All Posts /

Beauty in the Breakdown: Now What?

Beauty in the Breakdown: Now What?

I was in a studio in Franklin, Tennessee, about twenty miles south of Nashville, recording the song “Men and Mascara,” with Byron Gallimore producing, when the doctor called me. I saw his name on my phone but didn’t take the call because I didn’t want to break the creative flow. I wanted to focus on the music, but I was anxious, wondering what news the doctor wanted to tell me. So I called Mama and asked her to get the results for me.

On my drive back to Nashville, I called Mama to learn the test results. I feared that the doctor had told her that I had a brain tumor. My palms were sweaty on the steering wheel. That was not like me.

When I got her on the phone, Mama quickly said, “Why don’t you pull over, Julie, so I can talk to you?”

“No, I’m fine.” I kept driving. “Just tell me, Mama. What did the doctor say?”

Mama listed a litany of things that I didn’t have, things that apparently the doctor had told her the symptoms might have indicated, conditions that she had already looked up online.

“Okay, Mama.” I was growing impatient. “That’s fine. So tell me, what do I have?”

Mama seemed to take a deep breath before answering. “Well, the doctor says you have MS. They discovered some lesions on your brain.”

“MS? Lesions on my brain? Wha…?”

“Pull over,” Mama said again. “I’m gonna come and pick you up.”

“No, no. I can drive home,” I said.

When I hung up, the first image that went through my mind was of Carol, a young woman in a nursing home where I used to sing many years earlier, who also had multiple sclerosis. Wheelchair-bound from an early age, her body debilitated, her life limited to the confines of that nursing home, I saw Carol.

And I saw me. I was twenty-six years old.

I knew now why I had met her. I knew my music had helped her overcome her daily despair. I was glad of that, but it scared me to think that my future might be similar to Carol’s, confined to a wheelchair in a nursing home.

I had already overcome a number of difficult obstacles, but I had no idea how to face something like this.

All I knew to do was to cry out to God for His help.

I didn’t ask Him to heal me, although I believed that He could. My prayer focused more on how I was going to move forward with my life.

Tears welled in my eyes. “God, I don’t know what You want me to do with my life,” I prayed aloud. “Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been convinced that the reason You put me on earth was to sing country music and to lift people’s spirits. Now what?”

Of one thing I was certain: I wouldn’t tell anybody outside my family that I had MS, not my best friends, not my record-label executives, not my band members — nobody. I suspected that if people on Music Row knew I had MS, they would regard me as “damaged goods.” I had been in the music business long enough to know that it could be rather fickle — everybody wants you today, and tomorrow nobody knows your name. I especially worried that if the people at my record label or the concert promoters knew that I had this debilitating disease, they might assume that I couldn’t perform up to par anymore and doubt that I could still sing and play shows.

I pulled into our driveway and saw Mama and my sister Lorie, who was now living with us, standing on the patio waiting for me, along with my dogs. Mama and Lorie were crying. Clearly, Mama had shared the bad news with my younger sister.

We hugged in the driveway and then went inside the house. “Why are y’all crying?” I asked them. I smiled at them, attempting to hide my own stress behind an everything-is-fine look, a skill that I had mastered early in life.

“Why aren’t you crying?” Mama answered.

“I don’t know,” I said. “All I can think about is Carol. Maybe God wants me to do something else with my life. Maybe I’m supposed to help people like Carol, somehow.”

Excerpted from Beauty in the Breakdown by Julie Roberts, copyright Julie Robert.

* * *

Your Turn

Have you had to ask God “Now what?” after having the future you expected to have derail in front of you? I have! Have you felt the pull to help others through what you’ve suffered? What happened? Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full