“Lord, help me get through this. Help me, please” I kept saying as my jaw and mouth started to throb and convulse. I boldly accepted my pastor’s invitation to perform at the Jackson Baptist glory Celebration, a musical worship concert of local worship leaders and teams. A week ago, I emailed Pastor Sandra that I’d be performing His Eye is on the Sparrow and It is Well, two of my favorites that I sang to the residents of my area nursing home and the local physical rehabilitation centers. Those two songs were staples because they were a reminder of God’s promise to me that He was with me even in the valley. I had to play these two songs on my guitar almost everyday, just to remind myself that indeed, despite the incessant, tormenting pulling in my neck, the jerking of my arms and the rapid opening and closing of my mouth, one day, I would be released. It took every ounce of focus to do anything of substance. During this TMJ-Dystonia tenure, I’d programmed myself to call upon the Lord to strengthen me.. Steadfast confidence and reliance on Him was always the reward. That was who Father was,…always gracious in answering my prayer to give my best to my performances.
As more people entered the church, I could feel the excitement, which propelled me even more to be in close communion with Father. My husband Mark, saw I was in distress and massaged my neck. A girlfriend showed up, excited and encouraging and also gave me a neck massage.
People were filling into the well-lit church while the musicians and singers waited on the platform for the sound engineer to tweak their sound. My turn came and I adjusted the microphone. An older guitarist gentleman told me I could plug my guitar to his box which was a blessing so I didn’t have to set up all my effects pedals. Then I took a back seat near the edge of the church so people wouldn’t see my mouth contort. I hunched over in my seat, trying to take deep breaths to control the violent pulling and spasming in my neck. I felt an anxiety rise up, which always happened when the muscles got inflamed from the continua movement of my jaw. I continued to pray and stay alert .It was getting harder and harder to stay comfortable and I had to fight the impulse to run to the car and lay on my back for relief.
Finally, the concert started with a vivacious acapella trio. I was third in line. Then my Pastor approached the stage and introduced herself and me. I scurried up to the platform, nonchalant about my nondescript and unglamourous appearance. I’d long ago discarded my adherence to looking beautiful and well-coifed because it took so much energy to get through each hour. It had come to the point where it took an enormous amount of focus to do basic chores, my exercise routine, my daily voice scales and guitar practice. My only concern now, was to focus on my performance-ministering in God’s anointing. To people enduring catastrophic illness, outward, perfect beauty is the last concern. Our symptoms wear us out to the point that we can’t be concerned that our make-up is perfect. Anyway, my lipstick and mascara always smeared or wore off halfway into any activity. My face always ended up leaning on my hands as I tried to position my head and neck in a comfortable way. Such is dealing with an upper cervical-spinal issue. I felt peaceful as I faced the audience.
“I’m so blessed and thankful to be here tonight despite having a very difficult almost nine years struggling with Dystina-TMJ, a neurological disorder similar to Parkinson. I’m so glad to be here to encourage any of you who are stiffening with any kind of illness. No matter who you are, God cares about what you are going through. Indeed, His eye is on the sparrow and as He is attentive to a tiny sparrow falling to the ground, so much more so are you precious in His sight”
The strains of my guitar and voice filled the church and I felt at ease, hardly aware of any muscles neck spasms. It was amazing how relaxed I now felt,compared to the preceding hour of anguish in my neck. I knew it was all Him! At the end of His Eye Is on the Sparrow, I paused for a second. My eyes swept across the people’s faces as they sat spell bound watching me and listening to my every word. My face softened and I said, “It is well. It is Well.”
I then felt a surge of strength and stated, “You know, no weapon formed against you shall proper and Satan is under your feet. Get a hold of that and decide to walk powerfully in God’s strength. The devil is under your feet!”
The audience grabbed a hold of that one and I preceded to sing It is well. I was joyful to hear one of the drummers accompanying me and my performance came alive with God’s hope and victory for everyone who’d choose to believe that all is well because of Christ’s victory on the cross!
By the third verse, everyone was standing and joined in through the end of the song! The chorus…It is well, with my soul reverberated with the layered harmonies of many voices. It was a transcendent moment for me! Father God punctuated His daughter’s glorifying music performance with His healing presence.
As I left the stage with the applause still lingering, the wicked spasms came back with a vengeance and I told Mark and my friend I had to lay down. I rushed to our HHR car and rested, immediately feeling less pressure in my neck. After about a half an hour, I decided to go back in, in case there was anyone who wanted to talk with me or have prayer. I was immediately approaches by several people One tall lady in particular, grabbed my hand.
“Hello sister and what can I pray with you for?”I asked.
“I was so blessed…so blessed by your songs. ” She gushed with tear-filled eyes. ” I have Lupus and have been very depressed for a long time.” She went on to share a little of her story and then a pastor joined me as I prepared to pray over the sister. Quite a few more people approached me to hug me and shake my hand and then I felt weak with the excitement and challenge of the night. I retreated back to the car to rest.
As I meditate and chronicle this pivotal evening of my life, I ponder the mystery of my battle-journey. This TMJ-Dystonia condition has affected me in so many ways, some bad, but mostly good. Anyone diagnosed with a chronic illness will first ask, “Why me, God?” Then they will become angry at the injustice of it all and then resign themselves, either to resentment-bitterness or they decide that they will fight back and make the best of it! I have chosen to be the victorer and make the best of this daunting trial and trust that father will get all the glory from it!l
My encouragement to anyone enduring a daily or terminal illness is to weight your thoughts, dreams, standards and hopes by God’s word and His living presence. The Bible doesn’t answer all the the Jobian mysteries of a catastrophic health condition. For me it’s been groping my way through a dark maze and then leaving the “out” door onto a terrain riddled with land mines. Failure and death lurks beside every mine and one wrong step could propel you into the cemetery of resignation. I’ve often asked myself why I forge forward in my research, knowledge of Biblical healing and preventative medicine, (natural healing) when I’m daily almost overwhelmed with these devastating muscle-neurological and bio-chemical abnormalities.
I’ve learned from Dr Caroline Leaf (brain scientist) about the utter complexity of how the brain and the nuero-transmitters react to stress and trauma. From her research I’ve gleaned amazing insight on the importance of learning, meditating and relying on God’s divine and superior knowledge. After all, He did create and fashion our bodies in the most unfathomable ways ways!
Coming from a background of extreme abuse (bullying and domestic violence) and suffering much rejection because of generational sins, and then being redeemed and transformed by Christ’s Yashuha’s love and freedom, reminds me of my vow to the evil powers that be, that I will never again live in bondage. Though these devastating symptoms threaten me each day to hold me captive, I’ve relied on God’s Holy Spirit to empower me with His all-abiding strength, resilience and the possibility of total healing-restoration! Who else can promise that? Neither doctors, nor the toxic drugs they push can promise the prefect healing of our physician, Christ the messiah whose very stripes enabled us to walk in restoration!
I, for one, need nothing else, but Him. The irony of my health journey has been that my enemy has tried to silence me by afflicting the very tools of my ministry. A worship leader-psalmist-speaker’s mouth and voice are the instruments with which she/he expounds God’s healing words, promises and anointed presence. Only in God’s presence is healing, so my enemy has chosen to viciously attack me, ( in my neck, vocal chords, throat and jaw) so that he can shut me down and shut off God’s healing works through me!
Ten years ago, somewhat vivacious and passionately aspired to get signed and go on tour, I never would have imagined to join the ranks of the “disabled” population. Any pride or self-reliance I had is now completely extinguished and I’ve been brought to the place of humble submission…total reliance on Him alone!. This is Father’s refining process for me. I’m on his potters’ wheel and He is shaping me to what he wishes me to be. (Now, I can’t say that I’m always still and yielding) but mostly, I trust that He knows what He is doing.
He is using a chosen instrument, not of my parents ilk. None of my parents were musicians, nether were any composers or played instruments! It has been a testimony for God to teach me how to play guitar and compose the beautiful Psalms he has given me. It will be seven years since beginning the recording of my album MOD PROPHET and then my worship CD, The Anointing, His Presence. They are nearing completion, getting more polished and glorious with each song. I will not stop and neither shall my enemy stop my mouth from praising Him and teaching the world of His great promises and Love.
The songbird will sing!