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I have always been a very athletic and active person.

I love dancing, exercise, and especially running. These were part of my identity growing up and into my adulthood. In June 2013, I married my wonderful husband, Phillip, in our home state of Missouri. Three weeks later we moved to Pennsylvania, where we knew absolutely no one, for Phillip to start his doctoral internship in Psychology. We quickly found a new church

there and made new friends in our small groups and Bible study. I fell into my usual active life.

By October, though, I noticed some physical changes starting to occur in my body. I started waking up in the middle of the night with excruciating pain in my joints. When I went to my Zumba dance class, I got out of breath and tired way faster than the ladies 30 years my senior! Large amounts of my hair were falling out, I had a hard time getting a good breath, and I was just exhausted constantly. I didn't go to the doctor because I kept thinking, "It will pass. Everything will be better next week."

However, by November things were much worse. I started losing the ability to use

my arms and hands. The last straw was when I started to pass out without warning. I

KNEW something was very, very wrong. A few days before my scheduled doctor's

appointment, my husband had dropped me off with my Bible study group because I could no longer drive. A woman was up front talking, but I cannot tell you what she was

actually saying because God was speaking directly to my heart. Here is what I heard

from Him: "Yes, Kristina. You do have something very wrong with you, but you are going to praise me anyway."

Almost 9 years later, tears come to my eyes as I write this because of the

incredible mercy God gave me by speaking that to me. He allowed me to have that truth

firmly in my mind going into that doctor’s appointment. Within a day, I had my answer.

My blood work confirmed that I had an autoimmune disease called Systemic Lupus

Erythematosus (S.L.E). It is a disease where my body attacks and destroys my own

organs, nervous and vascular systems, and tissue. At this point, there is no known cure.

I immediately started some very heavy medications, but finding the right combination of

meds takes trial and error and time. I continued to be very sick for months and became

bed bound.

As I laid in that bed, I cried out to God because I did not know what my purpose

was anymore. I couldn't take care of our home and basic needs like laundry and

cooking. At times I couldn't bathe or feed myself or even take our dog out potty. I began to believe the devil’s lie that I had become a huge burden to my spouse and to our new church family. God reminded me, "Kristina, even if all you can do is lay in this bed, loving your husband in your heart, praising me, and praying to me for others’ needs – That. Is. Enough." God started to help me change my perspective. Members of our church family came to my home every day to help with chores, provide groceries, spend time with me, etc. They were the hands and feet of Jesus. There was a particular elderly woman who was especially helpful, sometimes coming twice a day. One day she shared with me, "Kristina, I am not happy you are sick, but God knew I needed to be needed." It was such an eye opener for me of a way God was using my illness for the good of another. In accepting help, it gave an opportunity for others to honor Christ by their actions toward me.

I also started to embrace that the medical field was now my mission field. Those

were the people I was interacting with constantly. Doctors, nurses, physical therapists,

lab workers: those are the people I started praying for. When I went to an appointment, I

shared about God's faithfulness and sometimes even had the opportunity to pray with

the person caring for me. Over time, we started to find some treatments that helped

slow some of my symptom progression.

Even though life looks different now than it did before lupus, I do my best to remain an active person when I feel well enough and then take comfort in Christ's love when I am ill and weak. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, "But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." This verse has become so significant to me that it is tattooed on my right arm so that I will see it every day. When other people see it and ask about it, I tell them about the greatness of our God. He is my pillar in the desert.


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