Thursday, June 6, 2019

Redefining God's Goodness

The most haunting #EvenIf hanging over me has been, even if answers nor relief don’t come will I be able to cherish the life I do have? Seven months ago I would have answered a similar question with prideful arrogance assuming it was confident faith. I thought my ability to always see the blessing and joy in everything was a healthy outlook but it’s an unhealthy coping mechanism. Doubt doesn’t make me any less loved, cherished, chosen and blood-bought! Faith doubts don’t disqualify us friends!

Having my health status change so radically from #MiracleinMotion to mostly bedridden with excruciating chronic and worsening pain and overwhelming exhaustion felt unfair and impossible to bear. And then there was the ever growing weary faith which was initiated by the tough symptoms those early months and nearly snuffed out as the mystery of this health status grew. God has provided in every way even when I was angry, worn down and even throwing spiritual temper tantrums. Lysa TerKeurst’s words here have never been more true in my life, “God is good. God is good to me. God is good at being God.” His goodness wasn’t changed by a sucky situation. BUT, I had to let God redefine what good means to me. I let my gaze wander to my circumstances more than Him which clouded my perspective and nearly blinded me from His Truth. He was patient and kind. That’s God’s goodness. And early on Jesus spoke this #EvenIf message in my heart which helped me set a spiritual boundary: no matter what I would spend time with Him every day. That’s God’s goodness. He knew the storm that was brewing and prepared me for it. And y’all pain can quickly push you to choosing anything over Him. 

The #EvenIf Excuses included but I’m sure were not limited to:

  • even if I wasn’t in the mood
  • even if I was angry at Him
  • even if I wanted to end it all and just go home (I could have been cute and said, “hand in my pink slip” but I’m being brutally honest)
  • even if I hated every second of my life
  • even if I hated Him (Yikes, I know it’s dark and horrible but it’s also true)

Jesus knows I’m a girl that thrives with accountability and in routine so the #EvenIf choice meant I would have my holy routine, even if it was the bare minimum of quality time

with Him. God knows me so well, that’s His goodness.

My basic holy routine:

  • I would still wake up and think of Him first (I would not let the pain be my first thought!)
  • I would still spend at least thirty minutes in His Word every morning and pray (even through gritted teeth)
  • Throughout the day I would listen to at least one sermon or Spirit-filled podcast or have worship music play over me (even if my eyes rolled so far back I thought I would go blind)
  • I would fall asleep to His Word

You can call it a “fake it until you make it” mentality BUT it kept my Jesus anchor firm even as the waves tossed me about. And as the Light of Life was often barely visible as those

same waves crashed overhead threatening to take me under He was still always

near. That’s God’s goodness. I made that choice to be anchored in His truth even as my flesh burned with rage and as depression and anxiety seemingly swallowed me whole. My faith in Jesus Christ doesn’t make it all better, there isn’t always an easy fix to

physical and mental health issues. But expecting my faith in Jesus Christ to

always work like Thanos snapping his fingers or a vending machine dropping my favorite treat on command isn’t reality, it’s a lie of the evil one who has been prowling around waiting to pounce the second I stopped going through the motions. Choosing to “fake it until I made it” out of the darkness was allowing time for Jesus to heal me from the inside out. Healing

must take time, work, intentionality and will mean making hard choices. Putting

a cast on a broken bone doesn’t immediately heal that bone. Seeing a

therapist\counselor\psychologist doesn’t immediately heal those deep hurts.

Taking meds for physical or mental health doesn't immediately stop the pain

(although some of those pain pills thankfully mask the pain pretty quick). We

must give ourselves and God time sweet friends. God can and has healed in an

instant, He also healed me after eight years of a chronic and terminal lung

condition that medically had no cure! God doesn’t need us to pray, to make the

choice to focus on Him over ourselves and our sometimes crappy circumstances

but He will use those choices for His glory and our best. That’s God’s goodness. God doesn’t need us but He does invite us to join Him not only in relationship with Him but also in doing Kingdom work. That’s God’s goodness. And y'all fueling and maintaining our faith and securing our testimony is vital Kingdom work! As my #sisterfriends at Proverbs 31 Ministries declare, "Know the truth. Live the truth. It Changes everything."

God’s redefining of His goodness was best on display as I finally laid down my false need for answers verbally, physically and spiritually because y’all the hardest part of the past six months has been the long wait full of unknowns. I’d take the pain, the depression, the doubts and so much more if I had a clear diagnosis and treatment plan in place. I’ve discovered that motivation is the number one reason I’m an Enneagram FIVE! Geesh. Admitting I couldn’t research and plan my way out of this and that I truly had to let Jesus take the wheel and release all sense of control stinks! The truth is, any sense of control we feel is false, any time we let our feelings or emotions steer the ship we will crash and anytime we’re trying to shut God out we will sink under the weight of the suckiness and will give the enemy a chance to take us down for good. There were plenty of days, even weeks where I spent the bare minimal amount of quality time with God, as listed above, and would run toward my favorite hiding places: binging on fictional characters and ridiculous reality shows in books, TVS and movies. And the bare minimal meant I was barely anchored but God is good and He used even my most stubborn days for His glory and my best.

The Health Update: My spleen was majorly unhealthy and it’s what got my attention but it also set off a major rabbit chase all around my body until we found the source: my spine. Years ago I was diagnosed with four herniated discs and nerve damage in my lower back but it wasn’t radial so we could treat it with physical therapy and pain management and while it’s always there it’s managed well. But now my thoracic spine (the middle and upper middle portion) has thrown my whole body out of whack and is causing all of this mess. We are waiting for a neurologist now to determine if these two herniated discs, nerve damage and degeneration are radial which will require surgery. My biggest prayer is that I don’t let the Doctors, diagnosis or treatment plans define me, ground me or rule me. That I doubt in healthy ways always letting God remind me that His goodness is not my definition of good. 

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Remembering Dave 2019

Remembering …

I didn’t want you
I hated the idea of being a big sister
I knew it meant your well-being would be my life
I resisted caring for you
I didn’t want to love you
I was six going on 16

BUT then … you arrived: broken and truly helpless

You needed me
You loved me
You gave me life

I fell in love
I proudly became “mean mom” and occasionally got to be fun big sis

Seven years without …
    Your rhymes
    Those annoyed grunts at my silliness
    I love you sis goodbyes
    “watcha doing sis” daily texts randomly throughout my day

Seven years a big sister without a baby brother to care for, worry about, love and protect.
BUT, you’re with Jesus who loves you more than even I could.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Miraculously healed. Stunned silent. Free to live.

I’ve been HEALED of my chronic lung disease for which there is no cure and of the severe asthma that was the most imprisoning symptom of that disease. Nearly four years ago I was told I didn’t have much of a chance to live longer than six months, that hospice would be in my near future because I was in stage four of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). Nine weeks ago I was freed from my terminal illness. #yayGod #PowerofPrayer #LookUp #FindHope #HopeInChrist #ShoutHope
While I have told some my incredible news I have not shared it publically. And why not?
Stunned silence
Those two words best describe life in the moments, days and even weeks after the doctor’s office called with negative test results. I assume when people are given a miraculous diagnosis they can hardly contain their excitement and when that excitement didn’t come I was ashamed. I had thought boundless joy would ooze from me so I punished myself for not rejoicing more and even started hating myself for my lack of enthusiasm.  
Stunned silence kept me from glorifying God for what He has done in my body.
But the more I shared the more I saw God’s plan unfold and that His grace, love, and patience with me as I accepted His miracle as my new reality is almost as remarkable as the miracle itself.
Freedom to live again
I never doubted I would feel breathe in my lungs again. I never doubted I would feel life coursing through me. I knew my miracle would come. But, I had accepted that the healing would not be on this side of Heaven. I had embraced that God kept me on earth to live out this health journey glorifying Him and showing that one can live with peace and joy radiating from them no matter the tough they face when they make the choice everyday to focus on God and not the pain.
However, I’ve been ready to go home and be with Jesus for years now. Chronic illness is exhausting and the more my body betrayed me the more I longed for relief. While God empowered me to choose joy and light every day as illness ravaged through my body that choice wasn’t easy. I was living less and depending more on routines to keep me tethered to earth. I wanted to wait well as I longed for eternity.
Rarely, if ever over the last eight years have I been able to stop and hear the leaves falling, have I heard the shuffle and crunch of leaves underfoot or been able to look up and let a snowflake land on my tongue. I had to hide from weather, especially cold air, but now I can walk into the wind of a blustery cold day. I no longer have to scramble to find a germ mask, soak it through with essential oils to put on under the massive array of scarves and hats to merely make it to and from the car. The seven stairs that lead up from my apartment are no longer a mountain to climb but a quick jog. I’m making plans with ease, not consumed with dread at the possibility of canceling at the last minute. I am free to run errands when a need or want arises.
Less than a month after my miraculous diagnosis I felt God leading me to strap on my walking shoes. I was terrified. I’ve more than doubled in weight over the past eight years, my back and right hip are a mess of herniated discs, bursitis and nerve damage. I made it approximately 300 steps in four minutes walking around my building and collapsed on the stoop of my apartment as the searing pain surged through my body but I could BREATHE! Walking was just plain ugly for weeks. I have felt the hand of God on my back, gently pushing me along as I longed to turn around. I have felt the Spirit as I set my daily and long term goals and two days ago I met my first big goal of walking 30 minutes a day a week early! #OnlyGod   
God chose to heal my lungs but left a few other thorns. My body has internal and external scars from the medical trauma. But I can breathe! Pain is more bearable when you can breathe. Suffering is less intense when you can breathe. Panic, anxiety and depression are easier to manage when you can breathe.
I’ve shared before that my illness was my greatest blessing because it stripped me of everything I had known and allowed me to fall in love with Jesus in a way I don’t know I would have without it. How do you not feel honored and chosen when the very day you hand over your life to Jesus your body betrays you and you are forced to your knees? I was blessed to discover that in my weakest moments I was the strongest I had ever been because I let Jesus be my everything. Every breathe I took, every breathe that was hard to take, and every breathe I would ever have would be His to give me. Some may see it as being powerless but I felt empowered.  The spiritual battle was intense. The week I walked into a church out of desire and not obligation was the week my illness began, slowly destroying my body and the day I was saved was my first trip to the emergency room.

Healthy or sick, breathing easy or struggling, with pain surging through my body I will always trust God. I will strive to wait well. I will obey God as I fully rely on Him. I will remain a good patient who listens to her body, isn’t afraid to ask questions or get a second opinion and who speaks up!
Happy Thanksgiving! We walked 19 minutes today and went further today than I been able to go! 

Overwhelmed by God's beauty as I walk further and longer every day. 

“Miracle” by Unspoken

"If you depend on Him, your body and mind will be free from the strain of a sinful life, will experience healing and health, and will be strengthened at their core." ~ Proverbs 3:8 (The Voice)

But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. ~ Malachi 4:2 (The Voice)

"Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered," ~ Psalm 105:4-5 (ESV)

"and finally He said to me, “My grace is enough to cover and sustain you. My power is made perfect in weakness.” So ask me about my thorn, inquire about my weaknesses, and I will gladly go on and on—I would rather stake my claim in these and have the power of the Anointed One at home within me." ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9The Voice (VOICE)

Monday, January 18, 2016

Overcome by grace

Seven years ago today I handed my heart over to Jesus after a two month journey of discovery and healing that tore my hard hearted walls down. I didn’t arrive at church that day expecting to be saved by God’s grace and born again into God’s family. The Pastor issued an invitation to anyone that wanted prayer for Jesus to enter their lives. I knew instantly God was calling me to move my little legs toward the stage and step out in faith but I tensed my body, locked my arms in front of me and refused, at first, to surrender. This church is basically mega and while the band played “Overcome” and thousands of voices sang along I could only hear the lyrics as a gentle whisper.
This journey began on my knees as I had been left shattered by a broken marriage. The night I asked God to send me help and restore my hope was the first time I had ever prayed and asking Him for help that night opened the door for His unconditional love to wash over me.
What I have learned these past seven years is that while here on earth l will never be perfect, my life will never be without trial and I constantly need to run from temptation and run to God. Elohim, the Creator of Heaven and Earth  who hung the moon and each star longs to spend time with me, is always near and whose presence I can feel as sure any friend who stops by for a visit. I am grateful for blind faith that allows me to rejoice in the Lord despite loss, grief and pain. I am amazed each day that God gave His one and only on Son so that I could have a relationship with Him.
         The first eighteen days of 2016 have given me a greater understanding and appreciation for abandoned obedience to God. Jesus has already showed me that this year I will walk the path He has been patiently leading me down. For this first time on my Faith Journey God has led me to write a Mission Statement\Action Plan for the year ahead: I will serve the LORD with complete OBEDIENCE, sold out to His will, plan and calling for my life. I will listen to the LORD in daily prayer and quiet time, immerse myself in His Word as I read and study and I forsake my sinful nature and selfish desires. I surrender wholly to the LORD as He refines, renews, restores and reshapes my heart and spirit. I will give God my firsts: time, strength, energy, love, soul, mind, heart and body. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Hope admist grief

Today I would have been married nine years.
We never even celebrated a single anniversary, our lives being thrown into an unusual chaos before we could. (
When I had to suddenly move ten months into our marriage my packing and cleaning led to hours of being huddled over the garbage sobbing as the top layer of my wedding cake was thrown in the trash, considered waste instead of being enjoyed.
My wedding pictures are also filled with the greatest loss I have endured, one I haven’t begun to share with you: my brother passed away years ago. So both my husband and David are gone.

Still, it is hard for me to mourn today because without that tragedy I may never have made my way to Jesus.
In my Bible study time today God led me to dig deeper into the human concept of time and to words written by three of the greatest men of faith: King David, Moses and Paul. Men after God’s heart, equipped and empowered to be far greater than they ever imagined and completely made new by Christ’s redeeming power.
King David wrote, Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
  Remind me that my days are numbered—
  how fleeting my life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
  My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
  at best, each of us is but a breath.” Psalm 39:4-5 NLT
Why would David ask God to be reminded of his human frailty? I love what my Quest NIV Study Bible says, “Such a reminder encourages people to make the most of their time. We are able to live with greater clarity and purpose when we face the reality of death.” I am so grateful that God allowed me this insight when my faith journey was just beginning, that my failed marriage and my now terminal lung condition are a reminder of how precious and limited our time on earth is. I fail God many days, I once wrote and called myself a slayer (  of time but each morning no matter if I have an active day out in the world or I am home resting I know the only way to start the day the Lord has given me is in His word so I am full of His truth, power and strength. If I wouldn't have had my intimate time with Jesus this morning the memory of my wedding would have sent me into a tailspin of grief but instead my sorrow was momentary and led me to share with you my victory and not my failure.
While in the wilderness Moses commits himself and the people God put in his charge back to God and calls out in prayer for mercy and grace as they lived out their short lives: “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” Psalm 90:12 NLT.
It is about to get PG up in here: life can suck. The circumstances of my marriage were completely out of my control, I could very easily be bitter and angry that such heartache happened to me but instead I embrace that the trials we face grant us the privilege of honoring and glorifying God by living out the love, mercy, grace, redemption and forgiveness that He provides for us. This choice is not easy but Paul’s words inspire me, “Act like people with good sense and not like fools. These are evil times, so make every minute count.”
My Pastor, Roger from Heartland Community Church used the verses we read today and a couple more in his message this past weekend, “Making the most of your time.” Roger gave us three tips:
  1. Number your days
  2. Embrace Today
  3. Engage God and others
    He also posed this challenge, “Pretend you can time travel. Make a simple list of what you wish you had done differently last week. Then, do it this week” Last week I spent my entire weekend in false recovery mode, instead of cuddling up on the couch or in bed with a great book or watching a sermon I made a terrible trade and spent my precious time on a binge HULU session. This weekend I will once again have activity that drains my body but I will NOT make that terrible trade when I am in recovery mode again. How about you?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

HOPE in weakness

7-10 Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10The Message (MSG)
From my August 29, 2015 Blog:
“The night I was saved by Grace also happened to be my first of many trips to the emergency room for my now terminal lung condition. God had been restoring my HOPE as I fell in love with Him but that night as the chest pains increased, my breathe decreased and panic was on the verge of setting in; I was left wondering if my new faith was useless. After the year I had with my abusive, mentally ill husband I could have easily believed that my medical troubles were divine retribution.”

I had a choice: I could both cower in fear and be miserable or I could dig into God’s word to be equipped and empowered to face each day with a thankful heart and a confident faith. So, I started digging in and wouldn’t you know it God provides guidance, direction, knowledge,
compassion and understanding on each page of the Bible. As I read Apostle Paul’s letter I saw my own desperation for relief and understanding and I saw the answer to my troubles: gladness and cheer. Gladness through a HOPEful, positive outlook had been what I had strived for my whole life and that gladness was fueled by my own strength. Now my gladness is rooted in God’s strength through the power of Christ and in the gift of Grace.
These verses also provided freedom to question, doubt and struggle with the “thorn” in my side as long as I was handing it all over to God so I could continually be healed and be made whole. I felt free to worship and praise God even as my right lung collapsed and eventually stopped working. I had freedom to rejoice in the day I was given and not worry if I would wake up the next day because I would arise: either here on earth or in Heaven. I had freedom to shout my joy and peace in the Lord because these verses had provided me concrete evidence that God is love, God provides and He is always near.
As my body continues to fail me these verses help me answer the toughest question we can ask ourselves, “what is the worst case scenario?” The worst thing that can happen is not that I die in my 30s but that I stop living the life God has provided before it is truly over.
I must live out the HOPE I have from God’s gift of grace.
I have shared with you my struggles and failings. I have this knowledge, I have a strong faith and am madly in love with Jesus but I am still human. I do have all the answers I will ever need this side of Heaven because I have the book of LIFE at my fingertips and so do YOU.

From my journal, October 19, 2015:
“Mouth pain is the worst God, please help me if I am meant to endure it, help me to accept that and embrace the lesson it is meant to be. I am all Yours Jesus - I want to honor, worship and glorify you through the pain.”

Laura Story’s song, “Blessings” brings 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 to life for me.

Monday, October 19, 2015

HOPEful even in the pain

“A relationship with Jesus is not difficult. It is one simple truth: a choice.
In desperation, we find Him. And, to remain connected to His life-giving comfort, counsel and peace, we must choose to fill our minds with the truth.
Daily, we must choose to believe the Word and embrace the truth that Christ lives in us through the miracle of His powerful Holy Spirit.”
~ Linda Kuhar in #WorthyofaMiracle

In my everyday struggle to have enough breathe and energy for the day I don’t often experience physical pain. When I say, “my lungs hurt” that hurt rarely means pain and more a feeling of pressure and heaviness from within.
When times of extreme pain set in prayer and time with God always give me strength and enough healing to not let the pain overwhelm me.
Last year at this time I had incredible pain in both hands but carpel tunnel surgery on both completely healed me - despite the doctor’s doubts it would; my God needed my hands for the calling He place on my life. Occasionally the bursitis on my right hip causes pain but recently essential oils have greatly decreased that issue and before simple things like aloe and stretching helped keep the pain from distracting me.
But then there are days like today when the pain is so great it wakes me early morning and overcomes me. I don’t handle pain in my mouth, sinuses or ears well. My aggravation level and frustration factor are off the charts. I even turned OFF Scripture because I found comfort in nothing. I can’t remember the last time I turned off Scripture. I didn’t turn to anyone for prayer; instead I isolated and stewed in the pain. Every struggle I have with my health is because of my lungs and today that devastated me. The very thing that helps my lung to function causes my teeth to degrade and I lost a tooth to an infection I had years ago and that causes those weakened teeth to shift and when those two things collide I am in this place.
In spite of my pain and amidst my pity party I had a choice to make.
After two hours of sobs, pleas with God, pacing and failed attempts to fall back to sleep I started my day off with a poor choice:I traded a momentary pleasure (watching my favorite TV show) over my morning time with Jesus which of course led to guilt but before the guilt sunk in the enemy delivered and I ended up falling asleep for a few more hours but awoke with guilt and the pain had returned.
However, GOD gave me a fresh start to my day which provided me a chance to make the right choice to start my day with God.
The momentary pleasure had given me relief but it had not filled me up and given me HOPE, strength or peace for my day. So I chose my morning time with Jesus and while I found little physical comfort which robbed me from enjoying my cuddle time with Jesus I was able to speak the Scripture God laid out for me but I did not stop to celebrate that victory, instead I pushed forward toward my original plan for the day which led to my second poor choice. Because I had invited my dear friend Linda over to hang out and break bread, something we haven't been able to do in a few weeks and I miss her, I hurried through my morning Jesus time, didn’t get my journal prayers in so I could get the roast in the slow cooker and then chose another momentary pleasure and watched yet another TV show while I ate breakfast and missed out on a live teaching from Nicki Koziarz which could have been my third wise choice of the day.
One of the most difficult parts of living with a chronic illness is that you are often unreliable. I have to cancel plans, usually last minute because I refuse to heed God’s and my body's warnings that I am pushing too hard. I did that today but when I finally sat down with my Journaling Devo and filled the pages of my prayer journal with praise, repentance, acknowledgment, intercession, supplication and asked for God to equip and empower me in everything all with a thankful heart I realized He was asking me to slow down and stop. He was telling me I had spent the day ignoring what He had for me: a fresh start, being able to speak His words while others have been too painful, that I have a friend like Linda (and so many others) who understands I only cancel when I have to and when I reached out to her and asked for prayer the pain lessened greatly.
Tomorrow I will share with you how the verses I shared today strengthened me and provided peace that even on a bad day like today I stand firm on.