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I Didn't Think I Would Make it to 40


A year ago this month, I was at the beginning of the hardest journey of my life. Due to an extreme chemical poisoning situation, i found myself with my whole life pulled out from underneath me - not a rug pull but a whole foundation pull.

On my 39th birthday I was sleeping on an air mattress on the floor of my sister's living room, pain shooting up and down my body, unable to sleep, sobbing in shock and disbelief...trying to figure out what had happened and how I was going to get out of it. At that point i had no reference point for what was going on and no context for how to understand what I was about to face.

After months and months of visits from specialist to specialist, internet deep dives and rabbit holes, nutritionist consultations, functional doctors, diet changes, supplements...enough blood drawn to make me wonder whether i had any left in me...after all this I was just as confused as when my life inexplicably blew up; not to mention physically, emotionally and financially depleted.

By early spring this year, I learned my toxicity levels were 6x the normal maximum limit for what we humans should be processing.

This told me more than any doctor could tell me. Their advice typically went something like: "Your bloodwork is fine. You're fine. Maybe you need a shrink." or more subtly "maybe it's stress?". My livid response: "Yes this is DEFINITELY a stressful situation. I am DEFINITELY stressed. Do you maybe want to at least pretend to help me figure out what's wrong instead of trying to get me a shrink?"

7 specialists, 1 biopsy, 1 MRI, and 1 toxicology report later, and still I had no clear solution or way forward. I felt just as helpless with the little information I had.

I've spent most of the last year of my life in bed and that in itself once felt like a victory b/c there was in fact a point (December 2022) when I did not expect to make it out of the year. Debilitating fear had gripped me and every bit of illness was amplified by my inability to cope with my terror.

Where is the redemption? you ask Yes, I'm sure you're wondering how things are going. And I wouldn't be "Joy" If i didn't find a way to "flip it and flip it good."

I am not going to lie, friends. I have never asked God so many questions in all my life: Where are you? Are you seeing this? " Why did you let this happen? Do you love me? Are you...real?

I struggled...hard. I struggled with abandonment, with confusion, with anger, with hopelessness...and so much fear.

There were days when I had absolutely nothing left to give...friends would call to pray with me - offering me something no man could offer - spiritual nourishment.

There is a story in the Old Testament where the Israelites go out to war against the Amelekites. God tells Moses that as long as he holds his hands high, his people will win the battle. But after a while Moses' hands get tired. He lowers them and the enemy begins to win. Aaron and Hur come along, hold Moses' arms up for him, and the Israelites begin to win again. The Amelekites are ultimately defeated.

This is an illustration of the last year of my life.

My friends and family were my Aarons and Hurs.

There were days when I had absolutely nothing left to give - inability to function and inability to see a future. Friends would call to pray with me - offering me something no man could offer - spiritual nourishment.

There are times in your life where "well-intentioned well-wishes" and flowers simply fall flat. And the only thing that feeds your soul is the Spirit - when the wind of God blows through a room and you know you are feasting on the only thing that can truly sustain you. This became my reality. And I'm thankful for the friends who 'fed' me when I could not feed myself.

It's said that in trial, you can either punch down - taking everyone down with you, making them just as miserable as you are. Or punch up - hopefully punching through the invisible ceiling that wants to keep your heart and mind trapped alongside your body.

I had no choice but to punch up. Because i had no choice but to look up. Looking down simple just made everything worse.

I am sure there are many reading this who are no stranger to pain and suffering...and you know that eventually when nobody can fix your situation in the natural, you almost have no choice but to look up...for the 'more'. Praise God for suffering b/c it has us look toward the eternal. Eventually the petty things become even petty-er and your perspective just has to shift. It's almost like you don't have a choice b/c when the rubber hits the road, there is no earthly solution...except death - emotional, physical, and worst of all spiritual.

Trial really does clarify a lot of things.

I have so much more to say but where do I start!? I would love to say I've landed on the other side of this ordeal...but i'm getting closer. And I look forward to the day when I will. And maybe then I will share the whole story.

On my 40th birthday I cried the happiest tears.

I made it.

I didn't know what I expected but this season of life i am in is a whole lot lighter than the last and I have landed in a new city, with new community, and a whole new path that I never wanted but didn't know I needed.

I am recovering my joy and waking up once again with expectation for the day. This is a huge victory.

I have spent most of my life following Jesus and the last decade discovering why.

I landed on my why in year 39.

In my 20s it was because i wanted to "follow the rules" of being a good person. That got old fast...not to mention exhausting.

In my 30s it was His compassion to love and serve others and bring hope to others. All good stuff but turned me into a do-er...which turned into people-pleasing and burn-out.

In year 39 it was just...Him. He was my food when I could not eat. He was my rest when i could not sleep. He was my air when I could not breath. He still is.

I know without a shadow of a doubt that, even though I would never wish my last 13 months on anyone, it has given me a gift that I never would have accepted otherwise - the ability to become dependent on other people and receive love that I had worked so hard to "earn" my whole life. And i have also been gifted with the realization that God's love truly is free. Should I choose to accept it, I will find my home right in the middle of it. Life does not promise to be easy for anyone, but he walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death...if we let him.

And so, in a wild and crazy way, this experience has given me so much more clarity for this website you're currently on, as I continue to invite people into this project of wearing and sharing love - collecting stories of love in a culture of war.

Sometimes that war is internal. And sometimes, as we're learning this month, it's all around us.

These are a bunch of incomplete thoughts that I have chewed on in my first few weeks of this new birth year. I am sharing them with you.

I made it to 40. And I am so happy to be here!

If you want to talk to me about Jesus, I want to talk to you about Him. Just message me here on Wearing Love or via my personal email I will tell you the truth.

If you have a story you would like to share with Wearing Love, I would love to send you a shirt. Please reach out. You can read all the stories people have sent in here. Never underestimate the power of a true story in transforming a heart.

Thank you for reading, Joy Ike

Lover, Artist, Singer-Songwriter, Creator of Wearing Love

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