Friday, December 30, 2011

Let's Hear It For Risky Behavior!

It’s not fun being sick on your anniversary. And I was. Last night was our 21st anniversary and I barely made it through dinner. I have this weird thing going on where my hormones go crazy at certain times of the month and I get flu symptoms. I get a terrible headache, ache all over, and throw up. It lasts for about 36 hours.  Not fun. Doctors are working on it, but no solutions yet. They tell me I’m a “special case”. Don’t we all love being “special”? Not this time! This was the sixth episode in the last six months.  I was not happy.   I lay there sick and hurting and wanting life to be different. I’ve been in this position quite a bit in the last few years with my different health challenges, and that just makes it harder to face. 

Praying for healing is such a challenging thing. I used to pray for the sick regularly as part of my church service.  I’ve seen some miraculous and instant healing. But then I’ve also had to face all the times that I wanted to be healed myself and prayed for myself and had other people pray for me and nothing happened that I could see.  God says to ask in faith, not doubting. But how can we ask in faith when it hasn’t worked so many times? That’s hard.

Last night I lay in bed and Nick rubbed my feet (poor man, not a great anniversary for him!) and the whole conundrum of healing was brought to the forefront again.  I wanted to be healed. Desperately.  I did not want to spend the next 36 hours throwing up and feeling awful. I had plans for Friday! For some reason I can’t explain, I was actually feeling hopeful. I prayed.  I asked Nick to pray for me, too. He admitted that it was hard to pray for me with faith when I’ve been sick so much.  But we both prayed anyway.  And I got better.  I relaxed, fell asleep and woke up feeling good enough to go to coffee with my friend Jamie.  I didn’t even throw up.

I still don’t get it. I don’t think God likes me better today than He did the last time I was sick.  We didn’t have more faith.  I was more hopeful, but I have no idea if that made any difference.  I’m just so grateful that I felt good all day and was able to tackle the “clean out the basement” project that I had scheduled for the family!  

God is mysterious and impossible to completely comprehend. I don’t understand Him but I love Him. I’m not going to give up trying to draw closer to Him and have faith for more of His power in my life.   I didn't occur to me until now, but maybe my being willing to risk praying for healing and hoping for healing is part of that risking that the Lord was talking to me about last week.  Hoping for my healing is definitely a risk I gave up on a while ago.  In this case, risking wasn’t scary….it was awesome!

Let’s hear it for risk!
Psalm 34:6 (NKJV)
This poor man cried out, and the LORD heard him,
         And saved him out of all his troubles.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Can You Hear I Love You?

It’s 7 a.m. on Christmas morning and my family is still asleep. (Remember, I have teenagers).  I’m sitting here in front of our beautiful tree waiting for the world to wake and yet relishing in the quiet of the moment.  Presents will soon be opened, food will be prepared and families and friends will gather around the world as we celebrate. For those of us who celebrate the birth of Christ, we have been given a gift beyond compare. The gift that changed the world.  The one that gives us hope and makes this life worth living.

Sometimes I think it’s easier to accept this amazing gift in an abstract way rather than a personal one.  You can believe that God saved you, but do you believe He loves you? Like really? Not in an theoretical sort of “God so loved the world” kind of way, but in a personal “God loves me right now where I stand with all my failures” kind of way?

God values you. He loves you dearly. God is perfect which means He is perfect in love. It means He loves you more than any other being. Ever.  It means his love is patient and kind. His love is unconditional. Towards you.  As I sat here with the Lord this morning, wishing Him “Happy Birthday”, I heard Him say “I love you.” I heard Him say “I adore you.” My heart was warmed with a sense of His deep and unfailing love for me and it made me smile at Him and say, “I love you” back.  Tears pooled in my eyes as I received the gift of his unending and unfailing love. A love given personally to me.

Can you hear the Lord say “I love you”? I hope you take some time to sit in his presence today and let yourself hear those words. I pray that you believe in your heart that they are true and specifically meant for you. I hope you feel the joy that’s in his heart towards you. And that you receive afresh the gift of God’s love given to the world and specifically to you.  God had a Christmas gift for me today. The gift of his presence and his love. He has a gift for you, too. I pray you open it. J

I wish you a Merry Christmas, I wish you a Merry Christmas, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

John 3:16 (NIV)
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Back To Longing

My very first post the day I launched this blog was about longing for God. As the year draws towards its close, I find myself in that same place again

I realized some things this week as I’ve spent time with the Lord (since it’s my Christmas gift to Him and all).  It is much easier for me to settle than it is to reach.  By nature I want to be content. I want to be happy with my life and I want to see the bright side of things.  I hate the pain of disappointment. The Bible says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” That’s exactly how I feel about hopes that I have that don’t come true.  It makes me sick. That was one of the biggest struggles with my leg last year. How can I hope for things to get better and not be bitterly disappointed with the present?

In my conversations with the Lord this week, He’s stirring some things up. It seems like He always wants me to keep reaching. He has more faith in me than I have in myself.  He sees me as stronger, more capable. He believes in me. He wants me to believe in Him. He wants me to risk.  But risk is well, risky. To risk is to face the possibility of disappointment, of hoping for something that I can’t have. I really hate that.   I’ve never been much of a window shopper. I don’t like to step foot in a store if I don’t have money to buy.  My mother says this aspect of my personality manifested when I was a baby.  She said I learned to walk at an early age, but I was very cautious in my methodology. I would pull myself up very carefully using a table. Then I’d look around for a while and make sure the coast was clear. I’d take careful, calculated steps. If I thought I was going to fall, I’d sit down. I manage my life like that, too. It’s safe and controlled, but limiting.

God Himself is limitless. He’s into risk. He’s into hope.  When I long for Him, it’s a risk. It means I am wishing for more of Him than I have.  Longing for more of the spirit of God to be present in my life, for more of Him and all that He represents to fill my life in all its aspects is dangerous. Longing for God to move more fully in my family, my friends, my church is to long for something I cannot see and cannot control.  But it is the place where He is nudging me.  My dear Lord--He loves faith. He loves hope. So I am going to go for it and trust in Him....the best that I can. If I find myself sitting down before I fall down, I will have to trust Him to help me get up again.

Psalm 42:5 (NIV)
Why, my soul, are you downcast? 
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
   for I will yet praise him,
   my Savior and my God.

Proverbs 13:12 (NIV)
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
   but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Page Torn Right Out of My Notebook

I just spent time with the Lord and talked to Him about my blog post for today. I didn’t know what to write. After my conversation with Him I realized that the simplest way to share the gist of that conversation would be to copy/paste it right into the blog. (I told you this blog was about putting my heart out there!)  Here it is. What I said is in black. What I felt He said back is in red. I smiled through most of this little interchange.

Dear Lord,
I’m kind of stuck. I don’t know what to write. I know I need to write from my life but nothing much is going on this week. I am grateful for you. I’m grateful that you speak to me and love me. I’m grateful that Faye said I had an excellent manuscript. I’m grateful that I have 2 weeks off for Christmas. I’m grateful that you speak to me and you are my friend.  

You are so good to me….what do you want for Christmas? 
That’s a good blog topic…..
Jesus, you are brilliant. J
Yes I am. J Literally I’m a genius. My IQ is the highest in the universe. I’ve memorized all truth. No, I am all truth. (I laugh right here)
J This was a legit question, not just a “I need a blog topic”. What do you want for Christmas?
“All I want for Christmas is you…..” (I laugh again. This is one of my fav contemporary Christmas songs by Mariah Carey)
You make me laugh. Seriously.
Seriously. I want to spend time with you regularly this holiday. Like every day. Like this. You and me talking, being together.
That’s not such a gift. What else do you want?
It is too a gift. It’s the one I want. I know your health is a struggle and you are a busy mother. Time is a lot to ask.
But you deserve so much more.
Tammy, you already give me a lot. You’ve given me your life and your heart. Giving me your heart is the most precious gift of all. I cherish it. I cherish you. 
You give me a lot more than I give you.
That’s called being God. And besides, I’m not keeping track…. But if you’re so desperate to do something for me, write me a poem, or a song. That would be nice. It would be from you…just make it from your heart. That’s the best kind of gift.
I love you so much, Lord. You are so very good to me. I can’t thank you enough or love you enough. If time is what you want, time it is. Wrapped in a big bow and given with a big hug. I adore you.

 So reader, I don’t know about you, but I’m giving the Lord my time this Christmas (and poem or a song, too). I would encourage you to ask the Lord what He wants for Christmas. Our relationships with Him are all so different. Who knows what gift He’d like from you? 

"Oh come let us adore Him, Oh come let us adore Him, Oh come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord."  Taken from "Oh Come, All Ye Faithful" 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

To Obey or Not Obey, That Is the Question

Reasons I told God I could never start a blog:
1)      I don’t have time
2)      I’ve never read a blog (that I can remember)
3)      I don’t know how
4)      I don’t have anything to say
5)      Who would ever read it?

I came into the blogging world kicking and screaming.  One day last February, seemingly out of the blue I felt like God told me He wanted me to start a blog. I spent the next several weeks talking myself out of it. “This is not God.  Why would he want me to start a blog? No one will read it and that will be incredibly embarrassing.”   

After weeks of fighting the idea, I reluctantly started doing some research. I began with a plain Google search, “Christian blogs.”  That was unnerving. I couldn’t find a single blog that looked like what I thought God wanted me to do.  I felt like God wanted me to take my spiritual life and put it on the Internet. Be real. Talk about the struggles. Share the stories. Put your guts out there. This terrified me. I have to say, it’s not the way I usually roll.  I’m pretty private actually, though you’d never know it if you read this blog!

The struggle went on for months.  I was sure no one would read it, afraid that I was making the whole thing up and it had nothing to do with God.  No matter what I told myself, when the summer hit I started feeling guilty and disobedient. I couldn’t shake the feeling that God wanted me to do this—though I had no idea why.  Finally I couldn't take the pressure. I promised God I’d launch it by July 31st. I started working on a blog. I even wrote a bunch of practice entries. July 31st came and went and I just plain chickened out.

Now the guilt was choking me. I don’t know why this was such a cliff jumping experience. I was expecting public humiliation and failure and I couldn’t figure out why I had to go through all this.

I launched solely out of obedience on August 10th.  And I lived to tell the tale! This weekend my blog stats indicated that I’d gotten over 100 hits in the last 30 days. I was shocked when I saw that. It makes me smile just thinking about it because God was so right. He told me that people would read it and they would be blessed. I didn't believe it. I couldn't see it. But He could. And He was right. He is entirely worth trusting. 

(And by the I really enjoy writing this blog. It's been very meaningful for me to be reminded of all God has done. I love telling the stories of how much He means to me.)

Psalm 25: 1-3a (NKJV)
In you, LORD my God, I put my trust.
 2 I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame,
   nor let my enemies triumph over me.
3 No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame,  

Sunday, December 11, 2011

It Is Well with My Soul 6 - Thank God Almighty, Free at Last!

It’s time to bring this story to an end. So here’s what happened:

I tried to go to Mayo Clinic to make sure we had the correct diagnosis. Mayo has a lengthy phone interview process. Afterwards they told me that they actually agreed with the diagnosis of AS and recommended I go on Enbrel, a strong autoimmune blocker.  I’d have to go to the chemotherapy department of the hospital once a week or two to get an infusion for an hour. It’s very expensive, even with insurance, and your blood has to be monitored for possible problems related to taking it. This whole thing would definitely be better than not walking, but I was extremely, painfully disappointed. I felt like I’d be sort of a sick person for the rest of my life. Nonetheless, I called up the rheumatologist to begin the process.  What else could I do?

In the meantime I’d been doing research online and I found a big fight on the Internet. There were people with AS swearing by this diet where you cut out all starches and thus kill the bacteria that lives in your system and mimics the gene that causes AS. If you kill the bacteria, the body stops attacking itself.  Some thought this doctor’s work was a hoax but I thought, “What have I got to lose?” So I tried it. And it worked.   After just a few days.  This was in July.  My muscles, which were pretty atrophied after a year of not working, have been growing in strength ever since. I started the school year without crutches!!!  I even went school shopping…..and it was a joy! J Halleluiah!!!!!

The diet is not a joy. No starches of any kind means no spices, no starchy vegetables, no grains of any type. In my case it also means no sugar or milk. Though the diet is a trial, I am so thankful that it’s working and I was able to get off the road I felt trapped on.

Do you know the story behind the hymn “It Is Well with My Soul”? Horatio Spafford was a wealthy business man who lost his fortune in the Chicago Fire of 1871.  A short while later, his daughters were crossing the Atlantic and all four died when their ship collided with another ship.  Several weeks after this, his own ship passed the spot where his daughters died and he wrote the song we still know today.

It gave me such inspiration, that song. If Mr. Spafford could go through so much, and still write those words, then I could make it, too. And make it not with bitterness, but with love in my heart towards my good creator who loves me and walked through every moment of my trial with me. He was a strong pillar, my greatest comfort--just like He said He would be.  I have grown in a patient trust through this experience, knowing that He helps us weather every storm.  I learned, deep in my heart, that with Him it is well with my soul.

“It Is Well with My Soul” by Horatio Spafford 1873
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.


My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!


For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.


But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!


And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

It Is Well With My Soul 5 - Face to Face With My Pride

When I think of my season of not walking, there is one story that stands out. I’ll probably remember it when I’m 80.

School shopping is a time honored tradition in our family, something my two daughters and I look forward to eagerly. So, despite the uneasiness of my first real public event in a wheelchair, I was determined to go to Spokane with the ladies and spend the day. Nick went strictly as moral support, shopping being an item on his “mostly avoid” list.

Nick pushed me into the Spokane Valley Mall and I instantly wanted to disappear.  I loathed the attention and having people look at me.  Having someone push me made feel small and helpless.  How do you hold your hands and feet so that they look the least awkward? (I decided on hands demurely in my lap and ankles crossed).  The girls, being teenagers, were able to go to stores alone but this was a departure from our normal habit of all going together. It’s usually my job to sit in the dressing room, comment and find sizes. I love it.

This time was different. The stores where they like to shop have full racks and narrow aisles, too small for a wheelchair. I went into American Eagle because the girls wanted me to see what they’d picked out but I couldn’t get past the first ten feet. Eventually I got close enough to the register to pay so they could move on to the next store and I got in line behind another adult. The man ahead of me left, but instead of serving me next the cashier motioned to a line of people on the other side of the store. I sat there motionless for five minutes. I didn’t have the nerve to raise my voice and ask if she would consider helping me. I felt stupid and out of place. Finally she looked up and said, “Ma’am, if you’re waiting to check out you’re in the wrong line. You have to go back there.” She pointed to a line that stretched towards the back of the store.  There was no way my wheelchair was getting back there.  The entire line of people stared silently at me. I stared back in horror for a moment and then turned and wheeled towards the door. I didn’t know what to do. I was alone and too proud to be honest with the clerk (who was clearly lacking in sensitivity).  Nick walked in and I burst into tears. He took one look at me, got the items and told me to wait out in the mall.

I am quite aware that there are many who have it way worse than me. There are those who have never walked in their lives, people who are dying of diseases, just to name a couple of possibilities.  Regardless of whether or not I had a right to be upset, I was.  I was stripped bare. I wanted to be assertive but I was silent, I wanted to be strong but I was weak.  I was forced to come face to face with my pride. I didn’t want to be a needy woman who had to ask for favors or special help.  This whole situation got at something very deep in my soul. Stuck I was in a place not of my choosing but one in which I had to learn to accept vulnerability and neediness.  God help me. Thankfully, He did. Another stop on my road to learning what it means to live “not matter my lot, though has taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.”

Sunday, December 4, 2011

It Is Well With My Soul 4 - A Very Present Help in Trouble

The last post ended with me hanging on to my pillar for dear life--and trying to maintain the right attitude.  As I said before, I bounced around on that one.  I’d be at peace for days and then all of a sudden I would crumble. I’d cry and whine to the Lord and wish for things to be different.  Here’s the crazy, wonderful thing about God: I didn't blow Him away or freak Him out. He loves me. Period. He’s “an ever present help in trouble” just like the psalmist says He is.   He never got mad or told me to get over it. He didn't tell me how much better I had it than so many other people. He didn't ask me to “look on the bright side”.   Whenever I turned to him I felt waves of love and compassion. I felt like He was in the midst of it all, walking with me on the good days and the bad. It was remarkable. I’d go to Him at the end of my rope. Somehow in the exchange of my admitting my need and crying out to Him, He would meet me. He would fill my soul and I would be able to go on again.  I’d never experienced anything like it.  

This went on for a while.  I was able to switch from the wheelchair to crutches at the end of September, but after that there was little improvement. Finally, in January when I hadn’t really gotten any better I started seeing some other doctors. I had two to three doctor appointments a week, usually at least one of them out of town.  No one knew what the problem was.  My symptoms didn't really look like an autoimmune, so they weren’t convinced that was the problem. May came and there was no real change.  By this time it had been almost a year.  

When it all started I never imagined it would be year later and I wouldn’t be walking.  Not only did I need crutches, but I couldn’t walk that far on them either.   Shopping was out of the question.  One day I remember driving to the mall during my daughter’s soccer practice.  I had a Starbuck’s card and I wanted a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a handicap parking spot or any spot close enough for me to walk into the store. I drove around for ten minutes and finally gave up. I know it’s a small thing, but it made me feel helpless. It drove me to Jesus again, and in Him I found everything I needed to keep going….once more I would find that place where it is well with my soul. 

"It is Well With My Soul"
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

It Is Well With My Soul 3 - God Is My Pillar

How do we live with circumstances we don’t like and can’t control? In the midst of my muscle drama I tried on different attitudes like people try on hats.  I wanted to stay close to God and maintain a godly attitude. I wanted to be hopeful, but patient, positive but not demanding. I wanted to contend for healing and yet be at peace.  Most of all, I wanted to hold tight to my belief in the goodness of God when my world didn’t seem very good.

And my world wasn’t great.  I felt terrible. My leg hurt all the time. A lot.  By two in the afternoon I was barely hanging on. It wasn’t just leg pain, either. Due to the autoimmune I hurt all over and didn’t have any energy. Everything was an effort. I probably should have gone on disability. I could have, but I didn’t want to!  I wanted to be there for my students. I’ll let you in on a little secret about children----they hate substitutes. With a passion.  

By the time I got home every night I was done. Then I had to watch my family do everything for me. Cooking, cleaning, shopping, the works. I hated it. They were wonderful, but I hated it.  The guilt ate at me.   This wasn’t supposed to be my life.  

But it was. And I couldn’t power out of it. 

A curious thing happened in August. Before school started. Before I knew I’d be in a wheelchair.  In fact, at this point I was still hoping foolishly that it would end soon.  I wasn’t walking much at the time but I went to church that day with a cane.  On our way out of the sanctuary I was stopped by a gal I hadn’t seen in years.  She said God had given her something for me and asked if she could share it.

She didn’t know my situation. No one knew what I was really facing at that time, especially me.   But here’s what she said.  “God wants you to know how much He loves you and how dear you are to Him. He’s proud of you.  He wants you to know that He is going to be your strength. He is a strong pillar. He wants you to wrap your arms tight around Him and hang on.  He isn’t a hard pillar, either. He’s warm and soft and you can hold tight to Him.”  I had no idea then what that word would come to mean to me.  My God, who loves me dearly, wanted to communicate His love to me and let me know that He would be there for me. All I had to do was hang on. And that’s exactly what I did.
More to come…..

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.