Ann was raised in South Carolina, and received her AA from North Greenville University. Ann studied to become an Operating Room Scrub Technician at Greenville General Hospital, and married her husband Jack, who received his Masters in geology and made the Air Force his career. Jack pastored at King’s Way Ministry Center in Eagle River, Alaska, with Ann by his side for 27 years. Jack and Ann have retired from full-time ministry, but continue to teach and mentor us at King’s Way.
Joy in the Midst of Trials
It had been nearly two years since I had spoken in a public setting due to major changes in my voice from Essential Tremors, which had made its appearance in my body nearly six years before. I thought it was almost humorous that my dear friend would invite me to “speak” at a seminar she was hosting in Lebanon, Oregon in September. I told her I would “pray about it,” convinced that it would never happen. Besides, we could not afford the cost of airfare from Alaska at the time.
I did add the date to my calendar thinking it would be a good idea for me to pray for their Astounding Joy Seminar.
Then I began to feel the nudge of the Holy Spirit. He reminded me of the song “As long as I Have Breath” that I had sung so fervently over the years, and I asked myself: Have I been mouthing these words or did the song really express my commitment to Jesus? I made the decision to put aside my pride and try to speak no matter how slow, slurred, or nasal my words sounded.
But there was still one little problem: The cost of airfare to Seattle. I closed the door on speaking at the seminar once again–while the Holy Spirit kept giving me exactly what I should share if the opportunity came.
At an appointment with my neurologist in August the decision was made that I needed to go to Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, since my condition seemed to be getting worse. While talking to the receptionist at Swedish about my appointment date, I scanned my calendar and noticed that the dates of the Astounding Joy Seminar were only three days after my appointment at Swedish!
All of my excuses evaporated. With amazement I called Michelle, the host of the seminar. I hoped that my speaking slot would fall on one of my “good days.” I prayed that I could travel the distance by car without feeling stressed, which always made the tremors worse. Traffic in Seattle and Portland is enough to give anyone tremors.
The specialist at Swedish ordered an MRI to confirm his diagnosis of Essential Tremors, and he also tested for a rare disorder called Cerebellar Ataxia. Both were movement disorders that steal away fine motor functions such as brushing teeth, eating, drinking, writing, walking, cooking, cleaning, and speaking clearly. Slowly many of these simple tasks become impossible and exhausting.
Jack and I were making our way through the Northwest traffic when I received the call that I hoped would never come. The specialist at Swedish confirmed the Ataxia diagnosis. My emotions were all over the place. Here I was on my way to speak about “Joy in the Midst of Trials,” while every bit of joy drained from my mind and body. I knew Ataxia was going to be much harder to deal with–added to my Essential Tremors.
When we arrived at our lovely B&B, I knew it was time to take “every thought captive” and ask the Lord to give me a clear mind and voice to speak the next day. I slept soundly for eight hours straight, surprised that the Holy Spirit didn’t awaken me to pray during the night.
Arriving at the church the next day, I felt so calm that it scared me a little. After a refreshing time of praise and worship (I can only mouth the words), it was time for the speakers. Two women shared their testimonies and then it was my turn. I pushed my walker to the front and perched on a stool they provided, collecting my thoughts.
I began to speak very slowly, explaining my condition at first–then I shared how God gives me joy from reading his Word. I related how I depended upon God’s promises and faithfulness, and suddenly my voice rang CLEAR and STRONG. My words flowed freely!
Joy is not based on circumstances but on God’s faithfulness. At the seminar “God was the Strength of my Heart” and for 35 years he has ordered my steps. This includes years of helping two daughters cope with separate, rare syndromes, 60 surgeries, hundreds of doctors appointments and a resulting drug addiction.
To say that I am happy every day would certainly not be the truth. It has been difficult as I adjust to the fact that I can no longer serve others or do so many simple tasks. But joy is a big part of my life thanks to my relationship with Jesus. My comfort and joy come from hearing him speak to me through his written word.
May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your word.
You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.