Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Change of Perspective - A Personal Update

Pretty blurry, huh?  Not much fun to look at.  That's how I've felt for the past fifteen months.  I get a vague picture - I am sick, but what is making me sick???
I doubt many people want to throw a party when they find out that they have an autoimmune disease, but when the doctor called with this latest round of test results confirming that I do indeed have an autoimmune disease, that is exactly what I wanted to do.  My husband said that if there was a "congratulations on your autoimmune disease" card, he'd buy it for me.
A few months into this illness, I was terrified that I had an autoimmune disease.  There's no quick treatments to make those go away.  I was so glad when my initial screening came back negative; I was still hoping for a diagnoses of something curable.  Now, fifteen months into this, I'm not picky, I just want a diagnoses.
In September of this year, my frustration  level was so high, I was crying out to God, "Where are you? Why aren't you making me well?  Get me out of this, I can't take care of my family."   Whether it was the Holy Spirit whispering or not, I cannot say for sure, but the words of a song from my preschool teaching days came to me, "Going on bear hunt....we came to a river, can't go over it, can't go under it, can't go around it, gotta go through it, gotta go through it."  I remember in that moment, submitting to that fact that I was not going to be instantly healed, but rather that the Holy Spirit was and would keep walking with me right through the middle of this terrible river called chronic illness .  He would not give up on me and I promised, once again, not to give up on Him.
So, since I've been looking at a very blurred image for so long, I am thrilled to at least have a bit of a clearer picture. We are not sure which autoimmune disease I have, my doctor is leaning toward Systemic Lupus Erythematosus as my symptoms most resemble that,  but he cannot say for sure without further testing. 
So for now, I will continue to make this my goal:

And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Saturday, December 17, 2011

God is not Dead nor doth He Sleep

I love Christmas music.  This song in particular, has a had a soft spot in my heart the last couple of years.  It's based on the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "I heard the Bells on Christmas Day."  He wrote it after the death of his wife and the crippling of his son during the Civil War.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow knew what it was to suffer.
We can relate to his anger when he says :

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men!"

But that is not the end, he remembers, we remember, "God is not dead; nor doth He sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, goodwill to men!"

Balm to our aching, weary souls...God is not dead nor doth He sleep beloved.  Be encouraged, be comforted:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It's All Because He Loves Me so much

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?
Hebrews 12:7

The reason that I'm keeping a blog is to encourage others by what God is doing in me during this dark time of chronic sickness.  I know that what I'm about to say may not be popular, and I am not trying to change anyone's theology, nevertheless, this is one thing that the Lord has encouraged me with lately.

We don't often equate hardship with God's kindness.  Job got an earful from his friends about what hidden sins must be in his life when he endured more hardship than we can imagine.  Jesus' disciples were convinced that the blind man in John 9 must have sinned or was born to sinful parents to be born blind.  It's not too different today.  We hear of God's favor being equated with good things happening from an earthly perspective.  Not too many people will tell you how sick they are, depressed they are, how they were laid off, cheated on, foreclosed on, etc and then follow up with, "Isn't it great that I have so much favor from God on my life?!  He must really love me to be allowing this."  When my husband left for work this morning and my kids came into my room, my achy, feverish body was not saying, "Thank you, Lord for your goodness."  I was crying out for help and relief.
But, here it is, "Endure hardship as discipline..."  Proverbs 20:30, "Blows and wounds cleanse away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being." Another favorite:  "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." James 1:2-3.  Some verses are not so fun to relate to.  But beloved of God, I want to remind you that when you are facing unrelenting hardship, you can rest assured that God is working in you and for you; that unrelenting hardship can serve as evidence that God loves you, has adopted you and is refining you.
I often think about David.  While he was young, the priest of God anointed David King of Israel, he went on to slay Goliath, the enemy of Israel that everyone else was too scared to face.  He was then brought to live in the palace and play music for King Saul.  Things went downhill from there.  He ran for his life for several years. I'm fairly certain this is not what he imagined for his life. Reading his Psalms tell us that He often cried out, "God, where are you?!" 
My friend, I don't know what your hardship is.  But, I know how hard it is to face another day knowing that you do not have the strength to do what needs to be done.  I have often cried out in this time of chronic illness, "God where are you, why aren't you helping me?"  If you are wondering where the evidence of God's love is, I don't judge or criticize you, I am often right there with you.  It takes great faith to believe that God is showing us His love by allowing hardship.  It is a dark time when you are facing the same illness, pain, depression, loneliness or whatever your hardship is, day after day with no end in sight
We cannot see what God is doing in the darkness.  But, we have His promise that He is working in us and for us. We see a precedent of God doing a relentless, refining work in those whom He has great things in store for: Job was richer after his time of great suffering than before, David was king of Israel after years of running, Joseph saved nations by his God-given wisdom and leadership.  What does God have in store for us?
To be clear, there is plenty of scripture that tells us that God wants to give us good gifts: James 1:17, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."  But, if you are in a season of hardship, you can consider yourself blessed and well favored.
Psalm 142:
1 A Contemplation of David. A Prayer when he was in the cave. I cry out to the Lord with my voice; With my voice to the Lord I make my supplication. 2 I pour out my complaint before Him; I declare before Him my trouble. 3 When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, Then You knew my path. In the way in which I walk They have secretly set a snare for me. 4 Look on my right hand and see, For there is no one who acknowledges me; Refuge has failed me; No one cares for my soul. 5 I cried out to You, O Lord: I said, "You are my refuge, My portion in the land of the living. 6 Attend to my cry, For I am brought very low; Deliver me from my persecutors, For they are stronger than I. 7 Bring my soul out of prison, That I may praise Your name; The righteous shall surround me, For You shall deal bountifully with me." 

As always, He is with us, dear friend. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Where is My Hope?

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. Psalm 42:11

This is not the type of post I want to make.  But, it's real.  I have been praying Psalm 42; I have been discouraged.  Medically speaking, nothing that's been prescribed/recommended has been helping.  It's pretty discouraging to feel that no one can help you.  But, that is when the Holy Spirit asks, "Where is your hope?"  If it lies in doctors, medicine, nutrition, etc, then I have every reason to despair.  If it lies in the living God, the resurrected Christ, the helping Holy Spirit, then my soul can still hope.  He has not changed!  He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  The man that walked the earth healing and delivering has not retired.
So, while things may look bleak from my earthly standpoint, I am asking Him to help lift my vision higher.  He is faithful and true.
I often worship to this song when I am feeling overwhelmed.  When you have a moment, worship with me:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

For Fear Of....

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." John 20:19

Peter, John and Mary had just been to the tomb.  It was empty.  Peter and John went home confused. Mary hung around weeping with grief until she heard that sweet voice say her name...."Mary."  The resurrected Jesus revealed himself to her and sent her on to tell the other grieving disciples that their grief could end, "... but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"  Her heart full, she carried that message with joy, "I have seen the Lord," she told them in verse 18. 

At this point the disciples know that the tomb is empty, they have heard Mary's story.  One would expect them to be filled with joyous anticipation, "Wow!  He's risen!  What do you think He has planned next?"  Yet, in verse 19 we find them locked away "for fear of the Jews."  What happened?

I'm not judging them, I can empathize... My family and I have just experienced miraculous events to bring us to a new home in a beautiful area on the coast.  Undeniably, miraculous.  The details surrounding our move were covered with God's fingerprints.  Yet, yesterday when the doctor called and said that for some baffling reason, I am still testing positive for mononucleosis even though it should have been cleared away months ago, I felt that fear, what if it never goes away?  What if every day I am feverish, achy and sick?  I tried to pray, tried to keep in perspective, but I did not sleep well for fear of....  And yet, I have that resurrected Jesus living inside of me.  Where is my joyous expectation of, "All things are possible with God; I wonder what He is going to do?"

My dear friend, can you relate to what I am saying?  What is your for fear of?  Are you afraid of never getting well, or facing another day with pain, depression or anxiety?  Maybe you are facing a more hidden fear, your spouse has proven himself/herself untrustworthy and you wonder what will happen to you and the kids.  Maybe it's for fear of not finding a job, never getting married or having children or failing at whatever task that has been placed in front of you. Whatever it is, we are not alone... we have hope, we have Him.  

Once again, I pray for His grace to fill us so that we can lay down those fears.  In verse 20, He came and stood among the disciple (entered through locked doors) and said, "Peace be with you."  He lives inside of you and I and says,  "Peace be with you."

Father, we once again entrust our lives to you.  We thank You for the ways that You have shown Yourself faithful and for the fact that You are no matter what we see or feel.  You are our peace.  We embrace you and relinquish these fears to You.  You alone can handle them.  You alone know the future.  Father, help us live this day without fear, help us to live as you created us.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Jesus Has Overcome

As I sit feverish and achy, I look around my house and see all that needs to be done by Friday - moving day.  The enemy sees a chance to reek havoc with discouragement.  My Faithful Father sees a chance to show Himself strong.
At times such as these, it is all too easy for me to lose perspective of what really matters.  I turn on some worship music to help regain my focus.... Chris Tomlin's, "I will Rise."  One line stands out, "Jesus has overcome..."  And there it is, Jesus has already overcome.  No matter my circumstances, it has already been done.   I don't want to sound trite, but I can say it no other way: nothing else matters.  The to-do list fades, the full cupboards stop screaming at me.  My Faithful and True has already made provision for every need.  Jesus has overcome.

If you have a moment, close your eyes and have a moment of worship with me:

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Deliverance - Part 2

Deliverance – Part 2
Ah, that sweet word again.  We left the Israelites with the promise in Exodus 14:14, “You need only be still.  Let the Lord fight for you.”  They were starting to believe that their hopes of deliverance were, literally, about to be drown in the Red Sea.  But, God did indeed fulfill His promise of deliverance out of captivity from the Egyptians in a most amazing way.
Some of us may experience deliverance through an all out, unquestionable miracle from God.  Others of us may experience deliverance with some help from a doctor, therapist or by other natural means.  And some of us will have to wait until Heaven to experience the deliverance we long for.  None of us knows when our Red Sea will part.  The question I always seem to trip over when pondering that is, what do I do in the meantime?  Do I pray in faith, expecting every morning to wake up healed?  Or do I simply wait for God, in His sovereignty to heal me? 
This may be a simple question for others, but this one has tripped me up for a long time.  I would pray, I would receive prayer in accordance with James 5:14-15, I would fully expect my miracle and I would leave still sick.  As you may have experienced yourself, this can be a bit disillusioning.  I know God still heals, I know He still parts the Red Sea, I’ve seen Him do amazing things.  So….where is my deliverance?
God promised the Israelites deliverance from captivity.  He also promised us deliverance from our afflictions.  The Israelites had to wait a long time to see that promise fulfilled.  Many of us are waiting a long time too.  Just as His promise in Exodus 14:14 was true, His promises of healing in Isaiah 53:5 and 1 Peter 2:24 are still real.  Just as He parted the Red Sea, He will deliver us from this sickness, this pain, this affliction.  He alone knows the timing.  Trusting Him with that timing can be so hard, especially when the wait is long.
Even as I write this, I have a low fever, my body aches and I would like to lay my head down for a rest. I enjoy glancing at some mommy oriented blogs in my down time. But, times such as these, it feels like a reminder of everything I’m not doing: the healthy, home cooked recipes, the creative home schooling ideas, the character building service projects.  Yep, around here, it’s more like “let’s lay down and read a book together,” or “show me what you guys can build with these leggos.” (As I sit here and watch and do the bare minimum to make sure nothing too terrible happens.)  My point here is not to whine, but to say, I don’t want to live like this, I want this season to be over. I am doing all I can to recover: I am praying like the persistent widow in Luke 18, I am going to a doctor and a nutritionist, but I am learning to surround all this with surrender to Jesus.
Some of the things that we can rest in and know to be true in this waiting:

1.       Hebrews 11:6  Faith pleases God.  Even when it seems to be fruitless, it’s not. It pleases Him.
2.       Luke 18:1-8  Jesus encourages us to pray even when we want to give up.
3.       Isaiah 55:8-11  God is sovereign and at the end of the day, we can trust Him to do what’s best.

Beloved, I do not have answers.  But, I understand how hard it is to cry out to Him day after day and feel that the Heavens are brass.  May I remind you that we are in good company, the best of company?  David prayed it in Psalm 22, Jesus prayed it on the cross, we often pray it in our affliction, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”  Yet, David ended that Psalm with recognizing God’s sovereignty, “For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations,” and by declaring that God’s goodness will be proclaimed to generations yet to be born.  And, we know how Jesus finished His prayer, “Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit.” Luke 23:46
I pray that we would each have the courage and grace to follow their example and entrust our lives to Him whose very name is Faithful and True (Revelation 19:11).   When that beautiful day comes, and we gaze upon His face, we will be glad that we did.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Thankful Heart

It's not officially November yet, but I am feeling the need to be purposefully grateful.  It's too easy to get caught up in feeling sick and overwhelmed.  Yesterday, our pastor, Francis Anfuso, taught about being aware and accountable of the areas in our life where the enemy can easily strike us and bring us down. As we prayed and asked the Holy Spirit to show us these areas, I quickly saw that the enemy can just whisper, "what if you never get well?" and I start to quiver.  Yet, I know who holds the future and He is trustworthy!  I need to keep running back to Him and fixing my heart on Him.  One way I have found to combat the fear of the future and focus my gaze back on He who is worthy of it, is gratitude.
Last week, my my four year old son didn't want to say his prayers at bedtime.  And I didn't want to force him since prayer is a heart issue, but I did want to emphasize the importance of prayer.  I asked him, "What if, when you wake up tomorrow, the only things you have are the things that you thanked God for today?"  He thought for a moment and then prayed, "Dear God, thank you for everything. Amen."
So, this Monday morning, I am thankful for:

A Leap Frog Movie that bought me 20 minutes of extra rest
A hot cup of coffee
A date with my hubby in the midst of the craziness
A mom who is willing to make the date possible
Oatmeal, a quick, easy breakfast for the kids with no guilt residue
Two sweet children that enjoy playing together
And of course, Grace - to do what I can, even when it's not all that I "should"

What are you grateful for today?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Why Blog About a Sick Mom?

I love the way that I can type just about anything into a google search engine and in just moments, have loads of information.  It takes time to refine that information and pick out the worthwhile stuff. For the last year, I’ve been doing lots of that: searching, sorting, keeping, tossing and repeat.  I’ve looked up every chronic illness I came even close to resembling and then kept lists of the symptoms and test results to confirm or rule out.  About two months ago, my search changed from how to diagnose and treat to how to trust God with, how to live well with chronic illness.  There are some very good websites to encourage the chronically ill.  There are chat rooms and forums to encourage and commiserate. But, I found one thing lacking.  Most of these did not address life as a mom to small children while chronically ill.  Probably because most people are diagnosed before having children and therefore do not have them or are diagnosed when their children are older.  But, I stumbled upon this one blog… and I actually held my breath for a moment.  And then I cried. And then I read some more.  This woman could’ve been me.  She was a loving wife and homeschooling mom with young children who has an autoimmune disease that leaves her with daily fever, pain and fatigue. But, on top, underneath and all around that, she is a Jesus loving, Jesus trusting, joyfilled Christian who is trusting in her Heavenly Father to bring her through this trial.  I was inspired.
I try very hard to tuck away my illness from  sight.  For my husband, who so graciously picks up the slack left by my illness, it is impossible to hide.  But, from those that I only see or speak to for short times, I want to encourage and bring joy, not highlight how ill I feel.  But after reading another mom’s story, I am beginning to dream about how the Holy Spirit may want to encourage others through my journey.  Although I do not want to bring attention to my illness, I do want to bring light to His strength in my weakness.
So for now, I pray that you would be encouraged that this Jesus loving, Jesus trusting wife and mother who happens to be, at the present quite ill, is still committed to following hard after Jesus, to loving her family and to representing Jesus well to those He brings across her path.