Looking Back–One Year Later

Declare His Glory 2Tom and I just returned from the 2015 International Gideons Convention. The theme this year was 1 Chronicles 16:24–Declare His Glory among the Nations! While there, I celebrated the one-year anniversary of God’s gift of healing to me. As I look back, I see it as a year of declaring God’s glory in my life.

I first shared my healing with my church family by writing an article for my church newsletter. Several speaking opportunities both inside and outside of my church presented themselves. Seven weeks after my healing, I declared God’s glory to another one of my doctors, the transplant doctor who had followed me since my transplant evaluation in 2010. She saw the evidence as she spoke with me and heard the evidence as she listened to my lungs. That day, after telling me that my team of doctors had met and decided it was time to begin the transplant process, she closed my transplant file.

In August, I had contact with an editor from Decision magazine during Franklin Graham’s Festival of Hope crusade here in Pittsburgh. I had contact in both August and October with folks from our local Christian TV station. The editor of our Gideons International publication contacted me. And in June, a very rough outline of the book I’m planning to write about my healing, life after healing, and the issues and questions that arise from such a life-changing event caught the eye of a literary agent who will be working with me to develop the book and sell it for me.

Last year was a time of declaring his glory while waiting, listening, and learning about my new life and the call that came with it. Now that I have the medical documentation needed for the media contacts and the interest in my book, I look forward to giving God the glory in ways that I pray will touch more hearts and lives for Christ. This will be a year of moving forward, actively and in faith, into the call on my life to Declare His Glory in larger and ever-widening circles.

I am here, Lord. Send me.

Revelry and Reflection

I think most of us tend to reevaluate our lives and goals at the beginning of a New Year. Because of the tremendous shift in my life over the past six months, this feels more important this year. The fall and the holidays were times of unbridled joy and excitement at the rediscovery of things I hadn’t been able to do for years. I hadn’t realized how much I had lost until it was returned to me in July. 

I reveled in taking my sweet dog for walks, ambling along trails that followed old railroad lines, now refurbished for walking, running, and bicycling. (I’m still at the walking stage. One thing at a time!) Or taking a path through the woods in many of the local parks, reveling in the awesomeness of God’s creation. 

I reveled in taking a few days to spend with my daughter in her third floor apartment, actually being able to walk up to the third floor—and not having to drag all kinds of medical equipment. During that visit I walked the length of the town in which she lives, embracing the joy of their Light-Up Night celebrations and the many activities that took place all over town. 

I reveled in becoming more involved in the women’s Bible study at church in which I’d participated for the past five years. The fact that I no longer struggle with debilitating fatigue has given me the energy to exercise my God-given gifts of teaching and singing. 

I reveled in having choices about what to do with my days. I forged ahead with little thought of planning my time and activities. I just went and did. 

I’ve had my season of fun and revelry. But now comes the time to reflect and deal with the temptation to grab EVERY opportunity that presents itself. It’s time to evaluate and prioritize and choose what my life is going to look like for the long haul.  

And the truth is I still have work to do in regards to my healing. The years of steroid treatment have left me with many unwanted and unhealthy pounds that need to be stripped from my body (would that they could in one fell swoop!). Physical inactivity has resulted in deconditioning and loss of strength. 

Most exciting is that the constant brain fog that accompanied the fatigue is gone, giving me a clearer mind to pursue my writing goals. I have two major projects I intend to work on this year as well as being more diligent in pursuing publication for numerous completed works.  

One of the ways I hope to accomplish these goals is through both focus and discipline, two things I’ve never been very accomplished at. But with God’s help and the new chapter He’s writing in my life, I know that ALL things are indeed possible. I heard this quote at a meeting I attended this past weekend. “I know that God wants what is best for me. So why don’t I want what’s best for me?” 

Let me know what your thoughts and goals are for the year. Then join me as we pursue not just the good things in my life and yours, but the BEST. WE CAN DO IT!

God Still Works Miracles—Part 4—God-incidences

I love God sheep

(Image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Instead of another narrative, this time I want to list all the other things God did, too many and too pertinent to wave away. Some may say there were just coincidences, but I like to think of them as God-incidences or divine appointments. Each one is special to me in its own way. I still marvel at the way I feel and my freedom to live and move and breathe.

Recounting all that God has done renews my faith, and I hope it encourages yours. Our God loves us more than we can ever imagine! His hand in my life—and in yours—is evident by watching for his loving gifts each and every day.

  • On Tuesday, two days before my healing, Tom and I chose a Gideon from Botswana to take to dinner on Saturday night (two days after my healing). When we met David, we learned that he and Geoffrey were sharing a hotel room. They had been paired and placed together by the hotel as singles wanting to share a room.
  • When I checked my appointment book I discovered I had been scheduled for an appointment with my cardiologist at close to the exact time that I was, instead, healed. (He is the doctor I saw one week later.)
  • Friends of ours who were attending the convention only on Thursday, hoped to be able to meet up with us. Not only did they find us, but God directed them to enter the hotel through a door that led them to where we were waiting to be seated for lunch. They were able to rejoice with us over my healing but also had the opportunity to meet and talk with Geoffrey.
  • A woman I’d met at the Gideon state convention had heard of my healing and wanted to talk to me. She asked the Lord to let us find each other. In a room of over 1000 women, we ended up next to each other on the way out of a session. God blessed us with an hour of sweet fellowship over tea.
  • As I waited for Tom to bring the car to the hotel to load up and go home, I told one of the valets about my miraculous healing. He was not a Christian but was intrigued by my story. He’d already been given a testament and told me he was interested in reading it. I encouraged him. After we spoke was when his name finally hit me—Joi! Please pray for this precious young man to come to know true joy in Jesus!
  • As word of my healing spread through my church after I got home, a friend who advises our youth called and asked if I would share my testimony at one of their weekly meetings. They’d had an advisory meeting to plan the fall schedule and decided for the first time to ask people from the congregation to tell their stories. She checked her calendar, and we discovered this decision was made on the day of my healing.

God Still Works Miracles–Part 3–Doctor Visits

September, 2013. My daughter, Bethany, and me on the Washington DC Metro.

The week after we returned from Philadelphia, I had two doctors’ appointments, both scheduled weeks and months earlier. The first was with my primary care physician who is a friend, believer, and member of my church.

I shared my testimony with the women who work in his office. All three of them marveled at the change in me. It also opened some doors for them to share some of their concerns with me, things I now keep on my prayer list.

Then, I found myself alone. I grabbed the notebook I always carry in my purse and recorded these thoughts:

As I sit here, waiting for Kevin to come in, I am experiencing some anxiety. I now have an idea of how Geoffrey felt as our breakfast ended. He recognized God’s voice and knew he had to be obedient to the command. But it didn’t keep him from feeling too nervous to ask me directly if he could pray for me, sending instead the Gideon from Maryland who was seated next to him.

 I’m sure Kevin will believe me because of his faith in Jesus. But I’m still nervous about the encounter. Will he just accept it? Will he doubt at first? I don’t know how he will react.

The knock came on the door. In response to his greeting, I said, “I’m terrific. Let me tell you what’s happened.” As I shared, Kevin acknowledged the power of prayer and how he has seen people recover through God working and answering prayer. But he admitted all cases involved a process of healing, rather than immediate.

He moved to the examination table, placed his stethoscope on my back, and told me to take a deep breath. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught an expression of wonder at what he heard. “You’re really moving a lot of air. And everything sounds clear—no crackles or wheezing,” he said. And his smile told me the rest.

The next day, I had an appointment with one of my specialists at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) where I shared my testimony more times than I can count. I greeted the receptionists who immediately noticed I was missing my oxygen. Then came the nurse who escorted me back to do a six-minute walk. (This is a test where your pulse and oxygen saturation is continuously monitored while you walk as many laps as you can in a measured hallway in six minutes.) She couldn’t believe how well I was walking without the oxygen or the normal levels of my vitals. She allowed me to do the walk without the oxygen, but had a tank handy just in case.

I took off at a comfortable, sustainable pace. She smiled and laughed in amazement at my numbers each time I passed her. After it ended (no oxygen needed) she printed out the report and marveled at the fact that I had done better and walked farther than the previous three times with oxygen. She told me I’d made her day.

Next came the physician’s assistant. I was touched by the respect everyone showed toward my God story. By the same token, none could refute the observable and obvious change in me. Finally, came Dr. Mike. When I’d finished, he said, “Please have patience with those of us who are grounded in science and tend to be skeptical. But I will never say that science and medicine have all the answers.” But because he is a scientist and his main concern is for my health and well-being, he asked me to stay on my medications until I see him again in three months so he can be sure this “sticks”. During the exam, he also heard my lungs fill up the way they were supposed to and admitted that the numbers from the six-minute walk backed up the way I felt.

I know what he’ll find in three months, but I also understood where he was coming from. As a Christian most of my life, I’d never been acquainted with anyone who’d been dramatically healed nor did I know anyone who knew anyone to whom this had happened. The nature of a miracle lies in the fact it is so unexpected, so instantaneous, so wondrous that it can hard to comprehend, even for those of us grounded in faith.

We serve a God of power, love, and miracles. But, I know the Lord sustained me the past ten years because of the treatments prescribed by my doctors. God does use medicine and its technologies to heal. But I am living proof that miracles did not end with recorded scripture. God is still sovereign and still delights in miraculously healing His children.

Me with Phin 1

August, 2014. Me and Phin at home.

God Still Works Miracles–Part 2–Geoffrey’s Obedience

Tom and Geofrey at the Melting Pot

Tom and Geoffrey enjoying The Melting Pot experience at dinner on Thursday night.

 

As Tom and I spent the rest of the day with Geoffrey, we learned how God had worked in his life and how God had been preparing for my healing long before any of us had an inkling that it would take place.

In July, 2013, Geoffrey came into contact with a man in his country who is known to have the gift of prophecy. While talking with him, the man stopped, looked at Geoffrey and told him that he saw a plane ticket on his head and that Geoffrey would be going to America the following July. Geoffrey thought it a bit strange as he had no reason to go to America and certainly didn’t have the means to do so. Despite this, he accepted the man’s words, but as time passed, forgot about them.

When information came out about the 2014 International Gideons Convention early in 2014, Geoffrey felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit that compelled him to register, which he did on faith. It wasn’t until partway through the process that he remembered the prophecy. As his plans progressed, God provided everything Geoffrey needed. He was given a plane ticket, the money he needed for registration and accommodations, and another gift of just the amount he needed to renew his visa—with an hour to spare before the deadline.

On the morning of the convention breakfast, Geoffrey was ready at 7:15 even though the breakfast was not until 8:00. He tried to leave his room but was drawn back inside. This happened several times. By the time he actually left, Geoffrey realized he would barely make it on time. I remember seeing him at the door, scanning the room for an empty seat when the man across from me waved to Geoffrey and pointed to the place at our table. I assumed they knew each other from one of the convention sessions, but later learned they had never met.

Geoffrey settled at the table in time for the blessing and the serving of breakfast. We smiled and nodded a hello to each other but were too far apart to be able to converse. He later told Tom and me of being under such conviction of the Holy Spirit to pray for me, that he didn’t enjoy his breakfast or hear any of the program. All he did for those two hours was listen to and focus on God’s command to pray for my healing. As I mentioned in the previous post, Geoffrey was so nervous to approach me because he didn’t know how I would respond that he asked the man next to him to relay his desire to pray for me.

Throughout the rest of the day, as we talked and shared, we learned that God had used Geoffrey’s gift of healing—as well his humble and obedient heart—to facilitate healings in his home country of Malawi. While not a faith healer, Geoffrey feels compassion for and will pray for anyone who comes to him with a request to pray for healing. In those cases, he has seen some complete and some partial healings, as well as no visible evidence of healing. But when he hears God’s direction to pray for someone’s healing, goes to him or her, and is obedient, the results have been 100% effective.

In my particular case, Geoffrey obeyed God every step of the way, even though he didn’t always know the purpose and at times felt uncomfortable. He responded in faith and obedience to Spirit’s nudges and directions. And God used him in a great and mighty way to restore my health.

Tom and I cannot stop praising and thanking God for this miraculous gift of healing (as well as a bit of walking and leaping)! We are doubly blessed to have Geoffrey as a friend and a dear brother in the Lord.

 

(Part 3 will tell what else God did during the week as word of my healing spread)

 

God Still Works Miracles–Part One

photo

Susan Reith Swan, Geoffrey Sadyalunda, Tom Swan

July 24, 2014 is a day I will never forget. That morning, I hopped onto my mobility scooter, balanced the portable oxygen between my legs, and left the hotel room with my husband, Tom, to attend a breakfast session at the 2014 International Gideons Convention in Philadelphia, PA.  Little did either of us know that this breakfast would be a life-changer.

Our friends, Wayne and Josie, had saved us seats. There was one empty chair at our table. Minutes before the blessing, the man across from me waved to an African gentleman who was searching for a seat. He joined us, and I gave him a nod and smile of welcome. The tables, set for ten, and the noise in the room made it difficult to talk to anyone other than those close to me.

When the program ended two hours later, the man from the other side approached and told me that the African man would like to pray for me and wondered if I would be willing. I never turn down an opportunity for prayer!

The African man introduced himself as Geoffrey Sadyalunda. From his nametag, I saw he was from Malawi. “When I sat at the table and saw you,” he said, “I heard God telling me, ‘I want you to pray for this lady. I want to heal this lady. I want you to pray for her healing.’”

The wait staff rattled silverware and clanked dishes, making it less than optimal for prayer. We decided it would be better to go up to my hotel room. I buzzed to the elevator on the scooter, while Tom and Geoffrey followed.

Georfrey shared with us that God had given him the gift of healing and that he had been used by God as an instrument to heal others in Malawi. “When God directs me to pray,” he said, “I must do so.”

I took off my oxygen and sat in a chair. Tom stood to my side, his hand on my shoulder. Geoffrey stood in front of me, his hands on my head. He began to pray. His voice rose and filled with authority. I knew I was hearing the voice of God through him. In the name of Jesus, Geoffrey commanded the spirits of darkness and infirmity to leave me. He placed a hand on my chest, as though physically pushing the diseases from my lungs, commanding them to be gone. I don’t know how long he prayed for me.

When he finished, Geoffrey stood back, looked at me, and said, “I am 100% confident that you are completely healed. Take a deep breath.”

I drew in a deep breath—and for the first time in ten years felt my lungs fully inflate. I took another deep breath with the same result. The constriction that had been getting progressively worse was gone. I jumped up, sobbing, laughing, and praising God. I threw my arms around Tom and said, “I can breathe! Sweetheart, I CAN BREATHE!”

Geoffrey opened his Bible and read from Acts 3:1-10 where Peter and John heal the lame man through the power of Jesus. As he read, I sang the song from my old youth group days, “He went walking and leaping and praising God!” I knew just how he felt.

I walked around the room—no shortness of breath. My mind reeling, my heart rejoicing, the three of us left the room, leaving behind the scooter and my oxygen. I made the ten-minute walk to the convention center without having to stop, something I could not have done with my oxygen. The more I walked, the stronger I felt. I ran into several people on the way over who knew me and marveled and rejoiced with us. I wanted to shout it from the highest point in Philadelphia! I wanted people to know that God is good. I wanted—and needed—to give God the glory for my healing!

A Close Encounter of the Tea Kind

love tea 2

Image courtesy of gubgib / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

During a recent trip to Trader Joe’s, I found myself in the tea aisle, perusing the varieties of organic teas this particular chain carries. Mind you, I have over 75 different kinds of tea in a cabinet, with the overflow crowding my kitchen counter. I need another box of tea in the same way that Imelda Marcos needed another pair of shoes.

 

I stood next to a woman in her twenties who was studying one of the teas. When she saw me doing the same, she asked if I had ever tried the one she was considering. I hadn’t, but told her about others on the shelves I had tried, mentioning the kind of tea they were and how to brew them to get the best taste.

 

She asked me question after question. There are few things I enjoy more than introducing someone to the delights and benefits of tea. After settling on the one for this shopping trip, she thanked me and told me which tea she would be trying next.

 

Tea plays a major role in my life–and has since I was young. Because of my love of tea and all the studying of it I’ve done, I forget that not everyone who drinks tea knows as much about it as I do. This young lady reminded me that there are plenty of people out there who are just beginning their tea journey. They welcome a little help and guidance when faced with all the tea choices available today, both in stores and online.

 

In the coming weeks and months, I’ll be introducing you to tea and how it rocks my world. I find that even when talking with fellow tea fanatics, revisiting the basics is like sitting down with an old friend and remembering how we met. Feel free to leave a comment, letting me know what your favorite kind of tea is and what you would like to know about tea. So, put on the kettle and we’ll all have tea.

 

By the way, I left the store with two new kinds of tea–mango black and ginger pear white.

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