He Will Restore

“The vine is dried up and the fig tree is withered; the pomegranate, the palm and the apple tree- all the trees of the field- are dried up. Surely the joy of mankind is withered away.” – Joel 1:12

Rough times for God’s people. Joel talks about an army of locusts that ate everything, destroying the food and land. I’d say the people had some trouble coming up with any joy at that time. Wow, that sounds familiar. It appears that in Joel the destruction was a punishment and, on most days I don’t believe I am being punished, but I do relate to what feels like total destruction and a lack of joy.

“Declare a holy fast… and cry out to the Lord” (Joel 1:14). “‘Even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’ Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love” (Joel 2:12-13).

When the great calamity came, the instructions were to ask God for help, fast and weep, tear their hearts and give them back to God. God hears their prayer because of his compassion, grace, and love. Currently there are people fasting for me, and I honestly don’t know how to handle that information. I’m not just talking about skipping a meal, but days of fasting and praying for me. This was not even my or my husband’s idea. It’s hard for me to believe that anyone should do such a thing for me. I am humbled, pretty speechless, weeping, and so grateful for the love, compassion, and grace of God poured out to me by His people.

“Then the Lord will be jealous for his land and take pity on his people” (Joel 2:18). “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten… and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you … Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other” (Joel 2:25, 26, 27).

I actually have verse 20 on my wall. I prefer the version that says, “I will restore to you the years that the locusts have eaten”, mostly because restore is the word God gave me at the beginning of this year to keep my hope alive. He has shown me how many times He is willing to restore my heart, but I also love to imagine God saying that He will restore to me the years that the Lyme has eaten. I praise the name of the Lord for He is working wonders for me. Maybe He is allowing me to continue suffering so that His name will be better known and His glory revealed.

“The Lord will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the sky will tremble. But the Lord will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel” (Joel 3:16).

I know that God hears our prayers, sees our weeping, and loves the incredible sacrifice that His beautiful people are willing to give for me. I pray that physical restoration does come but until then, while the roaring fills my ears and trembling fills my body, the Lord will be my refuge and stronghold. He holds me fast while the chaos swirls and I look forward to the joy of the years He will restore. To Him be the glory while we wait and receive His healing.

Today has been somewhat of a roller coaster. Lately I’ve been sleeping so hard for awhile that I wake up thinking it’s morning and it’s only been a couple hours. Last night it was only 12:51 when I woke up, and I was awake for at least two hours. And when I woke up again it was to tell Jason goodbye while he went to work for 13-14 hours. Darn open house. So I got grumpy for awhile. I don’t know, maybe to try and make myself feel tougher and not so much like a baby needing her security blanket. But I’m doing ok on and off, not loving my symptoms but knowing God holds me strong. I’ve been keeping somewhat busy with reading and writing and a tiny bit of nature that I share with you now. And I cling to the knowledge of how much people care and that God is hearing our prayers. If you read this, I can’t thank you enough for loving me in this way.

Song I’m feeling: Where Joy and Sorrow Meet, by Avalon
“There’s a place of thirst and hunger where the roots of faith grow deep
And there is rain and rolling thunder when the road is rough and steep
There is hope in desperation there is victory in defeat
At the cross of restoration where joy and sorrow meet.”

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Barking Dog, Wounded Human

A sad thing happens when June sees another dog. She absolutely flips out. I know she wants friends because she tries to pull me after them, whining, but if they ever get too close, she bites. When she and I are on the porch together and another dog comes around the corner, she snarls and barks loud enough to wake the whole complex… and this ten pounds of furry rage lands herself in doggy jail.

Does she not just look pitiful? Unfortunately, I have to isolate her inside until the other dog goes on its way. She can’t have friends, even though she wants them.

I’m apparently a sucker for weird metaphors. In the middle of all the barking chaos, it struck me how similar her behavior is to mine. Stick with me, I’m still processing. I want to be loved and have friends but if someone gets too close, I bite them. I fear being hurt again so I bristle and push people away and then say to myself, “See, I knew they would go away. I shouldn’t have trusted.” It’s very difficult and exhausting to love someone this insecure so I feel embarrassed and terrible for treating people this way. I ebb and flow between clinging and isolation and apologies and no one is happy, especially not me. I convince myself that no one cares, that no one SHOULD care, but thank God I am often proved wrong.

The truth was once again displayed when I spent last evening with my fellow strugglers. Tuesday evenings are my favorite. My people always show me they care and want to listen to what’s in my heart, even when what’s in my heart is not very pleasant. As much as I isolate, turn into a bristling porcupine or even worse, I’m glad to have people who see past my fear to love me anyway. And I’m so glad to have a God who gathers me back into His arms when I try to run or lash out. I pray that one day my impulse will be a pure love full of trust and free of fear. Maybe there’s hope for June and me after all.

I’m tired and very dizzy but in a slightly better mood today. Maybe it’s because I spent the evening with my struggling sisters. Maybe it’s because I had a super-fun choice of socks this morning thanks to one of them. Maybe it’s because it’s no longer the full moon. Or maybe it’s just because. Whatever it is, I’ll take it and thank God for the little things.

Song I’m feeling: Runaway, by Jess Ray
“I can see it in your eyes that you’re gonna run. You’re gonna run 
I can hear it in the way that you speak to me that you’re gonna leave
So as you slip away, I will say… As you pack your things, I will sing… 

Even if you run away from me over the mountains, through the valleys
I will not rest but search east and west to bring you back with me
Even if you sail away from me across the oceans and the seas 
I will move again like the mighty wind and blow you back to me
I’m gonna move again like the mighty wind and blow you back to me 

I have seen this all before. It is all too familiar 
But you will never see the bottom of my storehouses of love 
So as you use the night, to make your flight
No choice that you will make or path you take will change my mind 

Even if one day you decide, you will find somewhere else to hide
I will walk your way and call your name and wait for your reply

Even if you make up in your mind, you don’t want to be by my side
I will leave behind the ninety-nine, oh that you’d be mine
I’m gonna leave behind ninety-nine, oh that you’d be mine

Even if you stomp and scream and huff, tell me that I’m not good enough I’ll take every swing and every blow until you know my love 
Even if you beat upon my chest, tell me that you don’t understand
I will love you and teach you to love me again
I’m gonna love you and teach you to love me again.”

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Let’s Get Real

“Make heaven more real to me than any earthly thing has ever been.” – A.W. Tozer

I don’t like to watch TV unless I need a distraction. It’s too much nonsense and noise. I prefer reading instead. I read constantly, devouring books about suffering, people who have overcome suffering, people who have figured out how to live despite suffering, etc. I’m always searching for answers, something that will turn on the flashlight to the path that digs me out of the pit. Most books start off ok. I underline the parts that I relate to about how terrible the author feels and have the urge to fist bump her with a “right on, sister.” But by the end I’m ready to throw the book across the room. There are never any satisfactory conclusions. It all seems too positive-thinky or happy-go-lucky for me. No answer to the suffering question is ever good enough so I start to wonder what is wrong with me. I am ashamed of my doubts.

I can’t be the only one who feels this way, can I? I wonder if I’m supposed to be the one who tells it like it is. I inherited my precious grandma’s blunt speaking abilities so I might as well use their powers for good, right? Maybe I’m supposed to be the one who shatters the impossible, guilt-invoking picture of ideal suffering and says what so many of us are thinking: Life feels like hell and heaven feels too far away. Most of what I read, and even some of what I say on not-so-bad days, focuses on the hope of heaven. And probably rightly so. Some days that’s enough for me. Today it is not. And I feel guilty. Looking forward to heaven is something I do every moment of every day. But what about the now? Does God not care about it too? Does He not see us now? And what exactly is the point of now? On days like this I still don’t know, but I pray for patience until He shows me or I see Him face to face.

This life is what feels real to me. And, I think, with good reason. I see the room rocking back and forth through my dizzy eyes. I feel the aches from my recurrent fever. I hear the constant roar in my ears. I taste the dullness of my all-natural, grain-free, dairy-free, egg-free, sugar-free, fruit-free, joy-free diet. I smell the rotting garbage I forgot to take out before it got too hot for me to walk 100 feet to the dumpster. All of this is very real to me. And it doesn’t seem possible for Heaven to feel this real right now. Heaven can’t currently be experienced by my five senses… or can it?

A.W. Tozer would disagree with me. He believes we have a God who can be experienced in just as real, if not more real ways, than earthly things. He asks why else the Bible would say, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). He says, “The soul has eyes with which to see and ears with which to hear. Feeble they may be from long disuse, but by the life-giving touch of Christ alive now and capable of sharpest sight and most sensitive hearing.” On days like today, all I can do is pray for God to strengthen those eyes and ears. And on better days, I’m pretty good at exercising them myself. I can see God out my window in the green of the trees, hear Him in the songs of the birds, smell Him in the fragrant oils diffusing in my house, taste Him in the abundant foods I am allowed to eat, and feel Him in my husband’s arms. But most of the time, my discomfort and sorrow feel much more real.

Am I having a pity party today? Perhaps. But maybe I’m just speaking what I feel, and I think that might be ok. I’ve beaten myself up enough times about this in the past so, for now, I’m just going to call my doubts out loud. Maybe they will lose just a little bit of their power. And maybe someone else with similar doubts won’t feel so alone, so ashamed, so outcast. There is nothing wrong with me and there is nothing wrong with you. God knows life is hard and it’s difficult to believe the truth that He is good. But, He is good. Repeat it until you believe it. He loves us just as much today as He does when we have our eyes and ears on straight. For that, I am so grateful.

I pray often to see through God’s eyes, to have a heavenly perspective. I ache for it. I couldn’t continue on in this hell… er… life without it. I pray that some day soon God will “Make heaven more real to me than any earthly thing has ever been” (Tozer). But for this moment I will indulge in an episode of the Golden Girls, watching them drown their sorrows in cheesecake so I can vicariously drown mine. And I’ll try not to feel guilty about it. Later I’ll get up, brush my hair that I didn’t even bother to dry this morning (at least I showered), fix our favorite diet-compliant meal, and continue my search for God in the real.

Song I’m feeling with every ounce of my being: Tell me, by Alathea
“Tell me it’s gonna be ok
So I can last another day
I can’t see what’s around the bend
Or if this road’s gonna ever end
Till you tell me it’s gonna be ok

Tell me the sun’s gonna shine
It’s been a dark, dark night in this soul of mine
Every string I’ve been dangling by
Is strengthening with the dawning sky
And you tell me the sun will shine

Tell me I’ll love again
‘Cause I grew numb to that when I trusted him
I can feel the tender parts
Of this beating, breaking heart
Tell me I’ll love again

Tell me what I’ll become
When I’ve worked real hard and my day is done
Please tell me what I’ll become

Tell me my faith will last
Through the stormy gales that are blowing past
I’m setting sail to this wind
Still too scared to begin
Till you tell me my faith will last.”

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The Dreams I Dream for You

It was a rough night of restless sleep filled with nightmares that I’m thankful I can’t remember. Lyme treatment sometimes causes nightmares because of the buildup of toxins. I’m not sure now what was so terrible about the dreams but I literally woke myself up declaring out loud something to the tune of, “get behind me, Satan!” It was one of those dreams where you know you’re dreaming and are trying desperately to peel open your eyes and wake up to remove yourself from the nightmare but it takes an agonizing amount of time and effort to do so. And then every time you doze off again you go right back into the dream. Finally, I just got up because I didn’t want to go back to sleep.

I had already planned on writing about dreams of a different kind… the plans we make for ourselves that we think will make us happy/successful/comfortable. I have to tell you, the loss of those kind of dreams over the last few years has felt light a nightmare. I really couldn’t stand that verse in Psalm 37, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (vs 4). Granted, I haven’t been very delightful lately, but I used to be. Why were all the desires of my heart ripped away? And you may not even want to get me started on Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” I often feel like I’ve lost my future and all the hope that should come with it.

Besides the loss of my career, which I think may rank in the number one spot, one of the most difficult things has been the loss of music. I grew up with a microphone in hand. I think I was somewhere in the 3-5 age range when my mom made my sister and I matching outfits and we sang “Grownup Christmas List.” My sister is 12 years older than me so I’m not sure what she thought about the wardrobe, but I do remember singing with her. And playing the piano was my stress relief. I would come home from school and play piano to relieve stress, pass time, or lose myself in the music. When I got better at piano, I started playing for church services all through high school. I even played for some weddings and funerals, though I can’t imagine ridding myself of enough anxiety to do that again. When I learned guitar in college, I started leading worship. I went to an assisted living facility and helped lead their Wednesday services and I even went back after college to do solo concerts for those beloved people. I was a regular part of praise teams and choirs until the anxiety hit, and then illness shattered the hope of that happening again.

It’s not that I particularly enjoy being in front of people. I don’t know exactly how to explain it but there’s just something natural to me about singing into a microphone, especially singing harmony with other people. I felt at home there, and now I feel a little lost. And on top of losing stage singing, it seems that I have now lost corporate worship altogether. Lyme has made me so sensitive to sound, motion, and electromagnetic frequencies, that I cannot handle being in church anymore. It’s a loss I tried to pretend not to feel for awhile, trying to convince myself that I didn’t want to go anyway. I have a habit of saying things like that in an attempt to protect my heart. Yesterday I forced myself to play piano for awhile until the blood pooled in my feet and dizziness incapacitated me. It had been ages since I even bothered to play piano or guitar, and I rarely ever even sing around the house anymore. It is true what they say about depression – one of the signs is loss of interest in the things you used to love. I just haven’t cared about music for awhile. And I think part of me was avoiding music because I didn’t want to be reminded of the loss. Imagine doing something for pretty much your whole life, something you felt like you were born to do, and then not being able to do it anymore. It’s a loss I’ve tried to avoid facing, but I think I must do so in order to heal.

I delighted in singing to God… but the desires of my heart were taken from me. What gives? First of all, I don’t believe that verse means exactly what we want it to mean. The way I understand it now is that, if we are truly delighting ourselves in the Lord, the desires of our heart will match His. We will want only what He wants for us even if that means letting go of what we want for ourselves. He will give us His dreams for our lives. How cool is that? I’m certain God’s dreams are much more beautiful than mine. But that doesn’t mean that He won’t hold me while I mourn the loss of mine.

After I finally studied Jeremiah 29 more thoroughly a couple years ago, I stopped being quite so miffed by it and actually started relating to it a little. God basically tells His people to set up shop while in exile because they’re going to be there for awhile. He tells them they might as well hunker down and even pray for prosperity for the cities in which they are in captivity because they’re going to be there for 70 years. That just does not sound very hopeful to my human ears. But part of the prosperity and hope for a future lies with how we wait. God wants us to stop wishing away our current circumstances, pining away at our own dreams, and start living our lives now. Later in Jeremiah, God talks about His rescue of the people from exile. “They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord…They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more… I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow” (31:12,13). God often uses water and rain as a metaphor for his faithfulness. Water is eroding and destructive, but it is also refreshing, healing, and growing, washing away the unnecessary stuff we only think we need. So the longer we wait, the more growth and healing we get.

We cling so hard to the things we want in this life to the point where we are lost when those things leave us. I could, have, and probably still will, lose hope for future dreams. Because, after all, why would I hope for something when it could crush my heart again? But this nightmare of dream-clinging despair has got to end with a hearty, “get behind me, Satan”. Despair is where he wants me. But my Almighty God crushes Satan with hope for me. Amazing. I need to peel my eyes open out of the nightmare, awakening to God’s beautiful dreams for me. Because, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21). And the Lord’s purpose is far better than mine.

When the depression veil lifts a tiny bit, I love to ask God to help me dream with Him. I have a list of things I want to do, things that I would do if I had no illness, fear, or limits. These things may or may not happen, but I am learning to hold them loosely now, allowing God to bring about His dreams for my life even if they don’t exactly match mine. My dreams have changed quite drastically since my illness and many of them probably look quite small and ordinary. My period of waiting is actually resetting my priorities. It can be fun to let God give us dreams if we will let Him. So, what would you do if you had no limitations whatsoever?

Here’s my current list: Go to the beach, Go hiking, Have a garden, Write a book, Go back to Haiti, Move out of this condo, See Dolly Parton in concert, See the Brooklyn Tabernacle choir, Sing into a microphone again, Dance for any length of time without becoming dizzy or breathless, Drive, Participate in service projects, Speak about what God has done, Record the songs God gave me, Look people in the eye without shame or fear.

Song I’m feeling: Dreams I Dream for You, by Avalon
“The dreams I dream for you are deeper than the ones you’re clinging to, more precious than the finest things you knew and truer than the treasures you pursue. Let the old dreams die like stars that fade from view. Then take the cup I offer and drink deeply of the dreams I dream for you.”

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When God Doesn’t Provide

I intended to take the weekend off writing, but stuff happens. I could say that the full moon is affecting my mood but at this point, who really knows? I received a letter from Disability in the mail and as soon as I saw the envelope, my heart caught in my throat and I thought, dare I hope for a miracle? But alas, no miracle occurred… yet. The letter said I have to attend a second hearing, scheduled for Nov. 28. More months of waiting and more humiliation. And my snap thoughts were, of course, why would I ever think this could happen for me? It’s heart-wrenching to be forced to fight for something you seriously don’t even want… but need. WHY ISN’T GOD PROVIDING?!

Questions fired through my mind about God’s provision. People love to spout the sentiment that God provides. But what happens when He doesn’t? I become cynical about the stories of mysterious checks coming in the mail at just the right time because, what happens when they don’t? I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve even been the recipient of such miracles in the past, but apparently it hasn’t been consistent enough for me to trust.

I could say things like, “at least we’re not starving and at least we have a roof over our heads”. But what about the people who DO starve or freeze to death? Where is God then? I could, and have, gone down the blame road. Maybe this is our discipline for going into debt. There are such things as natural consequences. We’ve made our bed and are forced to lie in it. Excuse us for trying to live. Oh hello again, snark. I thought we agreed that you would leave me. Sigh, this may take awhile.

Since no answer to the provision question has ever been good enough for me, I started searching the scriptures. I’m pretty sure that’s where we’re supposed to go BEFORE wandering down the attitude road, but maybe I’ll do that next time. Contrary to my rose-colored memory, God did not always provide for everyone in the Bible, at least not with what I think they needed. Habakkuk is a prime example. As I started reading his book, I felt like he was taking the words right out of my mouth.

“How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?” – 1:2
It’s been 2 1/2 years, Lord. One income has never been enough. When will you change that? How much longer will you fail to help us?

“Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong?…Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails.” – 1:4,5
Why do you tolerate such a broken system? People are dying on the wait list. DYING. Do you not care? Will you never fix this?

“O Lord, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, we will not die. O Lord, you have appointed them to execute judgement; O Rock, you have ordained them to punish.” – 1:12
Are You not the One who gave the judge his job? Have You only allowed him to punish, not help? I guess we won’t die…but what if we do?

God’s answers to these questions give me hope. I am so grateful that He doesn’t strike Habakkuk down for having questions, even very difficult, accusatory questions.

“Look at the nations and watch- and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” – 1:5
Just wait. Watch. Marvel. You can’t even imagine what I am going to do.

“For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” – 2:3
I have appointed a time for you to see what I am doing. I have never lied to you. My provision will come in My time and no matter how long it takes, wait for it. You will be amazed at My work.

“Of what value is an idol, since a man has carved it? Or an image that teaches lies? For he who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak.” – 2:18
Your perception of provision is not necessarily Mine. You think you need a job or disability or miracle checks in the mail. These are idols. I give you what you need. I AM what you need.

Habakkuk and I get just a little bit calmer after that… sort of.

“Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known.” – 3:2
God, I am amazed at what You have done for people in the past. Please do the same for us now. Help us to be amazed NOW.

“I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.” – 3:16
My heart is pounding and I’m trembling in fear. I waste away waiting for Your answer. But I will still wait for You.

I love that waiting patiently does not necessarily mean waiting without fear or waiting while feeling good. Currently, nothing feels good, and that’s ok. But here is where my admiration of Habakkuk increases tremendously and he makes me want to do my best to pray this every single day until our deliverance comes.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.” – 3:17-19
Though it does not look like we have what we need now, and even if someday we have no food or possessions, we will rejoice in the Lord for being our Savior. Perhaps not for saving us in this life, but giving us a next life. And for this life, we rejoice that He is our strength to walk the mountains of struggle.

I think what I have learned is that we are too flippant about the “God provides” statement. While the statement is true, He sometimes does not provide in the way we mean it. We don’t like to believe that God might not provide what we think we need. He may allow people to be homeless and starve to death. How can we reconcile that in our aching hearts? We are not guaranteed prosperity in this life because we live in a world that has fallen, which is not something God ever wanted. But because He is our Savior, He has provided a next life and walks with us…weeps with us… through this life.

Jesus said, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Luke 12:32-34

Through all of the struggles life throws at us, we don’t have to be afraid because God has given us a future to walk out of the struggles. We don’t have to worry about this life because everything we have here will wear out and be exhausted. The worn-out exhaustion sounds so familiar, and yet I continue to cling to these exhausted resources. And I am so angry when they don’t hold up. My heart needs to be far less focused on this life and more on the next. My God will never wear out or get exhausted and, as Habakkuk says, this never-exhausted God IS my strength. He helps me keep going. He enables me to climb up what appears to be an insurmountable mountain of circumstances. And this makes me rejoice in God, my Savior. I will TRY to rejoice. I long for the day when my first reaction is gratitude instead of anger and hurt. I ask that He give me strength to get there.

Right after I got the letter in the mail, Jason could see that I was in a bad mood so he offered to walk June with me. As we walked around the corner, I was ahead of him when bent down to pick something up in the mulch. I still don’t know how he managed to spot the penny in the mulch or even how and why it would be there, but he said it was shining at him in the sun. And the more I think about this, the more beautiful it becomes. God’s provision may seem to be drowning in my pile of circumstances, but it always shines. Just like God told Habakkuk, I should watch and be amazed because His ways will be greater than I can imagine. Jason had his eyes open when I didn’t and I missed it. If I keep my eyes focused on the pile of problems, I will never see the shine of God’s treasure. The darkness of my mind will cloud His grace. Rejoicing in God, my Strength, I can keep my eyes peeled for the shine. He has made my heart to belong to Him and I want to be thankful. God, please enable me!

Song I’m feeling: Even If, by MercyMe
“I know You’re able and I know You can save through the fire with Your mighty hand, but even if You don’t, my hope is You alone.”

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Let the Rivers Flow

Today I am tired. With the blessing of my provider, I had taken a week off of treatment because it has been so hard on me. That week is up today so, here we go again. It also happens to be full moon time and since my nasty little bugs like to come out and play during that period, I always double-treat for the five days over the full moon. This type of treatment usually leaves me so exhausted that I struggle to lift my head, but ironically struggle to sleep. I had trouble falling asleep last night and then woke up at 2 AM. I seem to deal with quite the dose of paranoia and when I wake up in the night, I have a nearly insurmountable fear that something terrible has happened to someone somewhere. So I tell myself I’ll look at my phone real quick to make sure all’s quiet on the loved-ones front. But the problem is, any amount of light signals to the brain that it’s time to wake up and I have trouble going back to sleep. I only take Melatonin in an emergency because it makes my restless leg syndrome worse. But after attempts to return to sleep, I thought the combination of 2 AM and the fact that lack of sleep compounds my symptoms exponentially constituted an emergency. So today I’m dealing with a Melatonin hangover. I can’t seem to fully awaken my brain. As I was attempting to search for the beauty this morning, I thought of the first whiff of coffee from a brand new container. Good one, huh? I was proud of myself for recognizing it and and taking the picture to document it but then proceeded to ‘brew’ the coffee without water. It doesn’t work like that.

Coffee seems to be my one vice. I’ve given up so much. Why should I take away the last life-giving substance I have to enjoy? Perhaps my POTS would slightly improve if I gave it up but if you have POTS with bradycardia (me), “they” actually recommend caffeine, so who on earth really knows? I was longing for the warm, indulgent pick-me-up, but I forgot the water.

I’m reading a book by Kate Merrick called, “And Still She Laughs.” Thus far, it is truly heart-wrenching. This dear woman’s suffering causes mine to pale if I give into the comparison temptation. She sugar-coats nothing, making my heart twist and want to run as she recounts the horror. As she talks about the likely well-meaning but unhelpful ‘balm’ she has received for her suffering, she says, “I have yet to hear the reason why. Oh, I’ve heard ‘answers’ from the well-meaning. Answers that leave me thirsty and malnourished, sickened, or downright angry. I’ve heard every cliché, every Bible verse taken out of context, every offering of comfort said hurriedly with hopes of plugging up neatly what is spilling out of every crack of my being; sloppy, messy, dangerous.” She was thirsty for comfort, but as she was drowning in the mess of the well-meaning, she forgot the Water. Oh, how I can relate.

“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” – Psalm 63:1

Expecting comfort from other things instead of God can leave us bitter. Did I say coffee was my only vice? Perhaps I was wrong. The dry, biting taste of resentment mixed with the indulgent flow of sarcasm and snark just might be even more of an addiction. Reveling in this sick ‘pleasure’ has sucked the life out of me for quite some time. But I told myself it was ok because it often manifests as humor. Dark, scoffing, not-funny-at-all humor, but humor nonetheless. “I realized I was living life with the limp of one who has been injured but not correctly healed. All my nasty, grievous attitudes were feeding the bitter beast in me, and it manifested itself in snappish humor. I took everything personally, was easily offended, and used dry humor as my shield… We secretly laugh in mockery when we think of blessings coming our way. We laugh in disbelief. We have begun the unraveling of faith, working the pile of loose thread into a picture of despair” (KM).

Ouch. Boy, do I have some snark in me. And part of me really thought that was ok because, at least I was being honest instead of faking fine. But I do believe it has driven several of my people away, leaving me to drown in my own misery. And was I really being honest? Not at all… and I’m not sure I even fully knew that until now. The snark and bitter humor are only defense mechanisms, protecting me from having to face the seemingly unbearable heartbreak underneath. It’s because when I leak bitterness from my concrete walls, my heart doesn’t have to be vulnerable to hurt again. It’s amazing how God gives me the right things to read at the right time because I had already written about this in my journal several days before beginning the book. As Kate says, “I thought, if I don’t believe God’s goodness for me personally, then I can’t be disappointed in him. If I don’t ask him for anything, then he can’t slam the door in my face again.” If I drown in the bitterness, my walls won’t crumble under the crushing flow of loss threatening to break the dam. The “sloppy, messy, dangerous” stuff that I, and many others, are trying to keep trapped within me with flippant positivity, avoidance, and sarcastic humor, threatens to come out when the bitterness isn’t there. Kate says bitter humor is just “emotional desperation”. When it is there, I don’t have to fall apart. If I don’t face what’s underneath, maybe I’ll be ok. But a life of bitterness is a dry desert where there is no water. It is not ok.

Maybe if I let the Living Water flow it would break my walls, mix with my flow of heartbreak, and refresh my aching heart with healing. Maybe I could believe Jesus’ tears flow with the release of mine. “It takes faith to come out of the self-defensiveness of grief and disappointment” (KM). And the only way to get that faith is to let the Living Water flow. To let God’s truth speak to my heart. To open my floodgates and let the torrential downpours uproot my bitterness. It sounds terrifying but if I let myself be honest, how I ache for it. My heart is in dry desert agony, but I’ve not just forgotten the water. I’ve often refused it.

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” – John 7:38

It would take another post or five to explore why I fear the water’s flow, but at least this moment I can admit my ache for it. I’d rather have the Living Water flow through me, bringing with it whatever pain it releases, than the exhaustion of trying to plug up the leaks with bitterness. I long to be filled with the Truth. I’m tired, lonely, and thirsty. Let the rivers flow.

But we were talking about coffee, weren’t we? The brain fog of treatment is increasing by the moment so I’ll risk a lack of coherent proofreading and hope for the best. I’ll leave you with today’s beauty thus far – The freshest moment of coffee, yellow flowers still hanging on, the never-tiresome sea of purple, watery reflections of the real and metaphorical, and a new book from my hubby who knows what I need.

Song I’m currently feeling: JJ Heller’s Sound of a Living Heart.
“I could hide myself away somewhere safe, far from pain. But if I refuse to feel, I’ll never bleed but I’ll never heal. I hear Jesus calling me out of the grave I’ve been sleeping in. With new lungs I’ll begin again, lift my voice and sing my part. This is the sound of a living heart.”

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The Rest of the Story

I’ve been encouraged to write more often, even if it’s to tell about my day, so that the diseases don’t just live inside of me, festering and consuming me. I’m not sure how long this will last since I’m not used to being this vulnerable, but thanks to a small increase in courage for today, here I am. Sometimes I wonder if I give you the wrong idea. See, I only write when I’m inspired, and I’m only inspired when my mind and heart are in an ok place. Maybe it’s time for me to tell, as Paul Harvey used to say, “the rest of the story.”

It’s such a beautiful day and an awesome temperature for me. The hotter it is, the less conscious I feel so cooler temps are awakening parts of my brain that checked out for awhile. I’ve been on the porch for hours. I wish I could let myself relax but I can’t seem to do so. The fear is still there. Fear and grief that the things I’ve said and done from the darkness covering my heart have hurt those I love and ruined my relationships, fear that Jason is gone for a long time today and I’ll have a fainting episode, or really, any kind of episode. I try not to look at the clock so I don’t calculate how many hours I have left. I constantly remind my shoulders that they don’t belong next to my ears.

God is here. Repeat.

Lately, right around noon is when I get my worst dizzy spells. I don’t know why. As much as I still try to analyze and figure it out, there is no rhyme or reason. But yesterday I was able to remind myself that I’m ok through the panic so I assume today will be the same. My BP is 116/72, which is a far cry from the usual 94/55…probably because I’m stressing about this post! Hmm, maybe there is something healthy in writing this after all. 😉 My ears continue to roar with every heartbeat. My head hurts. My arms, legs, and face are tingling, and I’m accosted with sporadic sharp chest pain, but it’s on the right side so I guess I’m not dying. Speaking of, I’m not afraid of that anymore. Death. I feel like I’ve come so close on multiple occasions (likely only my perception but that’s the way it FEELS) that I’m actually looking forward to it. What I fear instead is the stuff leading up to death- the feeling of fainting, the feeling of losing consciousness, the pain. Goodness, this is depressing. This is why I’m not sure I want to write this.

But I’ve been told often enough that honesty is the best policy. I am struggling. I am sick and it’s completely ok that God hasn’t healed me yet, as much as I have trouble believing that sometimes. That’s up to Him and I don’t have to feel guilty, thinking that I haven’t done something quite right enough for Him to finally do it (I’m saying this as much for my benefit as for yours). I am a Christian who is currently not ok. And THAT is ok. I will not get struck by lightening because I can’t plaster a smile on my face. I’m learning slowly and painfully that God wants my honesty instead. I still talk to God all the time, even when it’s mostly tears or staring off into space or the only words that come out are, “please help.” I am not a super-sufferer, but Jesus loves me, brokenness and all.

God is here. Repeat.

And today, in honor of my joyful friend’s birthday, I will look just a little bit harder for the things that may not quite make me smile but that, at least for a moment, help me breathe a little easier. A playlist of my fight songs, songs that stir a fight in me when I can make myself listen to them. My dog, June, who sticks so close to me that she even interrupts my attempts to make myself presentable to the outside world before I walk her. A canopy of flowering trees. A sweet bird protecting its babies. Porch time with God. Fun socks. A sea of purple. Blue skies and a feeling of Fall in the air. Roses from my sweet husband with the excuse that they were “on sale”.

God is here. Repeat.

Until next time, thanks for reading.

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