“Here I raise my Ebenezer; Here by Thy great help I’ve come; And I hope, by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home.” –Come Thou Fount Hymn.
Today I’m going to fast forward to present day to share a little bit of what’s on my heart & how you can play a part in blessing our family. Throughout my health journey, I’ve had many unique opportunities to see God working in my life & circumstances despite my young age. It has been an unspeakable blessing to be a disciple God has chosen to reveal His glory to. In fact, one of my goals is to share each of them on this blog to encourage others. Now, most of His works I haven’t seen in the moment, but rather down the line as I reflect on different moments. But as my latest health journey (Wisconsin) has unfolded, I’ve had the rare opportunity to instantly see Jesus working right in the moment & that has been a priceless gift I want to share with you today.
As most of you know, this year our goal has been for me to receive medical care from the auto-transplant team at UW Health in Madison, Wisconsin, but you may not know why or how we made that decision. My parents learned about the auto-transplant program in Wisconsin long before I did. This program is an absolute game-changer for those who battle severe NCS like myself. Because NCS is so rare, there are very few treatment options, & I had already tried the ones that showed promise without any success. This program is very unique, is composed of some of the very best doctors & specialists in the USA (& possibly the world) who have dedicated themselves to helping those who are in my position find relief, provides hope for those who have been told there is none, & offers a very promising chance of finding healing, or at the very least an improved quality of life. I am so, so blessed to receive medical care from this program. Anyways, my Mom had mentioned it to me a couple times, but I wasn’t yet in a mindset to be receptive to what she was saying. I wasn’t ready to hear that my Left Renal Vein Transposition Surgery had failed. I wasn’t ready to hear it was time to start over. I just wasn’t ready.
But as I sat in the UVA vascular clinic consultation room & listened to my surgeon confirm what I’d already known deep down–my surgery had failed–the walls in my mind began to crumble. & as I listened to an unfamiliar, inexperienced doctor inform me my “only” option was a painful, temporary procedure that more often causes terrifying complications than success, I knew that Wisconsin was my best bet & possibly my only hope. This was my next step.
There was only one problem. A week earlier I’d woken up & found my Mom tearful & distraught. Now, I’m not a morning person at all so I probably wasn’t the most helpful daughter right then…I’m sorry, Mom! 😛 Even though I sat there like a zombie as she told me the auto-transplant program had been placed on hold, I was freaking out inside. She fought back tears as she explained it had been announced the program would be on hold indefinitely (possibly due to budget cuts, but that hadn’t been confirmed), no one was sure if it would re-open, & how crushing this was for our family because this was our one hope for me to find healing in 2018. She went on to say that she was going to campaign like she had never campaigned before, that she would fight as long as it took, that she would never give up on me & my journey to find healing, & that we were going to battle like my life depended on it…because it did. & she fulfilled her promise with flying colors. Thanks, Mom. I wouldn’t be here today without you. ❤
Y’all know what happened next, because YOU made it happen! The entire month of January, we contacted every single person we knew & asked them to write letters to UW on behalf of me & all those who battle NCS. We set a goal of 100 letters & you helped us SURPASS it in record time! Y’all really came through for me in my time of need…just about 300 people wrote letters on my behalf! Some of you even sent me copies of the letters you sent, & I absolutely loved reading them. They touched me beyond words! We would not be where we are today without you! We were told the letters touched those who made the decision to re-open the program, & had a strong impact on their decision. Thank you!
Every week we would call UW to see if any progress had been made. The answer was always the same: they received our letters, but there was no news. I don’t think I have ever prayed more passionately or fervently than I did during that time. I’ve never wanted something so badly before & it was killing me. We knew they were going to have a meeting at the beginning of February to discuss the fate of the program, & I don’t think my family has ever been more anxious! To say that experience was a lesson in trusting God’s sovereignty is an understatement. 😉
At the beginning of February, we got word that UW had decided to re-open the auto-transplant program! Of course, we were ecstatic, but cautious. They hadn’t communicated when or how, & we were unsure where I was on the waitlist. But nevertheless, the program was going to open, & that was amazing progress!!! I was seeing God move a mountain that seemed immovable, but this was just the beginning….
On February 13th, I was resting in bed watching Netflix when I had a sudden impulse to check my phone. I had a missed call from just five minutes before. There was no voicemail, & it was an out of area number I didn’t recognize. I didn’t think anything of it until I realized it was a Wisconsin area code. I frantically called back, & a man answered.
“Hi, my name is Grace Balasic. I had missed a call from this number just a few minutes ago, & wanted to call back.”
“Oh yes! Hi Grace! This is Dr. Redfield calling from UW Health Center. I wanted to set up a time with you to have a phone consultation & go over your health history to get this process started.”
Oy!!! Oy!!!! I. Was. On. The. Phone. With. WISCONSIN!!!! THEY HAD CALLED ME FIRST!!!! WHAT WAS HAPPENING?!?!?! I started to tremble & a huge grin broke out over my face. 😀 I have no idea how I got through that call without having a full blown white girl screaming freakout, but somehow I kept my cool & calmly scheduled a time to speak with him on the phone just two days (!!!!) later, told him how much this call meant to me, expressed deepest gratitude, & hung up.
After letting out my excited energy with my Mom & Luke & calling my Dad to tell him the good news at work, for the first time in too long my very first thought was that I needed time with the Lord immediately before I did anything else. I went in my room & I prayed & praised on my knees & acknowledged His hand in this situation & His undeniable presence in my life. I’m not sure I have ever felt more on fire for God or closer to Him than in that moment. It was truly indescribable & I will never forget it.
Later that evening I called one of my best friends to tell her the news & we ended up talking for a several hours about everything on our minds/hearts. She told she’d started something new in her prayer life called an “Ebenezer journal” where she wrote down specific prayer requests our Father had clearly worked in & answered. She shared how encouraging it had been for her in her walk with the Lord & that she felt like the Wisconsin phone call was my own personal Ebenezer stone. I recognized the term from the popular hymn, (its one of my favorites) but I realized that while I’d sung it many times, I didn’t actually know what it meant. I made a mental note to google where its referenced in the Bible & look it up during my next devotional time, & went back to our conversation.
The next day, as I sat down to knock out my scheduled Bible chapters of that day, I’d forgotten about the Ebenezer stone. Just a few weeks before, I’d finished 1st & 2nd Kings & had spent some time in prayer to see where God would lead me to read next. He led me to 1st & 2nd Samuel. I was already enjoying it immensely, especially Hannah’s story.
Anyways, I opened my Bible to 1st Samuel 7 & started to read. When I got to the end of the chapter, my mouth fell open. It was none other than the passage that talks about the Ebenezer stone! I couldn’t believe it. It was so abundantly clear that God had prepared my heart for this moment, led me to that passage on that specific day, & orchestrated that specific moment to show me for the umpteenth time that He was working right then & there.
Wherever you are in your life right now, whatever your circumstances may be, may my story remind you that He is present. He is performing a real miracle in my life & giving me a front row seat to watch. Wow. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, He is working in your life too…even if you can’t see it yet. He loves you, & His plans for you are unimaginably amazing. He has got this & He has got you! Believe it, friend, because its true!!
For those who don’t know, the term “Ebenezer stone” is derived from Samuel the Prophet. In the beginning of 1st Samuel, it talks a lot about a series of various battles between the Israelites & the Philistines. Through these battles, Samuel led the Israelites as their prophet & judge. In one particular battle, the Israelites knew the Philistines were coming to attack them & they were very afraid. “They said to Samuel, “Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.” (vs.8) So Samuel made a sacrifice to God & cried out to Him & the Lord answered by throwing the Philistines into great confusion & panic.
So as reminder of the amazing victory God had given His people, “Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Eben-ezer, (the stone of help) saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” (vs.12) & when the Israelites saw the Ebenezer stone, they were reminded of how their God had helped them in their time of desperation & trouble.
When my friend mentioned this Wisconsin situation was my own personal Ebenezer stone, she was saying this is a clear instance in my life where I could see God helping me win my battle in my time of desperation & trouble. & she couldn’t have been more right! This whole situation was an amazing opportunity to see my Savior working miracles, moving mountains, & performing the impossible right in front of my very eyes. It doesn’t get better than that!
But He didn’t stop there. He opened the door for me to have a phone consultation just a few days later, He opened the door for me to go to Wisconsin for my diagnostic just a few weeks later, He carried me through the long trip despite my debilitating health issues, I passed my surgery diagnostic, He opened the door for me to see a urologist three months early, & now He has opened the door for me to proceed with my kidney auto-transplant very, very soon. He is continuing to move mountains & work in my life!
I chose to share this part of my story with you today for a specific reason. As I shared above, the journey isn’t over yet!! This surgery will be taking place in Wisconsin, so in addition to medical costs there will be travel, food, & lodging costs, with the additional goal of my Dad being able to fly to be with us the week of my surgery. I’m not going to lie, the need is daunting, but we are very prayerful & trusting God to meet it. As I have shared above, God has moved every mountain & roadblock necessary, unexpected & expected, for me to receive medical care in Wisconsin, I know this is no different! I know He is my Great Provider & will provide for my every need!!
So this is where you come in. We are so grateful for every single one of you! We could not do this without you!
Our dear friend & my adopted aunt, Mandy Leeth has generously & graciously designed this beautiful bracelet & is hosting a fundraiser for our family! I am attaching the details written out by her below. Please feel free to share this with your friends & family! The following is written by Mandy:
GRACE + GRIT + GRATITUDE
Welcome to our FANTASTIC FUNdraiser! We are raising money to assist Grace on her journey to go and have a LIFE CHANGING SURGERY in Wisconsin in May 2018!
ALL proceeds– just to be clear, will result in ZERO profit for the jeweler, and ALL profit for Grace- will go to help with all the travel and preparation and lodging, etc., to assist Grace and her family with their needs. The cost of the bracelet is $59.00, plus shipping and state sales tax.
We have selected a gorgeous leather cord and gold bracelet that we feel reflects the GRIT and GRATITUDE that our GRACE has shown as she has gone through this difficult process. The financial burden is heavy, but I believe with your help, we can make a DIFFERENCE! By purchasing this bracelet, you choose to support Grace spiritually, financially, and with an outward statement and expression that will allow you to mentally and emotionally be on the journey with her, and to tell others about her situation. Please partner with me on this, and help change the life of this beautiful young woman!!
Get yours today by contacting Grace or Kristine directly, or do it yourself by following these simple steps:
Go to Mandy’s personal website. https://www.premierdesigns.com/mandyleeth
- Search for #50186
- Click “engrave me” & enter the “Grace~Grit~Gratitude” (if the “~” doesn’t look quite right (it didn’t on my phone) or it isn’t perfect, continue on anyway. Mandy will be double checking & perfecting each bracelet before finalizing the order, so no worries…they’ll all look the same by the time you get them!)
- Add it to bag
- Fill out the required check out information
- In the memo that says, “are you shopping for an event/hostess?” Say yes & choose the “grace grit gratitude event”
- Ship it to yourself
- Select pay online if you’re using a credit/debit card or “pay me” if you want to mail her a check or cash.
- Place the order!
Please be aware that this event will not close immediately, and shipping will not occur until orders have been collected at the end of the month of April 2018.
Credit Cards, Cash and Check made payable to Mandy Leeth, the jeweler, are accepted.
If you do not want to buy a bracelet, but still want to give or want to give extra, that is perfectly fine too! Every little bit adds up! Please don’t hesitate to contact me for more information or with any questions you may have.
You make a difference! We are GRATEFUL for you! I know God is going to do GREAT things in this fundraiser! I’m believing!
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