The Unexpected Ministry of Chronic Illness

This is a guest post by Mary Frey.

If you had told me 9 years ago that I would be broadcasting my daily life and health struggles on YouTube for thousands of people to watch, I would tell you, you are crazy! As an eager Bible college freshman, I had grand visions for what my future ministry would be. Perhaps I would be a children’s ministry director, or maybe I’d work with young women, walking through life with them. I dreamt of God’s purpose for my life, but I never could have imagined what God had in store…

Making videos on YouTube.

Really?!?

It wasn’t long after my husband and I got married in 2011 that I had to stop working due to my health. I was born with Cystic Fibrosis, a life-threatening lung disease. Life looks different from day to day, but over the past few years, my healthcare has become a full-time job. My days start abruptly. After a full night’s sleep, my lungs have filled with fluid and I am awoken by a coughing attack. After about an hour of laying in bed coughing, focusing on breathing and trying not to gag and throw up from the amount of coughing, I move on to start my therapy. My therapy consists of doing an airway clearance shaking vest for one hour. I also do 3 nebulized medications which take about 15 minutes each. I take my first handful of pills for the day as I enjoy my cup of coffee (Note- I have learned from experience, coffee MUST wait until after the majority of the coughing has happened…if I reverse the order, well let’s just say it’s not a pretty sight). I then have a few hours to take a breather. Each time I eat I take pancreatic enzyme pills, it’s very important that I don’t forget to take these pills, as my body is unable to digest food without them. In the mid afternoon I do about 30 minutes of therapy in the form of exercise. And then another few hours to take a break. As bed time approaches I begin another hour of vest airway clearance therapy and do a few more nebulizers. I down my nighttime pills, and I’m off to bed. That is currently what my daily life looks like as far as taking care of my health. Many times throughout the year the infection in my lungs flairs up and I am placed on IV antibiotics. I usually spend about a week in the hospital a few times a year in order to receive aggressive airway clearance therapy and flood my veins with top notch IV antibiotics.

As I watched my health decline, and I lost the ability to be as involved with ministry opportunities, I soon realized that my ideas of ministry were turning out different than I had imagined. In August 2014, my husband and I started making videos on YouTube as a way to stay connected with friends and family while we lived overseas for several months. We began uploading videos to document our daily adventures, and pretty soon it was more than friends and family watching our videos. Strangers from all over the world started tuning in to our daily adventures, and it quickly became evident that my daily battle with chronic illness was attracting viewers from all walks of life. People with Cystic Fibrosis and other chronic illnesses began finding solidarity with the ups and downs of our everyday lives. Hundreds of viewers turned into thousands, and pretty soon our hobby had turned into something bigger than we could have ever imagined.

There have been countless emails, comments and messages about how people all over the world have been encouraged as they watch our videos and see how we handle chronic illness. Although only a small portion of our viewers fight the same disease as me, we all have something in common. We all long to be able to walk through the brokenness of life with hope and find peace amidst the pain. As we show our daily life, we do not hide the fact that our hope is in Christ. I’m often asked how I am so happy amidst the constant strain and struggle of living with Cystic Fibrosis. The answer is simply this “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” This does not mean that everyday is full of fun, or that I am constantly happy. On the days that I feel the strain of the reality of living with a life threatening illness, I look to Jesus to walk me through and hear my cry as I seek him amidst the craziness of this life. We feel humbled and honored that God has given us the opportunity to live life in this oddly public forum and to share our experience of walking with Jesus along the way.

I am continually reminded of Psalm 57:2, “I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purposes for me.” Even in the midst of uncertainty, the Psalmist claims with confidence the promise that God fulfills his purposes for us.  Although life and ministry looks vastly different than I had once imagined, I can say with confidence that God is a creative God and can use even the most broken and painful experiences of our lives to share the hope and joy that he offers with those around us.

I was a confused freshman in bible college trying to determine God’s purpose for my life when I changed my college major from urban studies, to women’s ministry, and then from women’s ministry to evangelism and discipleship. Nine years later,  I see how God used each step of my journey to prepare me for the unique ministry he so perfectly created for me to be a part of.

If you find yourself stuck and wondering how God can use a tricky situation, I encourage you to think outside the box.  I’m not suggesting that everyone should immediately start broadcasting their daily lives on the internet for all to see…I’m simply suggesting that our God is a creative God, and He fulfills his purpose for us… but it might not be what we expected. So don’t stop dreaming about what God can do with your life, and when life takes an unexpected turn, you can be confident in this, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)


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Mary Frey lives just outside of Boston with her husband, Peter and her adorable service dog, Oliver. Mary, Peter and Oliver have come to be known on YouTube as “The Frey Life,” documenting their lives through daily videos and showing the ups and downs of everyday life with Cystic Fibrosis. Mary loves sunny summer days, good thrift store finds, and relaxing in a hammock. You can follow her daily journey at youtube.com/thefreylife.

Comments

  1. Beautifully written. I am a daily watcher of The Frey Life and in our family, my youngest refers to Mary as “my Mary”. Though we have never met in person, she has taught me so much and influenced my life in many ways. Her faith is lived out with every breath.

  2. I too am a subscriber of The Frey Life & I agree Marys life us,a wonderful ministry for all people to share. I look forward to seeing Mary,Peter &,Oliver daily

  3. I, too, am a Frey Life follower. I thank Mary for reminding us that God is a creative and loving God – and when our lives take twists and turns, we need to just look to HIM for the answer.

  4. Mary! Wow! I had no idea you have been doing videos! That is so exciting! I remember you from Moody and how you helped me navigate to my first ever NT class with Marty when we were Freshmen. I am glad to see you in this creative ministry! Praise God!

  5. I am a follower of The Frey Life and have been for a while. Mary this was beautifully written. Amazing Job!!!!

  6. We have followed the Frey Life for some time now. Watching their videos has brought so much peace in my life since my best friend died and donated her lungs and kidneys. My friend died waiting for a heart transplant. I believe that God prepared me for what was going to happen to her and he showed me the Frey’s to help cope.

  7. Keep the Faith! GOD wants u Well! Seek as God leads for healing. I fight Chronic Pain n try to look at every day as my Healed Day! Prayers n Love!

  8. Mary, you are such an inspiration to me. I appreciate and enjoy the things you blog about. Dollar Tree finds, Thrift store finds and I really like watching you and Peter cooking and making yummy meals. I tried Pita bread after seeing your sandwich. Amazing! I have been eating healthier because of your grocery hauls. Thank you so much for the encouragement even though you don’t know the impact, you have on us, your friends. Your Story is beautiful and encouraging. PS. keep making goodies! Love you bunches💖👍⛪💞😁

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