Meg Apperson: I had to come to a place of trusting God that even though it looked like my life was falling apart and horrendous things were happening around me, really He was still in charge. He was not surprised. You know, as Christians He asks us, “Do you trust Me? Do you trust Me with the present? That I’ve got this under control? And do you trust Me with your future?” And you know whatever is happening is not going to derail you forever.
Trusting God in Your Present Pain: Meg Apperson and Karlie Green – Episode #288
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Perhaps you’ve received some news recently that has thrown you for a loop. Someone you love or care about is sick or dying. Or maybe someone close to you is struggling with the darkness of mental illness. Or maybe you yourself have had a health problem or a devastating diagnosis. In this life, we can be reasonably sure that none of us will be spared from suffering. How do we reckon our pain and suffering with a loving God who is supposed to take care of us?
There’s a verse in 1 Peter that says, “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
Our guests have found comfort in the truth that God is a God of healing and restoration, and that their suffering has produced endurance, strength, and knit them together in compassion for others. For this episode, we’ll hear from Meg Apperson, a mother of four who advocates for her special needs daughter Avery, and Karlie Green, a congenital heart disease survivor.
Let’s start with Meg’s story.
Meg Apperson: My name is Meg Apperson, and I’m married to my husband Cody. We have four kids: Maxon, Laura, Avery, and Ryan. I’m a stay-at-home mom and a home educator.
I’m from North Carolina, from a very large family. I’m number five of eight kids, and I knew I always wanted to be a mom when I was a little kid. I wasn’t dreaming about Prince Charming or my wedding. I was thinking about children and adopting children. That was definitely in my heart, to be a mom, and I thought I wanted to have a big family. My parents made it look so effortless. And I have come to learn that it is not effortless, and having a big family is a lot of work. But I’m grateful to have the opportunity to raise my four.
When Plans for Your Life Get Sidelined
I met my husband, Cody, through my brother-in-law at the time. I was a single mom, my son Max was three when we met, and we were just best friends. We almost immediately got married after about ten months, and then I got pregnant immediately with my daughter Laura. And the vision that we had for our lives, you know, we didn’t have a ton of really long-term plans because we were both very young. But I think it was more like a lifestyle that I had in my head that just had eased to it. And when my daughter Avery was born, that ease vanished completely and has never come back since.
So Avery was diagnosed prenatally, kind of by chance, in a third-trimester ultrasound. I was about seven months pregnant, and third-trimester ultrasounds are not routinely done. I had a feeling and I really demanded to see a specialist, and so we found out that she would have craniosynostosis. At the time, we thought it was single suture craniosynostosis, which is kind of a simple version of it. And, you know, I think we were really protected from the information of just how involved her needs were gonna be. We really had no idea before she was born. But that was kind of a miraculous detail that we couldn’t fully understand until she was born. The Lord really supernaturally spared both my life and Avery’s life by kind of shielding us from how involved her defects would turn out to be.
Our daughter was born just profoundly physically broken. As an infant, you could just see everything that had happened in regards to her syndrome initially. It just really impacted her structurally through her entire body. And so a lot of times we thought she was gonna have these limitations or the doctors had kind of warned us—she was on a ventilator for a few years. And we kept thinking that, you know, maybe that was gonna be it, maybe that it’s going to be her limitation for the rest of her life.
When you become a special needs parent, initially, your every thought is just consumed with either the present, how you’re going to support this child, or you’re learning how to meet their needs. And for some of us, the past, trying to scramble to find out what could have happened to cause what’s occurred, and then kind of worrying about and grieving what this child’s future is going to look like. And there’s really no way of knowing. So that just becomes a way of life. Those thoughts just take over everything.
“When you become a special needs parent, initially your every thought is just consumed with the present, how you’re going to support this child, or you’re learning how to meet their needs.” – Meg Apperson
You lose that language to converse with other parents who aren’t facing the same needs. We had home health nurses and we were talking to the doctors all the time. And so there was a lot of interaction, but there was so much isolation.
The Gift of Avery
My marriage with Cody was severely impacted by having Avery, and we lived apart for most of her first year. I lived in the ICU with her, and he lived at home with our older children.
It seems like this kind of situation with a special needs baby kind of breaks you. It breaks you apart. It breaks you as people. It kind of breaks that unity. And then, you know, it’s just being faithful and walking out our relationship with the Lord separately, you know, He was really able to create healing between the two of us separately and then in unity together.
The Lord really healed Avery in ways that we were very surprised and very grateful for, obviously. But there was really no way of knowing how much function she was going to have. And she’s just such a gift. You know, He really has healed her in a lot of ways and is continuing to.
Avery is the whole package. She is sweet and spicy—she just has such a little personality. She’s very, very sassy, for sure. She’s very verbal, which was something that we were kind of surprised about. It’s been a really sweet surprise for her to be so easily able to communicate. And she’s also, for all of her fire and sass, she’s really extraordinary. Her story kind of begs to be told, because it’s so unusual and hard and beautiful. And her voice, she physically has a voice that we weren’t sure she was gonna have. And then for a long time, I was kind of her voice chronicling her life and everything that was happening.
I think her mission right now is just living and staying alive and being the sweet, beautiful child she is and how she impacts people who watch her suffer so well.
Remembering God’s Faithfulness in Our Suffering
For as long as I can remember, my parents had always modeled personal devotions and we had devotions as a family. And then my grandmother, anytime we stayed with her, we would just watch her have this long, drawn-out time with the Lord, including the Jesus Calling devotional book, and so it was such a staple in my upbringing. I have my personal devotions and I just think it’s a beautiful offering for people.
My prayers are just, “Lord, help me surrender to Your will, Your will and not mine.” It’s so hard to come into a place where you can kind of release that white-knuckled control over your life or your children’s lives or your future. As somebody who struggles with wanting to control things, I really just have to pray, “Lord, help me. Help me to be malleable. Helped me be able to surrender.”
I don’t do it perfectly. I’m still learning to trust and pray that the Lord would help me remember His faithfulness and also to learn and to walk out suffering well.
“It’s so hard to come into a place where you can release that white-knuckled control over your life, or your children’s lives, or your future. As somebody who struggles with wanting to control things, I really just have to pray, ‘Lord, help me. Help me to be malleable. Help me be able to surrender.’” – Meg Apperson
Everything is being used for the good of those who love Him. You know, He’s really working everything out. All the suffering, all the pain, all the loss, all of the times that we feel like we’ve missed an opportunity or that we’re not going to get our opportunity. He really is in control. The Lord is not surprised by our humanity. He made us human, and so He is not put off by the struggle to surrender. He’s not surprised by the struggle to surrender.
“The Lord is not surprised by our humanity. He made us human, and so He is not put off by the struggle to surrender.” – Meg Apperson
Where trusting the Lord comes into play is that a lot of times, our version of perfect is not His version of perfect. We’ll never be perfect. But, you know, it doesn’t ever mean that we’re a lost cause, it does never mean that He can’t use us anymore. I think just the phrase “He works all things for the good of those who love Him” really is a truth that we can build our lives around.
Narrator: You can find Meg’s book, Sky Full of Stars: Learning to Surrender to God’s Perfect Plans, wherever books are sold.
Stay tuned to Karlie Green’s story after a brief message.
A Free Sample of Jesus Listens, Just for You!
Many of us want to develop a deeper prayer life. In the new 365-day prayer devotional, Jesus Listens, Sarah Young offers daily prayers based on Scripture that will help you experience how intentional prayer can connect you to God and change your heart.
Learn more about Jesus Listens and download a free sample at jesuscalling.com/jesuslistens.
Narrator: Our next guest is Karlie Green, congenital heart disease survivor, adopted daughter, identical twin, and author of Two Hearts, One Hope: A True Story of Enduring Faith in the Messiness of Life. Karlie shares her life story, full of loss and medical complications, but also full of love and the goodness of God.
Karlie Green: My name is Karlie Green. I am from a small town in Texas. I’m thirty-six years old. I’m a writer, the title of my book is Two Hearts, One Hope: A True Story of Enduring Faith in the Messiness of Life. And this story is a memoir about me and my identical twin sister, Kylie.
Two Hearts, One Faith
Kylie and I were both born with congenital heart disease. We were adopted at two days old, and our mom and dad were very Christian, devout people. We went to church three days a week and being brought up that way, I’m so grateful to know God and to be close to Him and to know where we come from. With Kylie by my side, we just had a great childhood.
I was born missing almost half of my heart, so they gave me two days to live when I was born. I’m one minute older than Kylie. She was born with one hole in her heart. But hers, you know, they had a lot of hope for her. The hole in her heart closed very quickly. She grew and blossomed as a child, and I didn’t. When we were growing up, I couldn’t run with other kids. I didn’t get to go to PE class, so Kylie stayed behind. And if I couldn’t walk that far, she pushed me in a wagon. She piggybacked me when she could.
I was very sick. I had had three open-heart surgeries by the time I was seven. She didn’t have to have any when she was a child, so she took care of me through our whole childhood. And when we turned eleven, we lost our mom to cancer. So it was just me, Kylie, and Dad. And we really leaned on our faith and each other during those times because we just didn’t have anybody. It was a tough time.
Our mom was such a God-fearing, God-loving mother, and we always knew that God was protecting us, and was helping us, and we learned that from her. I’m very grateful to have just those eleven years with her to teach us that.
She was very sick. She was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when she was just eighteen years old. She fought with everything she had to live and to make it. And by the grace of God, she did. She adopted me and Kylie, and at the age of thirty-five, it came back and God took her home. So I’m very grateful for those years.
When I turned twenty-five, I got rushed to the hospital. They removed a grapefruit-sized blood clot out of my heart. I had my fourth open-heart surgery, and they put a pacemaker in at just age twenty-five. When I was there, they gave me forty-eight hours to live. I went for a two-day visit and was there for almost a month.
Kylie never left my side. She just had faith that I was going to pull through. She’s been my lifeline. I don’t know if I would have made it growing up with just me—I wasn’t that strong. And I know that’s why God gave me a twin sister, because I couldn’t do everything. I needed help. She just really was my rock for thirty-five years, and I wouldn’t have made it without her growing up.
Twelve years ago, Kylie and her husband Derek had a son named Keegan. He was born healthy and perfect, and her heart was doing fine. She’d had one heart surgery at this point, during college.
After Keegan, Kylie wanted a little girl so bad. And when she’d her heart surgery, she had to choose if she wanted a mechanical heart valve or a pig heart valve, and she chose a pig one. The reason she did that is that if you have a mechanical heart valve, you cannot have any more children. And the only thing she ever wanted in life was to be a mother. So she got her pig valve and she tried for seven years to have little Kinsey—IVF, everything. So when she finally got pregnant, she was having seizures throughout her whole pregnancy. I mean, it almost killed her, but she just wanted a little girl.
She finally had Kinsey about four years ago. And at that time—a pig valve only lasts ten years. Well, last year was the fifteenth year. So her heart started giving out. Last July, she went in for her second heart surgery. She didn’t make it.
Now, I think about that. Why would God do that to me? You know she went in for her second heart surgery. I’ve had four, so no one in their right mind would think Kylie wouldn’t make it. She was an athlete. She played basketball. She was the captain of the swim team. And God took her home.
It was the hardest time and the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. Losing your mother, it’s traumatic as it is. But losing an identical twin sister, you know, how do you make it through that?
We had so many people up at the hospital who were up there praying for her: preachers, our friends, family. And He didn’t save her.
Well, one night I was lying in bed and, you know how you do that silent, ugly cry so no one hears you? I was just screaming on the inside, God, why didn’t You heal her? The Bible says you will heal her. Why didn’t You?
Faith Will Get You Through
I found Jesus Calling books a few years ago. I picked up the Jesus Calling devotional and I opened it to my birthday. And that day and every other page really feel like God is specifically speaking to me at that time. It makes you feel so comforted. And when you need that daily, this is the perfect book to pick up.
I bought four or five of them that day. I gave one to Kylie and she fell in love with it, just like I did. And as a matter of fact, the cover of my book is purple because that was Kylie’s favorite color. And I bought her the Jesus Calling journal and the mini-devotional and the regular purple devotional so she could have had everything in purple. And it’s gotten me through so much. I would recommend it to every person I know.
I have July 28th marked, it has a special meaning to me. So July 28th:
Let My Love seep into the inner recesses of your being. Do not close off any part of yourself from Me. I know you inside and out, so do not try to present a “cleaned-up” self to Me. Wounds that you shut away from the Light of My Love will fester and become wormy. Secret sins that you “hide” from Me can split off and develop lives of their own, controlling you without your realizing it.
Open yourself fully to My transforming Presence. Let My brilliant Love-Light search out and destroy hidden fears. This process requires time alone with Me, as My Love soaks into your innermost being. Enjoy My perfect Love, which expels every trace of fear.
And that’s my favorite, July 28th. Because that’s the day God took Kylie home.
Faith does not prevent tragedies, but it will get you through them. And when you lean on your faith, when you lean on God, you really do have His strength to go on. I’m not saying every day or any day is gonna be easy because it’s not. Kylie’s the first thing I’ll think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about when I go to sleep. But if you will talk to God, if you will tell Him what is wrong, how you feel, your faith will get you through whatever you’re going through.
“Faith doesn’t prevent tragedies, but it will get you through them.” – Karlie Green
Life is hard. It is very hard, and it’s tragic sometimes. There’s nothing we can do about it. But if you do not have faith in God, what do you have? You have to just have a relationship with Him, not just pray a short two-second prayer. You have to lean into Him. You have to give Him your problems. Give Him your thoughts, and His strength will get you through them.
I’ve had four open-heart surgeries. I have scars on my body. But there are two things about scars. One, scars are proof that God heals. And I tell people, “Yeah, I have scars. Everybody has scars. Mine scars are just a little more visible. And God really got me through that.”
If you or someone you know is going through something like this, I want you to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. There is. That light might not show up today, it might not show up tomorrow. But when you put your faith in God, when you start praying and really talking to Him and getting to know Him, just like the Bible says, He does everything for the good.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel. There is. And that light might not show up today, it might not show up tomorrow. But when you put your faith in God, when you start praying and really talking to Him and getting to know Him, you know, just like the Bible says, He does everything for the good.” – Karlie Green
Narrator: Karlie recently underwent a fifth open-heart surgery and received her second pacemaker, making her the only person in the world to have lived as long as she has with congenital heart disease and the only one to survive that many surgeries. You can find Karlie’s book, Two Hearts, One Hope: A True Story of Enduring Faith in the Messiness of Life, everywhere books are sold.
If you’d like to hear more stories about understanding suffering in our lives, check out our interview with Amanda Kloots.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we’ll hear from singer Granger Smith and his wife Amber, who tragically lost their three-year-old son in a drowning accident, and the prayer Granger prayed in the hospital while his son was still on life support.
Granger Smith: My prayer was “God, help me make the right decision in this moment right now for this, for my family. Help me put one foot in front of the other to fulfill Your purpose, to manifest Your promise to me right now and to this family. I need strength just to take one breath and put one foot in front of the other. And I’ll follow Your lead because I’m not in control here.”