When I sat down in front of my computer to start this blog entry the first thing I considered is where the heck do I start? If you got the chance to listen to my podcast episode for the Bread & Beats Mixshow, then you know my story is heavy. Lots of trials. The issue that I’m dealing with mostly at this time, is what I want to focus on now - leveraging the strength the LORD has given me to deal with my fight with heart failure.

Low key portrait with LVAD
Me, and my LVAD - The machine that pumps blood to my heart

I was diagnosed in late 2013 with cardiomyopathy (heart failure). I was put on three different medicines at that time, and told to watch my salt intake along with my fluid intake. The doctors made it seem so nonchalant and livable. So, I didn’t take it as serious as I should have initially. I continued to make poor diet decisions, and all but stopped exercising. I de-conditioned pretty quickly, which led me to my first heart attack.

At that time, I felt like my walk with the LORD was as strong as ever. I was deeply involved at church, Calvary Chapel South Bay. I did Sunday morning and evenings. I had Tuesday men’s group, and even did a Thursday night study. I worked on the security ministry there. I was being fed the Word often, and felt like I was on fire for the LORD.

I was still very lost when it came to my health though. I was proactive with my faith, but I was living reactively with my health. After that first heart attack, I had what felt like, a week-long conversation with the LORD. I spoke and then tried to listen. Continually. In time, I received an answer from Him. I felt like He was telling me that He was fighting for me, and would continue to do so, but I had to join the battle. I needed to stop working against myself, making poor health decisions. That is when I switched from being reactive, to being proactive in my fight with heart disease.

I made a promise right then and there, that I would join the fight instead of crippling God’s purpose for my life. It was from that point forward, that I felt His presence in my life stronger than ever before. He was encouraging me through His Word. He was speaking to me through every chapter and verse. Even through the music I was listening to.

This didn’t clear a path for me by any means. It’s not like everything just got better. As many of us have seen so many times before, things got worse. “The enemy” didn’t like the team that the LORD and I had formed. He was trying to disrupt us by getting at me through my health. I was weak in that area, so it was an easy way to get me off track. Even though I was trying to be proactive with my heath, making better choices, I went on to have 6 more heart attacks between 2016 and 2020, with the majority coming in 2019 alone!

I was weak, and I was defeated. But guess who wasn’t weak, and guess who wasn’t defeated? GOD! He continued to guide me and give me all the attributes I needed to keep waking up each morning, and keep fighting. During that time of struggle, I did a deep-dive in the Book of Job. Talk about perspective, motivation, and a great role model! As bad as I thought my situation was, Job endured a quality of suffering that I can’t even imagine. His plight made my fight look like a kindergarten math test. I read, and dug into that book with more intensity than another book in the Bible. That didn’t fix things either.

Portrait of surgery scars
Me, my artwork, and the LORD's artwork through my scars

It was in August of 2019 that I had my most massive heart attack, which led me to stop breathing for almost a full minute. It hospitalized me for 30 days before it was determined that I needed an LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device). The LVAD is a pump that overrides my native heart function, and mechanically sends blood to my body at an appropriate rate/amount. I learned that, before my LVAD, I was only getting about 9% heart function, and needed a wheelchair to get anywhere. I had no energy or stamina. Shoot, sometimes I even lacked the psychological will to do anything at all. On those days the LORD would scream at me. He always told me that, this isn’t why I’ve made it this far. He had another purpose for me. There was no quit in Him, so I tried to make sure I didn’t quit either. On my worst days I found that the LORD was giving me the ability to fight with an attitude and a drive to overcome, that I had never experienced before.

In September of 2019 I had open heart surgery to implant my LVAD. It was 6 hours of surgery, and then I was left on heart & lung bypass for 3 days to make sure the pump was functioning before they closed me up. The day I woke up, I was disoriented at first. Then suddenly, I was asked to pray. Not by anyone in the room with me, but inside of me. I felt like I was being urged to cry out in thankfulness to the LORD. So, I did.

I looked down at the scar running down my chest, and realized that it was the embodiment of everything the LORD and I had been through. It was a representation of my fight, and my success – like a gladiator that’s survived battle after battle. I broke the record at USC/Keck Medicine, for recovery time. Post op, to home – I made it faster that anyone had ever done it. It wasn’t an “I” situation. It was a “we” situation. We did it. It was the LORD who strengthened me in ways that I knew were far beyond my own ability.

Shirtless portrait showing surgery scars
My gladiator stance, looking to the LORD who gives me strength!

My physical struggles got so much easier after the LVAD. I was able to regain strength as well as a better quality of life. I still faced personal trials in my life, but when I was facing them, I would just peek at my scar you can see in the photos. I would realize in those moment that, what I was facing in the moment, paled in comparison to what the LORD and I had already done for me. Without the LORD and that surgery – I would be dead. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. I would be home with the LORD and a lot of my family members.

God has a reason for me surviving all of this; and there have been more trials since – physically and spiritually. He wants me to further His kingdom, and I am here to do just that. Today, I write this from a hospital room at USC/Keck Hospital waiting for a heart transplant. This is the situation I’m in. My typing this is how I further His kingdom today. No big deal. I feel His intense love for me, as well as His desire to use me for good no matter my health and circumstances. Hopefully soon, I’ll be able to serve Him differently, but that’s not keeping me from serving Him how I can now. He’s been too gracious to me. Your trials, troubles, and scars are all made for Him to use in a way that will glorify Him, just like He has with me. Embrace the mess! Accept the trials. Link up with the LORD and fight the good fight. The results will blow your mind.

Portrait with LVAD
This machine won't keep me from serving the LORD

#LVAD #heartfailure #hearttransplant #motivation #encouragement #perseverance #strengthinweakness #2corinthians1210 #properknowledge #breadandbeatsmixshow #photodocumentary #scars

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