A couple of years ago, God brought an amazing lady into my life. I was early in the process of grieving the loss of my son, and she had just been miraculously healed from a chronic, debilitating disease. We were both writing books that dealt with the subjects of sexual abuse and human trafficking. And we very quickly discovered that we both loved the Lord and had a passion for helping the helpless.
In May, Melissa published that book, the fantasy novel Eleora (which I reviewed here.) And while the book is really, really good, just wait until you hear her personal story!
Melissa's words have inspired me again and again. Today, it is my pleasure to host her for my "People Who Inspire Me" feature. I pray you are as blessed by her story as I have been.
Take it away, Melissa!
If I could sum myself up in a single adjective, I think the word I would choose is “passion.” Whatever my hand finds to do, I do it with all my might (Ecclesiastes 9:10), often exhausting myself into mild depression.
As a child, whatever I was pursuing at the moment is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
I always loved school, and one day I would become a teacher. The year I discovered Chopin, I planned to become a concert pianist. Emily Dickinson inspired me to become a poet. Laura Ingalls Wilder, a writer. Meg Ryan, an actress. Mother Teresa, a missionary. Joan of Arc, a warrior. Disney princesses, a singer. Michael Jordan, a professional basketball player. Beth Moore, a lady preacher—though I had to keep that one quiet, growing up in a Southern Baptist church and all.
I was a small town girl with big dreams.
At one time or another, I showed real potential in all of these areas, but time combined with life experiences and a greater, steadier passion for Jesus focused my desire for greatness.
The one thing I never planned on was getting sick.
If anything, I was going to take care of my husband, who had battled Crohn’s Disease for 13 years when we married. But life never goes as planned—especially if you’re a born idealist like me.
My body began to turn on me the year I married. I had my first anaphylactic reaction to food. Time passed, and my list of allergens grew, as did the severity of my reactions. I saw an allergist and began weekly allergy shots. I grew worse. I had my son and worsened again. I gave birth to my daughter, and what was left of my health shattered.
During my decline, I’d pursued several passions. I graduated at the top of my university class with a degree in music education and opened an at-home studio, teaching piano and voice lessons. I performed in several operas and musicals, often in a lead role. I wrote my first novel. (Never mind that it was terrible.) I became a mother, which was the greatest dream of all.
And then I lost nearly everything.
My life became one long emergency with the background noise of chronic pain, swelling, weakness, and fatigue. Allergic swelling and tissue damage stole my voice. Arthritis and fibromyalgia made playing the piano miserable. Fatigue and an impossible list of allergens made motherhood difficult beyond description. I became a shut-in who spent hours in bed to save energy to cook specialized meals for myself. Nearly all of my energy went into survival.
But God was there, and praise Him—he’d left me with an amazing support system. Because of this, I not only survived, but I learned how to thrive in the place I found myself.
I clung to God with an unprecedented urgency. I knew in my bones that relationship with the Father was a very real matter of life and death for me. As I leaned on Him, my passion was restored.
I was determined that my illness would not steal my joy but that it would be a classroom for joy’s cultivation. I stopped focusing on what I couldn’t do and discovered what I had.
Friend, I was truly blessed, right in the midst of the hard. A lens of gratitude reshaped the way I saw the world and my own situation. And so I learned to boldly bring my small basket of fish and bread to Jesus day after day and watch to see what he would do with it.
He enriched my relationships with the people closest to me. Illness of this magnitude often tears families apart. By some miracle, my family bonded. I learned to live simply with contentment without being lazy. For a sick girl, I worked hard in the kitchen, providing nutritious meals for myself and my family. I read to my children when I couldn’t do much else. I even entertained guests from time to time.
I wrote blog posts, journal entries, Facebook posts, naughty poems to my husband, and letters of encouragement to sick friends. I jotted down instructions for my funeral. Just in case.
In 2013, God gave me an idea for a story. I wrote the story and realized it needed to be a novel. I was too unstable at the time to write every day, but I filled a speckled notebook with character sketches, backstory, maps, and plot ideas.
A year later, after a visit to Mayo Clinic, a subsequent diagnosis of mast cell activation syndrome (an incurable immunological condition), and a treatment plan, I began the first draft of what would become my novel, Eleora.
Daily writing was so life-giving. I had the time of my life. Not that it came easily. Some days, I could only write a half hour before the pain became too much. Some days I wrote lying down. Some days I couldn’t write at all because I would have a severe allergic reaction that took everything out of me. I had to write around self-care, the kids’ nap schedules and the time I needed to prepare meals for everyone.
Throughout the process, I studied the art of writing and the mechanics of storytelling. I wrote and rewrote and rewrote some more. During my daily detox bath, I prayed, bringing real life problems and story problems before the Lord. He provided solutions for them all. In His way. In His time.
In July 2015, I finished the third draft and sent it off to beta readers. God then began sending me a message. It came again and again—“Seek out community.”
At first, I argued. “God, have you forgotten that people literally make me sick?” He hadn’t. So I trusted Him. I put on two breathing masks and started attending church with my family again.
I got sick every Sunday and then would have to spend the following day in bed. But I did it because I didn’t know how else to obey the command God had given.
After three months of reacting to perfumes, lotions, and the air conditioner week after week, I decided to check into a prayer group that once met on Sunday mornings during service. They no longer met on Sunday morning, I found out, but the man who began the group invited me to a meeting at the home of someone he knew. I couldn’t believe the “yes” that escaped my mouth.
What happened from there is a story all of its own. I’ll summarize—
These people loved me from the moment they met me. They prayed for me, took me in, and taught me more about God. They ministered to me, and several months later I was completely healed of my incurable condition.
Along the way, they called out and awoke the passions lying dormant inside of me. They nurtured me. Because of them, I am well and enjoying motherhood in a way I never have before.
I’m teaching as a homeschool mom and tutor for Classical Conversations, putting both my love of learning and musical skills to good use. I have a piano student. I’m no longer allergic to exercise, so basketball isn’t entirely out of the question.
I’ve returned to the mission field, both locally and internationally. I lead worship twice a month, using my gifts and skills in piano and voice to bring people into the presence of God. I write songs. I help lead our local prayer ministry, which was vital to my healing.
These people totally support me becoming a lady preacher and give me opportunities to teach. They helped me discover my warrior spirit and trained me to fight for the freedom of others. They showed me how serving others is greatness.
While I believe that I would have eventually published Eleora one way or another, they have made the process sweeter and richer through their friendship, prayers, and support.
So you see, everything was redeemed.
The Enemy came to steal, kill, and destroy my passion, but God flipped the switch on the devil’s own scheme. The thing that was meant to keep me down helped me to focus on the essentials. Through the trial, God trained me to persevere. To obey the command when it doesn’t make sense. To go for things beyond my reach and ability. What I thought was the death of my dreams was only a death to striving. Now I’m free to enjoy what has been given rather than trying to earn what’s already mine.
Friend, I hope you realize that I’m not special—at least not “special” in the sense that God did something for me that he won’t do for you. I hope you realize that what God did for me he is able and willing to do for you, your neighbor, your mom, and your best friend’s uncle’s cousin.
He’s probably just waiting for you to ask.
Thank you, Melissa! If you haven't had a chance to pick up a copy of her book yet, you can find more information on that here: https://www.melissakeaster.com/.
And if you'd like more details about how she was healed from MCAS, you can read her testimony about that here: https://www.melissakeaster.com/blog/2016/02/food-struggle-its-been-real-folks.html
Lastly, I am currently looking for Advanced Readers for Finding Heaven. That means you can read the book for free, but I ask that you leave a review on Amazon.com on or immediately after the release date of November 14. Please take a moment to check it out and consider if you could fit it into your schedule. ARC for Finding Heaven.
If you were blessed by Melissa's post, please leave a note for her in the comments, or check out her site and contact her from there.
Happy Tuesday, friend!