I Am Set Apart, Not Set Aside – Stacey’s Story
They say your twenties are the years of uncertainty and messiness but also of opportunity and discovering who you truly are. My own journey has been far from smooth sailing, but then again, who’s journey ever is. I am now at a point in my life, where I can look back on all those uncertain and messy moments and be thankful for them. They have led me to where I am right now. Writing my story, proud of who I am and grateful for how far I have come.
My teen years were spent wondering exactly where I fit in. I have always had a deep sense of right and wrong but sometimes that meant going against the crowd. A decision that often left me in a place of loneliness. I have never been one for excessive drinking or partying and at the age of 17 and 18, this was what many of my friends were doing. I felt so out of place in those environments but at the same time I desperately wanted to fit in. The struggle continued when I moved away from home for my university studies. I lived in a constant tension between what I believed to be the right way to live and the desire to make friends and be included.
Things became even more difficult when I started having some challenges with my health.
The first time I collapsed I was taking part in a fitness test at university. I was taken to hospital in the ambulance and doctors performed a number of tests to try and determine what was going on. They discovered that I had had a Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT) episode. This is caused by electrical impulses that originate above the heart’s ventricles. Over the next few months I felt consistently unwell and experienced a number of SVT episodes that led to numerous trips to the Emergency Department. It was a very uncertain time in my life. I was living away from my family and had very little in the way of a support network. The cardiologist was unsure about what was causing the SVTs and I endured months of testing and investigations. I tried so hard to keep everything together. I didn’t want to let anyone down, including myself, and so I did my best to continue with life as normal.
But life was not normal.
I felt like everything I had planned for my life had come to a halt. My relationship, my health and my studies were all falling apart right in front of me. I was struggling. Not just with a challenging heart condition, but anxiety and depression as well. I had tried for so long to manage everything on my own, but I was overwhelmed and exhausted. Things eventually spiralled out of control and I ended up in a very dark place. I remember lying in bed one morning, wondering where God was in this mess.
I couldn’t see it at the time, but he was right there with me, carrying me when I couldn’t carry myself.
In July 2016, I made the decision to put my university studies on hold and focus on getting better. I moved back home to our little country town and began my journey of healing. It was not easy, and to this day I still meet with my counsellor on a regular basis; but this last year and a half has also been filled with amazing opportunities. God has placed incredible people in my life who have been able to support and encourage me on my journey. I will be forever thankful for those relationships. I have been able to return to my home country, South Africa, and celebrate my cousin getting married; something I had dreamed of being a part of from a young age. Whilst I was in South Africa I was also able to visit LIV village where I spent time loving on children who had come from very poor and tough backgrounds. These were all things my heart desired and without me even realising, God was giving me opportunities to bring joy back into my life.
In December 2017 I graduated with a Bachelor of Health Science. This was six months later than I had originally planned, but I did it. Initially I intended to graduate as a physiotherapist but through the course of my studies I came to realise that I really wanted to work with children, so I modified my degree. When I returned to live at home I had the opportunity to assist at a local school. This experience helped me to realise that what I really wanted to do was teach. I am now enrolled in a ‘Masters in Teaching’ and will graduate as a teacher in 2019.
I believe God has instilled in me a real heart for women. Never would I have imagined that I would be the one organising a women’s event in our community and running the Shine Program in two of our local high schools. (You need to know that the thought of talking in front of a group of people would usually send me into a total flap!!) Time spent with the girls in our Shine sessions has been incredible! Not only am I hopefully sowing into their lives but man, they sure are sowing into mine!! My journey of healing and assurance in myself, is one that I am still on, but I truly believe God has a plan and purpose for me and for every other woman. As women, we need to learn not to look at the world for approval, but to look to God because He made us, He loves us, and we are perfect in His sight.
As for my heart, well that’s something the doctors are still trying to figure out. I have now been to Melbourne for two procedures where the doctors have performed ablations on the two extra pathways that I have in my heart. Unfortunately, these have not been as successful as we hoped they would be. My heart condition still limits me to some extent, but I am just thankful for what I can do, and for what God has put in my life in place of those things I had to give up.
I have a peace in knowing that God has it under control.
As I reflect on one of the hardest times in my life I am, at the same time, so thankful to God. In my weakness, he made me strong. As my plans for my own life seemed to unravel I let him take the reins. My life does not look the way that I thought it would, but it has been filled with blessing after blessing and I have one person to thank for that, my Heavenly Father. Through these challenges I have found happiness, my identity in Christ and His unfailing love.
“I knew you before I formed you in your Mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart.”