How to Stay Strong in Your Faith–No Matter What!
Inside: Are you struggling to trust God in a difficult season? You need this powerful, but simple secret to stay strong in your faith!
My friend Heidi had the possibility of heart surgery given, then taken away as COVID forced her kids home and her husband to change jobs four times! Then she had to make a midnight run to have the dog put down. With her dad and grandma in and out of hospitals, she had gall bladder surgery. And then, most devastating of all, her 16-year-old was raped . . . by a “friend.” Seriously, how do you stay strong in your faith when all that happens?
I’ve always wanted to write about unsung heroes–you know, regular people who face giant odds, people I admire as they face such challenging times. So I’m going to do it! I’m inviting real heroes to share their secrets and the pearls of wisdom they’ve learned to help us partner with God and reach our destinies, too!
Let’s ask Heidi, our first unsung hero, “How do you stay strong in your faith when all that happens?”
Everybody, this is Heidi . . .
My name is Heidi Gray. Elizabeth asked me to share my story with you, so here goes . . .
Today I reside in an eastern Oregon town named Hermiston, well-known in the Pacific region for our sweet watermelons. That’s not what brought me here, though. Nope. I moved here for the small-town feel and to be close to my parents after a few years overseas as an international journalist.
I actually grew up in a town on the western side of Oregon called Clatskanie. My dad was (and still is) a commercial fisherman. My mom was a secretary for a neighboring school district.
It wasn’t exactly an idyllic childhood beside the beautiful wooded property around our house. My dad drank too much and sought solace in drugs. I remember a lot of yelling, tears, and belts against flesh.
I grew up shy and insecure, especially about my appearance, because I have bone defects in both arms that keep me from turning my hands palm up.
And I was jealous of my tall, beautiful, seemingly perfect twin sister.
When we were old enough to get a job, I went to work at the Seaside A&W and made new friends. We’d hang out at the local Mini Mart after work and drink hot chocolate.
I was 19 when I met a guy . . . and the thing I admired most about him was his joy despite the horrible home life I knew he had, like mine. He talked about God and Jesus in a way I’d never heard, even after growing up in the Catholic church.
I wanted what he had.
So, at 3 a.m. in that Mini Mart, I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior!
Ever since, God’s moved in my life in miraculous ways.
He took me from that small town through a journalism scholarship at a community college in Portland to the University of Colorado in Boulder.
My degree (and God!) landed me that international journalist job in Africa with a Southern Baptist magazine.
When I came back to the States, I decided on a quieter pace and took a reporter job in Oregon, and that’s where I met my wonderful husband and changed my job title to “Mom.”
God led me every step of the way.
As a journalist, I traveled and met people constantly. When I married and our oldest arrived, we decided I would stay home with our kid(s) because my husband’s job had him gone for days, if not a week, at a time.
I LOVED being able to stay with my two blessings, but I had to deal with culture shock, to go from being around so many to . . . just being around my children. I dealt with that by creating mommy groups and having lots of playdates.
As my children grew, I found joy in volunteering at our church, in their classrooms, and being on the PTO.
Then five years ago my daughter (13) suffered a terrible head injury while playing at a Christian summer camp. It changed the course of her life. I took on the role of advocate and chauffeur as her needs grew.
It was a time of grieving as I watched her change, but God gave me a specific verse to hold onto:
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm, and secure” (Hebrews 6:19, NIV).
I pictured myself in the water . . .
. . . at the end of a rope, holding onto the anchor, glad it wasn’t moving as everything else flowed around me.
God gave me hope when fear and sadness tried to overwhelm me.
And just as I felt like we were getting a grasp on things, life took a twist.
Driving to that very same summer camp . . .
. . . two years ago, to pick up my daughter, I was alone on that busy highway when my heart started racing. I felt faint. The world seemed to spin. I got into the right lane and waited. It didn’t get any better; but thank you, Jesus, there was an exit.
I was able to pull off to safety.
And an even bigger “thank you, Jesus,” is that a friend was driving behind me in a separate car. She pulled off and waited with me until my ride to the ER showed up.
And so began another time of change.
I went from busy mom to not being able to get off the couch without help for fear of falling. It took six months to discover that I had a rare heart defect.
Two and a half years later, after numerous visits across the Pacific Northwest to cardiologists, surgeons, and even a rheumatologist who prescribed three months of chemo that did nothing but turn my hair silver.
We’ve determined I have a unique heart that simply cannot be fixed.
I am finally on medication that helps the symptoms, but my busy mom lifestyle is no more.
I’ve been given anywhere from “5 years to live,” to being a ticking time bomb, to we-promise-we’ll-try-for-the-transplant list before you’re on your death bed.
I went from driving my kids around to having my daughter drive me.
And yet through it all, God’s given me amazing peace.
The first year He gave me the story of Jesus calming the wind and the waves.
“Why are you afraid, Ye of little faith?”
And indeed, I had no fear because He was calming the wind and waves threatening to topple me out of the boat.
The coolest part of that was when Jesus said they were going to the other side. There was no doubt in Him. He knew God had a job for Him over there. He didn’t worry about the ride over because He knew He would make it.
God will get me across this lake of trouble, even if I don’t know what the other side looks like.
And then, the most devastating of all . . .
. . . three days before her 17th birthday, my daughter was raped.
We’re pressing charges, but as you can imagine, the whole ordeal has been horrific.
Then her counselor prescribed hiking as stress relief and that’s when we discovered she has a heart condition as well. She sees her own cardiologist in just a few days.
So . . . how do you stay strong in your faith when stuff like that happens?
I can honestly say I have a deeper sense of trust because I know where my help comes from.
“My help comes from the maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2, NIV)
And I refuse to give up. That’s the other thing God keeps telling me: Press On.
What are my superpowers? 😁
And how can you stay strong in your faith no matter what?
- find joy despite it all
- press on
- encourage others as you are encouraged
- and pray
Those are the four things God has called me to do these last two years. And I don’t know about you, but . . .
Especially with COVID forcing so many into quarantine, I really can speak into my friends’ lives about staying positive while staying home since I’ve had to do it for years now (flu season was dangerous for me, even before COVID).
And it seems like so many people have had tragedy upon tragedy piled onto them.
I let them know they are not alone. I sit and listen.
My awesome husband put together a back porch the first year this hit and it’s been a godsend for visitors. A lot of tears have been shed on that couch. I admit it. I’m a crier!
That’s always been my biggest superpower, the gift of coming alongside someone to listen and hear his or her story.
We all have one, we just need someone to tell it to. Someone to dispense Kleenex and hugs. 🙂
And honestly, hearing others tell their story helps me. It gets me out of my head. I don’t have time to feel sorry for myself if I’m encouraging someone else!
But I’ve struggled.
My struggle has been in the transition of going from being a great wife and mom, always there to do what needs doing, to being the one who needs help, letting my family and friends do for me and mine what I used to do for them.
I can do dishes occasionally or cook a simple meal, maybe laundry if someone carries the basket. But that’s it. My low pulse and blood pressure keep me exhausted.
So I struggle with guilt over not doing enough to help my kids. My son’s a freshman and my daughter a senior. These years go quickly! And I feel bad that my husband has to do the grocery shopping in his limited time off, especially since he admits I’m the more frugal of the two of us. ☺️
While I am blessed with God’s peace, watching life float by is not my favorite thing to do. Until football season . . . then I’m ok hiding in my room and cheering my Denver Broncos!
How did I find my destiny?
For me, finding my calling from God was all about being in the Word, reading the Bible, studying it, and applying it to my life–and praying. When I decided to be a journalist, it was because of the passion God put into me. He gave me the gift of listening and storytelling, and I promised Him I would use it to His glory.
Along the way, God’s given me other ways to be used by Him–being here for my family, the kids in the classrooms, the women’s ministry.
I just ask God, “Who do you want me to shine your light into today?”
So how do you stay strong in your faith?
“I’ve clung to His presence all the more tightly,” says Heidi as her blood pressure plummets in a scary way, “whereas a lot of people would have cut and run.”
And I have puppies!
These dogs are a tale in themselves.
We decided to get Shamar (which means To Guard) after my daughter was raped, for a happy distraction. We were able to get him because a friend from church knew what was going on and gifted him to us.
Three weeks after we brought him home, my mother asked if we would take Siscile. She was being abused by her owner and the breeder wanted to remove her and give her to us as a playmate for Shamar. She had a different name but we changed it, my son decided on Siscile, after the Sicilian Chess Defense. I just call her Sisi.
So now we have two gifts keeping me company while the kids do school. And in be between classes, the kids come out to play for a little stress relief.
Once again, God knew what we needed even before we did. 😁
Related Post: Bottom Line, Can I Really Trust God in Difficult Times?
Genuine Grace & True Beauty: holding on to Your Savior even through the unchosen events and detours, through the unwelcomed difficulties and pain, through the agonizing moments of unanswered questions. Of course, there’s tears and angst, but your faith shines. Thank you for giving us your story.