by Renee Noseworthy
I was born into a traditional Anglican (Episcopal) family, where I was the “baby.” My sister and brother were both in their teen years when I was born. My parents thought they were done with the child raising stage of their lives, but God had other plans for them. I’ve never had any reason to feel unwanted or unloved by my family as I have always been lovingly nicknamed, “a surprise package.”
My arrival was the first shock to my family, but not the last. I was born with Spina Bifida, which was immediately obvious, and Arnold-Chiari Malformation (ACM), which wasn’t apparent until my adult years. At six weeks of age, I developed Hydrocephalus, which is an excessive amount of water around the brain. As a result of these conditions, I have had three life-saving surgeries through the years…the first one was six hours after my birth and the last one was about ten years ago.
I was brought to church from an early age, where I attended Sunday School. When I was the appropriate age, I joined the Junior Choir and the Youth Group. I enjoyed going to church until I became a teenager. While I learned about the Ten Commandments, The Lord’s Prayer, and other fundamental teachings of Jesus, I can’t say that I really “knew” Him personally.
When I was just entering my teen years, my sister had an experience where she met Jesus personally and became born again. She enthusiastically shared the details of her new experience with me. In my heart of hearts, I knew immediately that I believed everything she told me.
I invited Jesus to come into my life, but my commitment to Him was not fully sincere at that time. I had experienced rejection as a child, and I didn’t want to do anything that could make me “different” from my peers. I went on with my life with no real peace, but now I had the inner turmoil of knowing that Jesus had died for me, and was resurrected from the dead. I knew that He alone was able to forgive my sins and that I needed His forgiveness, but I was totally afraid of being “different.” That fear paralyzed me.
Three years later, when I was sixteen, I prayed again to invite Jesus into my life. It was just around that time when I found my way into a social group of my peers. For the first time in my life, I was really accepted. I couldn’t risk losing my new friends. So, I gave Jesus a “backseat” in my life once again. My inner turmoil continued.
For the next four years my life took a downward spiral, but I fully believe that God spared me from many of the heartaches that I could have experienced. I found my way into a lifestyle that was not honoring or pleasing to God. I didn’t get heavily involved in a lifestyle that some would consider sinful, but in my own mind, I was very bad. For seven years, I lived in the knowledge that Jesus Christ had died for ME, He had risen from the dead and because of Him and His sacrifice on Calvary’s Cross, I could be forgiven for my sins and I could have eternal life. BUT, I turned my back on Him. I chose to accept my peers instead of Jesus. In those days, their love and acceptance meant more to me than His. The painful truth is that I knew the message of the Gospel and I believed it. I can’t pretend that I didn’t know who I was rejecting, because I DID.
When I was twenty, my heavenly Father intervened in my life. He worked in my life’s circumstances to Save me from my sins, and in many ways, He saved me from myself. The fear of rejection, and my sense of inadequacy, had become the motivating forces in my life.
In June 1988, God performed a miracle in my life. I was present as my sister’s Pastor prayed for her, and even though he met me that day for the first time, he prayed for me then as well. He prayed things for me that day that were so meaningful to me that I was deeply moved. The things he prayed wouldn’t have meant anything to anyone else, but to me, it was very clear that God had led his prayers that day. Only God knew some of these things. I hadn’t shared these concerns with anyone.
My life would never be the same after that day. THANKFULLY!
I had been so deeply affected by how the Holy Spirit of God worked in my life that day that it changed everything for me. I had known inner turmoil for years because I knew that Jesus was real, that He wanted to have a relationship with me AND that He had been willing to shed His own blood to make that possible. This inner turmoil was different. I still knew all these things, but now it was personal in a whole new way.
In how God had spoken to me through my sister’s Pastor, I knew that he was reaching out to me. He accepted me, even though I had spent all of those years rejecting Him. I had been so afraid of being rejected, but what I received from Jesus was complete love, acceptance and undeserved favor.
A few days after that, I lay prostrate before the Lord and surrendered my life to Him. These years later, I can honestly say…that was the best decision I ever made.
The Journey Begins…
I knew immediately that something had changed inside of me, but it truly has been a “one day at a time” journey of finding out what that means. For several years, I worshipped in a church outside of the Anglican denomination, where the music and worship were more contemporary. Then, the Lord laid on my heart that He wanted me to return to my childhood church. After praying about it for several weeks, I knew with certainty that was His plan for the next step in my journey with Him.
What I didn’t know until months later is that God was working out an answer to my prayers for a mate. Bruce and I met in that church, but at first, he hadn’t experienced becoming born again. Despite that, I felt the Lord speaking to me in His still, small voice that He wanted me to continue getting to know this man, and that He had a plan. All He was asking of me was that I trust Him, which I did wholeheartedly. For the next couple of months, Bruce and I developed a closer relationship. I had to be true to myself and more importantly – to God. So, I kept praying that God would help me because I was developing deep feelings for Bruce, but he was still not walking with the Lord. I did as I felt God was asking of me by trusting Him and I’m so glad I did.
Several months later, Bruce gave his heart to the Lord. He immersed himself in God’s Word daily and sought to follow God fully.
These events that I’ve just described about our early days, took place almost 23 years ago. We will celebrate our 21st Wedding Anniversary later this month.
For the first 8 years of our married life, we experienced many blessings and miracles from the Lord. These came in every area of our lives; finances, relationships with others, living conditions, employment, etc. There are too many examples to give here as we knew the Lord’s love, provision and protection in so many different ways. Throughout those years, God really taught us the truth of Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”
He’s Working ALL Things Together for my Good…
For the past 13 years or so, we have continued to experience God’s love and faithfulness, but during that time, we’ve been living in a completely different situation. It was around that time that the ACM became evident. My whole life changed as a result. Living with Spina Bifida meant having to work extra hard to become independent, but this thing called Arnold-Chiari Malformation was threatening that, and my life LITERALLY.
In the years immediately following that, the Lord brought me through surgery for the life-threatening condition – the Arnold-Chiari Malformation. As a result of that surgery, I am alive today. My mobility is manageable at home, but outside the house I need assistance every step of the way. In general, my physical condition is challenged, but I’m in faith for God’s healing touch on my body.
There are aspects of my independence that have been negatively altered, but I have also experienced the Lord’s restoration in my life during these years, in the midst of these difficulties. The Lord has shown me that while I am unable to do many of the things that I did in the past, there is still a lot that I can do.
My “alone times” have come to mean something to me that they didn’t before. God is always with me…so I am never truly ALONE. I know and appreciate His presence in a new way. I have developed a relationship with the Lord through prayer, like never before. During these years, the Lord has revealed Himself and His love in a way that has changed my whole life. He inspired me to write a book and I am blessed by getting to speak to people about His love and faithfulness. I have come to know Him as my Father through all of this. He continues to show me daily that His love for me is perfect, and “perfect love casts out fear.”
Bio :: Renee lives with her husband, Bruce, in Mount Pearl, NL. She is thankful for the love of a large circle of family and friends. She is the author of “Our Father: A Personal Journey of Discovery into the Lord’s Prayer.” She writes a weekly blog on her website, www.reneenoseworthy.com and WordPress at www.bnandrn.wordpress.com. You can visit her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ourfatherbook, or follow her on Twitter (@NoseworthyRenee).