Ann spent her childhood ridiculing Christians. She lived her life feeling alone, unworthy and completely unlovable. Anxiety crippled her. Her life changed when she found the way to lean into Christ for everything.
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Ann: And I found a deeper faith, not based on what God could give me, because so much had been taken away from me. And I learned that transformation doesn’t always come wrapped up with a shiny bow. It came while I was in a dark pit and I had to make a decision, do I stay down there? Or do I climb up into the light?
Narrator: We’ve all experienced it. You run into a friend from the past, but there’s something different. They are changed. Maybe there is a calm where there once was a storm. Maybe there is gentleness instead of harshness. There’s a new passion, a new life. What changed? Welcome to Brought Back To Life, a podcast where we explore stories of ordinary transformation.
Hi, I am Ann Kirsten from allmomdoes and I want to tell you a story about a girl who believed she had no value.
I grew up in a family who not only didn’t go to church, but who ridiculed those who did. Sadly, my mom’s family was full of people who spent more time on the rules of their religion, than on any kind of loving relationship with God. And, it showed. It made her not want anything to do with God or church. I think it helped her in a way to make fun of them because they were so good at making her feel bad about herself. So, that’s the way I grew up.
I was filled with anxiety as a child. I was almost mute with fear. I hardly spoke because I thought if anyone saw inside of me, they would realize how unlovable I really was.
As you can imagine, that’s a really, lonely life for a child.
But, through those lonely years, I felt a presence. A tiny little voice saying, “You’re going to be ok” But, still I sat in the corner, dressed in drab colors, barely spoke. My goal in life was to go unnoticed so that no one would see how broken I was.
I had twin sisters in my class in 3rd grade, & they told me they were going to VBS in the summer and they invited me to go with them. To this day, I don’t know what made me do it but I told my mother that I wanted to go too. And, because, I never wanted to go anywhere, my mom signed me up immediately.
My mom dropped me off that first day in this strange place and my friends weren’t there. I think I cried the whole day. Once again, I felt like I didn’t belong, I wasn’t good enough, I had nothing to offer the other kids in friendship.
And, then the teacher held up this beautiful black book and told us that if we memorized a list of scripture verses that we would get a Bible. This fire lit inside of me and a voice said, “You’re getting that Bible.”
I worked so hard to memorize those verses, sometimes tears ran down my face when I recited because I was so afraid. But, I did it. The Bible was presented during a church service and I was so proud.
But, when I tried to read it, it made no sense. I didn’t have a background in hearing Bible stories so it was like a foreign language and I put it on a shelf like some kind of icon to a life I didn’t understand.
I struggled through to my teen years, that voice inside me spoke again and said, “You now have to read the Bible, cover to cover.” So, I pulled down my Bible and once again it made no sense. So, a friend gave me The Way which was a hippy Bible written in modern language.
Having no one to guide me, I read it thinking that everything in there was condoned by God. All the people were his special people and everything they did was ok. And, that made it very confusing because some of the stuff in there didn’t seem “right”. But, I didn’t know any better.
I had friends who started going to church and sadly, once they began going, they took on this kind of arrogant attitude. They were better than everyone else. Their behavior kept me from wanting to go to church for a long time.
My stubborn nature did keep me from peer pressure. All my friends did the usual teen experimentation with alcohol, drugs and sex and I refused to. Something kept me from doing those things.
The only negative part of that was that it was hard to see that I was a sinner. I didn’t lie, cheat, steal or do any of those other things, so what did I need saving from?
Toward my senior year, I was still full of anxiety and had undiagnosed depression that morphed into agoraphobia. I was afraid to leave the house. Back then, no one talked about those things. I had no word for what was happening to me. I just felt even more worthless.
It took me five months after graduation to go out and get a job. How can you sell yourself when you feel you don’t have any value? I did finally get a job and my life became going to work and going home. Such a lonely way to live.
By this time, I was talking to God in my own way. I was still trying to find him with no one to guide me.
I told Him that if he wanted me to get married that he would have to bring the guy to my door because I wasn’t going to date. I had actively avoided all dances and proms at school. I didn’t have the self confidence to date.
One day, my brother called me. He had a boat and we went boating a lot. He asked if I wanted to go boating. I said “sure’ and then he turned from the phone and said, “Yeah, Jerry, she’ll go.” I was horrified. My brother said, I’m not going, Jerry is going to take you.” And then he hung up. Apparently, this jerry had seen me from a distance and thought., “She looks nice.” I had no phone number to cancel, I didn’t know who jerry was, I was stuck. I was literally sick with anxiety.
The day arrived and this gorgeous man stood on my porch. And, I thought, “I don’t deserve this, I can’t measure up.” I spoke 10 words the whole day and I asked jerry later why in the world he ever called me again and he said, “I was intrigued.” So, God did bring a husband to my door.
We got married and I was still suffering with agoraphobia. Even a trip to the grocery store was a big deal. I still felt like somehow the world would see how broken and useless I was.
Once kids came. I wanted them to have the faith background that I never had. Started going to church and Sunday school.
I think what people who grew up in church don’t realize is that it can be a foreign and lonely place for outsiders. There’s a lingo that church people use, everyone seems to know where to go and what to do. so, once again I felt on the outside. But, I was trying. I prayed, read the Bible and now was going to church, I got baptized. It was like I was going down this checklist, because I really did want to belong to Him.
When we were in our 30’s, my husband was diagnosed with a deadly form of kidney cancer. He was treated and cured, but I was left with so much anxiety. What else was lurking out there to attack us?
Intellectually I knew that being a believer doesn’t guarantee a happy, stress-free life. But, emotionally, you kind of feel that it should.
Years went by. My faith grew. I started putting fear on back burner.
And then one night, I was heading out to dinner with my husband. In a split second, it was like all my equilibrium left my body. The world started spinning so fast, all I could do was slump onto the car door. By the time my husband got us back home, I was really sick and the next day my life changed forever when I was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease.
Meniere’s is a disease of the inner ear, The inner ear controls the balance in your body. There’s a membrane in there that separates 2 different chemical fluids, if it breaks and those two fluids mix, BAM, it’s like a bomb goes off.
I cannot adequately describe the horror of an attack, the world spins so fast, all your balance leaves you. You can’t walk and all you can do is fall to the ground while everything twirls faster than you could replicate. and the attacks hit in a split second. You could be making dinner or just sitting. And boom. It hits.
Sometimes, I would have to lay on the bathroom floor for 8 hours at a time, then crawl to bed, then lay perfectly still for days. If I moved my head even a fraction of an inch, the world would start to spin all over again.
I had worked so hard to combat anxiety and panic, and I had dedicated my life to Christ and done everything right and I get this weird disease that takes away a person’s balance, security, and destroys their quality of life.
Of course, I asked Why me? There are serial killers, why can’t they get this instead?.
For a long time, there wasn’t an answer. Then, “What do you know?” I know you are, and that’s all I know.” He said, “That is enough.” So, I had to rely solely on Him because I didn’t even have something as basic as balance left.
I realized at that point that I had to choose to be happy. My circumstances didn’t warrant happiness so it had to become a choice.
I began smiling whenever my husband came to check on me, I prayed for my friends and family from bed, when I could, I’d jot notes of encouragement to friends and have my husband mail them. I was finding peace in a horrid situation.
Then, one day my left leg started aching. It swelled up to elephant size. ER. I had developed a clot from my knee up thru my abdomen. They’d have to break it up. I woke up a month later in the ICU on a ventilater, a feeding tube, wires and tubes stuck all over my body. I couldn’t talk or move, swallow or even breathe on my own. And, I thought, “You have the wrong person, I’m Ann, I’m a child of God, I’ve been through enough.”
Turns out, they had broken my main artery when they tried to bust up the clot and I bled out. I flat-lined and they ended up giving me 18 units of blood but it just kept pouring back out. the pressure in my abdomen from all the bleeding was shutting down my organs. They cut me open from back to back and left me open to relive the pressure.
I could write a book about how hard it was to come back from that, how each step figuratively and literally felt like I was carrying an elephant on my back.
Finally Home and – Meniere’s hit hard again. The crazy, whirling, twirling attacks. I lost it. I was so tired. I knew God was fair and just, so what was going on?
Here I was. A nice girl. Who had fought hard by herself to find Him. And I was being Attacked and attacked.
Finally, I had to opt for chemical warfare on my ear. Harsh chemicals were shot into my middle ear over a period of time and that killed off my balance on that side and also my hearing. I have to think about balance every second of every day now because I get different messages from each ear. But, the worst of the attacks have stopped.
What was the point of all that pain?
I still loved God through all of the suffering.
Gained Empathy. Cant have without going thru hardships.
Joy and thankfulness even in horrible times.
I was Humbled. Because God felt I was worth refining.
Deeper faith. Not based on what God could give me because so much had been taken away.
I’m older now. I’m overweight. Diabetes. Scars all over body. Deaf on one side. Dizzy. Perhaps all that gives me a right to be filled with fear, but I’m not anymore. I’m happy and at peace. I have been transformed into a new being.
And, I am so humbled that The God of all creation took the time to visit a lonely little girl who was filled with fear, who didn’t come from a family of faith, and told her she was going to be okay.
Narrator: We’re telling these stories of transformation so you can know and understand the power of Jesus in your own life. If you’d like to learn more about Jesus and how he can bring you back to life, visit us at onpurposely.com/whoisJesus.
And if you like Brought Back To Life, please give us a five-star rating and a review. You can follow Brought Back To Life podcasts on iHeart radio or wherever you’re listening right now. You can also just tell your smart speaker, play Brought Back To Life podcast. I’m Sam Kelly. Rebecca Beckett produced this episode. Our audio editor is Scott Karow. And thanks for listening to Brought Back To Life from Purposely.