“…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” Isaiah 61:3
2016 was the most fantastically horrible wonderful challenging worst and in some ways best year of my life. It was a story of God’s love, God’s amazing parenting, God’s wisdom. He showed and revealed so much to me. He held my hand through so much torment, pain, and hardship. I could sense His presence through all of it
Lies and Losses
It truly is a story of beauty from ashes. I went from thinking my life was pretty perfect – with my three wonderful daughters, one of my daughter’s beautiful wedding in Montauk the year before, an amazing son-in-law who I loved, loved like my own. He was the son I never had. I prayed with him, trusted him. Welcomed him into my home and my heart. I thought he was perfect for my precious daughter. And he betrayed our family on such a deep level. His lies were beyond anything I could’ve imagined. He turned out to be somebody who we didn’t even know, a sociopath who literally is so broken that he doesn’t know any other way but to lie. He devastated us financially, he broke my daughter’s heart, he betrayed each family member in a way that was unique to each relationship… and for me, well he really broke my heart too. I thought I knew him so well through the intimacy you develop in heartfelt prayer. And I found out our entire relationship was laced with one lie after the next.
Shortly after discovering the truth about my son-in-law and after the marriage broke up, I lost all my interest in and passion for real estate. I had built a strong successful business over 20 years, and I didn’t have any energy to put the effort in anymore. I just wanted to give up.
One day I was in my kitchen and my sister, Barbara, who is my youngest sister, came over. I remember sobbing, literally, in her arms and saying, “I feel so low…I just don’t feel like doing real estate any more. My sister practically picked me up off the floor and said to me, “This is what I want you to do. I want you to go into your office. Your time is up there. It’s been great, but you need a change, a new beginning to energize you. I want you to join me at my Keller Williams and we are going to form a partnership.” I was so broken…
I laugh now because if I had been in half of my right mind, I would have never been able to make a change like this at 62 years old! It was like going from wearing a very comfortable pair of shoes – all broken in and easy – to a brand-new pair! We all knew each other well. I had plenty of help. Now my sister was proposing I join this very young technologically cutting edge company. I said yes, but the training, the technology, all of it was so terrifying and so unfamiliar. I literally felt like the proverbial deer in headlights for six months. I absolutely lived in complete terror and fear of the challenges. Every day I faced trying to learn all these new systems, all new ways of doing business. All of it was just so overwhelming! Then, one day, I thought, ”Okay, God, you are challenging me, you are working on me, you are using me in some way that I don’t quite understand.” I thought, That’s it! Little did I know God had much more planned for me.
In the midst of this job change, I went to the dermatologist just to check out a little freckle on my nose that I have been watching for a couple of years. I was sure it was nothing…it turned out to be basil cell cancer. I went to Sloan Kettering to have it removed. I was convinced , Okay, this will be no big deal. They’ll take it off; it will be done. Nine hours later, I had a huge hole on the side of my nose. I had to go to another doctor to have bone surgery as well. One seemingly minor surgery turned into three operations. The last operation was plastic surgery where they took the skin from one side of my face and literally stretched it across my nose to cover up the hole that was left from the other surgeries.
I came home from the hospital with my face bandaged, like a mummy, only able to peer out of one eye. It took three months for my face to recover. Three months of not really understanding what was happening. I’m an ex-actress. So my face has been a focus of my work for years. To think about my face being worn away, cut away, well this really was devastating. It doesn’t get much worse. This absolutely hit me in my innermost vanity. I struggled with that a lot and I know God was very clearly revealing that to me.
My Little Secret
Finally, just when I was starting to recover, and right about the time I was coming up on my 10th year of surrendering my life to Jesus and giving up alcohol completely – I have not touched a drop in 10 years -God had something more in store. I sensed Him saying, ”Nancy, you have a little secret that I have been working on with you for a long time now, for 10 years, in fact.” He was referring to me smoking pot. That’s been my little secret that I did once in a while and I just kind of kept it to myself. I figured it didn’t harm anyone, I enjoyed it. I didn’t really want to give it up. But God once again honed in on that area of my life and said, “I need you to give up smoking pot.” And finally on my birthday, when I turned 62, I turned that over to God.
Last fall, I led one of the Oasis Bible studies, which if you were to ask me if that would ever happen, me, of all people, I would have said, “No way.” And I guess really looking at all of this now that I have been through the flames, now, in 2017, I can see in every single area of my life where God’s healing, teaching, and wisdom really shaped me and changed me. I lost so much, but it prepared me to lead the Bible study.
Looking back, I see that God literally allowed the stability of my family unit to be taken away. He allowed me to lose money and material things I thought were so important to me. Through the cancer, He took away my vanity. I really have relied on my looks my whole life. I had no idea if my face would ever recover. My looks were surely threatened. He took away that one little secret, that little vice, smoking pot occasionally. To be honest, I argued, “What’s the harm?” And He responded, “There is harm. I want you to give that up! He said this to me loud and clearly, “I want you pure. I want you to give it up for me.”
Relationships, restoration, and rebuilding
As a result of all of this giving up, this loss, this taking away, I saw the beauty of the healing of my family. Even with the breakup of my daughter’s marriage and all the betrayal from my son-on-law, through all that pain, my family bonded together in strength and love, in such a beautiful loving way. And my husband was incredible. I am more in love with him than ever. Through those three months of recovering from surgery, he loved me unconditionally. He was patient, kind, so tender toward me. I knew there was nothing he wouldn’t do for me, no matter what my face looked like. He’s an incredible man. I believe God was working through him to demonstrate his extravagant love to me. It was all amazing.
I also saw such restoration in my relationship with my younger sister through my partnership with her. We’ve experienced a paradigm shift, a real role reversal. She has become like the older sister in many ways, sharing her knowledge and expertise. We learn from each other every day – She teaches me and I teach her, in patience and kindness and goodness towards each other. Over the years, like many siblings, we’ve had a tumultuous relationship. We’ve had our ups and downs. To be in close partnership with her on a daily basis is extraordinary, something I never could’ve anticipated. Every day I learn something from our partnership.
I have learned that I don’t need anything but God to fill the cracks. I don’t need any kind of vice to relax. I can relax with God. I can inhale God. I can be with God. I don’t need anything…any recreational substance to fill those cracks because only God’s love can truly fill that empty space for me.
I discovered that while God gave me a beautiful face, that’s not where my real beauty comes from. It comes from within. God has restored my face, but before that happened, I had let go of my vanity. I had accepted that I might have to live with the results of my surgeries, with scarring. There was no guarantee. However, the restoration of my face is a true miracle compared to what I looked like after those three surgeries. I have also gained great compassion for people who struggle with their looks, people who are in pain or disfigured. I have eyes to see what I never saw. My heart has been tenderized and I have a more compassionate heart towards everyone.
More Than I Could’ve Asked or Imagined
I have been leading an Oasis Bible study! The Holy Spirit has been working in me to lead in a way that I never knew I had within me.
As a result of really being shut down on all levels, of barely leaving my home for three months, God really got a hold of me. I believe He wanted me to just be still and really get to know him. So I have.
In this New Year, my career has taken off again. God has provided for me extraordinarily. Every day I get more and more opportunities.
I see clearly in retrospect how God takes all of these trials and transforms them. It’s like there’s an old house that’s burned to the ground – our old life, our trials, our pain – and from those ashes, He creates a new house, creates a new foundation, creates something beautiful out of such despair and pain. He rebuilds beauty and the whole time He’s with us, He never leaves our side. I can honestly say through all of the trials I was never afraid, ever, because I always felt His presence.
Recently while listing a home, God revealed himself in such a beautiful way. My seller had upgraded one of the wall sconce light fixtures as I had requested. It was a switch fixture wired to turn on and off with a switch that was part of the fixture. He unfortunately chose the wrong one and instead chose a light fixture that once installed was wired for a wall switch, thus not allowing the light to turn off.
Through the three weeks of the listing, the light on the 3rd floor stayed on, day and night. It occurred to me that this is what God does for all of us who are saved. He rewires us so that our electrical system stays on always. Then we become the beacon of light for others – His light that never shuts off!
Questions for Discussion
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Her Life Speaks is all about Her testimony, Her life, and who God is in Her story. Here we write our stories in hopes of helping other women find their relationship with Jesus Christ.