Friday, December 31, 2010

The end of a year

2010. I remember feeling weird to be at that number when January first came this year. I remember being a little girl and my baby bother was given a tiny sweat suit that said across the front "Class of 2007" and thinking how crazy that was and how OLD I would be when he graduated. It felt like 2007 would never come - and here we are almost to 2011!

Years go by fast - some parts of them seem to go by slow, but overall time flies. We can't keep time from passing, but we can make the most of the moments we are given here on earth. One of the best ways that we can make the most of our lives is by living with joy in the face of whatever comes our way. The reason that I have been preaching joy through 2010 is that when we have a joyful happy spirit in spite of pain and suffering the world sits up and pays attention. I've had nurses in the hospital question how I can be happy when in so much pain - or facing another surgery etc. First time I ever had surgery the surgeon said that I was smiling even with a tube coming out of my mouth during surgery! (now, that may have been a fluke) This "different kind of happy" that people see gives opportunity to share the unquenchable joy that we can have because of Jesus Christ in our lives. I figure that my life is nothing if it isn't constantly pointing attention to the God I love. I want everyone to know Him personally and have the peace and joy that He gives freely. If my pain and illness can bring one searching soul to salvation, or one despairing heart to healing than all the pain I went through was not in vain. THIS is why I do what I do on this blog.

Thank you each for taking the time to walk with me as I explore all of this during 2010. You have encouraged me and helped me learn so much more than I would have without you. The discipline of writing and having to turn my focus publically to the unending joy God offers, has been so wonderful in my life. I am very grateful.

What will 2011 hold? I am not even sure what it will hold for this blog (hopefully God gives me a clear answer today!). I don't know what will happen with the precarious state of my health. I don't know what will happen in the government or world. I don't know if one day we'll look up and see Jesus Christ coming back to take us home! What I do know is that whatever this new year brings, God will be right where He always is - with a hand outstretched and really to walk with each of us through every moment.

He is worthy to be praised.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

my favorite dream

I didn't expect the year to be ending like this. I'm laying here quite sick and just wondering what will happen.  It's been a hard couple of month even though I'm enjoying getting settled in over here with our new church, and our little home becoming more and more homey. I want everything to work out and me to get better and better so that when Joshua is out of school we can adopt a baby right away. Feeling this bad makes me question all of those dreams.

When I started this blog on January 1 this year I couldn't have forseen all that 2010 would bring. I didn't know that they would finally put a name to what was making my chest hurt so bad, I didn't know so much of what has happened - "good" or "bad" (I put those words in quotations because often what we think is good or bad is really different than what is ultimately good or bad according to God's plan). I'm glad that I couldn't see ahead to what would happen. I probably wouldn't have walked through many doors if I knew the pain and responsibility they would bring on me. But, God has been present in 2010 and He has been breathing his breath of peace and blessing in so many ways in the midst of pain and hardship. I couldn't ask for more. I set out to learn to live well and god-honoring life this year while dealing with chronic pain - to live a different kind of happy than the empty happiness that the world offers. I learned so much and am so grateful for every step. I haven't really decided what to do with this blog on January 1 2011. When I started I didn't anticipate continuing after a year, so we'll just have to see how God leads. But I am so grateful for all of you that have been faithful to read and comment and encourage me on this adventure. I know I should have waited until New Year's Eve to write all of this - but I needed to put words to what I am feeling.
And although right now I am questioning all the dreams I have held onto in 2010, there is one dream that I know will never leave me. And it's my favorite dream.

I dream of waking up in a place where there is no more pain, no more sickness, of looking up and seeing the face of the God I adore more than any word or music can express. I dream of dancing free of any hindrance of sin, sickness, shame, self-consiousness .. dancing free as a bird before that holy throne of God. I dream of singing with every one who has ever (and will ever) served the Most High God. Singing songs with no end in perfect harmony. I dream of walking by the crystal sea with those I loved here on earth - our relationships perfected in that glorious place. I dream of seeing the fulfilment of my deepest hopes realized in the pure and forever fellowship with my Redeemer.

THIS is the dream I leave 2010 holding onto with all my might. And I know that no matter what, that dream will never be taken from me. It's what really matters to me, and so I will walk into 2011 with confidence and JOY seeking every day to live worthy of the Redeemer I live to love.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I can't believe that Christmas has come and gone now .. I'm sitting here looking at a pile of openned gifts under our Charlie Brown tree, full of chocolate that "Santa" left in my stocking, and missing my husband who is back working a double shift today after 2 days off.

To make a long probably boring story shorter: after this past month being so sick with stuff I was sicker than probably I ever have been on a Christmas (except maybe the time I had major surgery right before Christmas!). I couldn't really eat much, or move around much, or even talk much. I was in emense pain most of the time, and struggling with horrible allergies the rest of the time. I wanted to do so much more - wanted to be up and helping wash dishes or put food on the table with my sweet mama and sis ... I wanted to play with the kids, wanted to play games with my siblings ... but I was stuck sitting trying to just get through the pain and being able to breath through the asthma.

At one point, I had to leave the family gathering at my in-laws (I have allergies to some pets) and go to my parents and just take a bath to try and ease my breathing. They were playing a game and I wanted to stay so badly. I wanted to be with my husband after being apart for several hours already that day ... but I had no choice if I wanted to stay out of the ER. I was in the bath when my mom came in and handed me the phone - my husband was sad and he thought that he should have come with me and that I shouldn't be in a bath trying to breath on Christmas day all alone. But I told him to be with his family and enjoy the time and that I was ok being alone at that moment. I think the reason that I was ok, and the reason that this Christmas was still merry in my mind is that God took me aside from so much of what makes Christmas stressfull - the rushing around, the busy activities. Instead, I was forced to sit quietly and watch my families. I had beautiful moments of seeing my newborn nephew and thinking of how helpless he is and how Jesus came and put himself in that possition when he was born as a baby so many years ago. I got to see my husband playing guitar and singing and our 1 year old nephew just gazing up at his uncle and swaying to the old Christmas songs. I got to see parents flirting, and kids giggling, my Daddy and Mama crying as they read a poem I wrote and recieved the gift of shelter given to needy people in their honor ... and in this quiet reflective pose I was given, I was able to enjoy Christmas in a beautiful way. I was forced to be totally alone for moments through the day - taking a nap because the pain was too much to sit up, going into the other room to use my nebulizer several times, the bath ... In those moments I was able to talk with Jesus and I think that constant communication I had with Him on His birthday celebration was the reason this Christmas was so refreshing.

And it probably wouldn't have happened to this extent if I hadn't been in so much physical pain and sickness.

I could say: this Christmas was the worst ever, and in some ways it was... but in so many ways it was also the best and that is what I choose to focus on today.

Merry Christmas to all of you! And please share something God taught you this Christmas or something wonderful you learned ... I love to hear from you!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Casting Crowns - I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day Live

This is my favorite new - old song for Christmas 2010. Our world is full of stress, worry, pain, hate, violence ... BUT with the coming of Jesus Christ we have the future of His reign which will be full of peace. And until that day - He gives us His peace that passes all understanding.

Be filled with peace this day!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Birth of Jesus

Yesterday our pastor reminded us that Jesus - God made flesh, came as a baby and was laid in a manger. We all have clean, cute little nativity sets which portray the happy baby laying in a baby-sized manger with clean hay and a holy- looking mother and father. Pastor Jonathan made me rethink this picture. The manger is the only thing we are told about where Jesus was born - we don't know that there was a stable. The manger could have been out in a field or behind the inn where the animals came to eat .. have you ever been on a farm? My husband and I spend years working on his parent's farm and we had sheep and a goat and chickens. Animals stink. The slobber as they eat the hay or food or water. They poop -everywhere. I loved working with the sheep because the smell of lanolin was so comforting in some way - and I loved to feed the animals. BUT - I would not have wanted to put a newborn baby in their feeding area. I would not want to be in pain laying their giving birth to a baby. Mary and Joseph had just been on a long journey. They were probably very tired and dusty from traveling. I am sure they wanted a different place to give birth to the baby - and a different bed to lay the baby in after he was born. But God in His all-powerful, and all-knowing nature knew that in bringing His Son into this world in the most humble and poor setting would show the whole world that He came to partake in human suffering and that He came to serve not to be served.

Wherever God has put you this Christmas season, take the opportunity to spend time thinking about the birth of Jesus. He came and He suffered so that we would have a High Priest who could sympathize with our sufferings. He came and took part in the most physical pain immaginable with His death on the cross. No matter what pain you have today - Jesus can sympathize with you. No matter how desperate your situation, or how poor, or how humble your dwelling - God sent His own Son to the most lowly dwelling of all in that humble manger bed.

He is the God who understands suffering. Turn to Him with your pain today.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sharing in the Journey

Our new church family is Northshore Baptist and our Senior Pastor recently posted a blog on the topic of choosing joy. Knowing there are others out there making every effort to choose joy in the face of suffering and sickness is inspiring and makes me all the more committed to living THIS moment with joy in the face of the Lord I love, and in light of my eternal home which will be free of all pain ... be encouraged today.

Friday, December 17, 2010

the sweeter the spring

The other night my husband said that he was looking forward to the Spring and that he loves that time of year so much (probably having been a farmer makes that time of year even sweeter). I also love the spring: love planting seeds and watching them come up, the smell of freshly mown grass, the smell of warm spring rain, the sound of birds singing, the sun coming up earlier in the day, fresh vegeables from the garden ... it's a wonderful time of year that feels like life is new.

But, it wouldn't be as sweet without the chilly nights of winter. I enjoy parts of winter too - the coziness of a warm fire, snuggling under lots of blankets ... and dreaming of the beauty of spring right around the corner. Since I love growing things, winter is a time of some sadness - the plants die back and the coldness makes my joints hurt. hile I love the beauty of snow I feel concerned for the plants that are trying to withstand the freeze and I hope that they come back in the spring.

Life is like that: there are times which are more full of life and energy and growth, and there are times when it feels like everything around is hybernating or dead. But the times of little deaths (death to selfish ways, death to bad habbits, death to bad attitudes ...) make the Spring of our lives so much more beautiful! There are plants that need a freeze to enable them to prouce better flowers, to kill off bugs that would eat the plant. When I went to Cameroon, West Africa years ago they said that since it never freezes there that there are thousands of new viruses each year because it is the perfect breeding ground for viruses. The sometimes painful freeze and dying back of plants can actually protect against things that would cause so much damage.

Sometimes just knowing that the cold and hard winter in our lives is there to produce good in the end makes it easier to walk through.

Spring will come again.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wanting what was taken ...

"I had been wanting what was taken from me, not what had been given" - prince Caspian.

Last night we went with lovely friends to the new Narnia movie (which is EXCELLENT). I love movies that portray a Spiritual truth - and this one was full of them. My eyes filled with tears on more than one occassion. The Narnia books written by C.S. Lewis hold so many spiritual truths and so many pictures of what our spiritual life is like. When I watch such a movie or read such a book, I feel like the characters in the movie understand some of my deepest most real parts of my life - which are "unseen" to the human eye. The love between Lucy and Aslan - the longing for heaven (which was very strong in this movie), the need to stay here on earth and complete the task God has set before us in saving the lost and loving the people around us ...

Yesterday was also the six year mark since I had my deepest dream of children taken away. I spent the day with my Grammie and Mama and great friends - making spiced honey for Christmas gifts, laughing with Mama and Grammie - and then watching this movie with the Love of my life and our good friends. It was a blessed day. The quote from Price Caspian was a reminder that even as I will probably always miss the experience of having a baby that looks like my husband and I - the feeling of a baby moving inside me ... that that dream has been taken away - and I need to work extra hard on wanting what God has given me in my life. It also applies to pain. I could spend every moment longing to have the good health that has been taken from me - or I could spend that energy on throwing myself all the way into the life that God has given me and to use the opportunity of pain to grow more into what He designed me to be and to love Him more every day ...

It's not a choice you make once - having a good attitude faced with loss or pain is a continual moment by moment choice. And I for one want to live my life as a life of worship to the One who gave all to be our Savior and King.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Trying to get in a Christmas Mood

Christmas is 10 days away. I love Christmas - love Christmas music, and decorating, making cookies, hiding gifts, going to nursing homes and singing Christmas carols, making home-made gifts, hanging up mistletoe and waiting for my husband to come home and kiss me under it, going shopping with my sweet husband and hiding in the store while we both try and shop for each other ... the list could go on and on. It's one of my most favorite times of the year.

I'm not feeling well this Christmas season and have been struggling with wanting to do all the fun things I love to do like make cookies and look at Christmas lights but not having the health to do them this year.
Last night as I lay in bed I looked out the door and caught a glimpse of our simple nativity set up on the piano with pine boughs and twinkle lights. And peace washed over my soul. Christmas is so much more than the fun things we do to show love to others. Christmas is the simple yet profound coming of God in the form of a helpless baby to save all who believe from the penalty of sin and give us hope and peace and joy in life. Even in the suffering of life. I still desire to make cookies to deliver to the neighbors, send cards to loved ones, make spiced honey for family members ... I still look forward to singing Christmas hymns surrounded by family on Christmas Eve, of watching my neices and nephews playing and filled with excitment on Christmas day .. these things are not bad in themselves. But, if these things are taken away for whatever reason - I will still celebrate with heart full of joy this most precious gift ever given: Jesus Christ as a baby in that manger so many years ago. Maybe Jesus came as a baby to remind all of us that we are helpless without God in our lives, to remind us that even when we feel like everything is out of our control - that He knows what is best and loves us enough to lay down His life for ours.

Christmas is best expressed through worship - and that is something I can do weather I am playing piano next to a beautiful tree or laying in a hospital bed.

And Jesus is worthy to be praised either way.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

school days

Chemistry I could do without - but the other classes were so much fun today! No - I didn't start school, I went with my husband to see what his days are like at his college. He had been asking me over and over to go with him, and part of me knew that if I went I would be more dissatisfied with a life that I am trying so hard to BE satisfied with every day - sometimes every moment. As I had mentioned before, I went to school for many years but, I think that I had about 5 surgeries while I was in school - so I ended up coming home and dropping out - then feeling stronger and goes back to school ... I spent 10 years going back and forth this way - without going into debt for any of it! But I feel like not finishing is saying that my illness won in this case. Have I mentioned that I have a rather strong stubborn streak? I just don't like to have my ill health determine or stop me from completing something I started. I know that God uses health issues to lead us and to show us His will --- but I also know that people can be knocked down too fast sometimes when pursuing their goals. I don't like giving up when I am so close ...

I want to go back to school.

My going to school is very out of reach from my perpective. I am doing all I can to get my husband through school - working as caregiver for my sweet Grandma to pay our rent - which keeps me at home 95% of the time. Keeping both houses running saps my energy. We live paycheck to paycheck the two of us working 3 regular jobs and a couple extra or odd jobs. We have committed to being debt free which means that we are taking no student loans and paying a pretty high monthly tuition fee - thanks to so many schalarships we are making it. I don't know how we could cover two tuitions even for one year. BUT, if God wants me to do this I believe He will provide a way. It may never happen - but I am going to take the first step and get my trsnscripts transfered to see what I could do and how many classes I would need to complete my degree.

All I can do is knock on the door - and pray.

God's will be done.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

could I be a parent?

The moment I woke up I wanted to go back to sleep. I had been dreaming a very realistic (well by dreaming standards) dream in which I had the opportunity to be pregnant and have a baby (well ok, it wasn't very realistic as it involcved swollowing pills that would make me pregnant). In the dream, I felt the exhilaration of excitment over the possibility of having a baby growing inside me, and then the utter hopelesness and grief of failing. When I woke up I realized that my reality is that there will never even be the hope of a baby biologically - and my first thought was that I wanted to go back to sleep so that I could feel that hope and dream again.

I dream about babies all the time.

When I was a little girl I used to pretend I was pregnant, I would put a baby doll into my shirt and then pretend to nurse the baby doll. I was the one in my goup of friends and even among siblings who KNEW that I wanted to have lots of kids. I was excited about being pregnant. I remember during church one day my mommy placing my 7 year old hand on her large tummy and I could feel my baby sister hiccuping inside. I was in awe and I just knew how much I would love to have the joy of a baby growing inside me someday.

Six years ago on December 15th I forever lost the dream of carrying a baby inside me. When I woke up from surgery, I remember feeling stunned to hear the words: "hysterectomy". I honestly didn't think God would allow that dream to be taken away - I figured that IF I lived through the surgery that God would spare my ability to have a baby, and if I wouldn't be able to have a baby I figured that God would let me go to heaven and I would never wake up from that surgery.

I am so glad I did wake up. The grief of what I lost that day will probably always be in my life - like Gary Sitzer says in his book "A Grief Disguised" grief becomes like an ugly stump through time - it is always there but it becomes part of the landscape and beautiful flowers grow from what what was once an eyesore. I look forward to the day when I can think about the fact that I cannot give a baby to my sweet husband without feeling like I'm suffocating, I know that as time goes by and I continue to give this to God every moment that He will ease the feelings of overwhelming grief. God has done so much and worked in both my heart and the heart of the man who married me - knowing that he was giving up his ability to have a biological child. We know that God can bring us children in His time and His grace through adoption will be beautiful.

Sometimes, I wonder if I will be able to be a good momma. I wonder if my chronic pain will get in the way. I have heard of adults who are bitter now over a childhood with a disabled or ill parent, and I hate to think that our children will feel bitter toward God or me for being weaker physically. But, ultimately, I know that God is the one who makes parents able to take good care and love on their children - and that if He wants us to be parents someday that He will provide the right support system, and circumstances to enable us to do what He asks of us. No one has the guarentee of good health or financial stability ... I choose to walk forward trusting God as He guides us and believing that He will prepare me and my husband to be all that He wants us to be to whatever children he puts in our lives. Every concern or question regarding life with health issues or without - comes back to God. His peace is a beautiful thing and learning to trust Him in every circumstance is essential.

So today, I am dreaming of my babies wherever they are or will be - and praising the God who works all things for His glory and our good.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Smaller than a bag of flour, only 6 pounds 3 ounces my 9th nephew entered the world this morning. This precious little life has joined our family and we are so blessed. I have 13 (almost 14) nieces and nephews (one more still in his momma's tummy)- 8 (9) of which have come into the world through my siblings the other 6 from my husband's siblings. Babies come into this world so small and so dependant on their parents. Little Luke is unable to feed himself, speak or understand what different words mean, he is helpless to even roll over, sit up or even hold his tiny head up for himself. We have ALL entered the world in this state. And someone had to take care of us down to every single detail: clipping our fingernails so we didn't scratch ourselves, putting clothes on us so we didn't get cold, changing our diapers ... and many other details involved in caring for a helpless baby. I love the sight of a newborn baby peacefully sleeping in his daddy's arms. I am unspeakable proud of my brother for joining the role of daddy to little Luke. I know that he will be a wonderful, compassionate, fun, and godly father to this little boy. I know that he will take little Luke into his arms and comfort him when he cried or scrapes a knee. I am thankful to God that this little boy has a loving daddy and mommy who see him as a gift from God and are excited to raise him and be good parents to him. Not every baby has these blessings.

As I think about my new little nephew and the comfort and safety that he aleady feels being held by his loving parents, I cannot help but think of the comfort and security that every one of us is offered by God - the Creator of the Universe. He welcomes every one of us to be adopted as His children, His arms are open wide to hold and comfort each of us as we go through this life. Whatever burden or pain you may be suffering today, God knows and He loves you and wants to comfort you just like a good daddy does. Even if you haven't had a father on earth whose arms you could run into for safety: you have the opportunity to have that kind of relationship with God - our Heavenly Father. It's ok to need comfort and security and someone that you can trust as much as a child trusts a loving parent- we all need that. I think one reason that God made humans to enter the world helpless and dependant on parents, was so that when we get older we could understand the kind of relationship He wants to have with each of us - a relationship of us depending on Him and running to Him to fulfil our deepest needs. We can't do this thing called life alone.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thankful today ...

It makes so much difference to be walking through illness with people you can trust. My husband has been amazing - always encouraging and loving no matter how sick or incapacitated I am on any given day. Going to doctors can be extreamly stressful, especially when there are so many unknowns. For years I went to doctor after doctor and hospital after hospital and was told told after time again that the pain in my chest was nothing. Finally this spring I was able to go to a cardiologist who actually took the time of day to look into my case, and after one test he was able to diagnose what has been causing the pain in my chest: pericarditis. This diagnosis comes with more questions that answers because as he said "pericarditis is a symptom of something - it's like a fever" .. swelling around the heart is caused BY something and in my case since I have many bodily organs and systems that are affected by disease the underlying cause is likely systemic. Just having a doctor who takes the time to look hard and to keep seeing you even when you are a "comfusing case" is encouraging.

Humility when dealing with illness is also important: today my cardiologit said that he feels I need to find some kind of diagnostician (where is Dr. House when you need him?!) because local doctors are not equipped to deal with the complexities of my health which may very well be some sore of rae disease. I love humility - and sadly in the medical profession I have seen that it is rare.

But ultimately, the greatest comfort to me is that even if no one on earth EVER knows what is "wrong" with me - that God knows. He knows me inside and out and He knows how to heal - He could just speak the words and I would feel immediate relief. The thought brings tears to my eyes as I type this. How I long for relief from the physical pain that is part of every moment for me, but how much more I long for relief for my husband from feeling helpless to fix me, from the disappointments in his life due to my health - from the things he has given up (things he knew about before and things that may happen in the future) in his life to be with me and my imperfect body. I want him to have a healthy wife. BUT - although part of me longs for that, my trust in God is bigger. I know that God could heal me this moment. But I know that at THIS moment His answer is no. I am not healed. I am not free of pain and illness. And I trust that He knows what is best for me, and my husband, and the world around us that we seek to serve. Even if my doctor didn't have compassion, and humility and stubbornness - I would still have the God - the Creator of all the universe loving and doing what is BEST.

What peace this brings ...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wanting to Fight against this ...

I honestly never wanted to be part of this club. This "chronic pain", or "health issues" or "undiagnosed conditions". I grew up with the mentality that we all just need to be tough and that it is not ok to let others know when you are hurting. I thought only weak people would be sick or hurt and so I grew up thinking that I must be a wimp. And maybe I am. Lately I have spent a lot of time with someone who makes me feel insecure about being "sick", this person makes it not secret that they hate it when people are "puny", and I am sure that they thinks I am a puny one. I am. I get tired just walking up the stairs, and when everything is flairing up with my heart and stuff (like it has been this week), I am looking pale and can hardly get the energy and breath to do a lot of the stuff I usually - let alone going have any kind of social life!  This is one of th sweetest people I know, so of course wouldn't tell me to "buck up babe", or tell me that I am a wimp. But this morning when I said that I will be going to my cardiologist on Thursday, this was the reply I got: "It's always something with you isn't it". Yes, and it frustrates me to no end that just when my hip is stopped swelling, my heart acts up, and just when that stops my liver get inflamed ... But I try to not to say much of what is going on with my health, but sometimes I have to mention it because of our schedules etc.  At times like this I just want to sink into a whole and not be involved with anyone. I want to just be alone so that no one needs to feel awkward or pity me or treat me like some kind of weirdo.  I am not sure what the lesson is for me here, maybe humility.

I guess part of my wanting to do this blog was to try and tell the world that even though I am in pain and sick all the time, that I am NOT giving in, NOT giving up, and that I am deterined to make the most of this life I have been given. I want the world to see that those of us in this pain club have a choice to make to choose to rejoice in the strength of God displayed through our weaknesses, to choose a different kind of happiness in a world whose focus is on external things to bring happiness.

This month I was honored to find that my blog had been chosen among a large number of bloggers writing about chronic pain to be included in a chronic pain carnival on another blog. I was honored that someone I don't even know picked an entry in my blog to post on her carnival page.

But at the same time part of me was fighting against wanting to be acknowledged in this community. I want it - but on the other hand, it brings back all the things I have fought against all my life of not wanting to be seen as having pain. I know that probably sounds funny since I have my own blog openly talking about God's strength through my chronic pain and illness ... but there are moments when I just want to run away to someplace where no one knows that I have pain and hide my life away for no one to see. I know that God is calling me to speak His truth and His healing into this world of chronic pain, and that He calls me to be honest and He is using me to encourage others .. but sometimes I just wish He would have chosen me for something else.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

For my Husband

For all of you who go the extra mile to help others out this post is a shout out to YOU.

And most of all this is for you - my sweet husband.

Today has been an especially hard day for me physically. I was feeling pretty glad that I had just made it through the morning and afternoon and having cleaned up the kitchen - but kept feeling like I was forgetting something I was supposed to do. About then my husband came home from working lunch shift and I suddenly realized that the turkey I had cooked this week NEEDED to be taken apart and frozen for soup ... and of course this had to happen today (I had already put it off far too long). Being nauseated and dizzy and ripping apart a large turkey and straining the broth is a bad combination.

My husband has tons of homework to do - a big test tomorrow in one of his classes. But - rather than rush right into his homework he came and stood by me and helped me by doing the majority of the yucky work with the turkey. And I was able to freeze a bunch of home-made broth and extra meat as well as get a pot of turkey soup started. It only took about 30 minutes of his time, but that 30 minutes meant a lot more to me. It meant that I could do a job that felt impossible, and feel like I had accomplished something today - which as I have said before is a very important part of living with chronic pain. It meant that I could get more rest this evening and probably keep from feeling even worse. It meant a LOT to me.

I love when my husband picks me a fresh bouquet of flowers, or takes me out to dinner, or we take a walk in the park together ... but tonight I am perfectly happy with my husband my hero for helping me tackle this yucky job to show his love for me.

Putting together the pieces

I used to have an amazing naturopathic doctor who was wonderful at putting the pieces together and thinking outside of the box. I have a lot of unknowns with my health and lots of pieces that seem like they should be connected but we're still missing some pieces to the puzzle. I am realizing that we may never be able to find those pieces. This naturopathic doctor would take the time to look hard - which is sadly lacking in many specilty doctors out there. She made me feel like she cared honestly about me and that I wasn't crazy even before we found out some of the concrete things that we now know - and when other doctors were throwing up their hands in confusion she assured me that I wasn't crazy.

I just spent a couple of hours looking over medical records and test results - which lead to many loose ends and I want so badly to have all those loose ends tied up and neat and tidy. I am unable to see this naturopathic doctor anymore.  We cannot afford the vitamins and suplements she would want me to be on ... and it's frustrating. I find myself confused over the never ending physical pain I have and wanting an answer to what has made my body go haywire - what has caused these conditions ... I find myself longing to go see this naturopathic doctor. With every definative diagnosis I get it seems to create more questions as to what is at the root of these things - and I want to know so many things. Sometimes the not knowing and understanding what exactly is going on with my body - or what organ will be affected next feels unbearable.

BUT ... (thank God for that small word!)

I don't NEED to know - because I know that God knows and I can lay my body - and every confusing and hurt part of it - into His care and I can rest in the peace that He has me in His hands and there is nowhere else I would rather be.

Friday, November 26, 2010


I am sure that many of your enjoyed a day with family or friends around a dining table enjoying time together and a wonderful meal. I enjoyed two such dinners only 3 hours apart with both my inlaws and my extended family. It was wonderful, and at both dinners we had the opportunity to say what we were thankful for: well, let me rephrase: we had the opportuniy to BEGIN to say what we were thankful for - because if we each went through and said everything we are thankful for it would take years. So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, here is a small list of my thanks to God:

1. First of all for a personal relationship with God - without this my life would feel empty even if I had everything I wanted.

2. for my sweet husband who knows me and loves me entirely and makes me want to be the best I can be

3. For parents who love each other

4. for neices and nephews who give me so many hours of joy

5. For my siblings and friends

6. that my husband has work

7. that my husband gets to go to school

8. for a home to live in

9. for food and a warm bad

10. running water

11. our church family

12. for music

13. for my piano

14. for light and electricity

15. for internet to help me stay connected

16. for medications

17. for photos and memories

18. for the ability to walk, talk, see, hear, taste, feel

19. for trees

20. flowers

21. bird and squirrels that give Grammie and I so many hour of entertainment

22. for transportation when we need to go places

23. for clothes to wear and shoes

24. for warm water

25. for poetry

26. for books

27. for the Bible

28. for prayer and that I can talk to God anywhere at any time

29. for chairs and table to eat with friends around

30. even for the pain that is my constant teacher as I walk through life ....

I could go on and on and I want to practice gratefulness in every area of my life. God has given so much and used so many things to teach me of His love and grace in my life and in others ...

Take some time to share thanksgiving by making a comment on my blog! Let's encourage each other!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Snow Day!

It's snowing! When I woke up at 7 there was not a flake - but by 9 we had an inch of perfect white fluffy snow covering the ground and flocked on the mini evergreen forest behind our house. There is something about snow that is just so peaceful and beautiful. It seems magical and can turn the most ordinary of trees into an enchanting winter beauty, and the oldest person into a giddy child again.

It is important to allow ourselves to enjoy the simple pleasure of creation and snow is one of those. The pressure of health concerns or pain of any kind can threten to steal away joy in the moments we have here on earth. But, in allowing ourselves the joy and excitment and the beauty of creation, we can actually help ease the pain of physical illness - AND makes it more fun for others to be around us too! So enjoy the glimpses of the creativity of God displayed all around you today.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Out of Control ...

My nose has been completely unreasonable for over a month now. Like tonight: I felt ok my nose is behaving for the last 1/2 hour so I decide to go to bed. As SOON as my head hits the pillow I cannot breath out of my nose. After trying decongestants, antihistamines, mucus stuff, naturopathic stuff, regular nose spray, drinking water til it comes dripping out of my eyes ... I finally ask my doctor about it (small rabbit trail: waiting to mention seamingly "regular" health issues is something typical with chronicly "ill" people - or at least with me - I feel so guilty about getting an ordinary cold, or really anything that seems unrelated to the regular and more pressing concerns, that I wait til it is unavoidable. So yesterday my doctor tells me that my nose (which I think is just a really long cold or some reaction to a cold) is probably something inflamatory related to other issues.  So, tonight as I lay down my nose immediately decided to be ... well annoying. Up and down for about 2 hours by now, and my nose is just not going to let me sleep much tonight - it's already 1:46. I have NO control over my nose! In fact, as I think about it: I have no control over a lot of what happens with my body. Even if I do everything "right" and eat only the healthiest food, and get enough sleep, and have no stress in my life, I still cannot control a lot of what goes on in my body. I cannot will my heart to keep beating if it decides to stop.

Now, for a slightly OCD and slightly control freak, this is unsettling. It's unsettling until ... I lay my body (nose and all) at the feet of the God who created that body - every part. He knows all about my body and how it works (or doesn't at times) and He also know what is best. We live in a world stained by sin and sickness and the wearing out of our bodies is part of that. BUT - God has made a way for the redemption of my body and a life someday totally void of sickness and a nose that misbehaves. Ahhhhh I can finally rest. I can rest in the peace that even when everything around me - and often inside my body is working to show me that I am not in control - GOD ... my wonderfull, personal, powerful, and all-knowing God, has me and my body in His hands.

Nose and all.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


My husband and I are in a study on Loving God above everything else. We have been exploring the book "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan and last week was about being obsessed with Jesus. I want the kind of obsession that everyone can see. I want God to mean everything to me above all the things that this world strives for every day. I thought that today I would share some quotes from the book that I thought were really perfect for the topic of suffering in relation to being obsessed with Jesus. I pray that these will be an encouragment to you wherever you are today.

"People who are obsessed are raw with God; they do not attemp to mask the ugliness of their sins or their failures. Obsessed people don't put it on for God; His is their safe place, where they can be at peace."

"A person who is obsessed with Jesus is more concerned with his or her character than comfort. Obsessed people know that true joy doesn't depend on circumstances or environment; it is a gift that must be chosen and cultivated, a gift that ultimately comes from God." (see James 1:2-4)

Be encouraged!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It is well with my soul

Today is one of those days that I am in too much pain to think clearly enough to write - so I am resting in the truth of this beautiful hymn and the testimony of the author! Because of Him even when it is not well with my body - it is well with my soul.

And this makes me smile.

Monday, November 15, 2010

"THERE WILL BE A DAY" (Official)

This Moment

Yesterday a the sweet mother of some of our very best friends went to be with Jesus after a very long battle with cancer. We knew that she was probably going to heaven very soon, and that God had not healed her on earth, even after so many prayers and her beautiful faith (which again is a testimony that God does not always heal while we are on earth), but it still was a shock to hear that she is no longer here. Today I have been overwhelmed by the knowledge that she is seeing Jesus face to face in heaven. She is free of pain. She is free of all things suffering. And that all of us who believe in Jesus as our Savior will one day see her again and be there in heaven forever worshipping God alongside this beautiful woman. I am rejoicing in the total freedom she is experiencing right now.

I've said it over and over, and I am sure I'll say it again: this world is NOT all there is!!! The pain that you are facing today - physical, emotional, spiritual, is only for a short time in relation to eternity. Some people might think that this attitude would make me throw in the towel on life here on earth. It is full of pain. It is full of tears. BUT - the hope of heaven gives me so so much energy to live well on this earth. To not focus on the pain or suffering, but rather to grow in trust of the God who knows best and who offers to all a life eternal in heaven someday. The reality is that every one of us will die (unless Jesus returns before that day) and none of know when that will be. Last night my sweet husband and I were talking about death, and how you never know when your last moment will be on this earth. I have had two respiratory arrests in the last 5 years. I totally stopped breathing and they did mouth to mouth to keep oxygen in my body until I started breathing on my own. I could have died. I could stop breathing at any moment. So could you. I am so thankful for those times when I realized that it could be the end of my life on earth. I am thankful because it helps me to try to live all for Jesus since I don't know when it will be over for me on this earth. I don't want to waste a moment. That doesn't mean that I never do waste a moment - I definately have times when I am not livng the way I should and am wasteful of what God has given me. But, with the reminder that earthly life is so short, I am all the more determined to live in this day to bring a smile to the face of God by loving Him and others with my moments.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Time and Prayer

We talked about sharing what we have in Sunday School this morning. My husband and I aren't the richest people in the world. This morning was a reminder of that once again. It's humbling to need help and to be helped by others - but also so encouraging. I wish we didn't need the help - but we do at times. I have had so many wonderful people in my life who have helped pay off doctor, hospital and medication bills. Do I wish that I could have paid them off myself? Of course. I hate being seen as someone who needs help - financially or any other way. I long to serve the world around me too.

I also don't have the physical energy or wellness to enable me to do a ton of visiting and hanging out with people. It's probably the thing that is heardest about having pain every day. I want to be able to jump into my car (assuming I had one) and go drop off meals to friends in need, or just go and encourage someone who is hurting. I want to be able to baby-sit every day for people who need a break from childcare. But the reality of my life is that I can't do as much as I would like. It might be hard to understand that even sitting and chatting with friends could cause me to be unable to function much for a couple of days. A day shopping almost always takes a day or two to recover from. I am willing to take that risk of increased pain and I do plan and do things - because otherwise I would never interact in person with anyone. I love having people over to our home, I love hanging out with family and friends - but I cannot do it as much as I would like to - or what's worse as much as others would like me to do. There are limits that I fight against, but am trying to be wise with what I am able to do without inhibiting me to do all the things I need to do to be a good wife and not end up in the ER.

BUT I do have something that many people would just drool over - and that is TIME. Because of my life and being unable to work much outside of the home and because of the fact that I need down time to be able to stay functioning - I end up with lots and lots of time where I am just alone and stuck in my house - or even stuck laying down in bed. I have battled against this time over and over again. I sometimes feel guilty when pretty much everyone I know is rushing around like crazy so so busy that they don't have time for anything. But, I am realizing that I need to rejoice in this gift God has given me of time. It is a resource - and although I don't have much money to give to those in need, or even physical presence to be somewhere all the time ministering to those in need - I have time and it is precious. I sometimes look at the limits that are on that time and feel like it is useless. I am pretty much "trapped" in this basement that I live in (and some of that is because I am caring for my elderly Grandmother who needs someone to just BE here to help her stay safe) and I have at more times that I would like given up on using my time to bring glory to God or to help others (these two are often intertwined). So, I am trying to learn to use these hours that could just be lonely hours of wasted time. If I really believe that prayer is as powerful as I say it is, then why am I not praying more for those who need it (which is everyone). I can name right now several families who are getting ready to say good-bye to loved ones battling cancer. I know of so many kids who are struggling in broken homes, or dealing with poverty. I have seen the faces of those who have no hope. I know personally people who are questioning the very existence of God. And yet I have the stupidity to think that my hours of "free" time are useless? Let me get on my knees and come before the Creator of this whole earth - and each person in it, and let me pray with passion for the needs of people around me. My time is a gift. May I use it to encourage others, to do something worthwhile.

What kind of person do you want to be?

Have you ever known someone who made you feel guilty for being happy? You know: the kind of person who you feel like you can't talk about how good your life is because at every turn they are sharing a horrible story about how bad theirs is? Who complain non-stop about everything: "My wife spends too much money", "I couldn't get the new car I really wanted", "my kids are such a pain." Tell me if this doesn't resound true to you because, sadly, I don't think this is an uncommon problem.

I remember a turning point in my life where I was with one such person and they were complaining non-stop about every little thing. I often would feel the need to complain when I was around this type of person - like I didn't want to make them feel bad that I had joy in my life when they couldn't grasp hold of it. But, instead of joining in, all of the sudden I realized that I didn't have to be dragged down to that level myself. I realized that rather than feel the need to validate the complaining attitude, I could instead acknowledge that no life (apart from when we are in heaven) is perfect and that although life is full of pain and heartache, it doesn't mean we cannot choose and seek the joy that only God can bring. I realized in that moment, that I had actually allowed this person the power over my very outlook on life - and rather than fighting for joy against all odds, I had been sucked into the idea that I had to feel guilty for enjoying life.

Now, I am not claiming to have mastered (by any stretch) living a joy-filled life in every trial and every pain. I definately have times when I am down-right depressed over the suffering in the world and the pain in my body. Nor do I claim that because of this turning point do I never allow other's to drag me down with negativity. BUT, I think that realizing that I can choose to fight for joy and REJOICE in the joy and hope that God offers every one of us, has been so liberating for me. It is definately a journey; but one that I am excited to take. I don't want to ever be the one dragging others down. I want to allow the joy that God offers to spill over onto those around me and for this to cause those who are down-trodden to be able to look to God and find even a tiny bit of hope for a joy-filled life. If I have ever (and I am sure that I have) made any of you feel guilty for the smile that you had on a day when I was crying and unable to see that hope and joy - I am so sorry. Thank you for walking with me through this journey. May we all look to God for our strength and our smile.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Leading through illness

One of the most beautiful pictures of God working through human illness and even using that illness to bring about His perfect work through His followers is in the story of Amy Carmichael.

Amy felt called to go into mission work in her teen years, and her heart was set on going to Japan. When she finally got to Japan, it became apparent that she couldn't stay. The climate agrivated some serious health problems and the mission organization forced her to go to India instead. Amy didn't plan to go to India - she had felt that Japan was her mission-field. But through a tender heart to God Amy began working in India to spread His love to this country. Amy was horrified by the common practice of selling children into temple prostitution, and eventually started a home called Donover where she would work to rescue these child slaves and give them a home. This home is still in existence today even though Amy died in the 1950s. The home for children is now run by former child slaves that were rescued by the ministry Amy began. Amy has literally saved hundreds of children in India from this dreadful trade of selling children into temple prostitution; but she never would have been in India if she had not become so ill while in Japan. God used her illness to get her right where He wanted her. (read the story of Amy in Elizabeth Elliot's book: "Chance to Die: The life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael")

In Galations 4:13 the Apostle Paul reminded the churches in Galatia that it was: "because of a bodily illness" that he had first preached the gospel to the Galatians. Paul clearly saw that sometimes God uses or allows physicall illness to lead us where He wants us to go. I have mentioned this passage and this concept before - but it bears repeating.

May I be willing and have enough faith to see that God can use my pain and illness to send me exactly where He wants me to be.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Not Alone

We are not alone in our suffering. I think that one of the major misconceptions when it comes to living with suffering in this world - is that this world is all there is. If this world is all there is, then suffering is unbearable. I have discussed this topic before in the blog, but it bears repeating. THIS WORLD IS NOT ALL THERE IS! This is one of the most comforting thoughts in the Bible. For those of us who have chosen to live a life given over to God - and who believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we have the hope and promise of heaven. (if you need help with finding the new life that is offered through Jesus Christ send me a message and I will help walk you through the Bible to find the truth and to make Jesus the Lord of your life)

Heaven. It's so much more than what we think of heaven or what heaven is portrayed as through movies etc. It isn't just a place where you sit on clouds all day playing a harp. Heaven will be many things that I don't think we can even immagine in our limited minds - but what I do know from Scripture is that heaven will be where I see my God face to face for the very first time. I know that there will be no pain, no tears, no darkness, no sin. Sometimes my heart longs for heaven so much that it takes my breath away. And the longing for heaven only makes me more motivated to live every moment I have on this earth to make a difference and to bring as many to heaven with me as possible - to bring others to see and savor the beauty of Jesus. But I am not alone in my deep longing for heaven. In fact, in 2 Corinthians 5 Paul talks about this very longing:

"For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, ... For indeed while we are in this tent we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swollowed up by life. .. "

We are not alone. All through the ages followers of Jesus waited to see the redemption of the body - the end of this mortal life - and as Paul expressed, had a deep longing to be at home in heaven. But even more than that:

"For we know that all creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body" - Romans 8:22-23

ALL CREATION GROANS. We are not alone. We and even this earth, are waiting for the day when Jesus will return and take us to heaven - and make a new earth - uncorupted by sin and suffering. We will have new bodies - that never wear out or get sick or die. Some of us have been given pain which helps us remember that this earthly world is not our real home - we are uncomfortable here and I think that is a blessing. But every one of us humans, have some kind of suffering while here on earth. Let those pains and suffering be a continual reminder that this world is only for a short time, and our redemption will come someday, where every tear will be wiped away and every pain erased. Until then, let us live today with eyes for eternity to bring glory to our wonderful Savior and Redeemer, and to touch the lives we come into contact with, with Jesus Christ's love and grace. To make every moment count for eternity.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Trust God's Hand

There is nothing quite like singing songs praising the one true God with 5,000 other women. While I stood there singing, I looked around me and was overwhelmed by the knowledge that God loves and knows each one of these women in the deepest and most personal way. He created each one to bring glory to His name and He knows the circumstances that make each one cry. He knows the personal pain that they don't even tell their closest friends. And above all of that: He can be trusted to do what is best even in suffering that we all face in this life.

Over the weekend I had the great joy of attending the Women of Faith conference with two beautiful godly women who were in my group and gave me the opportunity to come and just rejoice in the time away from ordinary life seeking the face of my Redeemer and Lord. For those women I am so filled with gratitude! And for my husband, who took over with my responsibilities here at home so that I could get away, I am so grateful.

Probably the biggest thing I came away with was a renewed passion for TRUST in a God who knows just what we need, and who sees more than we can see with our limited vision on this earth. Long ago I heard someone say that trust is gratitude and that trust is the most pure form of worship. When we are truly and totally grateful for all that God has given us in Himself we cannot help but lay down our defences and trust Him totally. When we trust Him totally - when we put our very lives into His hands for Him to do what is best we are truly worshipping Him in everything we do. Many of us have learned to put up walls to keep from having to trust - and in the area of suffering and chronic pain and health issues it is no different. Why would I trust a God who allows sickness and pain to be part of my every day? There is no way that the suffering in the world is understandable or redeemable if we do not believe with everything in us that this world is only a part of our existence. The Bible is full of reminders that this world is not our real home and one of the most comforting passages pointing us to endure suffering while we are here in light of what is to come is in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 " Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." This world is not all there is! Everyone suffers in some way, in fact Jesus told his closest friends on earth that "In this world you will have trouble - but take heart for I have overcome the world." When we understand that we follow a God who sees much more than we can see and who loves us so much we can relax in spite of pain and rest in trust. He is so worth it.

I am not saying that God never heals - it is clear that He does at times heal physical, emotional, mental illnesses. When He heals we need to give Him all the glory. And when He choses for whatever reason, to not heal in the way we ask Him to - we need to also give Him all the glory. He is God and totally worthy of our trust in everything.

Monday, October 25, 2010

What defines me?

I am NOT my pain.

I think that one area that is easy to get sucked into while living with chronic pain or illness is the trap of thinking that our pain defines us - that our identity lies in our pain. But, I don't think this is an issue only for those of us living in chronic pain. I have mentioned before that I used to be a farmer. For five years I spent most of my time enveloped in the farming lifestyle. I wore overalls and farm dresses and straw hats. I went to meetings about farming. I took farming classes. I worked day after day in the blazzing sun or freezing rain - planting, weeding, harvesting. I LOVED to identify with fellow farmers and the community it produced. I was so proud to call myself a farmer! A couple days ago I posted about how God took us from the farm and called us to something totally different. That was just last year, but the pain that brought to me and my husband sometimes feels like a fresh wound. We miss the farm. But through this experience I have been learning an important lesson: my identity needs to rest in God alone. Last year this was even more clear as my husband and I had to step down from youth ministry which I had been doing for about 13 years. AND we had to leave our home Church, our Island, and living minutes away from much of our family. I had taken identity in all of these things and then suddenly they were all gone. I hadn't been married long, so even my new role as wife wasn't something I relied on for my identity.

Having nothing that I used to feel defined by was a scarry place. I have walked through much of this year feeling slightly lost and very lonely. When people ask me to tell them about myself I sometimes don't know what to say. We have grown up looking to things for our identity, and our culture in many ways defines who we are by what we do and our role in society. I think this is kind of a natural thing to do, but I also think it can be damaging. What happens when jobs are lost, relationships end, children grow up and leave the home, health changes, beauty fades?

As a follower of Jesus, I want to be defined by Him. I want people to see me as one who trusts and loves the Creator of the Universe. I want people to see the various roles I have and will have in my life as part of my joy as living for the glory of God no matter what I do. I want people to see my pain as a part of the life I have been given for this time, and to see that it isn't my identity - it's just part of the circumstances I live in day by day.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


I wasn't the MOST social person in college. In fact at the end of my Freshman year I had one girl on my HALL say that she had never seen me outside of my room. (which isn't true I did go out ... but wasn't exactly doing what the popular kids were doing) ... During my first year I had two super close friends who I hung out with non-stop. Most of the time we were doing things like listening to music in our rooms, taking walks around the little town, reading "Little Women" together and talking about everything. Let me back-track: in high school I really didn't have a lot of friends, in fact most of the time I just hung out with my siblings (which was a ton of fun). I remember walking down the stairs when I was about 16 and hearing my mom and dad talking about how to get me to hang out with friends. I was happy being alone for the most part. I liked to cook and garden and babysit. I wasn't the cool kid into sports or fashion or - heaven forbit : BOYS - ick! So when I went to Bible college just after turning 18 I really didn't know what it was like to have close friends. Thankfully, all that changed during the first month of college. In February that year I got sick - I had always had health issues but in February I began having severe pain in my side and when I went home for spring break my mom took one look at me and said that she wasn't going to let me go back. I left my room all set up, my classes (which thankfully my professers let me take through the mail), and worst of all my two best friends. I was devastated. But I was also so sick that I knew I couldn't go back. I know that during that first surgery and time at home visiting scarry doctors that my friends kept me going through their cards (yes REAL letters not just email!), care-packages and even visits.

It's been 14 years since that first year of college. I have lost touch with most of my friends from that time. But those 2 girls that became my best friends during those college years are still precious to me. One of them just came down for a visit. She lives three hours away but she continues to drive down and spend time with me. The two of us have been through thick and thin together. Through times when we were mad at each other - but it always ends up that nothing can make us ditch the friendship. We've both had tons of surgeries and times when we had to be strong for each other. But through it all we're still there for each other and I know that we always will be.

Sometimes I get mad at myself and at my situation because of the fact that I never graduated. I sometimes feel like a failure because of that. BUT, as I sat today with one of the dearest friends I have and watched her kids play I realized that maybe God had me go to school not to get a degree and have some kind of stamp of approval on my life ... but rather to gain one of the biggest and best blessings of my life in this abiding friendship.

I guess life is like that. Sometimes what we think we want more than anything is just a roadmap to get us to where God really wants us, and for Him to give us what is more precious than what we went looking for in the first place.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Am I the answer to my parents prayers?

So often I hear people say things like: "I don't care if I have a boy, or a girl, as long as it's healthy.", or, "We just want a healthy baby." I'm not "healthy", and I have pain every day. This makes me wonder: am I the opposite of what my parents probably prayed for me?

I was suppoed to be born in October. It was a summer day in early August when my mom started having contractions and found herself in full-flung labor. daddy called his mom and said she was in labor and my Grammie said: "Oh no honey, she's not having the baby til October". But a few hours later the doctor announced: "It's a girl!" My parents, who were in Bible school with my 23 month older sister didn't have a home or money or health insurance. In 1978 the over $6,000 hospital bills to keep me in an incubator and feed me with a tube were stagering. They had to set up payment plans to cover the bills. I am sure that as they were holding this tiny baby they were scarred. I could have had a lot of health issues as a baby - but nothing really serious showed up - but I never was the healthy kid - plagued with asthma, eczema, allergies and then pain from when I was 11 on. I still wonder if being 2 months early had anything to do with my poor immune system and issues - but I guess we will never know.

I'm glad that I lived. It hasn't been easy being sick my whole life. It hasn't been easy on my parents, or my entire family and friends. But I trust a God who uses and redeems even the hard parts of life. Nothing needs to be wasted - even the pain.

I pray for our future children. My husband and I long for the day God will put a baby in our arms. I pray for health - but in the same breath I pray that God will give us the children that we need and we will be the parents that they need - healthy or not. Every one of us on this planet is going to suffer. God give us the grace and faith to be all that He wants us to be in whatever suffering we endure and may it all be for His glory.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Gratitude, Nichole Nordeman

Maybe not - not today ...

Often we think we know just what we need. We cry out to God begging Him to answer our cries for this thing we know that we need. I used to work at my husband's family farm. Out in a field weeding rows upon rows of baby crops I would cry out to God to bless this crop - bring in money that we desperately needed. Sometimes God would answer according to what I asked and we would praise God for listening to our prayers and giving us what we needed. Customers would pour into our little shop and purchase everything in sight. Covered with dust from the field, muscles aching from hours of hard work we felt that God loved us and we felt His smile on our labors.

Last year, my husband and I prayed hard that God would financially bless the farm so that we could make a living as newlyweds. We wanted to stay there. We longed to see His face in our daily work. We waited. We cried out to Him. Then, I got sicker right after our wedding. Finances dropped from the previous year, but still we prayed. It got to the point that I couldn't work really at all. I felt so guilty for leaving the rest of the crew to do my share - but there was nothing I could do about it. I sat at home on the couch praying that God would heal me and let me go back to the fields that I loved. I missed working beside my husband. But God said no. Finally, when we had prayed all winter spring and summer for God to show us what to do and provide finances for us to know we could continue, in the fall we had our answer. My husband had to work elsewhere again - and God provided enough work and free housing to get us through the winter, but barely. We had put out our fleece and God had answered for us. It wasn't the answer we were comfortable with. But we knew without a doubt that it was the answer - and we were comfortable knowing that. My husband felt God's clear call for him to get more schooling to pursue our dream of missions - a dream I thought would involve the farm. God made it clear in many ways - most of which were incredibly painful, that it was time for us to step away from the farm, and to move off the Island that we loved.

Now we're living in a basement apartment which is plagued with spiders - BIG fat spiders which make me gasp when I see them. Our flooring is crumbling under our feet and it's FREEZING down here. Did God lead us here? We feel certain of it. Is it easy or comfortable? Definitely not. We hear news of the family farm continuing on and changing. We see our fingerprints fading away and it brings tears to our eyes. We miss those sun-filled days on the farm gathering arm-fulls of flowers and summer squash. But we know that this is where God has put us for this time. Will God ever give back farming to us? We pray He will, someday, somewhere. Did He take it from us because it was an idol in our hearts? Possibly. We certainly have seen things with different eyes since stepping away. At times we miss it with every breath... and in the same breath we trust Him to answer according to what is really needed.

"We'll give thanks to You - with gratitude, for lessons learned in how to trust in You." ... Nicole Nordemen - listen to the link to her song which probably expresses what I am trying to say better than I have ...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Old Fashioned Faith

Tonight I sat across from a 97 year old man who has the faith and obedience I long to have. He had been a missionary in China back in the 1930s-1950s when mission work involved leaving everything you have and going to a country with little amenities, no computers or phones for fast communication, no health insurance, no chance of getting home for YEARS. His first term was 9 years. He went as an unmarried man and while there met a single missionary woman who had gone into the country believing she would never get married - and they married in China and raised children who also gave their lives to service of God and the world in need. He was often without any communication with anyone who spoke English - had to learn Mandarin, was called upon to do things like tooth extractions and medical care (without any training) walk through snow covered mountains in Tibet without just wool socks and sandles ... He HAD to depend on God to get him through. What an example of old fashioned faith that I fear is too lacking in our modern world of conveinience and selfishness.

I want to be like that. I want to follow God with all that I am no matter what the cost. I want to believe that God can use me weak as I may be, for His glory and perpose in the world. I want to be different.

I feel like this culture that we live in (or I live in at least) is full of ways to ignore God. We have so much at our fingertips: instant gratification on every level. If we want to eat we have a million options which involve no work (and often no nutrients). If we want entertainment it's there for the asking - often in forms that we would be embaraced to have God looking over our shoulder (but isn't He always there?). If we want people to talk to we don't even have to be in the same room - or state or country, we have Skype, facebook, email, telephones ... we can turn to people faster than we would think of turning to God. Education? Get a loan - everybody does! Need a new car? Get one. Don't have money for groceries? Don't bother asking God! (I know I am stepping on toes here - and I'm just trying to figure all this out myself) I feel that we as a nation - a modern world in fact, have done so much that makes it easy to push God out of our everyday lives. Talking to God doesn't take on the importance in many of our lives that it should - that it did for men like this 96 year old I met tonight.

Then he prayed: he prayed for me. He prayed for my husband. He prayed for my health. He prayed for my husband dealing with my health. He prayed for our marriage - for our ministry - for God to bless and use us in this world for God's glory. His prayer wasn't fancy or pretentious, it was real and by the way he talked to God you could tell that talking to God is something he's done a lot of in the past 96 years.

I want to have that kind of relationship with God when I'm 96. I want the kind of faith that surpasses generations and is untouched and unwavering in a culture that temps so many of faith to depend on anything other than God. I want to look back on my life and see without a doubt God's smile.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Overachievers Beware!

I realized that I was a classic overachiever when I went to college and tried to add 3 extra classes on top of full time credits, while being a college RA and working as the "deli girl" in the cafeteria. Seems odd that it took that long for me to realize it when I was known for reading entire EXTRA textbooks in economics, science, history and doing EXTRA assignments just for the fun of it in high school. I also clearly remember making about 100 muffins one day around the same time just because I wanted to freeze them and was experimenting with new flavors (almond chocolate bran anyone?) ... oh and the fact that I had 6 siblings who devoured everything the minute I baked it may have also encouraged this massive muffing making memory!

Anyway, all this to say that I am an overachiever. Yesterday I got mad at my husband for leaving a string cheese sitting half-eaten on the coffee table - and went into my classic dialogue which sounded like this: "I feel like a maid and all I do is cook and clean (content subtracted to protect my self-image here - but basically I am not proud of how upset I got over this piece of cheese!) To which my husband said something to the effect that I am OCD. Which may be true. Mostly I just hate mess and part of that is that I never know when I will be incapacitated by my health and I hate looking at a mess while I am laying around in pain. This meltdown was also on the day when I was throwing a double baby shower for two of my sister-in-laws, which I decided I needed to make two cakes, bring all the decorations, games, tea, while making "Labor Survival Kits" for both sisters which included hand sewn baby booties! Thankfully my sister and mom were helping and I didn't have to being extra food. Oh and did I mention that it has been an epic week in the world of my odd jobs which I do from home?

ALL this to say that God has been trying to get my attention for years and make me slow down. Odviously, I haven't quite mastered the art of slowing down. During my college experience with the extra credits (I was trying desperately to graduate which never happened), I became extreamly sick and had to drop the 3 extra classes. I should have learned the lesson then. I have an unfinished degree to remind me. But somehow I always find myself in this same possition of trying to do so much around the house and trying to throw great parties for people that I love etc ... when will I learn to pace myself? I don't know if I am alone in this feeling of needing to do everything NOW - I feel like my time is often taken from me by sickness and so I want to have everything done which always falls short.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Assuming we know better than God

Someone said something to me today which has created quite an internal dialogue ever since. I know that this person didn't mean it the way it came out- but this is what was said: "God just needs to heal your body!"


I realize that this person cares about me and is just concerned with my never-ending physical suffering and just wants to see it relieved. I want to see it relieved too - very much in fact! But, this comment - and a million like it, remind me that we as humans can often assume we know what is best. We know what God should do! Since I have a firm belief in God I honestly find this confusing. How can we know what is best - how can we pretend to see the future and know what God should or should not do? We are humans - the creation - God is GOD the Creator.

In the book of Job a lot of these questions come up and the final argument that God gives to Job involves an in-depth look at creation and how the earth and all that is in it works - "where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth"(Job 38:4) ... for over 100 verses God explains to Job that He is GOD and that Job cannot even conprehend let alone judge the ways and wisdom of God. Finally in chapter 42 Job responds in humility and submission: "I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted, who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have declaired that which I did not understand, things to wonderful for me, which I did not know. Hear, now I will speak: I will ask You ,and You will instruct me. I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:106)

There are times when I am angry and fed up with physical pain. There are times when I argue with God. But every single time it comes back to this truth: God is GOD. I am NOT. And I fall in submission and worship of a God who is powerful enough to heal - but also powerful enough to work good out of pain. He knows best.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Pushing through

The past few days I have been far beyond tired - yesterday my rhumatologist said that it is likely a folic acid deficiency caused by one of my meds which I am on the maximum dose. It's hard enough to function when in pain all the time, but adding this extreme fatigue (which I already have continual fatigue) is just over the top.

Last night my husband wanted to go to Mission Fest Seattle - and I had been laying low as much as possible all day feeling horrible. But I decided that it was important to go and be a support since we both dream of missions working with orphans someday. I could hardly sit through the session I was so tired and in so much pain. But I realized that it was important for me to be there and so I pushed through it. There were moments in the 1.5 hour session that I thought I just couldn't stand another moment of this pain. But I just go through it somehow. I rubbed my arm and hand to distract my brain from going crazy with the pain .. and I made it through. After the session we walked around and looked at the displays featuring various ministries and mission organizations. We ran into a few friends who we had to catch up with and talked with a lot of people. And I left happy that I had gone. I could have missed it and there are times when it is just impossible to get out - but I am happy that I made it through and my heart was happy to have gone.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The unknown

"It's HUGE" .... not exactly the words that you want to hear coming out of your husband's mouth in regards to your hip! ... But it's true.
My left hip is 2-4 inches bigger than the right one. This happened 2 months ago and I was down for over a week with severe hip pain - I had had hip pain for over 2 years now but I just went about my life because I figured it wasn't too bad - at least it wasn't as painful as other things ...

So, 2 months ago I had a cortisone injection into the hip joint - and it seemed to really help - not totally but I could get off my face and my makeshift bed on the living room floor. Now for the last 5 days it has been acting up again and is; "HUGE" again. Tomorrow I go yet .. AGAIN to my rhumatologist to ask what else we can do - at this point I am ready to have my hip removed if it came to that - it is so painful and nothing takes it away. I also have realized lately that my body is going haywire again, and I dread going to the doctor tomorrow because it just feels it never ends and I am sure he is tired of it by now - I know I sure am ....

I don't know what the doc will say tomorrow - he may have nothing to say. He may have a new doc for me to try out - he may have new meds he may have more tests. Some of you may know your diagnosis - you may have an answer but for me I have some clear diagnosis but no answer for why all of these things have been attacking my body and then there are the total mystery things like my huge hip. I think that the unknown is the worst part. Not knowing what all this means, if I have to endure this pain forever - if it will get worse - if it will spread (which kinda makes me laugh thinking of my entire body being big and fat like this silly hip!)? I sometimes don't know how to handle it - but then I remember that I have a God who loves me and that HE KNOWS. I may feel covered with clouds and questions (and people who judge me and my health and spread rumors about me which is ever so helpful) -- but God sees it all and He knows what is going on at the root of all my physical pain. And what is even more comforting is that He also knows what is best for me. He loves me. I can rest trusting in Him.

What a relief!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Go back to bed!

Today for some reason I feel so sore that I just want to lay down and never get back up. It is better when I don't move or breath deeply. Every rib feels broken.

How can I handle this kind of pain? Sometimes, no matter how much you want to get done, or how much you want to be up and around - the only thing you can do is go back to bed - or lay on the couch. I have heard so many people critisize people who lay on the couch and (heaven forbid!) watch TV. And I have been pulled into that feeling at times. I don't think it is right even for those of us with chronic pain to just give up and lay around all the time watching TV. I think that it is a struggle for us to get up or even to read or do something "productive" like pray etc. when we feel bad. But I do think that at times, the best thing we can do is just go back to bed. I think I (and we) need to be very careful of using our pain as an excuse to be lazy. BUT I also think that I (we) need to be careful of becoming so intent on choosing life and being proactive about living in pain that we forget that sometimes the best thing is to rest. It doesn't mean we're lazy, it means we're wise. It takes humility to say that you can't do the things that the world (and yourself) want and expect of you. Each of us needs to judge for ourselves when and what we can and cannot do.

And sometimes the best choice is just to rest.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Faith Healing

Today I received a sweet card and book in the mail from a friend. The letter talked about how God has healed her of some health issues that were plauging her life. Ever since I first became quite sick (although I was never a healthy child)at age 16 and then even worse at age 18 - I have been in a continual study of how Christians handle illness in general. The vast difference between beliefs about healing, God's will, why people get sick, how to handle illness, when to use or not use doctors ... It has been an interesting study - but not always easy. Like the time when I was making copies in my college library (a Bible College mind you) ... a guy that I didn't even know well walked up and said something like: "So you are the girl who is sick - I am sure that you are possesed by a demon and that is what is making you sick."! Wow. I don't think that I even responded to him. But it did get me thinking: what makes a believer in God sick? Is it a lack of faith if I don't get well - is it a reflection on some sin in my life? Is it testing?

So - I wanted to get your feedback on illness in a believer's life? What about healing? It's a facinating subject and one that I would like to look into a little more again with the help of my blog friends! If you want to email me privately my email is

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Social Situations 2

I get sad when people find out that I am "sick". It's funny because when I enter a new group of people or see people that I have never really met - I feel almost like a different person. I feel free from my pain if just for a moment. I feel like these people's view of me is wide open - they aren't seeing me with the narrow lense of my pain. I find myself longing to hold onto that first meeting - that time that I was just "Ali", or "Josh's wife" - not "Ali - the one with health problems". I feel like it helps me believe that I be more than just my health problems, that I have something to give other than being a living demonstration of "strngth in illness". I hate it when people tell me that I have more suffering in my life because of my constant battle with pain than anyone they know. I hate that people sometimes think of me as someone who has the market cornered on pain and illness. I hate it because it isn't true. EVERY person has some kind of pain or suffering in their lives. EVERY person. I hate self-pity, and I think when others pity me it makes it harder to fight against. I want to be more than just this!

BUT - all that said, I know that "this" is part of my life. That illness and physical pain are something that God has allowed in my life. I know that because of that it isn't something to be ashamed of - it isn't something to hide. God wants to use me just the way I am - sickness and all - to bring glory to HIS great name. Not to draw attention to myself at all - but to show people that I serve a good and strong God. I want to be willing to be that light in the world that God has called me to be - that God has called EVERY one of His children to be.

So - social situations should keep me on my toes. I should take every new meeting with someone as an opportunity to share the love of God into their lives. I guess the challenge that I am facing is how to be honest with the world and yet not just have the world hand me a label and think that I fit into a box. I want people to give me a chance - to give God a chance to show Himself.

Just some of my thoughts today ...

Friday, September 17, 2010

Job 6:10

"But it is still my consolation, And I rejoice in unsparing pain, That I have not denied the words of the Holy One. " - Job 6:10

Resently, a young friend sent me a message with this verse and told me that he wasn't sure how I did it, but that this verse reminded him of me. This is a verse in the classic Biblical story of Job - who was tested by Satan to deny God by causing all kinds of horrible circumstances in Job's life. He was given terrable boils covering his body - I have heard that these are extreamly painful - to the point where you cannot find a comfortable possition. Job had friends come and try to give him advise, Job's own wife told Job to, "curse God and die". Job wanted to die - but he was committed to not denying the God he had chosen to worship.

This historical character has gone on to give hope and challenge people all over the world to trust God and to not deny Him even when life hurts continually and doesn't make sence.

I certainly desire to be like Job. God give me the strength to rejoice in pain even though it never ends.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

healthy and yummy!

Back to my healthy living tips:

Tonight I had something so yummy and SO simple that I wanted to share with you all. First of all: many people with inflamatory disorders cannot eat nightshade veggetables like potatoes and tomatoes. I for one REALLY miss potatoes because they have always been such a comfort food for me (until i realized that they hurt my joints to pieces!). The wonderful thing that I have found is that sweet potatoes and yams are not related to potatoes in the same way and so at least for me they don't affect my joints! Tonight I was in a hurry because i was busy organizing the home (I have been trying to get as much done as I can since the cold weather is coming and I may be laid up soon with swelling around my heart). So I just took one sweet potato and one yam and washed them. Cut them into pieces and popped into a corningware casserole with some olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Baked at 350 for about a half hour and YUM! I served them with butter and salt and they were so so so yummy! I have found that sweet potatoes are also yummy with butter and brown sugar or honey for breakfast. I am always happy when I find yummy and simple meal ideas. Just thought I would share!

Hope all of my friends with chronic pain are having a lovely day! keep on looking to God for your strength!

Monday, September 13, 2010

some days are just no fun ... BUT I still hope

Today all I have wanted to do is cry. I woke up to the feeling of chest pain: my pericarditis is acting up again. I got my husband off to school and laid back down. Soon I was up again to begin a list of things I needed to accomplish for my self-employed job, and my job as wife. One thing after another and it seemed that nothing was easy today. The computer work took way longer than it should have and I had to quit several times to attend to other duties. Eating was a challenge. I had a tiny bowl (more like a small handfull) of dry cereal. I put laundry into the washer. Then a needed trip into town - this took 2 hours. When I finally got home there were groceries to unload and put away - and my husband was home from school. Time to make an early dinner for him before he went to work at the restaurant. By the time he was ready to head off to work my chest was screaming at me so I tried to lay down. But that didn't last long as my duties called once again. Phone calls with people needing help. Phone calls with people wanting to plan get togethers. All i want to do is cry but there is no time or place. So now finally I am done with most of today's chores (except the dishes which somehow miraculously pile up every time I do them), and the laundry that is still in the dryer (oh well that can wait until tomorrow). Everyone has bad days. Those of us with constant pain in our bodies have to know that it isn't JUST us who have bad days. Pain can set the stage for a bad day - but again, some of my happy days have been days when I was in a lot of pain too. It's the ups and downs of life. I want you all to know that i am a very "normal" person who definately has bad days. I also have better than good days. I don't know how I would get through days like today without the knowledge that there is a bigger picture and that it will all be good one day in heaven. I don't know how I could survive without God. The reason that I can have hope and be happy even on days when I don't feel like smiling much at all, is all because of God. Hope makes the darkest day bearable. God makes life worthwhile.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Social Situations

I was in a full room - of strangers. When suddenly I knew that I NEEDED to take a pain pill. There are times when the pain is just too much and suddenly I realize that if I don't take care of it right then it will ruin the entire day. Thankfully we had brunch so I had a glass of juice in front of me. But we were in a small group that had broken off the bigger roomfull and we were sitting in a circle. First day in a new Sunday school class - a married couples class. We resently began attending a new church since we moved away from a church we had been attending for 20 years ... so I want to start out my time in this new group with my health NOT being the only thing people see about me. I think maybe I am sensitive to not wanting that to be "who" I am because for so many years I have been surrounded by people who know so much about my health because they have been instrumental to caring for me - my old church would bring me meals, drive me to doctors, visit me in the hospital, even give money to help cover doctor bills, and most importantly pray for me. It's not that I don't appreciate all that these dear friends have been in my life, it's just that I want people to know me for other reasons first.

But today I had to take a pill. So I quitely and quickly snuck into my purse and slipped out my pill bottle and took the pill. I honestly don't think anyone thought anything of it. Maybe they did, but hopefully they didn't. I made sure that no one could see the label, and I didn't make eye contact with anyone during that moment. In hindsight, I should have put the pills into a mint container and it would have just looked like I was taking a breathmint! I need to learn to be discrete and find ways to not draw attention to my health status. Being is new social situations can be stressful, and it can make me very self-consious that people won't just see me as "the sick one". I want to develope relationships with people first before I let them into this intimate part of my life. I don't think there is anything wrong with this. I think it is normal to want to be "normal". It isn't that I don't accept that I have cronic health conditions and pain that will possibly be part of my life forever - it's just wanting there to be more to me than JUST my health.

What are your thoughts on this?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Live Another Day

I still remember like it was yesterday. Waking up to a phone call: my friend's boyfriend calling to tell us to turn on the news. My friend and I were visiting family of mine in Canada. I sat in shocked silence as the pictures rolled across the TV screen. Pictures that I couldn't believe were real. I didn't understand what was happening. And when I did all I could do was cry. I think I cried for 3 days straight - well trying not to show it but tears kept escaping. It felt so ... wrong being in a different country when my Country, my home was under such horrible attack. I just wanted to get home. I just wanted to rewind and say it never happened. So many emotions. So much anger. I was angry at people who would throw away God's greatest creation: human life. I was even angry at my our Country for making enemies. I wanted in those moments to take their place. I wanted to give my life so that someone else could live.

But, life went on. And today I sat with my wonderful family all around me - celebrating the soon to be birth of a new little life. A little boy. I watched my brother and his beautiful wife unwrap gifts .. a soft blanket to welcome their baby into the world. Cozy jammies to put him into. A stroller to take walks with this little baby boy. Life does go on. New like is around us every day - and we have the choice to live in stunned silenece ignoring those blessings, or we can choose to enjoy and believe that there is still beauty even in a world that has endured so much that is ugly and horrible. The birth of each baby is a reminder to me that God does still smile down on this earth. That He still loves us, and that life does go on. In hearing stories of many of those who died in the attacks we remember today, I believe that they would agree with what I am saying. Not to forget the memory of their lives, not to forget the sober events of our past .. but never to allow the terror of what happened blind us to the beauty that still exists. In allowing the memory of this day to shape up into better people, more loving, more humble, more thankful for every moment we have. If we don't - then aren't we allowing the terrorists to win?

I guess this is a lesson for those of us with physical pain or ailments. Sometimes we are faced with the feeling that going on is impossible. That even death would be better or easier than life. We don't want to live in a world that hurts us constantly. We don't want to live in a body that hurts us constantly. But if we can remember that life goes on, that God still smiles down on His creation; well, maybe we can find the strength to wake up tomorrow and live another day.