Saturday, December 31, 2011

What will I say at midnight?

As the end of 2011 has gotten closer and closer I've been tempted to shout: "GOOD RIDDANCE" at the old year as we welcome 2012, or possibly hide my head under a blanket and wait the old year out scarred 3 year old style. 

At a glance 2011 has been an incredibly hard year.  We have seen more of the inhumanity and cruelty of humans than maybe ever before.  We have struggled through situations with life and work and school that tested every ounce of courage we didn't have in ourselves.  We had times of intense hope on the medical front only to see that hope dashed like so many times in the past.  We watched our dear friends bury their baby.  We have been grieved to the core by people we love abandoning their resolve to follow God's way even when it isn't easy, and choosing to live in opposition to everything we used to fight for together.  We have felt isolated and alone. We have often felt like we lived in the twilight zone because of the chaos all around us and often inside our own hearts.  We have sat sleepless nights crying out to God for answers, begging for an end to suffering. 

He didn't bring an end. 

As we enter 2012 many of the same situations are still part of our life.  Our eyes, which we have longed to close so we didn't have to see the pain around us, are wide open.   And we have a choice as we always do: we can allow the pain of 2011 to make us bitter and closed, or we can allow the peace of God which passes all comprehension to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.   We can hate the circumstances we have been placed in, or we can love the people around us who are hurting in very real ways.  We can speak of God's joy and peace and then act like it doesn't make any difference choosing to live in a perpetual bad mood, or we can take to heart what we believe to be true and let it make us beautiful people with beautiful attitudes. 

2011 was probably the hardest year of our lives thus far.  Yet, if we look deeper we can see blessings that came directly from walking through this valley:
1.  Relationships deepened through walking alongside others in their pain.
2.  Patience with those who need it from us on a daily basis. (I;m definately still working on this one!)
3.  Joy in little things:  moments just the two of us alone together,  peaceful walks,  a trip to the lake for a quick swim before church,  singing,  poetry,  mastering a new recipe,  the 3 baby summer squash we harvested from our garden,  the Farmer's Market,  camping trip even in the rain,  going to class with my Husband,  laughing with my Grammie,  lunch with my sisters, text messages from friends,  hugs from my brothers, the Grocery Outlet! (Brie is only $1.49!!!), wisdom from parents, flowers and the joy of arranging them .... the list goes on and on.
4.  Clarity in our future dreams.  2 New Year's Eve's ago my sweet husband hugged me and as I cried and told him that I didn't know how to dream anymore, he told me that he would help me dream again.  It's taken time, but I am beginning to REALLY dream.  That dream includes our plans after his graduations to move to Africa where he will teach and I will hold babies in a high risk orphanage.  This dream is most precious to me because we have been in contact with this orphanage for awhile now and are planning to begin the adoption process 3 months after we move there.  There are a LOT of variables with this dream - but we are excited about the possibility!   We know that God can change the way this dream looks over the next 18 months, but we are taking the first steps and holding onto His mighty hand for guidance every step of the way.

So, as we say good-bye to 2011 I won't yell: "GOOD RIDDANCE!!" out the door at midnight.  Instead, I'll breath a sigh of peace and joy in all that God did through the challenges, and a prayer of thanks that no matter what 2012 holds for us, we will have that Everlasting Arm to lean on with each new day.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Christmas Story

Merry Christmas a day late! I saw this on a friend's blog and just had to share with all of you! The accents make it even more incredible and cute. Enjoy!

Monday, December 26, 2011

faith in the midst of suffering

The beautiful writer of this real, raw blog post is one of my most precious friends.  Please be praying for this family and learn something from this very true faith in the face of a very hard time.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

1. I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day - Casting Crowns

I thought this remake of one of my favorite Christmas songs was perfect for the post about peace I just wrote ..


This Christmas season I find myself longing for one thing above all else: peace.  When there is chaos all around how is peace even possible?   The answer is Jesus. 

Not one of us can orchestrate our lives (or anyone else's lives) to be free from pain, suffering and the chaos around us.  What we do have control over is our attitude and where we turn when life becomes hard.  Turning to Jesus in times of stress or pain doesn't take away the situation - but it can change our heart and make it easier to bear.  

Yes, I do still long for peace in the situations around me.  I do long for suffering to end.  I do long for relationships to be healed.  I long for those who are sick to be healed.  I long for war to end.  I long for orphans to have homes.  I long for crime to end.  I long for everyone to have the hope and peace that Jesus only can provide.  But for the deepest part of me I am learning (I have so far to go) to embrace the peace  and joy that is given me through Jesus even though my heart is so heavy with the chaos all around.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Redemption of our Loss

Sometimes our biggest loses can become our biggest gains.   Seven years ago today I went in for surgery with the 50/50 chance that they would do a hysterectomy.  I honestly never really thought that would happen.  I thought that God would let me die on that operating table rather than ask me to live a life without my longest and deepest dream of carrying a baby inside me.  But I was wrong.  (and I am so thankful!)

Being married now (going on 2 and  half years) the pain of being barren is greater every day.  You would think it would get better with time - but as I see my friends and younger siblings having babies left and right and as I watch myself grow older I sometimes panic feeling like adoption is too long of a road for us and we're not even to the starting point yet.  

But then I remember the Lord I love with all my heart. 

And I remember that He is the great Redeemer.  His business is taking things that are not right, or useful, or perfect, or beautiful and making them great.  He took the sin of the whole world on His own shoulders and gave us hope and forgiveness - He turns loss into victory every day.  December 15 will never be forgotten for me.  But I want the grief I feel over the loss of being able to bear a child be a reminder of the greatness of the Redeemer I serve.  I want to always remember that God took this loss of mine (and now of my sweet Husband too) and turned it into our great gain.  If God brings us children to call our own on this earth - or finds some other way to use our love for children - I want His name to be praised.  

I know that His redemption of our loss will be beautiful even though I don't know exactly what it will look like yet - and that makes me super excited. :)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Joy Is Like the Rain

At the beautiful memorial service on Sunday for Mrs. S (see previous post) her family sang this song. I had never heard it before so I came home and found this version on Utube and thought I would share. It is a beautiful old song describing joy. Mrs. S had great joy despite great physical suffering and pain. An example we can all learn from as we walk this life.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hope and the best chocolate cake ever

As a shy 15 year old I was hesitant to go to my first Sunday School class at our new church.  I was glad that my brother was with me as we walked into the little room.  We were greeted by a sweet lady with snow white hair and a box full of puppets!  Mrs. S (as she told us to call her) had a firm hand and beautiful spirit.   We spend Sunday School hour reading through Proverbs and practicing puppet skits and songs.  Sometimes we would practice puppets on a Saturday and Mrs. S would make sloppy joes and chocolate cake with delicious icing for lunch.  Through the years Mrs. S had a lot of influence on my heart and development into a young lady.  I knew that she suffered from chronic health afflictions, yet she was always ready to ask about how I was doing - the focus was never on herself.   Her deep faith in God through the suffering she endured (which included loss of a leg due to diabetes) was a testimony to everyone who knew her.  As our Pastor's wife the sermon she gave just by how she lived was beautiful.  On our wedding day she was there and I found her in the crowd and we hugged before my Farmer Boy and I took off on our honeymoon (she said it was about time that he married me!)  She said our wedding was the most beautiful she and her husband had ever seen.  I remember the last time they had us over to their house - she baked a delicious poppy seed chicken dish and her house was spotless and decorated so beautifully as always.  I always admired the wonderful housewife she was (she had 7 children just like my mama!)  and the sweet relationship Pastor Dave and Mrs. S had - faithfully married all those years. 

Yesterday morning Mrs. S went to heaven.  My heart is grieved deeply for the loss her family has suffered - she will be greatly missed.  But I am also rejoicing that Mrs. S is seeing our Savior face to face in a place with no more pain where she is whole and healed.   The Bible says that we grieve when someone we love has passed away - but not as those who have no hope. 

I've been thinking a lot about hope lately.  We use the word hope more like a wish: "I hope Santa brings me a new car for Christmas", " I hope I don't catch that cold bug" ... but the Bible uses the word hope much differently.  It is a confident expectation.  A CONFIDENT EXPECTATION.  The confidence is because Jesus Christ (fully God putting on human flesh to save us) came as a baby so many years ago and then died for our sins (and raised from the dead!) so that we might live in heaven with Him forever.  He took away the deep hopelessness of death and replaced it with confidence and joy.  Yes, we grieve.  What I would give to see Mrs. S again.  But we also have hope.  Hope that those who believe will see her again in heaven someday.   Hope does not disappoint. 

I wonder if Mrs. S will be making chocolate cake in heaven - serving others as she always has. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011


My Grammie and Daddy have instilled in me a deep deep love of poetry.  My youngest brother memorized this one and when he recited it I got teary eyed.  The words are so good and so many good character traits to pray for and strive to embody.   It's far too easy for people to make excuses because of their area of suffering whatever it may be - and I want to always fight against that selfish mentality.  Just because someone is in physical pain, or emotional pain, financial suffering, relational problems .. whatever kind of suffering (and everyone has some kind of pain in their life) doesn't mean that they get the "right" to not aim high in life and in character.  There are always going to be different struggles that we all have to overcome, but we can overcome day by day through the grace of God!  Be encouraged and even though it may be hard - it is worth it to reach for a good goal ... I am in the process of memorizing this poem and am through the first section in 2 days!!   The hardest line so far has been: "If you can wait and not be tired by waiting" ... I'm working on that one.


you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too:

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,

Or being hated don't give way to hating,

And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;

If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same:.

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings,

And never breathe a word about your loss:

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much:

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,

And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Ali's Thanksgiving Carol

It's Thanksgiving!!!  I absolutely love this holiday set aside to be Thankful.  I love the emphasis on family, the farming harvest, I love baking and cooking and blessing those I love through what I make, I love being reminded to be thankful to the God who gives us so so much.  I love pretty much everything about this holiday.  So take a journey with me to my Thanksgivings Past, and maybe we will all be reminded of what we are thankful for: (enter wistful music and twirling feeling like on Dicken's Christmas Carol)

1.  I'm just 18 or 19 - lying there in a cold hospital room in Canada of all places!  This was the first Thanksgiving I remember where things were very different for me. I became quite sick (gallbladder but they didn't know it then) and was put in the tiny local hospital for 5 days I think.  They put me on a liquid diet.  I remember clearly talking to my sweet Daddy on the phone and he told me maybe they would let me eat cranberry jello since it was Thanksgiving day.  The whole experience was a blur - but looking back I am so thankful for my big sister who spent so much time watching over me and loving on me, and for friends who were by my side during that time.  On to the next Thanksgiving a few years later ...

2.  Lying on the couch and my parents home.  I had to stay home from the family Thanksgiving because I was sick recovering from strep throat.  My parents and whole family was over 2 hours away and the doctor told me to rush to the ER because I was having trouble breathing.  My mom told me to call the neighbors (who just so happened to be the family of my sweet Farmer Boy!) and Joshua himself came and drove me to the local ER (we were not dating at the time but best friends)  I told him to just drop me off and go back to his family Thanksgiving dinner.  But he refused and stayed in the ER with me for hours making me laugh and talking with me.  His parents waited on having dinner til after 8pm when they let me go home.  I was overwhelmed by his and their generosity.  I started seriously falling in love with him. :)

3.  My very first home alone - and this year  I was sick again and couldn't make the trip to the family dinner.  Joshua (who by now was my intended) was away with his family in another state.  I was really alone.  My amazing parents came to my house and dropped off a lovely slice of pumpkin pie before heading to the family dinner.  I wore my Farmer Boy's big cozy sweater all day.  Perhaps this Thanksgiving was one in which I learned the most because I was really alone and I could have let it ruin it, but I decided to make the most of it and enjoy my day just me and my God.  It was so blessed and full of reminders of what I am Thankful for.  Now on to the last Thanksgiving memory ...

4.  I really disliked this hospital - maybe because  I was hospitalized for a couple weeks - very sick with pericarditis.  I was downtown and my sweet Farmer Boy spent every possible moment by my side.  On Thanksgiving I was very depressed, my family stopped by and Joshua went home to have dinner with his family (which I definitely didn't want to make him miss!) but at around 10pm he called and said he was coming back to spend the night at the hospital with me.  I was so surprised that he would drive 2 hours after a busy day to spend time with me because he knew how lonely I was.   (twirling feeling and music and suddenly we're back to the present)

The point of this journey to Thanksgivings Past is to remind you all (and myself) that no matter where you are today, or who is with you, or how you are feeling - there are always blessings and reasons to be Thankful. 

Thanksgiving Present: At the moment I am fighting a cold among other things.  I got the news  from my doctor today that I have to really be careful of what I eat and may even have to be on a liquid diet (because of the likelyhood that my pancreas is upset again)...which is disappointing since I just LOVE all the butter and yumminess of Thanksgiving dinner.  BUT I am choosing now to find joy in the God who is always with me.  I may or may not spend the day around a table with the family I love ... but whatever the case I am grateful.  It's not easy - I feel very disappointed about possibly missing the day with family and my Husband .. but it is a choice I need to make. (update: my cold held back enough for me to go to the family dinner and even though I wasn't able to eat everything I had a lovely time!)

I would love to hear your Thanksgiving stories!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Walking through the valley

There are times when for whatever reason: relational problems, physical pain or illness, depression, loss of work, loneliness, isolation, financial troubles, new diagnosis, death of a loved one ... it seems our bodies try to protect us by "turning off" our emotions.  We find ourselves going through the motions of day to day life not something is missing.   I've had this happen a few times in my life: after my Grandpa died when I was 15, when surgery ended up not relieving the pain ... So what do we do in times when we feel this way?

Keep going.

I've found that there are times when you just have to force yourself to do the things you don't "feel" like doing.  Go to work.  Clean the house.  Even sometimes getting up in the morning.   And even though this may not change the way you feel, it helps you get through the time in the valley.  

It's frustrating wanting your emotions to catch up with what you know and believe to be true.  But eventually they will.  Don't give up but keep on going and do things that you know you used to like doing or things that you know are important: read the Bible, pray - even if you don't know the words to say God cares how you are feeling, spend time with others who are encourage you, cook, garden, sing ... these things can give you little glimmers of what you used to love and help pull you out of the self-defeating feelings or lack of feelings. 

Do these times that everyone goes through steal away all joy and hope?  They don't have to!  Joy is based not on changing emotions but on truth - the truth that God is with us no matter what, the truth of heaven, the truth of those around us who love us for who we are, the truth of the beauty in creation!  That is one of the main reasons I wanted to start this blog - to remind myself and others that there IS a joy or "a different kind of happy" that is not based on circumstances. 

Do any of you have ideas for what you do when you are going through a valley in life?  I would love to hear!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Not just a body

“Life depends on the physical body, but the physical body is not what life is all about” (Unknown)

I've been reminded so much lately that life is so much more than this body of ours.  When friends find out they have cancer, dear friends and family get closer to the end of a long life, diagnosis change, young people are snatched from life during a car accident ... there is just so much to remind me that these bodies we all have are not what makes us who we are.   The beauty of the human soul shines forth even on the death bed.  We all have the choice every day if we will let whatever is happening to our physical body determine our attitude, or not.  What is happening to our body is often not in our control.  But we can choose what our true LIFE is going to be.  We can choose to have joy in our lives even in sadness, we can choose to trust God with all that we are, we can choose to love those around us.  Life is SO much more ... so live today a full life no matter what.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A shoulder to cry on ...

Last night I was watching true story about a sweet young woman who had given birth to a still born baby.   It was a heart-breaking story. I cannot imagine that pain and loss.  She was pregnant again and struggling with panic and fear that she would loose this baby too (she didn't!). 

The pain of loosing a child must be nearly unbearable.  I have sat with one of my closest friends and cried with her when she lost a baby.  There is no comfort to offer in those moments.  My friend told me the worst "comforting words" were from people who told her that she was young and could have more babies.  She wanted to be allowed to grieve the loss of THIS baby and not have her pain belittled in any way.  Every person has suffering and pain unique to them.  No one can feel someone else's pain. 

Back to the story I saw last night: one thing this young lady said stood out to me.  She said that when her baby died her group of friends grew silent.  No one called.  No one commented.  No one was there.  Just silence.  She felt neglected in her time of greatest need.  What a shame!  But, unfortunately it is not rare for this to happen.  Pain, loss, death, cancer, mysterious illnesses, divorce, affairs, loss of faith .. all of these times of deep suffering are hard for people to bear.  Friends may disappear because they feel it is too hard to walk through this suffering.  People don't know what to say because they feel if they say the wrong thing they will cause more pain.  It's human nature to want to shrink away from pain - in others as well as in ourselves.  But I am challenging us all to NOT.  You don't have to have the answers.  You don't have to know some amazing thing to say to that friend who is hurting.  You don't have to feel comfortable with the situation.  You just have to be there.  Offer support in little ways: make a meal, offer to babysit, pray for them (and let them KNOW!), call them on the phone, send a text, offer to clean their house .. drive them to the doctor ... there are SO many ways to offer support. 

I long to be a better friend to those around me.  I sometimes shrink back just because in this place of life we are in I don't get the opportunity to be away from the house much or even have people over much .. BUT I can still pray and I can send a message to someone who is hurting.   Don't do nothing just because you can't do everything.  Together we can ease some of the pain around us and at least offer a shoulder for that friend to cry on when they need it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Jesus: the best dream of heaven

I wasn't sure what to post today - nothing really in my own life exciting to write about right now (except my walk today with the gloriously crispt fall air, the crunchy yellow leaves beneath my feet .. yep that was pretty amazing!).   But in general, I'm not feeling very motivated to write at the moment - and when I read this article I knew I had to share!!

It's so important to keep our focus away from ourselves, our pain ,our healing, our longing for the freedom from suffering in heaven - and to keep our eyes on Jesus - the reason for every blessing we have or long for someday in heaven.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Is Life Worth Living? Carol's Story!

Carol is a beautiful person whom I met through the blog!  Her story is inspiring as she has been through something very difficult that has changed her life.  But she still says life if worth living and that takes courage and a strong spirit.  Here is her story:

"Hello everybody. I am a 54 year old living in Wales in the United Kingdom. Until a year ago I was a vibrant fun loving woman who hadnt a care in the world. Then Bang...A brain heamorrhage turned my life upside down.This last year has been a nightmare for me and those around me. I am scared to go out of my front door, scared to be alone in my home and scared to go out alone. But with the help of those around me I am getting better slowly. My whole perception of the world around me has changed. I look at everything differently now. People, places, flowers, trees all have a meaning to me unlike before.Everything is "special".Everybody is special. I no longer take anything for granted. It all has a meaning whether its a little dog running past my house or a little child crying. Its all a big deal for me now. So to all those who are thinking that life isnt worth living...believe me it is. You never know whats around the corner. Love to you all. Carol.XXX "

Expected Life

Facebook is fun because you can see pictures of the lives of friends you have lost touch with over the years - see what their wedding was like, drool over their beautiful babies etc.  It's also fun because a few of my old friends and acquaintances are now bloggers and they share stories about their lives and mostly pictures of their families. 

Last night before bed I happened to look at the latest post of a childhood friend of mine.  She shared gorgeous photos of a beautiful baby boy .. their trip to the pumpkin patch, her husband carving pumpkins with the little guy ... just the cutest photos that made me imagine what her life is like.  She started off the blog by saying that when she was a little girl and pictured her life THIS is what she pictured.  She didn't know the details (who she would marry, what her baby would look like etc.) but she is living her dream life.  I am very happy for her - her family is gorgeous and their life looks beautiful (now I know that even the most "perfect" looking life has struggles and I am not saying her life is free of those by any means). 

Her words got me thinking as I went to bed last night.  My mind was flooded with pictures of a gorgeous little red-haired boy.  And I thought: what would it be like to be living my childhood dream?   When I was a kid I wanted first and foremost to be a mama.  I played house all the time, pretended to be pregnant.  I had lots of baby dolls and loved rocking them to "sleep".  As I grew into a teen being a mama was still my #1 goal.  I wanted as many kids as I could have.  Second to being a mom I wanted to be a missionary and travel to far off lands helping those in need.  But being a mama was always my first dream and my deepest dream.   Right now I literally have 9 friends posting pregnancy pictures on facebook - complaining about being "fat", sharing ultra-sound photos .. I have countless friends posting baby pictures - literally everywhere I look are more baby pictures.   And I can't help but feel like these friends are living MY dream!   (I am sure it was their dream too - or maybe for some of them it wasn't their original dream, but they do seem pretty excited about it now.)  Am I saying that people shouldn't share their baby news with me?  NO WAY!  I absolutely love looking at the adorable baby bumps my friends are sporting.  I spend a lot of time just enjoying the beauty of the babies my friends have made.  I treasure being brought into this exciting part of the lives of my friends.  But, to say that I never feel jealous would be a lie.  I questioned if I should even post this because I don't want my pregnant friends to read it and feel bad for the blessing growing inside them!  I don't want my grief of infertility to taint the joy of their fertility.  But, after talking with a friend who is also struggling with infertility I realized that it might be helpful to express some of depth of suffering involved with infertility.

Living my dream will never happen in the way that I dreamed it would.  I will never carry a baby inside me.  My sweet Husband and I are in a funny place right now - without a home of our own just trying to get him through school, unable to pursue adoption at this time .. our life is far from the dream and expectation I had as a child.

BUT, that doesn't mean that our life is bad.  There are beautiful things every moment that maybe we need to focus a little harder to see - but they are there.   God has given us wonderful people in our lives.  He has given us both very challenging ministries to people who are hurting in some way.  He has given us responsibilities.  He has given us the lives of beautiful nieces and nephews, god-children to be involved in and enjoy.  He has given us a warm place to stay (even if it isn't our dream farm house!).  He has given us laughter.  He has given us beauty in little things.  He has given us music.  He has given us a sweet garden.  He has given us a wonderful church.  He has given us opportunities for growth.  He has given us each other! (I often tell my Joshua that he is my dream that has come true and I am SO grateful for our marriage!)   He has blessed us beyond words even though for the most part, this life is not what we expected or dreamed.  

I rejoice for the life He has given us because I know He gives what we need even when sometimes as a spoiled child I feel like pouting that He didn't give me what I wanted.   May His grace transform my heart to want more than anything what He wants for me - for us.   For His dream to become my dream.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tell YOUR Story!

I was totally shocked.  I know that some people have different views of illness and life and death etc. but to come face to face with such a very different mentality about suffering, productively, and life made me feel like the wind was knocked out of me.  I spend a lot of talk communicating with people in various walks of life, many dealing with health issues, many not.  This person I came into contact with has shown over and over that they are either afraid of or very judgemental of ill health.  By literally mocking those who are sick, and saying things about how those with ill health have no reason to be alive - (because they can't be productive), how this person doesn't want those with health problems in their family .. it goes on and on.  

 I don't know what has influenced this worldview - maybe their parents were harsh toward people who were sick, or maybe they fear being sick so much that they have created this mindset. Maybe they have seen people who are disabled taking advantage of it and using the situation in selfish ways ... And in fairness - this person is not very involved in knowing that I even have daily health struggles.   But the whole situation got me thinking. 

I don't buy into this worldview for a moment.  I do know that suffering can make you feel useless at times, and may make you question your place in this world.  (believe me I have gone through those stages) But, I know too many stories of people who faced serious and debilitating health issues yet were amazing productive forces in the world.  I also know myself that I wouldn't give up my life for anything - pain and all.  I don't think my life is a waste at all and I have a lot of joy even amidst the pain.  But what I want from you is YOUR STORY.  I want to know what you feel about this issue and why you feel your life is worth living even in the middle of whatever suffering you endure.  You can email your stories at and your story might just be published here on my blog! 

Let's encourage each other and change the mindset that ill health makes life unworthy!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


As I turned the corner I was enveloped in light.  It literally took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes it was so beautiful.  The trees covered with red leaves made a tunnel of the road and as I drove through I was overwhelmed by the immense beauty of creation - and because I know Who made those trees my heart was turned to worship. 


The bad news and sad news is all around us.  Suffering is part of the human condition - and it will be part of each person's experience in one way or another during our time of this earth.  We need to each be doing all we can to face the darkness and make even a "small" difference by bringing light.  But, one thing I have found to be helpful when I feel overwhelmed by the sadness and sickness and suffering all around (and in) me, is to focus on the beauty that is still very evident if we just open our eyes to it.

Like the leaves yesterday.  I was in a hurry - trying to get to a doctor appointment which was making me nervous because I have never driven to this doctor or even on this hwy - and I am dreadful with directions.  So I could have missed out on the beauty of that magical moment in the tree tunnel, but I decided to enjoy to drive even though I was nervous.  And in the end I made it to my cardiologist just fine AND I got a beautiful reminder of the beauty of creation and the Creator on the way!

Take the time to open your eyes to the beauty God puts all around us - even in the midst of the busyness of life and the suffering you may be facing. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Financial Suffering

Wondering if milk or bread is more important.  Choosing which bills can wait being paid.  Making up excuses not to get together with friends because you're too embarrassed to admit you can't afford to go out....  I am sure that these ring a bell with more than a few of you reading.  In our economy there are many people out of work.  In exploring suffering I wanted to touch on this area of suffering: so that those in this situation wouldn't feel alone, and those not suffering from lack of money/jobs would be compassionate to those who are.  While, the suffering in the United States is nowhere near the depth and scale of the poverty in countries in Africa, India etc.  - it is still very real and very painful for the individuals and families faced with poverty. 

I've seen men hunched over with shame when interview after interview fell through - the weight of responsibility pushing heavily on their shoulders.  I've seen mothers go without to make sure their babies have food to eat.  I've seen sick people ignoring symptoms because of no way to pay doctor bills.  Poverty is a very real and very painful suffering. 

I have also seen God provide in beautiful and big ways - even miraculous ways!  When I was in college living with a sweet family who were living day to day working as hard as they could to get through school, I saw a miracle.  It may have been a little miracle, but a miracle nonetheless.  One night we didn't have food for the next day - and the family and I all say around the table and prayed for God to provide.  The parents felt pressure as they had two lovely little girls, but they were not fretting they always trusted that God would take care of them.  The next day mysteriously a bag of groceries was left by the door!  Now, if no food had arrived would that mean that God was not good?  Or that He didn't listen?  No. I won't pretend to understand why God answered yes that time, and yet other times people I know have gone hungry ... but I do know that God hears every prayer and that His answer is always good.  I have prayed over and over to be healed from my pain - and yet God has not answered yes to that prayer.  And I see good that has come from my NOT being healed every day. 

Sometimes God lifts the pain and gives a beautiful blessing.  Other times He leaves the pain and gives a beautiful blessing.

I think the key for our reaction in times of financial (and every kind) of suffering is to trust.  We need to be responsible to do all that we can, but that when we have done our best to realize that God will do what is best with our situation.  I am the type that just wants to fix it!  I have a small home floral business, and I am just longing for some weddings to books for next year.  I want to help my husband get through school.  I want to relieve some pressure from our budget.  I want to save for adoption.  But when I have done all I can, I need to just sit back and know that this really isn't in my control.  I have to wait and see what God will do.  That is very hard for me.  I'm an action type of girl. Waiting is the last thing I want to be doing about this!  I want to make it work.  I want to relieve some of the financial struggles we face.  But I am asked to just rest in God's arms and trust Him. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Texting at 12:51 am

I like texting.  It seems less demanding than talking on the phone to me - and since my sweet Husband is up studying late I am not disturbing him by talking.  But I have been sitting here for quite a while texting 2 conversations at the same time.

One is with a sweet friend who is recovering from VERY painful surgery.  She has had surgeries over and over and definately knows physical and emotional pain.

The second is a dear friend who is going through very hard emotional and relational suffering right now.   This friend has been through a lot and my heart goes out to her.

My heart just aches for both of my friends tonight.  And texting them both just reinforces the truth that ALL of us have some kind of pain in our lives.  And also reminds me that we NEED each other to get through it all.  God didn't make a mistake when he made more than just one human.  He knew that we would need each other to be stretched and to grow and to comfort and challenge and love each other.  I'm not always the best friend in the world .. I think it's an area I struggle with and it has never come easy.  When I was a kid I often just played outside all by myself .. or with my stuffed animals and dolls .. but that's a rabbit trail!  Being a good friend takes energy and sometimes I don't feel like I have it.  But I am determined to always work on being better at this - because it is just too important!  I treasure the true friends that are in my life, and I want to be the listening ear and comforting arms that my friends need.

I don't know how much help texting at 12:49 am is .. but it's what I have to give right now, that and my prayers.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Putting the apples back in the cart

One thing that I think everyone would agree is difficult about having health issues and chronic pain is that it seems whenever you get into a good routine with life something topples the apple cart .. so to speak.   I was walking or doing just some bit of exercise every day (by walking i mean like even a 10 minute slow walk - which was awesome for me!), and I was eating well avoiding sugar etc, and taking all my medications at the right times ....  But it does always seem like something happens to mess up my schedule and then I have the choice of leaving it all messed up or getting back up and trying again.  There are things that are often helpful for chronic conditions: some type of exercise (even exercises done sitting etc.), eating healthy whole foods, drinking lots of water .. basically all the things that are good for every human.  The difference is that those of us with chronic pain sometimes will suffer greater immediate pain if we don't do these things (every human will at some point if they don't live healthy .. but that's a different soapbox!).  Our bodies are a gift from God and weather we are "normal" or in chronic pain we have a responsibility to take care of them to the best of our ability!

So, back to the apple cart.  This week I just pretty much gave up on everything for a few days.  Partly because of a flair up I needed to not do a lot of physical exercise (but I could have done very light stretches etc.), and partly because I somehow lost motivation.   Just like anything, we have choices about what we do in situations like this.  And I'm choosing to get back up and pick up the apples and get going on taking better care of myself again.  Today was a LOVELY day so I went out and walked (for 14 minutes!) and made a nice healthy breakfast with apples and oats .. and I ordered some vitamins which are about to run out.  No one else is responsible for my body, so I need to do all I can to take care of it!   Just because our bodies may not work perfectly, doesn't mean we get out of the work of taking care of them!  In fact, I guess we have more responsibility to do all we can to be healthy.  No saying: "If I was stronger I would exercise", "If I felt better I would eat healthy."  No excuses!  (believe me I have used them plenty in my life but I am realizing that excuses get me nowhere!)

What are YOU doing to stay healthy today?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Now We're on FACEBOOK!

I haven't quite figured out how to add a facebook link on my gadgets - but I think this will take you there!  I did this so that my friends on my personal fb won't have to see links to my new posts but those who are wanting to follow can do that separately!  Let me know if it works and feel free to share my fb page with any of your friends on fb who might be interested of encouraged by reading.

A Lost Balloon

You know when you were a little kid and you had that amazing helium balloon?  You were so excited about it and you wanted to show everyone.  You wanted to take it with you everywhere and your mama tied it onto your arm so that it wouldn't fly away?  Did the tie ever come undone and suddenly before your little hands could grasp it your precious balloon had slipped away - flying up to the clouds.  It happened so fast, and you couldn't stop it.  Do you know that feeling?
I do.

It isn't important why I feel like this all over again tonight.  I am sure that lost dreams are a very common thing for every human - maybe more common with those of us with chronic health issues, maybe not.  But whatever the case, I feel like my big beautiful balloon just slipped from my hands and my heart is broken .. again. 

I'd be lying to say that I never ask God why.  That I never scream into heaven for fulfilment of my dreams - like a spoiled child begging for what she wants more than anything.  But even in those moments crying out to heaven from my broken heart I know that He is bigger.  Bigger than my whys.  Bigger than my tears.  Bigger than my lost dreams.  In moments like these, I feel so tempted to never dream again.  What's the point right?  I feel like I cannot stand another shattered dream.  I mean, I'm only human!  But, I also don't want to stop.  I don't want to totally loose hope that dreams can come true (after all my sweet Husband is the one proof I hold onto that dreams DO come true!).  And I don't want to loose hope in a God who is big enough to use dreams: broken or come true for His glory.

The only thing that keeps me from totally giving up on ever dreaming again, is the beautiful truth that God is the composer for the song of my life.  I'm the instrument.  No matter how many low notes there are in this song, He knows the beauty of low and high notes in perfect harmony.  He will use these broken dreams - these low notes in my song - to bring glory to His beautiful name.  I will keep dreaming - and He'll keep writing the song of my life.  How I long for it to be beautiful music to His ears.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Sweet Shoulder

I didn't know how to explain what I felt.  In only 3 weeks I was heading to have a hysterectomy.  This day it shouldn't have mattered so much more except that circumstances suddenly made the reality hit me hard: I would not be a "normal" women after this surgery.  My body would forever bear the scars of the results of this fallen world we live in.   My body would never function reproductively again.  I would never be able to feel a baby kicking inside me, never get the joy of telling my Husband we were pregnant, never see a baby that was my own genetically.  On this particular day (November 24, 2004), the reality of what was about to be taken from me hit me hard.  As I tried to hold the tears in I ran and threw myself onto my bed.  My little sister followed me.  She asked what was wrong and I only had to say 3 words but she totally understood.  As the hot tears fell down my cheeks, my little sister wrapped her arms around me and held me close.  And I just cried.  I didn't have to go into detail, I didn't have to explain.  She knew.  And rather than lecture me on how God would bring me babies someday, and how much better I would feel after surgery ... she just was quiet and was with me in my grief. 

Why am I telling this story now?  Well, I think people who are not going through a specific pain or grief sometimes feel like they can't help those who are.  I think people feel like they have to have something eloquent to say, or make sense of the suffering.  But, in my experience, the most comforted I have ever felt has been through people like my sister who are just quiet and grieve with me in my pain.  No judgement.  No reasoning.  Just pure uncluttered compassion.

Who in your life is grieving or hurting today?  Let us all remember to love and offer a shoulder to cry on - sometimes it is the best gift we can give.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Doctors can still learn and grow too!

Oh it's been a long day.  Today I am extra thankful for aleve, and pillows, cable TV, my heating pad, and a shower.  I really wish that shower was a bath tub - but warm water of any kind of very helpful on days like today.

When I focus on how I feel on days like this it can be discouraging.  But, if I try hard there is always something good to think about.  Oddly enough, today that good thing is my doctor.

I saw my pcp this week and it was a shock to me to hear her say a few things.  First of all, she has been my main doctor for years and has seen me through a lot - finding specialists and reviewing all the test results etc. from every doctor I have seen.  In the past before there were answers for my pain, she has stood up to questions other doctors had about if there was a cause for the pain I was having - and she rejoiced with me with each clue we uncovered about what was going on in my body.  She never gave up thinking that there was something causing all these conditions that were attacking my body.  She has walked with me through pain control and teaching me so much about how to deal with it on a daily basis.  Yesterday she was looking over my latest test results which shed more light on everything when suddenly she turned to me and said: "I have learned so much through your situation and watching you go through everything you have endured over the years."  She went on to say how my case has helped her grow as a doctor.  Wow.  I've always known that God could use my health to challenge people to turn to God, or encourage others who were "sick" - but I didn't really think much about how it could inspire my doctors and influence the direction they go in their practice.  If my long health struggle could help even this one doctor to treat patients differently and to look deeper for the cause behind pain etc. it would be worth it.  I am so thankful to have a doctor like her, and thankful that we have learned together over the years and I am sure we will continue learning and growing as we seek treatment options and see what the next chapter brings.

There is always something good that God can bring about from something bad.  I do feel bad today, but I know God is using this in ways I don't even see for good.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Guilty Doughnuts

Doughnuts make everything better right?  I mean, who can resist a big golden doughnut with crispy sugary outside and warm fluffy inside?  One time, before we were married, my Farmer Boy and I took a whole package of muffin dough, made the muffins into doughnuts and ate the ENTIRE package (which was like 6-8 doughnuts) in one sitting.  What makes this story worse is that we were watching: "The Biggest Looser" at the same time.  No joke.  Why am I talking about doughnuts?  You'll see.

Physical pain or illness can shorten your fuse.  I'm NOT saying this as an excuse, but just something those of us with chronic pain or illness need to be aware of.  Example: Today, I went with my husband to the thrift store to drop off some stuff.  For some reason I got suuupper car sick and was miserable all the way home.  Because I was mad that I felt so yucky, my attitude was snarky to my Husband (who hadn't done anything wrong at all).  Of course, it had been an extra long day of taking care of chores for me, and I still had a lot on my list to get done before going to sleep - so I felt even more overwhelmed, and mad that I felt crummy but couldn't just rest.  When we got back from the thrift store I realized (much to my dismay) I needed to run to the grocery store - so I left and of course felt guilty all the way to the store, while I was shopping, standing in the check out line (where I bought the discounted doughnuts as a peace offering) and all the way home.  Of course my sweet Husband was loving and forgiving (especially when he saw the doughnuts! - see I knew they would help the situation!) and I didn't even have to tell him why I was so frustrated - in fact he apologized that his driving made me car sick (which it wasn't his driving - just my silly body).  It all ended well.

So, a word to the wise: KNOW that you might be more prone to snarky behavior when you are feeling crummy and work on keeping your mouth shut if at all possible.  Or simply explain to whoever you are with that you aren't feeling good, and that it isn't a good time to have deep conversations.  We should never allow our pain to be a catalyst to our hurting the people we love - they get hurt enough just because we are in pain.   Sometimes, it is best to just be alone if our attitude needs help.  I know that's not always possible, but sometimes it really is best.  Just take a quick breather and a quick prayer that you won't take your frustration about how you feel out on someone around you.  It makes life much easier.

Oh, and it also saves money on remorseful doughnut purchases.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Accept it

There is an important distinction between acceptance and giving up.  I've come close to giving up on my battle with my silly body in the past - but acceptance is something I am always in the process of learning.  Tonight, for example, (or rather this morning as it is 2:13 am) I am realizing that no matter how much I hate it, my illness is going to ruin my plans for tomorrow.  This might not seem like a big deal - since my plans are "just" to go to a ladies Bible study at our church.  But, Tuesday morning Bible study is my one (literally) regular social thing that is just for me.  (I know - pretty hoppin' social life right?!)  I enjoy just getting in the car and driving somewhere totally alone, and hanging out with ladies and singing together and learning cool stuff - and just being free from housework and my home business (even though I LOVE both having a home and husband to keep home for - AND my home business ... ) and everything.  So, tonight I am up and not sleeping because I feel yucky and nauseated for whatever reason: medications, pain -  whatever .. I really have no clue.  Not a rare feeling for me at all - but never a fun feeling for sure.  So, I have a feeling there will be no Bible study for me in the morning.

I started to feel all upset about this, but then I realized that it wouldn't do any good.  In fact it would probably just make me feel worse.  Accepting means that I can relax and know that even though I may be disappointed that God is still good.  Accepting means that I can just chill out and not stress it.  There is an old saying: "In acceptance lieth peace."  It's really true.  I can just rest in the peace that God knows what is going on in my body, and He knows that I am hurting and disappointed and frustrated with my health - and He is still God and He is right here with me no matter what.  Even though I'm all alone in the middle of the night, He is with me - and He loves me.  That gives me peace.  And oddly enough, that gives me joy even right here in this nauseous moment.

It's totally different than giving up.  I believe wholly in fighting hard for our health.  I am all for proving doctors and statistics wrong, I'm totally not for laying down and being a wimp and giving up.

But I'm also totally for embracing the peace that comes with acceptance.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

specifics about my health? ASK ME!

Sometimes I wonder why I bother blogging.   I am always aware of how easily this blog could turn into something I dread: a self-centered soapbox focused on whining and gaining pity - rather than a God-centered opportunity to show His strength in my weakness.  I set out to daily practice choosing joy in the midst of pain, and to encourage others to do the same ... and when I keep that focus and look at the positive comments about how this blog encourages other facing any kind of challenge in life - it keeps me going. 

But, I do sometimes get less than encouraging comments. In those times I find myself wondering if they are right and blogging about a topic like this is too dangerous.  I know people will judge - I have lived with that every day since I first became sick ("maybe you don't have enough faith to be healed", "maybe it's because of some sin in your life", "you just don't eat healthy enough," ... "if you try this doctor or diet or . whatever you would be well by now" ...).   Because of that and because I never wanted this blog to be so much about my own health as I wanted it to be about God's strength displayed though the joy He gives to all of us in our varied circumstances, I have tried to stay away from sharing very much about my day to day specific health challenges (plus who really wants to hear everything about an illness that goes on for so long!? - I certainly don't).  Recently, I felt I needed to share some good news I got from my doctor (I wanted to share this because it sometimes feels like so many people are praying for me and I honestly feel indebted to all of those prayers) - but then after some comments I went back and deleted that post.  Maybe it was a chicken thing to do.  I have struggled with the idea that I "owe" an explanation or updates about my specific health ever since my home church began praying for me when I first got sick.  It always felt like I was obligated to let everyone know how I was doing .. but at the same time I wondered if people really needed to know.  I am struggling with that again with this blog.  I never meant it to be about updates about my health.  Since my struggle has been so long, and it's not clear cut, or possibly ever going to be totally over - it becomes exhausting to update everyone (and I am getting the idea that it's exhausting to keep up with for some people as well - which I totally get).  And then I had an "AH HA" moment.   I should just let people who really want to know details ASK ME!  This way I don't burden those who don't need or want to know - and I can let those who do know when they want to know!  (I know it's not rocket science! but maybe I'm dense)  This journey is so real and so involved for me and my sweet Farmer Boy, but I realized that this is a journey that is personal and possibly a burden to others.  I'll keep writing on the topic of living well in painful circumstances because of our Great God - but for now the specifics of my circumstances are not important to my writing.   If anyone wants to know more you can always email me privately at

What IS important is that the focus always be on God, and the fact that even though my body is hurting tonight - my soul is at peace and full of joy because HE LIVES.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Prepare my Heart

I've fallen in love with a baby that I've never met.  Ok - it may be the easiest thing in the world for me to fall in love with any baby - I am a baby fanatic.  At family gathering I go to great measures to make sure I get to hold any baby that happens to be there (and when you have 4 siblings married with children there are always babies around) - and I even take it a step further and try to make that baby fall to sleep so that no one can take them away from me (I mean you can't disturb a sleeping baby!!!).  I drool over the pictures of my friend's babies on facebook.  When I am shopping I somehow always find myself standing in the baby section looking at tiny onesies, adorable baby booties, soft receiving blankets.  Yep,  I've got it bad.  It's been this way my whole life - but probably growing in intensity over the years.  I remember as kids my big sis and I sitting on an old railroad tie that was used as a garden border at my Grandma's house - we had our baby dolls in our laps with our shirts pulled up "nursing" our babies.  :)  Like I said; I LOVE babies!

(my nephew Caleb who loved to squish his head against my arm when he slept)

But this time it's a feeling that is a little different.  This little baby has touched my heart deeply.  I have felt this feeling before.  When I was in Africa visiting an orphanage a little baby walked up to me (I thought she was about 1 but we found out she was at least 2 years old).  She kind of slumped against my leg and I picked her up.  Immediately I knew something was horribly wrong.  She was feverish and very lethargic.  She laid her little black head against my chest and her breathing was shallow and pained.  Her skin was covered in little sores.  I honestly thought she might die in my arms she was so ill.  I found out later that she had been found 2 days before in an abandoned house eating dirt.  A lump forms in my throat as I remember the horror I felt when I knew what this baby had been though.   Thank the Lord we were able to go back 2 weeks later and baby Brenda was sitting at a table eating!  Her skin was shinny and healthy looking and she was alert.  My time in Africa ended but the memory of baby Brenda will never end.   I can never forget her eyes - they almost haunt me. 

This little baby who has touched my heart is also hurting and even though I have never held this baby, my love is real.  This situation has reminded me that there are so many children who are needing something: a home, medical care, and love.  My heart longs so deeply to be in the place where we could help.  I long to give a home to children who need it.  Of course I desire a child because I love babies and children so deeply - but my heart just aches for those who are in pain or in need.  I don't just want any child.  I want a child who really needs us.  This is the reason we have chosen not to use a surrogate when we are ready to start our family.  (and this is a very personal conviction - every situation and family is different and I am not saying that surrogacy is wrong by any means, just that for us that is not an option) We could do that and there have been a couple times when the desire to have a baby that looks like my husband has been strong, and I have briefly considered surrogacy.  I'll probably always miss being able to give birth to a child, or have a child that looks like my sweet Farmer Boy (I mean that would be a beautiful baby!).  But to be honest those desires are nothing when I think of babies that I know need good homes. 

I have been feeling impatient with the place we are in right now - being in school and not having a home of our own or a real job makes it impossible to adopt right now.  I have found myself just longing so deeply to be ready for that day when we will be done with this part of our lives.  But last night I realized that God knows our desires and He knows what the next couple of years will hold, and He already knows the children that have maybe not been born yet that He will put into our home one day.  He is using the situations
where I fall helplessly in love with babies who are in need to prepare me for the baby(s) He will give me one day. 

So today I'm packing up some baby clothes and blankets for this baby that I am praying so hard for - and until the day God brings our babies to us I'll keep trusting and learning to love.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


There are quite a few sayings about flexibility and endurance that I have heard over the years.  Here are some of my favorites:

"Roll with the punches." -?
"Be like a duck and let the bad stuff roll off your back." - Paraphrase by My Farmer Boy
"Buck up babe." - another from my Farmer Boy

Life on this earth will always carry things that are not particularly fun.  It's essential for growth.  When a caterpillar becomes a butterfly it involves a lot of hard work, when a baby chick hatches it's difficult and not easy, when a human baby is born it's poor head gets all squished and it's exhausting for the baby (not to mention the mama!) ... Life involves these times of trying and stretching and yes even hurting for growth.

I am the kind of person who likes to be organized, on time, clean (well unless I'm working in the yard), and scheduled.  Not that I don't love a nice spontaneous date or other fun surprises - but in general I like to know what's going on and be prepared.  This evening I was again reminded that I am not in control.   Everything I was looking forward to for the evening and the weekend changed and I had/have the choice to learn from this and let it be what it is - or fight it and be miserable.   After all, I'm not in control, and the more I see that and turn to God when things start spinning (rather than try harder to control the situation) the deeper my relationship with Him will be. 

And in the end that is what matters most to me. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Gungor - Beautiful Things

We sang this song in church on Sunday night and I fell in love with it. Beautiful song, true words for so many situations in life .. listen to it and then allow God to make beautiful things out of whatever you are facing today.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

One of My Favorite Snacks

Yum.  Last night being Friday night I wanted something weekend-ish to nibble on as my sweet Husband and I watched a movie (which actually was a DVD for one of his college classes - but I'll take what I can get as far as quality time with my very busy Student!).  What I love about this snack is that unlike most caramel corn recipies this doesn't use any refined sugar or corn syrup.  I also love how easy and quick it is!  Here is my recipe:

Honey Caramel Corn
About 6-8 cups popped corn (more for less fat version)
4-5 cups rice chex (gluten free!)
put the corn and cereal in a large cake pan.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees (you can bake at higher temp if you are in a hurry but you'll have to check on it a lot to be sure it doesn't burn)
in a saucepan melt together:
1 cube butter
1 cup honey
heat honey mixture until it bubbles together
then pour over corn mixture and toss so that it coats well
bake until lightly browned about 30 minutes

(variation: add flax seeds or any nuts of seeds for some healthy protein!)

store in an airtight container (if you have any left!)

Hope you enjoy!!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A little basil trick

Hi everyone!  Well, this is gonna be a short post.  I'm especially tired today.  But our sweet neighbor called and told me to come get some things from her garden before she turned it over for the fall.  So I walked up to her house and came home with a huge bag of basil and beats and chard.   I LOVE basil!  We used to grow 100 foot rows of it at the farm and I would pick it and feel like I was in aromatherapy heaven!  Well, the thing I don't love about fresh basil is that is doesn't grow here in the winter, AND it also doesn't last long after it's been picked.  You can make pesto (which i love so much) but today I don't have the ingredients for pesto, so here is an easy way to save the basil year-round!

Take the clean leaves of basil and toss them into a food processor.  Grind them up.  At the end toss in some olive oil.  This should be the consistency of a nice paste.  Take the mixture and put it in ice cube trays.  Freeze til hard then transfer to freezer bags.  When you want some fresh basil taste in January take a cube or two, dethaw and toss it over your pasta or veggies or whatever you want!  I love how easy this is!  It's a great way to have yummy herbs (you can do it with any fresh herb) at your fingertip year round.  It's also not soo difficult to do that I won't do it because of my fading energy levels.  I know a lot of you have issues with energy which I think go hand in hand with chronic pain (or for you busy mama's out there too!), so I figured it might be a good tip to share!

Monday, September 26, 2011


I can still feel the hard wood pews, the cold floor, hear the sound of violin, cello and guitar, see my sweet friends around me.  Monday Night Worship was awesome.  A group of young musicians playing and leading the rest of us in songs of praise to God, it still is one of my favorite memories from my years at Bible college.  This night, though, stands out among the rest.  Chronic pain was relatively new for me, and as we sang I was enduring some pretty significant pain.  I remember trying so hard to ignore it.  I felt so guilty that I couldn't concentrate on God alone without my mind being conscious of the pain my body was feeling.  I am so mad at myself: why couldn't I be holier, why was my mind unable to block out the pain, God deserved to be my entire focus. 

This is a picture that has replayed over the years through many church services, chapel services, even years of leading worship myself with youth ministry and on our home worship team, as well as times alone with God.  I remember being so embarrassed when our worship leader would bring out a tall stool so that I could sit on it while we practiced singing because I couldn't stand up to sing.  Gradually, I learned that it wasn't bad to have health issues - that it wasn't bad to be seen as real even if that meant that I sometimes had to sit on a stool to sing.  I was forced to be humble (is that even possible?) enough to admit that I couldn't stand to sing.  But somewhere inside I felt guilty for not being able to be free from my physical pain to worship* God unhindered, and unconscious of anything other than HIM.

Tonight I was at church and I realized something.  If God has allowed me to have physical pain, than He must be able to be worshipped through the pain.  I know I have said that God can be worshipped through anything even by someone lying in a hospital bed unable to speak or think clearly.  But tonight I really grasped the fact that even though my pain might be inescapable - I am unable to will my mind to NOT notice my physical state, God can be worshipped even because of the pain I am having.  I always thought that to really worship I have to be in a kind of daze where the only thing I am conscious of is God alone.  I have had times where that was true - but they are rare for me.  Maybe in choosing to worship and sing words that are true of God even when pain is inescapable - maybe - no definitely God is worshipped no less than the times when all my mind feels is God alone.  

It's kind of like another thing I used to think about worship.  I used to think that if my mind knew that anyone else was around me that I wasn't really worshipping God.  Now, I totally agree that we shouldn't be distracted by the people around us, when we are in a corporate worship setting sometimes the people around us are part of our worship!  When I first began leading by singing on the worship team I remember thinking that I couldn't possibly worship with my eyes open because if I noticed that there were people facing me I couldn't possible be worshipping God.  Through the years I began to be drawn even more to the throne of God in praise when I did open my eyes because I felt the true worship of people I loved and seeing a crowd of people focused on singing the truths of who God is, and giving themselves fully to Him brought my heart to a beautiful place of worship.  I still love to close my eyes and focus on God alone - but that is not the only way I worship during a church service.  When God brought my sweet Husband to me another layer of worship emerged.  Sometimes during worship he or I will reach our hand out to hold the other's hand and in that moment it brings my heart to an amazing place where my Husband and I are one worshipping God together while conscious of each other and our shared trust and love of God.

I don't want to limit the big God I adore.   He can use things we think are useless or a distraction to even deepen our love and our worship of Him. 

*my use of the word worship in this post is referring to corporate times of singing etc. - worship is so much more than only those times!

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Well, it's 1:32 am and here I sit unable again to sleep.  Lately it's been 2 or 3 before I can finally fall to sleep no matter how much I do during the day or if I take a nap or how early or late I sleep in.  Sleep is a problem for a lot of us with any type of chronic pain.  I think somehow at night when I don't have the distractions of daytime and everything is quiet that pain thinks (in a mean sinister voice): "ahhh HA now she'll finally pay attention to ME -MWAAHHAHA".  Or sometimes the way we sleep can cause pain to be worse - you should see how many pillows I use to prop my silly body just right so that I feel less pain!  My sweet Farmer Boy laughs at how precise I am with placing my pillows, teddy bear (yes I do sleep with a silly old bear because he is much firmer than a pillow and gives me pressure on my ribcage just where I need it ), and blanket just perfect so that I can get the best least pain night possible.  But obviously it doesn't always work.  

Now, before you all send me messages about how to get better sleep, I DO get pretty decent sleep most of the time.  But, I don't like the times when I go through that I can't sleep, and especially dealing with pain it would be best for me to sleep good every night.  BUT, for tonight (and other sleepless nights) and for those of you who are in the same boat, it is important for us to find peace even in something as annoying as not being able to sleep (from pain, or too busy a mind, or whatever reasons). 

One of the things that has saved a lot of my sanity (no wise cracks people), is simply to get up.  I can usually tell within a half hour to an hour of getting in bed if I will be able to fall to sleep or not.  If I lay there I go crazy (and wake up the sweetest man on earth with my tossing and turning) - so getting up is the best bet for me.  And then I try and do something useful (like BLOG haha), or read the Bible, or pray, or I try doing something relaxing like rub my feet with lotion, watch TV, talk to any other late night people on facebook, read ...  It REALLY helps.  If I am not gonna sleep anyway at least I am DOING something rather than seething with anger at not being able to sleep!  I try to ask God to give me peace and realize that I'll get through this night and He will be with me no matter what.  I'm not in crazy pain tonight - but I have had times when the pain was so bad and I was up alone just breathing through it.  It felt so scary to be alone in that kind of pain - but turning to God in those moments is the ONLY thing that got me through.   I also have found that sometimes the very best times I have with God are in the silent night when it seems I am awake for no reason other than to be alone with Him.  I feel like He has kept me awake to romance me, and I treasure those times - writing, meditation on Bible verses, and just rejoicing in a God who never sleeps!   Why become a victim to sleepless nights - why not allow God to use even such an annoying thing to shape me to be more like Him? 

Now, I'm not saying that I am gonna seek out being sleepless, or that I am not going to try to find ways to get more healthy sleep (God created it for our bodies and we need it to deal with pain and to be healthy!)  What I am saying is that in the meanwhile and in THIS moment of sleeplessness I'm gonna rejoice that I'm not alone in the dark, and that God can use even this.  How I love Him for being awake with me and never leaving me alone.

It's now 2:06 am - and I'm getting sleepy. :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ronnie Freeman - Satisfied

About 7-8 years ago this song came into my life at a time when I was really beginning to realize that my health issues would affect everything I had pictured about what my life would be. I needed to be told to be satisfied with God alone. It was a time that tested my faith in ways surprizing and painful as friendships ended, opportunities to travel were taken away, and even ministry that I felt called to ended. It was a time that led to a lot of loss in my life. It's been a chapter than has been repeated with different tones througout my life - my Daddy would call it the "death of a vision". When people I depended on left my life as quickly as they entered, when missions and ministry I took pride in being part of was taken - the vision I thought that God had given me was suddenly dark. In looking back, God DID give me that vision because if I hadn't been brought to that place of loss I would have missed out on so many of the gains God has given me! The knowledge of how to deal with pain (which I definately didn't have at that point which probably was the reason I lost so much and was misunderstood and judged), a deeper relationship with my precious Mama, closer friendship with my siblings, ministry at my home church (which would have ended if I had my way in becoming more involved in other ministry), time to focus on learning piano and writing my own songs (something that could only come out of solitude for my writing style), a zeal for helping others in chronic pain live WELL - as well as helping those without pain understand and treat people with illnesses more like they would want to be treated, my sweet HUSBAND! (in my vision I would have lived far away from that family farm where we fell in love and were married - oh I thank God all the time that THIS is the man who picked me as his wife!), and most importantly a deeper walk with my Lord Jesus Christ who IS the one who satisfies my soul, and also teaches me to long for more satisfaction in Him alone. I couldn't see at the time how all the loss in my life would become some of the biggest blessings and lessons of my life. Do I still sometimes miss what my life could have been? Yes. I would be lying to say that I don't occasionally imagine that life I dreamed of and wonder what a me without pain, traveling and teaching all over the world would look like (and I do dream of doing some of those things with my Husband someday). But it certainly doesn't consume me on any level - and I am very at peace with where God has me now - even though it is different from what I imagined. I need to remember this lesson, as I know loss is part of life and God desires to bring new things out of those that are lost. I already can see that my deepest loss: my ability to have children will be redeemed someday through the children God will put in our life through adoption or other means. The loss is still painful, but God creates sweetness through the pain. Being satisfied is something that only comes from God - but as imperfect humans we struggle with sin and selfishness to be truely satisfied even in the One who alone can satisfy us. This song was given to me again today, and I needed to be reminded of it again, and it won't be the last time.

I love how God as the Redeemer took things that did break my heart - to MAKE my heart what He wanted it to be (and this will continue)! I love how He uses things we feel are useless. I love how God is using me even though people may have thought God can't use a country girl without a college degree, without a special occupation, with pain every day of her life to bring glory to His beautiful name! I love the name Redeemer for my Jesus, because He has redeemed parts of my life that I thought had ruined my life. Is He satisfied with me? At first I thought this was theologically wrong because I am not perfect - but when I think of the blood of Jesus covering my sin - God sees me as IN CHRIST and my sin forgiven and He sees me white as snow. That's nothing I could do on my own. Do I desire to be pleasing to God every day of my life? Definately. We should never loose sight of the One we should be living for with every breath He puts in our lungs. May I live to be satisfying to my God so that on that day when I stand before His throne He will say: "Well Done."

And on that day when I see my Redeemer face to face, without the hindrances of sin and selfishness, without the distraction of physical pain - I will be totally and breath-takingly satisfied.

Monday, September 19, 2011

How to bless my husband today

My sweet Farmer Boy has/had a very busy day today - since he is going to school to be a teacher he starts the day off leaving at 7 to get to the high school where he mentors as part of his education requirements - then he has classes back to back all the way til 5:30 when he finally gets to come home.   Now, regardless of any grand illusions I might have of being a beautiful 1950s housewife wearing a cute little dress and greeting my husband at the door in a cutesy apron (although I do have 2 cutesy aprons which I wear for fun from time to time) - I usually greet my husband from my afternoon/evening nap which generally starts around 4 and goes til I make myself get off the couch.  I've noticed that my pain level is better when I get some afternoon rest, and the long evening is more doable when I am not totally worn out (we stay up til 11 or 1 in this house between the homework and other responsibilities).  So, how do I bless my sweet husband after his hard and long day at school?  Here are some of my tips - and I am just over 2 years into this marriage things so I am sure I have a lot to learn!

1.  ALWAYS greet him with a smile.  Nope.  There are really no exceptions.  Well, ok maybe a couple.  But in general he is far too wonderful a man to be greeted with anything other than pure joy (which isn't hard when I see that beautiful face). (WARNING: I think it's selfishness but sometimes I feel this thing inside me wanting me to just DUMP on him when he walks in the door - if I've had a cruddy day or am upset about anything ... this is best done later!)

2.  Ask him about his day and then ... LISTEN.  I am sometimes (ok maybe a bit more than sometimes) impatient.  I already know that he doesn't like a certain teacher, or that such and such a kid was a pain today.  But he needs to tell me these things - if I don't let him then he will withdraw thinking that I don't care about his day. 

3.  Have food ready.  The old saying: "the way to a man's heart is his stomach" is somehow true.  My husband LOVES walking into the house smelling like dinner.  He gets excited about whatever I make (I am SO blessed to have a man who is not picky!).  Sometimes (like today) I send him a text half way through his hard day telling him what's cooking for dinner - I think it helps him know that the day won't go on forever and after it's done he gets to sit down and enjoy yummy and healthy food made by the woman he loves.  Now, you may wonder how I can have food ready when I am usually taking a nap?  Well, it's called planning ahead.  I've song the praises of crock pots and casseroles - but another of my secret weapons is the freezer.  Today for example I pulled out a frozen meat loaf (which is his favorite) and will put it in the oven in about 10 minutes.  By the time he gets home it will be smelling yummy for him. 

4.  Even if he's busy find time for romance.  We're having to learn that there isn't always the time we wish we had for romantic stuff.  We can't and don't go on many "dates" at this season in our lives.  Money goes to paying tuition, and time is non-existent for my busy Student.  So we're learning to take what we can get and make the most of it.  Last week we took a 20 minute walk looking at the neighbor's gardens.  Just walking hand in hand was wonderful.  We sat in the hammock together.  He read out loud one of his required reading books while I crocheted.  We prayed together.  He helped me make pizza on Friday night and we talked over cutting up kale and tomatoes and grating cheese.  We send texts through the day.  He calls me on his way home.  Quality time has to be grabbed whenever you can grab it! 

Do I wish that I was the perfect wife - always beautiful and energetic?  Yes.  But, learning to live with what you've been given means being grateful for what you have and living 100% for God's glory no matter what.  Today that means being the best wife I can be - even though I might be wearing sweats.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Gratefulness list

Gratitude is a practice that we can never have too much of in our lives.  Today I am tired and my body is aching from the change in the weather (I know I sound like I'm 90 years old!).  I don't feel like doing anything, and it probably won't be a super "productive" day (I'll do what I need to for the responsibilities I have but I doubt I'll get any extra projects done today).  On days like this I think it is especially important to practice gratefulness.  In choosing to be thankful to God my heart enters into worship and that is where I want my heart to be always.

Today's Thankfulness List:

I'm thankful for:

1. God - that He is always there and I can talk with Him about everything.
2.  That My Husband finished an important exam on his journey to becoming a teacher yesterday.
3.  For my sweet nieces and nephews - each of them makes me smile so much and I love them all.
4.  For our living situation - such a blessing and a treasured time in our lives.
5.  For peaches - YUM and strawberries!
6.  That I get to can peach jam this week with my sis
7.  For parents who love each other so well.
8.  for the beautiful rain last night (our garden needed it!)
9.  that we get to go to evening church tonight and learn more about prayer
10.  for the sweet times I get to spend with my precious Grammie
11.  for flowers :)
12.  that all my siblings are living lives for Jesus
13.  That the zucchini bread I made yesterday turned out!
14.  for good friends
15.  for the fun new hobby of crocheting!
16.  for all the weddings I have been able to create floral arrangements for this summer.
17.  for clean laundry!
18.  for the love of an amazing man

What's on your list today?

Monday, September 12, 2011

For the Glory of God?

This passage is one of the most encouraging for those of us dealing with medical issues ... God's vision is complete and He sees the whole picture even when we can't see past this moment and whatever pain we may be in today.   You can go to this link and listen to this sermon - let me know what you think!

Saturday, September 10, 2011


I have no idea what this nurse was thinking.  Here I was spending time in the hospital, (this was about 5-6 years ago)sick as a dog and during "small talk" she tells me that it's probably best that I don't date anyone or get married since I am often in the hospital and sick.  I lay there is total shock until my little sister walked into the room to visit me - I told her what the nurse said to me and I just lost it.  I couldn't believe that someone would be so judgemental on my life - someone who didn't even know me!  My sweet little sister marched out and demanded to talk to my doctor and reported the behavior of the nurse.  I was so proud of her!  Even in that horrible experience, I was so blessed to see someone I love very much stand up for me.

I sometimes think of that nurse and wish that I could find her now and she could see my life ... and my HUSBAND!  I will admit that it takes a very special person to marry someone they know will likely have limited health her whole life.  It takes a special man to give up having biological children to be with a women who is barren.  It takes a miracle to make a marriage work when sickness is part of everyday life.  But then again, I think it takes a miracle to make marriage work at all!  Two people who are different coming together, having to learn to think of the other's needs above their own, living together and sharing every part of their lives.  Yes, there have been struggles in our young marriage centered around my health - but some of the most bonding moments we have had have revolved around health.  We treasure today because we know it's all we're guaranteed.  We learn to go with the ups and downs of health and change our plans when we have to.  I'm learning to serve my sweet Husband even when I don't feel good enough to do the things I want to - and He is learning to appreciate the things I do that are hard for me.  We have grown, and with God's presence we will continue to grow more and more in love - true lasting unconditional love. 

And, to that nosey nurse, I'd like to say: Look at me now!  Marriage has probably been the best thing for me and my health.  I think the reason for this is because I feel totally chosen and loved and accepted despite my health.  Friends have come and gone - but my Husband has committed to me "in sickness and in health".  The confidence that gives me brings relief from pain and energy to my tired body. 

He loves me.  The best medicine in the world!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


I've shared in the past blogs or sermons from our church - and I wanted to share two sermons from the recent Proverbia series at our church.  If you click on the following link it will take you to all of the sermons in this series.
Really Good Stuff!

The first one is WISDOM and WINE - I thought this was important especially for those of us with chronic pain because we need to be ever careful about using prescription (or non prescription) medications wisely.  I know that pain medication can be used properly - but I also know that many people get addicted to pain medication.  If your local hospital has a course on pain management take it - and always ONLY use pain medication for the designated time and purpose prescribed.  I am very grateful for a wonderful PCP who monitors all my medications and has found ways to control the pain without the "high" feeling of so many pain medications.  Be careful and take time to listen to this sermon. 

The next sermon is Coveting and Contentment.  This sermon brought tears to my eyes.  Make sure you are living a life of contentment in Christ and not coveting others who may have perfect health. 

We need to take time to stay on track and live lives that are pleasing to God - chronic pain or not!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A week of stress

Any of you with chronic health issues know that sometimes the hastle of going to doctors and the many and varied "treatments" can be quite a pain in the behind.  This week my doctor told me to try a Gluten free diet for 5 months.  Gluten is hard to avoid, and even though I have tried wheat free on and off gluten is in a lot of things that you wouldn't expect like sauces even soy sauce!   It just adds stress to my day to have to monitor everything I am eating and it takes a lot more energy to eat healthy than it does to eat something that is pre-prepared.  (I do make most of our meals from scratch but I do enjoy having easy things in the freezer for when I can't cook).   It's stressful to see people's reaction to any new diet that my doctor has me trying, or to just have to plan so far ahead for meals.

This week also, my sweet Farmer Boy started year 2 of the 3 years he had transferring into the teaching program.  He has been gone 12 hours most days and when he gets home he has been up til 12 or 1 doing homework til he can't stay awake any longer.  The impact on me of having a husband in school and working 2 sometimes 3 jobs is more stress (oh and a lot of being proud of such a hard working handsome Husband!).   I really enjoy my life and the fact that much of it is so stress free and relaxing.  I feel guilty when I am sleeping in and taking naps during the day, or when I get to just be at home for a lot of my time.  I wish I could contribute more financially to help get him through school.  While my odd jobs do help us out, I want to do more!  I've been working all week on trying to figure out ways that I could get more brides and grooms to hire me for floral work for their weddings.  I've been so frustrated because I want to do so much more.  And with all this stress that I have been putting on myself I've been in more pain. 

The stress of life is inevitable.  No one rich or poor, healthy or not, young or old, is totally immune to stress.  But what we can control is our reaction to it.  Do you put it on ourselves or do we turn first to God and lay every stressful thing at His feet and TRUST HIM to take care of it?  I'm trying to learn the balance between trusting God and being willing to take action in my life.  I haven't figured it all out yet - but I do know that God gives me responsibility and that with that sometimes there is stress.  It becomes sin when I let that stress take my focus off of God and onto myself and the situation.  I need to allow Him to speak peace into the areas of stress in my life, while being willing to work hard when He tells me to.  The lesson from this week is just to not let the stresses of life get me down but to keep going and most of all to lay those stresses at the foot of the Savior allowing Him to work through even the things I would love to not deal with in my life.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

In my weakness

I  felt like my jaw was about to snap in half.  In a split second I went from feeling very weird (my tongue was swelling, lips and jaw felt unsteady, and super bad blurry vision) to the worst pain of my life (and I have had pain likened to hard labor pains which went on for days on end).  My jaw had locked to the side and cramped so severely that the only thing I could think was to yell to my sweet husband to push it back into place.  He tried and that hurt incredibly so as he called for the nurses I thought "there's no way I can get through this pain".  In those moments, I hate to admit, but I prayed that God would let me die and go to heaven.  The nurse couldn't figure out what was going on, and while my husband held hot compresses on both sides of my jaw, with tears pouring down my face I begged God to make it stop.  Finally a doctor came in, took one look at me and pronounced that I was having a severe allergic reaction to the nausea medication (Compazine) they had given me that morning.  She looked right in my eyes and said that it would go away when they gave me benedryl.  Then she was gone.  Relieved as I was - I was still in emence pain and getting the order for benadryl took another hour.   Why am I telling this story?  Well, because I think it is important in our discussion about pain for me to be honest and say that sometimes in the most extreme cases of pain it is all I can do to just get through it - and I think it is very normal to long deeply for heaven in those times.  I wasn't sitting there softly singing and thinking of Jesus.  I was writhing in agony, screaming for God to make it stop or to take me to heaven.   Yes, I would have loved to be calm and to be saying profound truths about God in those moments - but that level of pain sometimes the only thing I can think about is just to call on God - I don't even know what to ask but just to call out of my agony to the One who is bigger.   I would have loved to not be begging God to let me go to heaven, but the truth is: I was.  In that moment, in my weakness, I couldn't see past the pain and my only hope was God and heaven. 
And I'm so grateful that I have that hope!

Why am I sharing this now?  Well, I've been thinking a lot lately about those who are in severe physical pain ... I know that in this blog I have talked about dealing with physical pain - while not sharing very specific examples from my own experience. While I deal with significant physical pain on a daily basis - severe pain isn't all the time.  I just want any of you who are reading this to know that I'm very human and have weaknesses just like all of us - and that I'm very thankful for the hope I have - that in the very worst pain I can only think to call on the God I love. 

I made it through.  My jaw is still damaged 3 weeks later from the spasms (which I found out can actually dislocate or break the jaw), but I'm so much better.  In the end I am just so happy that it's over - and so happy that through it at least my most natural instinct was to call on God.  I'm happy that I made it through and sometimes that alone is a huge success.