I feel like my story doesn’t start at my childhood; instead it starts almost a year ago. But for the sake of understanding my journey to God, let’s start at the beginning. I grew up in an unbelievably loving, comfortable, Christian home. Just me and my parents. We always found ourselves in church on Sunday mornings until I started playing travel sports and we started finding ourselves in hotel rooms, driving down the road, or on a softball field on Sunday mornings. Church just faded into the background for awhile.
Fast forward to the years of middle school and high school. One of my friends took me to a youth service on a Wednesday night where I unexpectedly ran into a lot of other friends, as well. Now as a younger teen, any time spent with friends – whether it’s in church or not – is simply just a social hour. Sometimes the message from the youth service would sink in and I could feel God reveling in the fact that I heard His message. But more often than not, youth service was social hour. And I knew this wasn’t what God had in mind when He brought me to that church.
Fast forward one more time to sophomore year of college. God used an unhealthy relationship and heartbreak to drive me to the church that would initiate the change in my life and my relationship with Him. Months went by and I found a home in Church of the Highlands. I was given the opportunity to work with Highlands Kids for a while and to join a LIFE (Living in Freedom Everyday) small group. Both of these things changed my heart tremendously. But it was the numerous amount of Sunday morning messages that I felt were spoken only to me that made me understand just what it means to be a daughter of Christ.
Now this is where I feel like my story really begins: December 23, 2015. About a month and a half shy of a year ago, I found myself in a doctor’s office trying to process the words “you have cancer”. I was diagnosed with hairy cell leukemia; this is a rare disease on its own, but when it is found its common home is a 70 year old male. I was 21 at the time. I found it by accident. I had no symptoms, no pain, nothing that seemed abnormal. My new family doctor needed some updated blood work and because hairy cell leukemia is a cancer of the blood, that’s exactly where things started looking suspicious. I was put through a dosage of chemotherapy and found myself admitted to the hospital on the last day of my 8-day continuous treatment because my blood counts had bottomed out and I was running a fever of 102.
“Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” [2 Chronicles 20:15 NIV]
This is when I started feeling like it wasn’t me that had turned my back on God, but instead God had turned His back on me. So I became angry with Him. I couldn’t find a logical answer to why I had to be given cancer. And every time I tried to answer the “why” question, I only grew angrier and angrier with God. For several weeks, the bad news kept tumbling into my life; so did the anger. I wish I could say that one day I woke up and I realized how foolish I was being by having so much anger towards my Maker. But becoming un-angry with God took more time than becoming angry with Him did. Progress towards remission has been – and still is – a slow process for me, but every day I am thankful that I am going forward and not backward, that my cancer is curable, that I’m not terminally ill, that one day I will be cancer-free which is a privilege denied to so many others. So eventually, it just hit me. Who am I thankful to? I can’t be thankful to God for the very same reason I’ve been so angry with Him. And so the anger started wearing off. I realized that I have a lot of amazing people who support me and lift me up and a body that is still young enough to fight harder than cancer could see coming, but more than that, I have a Father that is so much bigger than cancer.
“Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” [Psalm 106:1 NIV]
God has always been at work in my life. He’s always been pushing to get me to the path that would help me figure out His plan for me. Through cancer, He got me there. I realize now that maybe cancer wasn’t my ideal route to figure out God’s plan, but it quickly opened my eyes to the fact that through my trials, through my tests, and through my story, I was put on this earth to draw others closer to His love and to remind them that even when times get hard, God is with you. I always try to write in a way that will impact someone’s faith so that I can always look forward to seeing the work God will do through my own story.
“…If God is for us, who can be against us?” [Romans 8:31 NIV]
Jessica Hill lives in Auburn, Alabama where she attends Auburn University as a student in Mechanical Engineering and plays mom to her 3-year-old pup. With a big heart for those that are silently hurting due to her quiet battle with cancer, she strives to never forget Hebrews 13:1-2 “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” By keeping this close to her heart every day, she is constantly reminded to love others like God loves them, so they can see, through her, what kind of love is waiting for all of God’s children.
You can follow her story on her cancer, her faith, and the connection between the two on her personal blog at hcl1223.wordpress.com.