The Word Among Us

May 2016 Issue

God’s Joyful Runner

A daughter of God proclaims the Father’s healing love.

By: Nyla Leipold

God’s Joyful Runner: A daughter of God proclaims the Father’s healing love. by Nyla Leipold

Recently I caught up with a friend I hadn’t seen for awhile. “So, are you still running around like a teenager?” he asked me.

“I certainly am,” I answered.

This question, or some variation on it, is put to me quite often. At eighty-three, I’m no teenager. And the fact that I can run—or simply walk unassisted—is nothing short of a miracle.

In God’s Hands. About fifteen years ago, I developed balance problems that caused me to have a number of falls, some of them serious. After many medical tests, I was finally diagnosed with Parkinsonism, a debilitating disorder of the central nervous system that is related to Parkinson’s disease.

I wasn’t too surprised. You see, my brother also had a form of Parkinson’s, and so did my aunt. I accepted this diagnosis, while also doing what I could to keep the condition at bay. Swallowing my pride, I began walking with a cane (always an attractive and colorful one that I could call an “accessory” rather than a necessity). I did physical therapy, exercising four times a week with a personal coach. Still, my condition worsened to include involuntary movements—jerking and mild tremor spasms—along with choking and difficulty swallowing.

On a number of occasions, people prayed over me for healing. I believed that God could do this. I had prayed with people myself and had seen his transforming power in other areas of my life and other people’s lives. But when my healing didn’t happen, I accepted the situation without begging God to change my lot. This was not grim resignation. I knew that Jesus had not abandoned me. I trusted that he was with me and that he would continue to take care of me. Plus, I was surrounded by a loving husband, family, and many friends.

“Mom, That’s You.” On March 16, 2013, my husband, Gordon, and I, along with other family members, attended a special healing service hosted by our parish. Though I had dismissed the idea of healing for myself, I was curious to see what God might do for other people.

The service was led by Damian Stayne, a layman from England with a well-known healing ministry. He encouraged everyone to have deeper faith in God, and he spoke “words of knowledge” about specific illnesses and conditions. When he mentioned spines and mobility issues, my daughter tapped me on the back. “Mom, that’s you,” she said.

I dutifully raised my hand. As Stayne led the huge crowd in prayer, my family placed their hands on me and joined in. Almost immediately, I felt jolted by something powerful, like lightning or electricity. In astonishment, I laid down my cane, stood up straight for the first time in years, and walked with no problem.

It took some time to grasp the full extent of my healing. One day, feeling an urge to run, I elatedly raced up and down the hall of our long, ranch-style home. For months, I was almost giddy with excitement, awe, and joy, as I discovered other new abilities: genuflecting, running up a flight of stairs, and even hiking over rough terrain. The spasms and jerking have disappeared. I eat without choking. My handwriting is legible again. Now able to hold a brush, I’ve resumed painting landscapes and still lifes.

See Me Run! On March 22, the week after my healing, I was struck by the closing prayer for that day in The Word Among Us:

Come, Holy Spirit, and touch me with the fire of your love. Show me what a tremendous gift you have given me—the invitation to show the world that you are still working your miracles today.

Realizing that this was God’s message to me, I took it both as an explanation for why I was healed and as a mission. So I began trying to live that prayer by sharing my story with everyone who would listen. I told the clerk in the grocery store. I’ve talked to strangers, to friends and acquaintances who wonder where my cane is. I’ve talked to parishioners who know about my healing but want assurance that it was truly a miracle. “Do you want to see me run?” I ask everyone. And then I do—so readily that my family has taken that question and turned it into a nickname. They call me Nyla Do-You-Want-to-See-Me-Run!

I even ran for my neurologist. Walking into his office for my regular checkup, I told him I had been healed. He put me through various tests and found no signs of my previous illness. Finally, with a big smile on his face, he watched me run down the hall, stop on a dime, turn, and run back. “I usually don’t get to see things like this,” he told me. “My patients never get better.” He acknowledged the importance of faith, thanked me for coming in, and then marked my chart Dismissed. The receptionist looked at me with surprise as I left. “Dismissed? We never dismiss patients!”

Beloved. That little meditation prayer still moves me. I still witness to the fact that God works miracles today. But my message isn’t mainly “See Nyla run.” Above all, I want each person who hears my story to experience in their own way that God is a loving and merciful Father who delights in them. As I’ve come to see, this, too, is a healing miracle.

Not long ago, I found myself facing some unexpected challenges that replaced my joy and giddy excitement with fear and anxiety for the future. As I desperately begged God for help, I sensed a quiet voice:

Nyla, if I can reach down and, in an instant, set you free from a debilitating illness—and for no reason whatsoever except my love for you—don’t you think I can handle this situation as well? Lay it down, and watch me. Trust me with this and with the rest of your life.

God seemed so close to me at that moment that it almost felt as if I could touch him. He was my Father, and he was looking at me with love and kindness, gently reassuring me that he had me in the palm of his hand. And in a flash, he gave me a fresh new perspective of myself as his beloved daughter. This insight is still sinking in.

When Jesus walked the earth, every miracle he worked was an invitation to faith. The same is true today. And so I pray that my healing story will turn people’s eyes to the loving Father who delights in them. May we all experience his tender gaze and his presence in our lives. May we hear him say, You are my beloved daughter . . . my beloved son. I am with you. Trust me.

Nyla Leipold and her husband live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.