to be there and making sure those that needed to be hospitalized were sent. There was stress in making those decisions, and my colleagues and I did not always get it right. People were hurting and scared and looking to me for answers. I was just as scared.
Yet, despite my fears, I remember feeling like I, like Esther, had come to my position “for such a time as this.” What kept me going to work each day was the knowledge that God is sovereign and in complete control, despite my feeling completely out of control. I was just a part of his bigger, preconceived plan, and he would use me as he willed. With each patient that I triaged, I prayed for wisdom that was not my own. Countless times I prayed Psalm 91 over my home, that no plague would come near my tent. God answered this prayer, as to my knowledge I never contracted COVID or brought the virus home to my family. Yet, I am sympathetic to so many of you who have suffered from the pestilence, and whose lives will never be the same, having lost a friend or a family member. May God give you peace.
By the fall, the intensity of my work at the clinic slowed down and life seemed to take on a rhythm of a new, and even pleasant normalcy, despite the persistent pandemic. It was at this time that I sustained an injury to my right foot after foolishly having a scooter race with my kids, a race I didn’t even win. With this injury, God removed a coping mechanism from my life that I had used for the past 25 years. I love running, and almost daily I had pounded the pavement, often in place of praying or seeking God, to cope with the stresses of life. But for the last 6 months, I have not been able to run. The winter months were hard, and many days I was anxious and restless. I found peace to be elusive. I was forced to face the reality, which inwardly I had known for years, that I have a shameful idol of exercise. It is exercise, particularly running, that gives me a sense of health or wellbeing, in lieu of what should. In stripping me of this idol, God was and is at work in my heart. Isaiah 26:3 has become my melody, “I will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is stayed on you.” As I say this over and over to myself, God is filling me with more of himself. My peace must come from nowhere else but Christ.
God had one more surprise for me this past year. At the age of 41, with my youngest child 9 years old, I became pregnant. While I now feel joy at this unexpected gift, those first few months were a rollercoaster of emotions. But because of this alteration of my life journey, I am again reminded that God is in control. I am grateful to be a part of his perfect plan and to be used for his will.
In the busyness of this past year, God was at work to train and refine me. I was not perfect in obedience and prayer, and I relied on my own strength far more than I would like to admit. Yet, God is kind and full of grace. Amid a pandemic, he reminded me of his sovereignty and unchangeable character. Malachi 3:6 says, “For I the Lord do not change; therefore, you oh children of Jacob, are not consumed.” A surprise pregnancy is no surprise to God. My body fails, but God does not. And idols bring transient escape, but God alone brings peace as my mind is stayed on him.