Inwardly Renewed – Denise’s Story
Introduction by Butch Walker
Refined Family is founded on the idea that the Lord uses the refining fire of trials in our lives to reveal the dross that is often hidden and to purify us from it, making us more like Christ. But the fire is not a comfortable place to be, so we always try to begin by reassuring the sufferer that they are not alone, that they are not crazy for what they are feeling, and that this is a safe place. Then, once we’ve established that we look to remind each other that God is good, that His promises are true and that He is faithful to keep them, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. Finally, once we are able to see some measure of the good that God has accomplished, we want to be faithful to rejoice with one another and glorify God for His faithfulness.
But sometimes God’s faithfulness doesn’t necessarily mean that outward circumstances get better. Sometimes the outer self wastes away while God renews us inwardly (2 Cor 4:16). That was the case for Denise, a 37 year old woman who went to be with the Lord on Monday morning, February 26, 2019 after many years of suffering with illness. Yet the evidence of God’s faithfulness could not be more striking in her life and I want to invite you to rejoice with me in the redeeming hand of God.
My wife and I met Jason and Denise through our church. Denise played the flute in our church orchestra and my wife got to know her through the women’s ministry. But we really got to know them in 2011 when they asked for some help in working through some issues they were dealing with personally and in their marriage. Over the months and years that followed, the four of us became good friends.
When we first met Denise, she was suffering with migraines and seizures. Though she had struggled with migraines for most of her life, the seizures had started when she was in college and they were a huge medical mystery for the doctors for some time. Many good local doctors struggled but could not find the problem that was causing them until finally a top neurologist in Michigan diagnosed Denise with dysautonomia.
Dysautonomia is an umbrella term used to describe several different medical conditions that cause a malfunction of the Autonomic Nervous System, which controls the “automatic” functions of the body that we do not consciously think about, such as heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, dilation and constriction of the pupils of the eye, kidney function, and temperature control.
Little did we know that the seizures were just the beginning of her battles with dysautonomia. Denise would have problems with her blood pressure, narcolepsy, her digestion, and her temperature regulation, among other problems. Eventually, her digestive system stopped working completely, which is what ultimately led to her death. But along the way, she endured many years of pain and struggle, hope and disappointment as the disease progressively shut down one system after another.
But when we first started talking with Denise, she wasn’t coming because of the physical problems. She came because, at the time, she was also wasting away inwardly. Denise was really struggling with sin and she didn’t know how to overcome it. Throughout her life, Denise had faced many challenges, both physical and otherwise. Like many of us, she had tried to protect herself from these things by finding some means to take control of her circumstances. For Denise, some of what she had learned to do to control her circumstances was sinful and it had now become a pattern that was significantly harming her and those closest to her. She had tried many things to control her sinful behavior but had not been able to conquer it. So we began meeting regularly to try to, among other things, help her find freedom from this destructive behavior.
About six months into our regular meetings, there came one particular night that I remember very well. She had reached a point of brokenness. That night of April 19, 2012 the Lord did a miraculous work. Denise recognized that, though she had given her life to Jesus Christ many years before, she had not been letting Him have control of her life but had been trusting in herself and her own understanding. She prayed a beautiful prayer of confession and surrender and gave herself fully to the Lord. From that night forward, things began to change.
Denise’s countenance visibly changed. There was a new sense of joy and peace that she experienced and she felt assurance of her place with God for the first time. It was beautiful to behold! Over the years that followed, Denise grew in her faith in powerful ways! She didn’t change overnight, but she began to change that night. The Holy Spirit was hard at work, transforming her thoughts and desires.
While the disease progressed, she literally was being renewed inwardly at a remarkable rate.
About a year ago, Denise knew that her illness was progressing. She loved worshipping God by playing her flute and she knew that soon she would no longer be able to do that, so she recorded herself playing some of her favorite songs of worship. Along with those recordings, she wrote out her reflections on what each of those songs meant to her. I want to share these recordings with you, along with her reflections, so that you may give witness to the inward renewal and glorify God with me.
Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed
God came to earth in the form of man. He lived a life that was sinless, pure and undefiled. He shed his blood for me and chose me, Denise, to be His precious child.
All I Have is Christ
My sin, like the apple in the garden, promised joy and life. Instead it was leading me to death. I thought I knew the way, but I was wrong. God showed me the way – the only way. Now I know that all I need, all I ever need, is Christ.
Grace. All of God’s grace is amazing. It is a concept I will never fully grasp this side of heaven. The hardest to grasp is God’s saving grace. Why me? I don’t know. But I do know that through His amazing grace, He chose me and saved me.
Be Thou My Vision
I pray that God will continually refocus my life. That He will help me to keep my focus on Him. I long for God to be my vision so that I may see life as He sees it.
Before the Throne of God Above
Satan tempts me to look back on my past sin that I have been forgiven of, and causes me to despair. When this happens, I can look to Heaven and see Christ there. I remember His sacrifice and that it was for ALL my sin: past, present, and future. Satan then has no power over me.
Behold Our God
God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and sovereign over all! It’s hard to put into words the awe and amaze I have over those concepts. Sometimes it’s better not to try, but to just be quiet, listen, and behold our God.
Bless the Lord (10,000 Reasons)
Every morning I wake up to a new day – a day full of uncertainties. This leaves so much room for anxiety and fear. But then I think of God and the infinite number of reasons that I have to trust and lean on him. All that anxiety and fear suddenly fades away.
Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery
God come to earth in the form of a man to serve as a sacrifice for my sins is a wondrous mystery that I will never fully understand.
Great is Thy Faithfulness
All I need, He provides. It may not seem like it at the time, but in all circumstances, great is God’s faithfulness unto me.
He Will Hold Me Fast
Sometimes my faith is weak, and the power of Satan seems so strong. it is in those moments that Christ hugs me even tighter and reassures me of His love for me and that He will hold me fast.
How Deep the Father's Love
How deep and how wide is the Father’s love for me? So deep and wide that He would send His one and only Son to pay the ransom for my sins!
How Great Thou Art
God’s power throughout the universe displayed. Every cell, every atom, every molecule – all carefully put together to make His incredible creations. Nothing ever out of place.
How Great Is Our God
There are things in my heart that are really difficult to put into words. Sometimes my heart hurts, but often it is overwhelmed with joy. I don’t always know why, except that my God is great and the giver and source of all true joy.
In Christ Alone
I am a child of God. No power of earth or hell or anything that anyone could say or do can change that. Ever. My identity is found in Christ alone.
It is Not Death to Die
It is so easy to fear death. To be afraid when I am sick, especially when I can see myself getting sicker. But in Heaven, there will be no more pain, no more sickness, no more sadness, and no more missing gene sequences. Best of all, I will worship my Heavenly Father for all eternity. Why should I fear death? It is not death to die, for that is when I will truly begin to live!
It is Well
Life is tough. Contentment is hard. I have to remember that God is sovereign over all and all that happens is a part of His master plan. Only then can I truly and honestly say that it is well with my soul.
My Chains are Gone (Amazing Grace)
I was once held in bondage by my sin, carrying around heavy chains and burdens. But through Christ’s blood, He ransomed me. He provided forgiveness for my sins. He broke those chains and He set me free!
My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness
So often, I am self-absorbed with my focus all on me and not on God. But when I take a step back, I can see the things God continually does for me. I can’t express it in words, but in that moment, my heart is filled with thankfulness.
Nothing But the Blood
My sin is so great. The gap between me and God is so large. There was no other way. Nothing else could bridge that gap. Nothing else could wash away my sin. Nothing else could make me whole again. Only the blood of Jesus.
Oh the Deep, Deep Love
The love of Jesus is so deep, so wide, so vast unmeasured, boundless, and free. This is such a hard concept to grasp. We like to be able to define things – to give them measurements and boundaries. But the love of Jesus is unmeasurable. It has no limits. There is nothing I can do and nowhere I can go to escape the deep, deep love of Jesus.
See What a Morning
It wasn’t enough for Christ to die on the cross. He had to rise again. Because He lives, I can live my life with hope and certainty. I can live pressing onward with the knowledge that I will one day be with Him. All because Christ is risen from the dead!
The Power of the Cross
Christ was crucified by men, who thought they were in control of the situation. Little did they know that God had allowed this to happen. They were just a part of God’s master plan. What man meant for evil, God meant for good. Because of that day, I have been forgiven from my sin. My slate has been wiped clean. This is the power of the cross.
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
Everything I have is loss when compared to the wondrous cross. Everything I am is nothing without Christ and His sacrifice. There is nothing I could ever do that would ever possibly be enough to even come close to repay what Christ did for me. All I can do is to give Him my life, my soul, and my all.
Glory to God Alone
Denise and I talked on the phone a couple of times about this project. What a sweet thing to hear it… I will miss my sweet friend. But, I am rejoicing that her years of suffering are behind her and I am so thankful for the hope of heaven!